Something Better is Coming

Posted: May 8, 2011 in Revelation

Revelation 21:1-8, “Something Better is Coming”

Do you remember that feeling as a kid when you were waiting for something new?  Maybe at Christmas or your birthday – you already had gifts for which you were grateful, and then you see a big box in the corner with your name on it.  You knew that as good as what it was that you already had, something new & something better was coming. In a sense, Revelation 21 is the big box.  It shows us the promise that something better is coming.  As great as our relationship with Christ is right now, something new & something better is coming in eternity that we can only barely imagine today.

Chapter 20 had ended with the final judgment at the Great White Throne.  After 7 years of Tribulation & the wrath of God during the wars & rule of Antichrist – after 1000 years of the righteous rule of Christ from Jerusalem during the Millennial age – after the final last-ditch rebellion of Satan – finally there was the last resurrection of condemnation when those who had died rejecting Christ received the reward of their rejection: by being rejected themselves by Christ as He judged them to go to the lake of fire.

That was the future for unbelievers – but there is a totally different future for those who do believe in Christ, and it is wonderful!  John sees it in Rev 21.  1st is the promise…4 promises, actually, of things that are new.  Following the promise is the proclamation, which demonstrates the authority of the One who makes all of the promises.  Something better is coming, and we’ve got the unbreakable word of God to prove it true!

Revelation 21:1–8 (NKJV)

1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.

  1. Promise #1: We’re to be given new surroundings – a new environment.  Just imagine!  Although God created the world & called it “good,” it did not stay that way for long (as we’ll see in a moment).  For today, we have earthquakes, floods, tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis, disease, and much more.  (Much of which have dominated the headlines in recent weeks!)  Imagine a world in which all of that is gone!  A completely new environment, restored back to the original design that God had given – untouched by sin, perfectly suited towards His people.
    1. A new heaven & earth had been promised for us in both OT & NT (Isa 65:17-18, 2 Pet 3:12-13).  Jesus had told us that the heavens & earth would one day pass away (though His own words would not – Mt 24:35).  Revelation actually showed this passing away taking place (Rev 20:11).  At this point, the old has gone & the new has come.  Whatever it looked like (and we’re not told much), John recognized it as the new creation promised & now delivered by God.
    2. Scholars debate what this may look like: whether a re-made heaven & earth, or a totally new heaven & earth.  It may be a distinction without a difference.  Most likely, it will be a transformation similar to our own individual resurrections.  Our physical bodies may have long since been destroyed by the time of the resurrection, but they will be remade & fashioned into something completely different with a different quality & nature about them.  There will certainly be something that is the same (in that it will be recognized as our body), but there will be much that is different.  The basic idea is that somehow it will be brand-new, and it will be wonderful!
  2. Why a new heaven & new earth?  Because the current one had been corrupted in the Fall.  One of the results of Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden was that the ground was now cursed (Gen 3:17-19).  No longer would it willingly yield produce, but mankind would have to labor & sweat for it.  Paul also wrote of the bondage of creation & how it groans with birth pangs even to this present day (Rom 8:20-22).  All of this is the result of sin.  Prior to sin entering the world, the universe was good.  Over & over throughout the 6 days of creation, God called what He had made “good.”  Yet to look around at some of the things that happen in creation, it’s tough to call a lot of it “good” – or even “desirable.”  (What’s possibly good about a tornado?)  What made the difference?  Sin.  Now that God has poured out His righteous wrath on the world because of sin – now that He has already judged the people who remained in sin during the Great White Throne judgment – God turns His attention to the remainder of the physical universe.  It had been corrupted; now it is made new.
    1. There are some questions that we will never get the answer to in this life.  “Why did the tornado hit this house & not that one?  Why did this person die & not that one?”  We don’t know & many times we can’t know.  There are tragedies that happen in this world simply because this world is fallen.  The ultimate result of sin is death, and the ramifications of that 1st sin still reverberates around the world today every time a natural disaster occurs.  But the glorious promise is that one day we won’t need to ask those questions because the situation in which that question could be asked simply will no longer exist!  The corrupted earth will be gone & the new heavens & earth will be here.
  3. Why would the sea pass away – does this mean there will no longer be any water?  No (Ch 22 shows a river of life) – though perhaps there won’t be any oceans upon the new earth.  Culturally, the sea was a frightening place for the Jews – it was a place of uncertainty & danger. (Part of the drama of Jonah…)  Recall that Antichrist the beast came out of the sea (Rev 13:1).  For the sea to no longer exist means that the place of uncertainty & danger no longer exists.  The new heavens and new earth will be a safe place – a sanctuary forever away from danger, war, and attack.  All of those things will have passed, and we will be forever kept safe by our Lord & Savior.
  4. God is getting rid of every trace of sin.  What may have been left around simply due to the curse of the Fall is now completely undone & redeemed.  God will restore & renew His creation to what He originally intended it to be: a perfect place free from even the slightest hint of sin.

