4/18/21 “The Believer’s Blessed Hope” Reid Ferguson

 

1 Peter 1:13; Revelation 20–21

 

By all accounts, 2020 and now 2021 have been pretty bizarre for most of us.

On top of all of our regular life issues, COVID-19 and one of the most cantankerous and divisive elections in my lifetime – combine to make life as we’ve known it pretty shaky.

The “normal” of the past is gone, and it seems like we need to adjust to a “new normal” almost every day.

And it is for times just like these that more than ever we need the counsel and direction of God’s Word as we have it in 1 Peter 1:13

1 Peter 1:13 ESV

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Minds able to act sanely and calmly in these dark and uncertain times can only do so if they are kept sober – by setting our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ – and not on whether or not things will get better as we would prefer it here and now.

The Christian life is one of loving anticipation of Jesus’ return. This alone is truly sobering and hope-filled.

It is one reason why Paul concludes 2 Timothy – his last letter just before his death – by turning Timothy’s attention to the same:

2 Timothy 4:8 ESV

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Note: To those who have “loved His appearing”:

Those who are joyfully looking for that day are those who are rewarded.

Those believing in and anticipating His return as the consummation of all our joy and blessedness – will be rewarded.

Those not – will not.

So – are we a people who truly “love His appearing”?

Are we, am I, one who truly longs for His coming?

Is it part and parcel of my regular thought life?

Do I groan with John – “Come quickly Lord Jesus?”

Do I really want that end – to be with Him and to live in His glorious Kingdom?

Or do I simply want Him to make my life better now, with some vague desire for an afterlife of nondescript ease?

Does just escaping Hell & my present sorrows eclipse being with Jesus and the Redeemed?

This morning, it is my sincere prayer that the Father, will send The Spirit to stir our souls up together to truly love the appearing of Jesus. To let it inform all of how we think about and see life.

To let the anticipation of His return draw us out from all the other things this world constantly calls us to. To us give us that great – all-encompassing love.

It is my own conviction we’ve lost something of the way previous generations were fixed on the hope of Jesus’ return, and what He has prepared for those who love Him.

Of intentionally looking toward His coming as the means to endure the trials of this present life.

There are lots of reasons for that:

a. Careless teaching about Jesus’ return – date setting, omen reading.

b. Constant bombardment from the news – saturated with reports of political and racial turmoil, natural disasters globally and nationally, etc.

c. Individual focus on immediate concerns.

I’m breaking no new ground here today, but do hope by the Spirit’s enablement, to turn your eyes once again to the promise of what is before us in the return of our Lord and Savior in Revelation 21 & 22.

Revelation was intended to buoy the hopes of God’s people in difficult times, and to refocus their hearts and minds so as to truly “love His appearing.”

A unique feature.

John does something in these 2 chapters he has utilized a bit before – but majors on this time.

John is receiving a revelation of things truly unimaginable to his readers. So he spends a large part of his time describing what is NOT in the New Heavens and the New Earth as opposed to what is.

This is because the wonder of what he beheld is quite simply, incomparable.

Gator on a stick. Can’t tell you what it tasted like because you can’t compare it to anything else! This is John’s dilemma too. What he sees has no comparison.

John is so overwhelmed by this vision, that he notes 13 things that aren’t in the New Heavens and the New Earth in an attempt to give us some sense of the unspeakable glory and wonder God has laid up for those who are in Christ Jesus and love His appearing.

We start right off in Rev 21:1

Revelation 21:1 ESV

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

1 / 21.1 – No more SEA

a. Because of his exile?

b. He is relating the fact that the New Heavens and the New Earth are so drastically different from our existence now, that there is a completely new economy even in terms of ecological life.

A wholly new existence, not dependent upon the things we presently count as necessary to life on this planet.

c. In Biblical literature, and especially in previous chapters of this book, the sea often represents that which is turbulent.

Things unknown, unstable and unsafe.

So Revelation 13:1: The Beast which terrorizes God’s people and tries to conquer the earth, rises out of the sea!

But in the New Heavens and the New Earth, there will be nothing deep and dark anymore; nothing hidden; nothing threatening; nothing unstable, etc. All is brought into the light and is full of blessedness rather than fear or mystery.

Instead of a sea – No more sea.

