Hey, everyone. I’m Justin, and I want to welcome you to North Hills Church, especially if this is your first time joining us. We’re going to get started in just a few minutes. But first, here’s this week’s Need2Know. Next Sunday on May 10, Peter will be taking some time during the sermon to lead us in the Lord’s Supper. Be sure to remember to set apart some bread and juice this week as you prepare for Sunday. As you know, our previous decision to suspend all activities at both the Taylors and Northwest campuses was made for the entire month of April. As we move forward, we will consider the changing guidelines from the CDC and consult with health professionals within our church family. But we will be making decisions about campus activities on a week-to-week basis rather than for the entire month. Also, over the last week, a team of elders has put together a blueprint that will help us begin to regather in a series of stages when the time is right. We will be communicating the details of this plan on Tuesday, May 5 in our weekly elder update. Remember, if you would like to receive the elder update via text message, please subscribe by texting the word “updates” to 864-999-2525. There are so many opportunities to get connected at North Hills. Please visit the Need2Know section of our website to learn more about different ways to connect and get involved. That wraps up this week’s Need2Know. Have a great week, everyone.
Welcome. I am eager to sing and sit under God’s Word with you. I know even though we’re scattered, it is encouraging to me to know that we’re in this together, that we’re all coming under God’s Word together. So, before we begin, I want to share something that I think will be an encouragement to you. This morning I was on a Zoom meeting with a bunch of pastors and our governor. And Governor McMaster shared his response and what it’s been like to this pandemic, things they’re learning as they go along. And an immunologist was in the meeting and able to answer questions and explain what was it like for him to treat COVID-19 patients, how different this is from the flu, for example. And it was all very helpful, educational. The main focus was on regathering. How can we get churches back together soon? So, we’re going to be addressing that next week, because if you’re like me, you’re eager for that to come about.
But the part that I think will be an encouragement to you is what he said at the end. Our governor shared how important prayer is to him and to our state. They actually begin every one of their COVID-19 response team meetings in prayer, crying out to God for wisdom. And so, with all we see in the news of predictions that were wrong and conspiracies that are occurring, it was just super encouraging to have a governor and a group of leaders, medical professionals and others, who are crying out to God and asking for us to pray for them, that we might have wisdom to navigate this wisely and in unity. We ended our meeting praying for our governor. And I want us to begin this service “together apart” by doing the same, by crying out for our leaders and for ourselves. So, let’s pray together.
Father, you have urged us that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people — for kings and for all who are in high positions — that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. And so, Lord, we do cry out for our governor, for his whole team of medical professionals and other responders. Lord, please give them your wisdom to respond in a way that is both safe and helpful to our state, to our businesses, to our future. We pray this because you say it’s good and it’s pleasing in your sight because you desire all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. So, for some reason, you have linked prayer for leaders with people coming to know you. Perhaps it is because we, your people, are not either groveling before leaders or rebelling against leaders but praying to you, crying out to you. And so, you hear, and you answer. You send healing, you send revival. And so, we pray that many, many people would come to know you during this time. Please, God. And as we study Revelation later, Lord, please teach us what it looks like for all things to be new. Continue to stir us and teach us how to imagine things that are unimaginable, to thirst so that you will give us the spring of the water of life without payments. Fill us with your Spirit. Even though we’re apart, we’re together in you as we sing, as we pray, as we hear your Word for your glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Hello, my friends. I’m Bryan. I’m excited for the opportunity to help you worship. So, let’s begin with prayer, being aware of and connected to God together at the same time, spread across the city. Let’s talk to him, listen to him together for a minute here.
God, you are our Maker. You’re our Shepherd. We belong to you. We give you all the control. The illusion of control, we let go of it. We lay down our projects, where we’re in charge, that’s our kingdom. You said that your kingdom come, that your will be done. Let your name be hallowed. Let who you are be shown off. We’re made for you. We’re made to know you and walk with you and be with you, enjoy you, make much of you. So, bring us back to our created purpose in the next couple minutes. Remind us, whether we’ve been living there all week, and this is just moments for overflow, and saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” or whether we’ve been missing you or even running from you. We all fall short and your grace brings us in. You welcome us. And so, we invite you into our spaces, our houses, this auditorium, apartments, tables, bedrooms — wherever we are. Can you make your presence more real to us than anything else? Your goodness, your bigness, your power. Give us a new perspective. Help us see you more clearly, see ourselves and those around us more clearly through your eyes as we fixate our attention on your beauty. Amen.
