And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 (NKJV)
Opening prayer: Lord, can this be true? Do You really plan to heal my heart from the pains of this life? Help me to understand Your plan and prepare my heart, I pray.
This is a continuation of our series on the Revelation of Jesus the Messiah. If you haven't done so already, I encourage you to study our previous lessons in this series:
Rev. 1: The Revelation of Jesus
Rev. 2-3: I Know You!
Rev. 4-5: Preview of Heaven
Rev. Study: Prophecies of Daniel
Rev. Study: Raptures and Resurrections
Rev. Study: Ezekiel's War
Rev. 6: Overview of the Tribulation
Rev. 7: Some Special People
Rev. 8-9: Danger! Rough Road Ahead!
Rev. 10-11: Seven Thunders; Two Witnesses
Rev. 12: The Woman and The Dragon
Rev. 13: The Last-Days Dictator
Rev. 14: The Last Train for Glory
Rev. 15-16: The Last Plagues
Rev. 17-18: Who IS That Woman?
Rev. 19A: A Mysterious Marriage
Rev. Study: The Day of the Lord
Rev. 19B: Doomsday
Rev. 20: Heaven and Hell
Rev. Study: The First 1,000 Years
After the Milennium
As we saw in our previous lesson, "heaven" will not look like the cartoons in the comic strips, with people playing harps on fluffy little clouds. After a brief period with God in today's invisible Heaven, we will return to Earth with Jesus. Heaven will be down here on Earth, with Him.
The Lord Himself will physically dwell in Jerusalem and enforce peace among all nations and people. The Lord will also miraculously renew the earth during the Milennium period, making it a very pleasant place to spend the next 1,000 years.
In addition, the Lord will create a River of Living Water flowing from His throne, and plant an abundance of Trees of Life on either side of the River. As we saw in the previous lesson, the fruit of the Tree will be the ultimate nutritional supplement, and the leaves of the tree will heal all diseases. All mortals smart enough to partake of this Tree will be healed, even those who suffered radiation poisoning during the Great Tribulation.
As a consequence of God's mercy, mortal humans will live long during the Milennium, but they will eventually die. They will die because the Earth will still be under the Curse that God pronounced upon Adam and his descendants after Adam's fall in Genesis 3:16 To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception. In pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” 17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake. In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” (NKJV)
The Curse will still be in force during the Milennium, as the remaining mortals are given 1,000 years to get their lives right with Jesus Christ. After this 1,000-year probationary period, the Lord will do a different type of restoration to the earth.
We read about this restoration in Revelation chapter 21, verse 1:1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. (NKJV)
The key to this passage is the word "new." It translates the Greek word kainos meaning renewed. The Greek language has a different word, neo, to describe something completely new that never existed before.
Our Lord illustrated the use of these words in Matthew 9 verse 17:Nor do they put new (neo) wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new (neo) wine into new (kainos) wineskins, and both are preserved.”
In Jesus' day, freshly made wine was stored in leather wineskins. The wineskins were cleaned and retreated after each use, to restore the suppleness of the leather. The new (neo) wine was stored in new (kainos) wineskins.
Paul gives us another illustration in 2 Corinthians 9:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new (kainos) creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (kainos).
Becoming "born again" makes us a new (kainos) creation. We still live in our earthly bodies and retain our physical DNA. However, the core of our nature is renewed to enable it to live forever in the presence of God. Our new (kainos) natures will continue to be frustrated by the limitations of our flesh nature and by the Curse until we participate in one of the rapture or resurrection events described in previous lessons.
Fortunately, by the beginning of Revelation 21, all of Earth's remaining inhabitants will have participated in this renewal. The folks with terminal stubbornness will have been shipped off to the Lake of Fire.
Now the Lord can give us our eternal homes, as we see in Revelation 21, verses 2-5:2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New (kainos) Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” 5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new (kainos).” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” (NKJV)
The wording of this passage should make you sit up straight in your chair and shout: "What??"