In fact, instead, of a sea, a City. A city coming down out of Heaven Rev 21:2-4

Revelation 21:2–4 ESV

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

2 / 21.4 – No more DEATH

No one and no thing shall ever die again.

Unimaginable! Death is so much a part of our frame of life, that an existence where there is no more death whatever, is truly beyond our comprehension.

John doesn’t say how it is he knows there is no more death except it is part of what the “Loud voice from the throne” announced to him in vs. 2.

In other words, this is a revelation from God Himself to cheer and fill the hearts of His people with wonder at how the death and resurrection of Christ will at last deal with everything sin introduced into the world in the Fall.

And so, not only is there no death – but “He” God, now dwelling with mankind in His unmediated presence – will personally wipe every tear from the eyes of His beloved Children.

Something most amazing, incomprehensible.

He – who He? Jesus! Jesus Himself will take upon Himself – as a personal ministry to each and every one of us – to wipe every tear from our eyes!

It is almost too wonderful to even contemplate isn’t it?

He won’t have us do it to one another, nor will He enlist an angel nor even an archangel – He personally will take away both our sorrow and its expression.

Oh what a Savior!

3 / 21.4 – No more GRIEF : Not only no more death, but not even a reason ever again to mourn over ANYTHING!

One wonders just how this can be, when we stop to think that certainly most, if not all of us will have loved ones who will not be there, and will in fact be tormented in an eternal Hell under the just judgment of God.

I do not know.

But I know what the text says was revealed to John by the voice from the throne – and that we are being assured in that announcement that there will never again be any reason to grieve or mourn.None.

He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Death will be no more all grief and mourning will be gone too.

4 / 21.4 – No more CRYING:

Think of all the things which produce weeping here (negatively), and each and everyone of them will be gone forever.

Can you even imagine never shedding a sorrowful tear ever again for all eternity?

I cannot.

And if it were not revealed to us in God’s Word, we would have no reason to even hope that it might be so. But here it is.

And it is given to His Saints so that we might loosen a bit of the grip we have on this present life which is so distorted and damaged by sin that it lulls into believing this is the way it will always be.

But it will not.

When I stop to think about how many loved ones I’ve lost – both personally and as a Pastor, it is easy to break into tears over each one and collectively.

Rightly so.

But the day will come when not a tear will well up in our eyes ever again. Not only because death has been abolished, but for ANY REASON.

Even more, the word used here carries the idea of crying out! Like the shouting out of “how long oh Lord” when in deep distress and agony.

But never again will that sound be heard within the walls of the New Jerusalem He has been preparing for us all this time.

5 / 21.4 – No more PAIN:

As I have looked out at my own congregation from week to week, thinking of the personal stories of so many of them, and how they’ve have suffered great injuries over the course of their lives, and others who struggle every day with chronic pain and other conditions – I can only weep for joy when I have had the pleasure to announce to them – and today to you – on the authority of God’s Word that one day – there will be NO PAIN!

Neither by accident, disease, or any other cause.

No physical, mental nor emotional pain of any kind.

Your God and Savior has heard your every moan and groan and creaking joint and He will remove all of it, from the smallest discomfort to the greatest incapacity – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at His return. And knowing how unbelievable this all is – it is reinforced in the most emphatic way in Revelation 21:5–7

Revelation 21:5–7 ESV

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

Revelation 21:8 ESV

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

6 / 21.8 – No cowardly, faithless, detestable, murderous, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolatrous or lying persons

Indeed, all who live this way: given over to bowing to cultural pressure to avoid being identified with Jesus; rejecting Christ and His Gospel of grace; preferring to live in sin instead of fighting against it; hateful and murderous; sexually immoral; using God and religion as means to earthly ends; worshiping whatever they value most in place of Jesus; and contrary to the truth of all things as revealed in the Scriptures – all these will end in the lake of fire and will never enter this place to sully it or victimize its people ever again.

To be perfectly honest with you, if this was all this passage had to reveal to us, I would be more than happy to go home one very happy camper.

But the truth is, our God is a God of abundance. He promises and provides for us far beyond anything that we can ask or think.

So, as though all of what we’ve seen so far is not enough, at this point in John’s account, the scene shifts dramatically.

So far, he has been recording what he sees as one standing on the earth and looking up and seeing the New Jerusalem come down out of Heaven.

Now, in Vs. 10 – he is taken up to a high vantage point so that he can look down on the City in all of its splendor.