 

2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

  1. Promise #2: We’re to be given a new home.  The city will be described for us in the rest of Ch 21, but for now it is simply introduced as John sees it descending from Heaven.  Jesus had promised that He would prepare a place for us (John 14:1-3) – here it is!
  2. Why do we need a city?  Simple: we need a place to live.  Don’t fall into the misunderstanding that Heaven is simply some sort of philosophical bliss, or wonderful state of nothingness where our consciences just sort of fade out as we’re absorbed into God (or any other sort of nonsense).  Heaven is NOT the new age version of nirvana; the existence we have in eternity is a REAL existence.  We will have REAL bodies, we will draw REAL breath, we will experience REAL life.  It will certainly be better than anything we can possibly imagine in this life, but it will be absolutely real.  And just like you need a home in which to dwell in this life, you need a home in which to dwell in the next life.  (Only in eternity, we won’t have mortgage payments & property taxes!) J  This is a home specifically prepared for us by God, and given to us in which to physically dwell forever.
  3. This is more than a new physical city; this is US.  John is witnessing the new city populated with the saints of God being given to Christ Jesus as a bride to a bridegroom.  Just like New York & Washington DC can refer to a city and a people, so is the New Jerusalem.  That’s not to say that the New Jerusalem isn’t a literal city (it certainly IS!  The rest of Ch 21 makes that perfectly clear), but it’s a description with a dual meaning.  The Lord Jesus does not marry a physical city; He marries the Bride.  Prior to Jesus’ 2ndcoming, we heard the invitation to the wedding feast (Rev 19:7), now the marriage is complete, and the Bride has been given to her Bridegroom.  (Washed, cleaned, and made holy, per Eph 5:27)
    1. Some people (especially men) have a tough time thinking of our relationship with Christ in these terms – but we shouldn’t shy away from the picture when the Bible gives it so frequently.  Earthly marriage is simply a slight shadow of what is going to take place in the Heavenly marriage between Christ & the Church…it’s just the barest foretaste.  The point here is not one of procreation, but of relationship & intimacy.  For every time we “feel” like God is far from us, we can know that in eternity it will never be that way.  We will physically dwell with our Savior in the secure home that He has provided for us.

 

3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

  1. Promise #3: We’re to be given a new relationship.  God will dwell with us, and we will be His people.  What was foreshadowed in the tabernacle & the temple (the presence of God among His covenant people) will be truly fulfilled in eternity as we experience far more than “just” the Chabod glory of God (through the pillar of fire & smoke), but we experience the very physical presence of God Himself.
    1. Question: “Don’t we already have a relationship with God in Christ Jesus?”  If you’ve turned from your sin & surrendered to Jesus Christ as Lord, then absolutely yes!  We have an incredibly close relationship with God, with the Lord Jesus Himself as our mediator between God & man (1 Tim 2:5).  Today we can even know God as our Abba Father, in that we’ve been given the spirit of adoption (Rom 8:15).  Truly we have a close relationship with God!  Yet there’s still one thing we lack: physical closeness.  We have a spiritual closeness with God, but we don’t yet have that physical fellowship with God.  As Jesus proclaimed in His chastisement of Thomas, we have believed, but not yet seen (Jn 20:29).  This is the glorious aspect of this promise: one day we WILL see.  Just as God walked in the cool of the day with Adam before the Fall, so we will walk with God as He dwells with us.
    2. This is the flip side of the incarnation.  In Jesus’ incarnation, He put on flesh & dwelt among us (Jn 1:14) – He “tabernacled” with us.  In eternity, we will “tabernacle” with Him.
  2. The result of our new home & new relationship?  God gets rid of every stumbling block because of sin.  Sin is no longer in the way.  Not only will the very presence of it be removed from creation, the result of that is that sin will never again interfere in our fellowship with God.

