(Please read Revelation 21 & 22 in your preferred version of the Bible. I use the NIV.)
The old mountaineer had lived a full but not exactly saintly life and now was on his deathbed. He summoned his weeping wife. “Sara,” he said, “go to the fireplace and take out the third stone from the top.” She did as instructed. “Reach in there,” said her husband, “and bring out what you find.”
Her fingers touched a large Mason jar, and with some effort she pulled it up. The jar was full of cash.
“Sara,” said the old man, “when I go, I’m going to take all that money with me. I want you to put that jar up in the attic by the window. I’ll get it as I go by on my way to heaven.”
His wife followed his instructions. That night the old mountaineer died. After the funeral his wife remembered the Mason jar and went to the attic. There was the jar still full of money and by the window.
“Oh,” the widow sighed. “I knew I should have put it in the basement.”
A Christian publisher will stop selling The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven now that the young subject paralyzed in a car crash says the story of going to heaven is not true. Tyndale House withdrew the best-selling 2010 book by Alex Malarkey and his father, Kevin Malarkey.
The publisher made the decision after Alex wrote an “open letter” to the retailer LifeWay which said, “I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.” It was posted on the Pulpit and Pen website.
The Malarkey book is one of a spate of best sellers about and by those who say they have gone to heaven and returned. The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven peaked at No. 46 on USA TODAY’s list.
According to the publisher’s description of the book, “in 2004, Kevin Malarkey and his 6-year-old son, Alex, suffered a horrific car accident. The impact from the crash paralyzed Alex – and medically speaking, it was unlikely that he could survive. ‘I think Alex has gone to be with Jesus,’ a friend told the stricken dad. But two months later, Alex awoke from a coma with an incredible story to share. ”
But in his open letter, Alex wrote: “I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.”
MESSAGE: If we live today with a view toward heaven, today will be a better day because we will be more godly people.
- The HOLY CITY.
Location: on the New Earth (see 21:2+10), where the New Jerusalem comes DOWN OUT OF HEAVEN FROM GOD. As we will see repeatedly, John did not create these details, but used language and imagery familiar to himself and his readers in an effort to describe the indescribable. For example, there are two references to NEW HEAVENS AND NEW EARTH in the writings of the prophet Isaiah.
– 65:17 = BEHOLD, I WILL CREATE NEW HEAVENS AND A NEW EARTH. THE FORMER THINGS WILL NOT BE REMEMBERED, NOR WILL THEY COME TO MIND.
– 66:22 = “AS THE NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH THAT I MAKE WILL ENDURE BEFORE ME,” DECLARES THE LORD, “SO WILL YOUR NAME & DESCENDANTS ENDURE.”
God’s Purpose: primarily, to display his glory. Remember, as the highest good, God can do no greater favor than to direct attention to Himself. In any of us, this would be rightly condemned as egotism. But in God, it is the greatest kindness. His secondary purpose is to provide an eternal home for his people. Because of our self-centered nature, we typically get those two mixed up.
Construction: These details are meant to inspire and encourage our hope for heaven.
The jewels (PRECIOUS STONE) are symbols of grandeur and value. In Isaiah 54:11-12, God promised to rebuild Jerusalem with TURQUOISE, SAPPHIRES, RUBIES, SPARKLING JEWELS and PRECIOUS STONES. It can be argued that John’s organization of stones is according to color, but what really matters is the glory, grandeur, and value of these decorations as testimonies to God’s glory.
The HOLY CITY will be surrounded by A GREAT, HIGH WALL that will be 216’ thick! This is meant to give us a feeling of security that we want to associate with home. In Isaiah 26:1-2 we read, IN THAT DAY THIS SONG WILL BE SUNG IN THE LAND OF JUDAH: WE HAVE A STRONG CITY; GOD MAKES SALVATION ITS WALLS AND RAMPARTS. OPEN THE GATES THAT THE NATIONS MAY ENTER, THE NATION THAT KEEPS FAITH. Ezekiel 48 details the measurements of a four-sided city and the allotments of land to the 12 tribes.
In that WALL there will be 12 GATES & 12 ANGELS. The gates symbolize accessibility but the angelic guards imply that it is accessible only for those whom God has recognized as His own and has welcomed into His presence. Ezekiel 48:30-35 also names the twelve gates with
the names of the 12 tribes of Israel.
In 21:25 it says ON NO DAY WILL ITS GATES EVER BE SHUT, FOR THERE WILL BE NO NIGHT THERE. With sin, death, and Satan defeated, there will be no threats to bar the door against. This aspect was also predicted by the prophet Isaiah in 60:11; “YOUR GATES WILL ALWAYS STAND OPEN, THEY WILL NEVER BE SHUT, DAY OR NIGHT, SO THAT MEN MAY BRING YOU THE WEALTH OF THE NATIONS – THE KINGS LED IN TRIUMPHAL PROCESSION.”
Elsewhere in the Bible, ANGELS guard the entrance to Eden and the empty tomb of Jesus. God sets forth an angel honor guard at the most important places. This aspect is also promised to us directly in Psalms 91:11 = FOR HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU TO GUARD YOU IN ALL YOUR WAYS;
Each gate is a SINGLE PEARL. Of all precious stones, the ancients held pearls as the most valuable. Jesus illustrated the Kingdom of Heaven with the parable of “The Pearl of Great Price” (see Matthew 13:45-46).