And watch how he is told the City is also the Bride and the wife of the Lamb.

This mixing together of the metaphors is fantastic. And it draws upon another scriptural references by both Paul and Peter: Eph 2:18-22

Ephesians 2:18–22 ESV

For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

1 Peter 2:4–5 ESV

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Revelation 21:9–21 ESV

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

So on top of what we’ve heard, we now get this vision that is quite beyond our senses to grasp.

A city built of gemstones and as high and wide as it is long – perhaps a cube, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1300 -1500 miles in each direction.

Completely unimaginable.

Revelation 21:22 ESV

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.

7 / 21.22 – No TEMPLE:

All worship will be conducted face to face.

We won’t go anywhere to worship, worship will be our state of being.

Why no Temple? Because we will dwell in the all-encompassing presence of God and the Lamb at all times.

Our interaction with Him will not be geographical – going here or there – it will be permeation, all absorbed in His loving, infinite presence.

There is no way to describe such an existence, so with John we’ll have to content ourselves with the negative – there will be no temple there. It will not be needed in that mode of existence.

Revelation 21:23 ESV

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

8 / 21.23 – No SUN or MOON:

No such thing as an external source of light in order to know and comprehend.

Neither a sun, nor the reflected light of the moon because of the nature of the glorious presence of God and the Lamb.

The idea here isn’t as much astrological as it is the idea that there is nothing hidden, dark or secret.

Here, we know so little of what is real and true.

There, all will be opened to us. Remember John’s words in

1 John 1:5 ESV

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

There is nothing that will ever again leave us in doubt or fear – and especially any suspicion of God or His motives, why He appointed what He did for each of us in our lives here and now.

The end of all mystery in the negative sense.

Nothing but the endless, revealed, pure and unmixed love of God for His people.

A love as great as the love He has for His only begotten Son

John 17:23

John 17:23 ESV

I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

How little we can grasp that now.

That He loves the Believer even as He loves Jesus!

Oh if we could only live in this reality now – what doubts and fears it would erase, and what an impetus to serve Him in love and joy it would produce.

That knowledge and sense of His love for us here and now is so tainted at times, and it ebbs and flows in our experience.

But not there.

Endless perfected love with no shadow of doubt or fear ever again.

No need of sun or moon to perceive by, for His light will flood us.

Revelation 21:25 ESV

and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.

9 / 21.25 – No LIMITED ACCESS:

Being always before the face of God.

How we long at times for a palpable nearness to God.

Every Believer knows of times when God seems near, so close, so present that that it fills the soul inexplicably.

Sometimes in reading the Word, or in gathered worship in the music; or just meditating on the goodness and grace of God.

But those seasons are oh so brief.

They come and they go.

But not then, not there.

There we will have all access, all the time.

The symbol of the gates never being closed are a wonderfully picturesque way of saying we’ll never be devoid of the sense and the wonder of His sweet presence ever again.

Revelation 21:25 ESV

and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.

10 / 21.25 – No NIGHT:

In the ancient world, when night came, the gates of cities were closed for safety’s sake.

When a city sleeps is when it is most vulnerable to attack.

But tied with what we just saw that the gates of the New Jerusalem never close – so, there is never any night there.

No time of vulnerability where the gates NEED to be closed – for there will be no enemies!

This may also have something to do with how we will experience the wonder and the majesty of God – that is it will be unending and uninterrupted.

Here, our greatest joys and happiness are also punctuated by our need of rest and sleep.

But not there.

Unending joy.

Uninterrupted delight – even for sleep!

No night. No fear. No vulnerability.

All is perpetually safe and secure and imperturbable.

What a contrast this is to fate of the lost where in 14:11 we’re told their torment is relentless, day and night.

Part of their doom is the conscious passing of time in their punishment.

Part of the Believer’s eternal joy is that time no longer holds the same ebbs and flows – but is perpetual.

Revelation 21:27 ESV

But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

11 / 21.27 – Nothing UNCLEAN:

Perpetual, undefilable purity.

Nothing will even be allowed in which will spoil its beauty, purity or perfection.

The glories of Heaven can never be spoiled by anybody or any thing.

Revelation 21:27 ESV

But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

12 / 21.27 – No one DETESTABLE:

No one who in any way is contrary to the holiness and perfection of God in any way.

