I Saw – Revelation 21

Bible Closeup

“I saw a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1). “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (Rev 21:22). Here are two more of John’s eye-witness accounts, two more of what “I saw,” when caught up into heaven and into the future.

The last three chapters of the book of Revelation show us something of what a new heavens and new earth will be like. There are lots of “new” things and lots of “no” things (things that will be no more).

Think first of what will be absent. There will be no more sea, nothing to divide and separate. Human life depends on the hydrologic cycle: evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. But in that day, life will be sustained by divine power and there will be no need for the sea any longer.

There will be no more death. Can you imagine a deathless world? Life which is really life? No specter of death hovering over you, no funeral cortege ever to wind its way to some desolate cold and windy cemetery (not sure why it always seems cold, windy, and rainy in cemeteries). And linked with the absence of death, no more sorrow, crying, or pain. All of these things linked with our former life, with our bodies which have been humiliated by sin, will be no more forever. We will have bodies raised in power and glory, not just by power and glory!

Then there will be changes in the cosmos as well. No sun, no moon, and no night. Does this suggest an eternal day? Our bodies will never weary and not need sleep. No longer will there be the “terror of the night” (Ps 91:5). Darkness will be banished, relegated to an old creation. All will be light. The sun which warms will no longer be necessary as we will walk in the light and warmth provided by the Lamb (Rev 21:23). Locked and barred doors and windows linked with earth will be exchanged for a gate that will never be shut. There will be continual access to the city. No lockdown in that day or “shelter in place” orders will ever be issued.

The curse will be no more (22:3). All the direct and indirect effects of sin will be gone forever. All the injustice of earth, the triumphing of the wicked and the oppression of the poor, the persecution of the godly, and the arrogance of the proud. No more disease or COVID-19 pandemics to bring the world to the brink of chaos!

And no more flesh to struggle with day by day! What a change! All the value systems of earth will be forgotten. Only what God values will remain.

But perhaps best of all, there will be no physical distance between us and the Lord Jesus. “His servants shall serve Him, and they shall see His face.” To serve undistracted, free from all the tainted motives which we struggle against, the half-hearted devotion, the self-awareness that plagues us – is a service to be coveted.

What about the “new?” Instead of listing all the new things which will mark that day, as seen by John, just listen now as the King ascends to His throne and gives His grand inaugural address to a worshiping and wondering world. “Behold, I make all things new.” “All things,” not just somethings. What is going to make this inaugural address unique is that there is an Administrator Who is able to carry out every part of His platform. His agenda will be totally “new.” He will start out with a New Heavens and a New earth. There will be a New Song to fill the streets of that New City. We will have new bodies, bodies suited for a celestial sphere and a ceaseless service. We will have bodies pulsating with life as we never knew it here on earth.

We will have a “new name” (Rev 2:17), an expression of His appreciation of us! We will live in the enjoyment of that for all eternity. Everything is going to be new. And as C. S. Lewis so eloquently described it, as we go further up and further in, we will continually discover more “new” things and revel in the grace that has brought us there.

As the pandemic and the resultant lockdown, distancing, mask-in-place situation drags on, we long for change. We want our “liberty” back and restrictions lifted. Whatever day it is that the change occurs, and we can walk around, shake hands, hug and greet, will be a great day. Going from restrictions to liberties is a thrilling thought. But that pales before the prospect of the ultimate change when there will be no more of all that has been the result of sin, COVID-19 included, and everything will be new!

Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Better to travel expectantly than to arrive.” In other words, the expectation during the trip is better than the actual destination. We have all known that when it comes to plans and vacations on earth. But it will not be that way when we get to heaven. The expectation will pale before the majesty and wonder of the arrival!

Refocusing and Reframing – Part 3

Bible Angle

Paul’s love for the believers in Thessalonica was such that he viewed them as his hope, joy, and crown of rejoicing (1 Thess 2:19). These three expressions reveal not only what the believers meant to Paul, but also his entire mindset about his service for the Lord. We think of serving the Lord and receiving a reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ; that He will give us “so much reward for so much service.” There is truth to the fact that we will all receive something from His hand in a coming day, but is that all that it will involve?

