Faithlife Sermons

Hope For Tomorrow

The Millennium  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Lead Pastor Wes Terry preaches on the "New Jerusalem" out of Revelation 22:9-27. The sermon was preached on November 27, 2022.

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INTRODUCTION

You’ve heard the phrase “so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.” You know I’ve never met a person that’s guilty of such a charge.
I’ve seen plenty of people who are so EARTHLY minded that they’re not heavenly good, but never the reverse.
Throughout the NT commends God’s people to have a “heavenly mindset.”
Colossians 3:1 “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”
God’s people are called hope in what’s to come so that they can persevere through the here and now.
HOPE: The hope of glory is what motivates us to persevere through the trials of suffering.
As Pastor David likes to say, “Hope makes a miserable day better because of the promise of a better tomorrow.”
We can find strength for “today in our “bright hope for tomorrow.”

The Power of Hope

Hope is what we’re called to focus on this first Sunday of Advent.
Hope is fundamentally future focused.
Our lives are filled with hope of various kinds. Hope of a future relationship, financial situation, outcome with our children, etc.
When hope dies in a person bad things begin to happen. Where there’s no vision for the future there’s no power for the present.
Sometimes when people physically die we say “they gave up hope.” It’s that powerful of a force.

Firm Expectation

In English we use the word hope to communicate “wishful thinking” but that’s not how the NT uses the word. At least not usually.
We don’t have a category for it in our language but the Bible speaks of a kind of “certain hope.” Not a possible future but a certain future.
That’s true hope. True hope isn’t “wishful thinking” around a “potential” future. It’s an eager expectation around a certain future.
That’s the hope we have of heaven. It’s not wishful thinking. It’s eager expectation.
And when you live your life in light of that hope, your life takes on a whole new level of peace and joy.

Hope & Revelation 21

Revelation 21 is an exploration of what that “Certain Future” is going to look like. When we eagerly await this future it’s transforms the way we live in the present.
It’s a passage about what happens when heaven meets earth. What will our final resting place look like?
We explored half of this chapter last week. We drew out seven descriptions of the Heavenly City that will fill the earth when Christ comes again.
The Old Will Pass Away
All Things Will Be Made New
Chaos Will Be Brought Into Order
God’s Manifest Presence Will Fill the Earth
Death Will Be Vanquished
Our Sufferings Will Cease
God’s Holy City Will Descend
Revelation 21:9 picks up where we left off. It’s a vision of the New Jerusalem, God’s Holy City. In describing this city John gives us a compelling picture of our heavenly hope.
Let’s pick it up in verse nine of Revelation 21.
Revelation 21:9–10 (CSB)
9 Then one of the seven angels, who had held the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me: “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 He then 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 arrayed with God’s glory.

A Compelling Contrast

Notice who speaks to John about this “New Jerusalem.” It’s one of the seven angels who held one of the seven bowls of God’s wrath.
We saw the same angel say the same thing in Revelation 17: 1 with the destruction of Babylon. It’s a structural link.
John intends to compare the New Jerusalem - God’s Holy City - with Mystery Babylon - the city of Satan. It’s the city of God versus the city of man.
Here’s what we’re going to see: The coming city of God is superior to the sin-stricken city of man in every way imaginable.
You even see this in the text when you compare the New Jerusalem with the Harlot Babylon.
NJ is on a high mountain. HB is in a desolate wilderness.
HB is the city of the beast. NJ is the city of the Lamb.
NJ is a beautiful bride. HB is the mother of all harlots.
HB is all about wealth and power. NJ is all about Christ & God’s glory.
HB causes her people to drink the wine of sexual immorality. NJ gives the water of life.
Babylon deceives the nations. NJ heals the nations.
In Babylon there is no more light. In NJ there is no more darkness.
The city of God is vastly superior to the city of man.