 

4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

  1. Promise #4: We’re to be given new expectations.  When we think of Heaven & eternity with God, this is typically the verse we remember.  For now, we expect tears & death.  In eternity, there will be no more tears & death.  For now we expect sorrow & pain; in eternity those things are completely done away with.  For every time you’ve wept over a loved one who has died – for every time you’ve been cut to the heart & grieved because of your own sin – for every time you’ve writhed in pain because of sickness or disease…all of those things will simply be gone!  Glorious day!  Note that it’s not just that God comes along & cheers us up when we’re blue; it’s that sorrow itself won’t exist!  The very conditions that would have caused the sorrow would have been dealt with & done away & all that will remain will be the faith, hope, and love that we have with Christ Jesus.
  2. Why no more tears?  Because there’s no more reason!  God is getting rid of every effect of sin.  Sin is the reason for the heartache, death, and pain – and sin will be no more.

 

5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

  1. Summary of the promises: God makes “all things new.”  Every single thing of creation – every atom, every planet, every galaxy – every aspect of creation is made new by the hand and will of God.  Objection: “But how?!  Surely this has to be symbolic language!”  WHY?  For the God who created the original heavens and earth in 6 days, could it possibly be a problem for Him to make all things new all over again?  Absolutely not!  Whether it’s a new environment, a new home, new fellowship, or new expectations, God can and WILL make all these things new. []  Think of it a moment: what a glorious promise!  All of us can appreciate how wonderful it is to enjoy something that is new & fresh: whether a new pair of shoes or a fresh coat of paint – a building that’s restored to its original beauty.  The new heavens & earth will be infinitelygreater than that!  More than a “makeover,” this will be a complete transformation from the creative hand of God.
    1. This all starts today.  Truly, it began with the Resurrection of Jesus, and carries through today all the way to eternity.  Every single time someone turns to Jesus in faith & receives a new birth through the Holy Spirit, they themselves are made into a new creation – the old person is gone & the new has come (2 Cor 5:17).  In eternity, all of that work will have been made complete, and nothing that enters into eternity will not have been 1st touched & remade by the grace of God. (Has this happened to you?)
    2. BTW – the implication here isn’t just it that it’s all new; it’s better than it was before.  God isn’t going to simply give us a replacement universe; God is creating an upgrade.  (Guzik) “Our instinct is to romantically consider innocence as man’s perfect state, and wish Adam would have never done what he did.  But we fail to realize that redeemed man is greater than innocent man; that we gain more in Jesus than we ever lost in Adam.  God’s perfect state is one of redemption, not innocence.”  As a redeemed child of God, you have more than you could have hoped for otherwise – and it’s all based upon His grace!
  2. This is a sure promise from God!  It’s true!  God had to tell John to write it down – perhaps John was so overwhelmed by it all that his pen just fell slack.  But because it’s true, we need to know about it.  We need to be reminded of the greatness & newness that awaits us in heaven.  Some might scoff & say, “You’re getting too ‘heavenly-minded.’  We’re not supposed to look towards eternity, but bring the kingdom today.”  Obviously we don’t want to neglect what God would have us to do today in order to continue to tell people about salvation in Christ Jesus & demonstrating the love of God for them – but we NEED to know about the glorious eternity that awaits us!  It was important enough to God that He emphasized the need to have John write it all down for us.
    1. Why is it important?  Because it’s faith in these promises that help sustain us through so many of the trials we experience today.  What comfort can we bring a mother who miscarried her baby son?  What words can we say to a family who grieves their beloved parent who passed away?  Or the person who is looking death in the eye because of cancer?  The only promises that mean anything at those times are the promises of Christ Jesus.  Platitudes mean nothing – but the grace of Jesus Christ can sustain us.  Knowing that the pain of this world will one day end, and replaced by something infinitely better through Jesus Christ is a promise that can sustain us.  Knowing that despite our pain & loneliness now that we will dwell with our Lord Jesus forever is a promise that can sustain us.  Knowing that death will one day die because of the glorious work of our Savior & God is a promise that can carry us through the darkest of days!  So yes, keep your eyes on heaven!  These words are true & faithful.

 

6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.

