Perhaps you have heard the saying that those who are too heavenly minded are of no earthly good, but indeed, it is the heavenly-minded who have actually done the most good. Consider the past pandemics. Non-Christians fled the city, fled the plague, fled those who needed them the most. Many Christians stayed to serve. Why? Because they knew this life is not all there is, so they did not cling to their lives. Here is just one good article on the testimony of Christians in pandemics historically: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/4-lessons-church-history/
Being heavenly-minded is not only good for the world, it is good for us. I don’t turn heads anymore, my walk is slower, my eyes dimmer — I am living out Ecclesiastes 12:1-5! Likewise, the world. as Paul told Timothy it would, is spiraling down in its lusts and lies. Yet despite this, I have an inextinguishable joy, a real purpose in each day, and a fellowship that the world cannot know. In part, this is because I know this world is not the end of the story. He’s also given me a down payment of sorts, a taste here and now of what awaits me in the new heaven and new earth. I know I was made for another world.
No one puts it better than C. S. Lewis:
In the closing two chapters of the Bible, we gaze on the new heaven and the new earth, and it matters that we take this to heart.
It also matters that we approach these chapters with good homiletics. Revelation paints pictures with symbols. Last week we looked at the picture painted of Satan being like a dragon looking out over the sea.
We understand Satan isn’t actually a serpent, a sea monster, or a dragon (same word translated three ways), but that this is a picture to help us glimpse Satan’s stealth and power, so we will be on guard.
This is so helpful to me in looking at these closing chapters on the new heaven and new earth. For example, one of the first things we are told is that “there was no longer any sea.” (Rev. 21:1) Once I thought WHAAAT? I love the sea! We are also told there will be no more night. Again, I thought WHAAAT? I love sunsets, stars, and the sweetness of sleep. But I was being far too literal.
In his book, “From Chaos to Cosmos: Creation to New Creation” Sidney Greidanus explains that just as darkness became a metaphor for sin, so the “tossing sea” because a symbol of evil, a dark dangerous place that swallows up ships and is filled with sea monsters.
St. Augustine says the same. In The City of God, he writes that in the new heaven and the new earth there will be “no more of the surfings and restlessness of the human life, and it is this which is symbolized by the sea.”
Later this week you will listen to this free sermon by Keller:
It also matters that we use the gifts God has given us, as long as we have breath, to tell others of the beauty, to be the light that shines in the darkness, the peace that overcome the chaos, the love that overcomes the hatred, and the truth that gives hope to the hopeless. I think of each of you, using your gifts of mercy, teaching, writing, dancing, encouraging — all proclaiming His beauty. Oh, how it matters. Prepare your heart with this by Sara Groves:
Next Sunday we begin our Lenten study with Michael Reeves and the Puritans. I think you will be glad if you purchase Dane Ortland’s Gentle and Lowly — but it is not required.
Day 1. Getting Started
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
- As you face today with a perspective of the new heaven and the new earth, how might it help you to overcome anxiety and to be what God gifted you to be?
Day 2: No More Chaos
Prepare with this prayer from Scotty Smith:
Father, I’m so glad John’s vision isn’t about a beach-less future, but a “sea-less” one—an eternity and a world devoid of all chaos and evil. There won’t be any more brokenness, only beauty… no more angry leviathan, only dancing dolphin… no more tempest, only the triumph of the Lamb!
3. Read Revelation 21:1 and describe what John saw.
4. In the following Scriptures, what does the sea symbolize? Meditate, imagine, and share your thoughts:
A. Psalm 69:1-2
B. Isaiah 27:1
C. Isaiah 57:20-21
There are so many passages that show God’s power over the sea. He turned its chaos into cosmos in Genesis 1, used it to rescue the righteous in the story of Noah, again in the story of the Exodus through the Red Sea, and again in the gospels when Jesus stopped the storm. The hymn that helped me speak the truth to my anxious soul after Steve died was “Be Still My Soul.”
Be still, my soul, the waves and wind still know
the one who stilled them when He dwelt below.
Indeed, God did brought me through the raging river of grief to the other side, to experience a peace that the world does not know. Does my turbulence ever return? Yes, but one day it will not — in the new heaven and the new earth!
5. On this earth, we have glimpses of what will be complete and continuous in the new heaven and the new earth. Share a time recently when God calmed you, giving you a peace that passes understanding.
6. If you are facing anxiety right now, instead of listening to your soul, speak the truth to your soul.
Day 3. The New Jerusalem
7. Read Revelation 21:2 and describe what John sees, noting both symbols or metaphors:
The Bible could be described as a “Tale of Two Cities,” Babylon, the city of man, and Jerusalem, the city of God. The “old Jerusalem” gives us just a taste of what will be completed and continuous in the “new Jerusalem.” John Frame and Vernon Polythress explain this in their excellent free online book about Revelation called “The Returning King.”
The temple and the surrounding city were consecrated for the presence of God, to be the way of access to God…The new Jerusalem represents the perfecting of the community and the consummation of its joy in the presence of God. This consummation is fundamentally the work of God, not human beings. It is not Babel reaching up to assault heaven in autonomous pride, but the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven as the gift and artistic product of God’s craft.
8. How have you experienced the presence of God in the last year? Be specific.
9. Meditate on Revelation 21:3-7 and find things that you have “tasted” here on earth but that will be complete and continuous in the New Jerusalem. Take time with this
10. Why does God tell John to write these things down, according to verse 5?
11. If you really believe this is true, how should it affect the way you live? And why is He telling you this today?
Day 4. Dressed As A Bride
Many of us have tasted the joys of being a bride on earth, of being rejoiced over, and of, at least at times, cherished and desired. But as my friend Lucy told the other inmates in a Texas prison, “Even if you’ve had a bad wedding or a bad marriage, you can imagine what it is to have a good one, and to know that that is coming. And He won’t just rejoice over you on your wedding day, but every day!” (If you haven’t seen Lucy’s testimony, you can see it by clicking here and scrolling to the 3rd video.) https://deebrestin.com/hecallsyoubeautiful/
11. How have you tasted the joy of being a bride on earth, of true communion with your husband — or, if you haven’t, how do you imagine it to be?
12. What insight do the following verses give us on the beautiful kaleidoscope of meanings connected to this metaphor?
A. Isaiah 62:5
B. Song of Songs 2:8-13
C. Challenge question: The same Hebrew word”yada” (translated “Knew” in KJV) is used in Genesis 4:1 and Deut. 34:10. Look them both up and contemplate what this may mean when we consider what this could mean both now, in our relationship with God, and how it might be completed in the New Heaven and the New Earth.
13. Charles Spurgeon noted that “the Song of love [the Song of Songs] and the Book of love [the Bible] end in almost the selfsame way, with a strong desire for Christ’s speedy return.” See if you can find it in each, and then share what God is communicating with this.
14. If you really believe this is true, how should it affect your life?
15. Give praise to God.
Day 4. Heaven
16. Listen to the Tim Keller sermon above and share your notes and comments.
Day 5. All Things New
In John Eldredge’s book “All Things New” he tells of the reaction of his daughter-in-law when circumstances prevented them from going on a long-awaited vacation. She said, “That’s okay. I’ll experience it at the renewal of all things.” We don’t need a bucket list — we will have it all, only better.
17. What do you learn about this from the following?
A. Isaiah 65:17-25
B. Romans 8:21-23
C. I Corin. 15:35-37
18. What do you think you will remember from the Overview of Revelation — what will stick and transform you?