A Final Portrait

Not only does this chapter give us a compelling picture of our certain future. It’s also a unique reminder of how God’s people ought to live in the present.
This vision of God’s heavenly city teaches us several important things about ourselves.
As we said last week, heaven is both a place that has been prepared (as an inheritance). But it’s also a people who’ve been prepared for a person.
There’s a connection between those two things. There’s a connection between the glory of heaven as a place in the future and the lives of God’s people in the present.
It’s a destination to which we will one day arrive. But it’s also a sweet communion in which we will eternally abide.
That’s what I’d like us to look at for the rest of our time this morning.

Made For God’s Glory

The first thing the New Jerusalem teaches us is that we were made for the glory of God.
Did you notice in verse 11 that the thing that gives the New Jerusalem it’s beauty is that she was “arrayed in the glory of God.”
If you think back to the Old Testament the glory of the Lord - the Shekinah glory -
rested in the ark of the Covenant,
then in the holy of holies in the temple.
now in the Church through the Holy Spirit
then one day in God’s Holy City the New Jerusalem.
The New Testament consistently points to the reality of God’s people one day being filled with God’s glory. It’s our chief pursuit in this life.
One of my favorite verses is Colossians 1:27 which says that the glorious richness of the Gospel is “Christ in YOU the hope of glory.”
We see something similar in 2 Thess 2:14. Paul giving thanks for the Christians there saying “God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, so that you might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
There’s a connection between the glory that Christ possesses now and the glory we will possess when that day comes. (Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18; Phil 3:21; 2 Pet 1:19 ; 1 John 3:2)
As the Westminister Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” Answer: “To glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” That’s where we’re headed.
Our chief pursuit in this life should be the glory of God through the enjoyment of Christ.
That’s a hard contrast to the chief pursuits in Babylon.
Babylon was all about pursuing sensual indulgence and material prosperity. Those are attractive ends. There are many people pursuing those ends in our culture.
But they’ll never truly satisfy because we were made for something bigger.

Christ-like Purity

So how will this glory be seen on that day? Notice how the bride is described. Revelation 21:11-14
Revelation 21:11
11 ...Her radiance was like a precious jewel, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.
He likens the glory of this Holy City with that of Jasper - a precious jewel, clear as crystal. Many think this is referring to a diamond.
This is the same language John used in Revelation 4:3 to describe the throne room of God.
Diamonds are so beautiful because of the way that light shines through them.
The glory of God filling this city is a bright light that shines brighter than the sun. The materials of this temple amplify God’s glory and display it beautifully.
When you’re shopping for a diamond one of the things you learn is that CLARITY is important. (4 C’s: carat, cut, color and clarity).
The clarity of a diamond is measured by how many imperfections or inclusions of other metals there are in the stone. The greater the clarity the more glorious the SHINE.
This diamond is as clear as they get. (FL = flawless, as opposed to SI1 or SI2 “slightly included)
What does that have to do with me and you? It’s a both a promise and a challenge.
The glory of heaven will be seen though our Christlike purity.
It’s a promise that one day we will stand before God completely pure, without fault or blemish or any such thing.
We will be “LIKE HIM” because we shall see him as he truly is. (1 John 3:2)
It’s also a challenge to live lives that are morally pure. Why? Because our chief end is the glory of God. The purer the life, the brighter the shine. (just like a diamond)

Walls of Separation

This theme is reinforced with the description of the city walls.
Revelation 21:12
12 The city had a massive high wall, with twelve gates. Twelve angels were at the gates; the names of the twelve tribes of Israel’s sons were inscribed on the gates.
The city has “massive high walls” Walls were a feature of the Old Jerusalem and the Old Temple (housed in Jerusalem.)
They were used in the temple to separate the holy place from the common. This is exactly what Ezekiel sees in his end times vision (Ezek 42:20).
We know from Revelation 21:27 that such will also be the case in God’s Holy City.

