The book of Revelations can sometimes be difficult to understand, especially in light of the rest of the Bible. In this message on Revelations 21, Pastor David Platt highlights Revelations as the hopeful part of the redemption story for Christians. He shares three points that emphasize that Revelations is really about God’s people in God’s place for God’s purpose.
- God’s People: God’s Final Blessing And Judgment
- In God’s Place: Eternal Fellowship
- For God’s Purpose: God’s Glory Enjoyed By All Peoples
If you have a Bible, and I hope you do, let me invite you to open with me to Revelation 21. Without this Word, I am hopeless as a pastor and without this Word we are hopeless as a church.
Why Do We Have The Bible?
However, what I want us to do is I want us to look back and see where we have come from, remember the things that have come before this in Revelation, and then, I want us to look forward to see where we are going as the redeemed people of God in what is still the unfolding redemptive plan of God. So, I want to start by us thinking about the question, “Why do we have the Bible? We’ve been reading through it, so why is it so important? Why is it so valuable?”
Some would say this is a book for religious guidance. Christianity is one religion in the world, and the Bible is simply the main book in Christianity. So, it informs what Christians should do, how Christians should act, and what Christians should believe. It’s a religious book, and one book among many other religious books for that matter. Some would say it’s given to us for historical information. There’s a lot of history in this book spanning back, literally, thousands of years, and this book helps us to understand civilizations centuries ago.
Other people would say this book is a book of moral lessons. We have the Bible so we can learn how to live a good life. We want to be like Abraham or Moses or Elijah or Paul. We don’t want to be like Pharaoh or Saul or Jezebel or Judas. So, we find on the pages of Scripture, all kinds of moral people and moral lessons along those lines. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Be kind one to another.” So, the Bible is a series of moral lessons.
Other people see the Bible as a series of character studies. You can take all kinds of people in the Bible and see them as seeming examples for our lives. Many people study David and his battle with Goliath, and there we learn about courage. We study Nehemiah and his rebuilding of the wall to learn about leadership. We study Peter and the disciples to learn about faith and trust, and the Bible becomes a collection of good stories with good, and some not-so-good people, all coming together in Christian history to help us learn how to grow in Christianity.
So, there are all kinds of ideas that people have about the Bible and all kinds of ideas, I’m guessing, that swirl around in our minds about why we have the Bible. However, if we’re not careful, we will miss the whole point of this book. We will miss its beauty and its wonder and its eternal significance for our lives. So, I want to put before you one sentence that I think sums up the purpose of this book. The purpose of the Bible is to reveal who God is and how God redeems His people for His kingdom.
Revelations 21 Reminds Us God is the Main Character
Now, two things that are particularly important. Number one, the main character of the Bible is God. Sometimes the Bible is billed as a practical handbook for every situation we walk through in life. So, oftentimes, people come to the Bible, and our immediate question is, “Okay, how does this apply to my life? What relevance does this chapter or this book or this verse have for my life?” However, the reality is the Bible is a book that is far more about God than it is about us.
This book is the revelation of God. It reveals His glory and His character, His nature, His ways, and His works. If we come to the Bible, saying, “What is this verse or what is this passage or what does this book teach me about what I need to do in this or that situation in life?”, then we might run the risk of going right past the intended purpose of the Bible, that it’s to teach us about God. Now, that doesn’t mean that the Bible doesn’t have practical application for our lives. It has huge application for our lives, eternal application for our lives, but the key is the Bible teaches us about who we are in the context of showing us who God is.
Now, I want to pause here for just a moment because this is huge. There is an obvious trend in our day. Yes, in our culture, but even in the church, away from the primacy of God’s Word. Many churches and many leaders of churches give token acknowledgment to God’s Word at best. Many churches and supposed worship services are filled with all kinds of stuff that is not the Word of God. They’re filled with stuff that people think is more applicable to our everyday lives.
So, you see a lot in the church, “Well, here’s thoughts on how to manage your money or tips on parenting. Here’s some principles of leadership or how to handle stress or practical thoughts that relate to our everyday lives, marriage, parenting, finances, grief management, and divorce recovery.” These are all things that, let’s be honest, we wrestle with and we do struggle with. However, the danger is the Bible wasn’t given to us as a handbook to address how to walk through every single situation that we face in the 21st century. The Bible was given us to show us who God is, a God who spans far, far greater than just the 21st century, and a God who rules and reigns over far more people than just us walking through the different things we’re walking through.
