“I AM COMING SOON” Revelation 21–22
“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Rev. 22:17).God’s final message to us is an invitation to heaven.
God creates a new heaven and earth where He will dwell with men (21:1–5), from which the ungodly will be excluded (vv. 6–8). A heavenly Jerusalem will serve as the capital of the recreated earth (vv. 9–21), and God Himself will be there (vv. 22–27). There will be no more curse or night, but we will serve God and see His face (22:1–6). The vision ends with a warning (vv. 7–11), an open invitation (vv. 12–17), and the assurance that Jesus is coming soon (vv. 18–21).
Understanding the Text
“A new heaven and a new earth” Rev. 21:1.
Both Isaiah and Peter graphically describe the dissolution of the material universe. Second Peter 3:10 says that “the heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” There is no place in eternity for a universe which has been corrupted by sin. What a reminder for us. If it is necessary for God to replace a thousand million galaxies, untold millions of light years removed from earth, and all because of human sin, how awful must sin be. And how swiftly we should draw back from temptation! “The New Jerusalem” Rev. 21:2–4. The real significance of Jerusalem in history is that it is the one place on earth where God chose to be uniquely present with men. The story of the temple’s dedication reports that God’s glory filled the temple: He settled there to be accessible to those of Israel who worshiped Him. Thus earthly Jerusalem serves as a metaphor for the heavenly city, destined to be the capital of the new heaven and earth. God was present in earthly Jerusalem, but insulated from His people by the curtains and walls of the temple. The New Jerusalem is heaven, because there will be no more insulation of God from men. He will be with us, and “He will wipe every tear from [our] eyes.” “To him who is thirsty I will give to drink” Rev. 21:6–8. Isaiah used this same imagery, crying out: Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost (Isa. 55:1). Just so, here God says, “I will give to drink without cost.” Heaven is ours at no cost to us. But hell is earned, by the vile, unbelieving acts that men perform. “It shone with the glory of God” Rev. 21:9–21. The New Jerusalem is the most carefully described of anything in these chapters. Possibly this is because the city is the residence of God, who is Himself the focus of eternity to come. Some scoffers have had a field day with the Holy City. Even though it is a 1,400 mile square, one man calculated that it could hardly hold a fraction of the people who must have lived from Adam’s distant day to ours. “Heaven isn’t big enough!” he announced. And newspapers actually picked up his words, and ran them as the heading of a story on his findings! Of course, even a careless reading of the text of Revelation 21 shows that the city rests on a restored earth, in the center of a renewed universe, and that the city is NOT “heaven” at all. But no one bothered to check the Bible’s text. Not the scoffer with the slide rule. And certainly not the editors of the papers that printed his findings. How sad when people fasten on to some detail of the text, distort it, and announce once again that the Bible’s credibility has been disproved. How sad when reading of an eternity we each must face, that what is overlooked is the promise, “I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.” This is the real story in Revelation 21. Not the details of what life may be like when time has come to an end. But the invitation to make God our God; God’s promise that “he will be My son” (v. 7). “The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” Rev. 21:22–27. In the Book of Psalms there is a sequence of poems known as “songs of ascent” (Pss. 120–134). These songs were either sung by pilgrims as they approached Jerusalem to worship or, as some commentators believe, sung by Levites as they stood on one of the 15 steps that tradition says led up to the temple from the court below. These were songs of joy; songs of praise. Songs that expressed the worshipers’ sense of grand privilege as they approached the dwelling place of God on earth. Just think what it means for heaven to have no temple. And think of the songs of joy that we will sing. For when in eternity we enter the New Jerusalem, we will be coming not to a building that represents God’s presence, but to God Himself. And our whole being will overflow with praises and delight. “No longer will there be any curse” Rev. 22:1–5. This, with God’s personal presence, is the most wonderful thing about heaven. There will be no more curse. We will at last be unfettered. The potential that God planted in the human soul when He created mankind in His own image will at last be released from the cancer that eats at us now. We do not yet know what we will be, John says, “when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). We shall serve Him, the text says. We will see His face. And we will reign forever and ever. We can’t imagine everything that serving God and reigning implies (see DEVOTIONAL). But if you wish to dream, dream of freedom from sin’s curse; of becoming the person God has always intended you to be. And dream of seeing God face-to-face. “The time is near” Rev. 22:10–17. It seems strange to read, “Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong” and “let him who does right continue to do right.” At least, it seems strange until we sense the immediacy in the context. Jesus has cried, “I am coming soon!” (v. 7) and will immediately utter the same cry again (v. 12). When Jesus comes, our destiny will be fixed. Today there is still time for the one who does wrong to repent. When Jesus returns, the door of opportunity will close. Jesus is coming soon. Every man needs to heed that warning cry, and respond while the Spirit and the bride still say, “Come!” “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus” Rev. 22:18–21. The more we know of life on earth, the more attractive heaven is. The young dream dreams of next year, of marriage, of promotions on the job. The middle aged dream of retirement. And the aged dream of yesteryear. How sad if all our dreams are of life on this earth, of fleeting days and nights, and passing joys. The Christian who has gazed on earth and found it a void has a different dream. We look up, and in our reverie imagine a loud trumpet blast. And with the saints of every time and place, we cry “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.”
Donald Grey Barnhouse used to speculate in his Monday night New York Bible Class. What would heaven be like? He didn’t know, of course. But he was quite sure that God had wonders beyond description in mind. “I expect that one day God will tell me, ’Donald, go create a world and people it and govern it for Me,’ ” Barnhouse would say. Somehow he felt that the whole re-created universe, with it myriads of galaxies and uncounted stars, should be filled with beings who loved and worshiped God, and found great joy in Him. To Barnhouse this earth, and our race, was but a seed. And when that seed sprouted, and history had run its course, a redeemed humanity would be the agency through which God spread the knowledge of Himself through an endless multitude of possible worlds. Perhaps. God’s purposes undoubtedly have a scope that exceeds our most exalted imaginings. But these concluding chapters of Revelation do make one glory exceedingly clear. When this world ends, we will know God. We will walk in His light, freed forever from the curse of sin. Free to serve Him, to see His face, and to love Him as we ought to love. And for us, this is enough. For the true definition of “heaven” is, “heaven is where God is.” And that is where we will be. No wonder John, who has seen it all, cries “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.”
The greatest blessing the new year could possibly hold would be the return of Christ.
“Will He not give us all things when we are with Him? What shall our life and our nature not be when His promises unto us shall have been fulfilled! What will the spirit of man be like when it is placed above every vice that masters and subdues—when, its warfare ended, it is wholly at peace.”—St. Augustine