Personal Application

If it’s true that God’s glory is going to shine through our Christ-like purity on that day, how then ought we live today?
We ought to let God’s light shine in us NOW in anticipation of that great fulfillment in heaven.
We need to put up some walls of separation in our hearts between us and the toxicity of this world so that we might keep what’s sacred from what’s defiled.
Jesus said we are the light of the world. A city set on a hill… Let your light shine before others so that they might SEE your good works and give GLORY to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
I know that purity culture in the past put a bad taste in people’s mouth with the legalism and self-righteousness. Certainly we’re not saved by our good works.
However, there is value in pursuing holiness in your life. It’s a way that we display the glory of God in our life. The clearer the stone, the brighter the shine.

Covenant Promise

If you noticed in verse 12, the city doesn’t just have high walls, it also has 12 city gates.
Revelation 21:12 (CSB)
12 The city had a massive high wall, with twelve gates. Twelve angels were at the gates; the names of the twelve tribes of Israel’s sons were inscribed on the gates.
Each gates has a name from the 12 tribes of Israel. (OT - Jacob)
We saw similar language with the 144,000 in Revelation 7:4-8. 12,000 people from each of the twelve tribes of Israel.
If you remember, that 144,000 were followed by John’s vision of an innumerable multitude in Revelation 7:9.
There were people from every tribe tongue and nation who had been purchased by the blood of the Lamb.
When we looked at that vision of heaven in Revelation 7 I suggested it was a picture of God’s promise to Abraham being fulfilled.
Remember God’s covenant promise to Abraham in Genesis. “I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the city gates of their enemies. And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring.” (Genesis 22:17-18)
I think a similar dynamic is at work here. Through Israel, God made a way for the entire world to enter the City of God.

Universal Offer

Three gates on each of the four walls symbolize the universality of God’s offer of salvation. Revelation 21:13
Revelation 21:13 (CSB)
13 There were three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.
God’s offer of grace is available to every tribe, tongue and nation.
As Jesus said in John 13:29
Luke 13:29 (CSB)
29 They will come from east and west, from north and south, to share the banquet in the kingdom of God.
So not only is God’s glory seen through the Christ-like purity of his people. God’s glory will also be seen through the fulfillment of his Covenant promise.

The Old & New United in Christ

If you keep reading you see the number 12 used again. This time of 12 foundations.
Revelation 21:14 (CSB)
14 The city wall had twelve foundations, and the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb were on the foundations.
It’s no accident that Jesus chose 12 disciples (they corresponds to the 12 tribes of Israel in the OT)
The 12 Tribes are a way of talking about the Old Covenant people of God.
The 12 apostles are a way of talking about the New Covenant people of God.
By appealing to both John is conveying the entirety of God’s covenant people.
Twelve tribes. Twelve apostles. 12 x 12 x 10 x 10 x 10 = 144,000.
What holds the Old Covenant community and the New Covenant community together? It’s Christ himself.
The Old Testament looked forward to him and the New Testament revealed him.
The only way to enter into the Gates is through faith in the person of Christ.
The only way to exercise faith is by hearing and believing the Gospel as preached by the apostles.
Two covenants but ONE special people. The book of Revelation is showing the continuity between God’s Old Covenant people, Israel and his New Covenant people, the Church.
As we know from Romans 9-11, we Gentile Christians have been “grafted in” to that vine which is Christ by faith.
So in Christ are the fullness of God’s Old Covenant people Israel and “In Christ” are the new covenant people the Church.
God’s original promise to Abraham is put on beautiful display in the New Jerusalem.

Point of Application

If these things are true of the glory that is to come, how might that shape the way we live in the present?
Not only should we let our light shine. We should also make God’s covenant promises known.
Heaven is not some afterlife where you’re good deeds hopefully outweighed your bad deeds or you get some “new shot” through reincarnation or something like that.
Heaven is the climax a story that God has been telling from the very beginning of time.
It started in the Old Testament with his choosing of Israel and continues today through the preaching of Christ’s Church.
The message of the Gospel is that God will be faithful to his covenant promises. That covenant has been revealed through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Through his death on the cross he paid the penalty for sins. Through his resurrection He now stands as Lord of all.
He invites anyone and everyone to feast at his table. If you would but repent and believe.

