Beginning with the End in Mind: “Finding the Supporting Walls” – Revelations 21-22

PropertyBrothersOne of the HGTV shows that has garnered a lot of interest in the past few years is called the “Property Brothers”. The show follows a very predictable format, where an unrealistic couple or home buyer wants more than they can afford in a finished house, and so the hosts of the show take them to some older homes in need of renovation and promise to add into those old places the features of the new homes they like so much. The buyers are always skeptical until they see the design in a professionally prepared three dimensional video, and that is what finally allows people to decide what house they want to renovate. Most of the buyers were NOT willing until they saw the digital designs, but when they could see the vision clearly, they were prepared to sign the dotted line and buy the older homes.

The best way to start a project of any kind is to be able to grasp what the end will look like. That is especially helpful when we have to “make it that way” – as in building according to directions. Many of us confess that we don’t read assembly directions as much as we look at the picture on the box!

At the same time, looking at the END can also be helpful, when thinking about priorities. If we know exactly what the designer intends as the finished product, we see in that picture a clear view of what the designer thought was MOST IMPORTANT. Let’s take a moment and apply that idea to our lives. Since God let us know what the “eternal state” of those who know and follow Him, how can looking at the conditions of that place and time help us? They can show us what God values – what His underlying priorities are. If the world hadn’t plunged into the illegal renovations as a result of rebellion, we could see this in our world – but the original design of our world has been damaged and altered. As we look at the end of the Bible, let’s see if we can compare how life is designed at the end, and use that picture to see God’s priorities and finally ask how we may change how we live today because of God’s priorities.

Key Principle: The “eternal state” of the believer shows God’s underlying design for our lives.

God Suspends some common things in the eternal state:

The record unfolds between things that are MISSING in this place, and the FEATURES the place offers. It is like the vacation brochure that first promises a “break from traffic” (what won’t be there) and a “place to relax” (what will replace it). Revelation 20 offered a look at the final judgment of God. As we open Revelation 21, we see the “post judgment” era – a new time after time. All sin and rebellion has been fully dealt with. Eternity commences with all where they are supposed to be. Look at how the Apostle John recorded it:

Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer [any] sea.

The ecosystem may be significantly different in the final era – because our planet depends on the existence of the sea. It is difficult to know if the “sea” referred to in the passage is used metaphorically – for the Hebrews held the “Yam” as a place of chaos, and that is reflected in ancient language and saying. In any case – it is clear in the text that the OLD WAY is GONE, and a new way has begun. In this new economy, rather than human construction, the emphasis is placed on a pre-fabricated construction of God:

Revelation 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.

Take a moment and notice the short list of things tossed away with the old world:

Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be [any] death; there will no longer be [any] mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

No Distance between God and man – everyone will walk with God and know Him personally in an intimate way. What a great place to begin the description – our walk with God!!

No Tears left in God’s follower’s eyes – whatever you have suffered as a result of the fall and sin’s destruction will be wiped away. Remember that when you feel under attack – it will all be over someday soon.

No death – all separation is over – and all the pain it brings is finished. When you stare at the grave and feel the pain of loss – the world wasn’t designed that way – sin did that.

No pain – in the context this referred to specifically the pain of the loss from death – that went out with the old when death was finally defeated by the Redeemer.

Some people treat the afterlife like it is a penalty – not a blessing. That isn’t right! I am thinking of a terrible story of Bob and Stan, who were good buddies and baseball friends. One day at a ballgame, they made a vow to each other that, whichever friend died first, that friend would send a message back to earth to let the other friend know if there was baseball in Heaven. Sure enough, one day Bob died. After a while, he sent a message back to earth to Stan: “Hey, Stan, this is your old baseball buddy, Bob. I have good news and I have bad news for you from Heaven.” Stan thought about it and said, “Let’s hear the good news!” Bob said, “Well, the good news is there is a lot of baseball going on in Heaven! I am hitting home runs a mile long and you should see some of the guys in the Heaven League hit a baseball up here, too! It really is baseball Heaven!” Stan smiled and said, “Hey, Bob. What about that bad news?” There was a long pause. Finally, Bob spoke from Heaven and said, “The bad news is……..YOU ARE SCHEDULED TO PITCH UP HERE TOMORROW NIGHT!” That isn’t right! For the believer, death is no penalty any more than birth was. It signals a change in what we do…

The final state is much different than our time…But it is deliberately planned by our Father. Note the way John recorded the words… Revelation 21:5 “And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” …Drop down past the measurements of the Holy City, all the way to the description in Revelation 21:22 and following…

Did you notice what ISN’T THERE?