This is where the Bible begins to unfold for the beauty that it contains, because the reality is, our greatest need, with all these different things we wrestle with and struggle through in this life, our greatest need is actually not to be good parents with stress free lives and nice bank accounts and successful jobs. If that’s all that our greatest need is then go to Dr. Phil and get some information from him. No, our greatest need is to know God. Our deepest need is to know God and to walk with God.
So, when we come to this book, some would say, “I’m walking through this or that in my life. Why are we going to study about the Israelites and the Moabites?” Here’s why: Because this story about the Israelites and the Moabites is going to help me understand the greatness of God. It’s going to help me see my life in the context of His greatness.
It’s going to help conform me into His image and help me to walk with Him by His Spirit, so that the very Spirit of God who will walk with you through every marital struggle you go through, the Spirit of God will walk with you through every parenting struggle you endure, the Spirit of God will walk with you through every financial heartache you experience and every challenge that you face at your job, the Spirit of God is going to walk with you through those things and give you the wisdom that you need based on the revelation He has given us in His Word.
So, all that to say, I want us to see that the main character of the Bible is God. The purpose of the Bible is to help us know God, to see who we are in the light of who He is. So, who God is, and then how God redeems His people. Now, what does that word mean? Why have we called our journey through God’s Word this year A Chronicle of Redemption?
God Redeems Us
Basically, for God to redeem His people means that God is restoring creation to Himself. This book is a story about how God is restoring all of creation. We’re going to see in just a moment, everything in creation restored to Him. God is restoring creation to Himself, and as part of that, God is re-creating people in His image. I’m going to show you what I mean by that in just a moment. However, when you hear redemption, think re-creation into the image of God.
So, the Bible is showing us who God is and how God redeems His people for His kingdom. Now, this picture of kingdom is an image that I want you to keep fixed in your minds today. I want us to think about the kingdom of God of which, obviously, God is the King. When you think about a kingdom, there are a few essential elements in any kingdom. A kingdom is going to involve, first, a people who are ruled by the king. They are going to be citizens, residents, members of the kingdom who are subject to the king.
So, you’ve got people who are ruled by the king. You’re going to have a place where the king has dominion. Where does the king rule? Where does the king reign? In the kingdom. So, the kingdom involves a people ruled by the king, a place where the king rules over his people and a purpose for the king and his kingdom. What is this king and what is this kingdom accomplishing? So, any kingdom is going to have those three components.
Now, what I want us to do is I want to encourage you to think about God’s kingdom along the lines of these three components, how God is redeeming His people for His kingdom. God is bringing His people, His subjects, citizens of the kingdom, His children to His place under His reign where He rules for His purpose, specifically, for the glory and the advancement and the spread and the declaration of His kingdom.
Revelations 21 Maps Out the Story of Scripture
So, in light of the purpose of the Bible, I want you to see how it all comes together. What I want us to do before we get to Revelation 21 is I want us to see a map for tracing the story of Scripture.
I want you to see here the progression of the Bible as one story from creation all the way down to new creation, and I want you to see how everything we have read this last year comes in the overarching context of a king who is bringing His people to His place for His purpose. Because, if the Bible is indeed a story about the kingdom of God and His unfolding plan of redemption, then we want to know this story. We want to be careful never to read the Bible as if it’s a bunch of disconnected stories here and there that really don’t fit together. We want to see that.
We don’t want to read the Bible as just isolated fragments. We want to understand how it all fits together. We want to know the story. Second, we want to experience this story. We want to experience this story of the Bible because, when we see this story unfolding in this book, we realize that we are part of this story, and that our story didn’t begin with us. Your story didn’t begin with you. It began with a God who, before the foundation of the world, as we’ve seen, chose to show love and mercy to His people, how He created the world.
What I want you to see is how everything we’ve read fits into the overarching context of this story leading all the way to us sitting here, and to realize we are not the first to come on the scene in this story, that there are generations and generations of those who have gone before us. Unless the Lord Jesus comes back today, we’re probably not going to be the last ones on the scene, and how we’re intended by God to be faithful in passing this story on from generation to generation, which leads to the third thing.
We want to know this story, we want to experience this story and we want to tell this story. We ought to be equipped to tell people who God is and how, in His love and mercy, He is redeeming and restoring people to Himself, through the work of Christ on the cross. So, there is no better story to know, experience and tell than this.
