“In April 2012 Time magazine ran a cover story titled ‘Heaven Can't Wait: Why rethinking the hereafter could make the world a better place.’ In the next issue, Time printed a letter to the editor from Marc Herbert from Walnut Creek, California, who wrote:
Your story [about heaven] says that 85 percent of Americans believe in heaven. That's incredible. They think of heaven as quiet and peaceful, with no need to do anything. [That] sounds pretty dull to me. What do you do with all of that free time? And it goes on forever and ever!
Time, "Mail: Rethinking Heaven" (4-30-12)
This is certainly some people’s view of what heaven is going to be like. It will be everyone just sitting around with nothing to do FOREVER AND EVER! That sounds pretty dull.
Making the most of every opportunity
I take my vehicles to the dealership to be inspected, to have the oil changed, and to have other maintenance done on them
Because I have to go to either Mechanicsburg or Hanover, I always take something with me to do
It’s normally a bag full of commentaries that I’ll spend time reading while I wait for the maintenance on my vehicle to be completed
I don’t want to waste time or lose time while I’m there, so I prepare ahead of time
Visions of heaven
Some people’s idea of heaven is that we will be worshiping God and singing songs continually
That sounds pretty exciting to me, because I love to sing and to worship God
For some of us the idea of singing songs and worshiping God continually gets us excited, because we love to sing
Others of us may hear that vision of heaven and cringe, because we don’t like to sing or think that we can’t sing
That vision of heaven is not appealing
Perhaps the idea of sitting around with no need to do anything is very appealing
Most, if not all of us, work hard every day
Even those of us who have retired realize that we’re busier now than when we were working
As we study Revelation 22:1-5 today, we’re going to see what it will be like when we are with God and Jesus for eternity. Fortunately, we will be in a perfected body and the effects of sin will no longer plague us. We won’t worry about whether or not we can sing or if we’ll get bored just sitting around with nothing to do. John helps us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – Eternity with God is greater than we can imagine.
GOD (Revelation 22:1-5)
John had just received a broad view of the New Jerusalem with all of its dimensions and materials along with four items that will not be in the New Jerusalem, because of the presence of God and Jesus. Now the angel gives him a view of some of the things that will be in the New Jerusalem
Nourished By God (vv. 1-2)
River of the water of life
The first thing the angel shows John is the river of the water of life
This is reminiscent of the Garden of Eden, A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters (Genesis 2:10)
Three of the prophets of Israel foresaw this incredible river at three different times surrounding the Israelites exile [Wilcock, The Bible Speaks Today, The Message of Revelation, 211]
Before the exile – “In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the Lord’s house and will water the valley of acacias (Joel 3:18)
During the exile – read Ezekiel 47:1-9
After the exile – On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter (Zechariah 14:8)
When Jesus was speaking to the woman at the well in Sychar, He told her this, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:13-14)
What we see in Revelation 22:1 is essentially the fulfillment of what Jesus said to the woman
It’s the eternal benefit of those who are followers of Jesus Christ
It is described here as being clear as crystal
Have you ever swam in a lake, river, or the ocean where you can see forever?
I used to go snorkeling in the ocean when we lived in Florida and I always enjoyed seeing the fire coral (bright orange or red) and the different fish
When Judy and I went to Hawaii, years ago, we rented snorkel equipment at Hanauma Bay (show the pictures of Hanauma Bay) – I was able to swim behind a sea turtle and with all kinds of tropical fish
Some of the streams around this area in PA are clear enough that you can see the trout floating in them – which can be frustrating when they won’t bite on any of the tackle you have
There are some lakes here in the United States and in other countries that boast crystal clear waters (show pictures of the lakes)
I can only imagine what this river of the water of life will look like – it will be perfectly clear – nothing will obstruct our view – it will be perfectly pure
The source of this perfect river
We see that the source of the river of the water of life is the throne of God and of the Lamb
It’s not that God and Jesus are both sitting on the throne in a physical sense
“Once more God and the Lamb are juxtaposed (side-by-side), continuing the major Christological theme of the unity of God and Christ as deity.” [Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 769-770]
It’s the idea that God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are three in one – what we call the trinity
“The river, flowing as it does from God’s throne, can only portray that eternal life is entirely due to God’s gracious gift.” [Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary, Revelation, 414]
We cannot work our way to heaven and to the river of the water of life
It is a free gift of God that requires our repentance from sin and turning to Him as Lord of our lives
Ephesians 2:8-9, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.
The source of this great river is the throne of God and the Lamb, which then flows down the middle of the great street of the city
Where it is flowing
How this river flows down the middle of the street is not exactly explained
Does it split the street in half or does it flow beside the street?
Is there ground between the street and the river where the tree of life is growing?