Revelation 21:22 I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; 26 and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; 27 and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

When we reach the final stage of history, we will be PERMANENTLY HOME. Nothing will need to be renovated or restored. Everyone will be where they are supposed to be…

It reminds me of the story of a new believer, who was on a plane with an intellectual (a man educated beyond his intelligence). He sneered at her reading the Bible and asked if she believed it? “Yes.” “Jonah and the whale story?” “Yes.”
“How did it happen?” “Don’t know, but I’ll find out when I get to heaven.” “What if Jonah isn’t there?” “Then I guess you’ll have to ask him from where you are for me.” – Source: Galaxie Software. (2002; 2002). 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press.

In fact, many of the things that took up our energy to provide in our old life will slip away – and we won’t need to work to keep it all together.

Notice each detail of what is MISSING. When you do, ask yourself, “What does that do to inform my focus as I walk with God NOW?”

1. We won’t need a temple – because God will live with us. Our focus shouldn’t be on the mechanics of religion as much as on the glory and exaltation of God.

2. We won’t need a celestial light – because God’s glory will shine for us. Our focus shouldn’t be as much on “branding” a church as much as showing what God is really like to a dark world.

3. We won’t need a nightlight – for God’s glory never sets. Our focus shouldn’t be on how to make the world see our ministry in some flashes of outreach as much as how we can steadily show them the incredible God that we serve. This should cause us to refuse to curse the night, but rather build constantly operating lighthouses to attract the wandering. Remember, “its lamp is in the Lamb”. When we exalt Jesus, we draw people to the Light.

4. We won’t need a key – for closed gates and locks will be meaningless. Our focus must be on pointing people to the open door, not keeping them focused on the walls. Yes, holiness and repentance are essential, but they are not the primary message – salvation by grace through faith must be.

5. We need no greater accomplishments – the “glory” and “honor” of the nations will be deposited in Heaven’s city of the King. Our focus cannot be to build a wealth apart from His glory, nor a success that is self-centered.

6. We won’t need guilt – for sin will have no more place there. Our focus must be on the forward movement of our walk with God by deliberately setting aside the hindrances. We cannot and must not make those distractions take more from us.

7. We won’t need defensiveness – for everyone we meet will be what God intended them to be. Our focus shouldn’t be on “winning the battles” in the here and now, but rather speaking with the confidence of those who know the end.

There are a number of reasons we won’t need these things – but a big part will be simply because God will complete everything He started at the beginning of the first book of the Bible….

• In Genesis 1:1 God created the heavens and the earth; in Revelation 21:1 God will create a new heaven and earth.
• In Genesis 1:16 God created the sun; in Revelation 21:23 there will be no more need for the sun.
• In Genesis 1:5 God established the night; In Revelation 22:5, God abolished night.
• In Genesis 1:10 God created the seas; In Revelation 21:1 God dispensed with the seas (which may have been a comfort to John who was exiled and separated by seas from his family and friends!)
• In Genesis 3:14-17 God announced the curse; In Revelation 22:3 God rescinded it forever. Satan would no longer touch the earth, let alone crawl its surface. The new earth would yield without question the fruits assigned to it.
• In Genesis 3:19 Death entered the world; in Revelation 21:4 Death will be dismissed forever.
• In Genesis 3:24 man was driven from paradise; In Revelation 22:14, he stands in Paradise regained.
• IN Genesis 3:17 Sorrow and pain grew from the rebellion; in Revelation 21:4, Sorrow will be cut off forever. Tears and pain are satisfied forever.

As an aged Christian lay dying, a friend called to say farewell. “I have just had three other visitors,” said the dying man, “and with two of them I parted; but the third I shall keep with me forever.” “Who are they?”

• “The first was Faith, and I said, ‘Goodbye, Faith! I thank God for your company ever since I first trusted Christ; but now I am going where faith is lost in sight.’

• Then came Hope. ‘Farewell, Hope!’ I cried. ‘You have helped me in many an hour of battle and distress, but now I shall not need you, for I am going where hope passes into fruition.’

• “Last of all came Love. ‘Love’, said I, ‘you have indeed been my friend; you have linked me with God and with my fellow men; you have comforted and gladdened all my pilgrimage. But I cannot leave you behind; you must come with me through the gates, into the city of God, for love is perfected in heaven.’” – The Sunday School Chronicle.

