The Beauty of Your Eternal Home

Steve Viars December 8, 2007 Revelation 21:

 

- when Kris and I were planning to get married, I had the opportunity to plan the honeymoon location...

- I’m not sure how we came to this conclusion, but Kris agreed to the arrangement that the location could be a surprise...

- I had heard from some other people at school that there was a great little Christian resort on the island of Bermuda...named Willowbank...

- we were going to be married after my senior year of Bible College and I already had one part-time job to help finish off my tuition bill...

- I also had the privilege of serving as a part-time youth pastor at a church in New Jersey on the weekends...

- so all of that plus a full load of classes made for a pretty busy schedule...

- but I really wanted to take Kris to Bermuda...so I figured it all out financially, and looked at my schedule one more time...and I was able to get a job at a grocery store for about 18 hours a week...and I found that if I saved everything I made from that job, plus some money I hoped to make that summer I thought I could swing...

- so all winter, in Northeastern PA, I’d be pushing those grocery carts through the slush, and ice, and snow...dreaming of being able to take Kris to Bermuda...

- and my thought pattern was---we’re going in the ministry---we might always be in small churches that can’t pay us much, which was fine---but we’d probably never take a nice vacation again, so I really wanted to do this if at all possible...

- by God’s grace, 25 years ago, we were able to make that trip...

- and Bermuda is an absolutely beautiful place...

- it’s almost hard to describe the water there---

- they don’t rent cars to tourists so you ride around on these little scooters---but there is a road that goes all the way around the perimeter of the island---and you feel like you’re riding in a perpetual postcard...it takes your breathe away...

- of course it was never in my ministry plan to travel as much as the Lord has allowed me to...and with that comes frequent flier miles...so this past summer, Kris and I went back to Bermuda...just to be sure it’s still as stunning as we remember...

- and we’re happy to report---Bermuda is still is a wonderful place....

- I wish I had the resources to take the whole church family there, along with all of my family members and friends...for one big month-long holiday...wouldn’t that be something?...

- would you like some good news...there is a place that someday will be more beautiful than Bermuda...[r whatever spot on earth comes to your mind when you think of a place that just takes your breathe away]...and according to God’s Word...it is possible that every person in this room...and every person, everywhere, from every time, who has come to God by faith will be able to go...not just for a month...but will be able to go there forever...to a place called heaven...

- this morning we’re going to talk about...The Beauty of Heaven...

- with that in mind, can I ask you to open your Bible to 2 passages of Scripture this morning, Revelation 21 and II Peter 3 [page 200, and page 184 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you]...

- our theme this month for Christmastime is Reaching the Ultimate Height...what does the Bible tell us about our eternal home?

- and the answer is, a lot...the word heaven is found well over 500 times in God’s Word...and with other words that clearly refer to heaven like the word “Paradise”....this is clearly a major Bible theme...

- now here’s a few Introductory Truths

1. Heaven exists now.

- what was it that Jesus said to the thief on the cross who was willing to repent and believe with his final breathes?...

- Luke 23:43 - And He said to him, Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.

- by the way, if there was ever a candidate for purgatory...this guy was it...

- but that’s not what Jesus said...not, after a few months of torment to atone for your sins, not after a decade of soul sleep, not in some sort of wispy, eventually we’ll issue you some angel wings so you can float around...

- no, this day you’ll be with me in Paradise...heaven exists now...

2. Heaven is a real place.

- in the sermon on the mount, Jesus told his followers...

- Matthew 5:16 - Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

- now, you might say...but I though God was omnipresent...He is...but heaven is His unique dwelling place and Scripture affirms that repeatedly...

- we were even taught to pray...Matthew 6:9 - Pray, then, in this way: Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

- now, you might say...doesn’t the Bible say something about the “third heaven”?....

- yes, it does...who used that terminology?...the apostle Paul...who spoke about being caught up to the third heaven...

3. There are different aspects of heaven.

a. the atmospheric heaven.

- that’s the sky, the breathable atmosphere...

- Genesis 7:11 - In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

b. the planetary heaven

- some theologians call that the “second heaven”...a different aspect of the topic...

- Genesis 1:16-17 - And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,

c. the heaven where God dwells

- that’s what Paul meant when he spoke about the 3rd heaven...[point out as you read – Paul was clearly speaking about himself, but he used this approach so as not to boast]

- 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 - I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven...was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.

- one of the reasons that becomes important is because in a minute we’re going to read about heaven being destroyed...well, what heaven?...do you want to guess?...the first and the second...the atmospheric and planetary heaven...

- one other point we need to make here is...

4. Heaven is a developing place.

- you could accurately say that heaven is under construction...

- what did Jesus say to His followers in John 14?...

- John 14:2-3 - In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

- now, in what sense is Jesus preparing a place?...we don’t know that...

- certainly He could prepare it instantaneously with one word from His mouth if He chose to...but it is interesting that throughout human history God has always delighted in using people...

- perhaps some of your loved ones who knew the Lord who preceded you to heaven went to work this week...on the greatest construction project the world has ever seen...you say work – I thought it was endless retirement---we know that’s not true...

- but remember, there’s no sin, the curse is removed, and everything enjoyable about work remains, and all the drudgery is removed...

- God may have said to one of your loved ones today...I’d like you to go build a boat today for one of the heavenly lakes...and let me introduce you to the person you’ll be working with---his name is...Noah...enjoy your day...

- the reason I raise that is because the passage we’re about to read about the New Heaven and the New earth...there is at the very end of what we know about the future...

- but by this time, a lot will have occurred on earth, and in heaven...

- the rapture of the church will have occurred...the dead in Christ will rise and then we who are alive at that time will meet the Lord in the air...what passage teaches us that?...I Thes. 4

- and we will be in heaven...during that time the marriage supper of the Lamb will occur...and the Judgment Seat of Christ which we studied last week...

- at that same time, what will be happening on earth?...the 7 year tribulation...where the wickedness on earth will be judged and representatives of the nation of Israel will be prepared to accept their Messiah...so even that period of time has a redemptive focus...

- the point is...what is occurring in heaven during that time is different than what is occurring today...

- then what happens at the end of the tribulation and the Battle of Armageddon? [and I understand that good people differ on some of these things...]

- but we interpret the Bible literally...and we believe there is a distinction between the NT church and OT Israel...

- so after the tribulation we believe that Christ is going to come and establish his 1000 year and reign on this earth...known as the millennium...where the OT promises and prophecies will be finally and completely fulfilled...and finally the earth will have a perfect king, the Lord Jesus Christ...and Scripture is clear...that as followers of Christ we will participate in that reign...

- so forget the whole, I’m going to floating around on clouds, I’m going to be bored, even golf won’t be fun because everybody always gets holes in one...

- you will be joyfully and productively serving the King...I’m sure there will be banana cream pie in there somewhere...[unless that’s the reason God has to wipe tears from our eyes---I certainly hope not]...

- at the end of that millennial kingdom comes what we’re studying this morning...the coming of the new heaven and the new earth...and according to Scripture, it is a really beautiful place...

- read Revelation 21:1-2...now let’s stop there and look at II Peter...because this describes how and why the “first heaven and the first earth” were destroyed...[II Peter – p. 184]

- read II Peter 3:1-3....these verses are speaking about what the OT refers to as “the Day of the Lord”...which the NT explains is a general term to describe God’s future judgment including the tribulation, and including the events at the very end of the millennium...

- read II Peter 3:4-18 [or shorter, depending on time...]

- with that in mind, let’s go back to Revelation 21 [page 200]...read Rev. 21:2-22:7 [may have to skip some for time...]

- obviously there is a lot of material here, which is why the apostle Paul said that God did not want us to be uninformed about these things [I Thes. 4:13]...but there are certain truths that just rise to the top...