So, what I want to do is recap everything we walked through in the Bible. I’m going to throw out different Scripture at different points that we’re not going to have time to turn to, but that’s going to all lead us to where we get to new creation and the picture in Revelation.
Creation in Genesis
So, this is the Chronicle of Redemption. We start at the top there with creation in Genesis 1 and 2. Think about creation and a lot of these three facets of God’s kingdom. One, you’ve got people. You’ve got God’s blessing on His people. Genesis 1 and 2, as we read, we saw that God creates man and woman as the summit of His creation. He is their King. They are His beloved man and woman created to know God, enjoy God, and walk with God. They experienced unhindered communion with God in a place of perfect fellowship in the Garden of Eden, the very best place of all, a place where every relationship was perfect.
Man’s relationship with God was perfect; man’s relationship with one another was perfect. Man and woman were relating to each other perfectly. Man’s relationship with his environment was perfect. This is God’s blessing on His people in a place of perfect fellowship, all for one purpose: For God’s glory to be multiplied to all peoples.
If you remember back, Genesis 1:26–27 says that God created us in His image as His image bearers, and then in Genesis 1:28, God says, “Now be fruitful, increase and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it.” In other words, “Take my image for my glory and scatter it all across the earth.” That’s the picture. God’s blessing on His people was perfect fellowship where God’s glory is multiplied to all people. That’s the initial picture we saw in Genesis 1 and 2.
However, then there was the Fall in Genesis 3, and when the Fall occurred, everything changed. Instead of only the blessing of the King on the subjects of the kingdom, this is the first time we see God’s blessing and judgment through Adam and Eve. Immediately after they sin in Genesis 3, we see the judgment of God on His people. The reality is that, because of sin, man deserves the judgment of God.
However, don’t miss it, there’s still blessing there. God had said in Genesis 2, “If you disobey me and eat of this fruit, you will surely die.” Yet, at the end of Genesis 3, Adam and Eve are still breathing. Though they totally deserved death on the spot, if you go back to Genesis 3, you see that He took the sacrifice of an animal and an animal skin to cover over the shame of their sin, a sacrifice in their place. God’s blessing and judgment were on His people through Adam and Eve in a place, now, not just of perfect fellowship. Now, it’s disrupted fellowship. All the relationships that were perfect in Genesis 1 and 2 are now imperfect in Genesis 3.
Man’s relationship with God is now marked by guilt and shame and fear. Man’s relationship with woman is disrupted. Man’s relationship with his environment is disrupted. Man and woman are cast out of the Garden of Eden away from the presence of God, and a flaming sword is guarding them from going back to the tree of life. Indeed, one day, they would die and, not just them, but every single man and woman after them were dying as a result of sin in their lives and in our lives.
As a result of all that, God’s glory was now marred in all peoples. Every man and woman in all of history is born with a sinful nature inherited from Adam. Every single one of us is born with a heart that hates God, that rebels against God, and this is epitomized in pictures like we see in Genesis 8 and 9 in the flood and the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11.
Now, all of that then leads to the Patriarchs in Genesis 12 through 50 where we see God’s blessing and judgment in the Patriarchs through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The king, God, calls people to Himself in Genesis 12:1–3. God says, “Abraham, I’m going to bless you. I’m going to bless all your descendants, and I’m going to show through you, my blessing to all peoples.” Abraham and his descendants would be recipients of the blessing of God as Abraham trusted in God. This was the key. If you go back, and you look at God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12, 15, 18, 22, you see that this covenant with Abraham all hinged on God’s promises to Abraham, and Abraham’s faith and trust in those promises.
So, you see when it comes to place, this was a picture of promised fellowship. God says in Genesis 12, “Leave your country and go to the place, the land that I will show you.” So, Abraham does, and he goes to the place that God shows him, and God says, “I’m going to give you and your descendants all these lands that you see before you.”
God makes the same promises to Abraham’s son Isaac, and Isaac’s son Jacob. This land becomes the Promised Land where God promises He’s going to establish His people, and He’s going to dwell with His people in this land, and God is going to make His glory known to all people through His faithfulness to them. Everything in the Patriarchs hinges on God’s promised faithfulness to His people in that place.