This chapter causes many Bible commentators to trip on their shoelaces. Remember that verse 1 starts with John speaking of a renewed or restored Earth, as fresh and wholesome as the Garden of Eden. The renewed Earth sounds so good that we want to say, "Wow! Let's go live there!" But then the Lord sends down this immense new city and describes it as a bride. A thoughtful person should ask, "Why should I live in a city when the whole world is a tropical paradise? Why not just give us little cottages at a beach somewhere?"
The short answer is that there won't be any beaches by this time. And after 1,000 years in your resurrection body, you will have acquired a different set of tastes than you have now.
So just what is this New Jerusalem? Is it a literal city or is it the bride of Christ? And how does all this relate to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb that we saw in the Mysterious Marriage lesson? Are we the bride or is this New Jerusalem the Bride of Christ?
Fortunately the Bible explains itself, but we have to take it step by step. First, let's be clear on the significance of Jerusalem:
- The original Jerusalem was the place the Lord chose to be the center of worship and fellowship. The priests were only allowed to offer animal sacrifices in Jerusalem, and only at the times and in the manner given in the Law of Moses.
- The Lord declared Jerusalem to be "...the city which I have chosen for Myself, to put My name there." (1 Kings 11:36, NKJV)
- The Lord chose Jerusalem as the place to offer Himself as a sacrificial Lamb, in our place, for our sins.
- During the Milennium period, Jerusalem will be the physical dwelling place of the Lord, under the canopy of fire by night and cloud by day.
- During the Milennium period, Jerusalem will be the place where all the Earth comes to meet Jesus.
- During the Milennium period, Jerusalem will be the designated place of fellowship, and animal sacrifices will again be offered there as a reminder of what Jesus did on our behalf.
- In summary, Jerusalem is the place where God and man can meet in meaningful fellowship, and where He can put His name upon us, declaring us to be His.
Now let's refresh our memories concerning our identity in Christ:
- You and I are individual temples (dwelling places) of the Holy Spirit. When we made the decision to trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we invited the Holy Spirit to enter our hearts and give us a new nature. As we abide in Jesus day by day, we give the Holy Spirit permission to change us from the inside out and make us like Jesus. Paul wrote about this in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (NKJV)
- You and I are also described as members of a larger construction project, the Church, the body of Christ here on Earth, as Paul describes in Romans chapter 12:4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. (NKJV)
- You and I are members of this body, the Church, and Jesus Christ is our Head. If we are truly connected to our Head, and receiving precious wisdom and love from Him, we should be touching lives around us -- as Jesus Himself did when He walked this Earth. Let's read Colossians chapter 1 verses 18-20:18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. (NKJV)
- You and I are individual temples of the Holy Spirit, but we are also being made collectively into a larger home for Him. We read this in Ephesians 2, verses 19-22:19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (NKJV)
The Bride of Christ
By now, we can see that Jesus is calling us to a remarkable and personal relationship with Himself, but He will not force Himself upon us. We can joyfully accept this relationship, accepting God's love and favor in this life while looking forward to even greater blessings in the future. Or we can choose to refuse this relationship. God will respect our choices. But He wants us to be clear about the consequences of our choice, as we see in Revelation 21, verses 6 through 8:6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. 8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (NKJV)
This is pretty clear. We can choose to spend eternity behind Door Number One with "the Alpha and the Omega," the God Who created the universe and all that is good in this life. Or we can choose Door Number Two, the Lake of Fire, where our neighbors will be "cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murders, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars." There are no third or fourth choices. God doesn't enter into "meaningful dialog" about our future, nor does He seek to gain your approval.
Does Door Number One sound better to you? Good! So follow me through the door and let's see what God has in store for us there, in Revelation 21, verses 9 through 14:9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. 12 Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13 three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. 14 Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (NKJV)
When I first read this, I thought, "This isn't a bride. It's a gigantic walled city!" On the surface, that might be true. From a distance, the city looks like a massive building.
But look what the city is made of. The gates and foundations are marked with the names of the Apostles and names of the 12 tribes of Israel. Take a hint. The new Jerusalem is a composite structure, and you and I part of that structure. Just as we can't always clearly see what part of the body of Christ we are today, we can't clearly tell what part of new Jerusalem we'll be in the near future. But we'll be part of it.