  1. Proclamation #1: In eternity, the wait is over – it’s done.  The last time we heard this phrase was back in Rev 16:17, when the finality of the bowl judgments of God were poured out upon the earth.  This time the focus is not upon the judgment & wrath of God; it’s upon the grace and renewing of God.  “It is done” – God’s promises have been kept – every word and Scripture will have been fulfilled – the fullness of the eternal plan of God will be wonderfully known in that day.
    1. Today, we hear the proclamation from the cross: “It is finished!”  In itself, that’s a glorious proclamation!  The price for our sin has been completely paid – those who turn to Christ in faith find that Jesus has completely justified us & made us righteous in the sight of God.  Yet even in the fact that our sins are forgiven (completely finished in God’s sight), there are still ramifications to that fact that are yet to be fulfilled.  Indeed, they cannot be properly fulfilled until we see God face-to-face.  But in THAT day, it will be done.  No longer will we look forward in faith to the fulfillment of the promise – everything will be complete & God will once again have shown Himself to be faithful & true.
  2. Proclamation #2: God is the source of life – He is the “Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.”  We’ve seen this description many times in Revelation.  It refers to the 1st& last letter of the Greek alphabet & speaks to the idea that God is all encompassing.  When we look to the beginning of Creation, God is there.  When we look to the end of Creation, God is there.  He is the beginning & the end & all things in between.  We would not exist without Him, and we could not continue to exist without His express will.  There is nothing that does not find its sustenance and existence in Almighty God.
    1. Is this God the Father speaking, or God the Son?  Contextually from vs. 7, this seems to be God the Father.  Yet we see the exact same terminology used to describe the Lord Jesus Christ.  In Rev 1:8 Jesus describes Himself as “the Alpha & Omega” – in Rev 22:13 we see the same description from Jesus as “The Beginning and the End” (with different translations including different aspects of the phrase).  Is the Bible mixed up?  No!  This is an affirmation of the Deity of Christ!  God the Father and God the Son are absolutely God.  We do not confuse their Persons, but we cannot deny their substance.  What makes God the Father “God” are the same things that make Jesus Christ “God.”  God the Father AND God the Son are the “Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” 
    2. Cult upon cult attempt to deny or water down the absolute fact that the Bible consistently shows Jesus Christ to be True God in the flesh.  In truth, the Bible simply doesn’t give any other option except to recognize Jesus Christ as God.
  3. Proclamation #3: God is the giver of life.  God doesn’t just grant earthly life; He grants eternal life as well.  The fountain of life will be described in more detail in Ch 22, but for now it’s introduced & implied that those who dwell in eternity will need to drink of the living water it produces.  This is the same thing that Jesus promised to the Samaritan women at the well.  John 4:13–14 “(13) Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, (14) but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” ” [] Have you drunk of the living water?

 

7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

  1. What does God give?  “All things.”  Other translations say “these things” – there’s a bit of disagreement in various Greek texts.  The majority of texts actually say “these things.”  Contextually, we inherit the invitation to drink from the fountain of life & citizenship in the New Jerusalem.  Be careful about making this a materialistic promise – we certainly are joint-heirs with the Lord Jesus over all things, but the emphasis here isn’t about the quantity of the “stuff” we get; it’s the quality of the inheritance we receive.  Our inheritance is glorious because it’s given to us by God Himself, and will never end nor fade because His promise is eternal just as God is eternal.
  2. How close is our relationship with God?  As a Father to son.  What was true of the prophecy to David regarding the coming Messiah (2 Sam 7:14) is also true in our own relationship with God.  When we come by faith to Jesus Christ, surrendering our lives to Him as Lord, He gives us the right to become the children of God (Jn 1:12) – He gives us the spirit of adoption by which we cry out, “Abba Father” (Rom 8:15).  It simply isn’t possible to get any closerin our relationship with God Almighty! 
    1. Consider the scope of the change here.  We WERE the enemies of God – warring against Him, rebelling against His righteous rule at every turn, giving our worship and affection to anything but the Almighty Creator God.  We deserved every last bit of eternal Hell that could have been poured out on us.  That’s what we were, but that’s not what we ARE.  Because of Jesus, we’ve been forgiven, washed, justified, and brought into God’s own house as God’s own children.  How many of us would start up adoption proceedings for someone who absolutely hated us?  Yet that’s exactly what God does for us in Christ.
  3. Notice the similarity here to the letters to the churches in Rev 2-3.  This promise is made to the overcomer – the conqueror, just like every other one of the 7 letters to the churches.  Just as the Christians of the 7 churches were to overcome the temptations in their own congregations, so are all Christians called upon to overcome the temptations to abandon the faith prior to eternity.  Keep in mind, Ch 21 comes at the end of a long section that dealt with the trials of the Great Tribulation.  Those who came to Christ after the Tribulation began (after the Rapture) would need to endure multitudes of temptation from Antichrist & his demonic forces.  They will face almost unimaginable pressure to turn away from Christ & just give up.  The message for them is: don’t give up!  Endure through the Tribulation, and you’ll experience the wonder of the Millennial Kingdom.  Endure through the Tribulation, and you’ll experience the wonder of eternity in the new heavens & new earth, knowing a closeness with God as a Father to a son.  Something better is coming, and it’s worth the wait!

