The passage from Revelation 21:1-6 is one that is often read at funerals. It offers comfort to the family and friends of the deceased person, but it also offers hope for the future for the living and the dead.
The apostle John, who wrote the Book of Revelation, was living in exile on the Greek island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. He knew he would die in the near future. This was the very moment in time when God chose to give John a vision of the glory of Jesus Christ. This vision included a glimpse into heaven, where one day God Himself will live forever with His people. John was commanded to write down what he saw. The vision was to be not only for his personal comfort and encouragement, but for all people down through the centuries who, when facing daily challenges, could do so with courage and hope.
Because of modern communications, our world has become a global community. Even with all the shared knowledge today, true world peace is no closer than it was years ago. Without the Prince of Peace, there is no peace. It will always evade us as long as we put our trust in a path to peace created by man. One day Jesus will return and bring real and lasting peace, but before that peace can come there will be suffering and trials. Life and death are in God’s hands. He will defeat and ruin every power that opposes what is good and true. We should hope for that day, when world peace will be here for good.
Revelation 21 describes the state of the church after Christ’s return. It is a time when conflicts have stopped and Christ’s enemies have been destroyed. A new heaven and a new earth have been created. All tears have been wiped away. There will be no more death, sorrow or pain. The fearful and unbelievers have been cast into the fires of hell.
God has promised that all things will be new. As part of being new, the world, especially the church, will be God’s beloved bride. At that moment God will be very proud, because His bride will be free from sin. His heart will be bursting with joy knowing that He is being united with the one He loves with all His heart. He will regard His church as the most beautiful thing on the face of the earth.
The church is called to be on the side of God and to be part of the new creation. In addition, the church is called to make a choice-turn to God or the world. The latter choice will lead unbelieving Christians who are focused on entertaining people rather than offering new life. Dying to the old life and living into the newness of God is the main message of the Book of Revelation.
Christians are not called to escape into this new world but rather to partner with God in ways that will allow the power of God to be experienced in this world. That’s the reason why God came down into the world to live with His people.
For ancient readers, the sea was a raging, threatening and fearful place that the Lord often had to calm. In Revelation, it is the home of the dead and is also associated with the abyss-the place from which the beast comes. The sea represents the chaos that existed before creation when the earth was formless and empty and darkness was over the surface of the sea. God’s spirit hovered over the water and when He said “Let there be…” order came and the chaos was contained. In the passage we heard from Revelation, the chaos that threatens is not the sea. It is death, for mourning and crying and pain and tears caused by loss. They can make our lives formless, empty and dark. Therefore, when John says there will be no more sea in the new heaven and earth, he is saying that there will be nothing to harm or cause God’s people fear; no chaos, death or evil. Everything will be created new.
The New Jerusalem will be the eternal ruling place of Christ, as the Old Jerusalem was His temporary ruling place during the Millennium. The holy city originates from heaven and from God. All of its inhabitants are also Christ’s bride, the redeemed. The New Jerusalem is both the bride and the place where she lives.
The phrase, “a loud voice from heaven” indicates that important words follow. This announcement is about God but not spoken by Him. The tabernacle of God-His dwelling place, His immediate presence-will now be on the new earth. The multiple references to God emphasize His all-consuming presence and intent to dwell with His creation. The promise God made to Abraham-that all nations will be blessed in Him-is now fulfilled.
The disappearance of death, sorrow, crying and pain represents a total reversal of the curses of Genesis 3, when they entered human history. All the evil present in the old creation will have been removed with the destruction of the old heaven and the old earth. The tears that God will wipe away are not tears of shame or guilt but tears caused by the pain, death and persecution, and other hardships that His people suffered on this present earth.
The Alpha and Omega is an expression indicating God’s absolute sovereignty over all things. As the beginning and the end, God is the Beginner of the beginning and the Ender of the end. He stands at the beginning of creation and now at the end in a new creation. God’s New Jerusalem is a place where life and its essentials are given as a free gift.
The best part of heaven is the loving presence of God Himself. Heaven will never grow old because God promises to make all things new. Heaven belongs to those who have sought the satisfaction of salvation and eternal life.
God will account for every one of our tears. The reason for our suffering will be made plain as God reveals the unseen and unimagined purposes behind our hurts through the years. As He dries our tears in heaven, we will see His intimate affection toward us personally.
God has accomplished it all. He does everything. He ushers in the new heavens and earth, not us. Faithful people simply receive with thanks the salvation God has provided for them. God will also make us new. He will give us a fresh start. He will make us new people, and God will have new opportunities in store for us.
We are challenged to be part of wiping every tear or minimizing needless pain. We are challenged to seek a world where pain and death are no more. If this isn’t possible, we are challenged to minimize our perception of deathful situations. This idyllic world doesn’t exist now, but we can begin to act as if it is coming. We are encouraged to make our lives holy “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Death, sorrow, pain and thirst continue because they are part of the old things that have not yet passed away. In spite of this, God is with us now. We can find God’s newness in our faith communities, businesses, schools, clubs, agencies or parks. We can find God’s newness in people experiencing homelessness or people in cultures very different from our own. We might be surprised where we find God dwelling. If we look for it, we can join the newness of the loving community we will find.
We won’t be bored in heaven because we won’t be the same people in heaven. Boredom emerges from things that won’t be allowed in heaven-weariness, mental limitations, self-centeredness and tedium. We won’t be bored because God will have work for us to do. If we are looking forward to the day when God removes all evil, then we should worship God here on earth and tell Him how much we love Him. When we meet other people and they see our joy, we should tell them about the future we have-a future they can also have.
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- Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 12 Bible software package.
- Palmer, E.F. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 35: 1,2&3 John/Revelation (Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; pp. 227-230)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
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- Dr. Jack Graham,” Why Believe: The 12” Retrieved from www.jackgraham.org
- Anne Graham Lotz, “Facing the Future with Hope.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Israel Kamudzandu, “Commentary on Revelation 21:1-6.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2842
- Barbara Rossing, “Commentary on Revelation 21:1-6.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1696
- Joni Eareckson Tada, “An Inventory of Tears.” retrieved from email@example.com
- Bruce Epperly, “The Adventurous Lectionary-Fifth Sunday of Easter-May 19, 2019.” Retrieved from https://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/2019/05/the-adventurous-lectionary
- Mary Simpson Clark, “Revelation 21:1-6.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org