The Greatest Ending Ever

Revelation 21,22

June 25, 2017

Sermon Manuscript

As a parent I feel the responsibility to introduce my kids to different things that will shape them. Some are more important than others. The list of the less important includes: funnel cake, muscadines, thai food, tennessee football, and a list of old classic movies.

A while back I came across the old movie Where the Red Fern Grows. I remembered watching it as a kid and thought my kids needed to watch it. It’s about a young boy and his lovable and devoted hunting dogs. We watched the first part of it one night and decided to finish it the next day. I went to work and the rest of the family decided to watch it. I forgot how sad the movie was. The dogs die in the end. I came home to a family devastated by the movie and upset at their dad. One kid came up with tears and said perplexedly, “Dad, why did you make us watch that?” Another kid asked simply, “Dad, why did the dog have to die?” My wife informed me they are not listening to me with any more movie recommendations.

I stand by my decision to have them watch it. I don’t know what but I think something good was achieved. :-) But the point I want to make is we all want a good happy ending. Bad endings can leave us sad, disappointed, even depressed. We are hardwired for good endings.

Today we are looking at the end of the Bible. In nine weeks we have covered some basic events in the storyline of the Bible, and like any good story the ending is crucial. The end of the Bible completes what was begun in the beginning of the Bible. It brings everything to fulfillment, and the nature of the ending is one that we want to have complete our lives.

We are going to read portions of the Bible’s ending. We start with Revelation 21:1-8

  • 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. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He 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." 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." 6 And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." (Revelation 21:1-8 ESV)

Five things about this ending:

    ● The Story is Completed

Do you ever wonder what God is doing in the world. Is there a plan? Revelation helps us see this. It ties back into the first few chapters of the Bible in Genesis.

God created the heavens and earth and they were dark, formless, and void. He began to fill it with light, order and goodness. The world that began with a realm of darkness ends in only light. Light completely reigns. The sea also is not present in the new world. The sea is a symbol of chaotic influence. In revelation the sea is what the beast comes out of.

The story that began with one man and one woman standing together in a garden and being commissioned to multiply and subdue ends with the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem coming down prepared as a bride for the lamb (Rev 21:9). The end celebrates an unending perfect marriage. The isolated garden turns to a city that is over 1200 miles in each direction.

What began with a tree of life and people being barred from it because of their sin and disobedience, ends with free access to the River of Life and the Tree of Life. Interestingly the tree of life (Rev 22:14, 19) could actually be called the “wood of life” and the term wood is used of the cross of Christ (Acts 5:30, 10:39, 13:29), as if to show the source of all life comes through the cross.

The commission given to people to have dominion over the world and make it a place God’s presence dwells is fulfilled by Jesus Christ. He brings God’s kingdom and all people enjoy his work.

The tying up of these loose ends ups us see that God can tie up and complete our lives as well. God knows how to make things right. He knows how to wrap up loose ends. He does it here. He will do it in your life!

Me teaching, Lost.

    ● Evil is Removed

In Genesis the man and woman were in a garden of Eden, which meant garden of paradise. But some problems were there, mainly that in the lush vegetation a serpent slithered through. That serpent has been enticing and attacking God’s people through history, but in Revelation. The problem exterminated in the end.

  • and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Revelation 20:10

A permanent fix to his infestation is given. He is removed for ever. Thrown into the lake of fire. This is not a duct tape fix! It is permanent and enduring. The battle is won and done.

In addition to Satan being removed there is also a banishment of all who do evil.

  • They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life. (Revelation 21:26-27 ESV)

  • Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Rev 22:15)

Many today do not like to hear of exclusion from heaven. But if everyone goes there, even evil people, then how can it be heaven. Just as Satan must be removed so also must all those who follow in his footsteps. What is heaven if all the nonsense, rebellion and evil that people do now continues. God has a standard and will not tolerate anything other than that. No one to hurt you.

Blessed are those who wash their robes 22:14. The vile are made clean. They are allowed in. it is by grace. Justice is given.

    ● Hurts are healed

He will wipe every tear from the eyes. No more mourning, crying, nor pain. With the endearing touch of a father, the tears are wiped away. The former order has passed away. What news! Like telling a child you don't need your training wheels anymore. You don't need your floaties, that was the old way. You can swing now. There is a new order.