As we saw in the lesson A Mysterious Marriage, the prophet Isaiah had a remarkably similar vision. He described a time when the Lord Himself would take the nation Israel as His bride. Let's review Isaiah 54 verses 4 through 14:4 “Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore. 5 For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth. 6 For the LORD has called you like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a youthful wife when you were refused,” says your God. 7 “For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. 8 With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer. 9 “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you. 10 For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has mercy on you. 11 “O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires. 12 I will make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of crystal, and all your walls of precious stones. 13 All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children. 14 In righteousness you shall be established. You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you. (NKJV)
Can you follow the symbolism here? Can you see the parallel images between Isaiah 54 and Revelation 21? John and Isaiah both saw a walled city that represented a literal city as well as the individual residents. The elements of the city walls -- meaning the individual human lives involved -- are described as "precious stones" in verse 12 above.
In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, he also spoke of precious stones in describing a believer and his works. We see this in chapter 3, verses 12-13 and verse 16:12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is... 16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (NKJV)
As we saw in our lesson on the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, God's primary desire is to produce a transformed character in us. God is not impressed by the amount of money we give on Sunday mornings, nor by the size and cost of the buildings we can build in His name. God wants our lives to be transformed into the image of His Son, Jesus. He wants our character to reflect His. He wants us to be living sacrifices, walking billboards that speak of God's life-changing power. When we learn to walk in submission to the Holy Spirit of God, our lives are holy. And everything we touch turns to "gold" -- the precious material of our eternal home.
Our eternal home will be huge, as we see in verses 15-17 of Revelation 21:15 And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. 17 Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.
Can you picture an enormous square city with peaks and towers measuring 1380 miles (12,000 furlongs) per side? It would cover an area equivalent to half of the United States including Alaska and Hawaii. You'd have an awesome view from the top floor of one of the towers, 1380 miles up. Fortunately, your new body won't need oxygen the way your present body does.
The New Jerusalem will not just be large. It will be beautiful, as we see in verses 18 through 21:18 The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, 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 individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
Two things strike me about this passage. First, the number 12 is important to the Lord. Remember that God gave 12 sons to Jacob, and God used these 12 sons (tribes) to populate the nation of Israel. In like manner, the Lord chose 12 apostles to carry the Gospel message to the world, to populate the body of Christ (the Church).
The second noteworthy aspect is that the foundations and gates are described as precious stones. Even the streets are pure gold.
What do the different stones symbolize?
To be honest, I don't know the difference in symbolism between beryl and amethyst or any other stones. After 20 years of reading commentaries by learned scholars, I can assure you that the learned scholars don't know either.
As usual, the safest approach is using Scripture to interpret Scripture. In this case, the closest parallel is the composition of the high priest's breastplate, as we see in Exodus chapter 28:15“You shall make the breastplate of judgment. Artistically woven according to the workmanship of the ephod you shall make it: of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, you shall make it. 16It shall be doubled into a square: a span shall be its length, and a span shall be its width. 17And you shall put settings of stones in it, four rows of stones: The first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and an emerald; this shall be the first row; 18the second row shall be a turquoise, a sapphire, and a diamond; 19the third row, a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; 20and the fourth row, a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They shall be set in gold settings. 21And the stones shall have the names of the sons of Israel, twelve according to their names, like the engravings of a signet, each one with its own name; they shall be according to the twelve tribes.
This curious decoration was called "the breastplate of judgment." The English word "judgment" translates the Hebrew mishpat, meaning a verdict or judicial pronouncement. In this case, the verdict is decided in advance, engraved on precious stones, and worn near the heart of the high priest as he performed his priestly duties. If we choose to be among God's people -- through faith in His Son, the Messiah of Israel -- the verdict is declared to be in our favor. If we choose to follow Messiah, God's High Priest, we will be as precious stones, near to His heart.