All right. This is a wakeup song. It’s the doxology, but verses that we don’t always sing. They talk a lot about waking up. It’s a very good morning song. Not all of us may be singing or listening right now in the morning, and that’s okay. We can still take this, “Here’s where I start” kind of mentality.
I promise this is the last week of Christmas songs. But it’s just this Emmanuel theme, God with us, once again. Ryan’s going to preach from Revelation 21, the next part. We cannot get away from the beauty of God with us and saying, “We need you to come.” So, again, it’s not about Christmas. It’s not about the season as much as it’s about God’s presence, God coming and being with us. That’s what we’re singing here.
Oh, no, we started on the wrong verse. You know, we could do another take and make it perfect, or we could be real and just start over on verse 1, all of creation.
Psalm 27 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” We’re not going take things into our own hands, God. We’re not going to attempt our own projects, making everything perfect. We’re going to wait for you. Sing this, “We wait for you.”
We will be reading from Revelation 21:9-28.
“Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed — on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, [clear as] glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent [as] glass. And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day — and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Hey, North Hills. And welcome to anyone who is visiting, viewing our service this weekend. My name is Ryan Ferguson. I’m one of the pastors of North Hills Church. Several years ago, my wife Rebecca and I had the opportunity to go to Bermuda with some dear friends. Bermuda is an island in the middle of the Atlantic, and it is a stunning place. I had never been to a tropical environment before, so when I arrived and saw white sand and clear blue water, it took my breath away. While I was there, I was able to snorkel three feet away from this multi-colored parrot fish. And even more beautiful than that, the sunsets there are epic and expansive.
Now, imagine I gave an adult 16 crayons, the basic pack, the standard pack of Crayola crayons. And then I told that adult, “I want you to draw a picture of a sunset in Bermuda using only these crayons that would allow a 5-year-old to imagine what Bermuda is like.” Now, even for a professional artist, that would be quite a task. But let’s make it even a little bit more difficult. Let’s imagine that that drawing for that 5-year-old is for a 5-year-old who is in the hospital waiting to be released. So, he needs hope and help. Now your information has to become motivation. It has to help him keep looking forward to the day when he gets out of the hospital and is able to see that sunset in Bermuda. How would you communicate an epic sunset to someone who has limited capacity to see, hear, feel, or even imagine what that’s going to be like?
God, in Revelation 21, limits himself to 16 crayons. He describes this new heaven and new earth and a city. God is providing us hope and help. He is giving us information, and he’s giving us motivation. Revelation 21 is God’s version of that Bermuda sunset drawing. God recognizes we won’t be able to really get that future until we’re actually there. But just like that 5-year-old in the hospital won’t understand Bermuda until he stands in Horseshoe Bay with his feet dug down into white sand and that big blue expanse in front of him, so we won’t really get it until we’re there seeing God face-to-face. And yet God gives us this vision, this hope, this information, this motivation to imagine what it could actually be like. God colors the new heavens and the new earth for us. God compassionately and lovingly understands our limitations. God uses images and ideas and everyday ordinary reference points in his drawing to help his people imagine and dream about this future.
Why does God do this? Even bigger, why is Revelation 21 in this letter? What does it actually do? If we were to just read this letter beginning to end, and we get to chapter 21, what is it in there for? I think Revelation 21, for the original readers, did three things. It points to a perfect future. It just points. Look out there. There is a future coming. Two, it encourages imagining that something better is coming. It allows comparison. Out there there’s this perfect future, and by comparison, we really want to be there. And three, it energizes endurance today, that as we look at that perfect picture, imagine something better that allows us to have some energy and fuel today to keep going. At its heart, I believe that’s the simplicity of Revelation 21. It points to a perfect future, encourages imagining that something better is coming, energizes endurance today.
Now, the complexity of Revelation 21 is that it was written to another people, at another time, in a different culture, in a literature style that is very unique. So, today for us to begin to understand what God is drawing for us, I’m going to divide today’s text, which is the rest of Revelation 21, basically into three parts around three major images that John gives us: the Bride, the City, and what I’m going to call the Interior. The Bride, the City, and the Interior.
