Leaving It Behind
Leaving It Behind
Leading With Your Heart
I’ve Been There, And I’ll Always Be There For You
Learning different languages.
BIG IDEA – Our God wants to know and be known by us.
QUESTION – Why would God become one of us?
GOD (John 1:14-18)
Experience (v. 14)
God’s experience of humanity
John 4:6-7; 11:33, 35
Exodus 25:8-9; 40:34
Humanity’s experience of God
Example (vv. 15-17)
Of how to navigate this life He gave us
Of God and His character
Who is He?
What matters to Him?
God became man, so He could die for us. As deity He couldn’t die. As a human He could die for us.
Gold at the End of the Rainbow
Like many of you, I drive to work every day. And because this commute has become so routine to me, I tend not to think too much about it. My mind switches to autopilot as I make my way to work.
But the other day, during my daily commute, I realized suddenly just how amazing this activity, which I so often take for granted, really is. I sit comfortably in the front of this machine, and by simply adjusting the angle of my foot, propel myself at incredible speeds from one point to the next. Imagine how far this technology has come.
Could you imagine someone from 100 years ago suddenly finding themselves here today, looking at one of our vehicles? Wouldn’t they be amazed? Imagine the mingling feelings of confusion and wonder as they watch cars zipping by on the nearby road. Things have changed so much in just a hundred years!
As incredible as human progress has been, even just in recent centuries, it all pales in comparison to the drastic difference between what we know now and the New Jerusalem, which John describes in stunning detail in Revelation 21:9-21.
BIG IDEA: What God has in store for us, His people, is unbelievably beautiful.
In this passage, John is given a vision of the New Jerusalem, and he describes to us the structure of this city as well as the materials of which it’s made.
Today, we’re going to talk about the vision, the structure, and the materials, and what each of these reveals to us about God and His people.
VISION (v. 9-10)
Angel (v. 9)
Principle #1: Eternal life with God is the fulfillment of all of His promises to His people.
My Next Step #1: Consider how God has fulfilled (and is fulfilling) His promises in the world and in my life.
Materials (v. 11, 18-21)
(v. 18): “The wall was made of jasper..”
Due to the limitations of language and his own understanding, John may not actually be talking about Jasper.
Mounce notes that “In antiquity, the designation ‘jasper’ was used for any opaque precious stone,” so the reference could be to any of a number of stones.
Both Mounce and Courson (and many other scholars) agree that the description, “clear as crystal,” would suggest that the stone John is attempting to reference is actually a diamond.
So what is the significance of this stone? Why a diamond?
Courson helps us to understand the metaphorical value of this stone: “A diamond would be a fitting description of the city wherein dwells the Church--not because as the bride of Christ we deserve diamonds, but because, like diamonds we are simply chunks of worthless coal made brilliant by heat and pressure.”
1 Peter 4:12-13 elaborates on this truth.
Like a diamond shines only as it reflects the light around it, we as the Church shine only when we reflect the glory and presence of God around us.
Precious Stones (Foundations)
(v.19-20) “The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone…”
Each of the 12 precious stones decorating the foundations of the city is named.
These include: Jasper, Sapphire, Agate, Emerald, Onyx, Ruby, Chrysolite, Beryl, Topaz, Turquoise, Jacinth, and Amethyst.
Some have attempted to interpret the meaning of each stone, but I won’t. What I will consider, however, is the significance of this particular grouping of stones.
Osborne presents 3 theories, which we will consider.
Theories Regarding the Precious Stones:
Connection to the High Priest’s breastplate
8 of the 12 stones listed are also among those worn on the breastplate of the High priest, as mentioned in Exodus 28 and 36.
The 4 stones which differ between the two lists can be explained by limitations of language (the same stone having different names, etc.) or knowledge at the time (maybe the true stone had not been discovered at the time).
Mounce believes that this similarity to the breastplate of the High Priest suggests that “the privileges reserved for the high priest alone under the old covenant are now freely given to the entire people of God.”
Possible connection to Zodiac
The list of stones here in John’s description of the New Jerusalem is the exact reverse order of the 12 jewels linked with the 12 signs of the Zodiac in ancient Egyptian and Arabic lists.
Osborne sees this as indicating John’s intentional rejection of any “pagan speculations about the ‘city of the gods’ behind the celestial city.”
Due to the difference with the signs of the zodiac and the breast plate of the high priest, we cannot be certain of either, and it is best to see this list as a general depiction of the glory of the people of God, of many different types, and yet reflecting God’s glory.
Though none of these theories is definitive, the connection to the High Priest has clear implications.