 

8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

  1. What a contrast! Those in Christ inherit all things; those outside of Christ inherit nothing.  Those in Christ inherit a world without death; those outside of Christ inherit nothing but death. … Keep in mind that chronologically in Revelation, this judgment has already taken place (Rev 20:15) – this is the assurance that those who had rejected Christ all of their lives already had their fate assured.  Beyond our day of death, there are no more 2nd chances.  At this point, God is simply stating the fact of what has already taken place.  The time to repent from these sins is NOW; not later!
  2. This is who we ALL are outside of Christ!  Every single one of us fits into (at least) one of these categories (without faith, hating from the heart, lusting, unnatural drug use, idol worshippers, liars for big & small things, etc.).  Whether the “big” sins or the “little” sins best describe you doesn’t matter.  All of us have sinned & fallen short of the glory of God.  Whether or not they were a convicted murderer didn’t matter – those who were liars shared the same fate.  Those who are not overcomers in Christ…i.e., those who had not received Jesus as Lord & given the right to be the children of God – everyone else has their own place in the lake of fire.  That is their just due, and that is what they will most certainly receive.  Everyone experiences eternity; the destination is the only variable.  Is it the new heavens, new earth, new Jerusalem – or the lake of fire?
    1. Keep in mind that not a single soul HAS to spend eternity in the lake of fire!  Jesus died on the cross for the specific purpose of saving us from that fate.  The most famous verse in the Bible: John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” []  That’s the reason Jesus came – to offer you forgiveness & life.  Your sin has already left you condemned – but Jesus’ grace is available for the asking.

 

Conclusion:

Something better is coming…and praise God for it!  To live long in this world is to experience more than anyone’s share of heartache and pain.  Every single one of us could tell stories to one another that would cause anyone to weep out of compassion.  That’s just the way this world IS.  But that’s not the way the next one will be.  In eternity, we have the promise of:

  1. A new environment – the new heavens & new earth, completely transformed by the grace of God.
  2. A new home – the city of the New Jerusalem in which we’ll dwell as the Bride of Christ.
  3. A new relationship – no longer will we live by faith, but we’ll physically dwell with God & experience an intimacy with our Creator that today we can only imagine.
  4. A new expectation – because everything will be made new, there will be no more results from sin.  No longer will we expect death & pain; it will be completely destroyed!

 

And how do we know that we have those promises?  Because it’s based upon the sure proclamation of God Himself.  He word is faithful & true, and He will accomplish what He says He will do.  Every promise will find it’s fulfillment in Christ Jesus & we will forever be witnesses to how it is fulfilled in eternity.

So what do we do now?

As believers in Christ, we hope!  Not a “wishful thinking” sort of hope, but we have the confident expectation that this is the eternal future we look forward to.  When we experience pain & hardship today, we understand that (as painful as it is at the time) it’s simply a part of living in this fallen creation.  But one day we will be in a creation that is not fallen, but redeemed!  And we will be dwelling with our Creator – and that’s a glorious, hopeful thought!

If you’re not yet a believer in Jesus Christ – if you haven’t turned away from your sins to ask Jesus by faith to be your personal Lord & Savior – then you need to understand there’s also a promise here for you, but it’s not one that God wants you to experience.  Outside of Christ, you will experience the lake of fire.  There’s simply not a more pleasant way to put it…  You need to know that God loves you & does NOT want you to go there.  He’s made every provision for you NOT to go there – but you’ve got to respond to Jesus Christ.  Recognize your sins & believe that Jesus is God in the flesh… Repent from your sins, forsaking them & turning to the forgiveness of Christ…  Receive Jesus as your Lord, Savior, and King…

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