A careful reader might notice some overlap between the stones named in Exodus and those named in Revelation. But nobody really knows what to make of these lists. All I know is that my High Priest wears my name over His heart, and He loves me with an everlasting love. I am precious in His sight.
Let's conclude Revelation 21 with a few more observations about the New Jerusalem:22But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. 24And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. 25Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). 26And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. 27But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
This city will be very different from any city on Earth today:
- There will be no temple in this city. The Milennial Temple will exist as a testimony to God's faithfulness as long as there's time for even one more sinner to repent. When that time has passed, the faithful (and intelligent) ones will have already repented and won't need a temple. The unrepentant sinners will have left for a long swim in a fiery lake.
- "The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." We will have direct fellowship with Almighty God and with Jesus Christ Himself. The Holy Spirit is already living in our hearts, enabling us to have precious fellowship every day if we so choose. Soon we will have continuous fellowship.
- "The city had no need of the sun or of the moon..." Normally we don't think much about how bright the sun is, but it's pretty awesome. From a distance of 93 million miles away, sunlight energy strikes the earth with an intensity of one kilowatt of energy per square meter. Most people don't realize it, but solar radiation is toxic to every substance and organism on earth except for the chlorophyl molecule. So God will illuminate New Jerusalem with His own glorious light, and it will not be toxic.
- In our resurrection bodies, we won't need the daily cycle of waking or sleeping. We will have non-stop light from the Lamb, which is consistent with the Gospel of John, chapter 1, verses 1 through 5:1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend (overpower) it.
- There won't be a police department in New Jerusalem. Your children will be safe there. There won't be any wild-eyed "homeless" guys panhandling at intersections. The unrepentant creeps and thugs will all be in the Lake of Fire, together with their demonic mentors.
The River of Water of Life
The first two verses of Revelation 22 give us more detail about our eternal home:1And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
This is the same river we saw in our previous lesson, so we can safely say that the river first appears early in the Milennium Period, a thousand years before New Jerusalem arrives.
This river helps explain how lifespans will be able to increase so dramatically during the Milennium period, since both Ezekiel 47 and Zechariah 14 specify that these miraculous trees will be available then.
Notice that the Tree (or Trees) of Life will bear 12 different types of fruit. The passage doesn't specify whether there will be 12 different types of trees or whether each tree will bear 12 different types of fruit. But there is one clear message: human bodies will need the 12 different types of nutrients, at least during the Milennium. By implication, some (or all) of those nutrients are not presently available in our food supply.
Notice also that "the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." The bodies of unsaved mortals entering the Milennium will be vulnerable to disease, and the leaves of the tree will make them healthy. Again, the implication is that your local nutrition store doesn't yet have these herbal supplements.
A interesting question is: "Will we need the Tree of Life in Eternity?" This passage makes it sound like we'll still need the physical Tree in order to maintain our life and health. However, other Scriptures make it clear that our Resurrection bodies will be very different from our physical bodies. Let's read 1 Corinthians chapter 15, verses 42-49:42So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
46However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.
Before Adam sinned, he had a perfectly healthy body, sustained by the Tree of Life. But Adam's body was formed of the dust of the earth, as are our present bodies. Our new bodies will not be made from dust. In fact, we will have spiritual bodies (verse 44) that "shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man" (verse 48).
The Apostle John expressed a similar idea in his first epistle, chapter 3:2Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
For now, all we can see are physical bodies. But soon we will have our resurrection bodies, fashioned after the manner of "the heavenly Man" as we saw in 1 Corinthians 15:48 above.
Since our bodies will be fashioned like that of Jesus, we will not need physical fruit or leaves to sustain our bodies. However, the river will be a perpetual reminder of Jesus' words in John chapter 4:13Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
We also see this in the Gospel of John chapter 7, verses 37-39:37On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Today, believers can get healing and nourishment from the Lord, through the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. This is a picture and partial fulfillment of what we'll experience in Eternity.
No More Curse
Now let's read verse 3 of Revelation 22:3And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.