Part of the point of the words of Revelation 21 are to demonstrate that God is going to tear out everything “not built to code” and replace it entirely with what mankind should experience.

Eight Provisions: God’s new build…

Next, what WILL BE THERE? Revelation 22:1 “Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; 4 they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. 5 And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.”

1. God’s life will flow as a river from His throne to His people – it will be clear, crisp and refreshing. All of life’s thirsts will be quenched! Our focus should be on having our deepest heart needs met by our Master – not our spouse, our children or our friends.

2. Spanning the river will be a tree of life – with its ever changing, always delicious fruit. All of life’s hungers will be satisfied! Our focus should be on training our tastes for the things that please God – and not feasting on things that we know do not.

3. Covering its branches will be bountiful and beautiful leaves – whose oils will produce a healthy and comforting balm for all to partake. All of life’s discomforts will be settled! Our focus should be to see pain and trouble as temporary, rather than allowing ourselves to be swallowed up in this world as though it will never change.

4. The ground will yield no weed – for the curse is forever broken. All of life’s disappointments will be contented! Our focus should be to live with understanding toward those who disappoint and even cause pain to us – they are living under a curse until they are redeemed.

5. Distance from God will evaporate – for we will see Him face to face. All of life’s strain will be eased! Our focus should be to grow our hunger to be intimate with God by asking Him to shape our will toward Him.

6. There will be no need to read the story of redemption – for our very salvation will be revealed on the markers upon our heads. All of life’s insecurities will be erased! Our focus needs to be on building trust in what God has promised in each other.

7. There will be no night for pain to increase and darkness to overcome – for God’s light will shine in unending power. All of life’s anxiousness will be calmed! Our focus should be on prayer and praise to relieve worry and anxiety.

8. There will be no need for rulers – for each will have his place to reign. All ego will recede for there will be One King – and He will be enough! Our focus should be to cede our importance and decrease before Him and that He may increase in us.

One Pastor wrote: There was once a little girl born blind. The only beauty she knew came from her mother’s descriptions of things like the flowers in spring, trees in fall, snow in winter, and the crashing surf of the ocean in summertime. The girl could only imagine what her momma described. At about ten years of age, an experimental surgery was developed and made available to to help the little girl see for the very first time. Oh, what she saw when the bandages were carefully and slowly removed! In a few minutes, after her eye adjusted to light, she ran to the window of the doctor’s office and stood breathless! She cried out: “Mother, why didn’t you tell me it was so beautiful?” Her mom replied: “I tried to, but words just wouldn’t suffice!” I believe that in Heaven we’ll run around breathless, and when some see the Apostle John they’ll say, “Why didn’t you tell us?” and he’ll say, I tried, but words wouldn’t suffice!

The Basis of All Truth

Revelations 22:6 And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place. 7 “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”

Our faith is not made up – it was revealed by the God that made us. Our destiny is not the stuff of dreams, but the uncovering of truths revealed by a Sovereign who is timeless and already exists in that place. His Word is His bond, and His Word has been made known. The one who believes His promises awaits His appearing. The one who truly trusts in God’s words concerning the hereafter carefully measures his life in the hear and now. Sloppy living comes from slipping belief. He has promised me a future home, and demanded only that I trust Him to provide it as He said! God didn’t just promise a new day – He explained what kind of future He has planned for us. Want to join in? He has paid your way!

By Jack Hyles

I have heard the white-tipped tapping cane,
Which leads a blinded eye.
And then a darkened, lonely voice
Cries, “Preacher, show me why.”

I have caught a fiancée’s burning tears,
And heard her lonely cry.
She held an unused wedding gown,
And shouted, “Pastor, why?”

I have heard the cancer patient say,
“’Tis gain for me to die;”
Then look into his daughter’s face,
And mutely whisper, “Why?”

I’ve heard an orphan faintly say,
Who gazed into the sky,
“Tho Mom and Dad have gone away,
My preacher will know why.”

I have sat beside a tiny crib,
And watched a baby die,
As parents slowly turned toward me,
To ask, “Oh, Pastor, why?”

I tiptoed to my Father’s throne,
So timid and so shy,
To say, “Dear God, some of Your own
Are wanting to know why.”

I heard Him say so tenderly,
“Their eyes I’ll gladly dry,
Tho they must look through faith today,
Tomorrow they’ll know why.”

And so I’ve found it pleases Him
When I can testify,
“I’ll trust my God to do what’s best,
And wait to find out why.”

It is great to know that by looking at the design of eternity, I can see the fingerprints of my God Who prepared it.