We don’t really know for sure
What comes to mind for me is the River Walk in San Antonio, TX (show picture of the River Walk), because there are walkways on both sides of the river that cuts through the city
How it’s structured is of less importance than the fact that it is the river of the water of life beginning at the throne of the God and the Lamb
Along this river is growing the tree of life
Tree of life
This tree of life is on both sides of the river
Whether it is a single tree or an orchard of trees is not important
We don’t have to know definitively, because the principle or promise is more important
PROMISE – God will provide for His people eternally.
This is the fulfillment of God’s promise found in Revelation 2:7b, To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
Ezekiel spoke about fruit trees also, Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing (Ezekiel 47:12)
We see here that there will be variety of fruit with twelve different crops
Imagine for a moment that twelve of your favorite fruits will be available all the time
Apples, pears, peaches, apricots, figs, grapes, mangos, cherries, oranges, dates, bananas, and kiwi
We also see that there will never be a time when we will have to wait or go without, because it will yield its fruit every month
“Both the abundance and the variety of fruit are being emphasized. God’s provision is ever new and always more than adequate.” [Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 399]
It’s always easier to claim the promises of God for the future
We certainly believe that God will provide for us in eternity, but do we claim that promise for ourselves today?
Do you believe that God’s provision is ever new and always more than adequate?
In a culture that constantly tells us that we “need” more and more things, it can be difficult to feel like God’s provision is ever new and always more than adequate
But we can trust that it is both new and adequate
God is all-knowing and sovereign, so He knows what’s best for us
He knows what we need and when we need
His timing is perfect (never early and never late)
My Next Step Today Is To: Claim the promise that God’s provision is always adequate and on time.
The fruit on the tree of life is diverse and never ending, but it’s leaves are also important
It leaves are for the healing of the nations
If all sickness and disease are not present in heaven, then why does John mention the leaves of the tree of life being for the healing of the nations?
It is symbolic of the fact that healing has already taken place both spiritually and physically through the death of Jesus Christ
“The meaning is that all will enjoy full, wholesome, robust health. Just as the death of Christ made possible the water of eternal life (spiritually), so his death also provides the leaves that completely remove all the consequences of sin forever (physically).” [Easley, 415]
Osborne reflects on the fact that the physical healing means that we will not be hungry or experience any kind of disease and that spiritually we will be in a right relationship with God [Osborne, 772]
That segues perfectly into the worship of God
Worship Of God (vv. 3-5a)
No longer any curse or night (vv. 3a, 5a)
The curse is reversed
What we see here is reversal of the Fall in Genesis 3:14, 17, So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, ‘Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.’” . . . To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.’”
We see this predicted by the prophet Zechariah, “As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.” (Zechariah 8:13)
The abolishment of night means that the effects of sin will no longer be around
We mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the glory of the presence of God and Jesus means that no light source will be needed
It will be perpetually day
The sun will not be needed
The light of a lamp will not be needed
God’s glory is all that will be needed to provide light in the New Jerusalem
With no night and a perfected body we won’t need to sleep, so what will we do with all the time on our hands?
Servants of God will serve Him (v. 3b)
We will certainly worship the Lord
We saw multiple times in Revelation that the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures and those surrounding the throne of God, worshiping Him
Read Revelation 4:8-11
Read Revelation 5:8-14
We will also serve Him
The Greek word for “serve” has a double meaning, both “service” and “worship” [Osborne, 773; Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus In Revelation, 340; Easley, 415]
“As we seek to serve the Lord here on earth, we are constantly handicapped by sin and weakness; but all hindrances will be gone when we get to glory. Perfect service in a perfect environment!” [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament, Vol. 2, 624]
Eternity will not be dull or boring, because we will worship and serve the Lord perfectly
Easley calls this “faultless active usefulness” [Easley, 416]
PRINCIPLE – We will serve and worship God perfectly in eternity.
Of course we don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to worship and serve the Lord
His desire is for us to worship and serve Him now, while we’re on earth
We won’t do it perfectly, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it
How is your worship of God right now? (Where is your focus when you’re worshiping, either individually or corporately? Is it God or something else?)
How is your service for God been lately? (Have you been thinking that someone else will step up and serve? Perhaps God is calling you to step up.)
Are there any changes that God has been prompting you to make concerning your worship of Him and service for Him?
My Next Step Today Is To: Allow the Lord to make any necessary changes to my worship of Him or service for Him.