The City’s Measurements

John continues his vision with the measurements of the New Jerusalem. Again, the number 12 is going to play a role.
Revelation 21:15–16
15 The one who spoke with me had a golden measuring rod to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 The city is laid out in a square; its length and width are the same. He measured the city with the rod at 12,000 stadia. Its length, width, and height are equal.
We’ve seen before the idea of a measuring rod in Revelation 11:1-2. Now, it’s not John measuring the temple but the Angel measuring the New Jerusalem.
God’s Holy City is in the shape of a cube.
12,000 stadia long and 12,000 stadia wide and 12,000 stadia tall.
Neither the OT temple nor old Jerusalem looked like a cube. There was, however, one thing in the temple that was in a cubic form. It was the interior of the Sanctuary (1 Kings 6:20) the Holy of Holies (1 Kings 6:16; Exo 26:33-34).
If you’re familiar with your OT you’ll know that the “most holy place” was where God’s presence was most greatly localized.
This theme continues in verse 18. Notice how John describes the building materials of the city.
Revelation 21:17-18
17 Then he measured its wall, 144 cubits according to human measurement, which the angel used.18 The building material of its wall was jasper, and the city was pure gold clear as glass.
God’s Holy City is covered in gold.
Do you know what else in the OT was covered in gold? The Holy of Holies! (2 Chr. 3:4-8)
Whether it’s the cubical form or the covering in gold, all this language communicates the fullness of God’s manifest presence.
In Solomon’s temple only the High Priest could see the gold in the Holy of Holies. And even then he had to use smoke to cover the mercy seat. (Lev 16:13)
The New Jerusalem is different. God’s presence isn’t localized in a room. It’s filling the entire city!
We’re not covering God’s presence with smoke. We are experiencing the fullness of God’s presence because it’s filling the earth.

A City of Presence

John is using precise measurements. If taken literally then this city spans the height of the United States and close to the width as well!
I looked up the dimensions of a “stadia” this week and found there are different definitions. It’s anywhere from 600 to 638 feet.
So 12,000 by 12,000 by 12,000 would be anywhere from 1,416-1,566 miles in each direction.
To be on the safe side we’ll just take the median of 1,500 miles long, wide and tall. If you take this in cubic measurements it would be a volume of 3,375,000,000 miles!
The number 12,000 stadia is probably to attach it to the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles. But the multiple of 1,000 is probably used to convey the immensity of this literal city when it descends down from heaven.
I believe John is using these numbers symbolically to describe the entirety of God’s covenant people experiencing the fullness of God’s manifest presence in a literal city that’s large enough to facilitate that end.
What does it reveal about heaven? What does heaven reveal about us today? We were not just made to reflect God’s glory. We were also made to enjoy God’s presence.

Walls Tall or Wide?

You see the number 12 used again to describe the city walls. Compared to the city the wall are pretty short at 144 cubits. Again, the number most likely symbolic.
If taken literally it would be around 216 feet. (some say it’s referring to the thickness of the walls, not the hight but there’s no way to be sure.
Will the New Jerusalem have those literal dimensions. It’s certainly possible.
It’s also just as likely that John is using the numbers symbolically to describe a literal, physical space that can house the entirety of the covenant people of God as they enjoy the fullness of God’s presence.

The Materials That Constitute Heaven

John closes this section with a description of the materials that make up the foundations of the wall.
(whether these are layers of foundations leading up into the sky or sections of the base layer is debated)
Revelation 21:19–20(CSB)
The foundations of the city wall were adorned with every kind of jewel: the first foundation is jasper, the second sapphire (dark blue), the third chalcedony (grey), the fourth emerald (green), 20 the fifth sardonyx (brown/white), the sixth carnelian (deep red), the seventh chrysolite (gold), the eighth beryl (yellow/green), the ninth topaz (yellow/gold), the tenth chrysoprase (apple green), the eleventh jacinth (yellow/red to red/brown), the twelfth amethyst (blue/violet).
We don’t have time to go through each of these stones but the point is each of them were precious finds in the ancient world.
This is the foundation of the wall in the New Jerusalem. The walls foundations are filled with precious stones.
When you pour the slab for your house what priceless stones do YOU put in there? Probably none! So in heaven if the slab is made with these kinds of stones what does that tell you about the rest of the city?
The glory of the New Jerusalem is so much greater than the cheap imitation of Harlot Babylon.
This vision of heaven is a fulfillment of God’s promise to Jerusalem in Isaiah 54:11-12.
Some commentators point out the connection between these 12 stones and that of the breastplate for the high priest in Exodus 28:17-20.
Other point out the contrast between these stones and the 12 Zodiac signs. Both are interesting.
I think whatever other OT allusions there are, the overarching point is that God’s people are precious to him.