This part of the story, though, when you get to the end of Genesis, finishes with the people of God, now the people of Israel, going to Egypt because there was famine in the land. So, you’ve got God’s people, the people of Israel, in a foreign land clinging to the promises of God, which sets the stage for the next part of the story, Exodus and Conquest: The book of Exodus through 1 Samuel 8. Among God’s people, God raises up new leaders where He’s going to show once again both blessing and judgment through people like Moses and Joshua and Judges and Samuel.
Don’t miss it: Blessing and judgment are both there. Think about the riddle of the Old Testament in Exodus 34:6–7. Do you remember what it said? “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin, yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.” So, He is just and forgiving, full of wrath and full of mercy. How can he be both of these? This is what we see. We see both on display in this part of the story.
The Mercy of God
Think about His wrath and His judgment. Think about the plagues that we read about in Egypt, culminating in firstborn children all across Egypt being struck down dead in their homes. Yet, we see God’s mercy through the Passover, and God has heard the cries of His people, and He brings them out of slavery in Egypt. He brings them to Mount Sinai where He reveals His glory to them, and He gives them His law, His Word, and He makes promises to them, and He guides them with pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.
So, we see the mercy of God, maybe most clearly displayed when it comes to place, because God does promise, “I’m going to dwell among you, with you.” The picture we have starting in Exodus, right in the middle of the book of Exodus, is the tabernacle where God outlines how He, in His holiness, is going to dwell among His people in their sinfulness through acceptable offerings of worship that are made at the tabernacle.
What God does is He gives them laws and regulations for worship in the books of Leviticus and Numbers, you remember? They get to the edge of the Promised Land, and they don’t trust God, and so God waits, in His discipline, for an entire generation to pass away before He leads them into the Promised Land, now led by Joshua. They take the Promised Land. They take all of these different nations.
What’s the purpose of all this? The purpose is God’s glory was being made known to all peoples through His deliverance. God delivered His people from Egypt into the Promised Land, so that all nations might know that He is the Lord. That phrase, “so that they will know that I am the LORD” is mentioned almost 50 different times from Genesis to Numbers alone. God brings them to the Promised Land. He says, “Get rid of all the foreign gods in these lands. Reflect my glory to the surrounding nations.”
This is God. You see it. He’s bringing His people to His place for His purpose. Yet, when you get to 1 Samuel 8, you see the people of God rebelling against God as their king. They say, “We want a human king like all the other nations.” So God gives them what they want. Oh, it is a scary thing when God gives sinful people what they want. This leads to the United Monarchy, starting in 1 Samuel 9, and then the story repeats itself in 1 Chronicles and the beginning of 2 Chronicles where we see God’s blessing and judgment now exemplified through Saul and David and Solomon, these three earthly kings.
You look at their lives, and you’ll see both blessing and judgment. God’s blessing personified, maybe, most in His covenant with David where He promises to bring about an eternal king through David’s line whose throne will endure forever. You look at His promises to David and Solomon in particular, and you see them dealing with place. God promises to bless these kings in order that they might build a place where God can dwell with His people, known as the temple. This was specifically given to Solomon. The temple was the place for the glory of God to dwell.
Now that the people of God are established in the Promised Land that He has given to them, He says, “David, I’m going to use Solomon to build this temple.” God blesses Solomon for the building of this temple, a place that would display His glory where the people of Israel and all nations can come and encounter the glory of God. Through this whole process, we’re seeing the purpose unfold. God’s glory is being made known to all peoples through His anointing on these kings in the monarchy. God is anointing these kings for His glory.
Then, in this temple, remember 1 Kings 8? You might write this down: 1 Kings 8:41–43. Solomon talks about how foreigners will hear of the great name of God and the mighty hand of God, and all the peoples of the earth will know His name and fear Him. However, as you read, we know what happens. The people of God were rebellious, even these kings were rebellious and sinful, and they cheapen the worship of God. Kings and citizens of the kingdom were all rebelling against God which, ultimately, led to the Divided Monarchy. In some senses, it was somewhat like anarchy.
It’s a Northern Kingdom and a Southern Kingdom. There were different kings in each kingdom, most all of them entirely evil. So, what does God do? He raises up, during that time, people to show His blessing and judgment through and those people are the prophets. The prophets foretell coming judgment upon God’s people. They talk about how captivity is coming for God’s people.
