Tomorrow’s World

We’ve been thinking about how we can live faithfully now in a world full of evil, suffering and temptation. How can we continue to trust God through trials and troubles? How can we resist temptation? How can we keep going?

Revelation 19-20 points us forward to the great victory there will be at the end of time when Satan’s defeat is complete and evil is judged. Revelation 21-22 focuses in on what the defeat means.  It means that we look forward in hope to eternity with God in his new Creation. God will put right what our sin made wrong.

We can live faithfully now and percevere when we look forward to what is to come. Trials and momentary. We look forward to eternity. This is what Piper means when he talks about “living in the light of future grace.” We can patiently endure suffering and persecution. We can forgo the instant but shallow and temporary rewards of sin because we look forward to a deeper and lasting prize.

Live faithfully, looking forward in hope because:

  1. God promises a new creation free from evil and suffering for us to enjoy in his presence (22:1-7)

John looks again, after the great judgement and sees a new creation. The old has gone (21:1). There is also no sea. Central to the New Creation is the new Jerusalem.

Note:

–          We look forward to a new creation. The Christian hope is not escape from earth to an ethereal heaven. Creation was made good and an important theme throughout the Bible is that Creation will be in some way renewed. The curse of death that our sin brought will end.[1]

–          The sea was often associated with chaos and disorder for the people of Israel. It was also a source of danger because enemy attack came from across the sea. The beast emerges from the sea in Revelation 13. The absence of the Sea is a promise of peace and safety. [2]

–          The New Jerusalem is dressed like a bride. Once again, we have imagery that presents something important. The new city is the church of God’s people.[3]

God makes his home with his people A vital promise is that we will know God’s loving presence with us. Believers already know something of this because we have the Holy Spirit but God will be present with us in an even deeper way. We are reminded of how God walked in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. We also are reminded of John’s description in his Gospel of Jesus making his dwelling or pitching his tent with us.[4]

There is the promise that suffering will end. God “will wipe away every tear.” (21:4). There is also safety from enemies, whilst there is a great inclusiveness to the Gospel and people from all nations, ages and backgrounds are drawn in, there is a protective exclusiveness that excludes unrepentant evil (v8). There is a promise of refreshing to the spiritually thirsty (21:6) and a inheritance to those who are victorious (21:7).

How can we be sure that these things will happen? Well, very simply because the eternal unchanging God, the beginning and the end who is faithful and true promises it (21:5-7).  He reminds us that he is “Alpha and Omega”, he rules over time and knows the beginning from the end. He declares again “It is finished!” He will accomplish his plan and can guarantee this because of his finished work on the Cross.

Paul makes a similar point in Romans 8:18-25. Creation now is groaning and longing, we experience suffering but death, decay and suffering will end when Christ returns.

  1. God promises the salvation of his people, restored to his image to reflect his glory (21:9-22:6)

The angel of God then takes John for a closer look at the City. Jerusalem represents God’s vindication and victory. We have in effect a tale of two cities. Babylon represents everyone and everything that opposes God’s people. It appears rich and powerful but it is tawdry, unpleasant, decaying and weak. In contrast, God’s City is beautiful with the true, pure wealth that gold and precious stones represent (21:11, 18-21).

It is strong and safe with thick walls. God’s people are under his protection and the enemy cannot defeat or destroy (21:12)

As we’ve seen, the city represents God’s people, Christ’s bride (21:9). God’s people are the true Israel made up of both Jews and Gentiles who have trusted Christ so the gates of the City are the 12 tribes and the foundations are the apostles (21:12-14).

There is no Temple because God is always present with his people and because Christ’s once for all sacrifice makes the Temple redundant (19:22).

The nations come to the City and walk in its light (21:24-26).  Here we see again how the end of time picture reflects back to life now. God is gathering people from every nation and the Church brings God’s Word (light) to this world.

In 22:1-6 we find ourselves in a restored Garden of Eden. The New Jerusalem is a garden city. A river flows through it just like the river through Eden. This also echoes the imagery of Psalm 1 where a tree is planted by water and Ezekiel 47 where a river of refreshment and life flows from the new temple.

The curse of sin has been lifted and the Tree of life is there for all to eat from. Here the promise of eternal life with God is fulfilled.

Remember that we were made in God’s image but because of the fall, we fall short of God’s glory. The picture now is of God’s people fully reflecting his glory as he intended.

Conclusion

These are precious words. I know that there will be quite a few reading this who have been through real trouble. For some, choosing to live for Christ has been costly. You’ve lost friends, you’ve had blocks put on your career. Around the World, believers face persecution, imprisonment, torture and death for their faith. For all of us, the battle against temptation is daily, persistent and hard. For some, the experience of evil as you’ve been abused verbally, physically, sexually, emotionally has left you clinging on to hope and faith.

Yet we continue to hold on with hope because we look forward to the day when Christ returns.

[1] See also Isaiah 66:17,22.  Mounce, Revelation, 379.

[2] Mounce, Revelation, 381.

[3] Mounce, Revelation, 382.

[4] The Greek language in 21:3 is similar.

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