The Pearly Gates & Streets of Gold

This theme is amplified again in verse 21 with the pearly gates.
Revelation 21:21 (CSB)
21 The twelve gates are twelve pearls; each individual gate was made of a single pearl. The main street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass.
Pearls were considered the most precious of ancient stones.
You might remember the parable of Jesus about the pearl of great price. (Mat 13:45-46)
Pearls are also precious today! The largest pearl ever found is called the Giga pearl (off the coast of Philippines… worth about 200 million dollars. It’s about 15 inches by 8 inches
Compare that with most doorways (3ft x 7ft = 21 sq ft) If we used the same math a pearl door would be worth well over 1 billion dollars!
Guess what, there are TWELVE of these gates in the New Jerusalem and they’re WAY bigger 21 sq feet.
Imagine a pearl 144 cubits (250 feet). That’s like 10 Great Walls of China stacked on top of each other. Trillions and trillions of dollars.
It’s a powerful way to convey the value of God’s covenant people. The rare stones and pearly gates convey just how precious God’s people are to him.
We were bought for a price that cannot be estimated. That price, of course, was the life of his one and only son. A price he was willing to pay because he loves you that much.
You are precious in the eyes of almighty God. This vision of heaven points to that reality.

God’s Purpose in Our Pain

But these stones and pearls don’t just show the preciousness of God’s people to him. They also show us something else about God’s purpose in our pain.
I believe when we get to heaven, we will understand just how much God really loves us and just how powerful that love is for healing our world and our wounds.
But these stones and peals are valuable in our world because of the process they must go through to become what they are.
Diamonds and precious gems are forced through extended seasons of TIME and extreme levels of PRESSURE and changes in temperature.
I don’t have time to go through all of the science but the heat of the earth’s core and magma underneath the service puts pressure on minerals and sediment in the ground.
Eventually, overtime, that mixture of minerals combined with the heat and pressure of their surrounding circumstances produce something beautiful and rare under the earth’s surface. Over time, eventually those make their way to the top where they can be discovered.
With pearls - it is an irritant that gets created in the oyster or clam that causes them to secrete a substance that coats the irritant until it finally transformed into the precious gem we call a pearl.

Present Pain - Future Glory

God has a similar purpose in our pain and suffering. He’s using the extreme pressure and heat we feel in our lives to produce in us a greater glory that is yet to be revealed.
Paul describes this dynamic in Romans 8:18
Romans 8:18 (CSB)
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.
So the glory of heaven doesn’t just show us the preciousness of God’s people. It also reveals God’s purpose in our pain.
You might be here today in the middle of intense pressure, pain and suffering. There are certainly people in our church family who’ve walked through the fire.
Let the glory of heaven encourage you and remind you that God is producing something in that pain and suffering that will shine like the sun in heaven.
Moreover, you don’t have to walk through that fire alone. There’s another in the fire with you, the Lord Jesus Christ, through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

This is the glory of heaven. This is our future hope. We were made to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
Like precious stones that reflect the light of the sun are God’s covenant people who reflect the light of his glory.
Like a beloved bride in the presence of her groom are God’s covenant people in the presence of their Lord.
Heaven is the fullness of God’s glory and the fullness of God’s presence. In them we’ll find strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.
We can experience a foretaste of heaven today through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We will experience the fullness of heaven, when Christ calls us home, or brings heaven down to us.
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