In Revelation 1:6, 5:10, and 20:6, God’s people are portrayed as priests of God.
So this is how God views us according to His covenant through Christ
This means that we, like the High Priest, have direct access to God at all times.
(v.21) “The 12 gates were 12 pearls, each gate made of a single pearl.”
In the ancient world, pearls held incredible worth and were considered the most luxurious of all jewels.
We see an indication of this in Matthew 13:45-46, in which Jesus tells of a man who sold everything he had to possess a single pearl.
Courson again attempts to draw out some significance regarding the use of this particular material:
“The pearl represents God’s people. How do I know? In Matthew 13, Jesus told the sotry of a man who sold everytying to purchase a pearl. That’s just what Jesus did. He gave everything He had--even His very life--to purchase us. This makes us the pearl--a fitting description, since a pearl is nothing more than an irritating grain of sand or a tiny parasite coated by the lustrous nacre of an oyster. We’re irritating indeed, parasitic beyond question. But God robes us and covers us and thereby makes us trophies in order that all of creation throughout eternity might marvel at His grace.”
Gold (City and Street)
(v. 9) “...city of pure gold…”
(v. 21) “The great street of the city was of gold…”
Here on earth, gold is extremely valuable, but in heaven, gold is used as casually as asphalt.
“Whatever you value most on earth,” says Courson, “will be as commonplace as asphalt in comparison to the glory of the New Jerusalem.”
This also reminds us of the priests of the Old Testament (1 Kings 6:30) who ministered in the Temple. (Mounce)
Like them, the servants of God in the New Jerusalem walk upon gold.
This is yet another reference to our priestly status in God’s city.
When God looks at His people, He sees priest in His Kingdom.
The presence of gems, pearls, gold together
Similarity to Isaiah 54:11-12
In this passage, which speaks of “gates of sparkling jewels” and “walls of precious stones,” Isaiah is describing the restoration and transformation of the “daughter of Zion” from abandonment and fear to fulfillment and joy.
The desolate city in this passage is transformed into a city decorated with gold and jewels, the bride of Yahweh.
The serves as an incredibly apt metaphor for the life of one who has been redeemed by Christ, and even more so as the redeemed Church.
Connection to the prostitue of Babylon
The prostitute of Babylon is described in Revelation 17:4 and 18:16 as wearing “gold, precious stones, and pearls,” the same elements we see composing the New Jerusalem.
The distinction, however, lies in the statement, found in Rev. 18:6, that “in one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin.”
Here we are reminded of the elements which distinguish the prostitute from the bride.
The prostitute (the world) tempts us with instant gratification, which ultimately won’t last nor satisfy.
What God offers through Christ, however, is the long-term, intmate relationship enjoyed exclusively by a wife.
This adds to our understanding of God’s faithfulness, as well as the security and intimacy He offers us.
Principle #2: When God looks at you, He sees something precious, valuable, beautiful, and capable of reflecting HIs glory.
My Next Step #2: Reflect upon how God sees me as an individual and us as the Church.
The Lord’s Prayer
In this prayer, we tell God that we want to see His Kingdom Come, His will be done. And as we saw in the beginning of this chapter, God answers the prayers of His people.
These trumpets and the plagues they usher in are God’s tangible answers to the prayers of His people for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done.
Here we see a God of action, in response to His people.
In the same way, the purpose of Revelation is not to promote speculation about the future, but rather to compel action in the present.
The trumpets being blown by the angels here remind us of the victory of Joshua and God’s people at Jericho. Seven priests blew seven trumpets as they marched around the city seven times. These trumpets brought both God’s judgment and the victory of His people, ushering them into His promise.
The trumpets in Revelation serve a very similar purpose, but on a much larger scale.
The First Trumpet (v. 7)
Hail is also seen in the seventh plague on Egypt in Exodus 9:18-26
Hail is also seen in Joshua 10:11, in the story of God making the sun stand still for Joshua and the Israelites
In Job 38:22-23, God speaks of “storehouses of hail” which he “reserve[s] for times of trouble, for days of war and battle.”
In all of these instances, hail is seen as an instrument used by God to act against the enemies of His people (Exodus 9:17)
Keener points out that even in literary works from the ancient Mediterranean world, hail appears as a warning of divine judgment, such as in Homer’s Iliad.
So the hail here represents God’s power and judgment over the earth.
“...and fire, mixed with blood”
According to Osborne, fire and blood are often combined as symbols of judgment
Ezekiel 21:32; 38:22
In Joel 2:31, fire and blood are “wonders in the heavens,” displaying God’s power, as well as signs of the “coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.”
This phrase occurs 12 times in verses 7-12
Why one third and not the whole?