The Northern Kingdom is going to be destroyed, and the Southern Kingdom is going to be destroyed. Jerusalem and the temple are going to be destroyed, and God raises up these prophets to give this message of judgment and of hope saying, “Turn and trust in God, repent of your sin, and He will relent of His wrath.” However, the people do not listen, and they continue in hardness toward God and the Northern Kingdom is destroyed and then the Southern Kingdom is destroyed and the temple in Jerusalem that symbolizes the presence and the glory of God among His people is destroyed.
However, that does not mean that God leaves His people all together. The reality is, we saw this in places like Ezekiel and other prophets, that God was with His people in the midst of exile. In exile far away from the temple, far away from the land He had promised them, He is with them and strengthening them and sustaining them, promising to restore them, and eventually, He does. He brings them back to Jerusalem after the exile, and in all of this, God is making His glory known by the discipline of His people.
God says, “I’m going to make,” in Ezekiel 36:22–23, do you remember? He said, “I am going to show the holiness of my great name, the name that you have profaned among the nations, among whom you have lived. I will show the holiness of my great name and the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the sovereign LORD, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.” God in His discipline, displaying His holiness and promising, Isaiah 60, “Then one day his light will shine, his glory will rise upon his people and nations will come to their light and kings to the brightness of their rising.”
You look all throughout these prophets, hope even amidst all the darkness and judgment, wrath that we saw as we walked through that this summer and into the early Fall. However, we also saw those glimmers of hope because all of these prophets are pointing to a coming king. Isaiah says, “A child will be born, a son will be given, and his name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament, remember what it said? “The LORD whom you seek will suddenly come.” The stage is set at that point for 400 years later, after 400 years of silence, for God to reveal Himself gloriously and ultimately in the person of Jesus. God Himself in the flesh, God’s blessing and judgment now exemplified and exalted through Christ. He is the ultimate prophet. He is the perfect priest. He’s the promised king.
The Coming of Christ
Everything has been centering on this for God to be, not just with His people, but among His people: Incarnation. This is the beauty. When John 1 says, “The Word became flesh”, it says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” That word for “dwelt” literally means “tabernacled among us.” Just as the presence of God had been evident in the tabernacle, in the temple, even in the midst of exile, now His presence was evident in the person of His Son. God in the flesh.
In John 2, Jesus basically says, “I am the temple. I am the place where you meet with God.” A place, God among His people, Incarnation, for what purpose? So that God’s glory will remain known to all peoples through His salvation. Jesus, God in the flesh, comes and He lives the life that none of us could live, and He dies the death that all of us deserve to die. He is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him. To all who receive Him, to those who believe on His name, He gives the right to become children of God. God’s people in God’s place for God’s purpose, all culminating in the person of Christ.
It’s why the Gospels announce, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Yet, you get to the end of those Gospel accounts, in the very beginning of Acts, and you see Jesus leave. He rises from the grave and then ascends into heaven after His resurrection, and He sends His Spirit upon His people leading to the present, Acts through Jude, the era when God’s blessing and judgment are shown now through His church.
Beginning in the book of Acts, spanning the rest of the New Testament, chronologically continuing even today, Christ is the judge of all, and everyone’s eternity is dependent on their response to Him. For “everyone who confesses that Jesus is Lord and believes in their heart that God raised him from the dead, he will be saved.” He, Christ, is our prophet, and we are His spokesmen. Acts 1 says, “I will put my Spirit on you, and you will be witnesses to me to the ends of the earth.” He is our high priest. We have been made a kingdom of priests.
Access to God
The New Testament talks about access to God; you and I able to come into the presence of God through Christ. He is our King. We are His heirs; heirs with God and co-heirs with Christ, the church, recipients of the blessing of God, and everyone who rejects Christ, apart from the church, are recipients of the judgment of God. God’s people and God’s place, this is the astounding reality of the New Testament. It’s not God with His people in a tabernacle or a temple or exile, even God among His people in the Incarnation.
Now, it’s God in His people, in our bodies. Our bodies are the temple. We’re the temple of the Holy Spirit. We’re the dwelling place of God. He comes, and He dwells in us, with us, among us. We don’t expect the nations to come and see the glory of God in the temple. No, we are the temple, and we go to the nations declaring the glory of God.