The first part of verse 3 is very simple, but loaded with meaning: "...there shall be no more curse." Today, every aspect of our lives is dominated by the curse, which came because of Adam's sin (Genesis 3). The curse is responsible for:
- The brevity of our lives
- The frailness and inevitable death of our bodies
- The hardships involved in working for a living
- The pain involved in childbirth, and
- The violent political and military conflicts caused by fools who reject the God of the Bible.
This is just a partial list. Every life on Earth has been touched by the curse. Our bodies have been weakened, our hearts have been broken, our lives have been shortened, our ancestors have been killed, our past has been darkened and our future has been clouded by this curse.
But the curse is not eternal. It will finally be lifted from this Earth, and the last human beings will be given resurrection bodies free of the curse. Then our joy will truly be full.
As a tiny detail, notice the middle portion of verse 3: "...the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it." In case you were wondering how nice a place "New Jerusalem" might be, take a hint: God Himself will live there. He can afford to live anywhere He wants, and He wants to live in the same town that you do.
And one last point, "...His servants shall serve Him." The curse will be lifted, and the hardship of daily wage-earning will be taken away. But you will have chores in your Father's house. This is comparable to how the Lord outfitted a home for Adam and Eve, 6000 years ago:Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. (Genesis 2:15, NKJV)
The Garden of Eden was paradise, but Adam was responsible "to tend and keep it." The new heavens and new earth will be paradise, but we'll have some measure of responsibility there. It will be proportional to our faith in this life.
Our glimpse of future history concludes with verses 4-5 of Revelation 22:4They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. 5There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.
When I read verse 4, my heart says, "I shall see His face, and His name shall be on my forehead." My highest aim in life is to be in this group, with His name on my forehead. In this wretched world, unhappy folks buy clothes and toys with "designer" labels. In that blessed world, The Designer will have His label on me, for all the world to see. I wish the same for you.
Jesus has a message for you...
The future history lesson is now concluded. The remaining words of this book are directed to believers in Jesus Christ who eagerly await His return. Let's read Revelation 22, verses 6-9:6Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true.” And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place. 7"Behold, I am coming quickly (tachu)! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” 8Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. 9Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”
In a few portions of the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John is permitted to see Jesus and God the Father. In this passage, he is still watching and listening to the angel who came up to John in verse 9 of Revelation 21.
In verses 6 and 7, the angel is permitted to directly speak the words of Jesus: "These words are faithful and true," and "Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” Please notice the flavor of these words. Jesus will not return to this Earth grudgingly, as an unpleasant duty. Jesus will return eagerly, anxious to encounter those of us who steadfastly trust and love a Lord we've never seen.
In verse 8, we see that John has an automatic and instinctive reaction to the words of Jesus: he fell flat on his face. By this point, John's heart has been tuned to resonate to the power and truth of God's Word. And when he heard the words of Jesus, repeated by the angel, he could also sense the urgency and tenderness of his Lord.
These words affect me the same way. God's love leaves me astonished. I can't understand how or why He cares so personally about me, despite my frequent failures. I bow flat before the Lord, aware of my shortcomings and His majesty.
But John wasn't talking to the Lord Himself. When John fell flat to worship, the angel rebuked him to worship God alone. Then the angel described himself in a peculiar way: "For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and those who keep the words of this book." Does this mean the angel was a resurrected human being who was formerly a prophet? I've read commentators who believed that, but I can't agree with them.
For a variety of reasons, I believe the angel was an angel and not a human being. As usual, the text and context are your best guide to interpreting the passage:
- Note that in verse 6, God is described as being "...the Lord God of the holy prophets." This doesn't mean that the Lord was one of the prophets. It means He was their God, and the prophets honored Him.
- Also in verse 6 we read "...the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel..." The plain reading is that the angel doing the talking is the angel that God sent.
- In verse 9, the angel describes himself as "...your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book." The angel declares that he serves God alongside John as a fellow servant. Furthermore, he is a fellow servant with the prophets. Furthermore, he is a fellow servant with you and me -- "...those who keep the words of this book." Angels directly see and directly serve the Lord God. Angels are also sent by the Lord God to serve you and me and everyone else who fears God and trusts Him.
