GETTING THE MESSAGE/Living by faith in Christ alone
The beginning of Revelation chapter 21 gives us a view of the incorruptible inheritance God has prepared for His redeemed people. Verse one reads, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”
God will make all those in Christ perfect, and the new earth and heavens will be transformed in such a way there are no vestiges of the curse of the old curse remaining. The new, resurrected bodies of believers and new heaven and earth will be recognizable but radically changed. As promised, the meek shall inherit the earth. And there will be no sea, the sea being a symbol of death and cosmic evil.
The new creation will be perfectly blessed. In our present state, our fallen nature hinders us from longing to be in a completely sinless, curse free world. We don’t like our troubles in a fallen world, but the prospect of great change and death is worrisome. As Christians, we should be productive, helpful people in this present world, promoting the kingdom of God, yet always longing to be at home with Christ. This passage calls us to a life of faith and hopeful expectation.
In Revelation 21:2-4, John sees the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven from God. The city is made up of Christ’s redeemed people, who are referred to as a bride, a symbol of deep, intimate communion with Christ.
God will make His dwelling place with man (verse 3). Jerusalem had the temple, a symbol of God’s presence with Israel. In the New Jerusalem, the redeemed from all over the earth will enjoy the riches of the presence of God and see God’s transcendent glory. People will stand in long lines to see a great man or a great event in this fallen world. How much more should the saints of God long to see the glory of God and enjoy God forever!
Another blessing of the redeemed in this city is that God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” It is so difficult for us to imagine a world without troubles or pain the new city of God is often described to us by what is not there.
God’s tenderness toward His people is highlighted because walking by faith is not easy in this world. We experience many struggles, battles, and hard places on the path to God. But our Lord gives us tastes of heaven along the way so we know the blessedness of what is to come. George Burrows wrote, “In this wilderness our communion with Christ makes us like early violets that are harbingers of spring; these joys of holiness that bespeak the glories of heaven that are soon to follow.”
In Revelation 21:5-7, the Lord declares from the throne that He is making all things new and that these things are to be written down because these words are “trustworthy and true.” Since revelation is written for saints on earth, He attaches to promises to those still on their pilgrimage.
The first promise is to give waters of life to those who are thirsty. There is a great need for us to thirst after the living God. A sense of self-sufficiency in this world is self-delusion. God gives according to our need. He gives forgiveness where sin is felt. He gives righteousness to those who hunger and thirst after it.
The second promise is to give the inheritance previously described to all who conquer. This means not turning away from Christ, but rather to overcome by faith the world that is full of deception, immorality, idolatry, and other dangers, toils, and snares to our fidelity to Christ.
Verse 8 is a warning that there will also not be any spurious believers in heaven. Only those who know Christ will inherit the promise. Eight sins, characteristic of unbelief, are mentioned in this verse. It begins with the cowardly, who are ashamed of Christ. It ends with liars, those who do not live or speak according to the trustworthy and true words that God said to write down.
Christians are saved from such sins by the blood of Christ, but they must still turn from sin to godliness and live by faith. So God holds out to us the way of life and warns us of the way of death. They are made very clear so we may know beyond doubt Christ is the one thing necessary.