We have reached the final week of our Revelation series. We’ve spent the last five weeks exploring the last book in the Bible, the book of Revelation. And I have loved what God has done in this series. I told you at the very beginning that I would be learning right along with you in this series. And that’s exactly what has happened.
The book of Revelation is intimidating. I’ve been in ministry for 17 years, and this is the first time I’ve preached a series from Revelation. And the reason is simple. It’s intimidating! The book is bizarre and weird and crazy and intimidating.
But as we’ve worked through this series, I hope some of the feelings of intimidation have given way to feelings of hope, because that’s what this book is all about. Brian Morrissey reminded us of that last week. And by the way, if you weren’t here last week, you need to go to our website and watch his message from last week. He laid down an incredible message on the second coming of Jesus Christ. It was awesome!
In his message last week, Brian reminded us that the book of Revelation is a book of hope and a book of victory. And the reason it is a book of hope and victory is simple…it’s a book that’s all about Jesus.
And today, we get to the absolute best part. We see what Jesus is going to do once He comes again. Today, we’re going to get a glimpse into what eternity will be like. We’re going to get a glimpse of the eternal destiny of everyone who is in Christ. And we’ll also see what Jesus is doing in our lives right now as we wait for that day.
Here’s the way today is going to work. I’m going to do some pretty heavy teaching upfront. We’re going to lay a foundation for where we’re going to end up today. It’s going to feel like we jumped right into the deep end of the pool today. But hang with me, because as this message progresses, we’re going to move from our heads, to our hearts, to our souls. God is going to stir every single part of us today. Our intellect. Our emotions. And our spirits.
Let me pray for us and then we’ll dive in.
Already. Not Yet.
Everybody repeat that after me.
That is where we live. That perfectly describes the time in which we live. We live in the already, not yet.
Here’s what we mean by that. We stand between the incarnation and the return of Jesus.
The incarnation was when Jesus came to earth the first time. Born in Bethlehem. Lived a perfect, sinless life. Was crucified as the full and final payment for our sin. Rose from the dead to give us the promise of a new life. And after His resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven. And after His ascension, we were promised that He would return again, like Brian preached about last week.
And that’s where we live right now.
Jesus has come the first time. And with His resurrection, He has inaugurated God’s Kingdom. But the full consummation of His Kingdom won’t come until He returns.
Already. Not Yet.
When you read the Old Testament in the Bible, you read about people who were waiting for the coming of God’s Messiah. They were looking forward to the coming of Jesus. They lived in the Not Yet.
We live on the other side of the incarnation. We live in the already. Jesus has already come. But just like they anticipated Jesus’ first coming, we anticipate His second coming. So while we live in the already, we also live in the not yet.
And life in the not yet is hard. Jesus already came to be a light in our dark world, but that darkness has not been fully eradicated yet. Jesus already came to bear our pain and suffering, but pain and suffering haven’t been eliminated yet. Jesus already came to heal our brokenness and make us whole, but our wholeness has not been realized yet.
That’s the tension that we live in. The tension of already, not yet.
When Jesus rose from the dead, we were given a glimpse of what is to come. The Kingdom of God began breaking into our world. But that Kingdom won’t be fully realized until Jesus comes again. And in the book of Revelation, we’re given a glimpse of what that will be like. We’re given a glimpse of what life will be like on the other side of the “not yet.”
Remember that the book of Revelation was a vision that God gave to the Apostle John. And in this vision, John was given a glimpse of what things will look like on the other side of the “not yet.”
We’re going to be in Revelation 21 today. And I’m so excited to preach this message because this is my favorite passage in the entire Bible. I absolutely love what John tells us in this passage. This passage has been a never-ending source of hope and encouragement for me, and I know it will be for you, too.
Here is the vision of the future that God gives to us through the Apostle John. John wrote, “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the HolyCity, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4, NIV)
I absolute love this. I love this glimpse of what is coming on the other side of the “not yet.” There is so much hope here. So let’s go back and unpack this a little more.
John opens by saying, “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the HolyCity, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” (Revelation 21:1-2, NIV)
This is where we begin to get a glimpse of the promise of a new creation. This is where we begin to see the Kingdom of God in its fullness.
This is a glimpse of where the people of God will spend eternity. And it really debunks some really popular myths that a ton of people believe today.
A lot of people believe that when we go to heaven, we’ll be these disembodied spirits who just sit on a cloud and play a harp all the time. That’s the idea of heaven that I had when I was growing up. And I never said it out loud, but to be honest, I wasn’t really interested in going there. It sounded weird. It sounded kind of frilly and froo-froo. And it sounded really, really boring.
