Postcards of Heaven Revelation 21:1-22:5

1 Corinthians 2:9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”

We don’t know what heaven is going to be like. But we have had some hints already in the Book of Revelation. Back in chapter 7 we were given a glimpse of the saints in glory and of all the blessings of heaven in three wonderful pictures.

Life in God’s presence

Revelation 7 15 Therefore, ‘they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

They are before the throne of God. Now we see in a mirror darkly. Then we will see face to face. We will be in God’s presence in the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies. We will see Jesus face to face! This is the heart of our Christian hope.

and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
As Richard Baxter puts it.
My knowledge of that life is small, The eye of faith is dim,
But it’s enough that Christ knows all, And I shall be with him.

Life in God’s presence, where

God will meet all our needs

Revelation 7 16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat.

A place of everlasting joy

Revelation 7 17 For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Life in God’s Presence. All Our Needs Met. A Place of Everlasting Joy. This is our hope!

Since chapter 7 we have seen the victory of the Lamb who was slain over the Dragon, the ancient serpent, the devil. We have seen that Jesus Christ is not only the Lamb but is also the Commander of the Armies of Heaven, the one who is faithful and true and whose name is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. His victory is certain, the church will be triumphant, and those who share in that victory will be blessed forever. And here at the climax of the Book, Revelation gives us three more postcards of what heaven will be like.

Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.

Behold – I AM MAKING EVERYTHING NEW!

Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

A new creation. The old order of things has passed away. The new has come. CS Lewis ends the final book in his series about Narnia, The Last Battle, like this:

“The things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say
that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

All things new! Everything is transformed, not so much by God’s actions but simply by God’s presence.

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

God will be with us and we will be with God. Face to face in glory. And that will take away all the suffering and pain we have experienced this world. No more death or mourning or crying. And then we have an amazing postcard of heaven – which is two pictures in one.

THE BRIDE – WHO IS THE CITY

. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

The Bride and the City are both pictures of the church, the people of God, the children of God. Together all believers will make up the Bride of Christ and at the same time the City of God, the New Jerusalem. Now we find out more about this glorious bride.

9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.

The Bride and the City are both pictures of the church, the people of God, the children of God. Together all believers will make up the Bride of Christ and at the same time the City of God, the New Jerusalem. The Bride, beautifully dressed for her wedding. A breathtaking image of holiness and virginity and anticipation.

9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.

Some people pay great attention to the details in this description of the Holy City. The gates being the 12 tribes of Israel and the foundations being the 12 apostles. These features remind us of the continuity between God’s plan of salvation begun in the Old Testament with the nation of Israel, brought into reality by the ministry and Jesus Christ continuing in the Early Church, and brought to fulfilment in glory in heaven. We can also notice the riches of the city, so much gold and so many precious gems. But never mind the details – just take in the big picture. Because it is a VERY BIG picture.

15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using.

12,000 stadia is 2,400 km. That is about as far as it is from here to Moscow. Or to Athens. 2,400 km is a long way. So this heavenly city is 2,400 km long by 2,400 km wide by 2,400 km high. That is big. Very big. Very, very big. The volume of that city will be about the same as the volume of the moon. That is big. Very big. Very, very big. But of course the heavenly city has to be big. God lives there!! The Bride and the City.
Next we have a second postcard of heaven.

GOD’S DWELLING PLACE

22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

The heavenly city is remarkable for many reasons, as much for what it does not contain as for what it does.

NO TEMPLE
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
The city doesn’t need a specific place to go and meet with God. Because God Himself is there. The Father and the Son and the Spirit are everywhere in the city.

NO SUN OR MOON
23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.
The sun and the moon are the great lights which have lit the world and marked out day and night and times and seasons throughout the world for all of time. They have brought growth to crops and safety to travellers everywhere. But in heaven they won’t be needed. There won’t be any darkness and there won’t be any night – because in the heavenly city the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.

And there won’t be any need for walls or gates because God will give his safety and security and peace to the city forever.

25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.

And there is one more thing there won’t be in that glorious city – ever.

NO SIN

27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

None of the things which spoil life in this world will ever enter heaven. I jumped over these verses from earlier in Revelation 21

6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

No more sin. Just the spring of the water of life and a relationship with God as Father and children. As part of this Holy Bride, in this heavenly city where God dwells, we will truly experience heaven as is revealed in the third postcard:

PARADISE REGAINED

22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

When Adam and Eve rebelled against God by disobeying his only commandment, they were banished from the Garden of Eden and the whole of creation was cursed. Now in the new creation, that curse is removed. Through Jesus Christ, Adam and Eve’s descendants may once again drink from the waters of life and eat from the tree of life. Paradise regained.

All things new. The Bride and the City. God’s dwelling place! Paradise regained

Believing in heaven is not running away from life – it is running towards it!

When we looked at Revelation chapter 7 I quoted these words from Richard Baxter.
“Why are not our hearts continually set on heaven? Why dwell we not there in constant comtemplation?…Bend thy soul to study eternity, busy thyself about the life to come, habituate thyself to such contemplations, and let not those thoughts be seldom and cursory, but bathe thyself in heaven’s delights.”

All things new. The Bride and the City. God’s dwelling place! Paradise regained. Let US bathe ourselves in heaven’s delights!

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