- In the larger context, this angel is introduced at the start of Revelation 21 as one of the angels who poured out the seven last plagues upon the Earth. It's not likely that God will deputize seven of the resurrected elders (or any one of us here) to pour out the last plagues.
- John, with the full advantage of hindsight, frequently calls this angel an angel. When he spoke with one the elders, he described that individual as an elder.
The angel then delivers a message, in verses 10 through 15, that all roads do not lead to God:10And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. 11He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.”
This is a difficult message to deliver today, in the year 2003. Political Correctness has become the religion of the government and the "educational" system. Although a few conservative voices have gained traction in recent years, the majority of people don't want to hear the Lord's words in verse 10. They don't want to be accused of being unjust, filthy or unrighteous, especially if they are.
These days, people are dividing themselves into two camps: God's and the devil's. There is no third camp. God does not honor neutrality. God paid the life of His Son, Jesus, to buy your salvation and mine. He has a wonderful place prepared for you, and He hopes you'll be smart enough to choose it.
The angel continues speaking the words of Jesus in verses 12-13:12“And behold, I am coming quickly (tachu), and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. 13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”
In these verses, Jesus makes several things perfectly clear:
- Jesus will return to this Earth suddenly, at a time that catches most folks by surprise. The word translated "quickly" here and verse 7 above and verse 20 below is the Greek word tachu. It has the flavor of suddenness or quickness rather than near in time. His return might not be this afternoon, but it will be sudden.
- Jesus will bring a present for you, if you allow Him.
- Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. This verse is the absolute antithesis of Jehovah Witness theology, but it is the core of the Gospel message. The Bible contains multiple instances where God refers to Himself as the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega. Jesus says, in this verse, that He is First and Last to the same degree as His Father.
The angel repeats a message, in verses 14-15, that our choices today influence our future rewards:14Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. 15But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.
Verse 15 is as politically incorrect as verse 11. Dogs were not cherished as pets in Bible days. They had approximately the same social status as buzzards or rats. That means that sorcerers, idolators, sexually immoral folks, and people who can't bring themselves to tell the truth will be buzzard bait, outside the gates (i.e. in Hell). They will be close enough to see us having a good time, but they'll be in torment in the Lake of Fire, regretting their choices.16“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” 17And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.
Please notice the flavor of verse 17 in the context of the last two chapters of the Book of Revelation. In the New Jerusalem, both God the Father and Jesus His Son will be here, in our midst. We will see Them and be near Them. But what about the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity?
Observe that "the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" You and I, as individual believers in Jesus Christ, are presently indwelt by the Holy Spirit and joined into the present-day "body of Christ" -- the Church. On that day, we will be completely united and bonded by the Holy Spirit into the Bride of Christ. You and I and the Holy Spirit will be able to speak as one Person. Life will be very different then.
Let's conclude our study of the Book of Revelation by reading verses 18-21:18For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. 20He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly (tachu).” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! 21The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Verses 18-19 contain a unique warning, that we should read and heed every word of this book. God constructed this book using images and phrases from the Old Testament, so you could get a 3-dimensional perspective on future history. He made this book understandable to every honest student. If you read through the 21 lessons in this series, you will gain a solid knowledge of what the plain text of Scripture says.
Now you see why I've been fastidious in using Scripture to interpret Scripture in these 21 lessons. God wants us to understand this subject clearly. My sacred duty is to present God's word clearly and accurately, or risk losing my eternal reward. Your sacred duty is to read; the Holy Spirit will help you understand, as Jesus promised in John 16:13:However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
Jesus is returning suddenly. My prayer is that you'll be ready.
If you don't feel ready or if you'd like to ask further questions, please send me an e-mail by clicking the "mail-to" link below. Explain your concerns and we'll respond as quickly as we can (assuming the first rapture event hasn't already happened).
Closing Prayer: Lord, I know that time is short and that You will soon come to establish Your Kingdom on this earth. Open my heart to receive Your truth, I pray, Amen.