God’s creation of man on the earth, before there was sin, was a real place. It was tangible. It was concrete. He ate, he worked, he talked, he played, he made love with his wife, he had walks with the God of the universe, he saw beauty, he felt absolutely encompassed and loved, he had no concept of sin, he had this environment before him that was pristine and beautiful and he was in charge of making and creating and expanding his territory and his reign and rule with the mind and the heart that, I would imagine before sin, was a lot smarter than all of us and a lot more creative.
See, if you want a little parallel, think about those three categories. First earth. As man was, so was the earth. Innocent, innocent, pure, pure. As man is, currently fallen, so is the earth. It’s fallen. It’s messed up. It’s polluted. As man will be, so will be the earth. It’s what the Bible teaches. That’s the summary.
Now, I want to get to the fun part. Okay. It’s kind of foreign to my ears, right? First, probably fifteen years I was a Christian, if you said, “What’s heaven like?” It would be, I would open to Revelation chapter 4, Revelation chapter 5, I think they’ve got a really great band, they sing a lot. And there are some really big angels with lots of eyes that fly around. And, by the way, that’s occurring right now and it’s awesome. It’s just not all that there is and we will worship, don’t get me wrong.
But the idea of a tangible, concrete place, made specifically for me, to satisfy the deepest desires in my heart with relationships that aren’t just right, that are perfect, with jobs to do that require the very best of me, where I do exactly what I’m made to do in ways that only I can, that contribute in some sort of relationships in a culture, in a society where God is among us, whoo, this future heaven on earth is not simply a lot like the new you and it’s not simply a lot like the first earth. You ready for this? I love this.
It will be a lot different and infinitely better because we will have a number of things that are new. First, we’re going to have a new kind of relationship with God. Now, Revelation chapter 21 and 22, you cannot sit there and listen to me on this. Revelation chapter 21, all the way at the end, and notice it’s going to start with, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth;” why? “for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,” notice the little change in this one, “and there was no longer any sea.”
I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband. And then I heard in a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them, and be their God.”
You have a relationship with God now, you will have a new kind of relationship. You will not talk to a God who is in heaven. You will not talk to a God any longer who - the Holy Spirit dwells in you – and there are times where you’re walking in the Spirit and times where you don’t. You will see Him face to face, we learn in chapter 22.
I John says, “When you see Him face to face, we will become like Him,” because we will have no sin, He will make a way where you will have intimacy with God, this has been His plan from the beginning. He wants you.
I mean, everyone hates rejection, I got news for you, there is one awesome, eternal, infinite being who created all that there is and for reasons you don’t get and I don’t get, He wants you. And He is going to make a way in this perfect earth environment to be with you.
You will be His son, you will be His daughter, and He will be with you. There’s not going to be any more of, you know, “I really wonder what God’s will is and I got this prompting, I thought maybe I should do this or should we move over to here, should we do that? And I’m not really sure, or…”
No distance, no relational or spatial awareness. You know times in your life where you feel like you’re over here and God is way over there? It’s gone! You’ll have a new kind of relationship with God where there is absolutely nothing between you, no intermediate anything. Face to face, heart to heart, intimacy.
You will be so overwhelmed and enveloped with a sense of acceptance and love and clarity and purpose and peace, infinitely multiplied by any smidgeon of it on this earth you’ve experienced.
So, see, it’s a new heaven and a new earth. And there’s a new kind of relationship with God.
Second, there’s a new kind of relationship with sin. You say, “That’s kind of weird.” Now, you could write in there, you could, don’t do it, but you could write in, “With my past,” because what’s going to get removed is what sin did in your life and in mine, what it did in the culture, what it did in people, how evil was birthed, and all the evil of all time by all people, you’re going to have a new relationship with sin.
Let me read you this new relationship, verse 4 and 5. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain;” well why? “for the old order of things has passed away. He who is seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new.’ And then He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
So what have been the past consequences of sin on this fallen earth that will be gone? You ready for this? Here’s your new relationship. No more abuse ever. No more regrets, no more bad memories, no more betrayal, no divorce. You won’t experience failure ever again. You won’t be disappointed. You won’t be rejected.
You won’t shake your head and look at the news and say, “Greed, murder, addictions, accidents.” There won’t be, are you ready for this, Silicone Valley people, no more pressure. No more prejudice, no more racism, no more poverty, no more injustice, no more sex trade, no more kids getting abused. It’ll be gone.