So with that – never any kind of perversion of the truth or the communication of the Glory of God.

Jesus told us He Himself is the truth, the life and the way.

Anything that obscures who and what He is in any way, is detestable and contrary to Him.

And nothing of that will be had in the New Jerusalem – ever!

Revelation 22:3 ESV

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.

13 / 22.3 – No more CURSE!:

No more CURSE – Every last aspect of God’s anger with sin in relation to us is completely and forever banished in totality.

Everything we experience here and now in this present world – every discomfort, grief, pain, loneliness, disease, violence, distress, sorrow, worry, the unknown, fear, doubt, unbelief, besetting sin – committed by us or perpetrated upon us – is, every single bit of it – temporary.

And it will all be swallowed up in the wonder and the glory of the unveiled presence of our Christ and King.

Even given this vision, in our sin-broken state, we can only glimpse and comprehend but the smallest smidgen.

Revelation 22:6 ESV

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”

Jonathan Edwards: “There is scarce anything that can be conceived or expressed about the happiness of the saints in Heaven…To pretend to describe the excellence, the greatness or the duration of the happiness of Heaven by the most artful composition of words, would be to darken and cloud it. To talk of raptures and ecstasies, joy and singing is to set forth very low shadows of the reality. And all we can by our best rhetoric is really and truly vastly below what is but the bare and naked truth. And if St. Paul who had seen them, thought it vain to endeavor to utter it, much less shall we pretend to do it. And the Scriptures have gone as high in the description of it as we are able to keep pace with it in our imagination and conception.”

Sam Storms: Piper’s Jonathan Edwards Conference, 2004

Negative:

Nothing which shall offend the most delicate eye

Abrasive, irritating, agitating or hurtful

Harmful, hateful, upsetting or unkind

Sad, bad or mad, harsh, impatient, ungrateful or unworthy

Weak or sick or broken or foolish

Deformed, degenerate, depraved, or disgusting

Polluted, pathetic, poor or putrid

Dark, dismal, dismaying or degrading

Blameworthy, blemished, blasphemous or blighted

Faulty, faithless, frail or fading

Grotesque or grievous – Hideous or insidious

Illicit, illegal, lascivious or lustful

Marred or mutilated, misaligned or misinformed

Nasty or naughty, offensive or odious

Rancid or rude, soiled or spoiled – Tawdry or tainted, tasteless or tempting

Vile or vicious, wasteful or wanton – None of it!

And all of this for Hell deserving sinners like you and me.

What WILL we see there?

Everywhere we turn our eyes, there is nothing but…

Glory and grandeur and beauty and brightness

Purity and perfection and splendor and satisfaction

Sweetness and salvation and majesty

Only and all that is adorable and affectionate and beautiful and bright

Brilliant and bountiful and delightful and delicious, delectable and dazzling

Elegant and exciting and fascinating and fruitful

Glorious and grand and gracious and good

Happy and holy and healthy and whole

Joyful and jubilant and lovely and luscious

Majestic and marvelous, opulent and overwhelming

Radiant and resplendent, splendid and sublime

Sweet and savory, tender and tasteful

Euphoric and unified

And why?

Rev. 22:4 – Because we’ll looking at the face of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It has been quipped that if it took God only 6 days to create the heavens and the earth – what must Heaven be like, if He has been preparing it for 2,000 years!

Beloved, we have not yet even begun to comprehend.

But He has promised it.

He has revealed it by His Spirit: Here in His Word, and, by the conviction of His Spirit that it is absolutely true.

And it belongs to everyone who has surrendered their whole being to the Lord Jesus Christ – trusting in Him as their sin-bearer. AMAZING!

Now I must ask you – are you one of those who will inherit this New Heavens and New Earth?

Do you know Christ as your sin-bearer?

Have you trusted in His atoning sacrifice on your behalf – and bent the knee to Him as your Sovereign and Lord?

If not, none of this glory applies to you.

The Bible describes a far different end for you.

Just as certain and eternal as this is for His saints.

But it can!

YOU can come to Him today.

You can own your sin before Him and ask for His forgiveness, and by faith, receive the gift of eternal life and cleansing for all of your sin and rebellion against His right to rule you spirit, soul and body.

You can become part of the Family of God as an adopted son or daughter.

Won’t you call upon Him to save you today?