Right relationship with God (v. 4)
We will see God’s face
This will be something new for followers of Jesus Christ
God explained it to Moses when He said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20)
Moses was allowed to see God’s back only
John 1:18, No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
In our perfected bodies, we will be able to look upon the face of God and still live
“Now, in the new holy of holies, the entire priestly community will experience the greatest blessing of all: they will see the face of God. Moses was not allowed to see God’s face, but saw only his back (Exod. 33:20, 23; cf. John 1:18, 1 John 4:12), but God’s people have always longed to see the Lord (e.g., Pss. 11:7; 17:15; 27:4; Matt. 5:8; 1 John 3:2; Heb. 12:14). The old priestly blessing/prayer for the Lord to ‘make his face shine on you’ and ‘turn his face toward you’ (Num. 6:25-26) finds its ultimate fulfillment here. God’s people will also bear his ‘name,’ meaning they will belong to him, imitate his character, and live safely in his presence (see 2:17; 3:12; 7:3; 14:1).” [Scott Duvall cited by Akin, 341]
Easley sees this as the second blessing of eternity and calls it “immediate divine presence.” [Easley, 416]
We will be His
“In Exod. 28:36-38 Aaron wore a gold plate on the front of his turban and on his forehead inscribed with the words, ‘Holy to the Lord.’” [Osborne, 774]
We have already seen the sealing of believers with a mark on their forehead throughout Revelation
Rev. 3:12 – victorious saints will have the name of God, the name of New Jerusalem, and Jesus’ name written on their forehead
Rev. 7:3 – an angel is going to “seal the slave of our God on their foreheads”
Rev. 14:1 – the 144,00 have the name of God and Jesus written on their foreheads
The writing of God and Jesus’ name on believers foreheads is an indication of ownership
We are sensitive this kind of imagery, because of the history of slavery in our culture
So, to hear that we are owned by God can make some people cringe and pause
But this is a voluntary submission of ourselves to God and Jesus as our Lord
In ancient times, when a slave was given their freedom, they could voluntarily offer themselves as a bond servant to the owner of the household (this required the servant to have an awl punched through their ear to show everyone that they had voluntarily chosen to be a bond servant)
That is the imagery here for us as bond servants of God and Jesus Christ
Our voluntary submission to God and Jesus, as bond servants, guarantees our safety and protection
The curse of sin is gone
The effects of sin are gone (no more night)
Easley calls this the third blessing of eternity, “eternally guaranteed reward.” [Easley, 416]
Finally, we will reign with God
Reign With God (v. 5b)
This imagery has been spoken of throughout scripture
2 Timothy 2:1-2a, Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.
This is part of a believer’s hope for eternity
It is mentioned in Revelation also about the saints reigning with Christ during His thousand year reign (Rev. 20:4-6)
We can claim the promise that God’s provision is always adequate and on time
While our worship and service here on earth is flawed, we can and should ask the Lord to make any changes needed so that our focus is on worshiping and serving Him
“His Italian mother named him after the gospel writer Mark in the hopes that he too would tell the gospel truth. But 13th Century Europeans found it impossible to believe Mark's tales of faraway lands. He claimed that, when he was only seventeen, he took an epic journey lasting a quarter of a century, taking him across the steppes of Russia, the rugged mountains of Afghanistan, the wastelands of Persia, and over the top of the world through the Himalayas. He was the first European to enter China. Through an amazing set of circumstances, he became a favorite of the most powerful ruler on planet earth, the Kublai Khan. Mark saw cities that made European capitals look like roadside villages. The Khan's palace dwarfed the largest castles and cathedrals in Europe. It was so massive that its banquet room alone could seat 6,000 diners at one time, each eating on a plate of pure gold.
Mark saw the world's first paper money and marveled at the explosive power of gunpowder. It would be the 18th Century before Europe would manufacture as much steel as China was producing in the year 1267. He became the first Italian to taste that Chinese culinary invention, pasta. As an officer of the Khan's court, he travelled to places no European would see for another 500 years.
After serving Kublai Khan for 17 years, Mark began his journey home to Venice, loaded down with gold, silk, and spices. When he arrived home, people dismissed his stories of a mythical place called China. His family priest rebuked him for spinning lies. At his deathbed, his family, friends, and priest begged him to recant his tales of China. But setting his jaw and gasping for breath, Mark spoke his final words, ‘I have not even told you half of what I saw.’
Though 13th Century Europeans rejected his stories as the tales of a liar or lunatic, history has proven the truthfulness behind the book he wrote about his adventures—The Travels of Marco Polo. 1300 years before Marco Polo wrote about China, another man, the Apostle John, went on an amazing journey to heaven itself. At times we jaded postmoderns shake our heads in disbelief at the Apostle John's vision and other biblical witnesses to the glory of heaven. But the biblical writers who describe heaven would declare to us, ‘I have not even told you half of what I saw. Heaven is more joyful, more glorious, and more beautiful than you could ever imagine.’ May their God-inspired testimonies and descriptions move us to long for God's gift to us in Christ—the glory of heaven.”
Dr. Robert Petterson, "All Things New: Our Eternal Home," sermon given at Covenant Presbyterian Church (11-8-09)