Easley brings our attention to the fact that the destruction of one third of the earth and trees, while devastating, is not yet fatal. This is because this destruction is meant as divine warning of worse disasters to come.
This is because, as Osborne suggests, the purpose of these acts is to prove the sovereignty of God and give one last chance for repentance. God could have destroyed everything all at once, but systematic destroys only a portion so that the people of the world could repent before the complete and final destruction.
Joel 2:32--Even in the midst of this destruction, God still provides opportunity for salvation
In this way, God is showing mercy, even in His wrath, something only God could do.
“...a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees…”
This destruction would devastate the food supply, and create a barren, uninhabitable wasteland over much of the earth.
“...and all the green grass was burned up.”
According to Mounce, “grass” here refers to all vegetation, further limiting the supply of food on the earth.
Keener then observes that he destruction of all grass means the “impending death of sheep, goats, and cattle,” ending the world’s supply of meat, milk, and cheese.”
Already with this first blast, we see incredible destruction, but also indications of God’s M.O. His destruction is very systematic, leaving room for repentance.
Priciple One: Even in destruction and judgment, God is merciful.
The Second Trumpet (vv.8-9)
“Something like a huge mountain, all ablaze…”
This could be understood as a volcano. In his commentary, Mounce notes that less than twenty years before John wrote this passage, Vesuvius had erupted and destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum. Because this catastrophe was widely known, this imagery would have been especially powerful for a contemporary audience.
It does seem, however,that John is simply describing what he’s seeing the best that he can from what he knows. John cannot say exactly what this fiery mass is, but only that it is “like a huge mountain.”
“A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died...”
Very similar to the first plague in Egypt in Exodus 7:17ff
The consequence of this plague in Egypt, as seen in Exodus 7:18, was that the Egyptians lost their source of fish and clean drinking water.
This plague on such a large scale would deliver yet another devastating blow to the world’s food supply.
“...and a third of the ships were destroyed.”
As Wiersbe states in his commentary, “this will be an ecological and economic disaster of unprecedented proportions.”
As of January 2017, there were 52,183 ships in the world’s merchant fleets. Imagine the effect on the shipping industry and the global economy as a whole if 17, 394 ships were suddenly destroyed, including all of their cargo.
Again, each destruction is only in part, affecting one-third of the sea, its life, and commerce. The purpose here, as before, is to warn and lead to repentance.
Principle Two: It is God’s desire for us to repent, turn from our sins, and surrender to Him.
The Third Trumpet (vv.10-11)
“...A great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky…”
According to Easley, it’s possible that this meteor-like device began as the fiery censer which an angel hurled down to earth in verse 5.
We see this action replicated in all of the first three trumpets:
In verse 7, hail and fire mixed with blood was “hurled down on the earth”
In verse 8, the fiery, mountain-like mass is “thrown into the sea.”
And here in verse 10, this great star falls from the sky.
This repetition of symbolism could represent the continuing response of God to the prayers of His people through the destruction following each trumpet.
Despite this speculation, however, Easley concludes that John provides no clear identification of this star beyond its name. So let’s examine the name.
“...The name of the star is Wormwood…”
According to Easley, wormwood was an extra bitter, but not poisonous plant with medicinal value.
Aune tells us that the taste of wormwood is so potent that one ounce of it can still be detected in 524 gallons of water.
Wiersbe also adds that this word translated as “wormwood,” Apsinthos, is the origin of our English word, “absinthe”, which is a popular liqueur in certain parts of the world.
The word means “undrinkable,” and in the Old Testament was synonymous with sorrow and great calamity.
This word was used to represent bitterness, poison, and death by both Jeremiah (Jer. 9:15; 23:15; Lamentations 3:15, 19) and Amos (Amos 5:7).
In Deut. 19:18, Moses warned that idolatry would bring sorrow to Israel, “like a root producing wormwood.”
In Prov. 5:4, Solomon warned that immorality might seem pleasant, but in the end, it produces bitterness like wormwood.
“...On a third of the rivers and on the springs of water….” “A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.”
Once again we are reminded of the first plague in Egypt (Exodus 7:17-18).
Though it is not blood tainting the water now, the effects of the Wormwood are very similar, causing the water to become undrinkable, and presumably uninhabitable for any sort of creatures.
This event is also reminiscent of Moses’ miracle at Marah in Exodus 15: 23-26, though the two stories seem to be the reverse of each other.
In the story of Moses at Marah, God instructs Moses to throw a certain piece of wood into undrinkable water, making it drinkable.
In verses 25-26, God decrees that if the Israelites listen carefully to Him and do what is right in His eyes, He will not bring upon them the diseases He brought against the Egyptians.