Those no longer happen going forward, but there also seems to be a change in the way we perceive past things. The morning is taken away.

I can’t explain this. Others have tried and it opens our imagination to what it might be like. C. S. Lewis wrote: (Some) say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.” (Ice in Chronicles)

God will do something to take away the pain. The redeeming work of heaven goes out all over the heavens and earth, and as it goes geographically to cover the entire face of the world so it also goes in all dimensions, temporally included, so that it changes the way we perceive the past. Your hurts will be redeemed. Your mourning taken away.

Sally Lloyd Jones in the Jesus Storybook Bible says of the new heavens and earth, “God and his children are together again. No more running away or hiding. No more crying or being lonely or afraid. No more being sick or dying. Because all those things are gone. Yes, they are gone forever. Everything sad has come untrue.”

What sense are they untrue. They have happened- thats a fact, a true fact. I think she means is that the claims death and hurt make on us in this life, we are freed from it, and those claims prove untrue. The power of redemption in Christ and his triumph over evil so utterly complete that all those bad things only work to make our future life and joy infinitely greater!

Joni Erickson Tada is a writer who in 1967 at age 17 jumped into the water of the Cheasapeke Bay and misjudging the depth of the water was paralyzed from the shoulders down. She converted to Christianity and became a noted author. She wrote this about her suffering and the healing that will happen in heaven.

  • I sure hope I can bring this wheelchair to heaven. Now, I know that’s not theologically correct.

  • But I hope to bring it and put it in a little corner of heaven, and then in my new, perfect, glorified body, standing on grateful glorified legs, I’ll stand next to my Savior, holding his nail-pierced hands.

  • I’ll say, “Thank you, Jesus,” and he will know that I mean it, because he knows me. He’ ll recognize me from the fellowship we’ re now sharing in his sufferings.

  • And I will say, “Jesus, do you see that wheelchair?” You were right when you said that in this world we would have trouble, because that thing was a lot of trouble. But the weaker I was in that thing, the harder I leaned on you. And the harder I leaned on you, the stronger I discovered you to be. It never would have happened had you not given me the bruising of the blessing of that wheelchair.”

  • Then the real ticker-tape parade of praise will begin. And all of earth will join in the party.

  • And at that point Christ will open up our eyes to the great fountain of joy in his heart for us beyond all that we ever experienced on earth. And when we’ re able to stop laughing and crying, the Lord Jesus really will wipe away our tears. I find it so poignant that finally at the point when I do have the use of my arms to wipe away my own tears, I won’t have to, because God will.

  • ... And then, I can say jokingly, “you can send that wheelchair to hell, if you want.”

The hurt and hardship that defined her life are taken away and no longer define her. The claim of suffering is taken away. This is what Jesus promises.

We mourn and grieve, and that is appropriate now. Don’t feel wrong for mourning hurts and loss. It hurts. But don’t grieve without hope. We are not entirely sure what it will be like, but you can know it will be good and it will be complete. Chris conquers everything, even our past hurts.

All of us have some type of wheelchair. Maybe literal or figurative. But everyone has to trust God God for something.

    ● The Unglorious is Glorified

The cosmos is made new, heaven and earth. Everything in it radiates the glory of God. Throughout John’s account of this vision he uses some of the most beautiful and precious parts of earth to denote what he sees, and as beautiful as it sounds it makes you think he can barely describe it. Revelation 21:10-21 says,

  • And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed-- 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15 And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia (600ft). Its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel's measurement. 18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel... (Revelation 21:10-19 ESV)

Notice that he is talking about Jerusalem. Jerusalem! In some ways it’s like of course Jerusalem. Did you expect New York?? This is the place God chose to be the capital of his people, the place of his temple, the palace of his king, the place of his people. But it is also a city rebellious to God. It was destroyed by the Babylonians. People wept over its failed rebuilding. They wept over how sad the new temple compared to the old. Occupied by the persians, and Romans. Even today Christians cannot go into the sites of the most significant places because of Muslim occupation. This is the city that Jesus was betrayed and crucified. Jesus even wept over it.