- so with the time we have remaining...let’s think about 3 reasons heaven is a beautiful place...

I. Because the Ugliness of What Mankind Has Done to the Earth will be Destroyed.

- have you ever been to a beautiful spot, and somebody left a bunch of trash there?

- cf. Calvin and Hobbes cartoon [Heather – one slide at a time]

- that is why Revelation 21 begins the way it does...

- and what did II Peter add to our understanding?...

A. This will occur in a context of scoffing.

- people will say – v. 4 – Where is the promise of His coming?...

- He hasn’t come yet; therefore He’s not going to come...

- that’s like saying, I haven’t died yet, and therefore I’m not going to die...

- and by the way, we realize when we do something like the Living Nativity, that’s going to result in a bit of scoffing...

- if you read through the advertising piece, we’re being clear about what we believe the Bible teaches about Christ...including things like Adam and Eve, and Noah, and the miracles of Christ, and the cross, and the empty tomb...

- and we understand that some people will scoff at that...and we understand that is why some church growth experts are telling us to avoid such subjects because they aren’t palatable to the modern mind...

- to us, that would be the height of arrogance...as if God somehow needs some help marketing His message in the day and age in which we live...

- We would rather say with the apostle Paul... Romans 1:16 - For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes...

B. God can dramatically alter the shape of the earth by the power of His Word.

- He spoke the world into being...

- verse 7 says...2 Peter 3:7 - But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

- and by the power of His Word, the world will be judged...

- part of what is so amazing about this is that God’s hesitancy to bring all of this about, and ultimately silence those who would mock is what?....His grace...

C. God’s hesitancy to judge is because of His desire that no one would perish.

- II Peter 3:9 is a marvelous passage about the character of God-- 2 Peter 3:9 - The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

- by the way, isn’t that the kind of Person you’d want to spend eternity with?

D. The day of the Lord will occur suddenly.

- that is truth of any aspect of God’s judgment...

- II Peter 3:10 – But the day of the Lord will come like a thief...

E. The earth will be dissolved with tremendous heat.

- II Peter 3:10 - ...in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.

- the point of all of this is...before the new heaven can be given, the old earth, and all that sinful mankind has done to mar and ruin it must be addressed...

F. Implications to us today?

1. Be sure you’re ready.

- friend, do you know that you know that you know that you’ve trusted Christ as Savior and Lord?...

- it would be a terrible thing if because of your pride, or your stubbornness, meant you didn’t make the trip to a place much more beautiful than Bermuda...

2. Don’t fall in love with this world today.

- John said --1 John 2:15-17 - Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

- James 4:4 - You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

- now, this doesn’t mean that we aren’t supposed to love the world of people---God does [for God so loved the world...]

- but these verses are talking about loving the world’s system, and values, and pleasures...where you find your joy and satisfaction in the very things that God will some day judge...

- do you remember that Jesus warned about people whose heart made the word of God like a seed among thorns...Matthew 13:22 - And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

- I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be involved with people, and involved with our culture...but some followers of Christ are so focused on the world, and would appear to be so much in love with the world...that the things of God don’t interest them much...

- there’s something wrong if you know more about the 12 finalists in the last American Idol contest on TV than you do about the 12 disciples of Christ in the Bible...

- or if you were more worried about whose going to latest dance final than you are about whether your neighbor is going to heaven...

- if you are in love with the very thing that God has promised to destroy, what does that say about the object of your affection?

- now, that’s the bad part of the story...which prepares us for what comes next...

- heaven is a beautiful place...

II. Because of What it Contains.

A. Delightful inhabitants.

- Rev. 21:3 – ...and they shall be His people

- Rev. 21:6 -- ...the one who thirsts

- Rev. 21:8 - ...he who overcomes...

- each one of those descriptions brings multiple passages of Scripture to mind...it is amazing how God’s Word fits together...

- we all have people who gone before us who were dear friends, or dear family members...and it’s OK to miss them...it’s OK...Paul said, we sorrow, but not as those who have no hope...