The reversal of this story in the events of the third trumpet-plague could be an allusion to the idolatry and disobedience to which these destructive events are a response. (Deut. 29:18)
Osborne concludes, however, that while the parallel to the story in Marah is obvious, it is difficult to prove that John had it in mind.
Further meaning can be found in the phrase, “springs of water.”
Osborne informs us that because of that fact that much of Judah’s water stems from natural springs, this phrase was used often in the Old Testament.
Springs were viewed as a source of life because of the scarcity of water in that region.
We see this metaphorical meaning in several places:
“The fountain of life” (Prov. 10:11; 13:14; 14:27)
God as “the spring of living water” (Jer. 2:13; 17:13)
Isaiah 35:7 promises that God would turn “the thirsty ground into bubbling springs”
In Revelation 7:17, the Lamb leads the saints to “springs of living water” and in 21:6 gives drink to the thirsty from “the spring of the water of life.”
Osborne’s conclusion is that what has been done to the rivers and streams during this trumpet-plague may be to “heighten the great reversal of water as life to water as death in this judgment.”
In the fourth trumpet-plague, God continues this theme of permanently altering the essential elements of nature on which we so thoroughly rely.
The Fourth Trumpet (v. 12)
“...a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.”
If there is one aspect of nature on which we know that we could always rely, it is the sun and moon. We rely so much on these two celestial bodies, in fact, that we plan our daily lives according to their cycles of movement.
Yet here, God chooses to flip the script and change even the patterns of the sun and moon. Now “day” and “night” themselves are no longer guaranteed, at least not how we’ve always known them.
There definitely seems to be a connection here to the ninth plague in Egypt in Exodus 10:21-22, in which God darkens the sky over the Egyptians for three days.
The bottom line, according to David Platt in “Life of the Christian” is this: “Do not put your ultimate hope in created things. All things--even the most secure things like the light of the sun--all things in heaven and on earth are passing away.”
Osborne summarizes in this way:
“The purpose of the first four trumpet judgments is primarily to disprove the earthly gods and to show that Yahweh alone is on the throne. By recapitulating the Egyptian plagues, God wants to make His omnipotence known to the world and to show the futility of turning against him. Each of these judgments addresses a different aspect of life in the ancient world and in the modern world as well. The first shows that the material world is no answer; the second and third address the sea trade, including food supplies; and the fourth focuses on life itself in the heat and light of the celestial bodies. The four together prove that those who live only for this world have chosen foolishly, for only in God is there true life. Earthy things turn on us, and we dare not depend on them.” (Revelation, 357)
Principle Three: God is the only one in this universe worth putting our hope in.
An Eagle’s Announcement of Three Coming Woes (8:13)
“...I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out…”
According to Easley, this eagle may be an angelic being in the form of an eagle, especially considering the tendency of eagles not to speak in words decipherable to humans. He references Revelation 14:6, in which an “angel flying in midair” is also found making proclamations mid-flight. In fact, some Greek manuscripts even have “angel” instead of “eagle” here.
Wiersbe expands on Easley’s theory by suggesting that this was in fact the eagle-like living creature that John saw worshiping before the throne in Revelation 4:7-8. While this is an intriguing thought, Wiersbe himself admits that there is no way of saying for sure, though it is a possibility.
Wilcock offers yet another theory about this bird, noting that the Bible tends not to distinguish between eagles and vultures. He suggests that this bird, may be a vulture, symbolizing impending doom, “circling over the dying body of mankind.”
“‘Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blast about to be sounded by the other three angels!”
Wiersbe rephrases the words of the eagle in this way: “If you think this has been terrible, just wait! The worst is yet to come!” This seems to be the clear message of the eagle: that these first four trumpet-plagues were simply a warm-up, an introduction to what is coming.
Easley explains this comparison by pointing out that while the first four trumpet attacked nature, affecting humankind only indirectly, the next judgments will attack humanity directly.
Wilcock informs us that this shift in intensity and target (so to speak) is due to the steadfast impenitence of those remaining. God had given clear opportunity and reason for repentance in the first four trumpet-plagues, and now shifts toward directly affecting those who still refuse to repent.
These humans who are now being “attacked” directly are “the inhabitants of this world,” who Easley reminds us are only those hostile to God, and those, according to Wiersbe, who “live for the earth and the things of the earth.”
Principle One: Even in destruction and judgment, God is merciful.
Principle Two: It is God’s desire for us to repent, turn from our sins, and surrender to Him.
Principle Three: God is the only one in this universe worth putting our hope in.
My Next Steps: