My notes from Matt Chandler’s message on Revelation 21-22 (paraphrased)
One of the things that has really marked my own heart this week but there’s this kind of huge objective evidence in the room that God loves you and desires to bless you. IF you listen to the refrain of the week, there’s something in the air, it’s God saying, “I’m here, I haven’t abandoned you.” And I just felt like I’d be a fool if I didn’t remind you of this before unpacking Rev. 21.
So I want to continue with this theme and frame it this way: I believe that hope is necessary for all those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ, but I believe that hope is especially necessary for those who are in the work of Christian ministry. We are in this strange position where we get to see the glory of Christ Jesus at work. We get to see marriages restored, watch people baptized and say “this is who I was and this is who I am,” seeing the spectacular work of regeneration. And yet we’re also sort of a spiritual first responder whenever tragedy strikes.
It’s a front row seat for the fallenness of this world. For pastors, we’re often in right after the paramedics. Sometimes we’re in before the paramedics because the damage doesn’t require them… so it’s unbelievably important for the man of God to have his soul anchored in the hope of God.
The first fruits of hope have already been sown.
The fact is, early on God already told us he’s going to fix this mess. There’s this refrain over hundreds and hundreds of years that this fix is coming, this freedom is coming, this hope is coming—and then he actually came in the person of Jesus Christ. He lives the perfect life, he dies on the cross, and he rises again to show the bill has been paid.
And then he came to get me. I wasn’t looking for him, but he called me. And he called in some really weird ways. Think about all the different ways he called—think about the ones we’ve heard so far. He calls, he woos, he rescues sinners. And I want to point this out because of the hope it brings. He didn’t ask my opinion, he didn’t wait to answer all my questions before he owned me. . . . When I feel that hope kind of slipping, I have to remember that he brought me to this place and the Spirit does not lead and ask me to own and carry it. The Spirit calls me to trust him.
And that takes us to Revelation 21.
Graeme Goldsworthy said that hope without time is a delusion. We’re not a delusional people—we’re not gambling. We’re not hedging our bets! But people on the outside looking in think we’re delusional. And that’s where you can contextualize to a fault, trying to make it so cool and people like it—but it will always have a stink of death if you’re preaching in your fullness.
And what I want to do is show you the finish line:
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. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 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. 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.”
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.” 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. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 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)
Now I want to point out just a couple things—that could be a year-long series. So we fly over some of this, but I want to point out that this is a beautiful picture of the world renewed. You’ve got a renewed heaven and earth. This is not ethereal, it’s not Tom & Jerry, with you in a robe playing a harp.
Isa. 35:1—the desert will bloom with roses
Isa. 65:5—the violence this world knows will be lifted
Hab. 2:14—For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
So much of the imagery in our text is all over Isaiah, Ezekiel… But not creation only, but also resurrected bodies! We have these bodies that are getting old, getting crickety and wasting away, but someday we’ll have resurrected bodies.
So here’s where I want you to get your head: There will be a day when looking forward to this day will no longer be necessary.
I love the way that C.S. Lewis puts this in the Last Battle:
…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 and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
But the angel just keeps going:
Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:9 ESV)
Now why does that matter? We’re called to defend the bride, to protect her… and some day we’re going to get to see her.
So all this work, all this grace-fueled effort, we’re going to get to see the fruit of all of this! Surely this will be more spectacular than the day where the door swung open and you saw your earthly bride. And we get to see the bride:
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, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 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—on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. (Revelation 21:10-21 ESV)
The first time we see the church in the book of Revelation it’s in chapters 2 and 3, and it probably lines up with our ministries now. Ephesus had sound doctrine but lost their love for Jesus. In Smyrna, they faced tribulation and poverty. In Thyatira they loved the sensuality and sexual immorality of Jezebel, in Laodicea, they were lukewarm…
Some scholars say things like, “these are ages of the church”—I see it and say, “that’s Tuesday.” But this is where we find her in chapter two, but it’s not what we find in 21.
But where is everyone?
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15 ESV)
Looking out at the work, there are some that you can see and say, “that’s gold!” But so much is wood and straw that’s just going to be burned off. So you need to wait and trust and see what God is doing… So someday the Church will stop being the suffering servant and eventually we’ll see the Church in her glory.
But there’s more:
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (Revelation 21:22-23 ESV)
Sometimes it feels like we’re dealing with shadows—experiencing glory after glory, morning by morning, but we hit a wall. There’s a time when there won’t be a temple, there won’t be a worship time, there will be a time when and we’ll experience glory in ever increasingness.
By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 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 21:24-27 ESV)
Eventually, there will be a time when all the nations will walk by the light of the Lord. It’s the fulfillment of what David was talking about last night. How much better for the redeemed will things be when all things are restored and put back together.
Now I want to be careful—I don’t want to put my mind in this place as a form of escapism.
This view needs to drive me today. We need to let this view drive us to be faithful today so that we can see that day. If my time’s up, then I want to go be with Jesus, but if my time’s not up, this picture drives me into being faithful. To drive me to protect the purity of the bride. It doesn’t make me want to escape, it makes me want to be faithful.
Here’s where I think at times—you’ve got to get over you. When our hope drains, it drains because we’re not high enough, seeing what God is doing. We’re hedging our bets. You kinda belief this, but you don’t really believe it. You’ve got one foot in this work, trying to get all this stuff just in case—you’re straddling two worlds and it’s not going to work. My encouragement to you is just sell out. It’s this view that has Paul calling this life “light and momentary . . . not worthy to be compared.” Paul’s not hedging his bets, he’s all in.
And I want to challenge you—some of you I want to sell out. But some of you I want to take some hope from you; you’re like Jeremiah, all excited until he gets beat up and says, “You seduced me!” And so you need to repent. But for those who believe this, we need to hold to this hope.
So hope is important for the man of God. It’s important for the man who shepherds the Bride of Christ. There is a finish line. There is a time when all things will be made new. The hard things will be remembered no more. We’ve been entrusted with this—God help us all.