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God Shall Wipe Away All Tears (e)

Revelation 21-22

James R. Davis

John doesn't mince words describing the final eternal destiny of those who are not found written in the book of life. They are simply but powerfully overthrown. The beast and the false prophet, along with Satan, are cast into a fiery lake of burning sulfur where they are tormented day and night forever and ever. This will also be the home of cowardly, unbelieving, the vile, murders, sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, idolaters and all liars. You don't need a more graphic narration. That is as bad as it gets. Hell is a place of no hope. Hell is so bad that it can't get any worse and it will never be any better. That is all you can say about hell. A bumper sticker says, "Mean people suck!" You would have to be meaner than the meanest to take over. There is not a lot of consolation or solace in that thought. It is then that we will understand in the fullest measure about the human loss that sin has brought.

Heaven Filled with God's Presence (21:1-4)

Initially a voice directs John's attention not to the beauty of the city, but rather to the central figure, God, who dwells there. As this New Jerusalem descends out of heaven, John hears a voice saying, "Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God." (21:3) The most impressive thing about heaven is that God will be there and heaven will be filled with the fullness of his presence. God will be our God and we shall be his people.

2 Peter 3:9-13
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

Imagine a new heaven and earth where only righteousness dwells. This old earth is filled with Satan's presence. The old heavens and earth are ruled by the prince of the power of the air that old serpent called the devil. (Ephesians 2:1-2) The upheaval Satan brings to earth is seen throughout John's vision as he made war against God's children. He brings only shame and destruction to God's creation from the beginning. He distorts every good and decent thing. Who hasn't been tainted with the shame and destruction of Satan's deceitful evil acts and our own personal sin? (Ephesians 2:1-5) Now there is a new heaven, a new earth, where only God dwells and only righteousness rules. God has made all things new and the former things are passed away. (21:4-5)

The New Jerusalem (21:9-27)

Secondly, John is taken up on a exceedingly high mountain to see the new Jerusalem from an external vantage point. John's initial vantagepoint enabled him to see the internal nature of the New Jerusalem. He sees God dwelling among his people as he meets their every need. Sorrow, death and all the other painful realities of the earthly life are forever banished.

Throughout the Old Testament history Jerusalem played an all-important role in the lives of God's people. Jerusalem was where all the major religious holidays were celebrated. To the Jews, the prosperity of Jerusalem was a sure sign of the presence of God. But it was never meant to be an eternally enduring city. The Hebrew writer states, "For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come." (Heb 13:14) "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Heb 11:8-10) The faithful of old " . . . were longing for a better country-- a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." (Hebrews 11:16) Paul referred to the old earthly Jerusalem as being in bondage with her children, but he refers to the New Jerusalem, which is above as free, and the mother of us all. (Galatians 4:25-26)

John's vision is of this heavenly city whose architect and builder is God. Think of all the great cities of the ancient world . . . Rome, Athens, Carthage, Sparta, all have been destroyed. Babylon, the greatest city in Old Testament history, once had a population of two million, but now snakes and lizards crawl across its ruins. Titus' armies have destroyed even the earthly Jerusalem at the time of John's writing. It is true that we have no continuing city. We have many great cities, London, Washington, Chicago, Birmingham, and Tampa. Yet, there is no enduring city. These cities will all be gone one day. It is then that there will be a New Jerusalem prepared as a bride for her husband. It will be a permanent city.

From John's mountainside scene he sees New Jerusalem as a bride adorned for her husband. The city has twelve foundations covered with every kind of precious stones and jewels. It has walls that are 212 feet thick on which were inscribed the names of the apostles. The city is measured; it is a perfect cube, which measures 1,400 miles in length, width and height. There are twelve gates to the city, three on each side; each gate is made of a single pearl. The street of the city is paved with pure gold as transparent as glass. The gates to the city are never closed because God dwells there and everyone in heaven may come boldly into the city at anytime for its gates are never shut and there is no night there. Yet, "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life." (21:27)

There will be no temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb is its temple. It needs no sun, moon nor stars; God and the Lamb are its light. The kings of the new earth will bring their glory to it. When Jerusalem was at its zenith under the reign of King Solomon, kings and queens from all over the world came to behold the beauty of the city that Solomon built. The Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon and said, "The half has not been told." Jerusalem became a city that was a shining light for the entire world. As the kings of the earth came to visit the city, they brought the glory of their kingdoms through fine gifts from all over the world. In John's vision the glory of the heavenly city is portrayed in earthly terms so that we might somehow understand that the New Jerusalem is now the mother of us all as I now speak.

We are invited to this city; it is the surety of all our eternal hopes and dreams. In the first scene of John's vision of this city, it is portrayed as the dwelling place of God. In the second scene, the city is portrayed as the glorious bride of Christ adorned with all the breathtaking radiance of God. "It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal." (21:11) It is here that John portrays the blessed inheritance that awaits the faithful bride of Christ, the church. She shares in the glory of God. As you behold the city, you behold God and his people as one.

The Blessings of Eden Restored (22:1-5)

As the third scene of this heavenly vision opens John is taken into the city only to discover that it is a beautiful garden reminiscent of Eden.

Revelation 22:1-5
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever. The resplendent splendor of this city will cause the heavens to pale into insignificance

How we long for the purity and fellowship lost in Eden. How we long to see God face to face as the first couple did in Eden. Moses longed to see the face of God but was unable to do so. In God's new order of things we shall see him face to face. There will be no curse of separation in heaven; the curse of Eden is removed. The fullness of God's presence is once again enjoyed. The tree of life will be restored and its leaves will be for the healing of the nations. God will dwell with his children. We will drink from the fountains of living waters. We will eat the fruit of the tree of life in the eternal light of God's love as we reign with him forever and ever.

When we contemplate regaining the blessings of Eden, " . . . our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18) "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Cor 4:17-18)

Jesus Christ Is Coming (22:7-11)

The unique thing about John's vision is that the past, present and future are so intertwined and interfused that the tide of time is blended with eternity. So much so that we lose a sense of tense and time and we are caught up into John's vision into the ever-present living victory of the Lamb. Although our salvation is wrapped up in the past event of the cross, it is that past event that assures us of our future salvation in heaven. But it is that past salvation and our future salvation that  has begotten us to a new and living hope in real time. (1 Peter 1:1-4) As soon as Christians are martyred they emerge from martyrdom into the present and future as they stand before the throne of God crying out, "How long before our blood is avenged upon the earth? The moment they die, it is as if this New Jerusalem descends down out of heaven to scoop them up into the eternal presence of God.

The Hebrew writer speaks to Christians on earth saying, "But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God,  the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels . . ." (Hebrews 12:22) The heavenly Jerusalem is the mother of us all and an ever-present reality for the child of God.

God's eternal salvation has been a reality every step of the way because God has placed his seal of protection upon their foreheads. So much so that eternity is a reality in the present. And it continues to be so for all those who have their robes washed in the blood of the Lamb and continue to do right. Salvation is an ever-present reality.

Jesus says, "Behold, I am coming soon!" In real time, he is already here, for his sacrifice was prepared and sure before the foundation of the world was laid. Isaiah spoke of Jesus' sacrifice as a past event hundreds of years before it happened because what needed to be done for our salvation had already occurred in the mind of God. In John's vision he walks among the seven candlesticks, he opens the seven seals, as the trumpets are sounded, as the bowls of wrath are poured upon the earth he is an ever-present reality through the whole ordeal. As they go through the tribulations on earth John's vision encourages them in that it tells them Christ is presently judging the world. Christ is just as present through our difficulties today. He is just as present where two or three are gathered together. It is his ever-abiding presence that we enjoy. His presence's is only a foretaste of what is to come.