So let’s begin seeing this image of the Bride. It’s in verses 9 and 10. The angel, who showed up just like a host on “Say Yes to the Dress,” invites John to come and see and behold the beautiful bride. “Come,” the angel says. “Come, I will show you the bride, John.” Now, whose bride are we talking about? The angel gives us the answer. It’s “the wife of the Lamb.” The groom in this scenario is the Lamb. And for those of us who’ve been around Revelation a little bit, we’ve explored it, we recognize that the image of the Lamb is Jesus. The invitation to come and see the Bride is followed by a journey. The angel whisks John away in the Spirit to the top of a great high mountain. And maybe with the sweep of his hand, he lets John look out. Be ready and see the Bride. And when John turns and looks, he sees a City.
Now, John was expecting to see the Bride. That was the invitation. That’s what they were supposed to see. And now he sees a City. So, what’s going on? Well, John has used that writing style in his letter before. Let me give you an example. Earlier in Revelation, John discovers that the lion of the tribe of Judah can open this important scroll. So, he turns expecting to see a lion and instead, he sees a Lamb. Similar thing here, expecting to see a Bride, but he sees a City.
So, what do we do with it? Well, let’s return to this idea of someone drawing a sunset for a 5-year-old to provide hope and help. What is God drawing for us when we’re supposed to see a Bride and instead, we see a City? Why those two metaphors? And I want to put it this way. Think, people. Throughout Revelation 21, think people – Bride, think place – City. Think people – the Bride, think place – the City. And as we work through Revelation 21, we are going to think people and place, at some points, together. It’s the same image. The Bride is the City. Think both. Confused yet?
Well, hopefully it’ll clear up as we walk through, because I think what God is calling us to do, and that little mixed metaphor actually sets up the rest of the chapter for us. I think God is calling us to see God’s people and God’s place through God’s eyes. God’s people and God’s place, see that through God’s eyes. That’s why he’s drawing for us. That’s why we have this chapter. God is drawing us this picture of the future. The Bride is both God’s people and the Bride is the City, God’s place. We’re seeing a collage rather than a singular image.
So, how does God see in this moment? If we’re going to look through his eyes, how does God see this Bride? Well, God sees his Bride as his people. As the angel reveals the Bride to John, it’s not a single person. The Bride is an entire city. The Bride is a new, holy, set apart, plural people. God sees his people through love. The best image that God provides for us about our future interaction with him is marriage. God’s Son is married to God’s people. Our future focuses on an intimate, powerful, and unique relationship with Jesus Christ himself. The familiar concept of marriage is now magnified by (pick a number that sounds ridiculous) a gabillion when we imagine God’s people married to Jesus Christ. So, whatever the beauties of the new earth and new heaven contain, the best way we can understand our interaction with Jesus, the relationship we will have, is through marriage.
I wish I had a perfect marriage. Now, before you start judging me for saying that in public, let me tell you why my marriage isn’t perfect — because I’m in it, and because Rebecca is in it. This future relationship with Jesus, though, is a perfect marriage. Jesus is perfect and God’s people will be perfected. And it’s that relationship that we will experience with God forever. When we consider the future, friends, we must do so within that context — close, personal, interactive, unique relationship with the Son of God. As the song says, “Hallelujah! He has found me, the one my soul so long has craved. Jesus satisfies all my longings. Through his blood I now am saved.” Simply put, we see God’s people in God’s place loved by God forever.
Let’s switch to that second image and focus for a few moments on the City, the City in verses 11-21. John and the angel worked together to create as accurate a picture of the City as they can. And as we look at the City now, remember, think people and buildings, persons and pavement. Let’s consider how John describes this City as unique.
The City is unique in origin. The City is coming down out of heaven from God with God’s glory. This could not be said of the seven churches at the beginning of Revelation. This can’t be said of Greenville or Houston or L.A. or Paris or London or any amazing city on earth. This is a very unique City. Ben Arnold used to pastor at North Hills Church. He’s now out in a church in Tacoma, Washington. When he was here, he taught a 6th grade Sunday school class in Kidstuff. And in there he defined God’s glory as: anything that makes us say, “Wow” about God. God’s glory is what makes us say, “Wow” about him. This City coming down out of heaven, in a very reverent way, has God’s wow factor. It has his glory. As the City descends, it gives off its own radiance. It sparkles like a star in the sky. It shines like the sun and moon. This City is spectacular, not dirty. It is sparkling, not dingy.