And because sin is gone, no more death. You will never be afraid, you will never feel ashamed. That’s a new kind of relationship with God, but that’s a new kind of relationship with sin. It’s gone. And the evil that went with it. That’s what your personal experience, as heaven comes down on this new earth, is going to be like.
But it’s not just a new relationship with God and with sin. There’s a new kind of experience of complete, write this word in, “satisfaction.” Complete satisfaction.
Follow along as I read verse 6 and following. “He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To him who is thirsty,’” circle that word in your Bible if you would, “I will give to drink without cost,” from where? “the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes,” those who, by faith, have trusted Christ, “will inherit all of this, and I will be his God and he will be My son.”
Contrast, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magical arts, and the idolaters and the liars, their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur, this is the second death.”
What’s thirst? Metaphorically, thirst has to do with desire. We thirst for life, we thirst for relationships. God made you a human being and all the psychology and all that we have learned is I can tell you that everybody in this room and everyone who has ever lived has thirsted to be significant. I want to be a somebody.
Everyone in this room has thirsted to be secure. I want to feel safe and loved and accepted. Everyone has thirsted for a sense of fulfillment. Or from my old days in graduate school, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Remember that one? Remember what the top one is on the little triangle? Self-actualization.
Actually, what you’re going to have is Christ-actualization. But what Maslow saw was no amount of money, no amount of success, no amount of fame, no amount of looks, celebrity, possessions – what he realized is at the heart of the human being is this desire to become all that you were ever made to become!
And what you’re going to have is complete satisfaction for the first time in your life. You won’t look at someone else and say, “I wish I had their gifts or I wish I lived in their mansion or apartment,” or whatever it’s going to be, the condos there in this big city.
You’ll never feel like, “Oh, I wish I could do this or do that.” You will have complete satisfaction. Satisfaction with God, with yourself, with others, with the environment. Everything that we hoped, “If I just made more money, if I just found the right mate, if we finally had a kid, if we get the second house. You know what? If we finally go public. You know what? If I finally could overcome the grief and the pain of my mate that walked out on me. You know, if my kids just grow up and if I only can get in this school,” right?
Thirst, thirst, thirst, thirst, thirst, desire, because I want to be significant and secure and fulfilled. It drives us. We’re human.
And He’s going to say, whoo, “Come and drink and I’m going to fill you up from the inside out in ways that you have longed for and were made for. But in a fallen world, it’s never going to happen.”
In fact, I love C.S. Lewis. He talks about this issue of thirst, he talks about this idea that, you know, we’ve all had plans, right? You know, “If I could ever get in this college and I get in or if I ever get these grades or, if I could ever find the right person or…”
Isn’t it amazing? The word “new” for us, “Boy, when I get that new car.” And then you get it! And then ninety days later it’s just not new, right? But if we get a house of our own! If I could just be the…
And I don’t care what it is. You know, if I owned so much, if I had this, if people thought that, if I wore that, if I…
Right? We’re human! And no matter what it is, it’s like, “Man, I have been to the gym for five years to get this way. And two surgeries. And it’s still fading. And I still, down deep, don’t love me or feel any more worthy.” You know that something that no matter what you do is still missing?
Lewis says that’s built in by God into the human soul and heart to remind you there’s something more. In fact, more than there’s just something more, there’s someplace more.
No matter what you achieve, what you get, there’s this little window of, “Ah,” and then there’s a…it doesn’t quite deliver what you hoped. That’s going to end in this new heaven that’s on earth.
The next part is maybe the most exciting for me. It talks about a new city. And people to enjoy. And He made it really clear that this is going to be a perfect environment and in passing He said, “You know those people that rejected Me? Those people that didn’t want the free gift? Those people who wanted their own throne? Those people who said, ‘I’ll be in control. Hey, I don’t want God telling me what to do.’ Those people who said, ‘I’ll find my fulfillment and my…’”
What did He say? “You know what? You can have your own way. Heaven is reserved for these kind of people that want to receive and experience My love.” And to those people who say, “No, God,” He says, “Well, your will be done.”
And then He says, “Okay, there’s this city.” Now think of this, there’s this city that is come down from heaven on the earth and now He is going to describe what your experience is going to be like. We pick it up in verse 9.
“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came to me and said, ‘Come, and I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb,’” speaking of Jesus.
“And he carried me away in the Spirit to a high, great mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down from heaven from God.” And then he begins to describe it. “It shone with the glory of God and its brilliance was like that of very precious jewels, and like jasper and clear as crystal.
“It had a great high wall, with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at each gate; and on the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three on the north and three on the south and three on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, Jesus.
“The angel who had talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls.” And so you get this picture of this angel says to John in this vision, “I want you to tell these people the future because life is really hard in a fallen world and there’s a lot of wickedness and a lot of evil and there’s going to be all kind of things. And people need to have a very clear picture of the future so they can endure and overcome.”
And so first of all, he sees it coming down. And then, whoooo, he ends up on this really high mountain and then he sees all of this new Jerusalem, this city coming down, and now this angel is measuring it and you gotta get this.
He measured the city with a gold rod, it was twelve thousand stadia in length and it’s as wide and high as it is long.” So it’s as wide, it’s a square, but it’s as high as it is wide and long. “He measured its walls, and it was a hundred and forty-four cubits thick, by man’s measure, which the angel was using, and the wall was made of jasper; and the city of pure gold, as of pure glass.”
And then he says, “And the foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone,” and he goes through twelve specific precious stones of the day, some of which we still use. It’s just this radiant…
I don’t know about you, but when I first read this when it said “stadia,” how many people think, like, “How big is a stadia?” You know what “stadia” is? It’s about fourteen hundred miles. So, first of all you see it coming down. This would be like Star Trek, the future, future generation, something coming down.
But fourteen hundred miles wide and he’s just overwhelmed with its brilliance. And then he gets up on this mountain, why? So he can see, “Oh my lands!” Whoo, whoo, whoo. Fourteen hundred miles long, three specific gates, angel, angel, angel guarding it, the gates are open, they never close.
And, wow, on these gates, those twelve tribes, all those Old Testament saints and those foundation stones, all the way around and the twelve apostles. All of God’s people, Old Testament and New Testament. And then it’s like fourteen hundred miles high? I mean, how many floors is that? “Um, I’d like to go to the thirty-seventh thousand floor, please?” The angel goes, “You really don’t need an elevator here. Just…” Tchoo. Because you have a resurrected body like Jesus. Now, by the way, I don’t know if that’s really true if you can… but do you just get, like, it’s an amazing city. But it’s to enjoy!
I grew up in the suburbs. So I didn’t know a lot about really big city life. And I grew up in the suburbs of a sort of nice city. Really nice, Midwestern city. So I thought that was a city and it was a good city.
And then my kids went to school in Chicago. I love Chicago. Chicago is a great city. Chicago, as you walk down Michigan Avenue and there’s a lake over here and there’s a band playing over here and you get a meal over here and then you walk by and then some of the most amazing museums and stuff.
And people actually live in Chicago. I mean, there’s life and culture and food and…! And then, my travels, I ended up, I’ve been lots of times to Hong Kong. Hong Kong is an amazing city. I mean, you’re over there and you can look across that bay and you see that huge thing and it’s so safe and wonderful and at two, three in the morning you can walk out and get all kind of food and cultures and people from all around the world.
And if you’ve never been to New York, if you’ve never been to New York, like, at Christmas time, go! It’s just unbelievable! Think of the joy there is and you meet people and there’s new food and you catch a play here and you do something here and you hear some stories.
This is a city that is fourteen hundred miles wide and long and high of all the saints of all time. And thirty-seventh floor, get off, “Moses! How you been? Could you tell us… I brought one of my buddies. Would you give me the Red Sea story one more time? I mean, what were you really feeling? Tell me what was going on.”
And, you know, then, zzzzzz, down to the ten thousandth floor, “Elijah, man, were you scared to death? You know, all those prophets and the fire came down and…”
“Hudson Taylor, what was it like? No one believed you. No one would help you. You’re away from your family, you, I mean, who would know there would be, like, 1.4 billion people in India or in China and you were, like, the first person that crossed through all that and wow! Can you…?” For eternity. Amazing food, amazing people.
And so there’s new books to be written and new songs to be sung and new things to explore. I mean this is the brilliance and the glory and the majesty, it’s like, take your best experience in any city and then go, “Whoooo.” Infinitely beyond.