- but one of the many reasons we should long for heaven...is because of the people who will be there when we arrive [could develop – without those diseases that we sometimes remember them having at the end...]

B. Incredible size.

- we would see no reason not to take theses verses literally...

- verse 16 says, depending on the version you have...

- Rev. 21:16 – 12,000 furlongs

- that would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 14-1500 miles cubed...

- not just squared, but cubed...

- if you’re worried about heaven being crowded...you can put that one to rest...the sheer size is absolutely astounding...

C. Indescribable materials.

- Revelation 21:18-19 - The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone...

- do you like precious stones?...do you think they’re beautiful...heaven will be like that everywhere...

- And if you say...I have trouble even imagining that...that’s kind-of the point --Ephesians 2:7 - so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

- this is part of what ought to motivate us not to be so earthly minded...do you remember how Paul let this truth impact Him?...in the book of Philippians he was in prison...and he was talking about whether he believed he was going to die and go to heaven, or continue to stay on earth and minister to them and even to the people to whom he was chained...

- and do you remember what he said – either way is going to be OK...

- Philippians 1:21-24 - For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.

- that is why he could serve without fear, because he knew about the beauty of the place where he was going...and he also wanted to do everything he could then and there to put as many people around him as possible in a place where they would have the same confidence...

D. Glorious Light

- Did you notice that repetitive theme...

- why?...because that is God’s unique dwelling place...

- Revelation 21:23 - And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.

- cf. the great hymn by Fanny Crosby

My Savior First of All

When my life work is ended and I cross the swelling tide,

When the bright and glorious morning I shall see,

I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,

And His smile will be the first to welcome me.

Through the gates to the city, in a robe of spotless white,

He will lead me where no tears will ever fall,

In the glad song of ages I will mingle with delight,

But I long to meet my Savior first of all.

- friend, do you long for that?...does your heart echo these verses?

- Psalm 16:11 - You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

- Psalm 42:1-2 - As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?

- Psalm 73:25-26 - Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

D. Marvelous unity.

- did you notice the emphasis on the various nations...

- Revelation 21:24 - The nations will walk by its light...

- we won’t have to be concerned with what Hugo Chavez, and Vladimir Putin, and Mahmoud [Macmud] Ahmadinejad will do next...

- there won’t be any nations...

- neither will be any denominations and rivalry and division...

- perhaps that is because of the humility that comes from being clothed in the righteousness of Christ...

- Isaiah 61:10 - I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

- [could talk about getting along with one another in heaven—relationships without sin]

E. Sustaining Life.

- did you notice in verse 1 of chapter 21 that there are no longer any seas...which means the atmosphere will be entirely different...

- but that will be replaced with a marvelous river...

- Revelation 22:1-2 - Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

- [if time, contrast the way Twain and Spurgeon faced death –, or the way Freud and Lewis faced death...]

III. Because of What Heaven Lacks.

- you might say – that can’t be, heaven has everything...

- no...the passage actually spoke about a lot of things heaven will not contain...

A. Death – v. 4

B. Mourning – v. 4

C. Crying – v. 4

D. Pain – v. 4

- some folks might say, but PV---I know that the previous chapter talks about the eternal judgment of those who do not believe...how can there be no pain in heaven if we know that some, perhaps people we loved, are in hell?...

- I know that many people here face that question in real terms...

- here’s a few answers...

1) You don’t know for sure what someone believed, or what they didn’t---so you friend or loved one’s eternal destiny is between that person and the Lord---I don’t have any doubt that there will be some surprises in heaven, perhaps some of them will be pleasant ones...

2) In heaven, we will have a perfect understanding of the justice of God...and the way we think about things then, and the way we think about them now will be different...

3) Perhaps this is why verse 4 says that God will wipe all tears from our eyes---that is an unusual concept...

E. Temple – v. 22

F. Night – v. 25

G. Unclean thing or person – v. 27

H. Curse – 22:3

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video