This is the purpose of the church: God’s glory multiplied to all peoples. “Go,” Jesus says, “and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them, teaching them to obey everything I’ve commanded you, and I am with you always.” Extol the kingdom, spread the kingdom, embody the kingdom, sacrifice your lives for the sake of the kingdom. This is a picture of the church. We are advancing a kingdom. Do you see this?
Look at this chart. See this. We are in a long line. A line that started with creation with God and a people in a place for His purpose for the spread of His glory, the advancement of His kingdom to all peoples. This is what we were created for. We are created for so much more than just stuff and pursuits in this world. We are created to be God’s people where He dwells with His glory and His Spirit in us, advancing God’s kingdom to all peoples.
We spend our lives for the advancement of this kingdom. See yourself in the middle of the story. Know that that which began with the Abraham and Moses and Joshua and Elijah and Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Peter and John and Paul, and now it involves A.T. Scott and Alberdine Huggins and every other follower of Christ in this room and every person that we will have the privilege by God’s grace to lead to Christ. We are a part of something grand and glorious and where is it all headed? What do we have to look forward to?
Revelations 21 Reminds Us What We Have To Look Forward To
This is where, okay, finally we get to Revelation. This is what we have to look forward to. Revelation 21:1.
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. 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.”
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. 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.
Think about the kingdom and God’s people here. This is God’s final blessing and judgment. For all who have revered the King, this picture is inexpressible joy. Did you hear verse 6? “To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” This is joy that is full, and joy that is free.
Psalm 16:11 said it, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” In Revelation 21, we will experience it. This is why we forsake the pleasures and pursuits of this world. Don’t you see this is why it makes no sense to store up more stuff for yourself here? This is why it makes no sense to live like this is all there is, so let’s make the most of it. This is not all there is.
We are waiting for the day when we will see all there is, and there will be joy and satisfaction and delight that nothing in this world can compare with. We don’t live for the pleasures of our city. We are living for another city, another place that is coming. So lift your eyes above the stuff of this world and the pursuits of the world and see there’s something better that’s coming. We will experience inexpressible joy. Heaven exemplifies His eternal blessing.
We will be residents of a kingdom and heirs of a King for all who’ve revered the king, and yet, for all who have rejected the King, instead of irreversible joy, there will be irreversible justice. This story is as much different for those who have rejected the King; it is summarized there in verse 7 and 8. Then, you look back at the end of Revelation 20, and you see in verse 11:
[Then] I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.
And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. [And] if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelations 21 Teaches Us About God’s Judgment
Hell exemplifies the eternal judgment of God. There is coming a day where every single person will stand before the Creator God, in our sin, and He will be just. Not one of us wants to stand on our own merits that day. Our own merits will lead to eternal condemnation.
The great news of the gospel is that you can stand on the merits of another. Christ, who has come and who has paid the price for your sins, when you trust in Him, the Bible says, “He clothes you in His righteousness so on that day your name will be in the book of life. Yes, he’s humbled himself, turned from his pride and his rebellion and trusted in Christ.”
Turn and experience His salvation today. Men, women, children, anyone has never trusted in Christ, trust in Him today for your salvation. Trust in His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave and put your life in His hands. Stand on His merits and not on your own. Confess with your mouth that He is Lord. Believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. You will be saved.
You will experience inexpressible joy or irreversible justice. Now, this is a place of eternal fellowship. Now, we’re going to go with the picture of inexpressible joy here in heaven. Oh, look at this brothers and sisters: We will be with Him. Verse 3 says, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people.” God Himself will be with them as their God. This is the supreme delight of heaven.
However, be very careful here. When you think about heaven, be careful not to think about mansions. Don’t think about mansions when you think about heaven. That’s a total misunderstanding of John 14. Jesus said, “In my house there are many rooms.” Some translations have said mansions, but the word there is, literally, “dwelling place.” It’s the word that’s used here in Revelation 21 to talk about how God is dwelling with man. This is the supreme delight of heaven that God’s dwelling will be with man, and we have this. We are so prone to materialism to think of heaven in such terms.
I think that we think of of heaven, and we say, “Oh, heaven, we’re going to have all the finest amenities this world has to offer.” Don’t miss it. Heaven is not a place where we’re going to have all the finest amenities this world has to offer. Heaven is a place where the finest amenities in this world cannot compare to the fact that we are dwelling with God. He is so supremely greater than all the stuff that we could imagine put together.