That is not what we’re going to see today. Those ideas are not even close to the picture that the Bible paints for us. That’s not what things will be like when we go to heaven. And in fact, there’s another myth that we need to dispel right now. We don’t actually “go to heaven” at all.
The people of God will live on what John calls “a new earth.” The new earth will be a physical creation. It’s not going to be this invisible, spiritual realm. We won’t just be apparitions with wings. The new earth will be physical, glorious, and transformed.
And the Apostle Peter tells us how it will happen. In the book of 2 Peter, he wrote, “Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.
By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
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 done 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, where righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:3-7, 10-13, NIV)
Jesus will come and will take everyone before the judgment seat of God. And while the final judgment is taking place, God will purge our world with fire.
We do the same thing with precious metals. Gold is refined by fire. It is melted down to remove all the impurities. After the fire does its work, the gold is pure.
That’s what will happen to all of creation. God will send fire to purify it. To cleanse it. To restore it. And that new earth will be where we will spend our eternity, if we are in Christ.
That’s what we see in Revelation 21. John said, “I saw the HolyCity, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” (Revelation 21:2, NIV)
We learned earlier in this series that the church is the Bride of Christ. When we see the bride reference here, it is a reference to the church. The church is the new Jerusalem.
The old Jerusalem embodied Old Testament Israel. Not modern-day Israel. Don’t get confused there. The modern-day nation of Israel shares the same name, but that’s where the similarities end.
In the Old Testament, God created the nation of Israel as a people for Himself. The Old Jerusalem represented the people that God called out of slavery and into a relationship with Him.
The church is the new Jerusalem. It represents people from every tribe and tongue and nation who have been brought out of the slavery of sin by the blood of Jesus. It is the church, the Bride of Christ. The church is who will live on the new earth.
Now, we need to remember that this is all part of the “not yet.” This new earth doesn’t even exist yet. That means that even those who have passed on are not in this reality today. When someone who is in Christ dies, they are in the Lord’s presence. And it is amazing. It is glorious. It is beyond words. But they are not in their final destination. Essentially, they are in eternity’s waiting room. And even they are longing for the day of Christ’s return. The day when the new earth will become a reality.
So, what will it be like? What will life be like on the new earth? Let’s keep reading. This is where things get off the chart awesome.
In verses 3-4, John wrote, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4, NIV)
What will life be like on the new earth? We will live, and walk, and breathe in the very presence of God Himself. And what will God do? He will wipe every tear from our eyes. Death and mourning and crying and pain will no longer exist, because the old order of things will have passed away. Death, mourning, crying, and pain are part of life here. But they will be done away with when God purges our world of all evil.
All of us bear the scars of sin. We carry the scars that remind us of what we have done. We carry the hurt and the pain of what has been done to us. We know what it’s like to live in a broken world.
Here’s the good news. The great news. The absolute best news. It’s all going to be done away with. Whatever it is, it will be done away with.
In the Lord of the Rings saga, Tolkien expressed it with a question. “Is everything sad going to come untrue?”
What a great question. And God gives us a great answer. Yes! Absolutely yes! Everything sad is going to come untrue.
The present world that will live in has been completely ruined by sin. It traces back to the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, God placed the entire world under a curse.
Starting in verse 17, we read, “To Adam [the LORD God] said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you [God’s perfect creation would be perfect no more. Instead, it would be cursed.]; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you [in other words, life will be filled with hurt and pain. Life from this moment forward would be very hard and very unfair.], and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19, NIV)
This is the world we live in. It’s the world that Jesus came into when He was born in Bethlehem. And it’s the world that nailed Him to a cross on a hill called Calvary. This is the world that Jesus came to the first time. But it’s not the world that will exist after He comes again.
In the next chapter of Revelation, John wrote, “No longer will there be any curse.” (Revelation 22:3a, NIV)
On the new earth, the curse is lifted. The effects of the fall are reversed. God used this truth to turn me inside-out this week. I know I’ve done a lot of theological teaching up to this point, but now let’s really open our hearts and spirits to understand what this really means.
What it really means is found in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah wrote his prophecy well over 800 years before John wrote the book of Revelation. But God is eternal. He is timeless. He gave Isaiah a vision that mirrors the vision He gave John over eight centuries later.
In Isaiah 65, Isaiah wrote some of the most beautiful and hopeful words that you’ll find anywhere in Scripture.
Starting in verse 17, here’s what God said through the prophet Isaiah. “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. [You want to know how far we will be removed from hurt and pain and disappointment and discouragement and fear? We won’t even remember it anymore. The struggles and the suffering that you’re going through right now…it will never even come to mind when you’re on the other side of eternity. That stuff is part of the “already, not yet” world. But you won’t even remember it in eternity.]