John then gets even more specific about this City that he sees. The drawing now needs details to describe how unique it is. And he describes the uniqueness of the component parts of the City, what makes up this City, and it’s kind of normal things for his day — walls, gates, foundations. The wall is a great and high wall, and it’s actually built on twelve foundations. This is a solid City. And on each of those foundations is written a name of one of the Lamb’s twelve apostles. There are twelve gates in this City, three on each side of this square City, and on those gates are inscribed the names of the sons of Israel. The inscriptions on the gates and on the foundations send us a message. The Bride, the City, God’s people and God’s place, are made up of God’s people. The City is, in a sense, entered through the sons of Israel and built upon the apostles. No matter what time period that you believed in Messiah, you are now welcome in this City.
We also discover that this City is unique in its size. John actually provides us measurements. And John actually gets those from the angel. The angel steps forward with a handy dandy gold measuring rod and begins to pace off the City. And what I find to be kind of a cool, odd moment in this vision is we discover that angels and humans measure the same. John goes to great lengths to describe the dimensions and symmetry and measurements of this City. It is absolutely perfect. And to communicate that, John employs the use of a lot of 12s. There are 12s all over the place in here. There are 12 foundations with 12 names, 12 gates with 12 names, 12 angels. The wall measure to 144, or 12×12. The City itself measures out to 12,000 stadia. The measurements send us a message. This place is perfect. Once you do the angel’s math that he gave to John about the size of this City, the scope is ridiculous. So, imagine this for a moment. Put a map in front of the eyes of your brain and imagine a square that begins in Greenville, South Carolina, heads west out to Grand Junction, Colorado, turns a hard right, heads north into the middle of Manitoba, hangs a right again over into Quebec, another right back down to Greenville to create a 1500 square mile City. That’s what we end up seeing with these measurements.
You remember how John was taken to a high mountain to see the City? He was invited to see the Bride, but instead saw the City. If you go to the top of Mount Everest on a clear day, estimates tell you that you could see for potentially 200 miles. So, if you were to take in the scope of this City, you would have to be on top of a mountain roughly seven times the height of Everest. The Bride is not tiny. The City is not a one-red-light town. The people of God are not few. And the place of God is vast.
John and the angel continue with their measurements. And oddly, at this moment, when the angel measures the City, he records its height. He records how high this City is. I’m not exactly sure how he does that. How would we measure the height of Greenville? Is that from above sea level? Is that from the tallest building? Not exactly sure. But when it comes to the Bride, when it comes to the City, she is a perfect cube. The measurements for length, width and height are equal.
Now, for us, I think for many of us at this point, the recording of the height is just kind of an oddity. But for our Jewish brothers and sisters who would have grown up and read the law, the beginning of the Old Testament, at this point, their minds might have just been blown. Here’s why. See, there’s only one other cube recorded for us in the Bible, and we find it in 1 Kings 6:20. And we find in that verse the measurements for a portion of the temple where the Jews worshiped. It was called the Holy of Holies. Think of it as God’s particular dwelling for his presence. The Holy of Holies, God’s particular dwelling for his presence. Now, to get into the Holy of Holies was very, very limited access. Only the high priest could go, and he could only go in once a year and only if he did certain things/rituals in order to gain entry. In that place, the Holy of Holies, God’s particular dwelling place of his presence, the dimensions are all equal length, width and height.
Now, in Revelation 21, New Jerusalem, the City of God and the new heavens and new earth has the same dimensions as a cube. God’s dwelling place for his presence is everywhere. It’s everywhere. God has given to his people in this City permanent, personal access to his presence. Imagine that. See God’s people in God’s place through God’s eyes. God’s people are his dwelling, and God’s people dwell within his particular dwelling of his presence. Because in the new heavens and new earth, God’s particular dwelling place is everywhere with no limits on access. We’re always with him.