The Holy City is situated on 12 FOUNDATIONS which bear the names of the Apostles. This is obviously a special recognition, like the names of the 12 tribes of Israel above the gates. Thus, the “Big Twelve” of both testaments are honored. Why name the foundational levels of the city with the names of the Apostles? It is because they preached the Gospel, the foundation of faith. In 1 Corinthians 3:11, the Apostle Paul identified Jesus as the FOUNDATION of the Church. But, as Jesus and the Apostles are inseparable, there is no contradiction. (Jesus is the Word – the logos – of God after all. The subject of FOUNDATIONS is an important one in the Bible: the word is used 77 times.
Immense measurements are given in describing the size of the New Jerusalem. They are staggering! A cube measuring 1500 miles on each side has an interior volume of 3,375,000,000 miles. We are to understand from these difficult-to-imagine numbers that here is room for everyone! In John 14:1-3, Jesus promised, “DO NOT LET YOUR HEARTS BE TROUBLED. TRUST IN GOD, TRUST ALSO IN ME. IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE ARE MANY ROOMS; IF IT WERE NOT SO, I WOULD HAVE TOLD YOU. I AM GOING THERE TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU. AND IF I GO AND PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU, I WILL COME BACK AND TAKE YOU TO BE WITH ME THAT YOU ALSO MAY BE WHERE I AM.” Though the details are not the same, the measuring of t NEW JERUSALEM is very much like the vision God gave the prophet Ezekiel, in chapters 40-42 where an angel with a golden measuring rod measured the dimensions of a heavenly city and its temple.
In ancient cultures, a cube was considered the perfect shape. In the Jewish faith, the Holy of Holies in the temple was a cube. Some of the temple furnishing and the high priest’s ephod were described as cubic. This may be John’s way of reinforcing the perfection of the New Jerusalem.
THE CITY [and] THE GREAT STREET was OF PURE GOLD, LIKE TRANSPARENT AS GLASS. This is a level of the purity of gold in terms that could be imagined in the natural world, but impossible to achieve. Thus, it describes a supernatural quality of refinement that would only be possible with God. It is a quality of gold that is so shiny it reflects light to the same degree as crystal (GLASS). Revelation 21:23-24 says that the glory (the bright light of God’s presence) will be in that place. Try to imagine that bright light reflected by every single surface inside and outside this city. WOW!
THE WATER OF LIFE is a symbol that occurs in both chapters. In 21:6, Jesus offers the WATER OF LIFE to all who are THIRSTY. This is an image of desiring God in a similar way to thirsting for water. Trust in God through faith is way to be saved, to receive LIFE. (See Isaiah 55:1-2 for this imagery applied to the Messiah.)
22:1-2 describes the RIVER that carries the WATER OF LIFE through the New Jerusalem. As we’ve just observed w/t GOLD, the WATER OF LIFE is also CRYSTAL clear. This is a measure of its purity. FLOWING FROM THE THRONE implies that it comes from God, which makes perfect sense as God is t Creator of all life. The river flows THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET, a detail that implies that life is at the center of the entire city.
Jesus identified Himself as life-giving water to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:14. Genesis 2:10 tells us that a river ran through the Garden of Eden; that it was the headwaters of all the great rivers of the ancient world. This is another way of saying that LIFE flows from God; He is Creator and Preserver of creation. The OT prophets Ezekiel, Joel, and Zechariah all had visions of a river of life that flowed from the presence of God.
THE TREE OF LIFE is another symbol that effectively makes the same point as the WATER OF LIFE; eternal life is a gift of God. The RIVER satisfies our thirst for God, the TREE our hunger.
The TREE OF LIFE is also a symbol that is originally found in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9). Ezekiel saw several trees on each bank of the river in his vision (47:7-12), but he and John agree on the pertinent detail, that eternal LIFE is imparted as we are healed from all the hurts of this life.
Jesus promised to be the source of all life. His words recorded in John 6:37-40 are particularly appropriate here: “ALL THAT THE FATHER GIVES TO ME WILL COME TO ME, AND WHOEVER COMES TO ME I WILL NEVER DRIVE AWAY. FOR I HAVE COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN NOT TO DO MY WILL BUT TO DO THE WILL OF HIM WHO SENT ME. AND THIS IS THE WILL OF HIM WHO SENT ME, THAT I SHALL LOSE NONE OF ALL THAT HE HAS GIVEN ME, BUT RAISE THEM UP AT THE LAST DAY.
The TREE will have TWELVE KINDS OF FRUIT, yielded twelve times a year. It’s clear that God will meet all our needs. The LEAVES of the TREE are also useful; they will heal the NATIONS. The kind of healing is spiritual – as verse 3 makes clear – there is no more CURSE.
One day after Albert Einstein had moved to his home at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, the telephone rang in the office of the dean of the Princeton Graduate School and the voice at the other end asked: “May I speak with Dr. Einstein, please?”
\ Advised he was not in, the voice continued: “Perhaps then you will tell me where Dr. Einstein lives.”
The secretary replied that she could not do this, as Dr. Einstein wished to have is privacy respected.
The voice on the telephone dropped to a whisper: “Please don’t tell anyone, but I am Dr. Einstein. I am on my way home and forgotten where my house is.”
God’s message to us this morning is, “Don’t forget where your home is.” Having heaven as your eternal home changes the way you live today. It changes what you see as important, how you act & what you say.
(Main Points #2 and 3 will appear in next week’s post.)