The beauty of heaven is the presence of God. That’s what we’re longing for. That’s what we want because when we are in His presence, death will be replaced by life. Do you see what He’s saying here in Revelation 21? He says, “There will be no more sin. There will be no more sorrow.” Do you see verse 4? God is personally pictured. He is personally wiping away tears from our eyes.
No more sin, no more sorrow, no more sickness, no more cancer, no more disease, no more starvation and hunger, no more aches and no more pains, no more AIDS, no more separation, and ultimately, no more pain because death will be replaced by life. Night will be replaced by light. Listen to verse 22, “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” It’s interesting, and we don’t have time to dive into it, but as you look at the dimensions that are described here, what you’ll see is it’s shaped like a cube. The reality is it’s shaped in a way that mirrors the Holy of Holies, and the picture is there is no temple here, because it’s as if we were, literally, dwelling in the Holy of Holies in the very presence of God.
You look at the description here, as a result in verse 23, “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. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day, there will be no night there.” You get down to verse 5 in the very next chapter, Revelation 22, and it says, “Night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”
Death replaced by life. Night replaced by light. Corruption will be replaced by purity. Revelation 21:27 says, “Nothing unclean will ever enter into it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Then, check this out. Curse will be replaced by blessing. Do you remember in Genesis 3:24, the flaming sword flashing back and forth guarding man, keeping man from the tree of life? So, that was the beginning of the Bible in Genesis 3. Now, you get to the very last chapter of the Bible, it says,
The angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.
Oh, the curse is totally replaced by blessing, all leading to, what I am convinced, are probably the five most beautiful words in all of Scripture. I know that’s a bold statement to make, but look at Revelation 22:4. “They will see his face.” That is what we are hoping for and that is what we’re longing for. That is what this whole book is pointing toward. Toward the day when you and I see His face and behold His glory. We will be with Him, and we will see His face. That is the goal of redemption.
In our sin, we cannot see His face. It’s a day when sin will be no more, and we will see Him in all of his beauty and all of His glory and all of His majesty. You may recognize the name, Fanny Crosby. She was a famous hymn writer. She was blind her entire life and she wrote a poem once called “My Savior First of All.” I want you to hear part of it. Remember, she was blind, which means the first person she would ever see would be her Savior. She wrote,
When my life work is ended and I cross the swelling tide, when the bright and glorious morning I shall see, I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side and his smile will be the first to welcome me. Through the gates of the city in a robe of spotless white, he will lead me where no tears will ever fall and the glad song of ages I shall mingle with delight, but I long to see my Savior first of all.
Aren’t we, in a sense, all the same on this one? Our vision here on earth is blinded by sin, and when we see His face, everything changes. All for His purpose, God’s glory will be enjoyed by all peoples. This is the completion of the kingdom here. What we read in Revelation is a countless throng from every nation, people, tribe and language, a multitude that no one can count, from every nation, people, tribe and language singing a new song.
Revelation 5 pictures the lion-like lamb, Jesus, at the center of the throne. It says they sang a new song, “Worthy are you because you were slain, and by your blood, you ransomed people for God, redeemed them from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom of priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Together, with a countless multitude, we will declare, “Worthy is the King!”, and we will enjoy Him. We will enjoy one another with Him forever and ever. That’s what we’re looking forward to.
Oh, hear the claim of Christ in Revelation right here at the end. He says it three different times. Revelation 22:7; underline it. He says, “Behold, I am coming soon.” Then, down in verse 12, “Behold, I am coming soon.” Verse 7, verse 12 and then, verse 20. “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’” That’s the claim of Christ. He is coming soon, and so, the cry of the church is, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Come quickly. That’s how the Bible ends. The Bible ends with a redeemed people longing for the coming of the King, longing for the King to ultimately and finally bring His people to His place for His purpose.
Obviously, the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis have become a lot more popular in light of the movies. I want to read you a quote from the last paragraph in the last book in that series. Want you to hear it. C.S. Lewis wrote,
As Aslan spoke, he no longer looked to them like a lion, but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful, that I cannot write them. For us, this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after, but for them, it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page. Now, at last, they were beginning Chapter 1 of the great story which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever in which every chapter is better than the one before.
It is as if this is the cover and title page of a story that, for all who’ve trusted in Christ, is just beginning and will last forever and ever and ever. Revelation 11:15 says, “The kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and he will reign forever and ever.” God’s people in God’s place for God’s purpose.