Paul went even beyond that. The great hope or prospect Paul had was to be able to present these converts to the Lord Jesus Christ as the fruit of his service. He would find his joy in seeing them before the throne of God, worshipers of God, lovers of Christ.

The best analogy I can offer is that of parents who raise their children and find their entire reward in seeing their children making the right choices and living their lives to please God (if you are looking for some other reward, I need to burst your bubble). You do not get a big prize from your family for being a good mother. You have the satisfaction that what you have invested in them has really worked.

In a similar manner, when Paul thought of his crown or reward, the believers themselves were his “reward.” To see believers in the presence of God, able to eternally bring glory to God, was all Paul desired. It was that for which he lived and served His Lord.

Have you ever considered that what you invest in a believer’s life is really “laying up treasure in heaven?” (Matt 19:21). It is not just the money you send out to missionaries and preachers or the meals you provide when a believer is sick. Anything you do to help another Christian is “laying up treasure in heaven.” The believer you helped, the person you brought to meetings and saw saved, the assembly you encouraged – these and all similar acts are the treasures you will find in heaven. That saved soul, that downcast Christian you helped lift, that cold heart you warmed, that is the treasure which is awaiting you in heaven. It is the person and not a trophy which is the treasure.

You may think this is a real discouraging meditation as you were perhaps hoping for a 5,000 sq. ft. home with a pool and a live-in maid. But thankfully (very, very thankfully), when we reach heaven’s shore, our thinking will be radically different from the present time. We will value what God has valued. We will be able to see what really mattered in our service.

That brings some important issues to light. You can invest, send treasures on ahead, even now while we are all so limited in lockdown. A phone call to a lonely believer, an email to a mother struggling with 3-4 children at home, 24/7 from school, an act of kindness to someone who cannot get out due to age or illness. Nothing, absolutely nothing, which God allows into our lives can intentionally stem the accumulation and stockpiling of treasures above. View other believers as potential treasure and invest in their lives but be sure to stay 6 feet away!!!!

The Fourth Watch

“And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them”

Mark 6:48

The fourth day, the fourth man, and the fourth watch all have related truths in which we can find comfort and confidence.

They had entered the boat at His request. He had constrained them to enter it and to go to the other side to Bethsaida while He sent the people away. Did they wonder about how He would get there? Were they wondering what was delaying Him and what He was doing?

They had obeyed His request. And yet … the wind suddenly arose, perhaps a gale was blowing. There was among them, seasoned fisherman, accustomed to storms. But this was a challenge even for them. Why should things go wrong when they had obeyed Him and where they were supposed to be? Wasn’t everything supposed to go smoothly when you obeyed?

Two things are worthy of note before looking at the Lord’s arrival on the scene: He had prepared them for this trial. Earlier, He was with them in a storm on the sea. He was available to them and they only had to awaken Him and call upon Him for help (Mark 4:35-40). 

Second, He was not really away from them. He was upon the mount praying (v 46) and His eyes were watching them (v 48). They did not know it, but He was as much with them while on the mount as He had been when in the ship.

They must have wondered as well, how everything would work out. He had said He would get them to the other shore, but it looked hopeless. They kept rowing as the hours passed. Finally, the fourth watch of the night, as late as it could be before the sunrise, He came. The waves they were fearing became the very vehicle which brought Him: He came walking on the waves. They did not recognize and understand everything at first, they thought it was a spirit. But when He entered the small boat, the wind ceased, and all was calm.

We can be faced with things which “do not make sense.” Our plans and goals can be upset. We think we are in the mind of the Lord and yet problems seem to arise. We struggle and wait, and things do not get better. It may not be the fourth watch of the night yet. He had to let them exhaust all their own strength before He came. It is not that He finds delight in seeing us struggle; He delights in having us depend on Him. We would want Him to arrive in the first watch of the night; to come immediately when problems begin to arise. He is not ignorant, impotent, or indifferent to our situation as we face COVID-19. Especially with being homebound, we want this thing over now if not yesterday. Maybe it’s not the fourth watch of the night as yet.

The fourth day became the day of His presence in their sorrow; the fourth Man was His presence in the fire; the fourth watch was His presence in the storm. Each provided a revelation of His greatness and sufficiency.