  • O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'" (Luke 13:34-35 ESV)

Jerusalem is transformed into what God intended it to be. God purposes prevail. What sin marred. What evil sought to destroy. What many thought could never be rebuild is rebuilt, and rebuilt in splendor. It is restored, brought to glory, clothed in splendor.

And what God does for this city seems to be the very thing that he does for his people. They are glorified. Made to be what he had always intended them to be. The marks of sin are removed. The destruction of the world repaired. Jerusalem is glorified, and so are its citizens. Thats us! It is everything.

Joni Erickson. Given her significant physical limitation it is surprising to hear her deepest longing for eternity, “I can’t wait to be clothed with Christ, without a trace of sin. Yes, it will be wonderful to stand, stretch, and reach to the sky. But it will be more wonderful to offer praise that is pure and won’t be crippled by distractions, disabled by insincerity, handicapped by a ho-hum half-heartedness. Now my joy will join with yours, and we will bubble over with effervescent adoration, finally able to worship with the Father and the Son. For me, this is the best part of heaven. Heaven, you Real Home.

Do you yearn to be changed. God promises to do that to us and for us.

    ● Life is given

What is it like to bite into fruit from the tree of life that grows by the river of life? I imagine it sits much better than a Big Mack!. I bet it’s better than a new toy, a new car, a new house. God is in this place and he is the one we were made for. We were created to image him, reflect him, glorify him. Since people reside with him in uninterrupted relationship, they see him for who he is, the fullness of the one they only got glimpses of in this life. They know the one who satisfies and fill.

  • “I believe man once lived in utopia, but does no longer, and that he is always trying to return. The name of his first utopia was Eden... . It is part of our heritage. We want to go back... We are haunted by memories of the original garden... We are displaced persons, but our old homeland burns and glows in our hearts.” Quoted by Chad Walsh, From Utopia to Nightmare, in Ryken, Coming Home, 124

This is the life we were made for. It is what we burn for. Everytime we take a bite of food and hope it fills our soul we are disappointed. Everytime we look for our spouse to complete us and feel the void. We realize these are not what we are made for. In heaven we are filled by the one who completes us.

Life has a permanence. It is eternal and so is all that is there. No more death, no more suffering. No more goodbyes that you wonder if you will ever see them again or if you wonder if they will have changed so much the next time that they won’t even know or like you. It is a new order a new way of life, it is life as it was meant to be. Life as God intended.

And this ending is just the beginning. CS Lewis concluded the The Chronicles of Narnia with this.

The things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter one of the Great Story which on one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before. CS Lewis, The Last Battle.

Conclusion

How does this ending sound? Does it sound like what you were made for? Does it sound like it’s what your soul longs for? Does it sound like an ending that could only have been authored by God. It is better than what evolution brings. It’s better than the never ending cycles of Hinduism. It’s more filling than materialism. It is the work of a personal God at work in the world bringing a perfect plan to completion.

So much comfort and consolation resides in this ending. All things end right in the world. God’s purposes prevail. Sin, evil, and death do not prevail. They are utterly and completely removed. We are healed.

You read this very good ending and might wonder how do we get it? How do we get our story written into this story. How do we know everything works out right? We all love to be a part of a story of significance. We want to be around and involved with something like that.

The good news is that we can have our lives written into this story. The God who promises to transform the world promises to transform u to. We can experience

  • The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Rev 22:17)

John saw this and his response was, “Come Lord Jesus!” (22:21). We have to surrender to going our own way. We express our faith. We express our devotion.

Come expresses a desire to draw near. You are asking him to move toward, and you are positioning yourself to receive. Turn from all your other ways. Come to Christ. Serve him. Submit. Open.

Discussion Questions

  • What is the most encouraging verse of Revelation 21 and 22? What do you most look forward to in heaven?

  • How does knowing the end of the story help in your daily activities?

  • Who have you talked to recently that might be encouraged by the truths conveyed in the new heavens and new earth?

...

Keith Welton

Lead Pastor

sermons sermon audio revelation manuscript series: discovering christianity


June 25, 2017
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