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. [Remember that John told us that the church is the new Jerusalem. This is a prophecy about us.]
I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.” (Isaiah 65:17-19, NIV)
No more weeping. No more crying. Just the presence of a God who will forever take delight in His people. Did you notice that Isaiah said that God will take delight in us? We think it should be the other way around, and obviously we will forever delight in God’s presence. But Isaiah said that God will take delight in us.
God delights in you. A lot of people come to church feeling like God is mad at them. They walk into church feeling like, “Man, I screwed up so bad this last week. I really let God down. I’m sure He’s disappointed in me.”
Listen to what Isaiah is telling us. God delights in you. He delights in you so much that He wants to be with you for all eternity. This thought rocked my world this week. I can’t wait to spend eternity with God. But I’m not sure I ever thought about the fact that God can’t wait to spend eternity with me!
Somebody here tonight needs to own this truth. Somebody who is watching this video right now needs to own this truth. The most common title for God in all of Scripture is the title, “Father.”
Now for some of us, that word has a really negative connotation because our earthly father left a lot to be desired. Maybe your father neglected you. Maybe he was cruel to you. Maybe he abused you. Maybe he walked out on you.
You need to understand that your Heavenly Father will never do that to you. He is a loving, kind, gracious Father. And as a good and kind Father, there is nothing He wants more than to be with His kids.
And then there’s another thing about good fathers. Any good dad will always be there to bind a wound or heal a hurt.
When I was a young kid, I was playing outside one summer evening. My family was having a cookout with some friends. This was before the days of gas grills. My dad was cooking on one of those short little charcoal grills. And by the way, if you’re going to grill, you’ve gotta grill over charcoal. All you charcoal grillers know it’s true, don’t you?
Anyway, I was out in the yard, running around and not paying any attention to where I was. My dad turned to talk to his friend for one second, and any parent knows that one second is all it takes.
In that second, I was running as fast as I could. I tripped, and I fell directly into the grill. White hot coals landed all over me.
You know what my dad didn’t do? He didn’t step back, wag his finger at me, and say, “I told you so. I told you not to run around this grill. Now look at the mess you’re in. I’m very disappointed and angry with you. And I’m going to walk away and make you get out of this painful mess yourself.”
That’s not what my dad did at all. You know what my dad did? He sprung into action. He jumped in the middle of this fire and grabbed me. He jerked me out of the coals, and then he ripped all my clothes off of me. Some of the coals were stuck to my clothes, and he ripped my clothes off of me. And miraculously, I walked away from that situation with only minor burns. My dad was actually burned worse than I was, because dads don’t think about their own safety. Dads are all about healing the hurts in their kids.
And that’s what our Heavenly Father does. Listen to the kindness and compassion that come out of the next verses in Isaiah. Some of you came here tonight just so you could hear God speak these words directly to you.
Here’s what life will be like in eternity, in the presence of our good and gracious Father. Isaiah writes, “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years…” (Isaiah 65:20a, NIV)
Some of you have lived through the hell of losing a child. You’ve experienced the pain of a miscarriage. Or your baby died not long after he/she was born. Or you lost a child later in life. Grief counselors will tell you that there is no pain that compares to the loss of a child. And some of us here tonight have walked through that fire. And the pain never fully goes away. There are always reminders.
There are reminders here at church tonight. Our church is filled with children, and praise God that it is. But there are times when coming to church and seeing all the children reminds you of what you lost.
Some of you have never been able to conceive. You have prayed and prayed for God to bless your marriage with children, but for some reason, that prayer has gone unfulfilled. And unless you’ve dealt with the pain of infertility, you will never be able to comprehend what that does to a husband and a wife.
And some of us here tonight are without a child because of a choice that we made. In our culture, that choice is known as abortion. There is an abortion performed every 27 seconds in our country today. It is the most common outpatient “procedure” in America today.
But it is so much more than a surgical procedure. It marks the end of one life and the devastation of other lives. There are women here tonight who chose to end the life of their baby. There are men here tonight who were complicit. You pressured and coerced and financed this murder. And you’ve never gotten over the pain and the heartache that stems from that sinful decision.
Here’s the unbelievably good news…the slate will be wiped clean in eternity. Isaiah said “never again” will these kinds of things happen. ALL sin will be forgiven. ALL hurt and pain will be completely forgotten.
