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What is Heaven like? Pt. One, Revelation 21:1-8

July 23, 2019

Here on earth we call it Heaven. In the realm of Heaven they call it the New Jerusalem. It's the place where Jesus went "to prepare a place" for His disciples. We read about it in Rev. 21. Beginning with verse 1 John begins by telling us what he saw. "Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea."

The first heaven and first earth has been destroyed. Peter told us this would happen in 2 Pe. 3:10, "But the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be be burned up."

Now the old heaven is not the realm of God, but the atmosphere that surrounded the first earth. This is the environment where we see birds and airplanes fly. It along with the old earth are now no more. The timing of this precedes the Great White throne judgment of sinners. This fact is mentioned by John in Rev. 20:11, "Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them."

The purpose of the destruction of the first heaven and earth was that it had been ravaged by man's sin. In Rom. 8:19-21, "For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope: because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." The creation bears the scars of man's sin; pollution, urban sprawl, unsightly scars from various acts of war, greed, and inconsideration. It has borne the Divine punishment of thorns and thistles because of Adam's sin. (Gen.3:17,18). And so it must be made new, just like it's new population, the redeemed of Christ.

In verse 2 John sees, "the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." It is descending out of the heavenly realm of God to the "new earth". Literally, God is going to create Heaven on earth! She is beautiful, like a bride "prepared for her husband." Later in verse 9 John will be invited to take a closer look at "the bride, the Lamb's wife."

Now the question arises, "How can the bride of the Christ the Lamb of God be a city?" Shouldn't His bride be the Church redeemed? Well the easy answer is that His bride is both the physical city and it's citizens. Because both have been made anew. Not only is the city new and beautiful, so too is the believer. He has received his glorious resurrection body, incorruptible and immortal (1 Cor. 15:50-54). In this new body the believer is now conformed to the "glorious body" of Christ (Phil.3:21). Newness is the theme here: New heaven, new earth, new Jerusalem, new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). So the city and it's citizens are one.

In verse 3 we are told, "the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them." In the Old Testament God's presence was found in the "tabernacle", the place where God met with Moses and Joshua. Though God came and spoke with these men, it was incorrect to say that God "dwelt with them". But here we find that God Himself will dwell among the redeemed.

By this time sin and death are no more. Sin no longer is possible here in the New Jerusalem because the saved are now totally sanctified, besides this the nature of the resurrection body is "incorruptible"; it cannot sin, nor can it be tempted to sin. Death is gone, it was thrown in the lake of fire with the devil and his angels (Rev, 20:14). Because of this, we have a different kind of life experience; we won't cry, mourn, hurt or be sorrowful. This is truly a "new life". "The former things have passed away". (v.4)

In verse 5 the "new" theme is all the work of God and His Christ. "Behold I make all things new." So appropriate, after all we have new heaven, new earth, new Jerusalem, the redeemed are made anew and this life will be brand new and nothing will spoil it. Nothing.

In verses 6 & 7 we find that John is told that the citizens of this wonderful place share two things in common that set them apart from those who were condemned to eternal punishment. First, they thirsted for the "water of life". They wanted eternal life with Christ Jesus more than anything else. More than earthly treasures and more than sinful pleasures. This verse reflects the character and lives that we saw in the "souls" that John saw in Rev. 20:4, "Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands." Here "they" are "them'.

In verse 7 the second thing is that they have overcome. They overcame temptation, fear, doubt, sin and remained faithful to death. The Lord warned the church at Smyrna in Rev.2:10 of impending trials and persecutions. Telling them that some would be thrown into jail and would suffer. Then He reminds them, "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." They overcame because they were faithful to Christ and refused to compromise or recant. This is the nature of all the citizens here in the New Jerusalem.

Finally, in verse 8 we are reminded that not everyone will be here. John shares eight sinful behaviors that if left unrepentant will damn one's soul to hell. The cowardly are those whose faith was lacking. It's the same word Jesus used when He rebuked the twelve in Mt. 8:26, it denotes a faith that is lacking. It's a fair bet that these believed in Christ, but simply lacked the faith to remain steadfast and firm in the face of temptation and persecution. The unbelieving are those who never believed in Christ, in the end they reap the wages of unbelief. The abominable are the "ungodly"; their behavior offends God. Those who take innocent life will not be here. Nor will the sexually immoral. The general Greek word "pornois" is also translated "fornicators, whore mongers, and homosexuals. Those who practice witchcraft or satanic rituals won't be there. Neither will be those who worship any god other than the One True God. And "all liars" who fail to repent will not be there. A liar is one who knowingly tells falsehoods; deceivers and false prophets are among the damned in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.

In the end, heaven wouldn't be heaven if God allowed the unrepentant sinner to gain entry in the New Jerusalem. Those who refused to be "born again", "born of water and Spirit" will not be here either. As Jesus states clearly in Jn. 3:5, "Unless one is born of water and Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God." You must be born again, born anew. New is the theme of salvation, both here and there. Next time we will look at the physical description of the New Jerusalem in part two of this teaching. God bless- David

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