The curse of sin has filled this world with tears. We find them at every turn of the road. Things may look bright for us for a while, but then comes some blinding disappointment out of nowhere to rob us of our hopes and dreams. How many of us know the bitter tears of disappointment?

Moses spent all his life with one great goal in view. His supreme ambition was to lead the children of Israel into the Promise Land. Just as he was about to realize the fulfillment of all his aspirations and dreams, he met disappointment. God said, "Moses, because of your disobedience, you will not be able to go into the Promised Land." Sin deprived him of his hopes and dreams. You can all but see the tears coursing down his cheeks.

We have our own disappointments and tears. A man worked all his life saving for a new home. He built the home and lived in it two days before sin's curse of death stripped him of all his earthly hopes and dreams. Others have experienced the bitter disappointment of children failing to live up to their potential. We build castles in the sky only to see them come crashing to earth. We dream bright dreams that never come true. We have high hopes that never materialize.

In the slums of London there lived a poor man and woman who had only one child. They made sacrifices to give this child a good education. They sent the child all the way through the university. The child graduated with honors, majoring in chemistry. On the graduation day the child was given a position as a chemist in a great chemical plant. With the first money earned, the child moved the parents out of the slums. Their dreams were coming true just as an explosion at the chemical plant made their child an invalid for life. Surely they shed the tears of shattered dreams. Yes, this world is full of tears.

The most beautiful thing about heaven is that with one stroke of God's love all human sorrow will be swept away. We thank God that there is a land where all tears are wiped away. God shall wipe away all tears from every eye! There will be no more death, nor pain, nor fear.

A minister visited a fine young person who was a Christian. The youth was very active in the church. The young Christian became very ill and knew death was imminent. The minister made a visit to talk to the young Christian about the heavenly city toward which this young Christian was going. As the young Christian talked about death and heaven, tears begin to flow. The minister took a handkerchief and wiped the tears from her cheeks. The young Christian looked up into the preacher's face and said, "The next time my tears are wiped away, they will be wiped away by the loving hand of my heavenly Father.

The worst thing about the struggle of the forces of good and evil on earth is the human sorrow it brings. Initially, on judgment day there will be a lot of tears shed by the saved and the lost. The loss of the soul of a loved one, of a child or a spouse or a parent will be experienced. What sorrow! But somehow God's presence will fill every void and God in his infinite wisdom will wipe away all tears from the eyes of the saved.

The assurances given after each scene throughout John's vision encourages saints. We are assured that these words are faithful and true, we are guaranteed that we can depend on it because God is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. He has the keys to Hades and death, and he will destroy both. He has the power to make it so. A city totally filled with God's presence will assure us that "He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-- their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death." (Revelation 21:7-8) "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life." (Revelation 21:27)

John assured his readers that everyone is invited. "To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my Son." (V. 6b-7a) Heaven was created for everyone. It is without cost. Everyone enters on the same terms, by the blood of Jesus Christ. Our robes are stained with the sin of this world. They must be washed white in the blood of the Lamb. If you have a thirst to meet God face to face, you are invited through the blood of the Lamb that was slain before the creation of the world.

1 Pet 1:18-21
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

Conclusion:

All Are Invited Into God's Presence (22:12-17)

Revelation 22:12-17
Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star." The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

John 14:1-6
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Matthew 11:27-30
"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

A Warning (22:18-21)

Three basic truths are taught in these two chapters:

God will dwell with his people.
His people will share in his resplendent splendor.
The blessings of Eden will be restored.


Rev 22:18-21
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen.

To distort the basic message of John's Revelation would be to rob God's children of all their hopes, aspirations and dreams. There is not a more serious offense in the eyes of God.

We must be reminded of the reality of our salvation in real time. No one does it better than John. From his eternal perspective we are caught up into his panoramic view. Time and eternity are blended into one as the eternal God rules and directs both worlds.
 
 
 

 

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