The City is also unique in materials. Now, for anyone in construction (and that is not me), you know the cost of the building is matched to the cost of the materials. You can buy laminate countertops or marble. The cost of those will affect the cost of the home. The materials used to construct this City, the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, are insane. That great big wall that’s 216 feet high and runs for 6000 miles, that wall is made up of a gem called jasper, which is brilliant and clear. Think diamond. The City is made of pure gold that is so pure, it’s described as like glass. It has a mirror finish. You can see your reflection in it. God’s place is perfectly pure. The 12 foundations with the 12 names were adorned with every type of jewel, and each foundation was individually constructed of a particular gem. Those gates, each one was made out of a single pearl. Now, just for fun, I did some really, really rough math. With everything in this City being symmetrical, I imagined those gates would be on those walls. So, let’s just imagine each of those gates of roughly 215 feet across made out of one pearl. That is one giant mollusk to create a 216 foot pearl. The City is unique in its construction. It is unbelievable. It is beyond the scope of comprehension. The City is utterly unique in its origin, in its makeup, in its size, and its materials.
So, let’s return to the idea of drawing a sunset for a 5-year-old who needs hope and help. What do these things do? What hope and help do they provide? Well, the makeup of this City, just familiar objects used to imagine an unfamiliar world . . . remember, these would have been everyday things for these people to see — walls, gates and foundations — but the way in which they are exaggerated and magnified allows us to imagine an existence that is fantastically foreign. The measurements, ridiculous scope and size create awe. Their symmetry and size inspire, imagining perfection and interaction with God. We dwell with him in his personal dwelling place. The Holy of Holies is everywhere. The materials reveal value. Both the materials themselves and the volume of the materials made for this City would be overwhelming to the original reader and quite honestly should be overwhelming to us. God highly values this City.
God colors a picture of God’s people and God’s place vividly. And I believe the cumulative effect on us is this: God’s people are pure, radiant, and valued. God’s people are pure, radiant and valued. And God’s place is expansive, perfect, and beautiful.
So far in God’s drawing, we’ve seen the Bride and the City. And God’s added some descriptions about the City and now goes even into further detail by going into the interior of the City. What is it like within the walls, the interior in verses 22-27? John uniquely describes the interior by telling us and recording for us what’s missing. He’s going to mention multiple things that are absent. Now, that doesn’t mean the City is deficient. It’s just his way of describing what he sees.
So, what’s missing? Several things. There’s no temple. There’s no sun or moon. There are no shut gates. There’s no night. There’s nothing unclean and no one who does what is detestable or false. All of those things on the interior of this City, they’re missing.
What is in the City? John provides, in a sense, a substitute for each absent thing there. So, for instance, there is no temple. Well, John tells us the temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. Now, we, in a sense, had a hint that this was coming. Remember the measurements of the City, a perfect cube. This City is the new Holy of Holies, God’s personal dwelling place of his presence. Therefore, there’s no specific need for a temple to come to God’s presence. His presence is everywhere. And this is another moment for us in the modern west where we can kind of quickly pass over this moment in the text and not see it as a great big shock. The Jewish reader, however, it would have taken a lot of imagination to consider a world without the temple. The temple was more than just a spot for religion. It was God’s place. And even beyond that, it became the center of their lives. Now the temple is gone. There is no need for it. We don’t need a temple to experience God’s presence. Instead, God’s presence is everywhere all the time with unlimited access.
John says there is no sun or moon. Instead, God’s glory and the Lamb is the lamp. Now, does this mean there’s no other external light sources? I’m not sure, maybe. But what it does is it makes us imagine, especially as modern readers of this, in a world without electricity, how much did people depend upon the sun and moon for illumination? When they hear those sources are gone? If it’s night and there’s no moon, we’re fine. We have other sources. They didn’t. In this City, the glory of God turns tangible and lights the path for all of his people. John, once again, in his style throws multiple metaphors together all at once. Jesus, who is the Lion and the Lamb is also the Lamp. Jesus is the Light of the world. And Jesus will be the Light of the new heavens and the new earth.
John says there are no shut gates, which was a sort of protection for this time period. There are no locks on the doors in our language. There are no security systems. There’s perpetual access and safety instead. The gates of the City are entirely decorative and not defensive. Nothing can happen where they’ll have to be shut for safety in the new heavens and the new earth.