In eternity, you’ll get to meet your child from your miscarriage. You’ll be reunited with the child you lost. You’ll even get to hug the baby you aborted. That’s the promise of God. That’s the power of Christ. That’s what eternal life will be like in the presence of God.
Listen to what Isaiah said in the next verses. “They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands.” (Isaiah 65:22-23, NIV)
Some of you are weighed down because you’re unemployed. Or you’re living under crushing financial stress. How cool is it to know that it won’t exist in eternity?
But now, notice this key part. Isaiah said, “No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat.”
Robbery and betrayal won’t be part of life in eternity. Some of you are living with the pain of deep, personal betrayal. Someone you loved hurt you, and they hurt you bad. Maybe it was a friend. Maybe a family member. Maybe a parent. Maybe your spouse. Whoever it was, they hurt you and that pain lingers. Even after you work through the process of forgiveness, the pain still remains. “Forgive and forget” sounds nice, but it’s not reality. It doesn’t work in the world of “already, not yet.” But in eternity, it will. It will.
Now, listen to how Isaiah wraps this up. “They will not labor in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them.
Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. [Because God will be right there. Next to us. Present with us.]
The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.” (Isaiah 65:23-25, NIV)
Think about the imagery here. The wolf and the lamb will feed together. The lion will eat straw like an ox. In our world, this is not reality. If you throw a wolf and a lamb together, something is going to go down. Blood will be shed. Death is inevitable.
When a lion is on the hunt, something is going to die. And it is going to die a painful, violent death.
But in eternity, Isaiah is telling us that there will be peace. We will be free from the fear of terrorism. Free from the hellish reality of war. There will be no flag-draped coffins on the new earth. There will be no violence and bloodshed. There will be peace.
And not just political peace, but personal peace. There will be no more worry. No more fear. No more sleepless nights. No more anxious days.
And at this point, I can probably read your mind. “That just sounds too good to be true.” If you’re thinking that, it’s okay. I wrestled with the same thought this week. But the reason we think that is because we have no concept of these things. It’s completely outside of our paradigm. This current world is all we know.
But the reason all of this will be our new reality is because of what God said in Revelation 21. Let’s go back to that vision of the Apostle John.
Pick it up in verse 5. This is the key to the whole thing. John wrote, “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5, NIV)
The reason we can’t comprehend this world is because all we can see is the “already, not yet.” But when Jesus returns, He will make everything new. The curse will be gone. The pain and hurt and suffering and grief in our “already, not yet” world will be forgotten. This world will be purged with the refining fire of heaven and it will be made new.
And if you are in Christ, this is your ultimate fate and it is your eternal hope. And personally, I can’t wait. Bring it on. Come, Lord Jesus!
But if you are not in Christ, you need to know that your fate looks vastly different from what we’ve talked about tonight. I wish I didn’t have to read this verse, but I do.
Here’s what the Lord said in verse 8. “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8, NIV)
This is the fate of those who reject Jesus. Who refuse to surrender to Him. Who do not accept His death and resurrection as the payment for their sin.
And for some of you, I love you enough to tell you the truth. As it stands right now, this is your destiny. But you also need to know that this can change. In fact, it can change tonight.
Listen to what God said to the Apostle John. “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 water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.” (Revelation 21:5-7, NIV)
“It is done.” That reminds us of what Jesus cried out when He was dying on the cross. He shouted, “It is finished.” And we see it again here, at the end of time. It is finished. It is done. The payment for sin was finished when Jesus died on a cross. You can be forgiven of your sin. You can be set free, not only now, but for all eternity.
It’s only by God’s grace, which is a completely free gift. That why He said, “To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.”
His grace and forgiveness are free. It cost Him everything, but it costs you nothing. It’s a free gift. And it’s the source of life. Life here. And life for all eternity.
Already. Not yet. That’s where we live. And life in the “already, not yet” world is really hard. For some of us, life has really roughed us up lately. Things have just been really, really hard.
Hang on. Just hang on, because it’s temporary. The difficulties and the struggles and the pain of this world will not have the last word. Jesus will have the last word. And His last word is that pain and sin and death are done. They are finished. They have no place in His eternal plan for us.
That plan was launched when He died on a cross for us and when He rose to life again. And that plan will come to complete fulfillment when He comes again for us.
If you’re not ready for that, if you have questions or doubts or fears, we’d love to talk and pray with you tonight. We invite you to come to the back during this last song.
And if you are in Christ, this song celebrates everything we’ve talked about tonight, and everything we’ve seen throughout this series. Maybe you’ve had a hard week. Or a hard month. Or a hard year. Or a hard decade. It’s temporary. Your sin and your struggles will not have the last word. Praise God that Jesus will have the last word!