There’s no night. There’s only perpetual day. God’s glory doesn’t have an off switch. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Nothing good happens after midnight?” I couldn’t find a source for that, where that came from. But I think there’s some truth in that. My friends and I have an odd habit. We all ride motorcycles together, and the odd habit is we often send each other texts about news reports of motorcycle accidents. In a way, I guess, it’s our way to sober each other as we consider riding a motorcycle in Greenville, South Carolina traffic. A lot of those motorcycle accidents happen after dark, after midnight, the hours of the morning, sometimes with some additional unwise choices being made. Children are often afraid of the dark and some adults are as well. Crime rates increase in the dark. But in this City, there’s no time that has potential for more evil or destruction. There’s only day. There’s only good that can happen.
Finally, John wraps up by saying in this place, in this City, behind these walls, there’s nothing unclean and there’s no one who does what is detestable or false. Instead, there are only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. The citizens of this City have a particular character. They are clean, and their actions are pure. Four times in this letter, called Revelation, we discover that God’s people are given white robes. Now, that doesn’t mean for the rest of eternity in the new heavens and new earth we’re going to walk around in togas. It’s a description of being pure, of being made pure. Those who conquer, those who place their faith in Jesus Christ are clean people. They’ve been cleansed and purified. Therefore, the actions that flow out of them are clean and pure actions. And those are the people who are granted access to this City, to God’s presence. The Lamb has a book, and it contains a census of those who will be in this City.
Similar to last week, God’s description of the interior of the City must give us pause here, because God seems to be communicating that there are people who are in the City and those who are out of the City. There are those who believe in Jesus and live out of the reality of being purified and those who cling to detestable things and continue to speak falsehoods. Unless God intervenes in our lives, we can’t enter his City. None of us can wash our own robe clean enough to be white enough to enter into this City.
So, let’s return to the idea of drawing a sunset for a 5-year-old to provide hope and help. What does the interior of the City do? I want to mention just one thing. It seems as if this focuses our attention on the interaction between God and God’s people in God’s place. This section says more about God than it does the environment itself. Which, I think leads us to believe and conclude, don’t forget God as you consider the future. God’s the point, not the mansion in glory. A lot of the focus here is on how much God is giving his glory, how much God is light, how much God is love. Don’t miss it.
This would be like at the holidays returning to the home that you grew up in and valuing going more to your room than having dinner with your family. The point of going home is to be with the ones you love, to see your mother, and to see your father. The same is true in this New Jerusalem, in the new heavens and new earth. The point is that we have access and dwelling with God. And yes, these descriptions enflame our minds to think of wild images of what this is actually going to be like because we can’t comprehend it. But that all has to drive us back to considering that we get to be with God almighty in personal relationship with no limits. Let’s not forget God as we consider the future.
Revelation 21 asks us to see God’s people and God’s place through God’s eyes. John and the angel, given information by God, have drawn for us this unique, colorful, and powerful image of the future. What are we going to do with it? I want to suggest to us two responses.
Response number 1, we long for it. We long for this future. Future hope implies present longing. Future hope, something out there that I really want to have and happen, implies that I long for it to be now. Right now, we long for this future Bride and City to be reality. Describing future hope, in a way, highlights present brokenness. We see what’s really going on around us in this world, and by comparison, we long to be in this future, and we long for everyone to be part of this City and Bride in the future. We long for Jesus to come back. We sing songs like, “Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel.” We sing lyrics like, “Like a bride waiting for her groom, we’ll be a church ready for you. Every heart longing for our King. We sing, even so, come, Lord Jesus, come.” Our response after seeing God’s people and place through God’s eyes is to long to be there.
Response number 2, we endure. We endure today. As the writer of Hebrews says,
“You have need of endurance, so that [after] you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”
Everybody, you need endurance. You have this image out in front of you that provides hope for the future so that you can endure today. You can persevere until the end. You have a reserve of energy as you look towards the future to make it through today. Brothers and sisters, let us endure well.
For the past two weeks, we’ve delved into Revelation 21. Imagine a future you can’t imagine. See God’s people in God’s place through God’s eyes. Consider what this will be like and build an image big enough in your mind and in your heart to give you hope today in order to endure and persevere. My friends, imagine this future every day. Long for it every day. Persevere and conquer till the end. And all the while, echo the words of John at the end of his letter. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus, come.”
May the grace of God, the hope of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Spirit be with you all. May it give you the power to imagine what a future dwelling with God will be like. And may it give you the ability to endure today and tomorrow, until we all see him face to face. Blessings on all of you, amen.