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Return to Me

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Intro: The topic assigned to me is called "Return to Me" - a sermon about repentance, turning back to God. We could look at this topic from so many different angles but here's why I'm preaching from . In the familiar Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Son leaves his father and squanders his inheritance. When does he decide to come home? When he was sitting with the pigs thinking to himself, "Man even the servants in my father's house eat better food than this!" Its not a perfect analogy but I hope you get the point. Its when we realise just what we are missing out on that we will be motivated to return. My goal today is to make you home sick. So that you’ll return to our Heavenly Father. The Book of Revelation was written to churches that had all kinds of different problems. Some of them were suffering, persecuted by the world. Some of them were compromising, allowing the church to become like the world. And so the apostle John is given these visions, some of them are very scary, but some of them are so wonderfully beautiful, both to encourage and challenge the church to return and remain faithful to Christ. Repentance comes when people catch a glimpse of the horrors of hell and the happiness of heaven. Some people warn that if you think about heaven too much then you won't be of any use here on earth. Firstly I haven't met anyone like that, have you? Our problem is we don't think about heaven enough. We are so earthly-minded. Thinking only of the present and thinking only of whats right in front of us, what we can see and touch here. Thats why we always focus on things that don't matter. And love things that won't last. I even know of professing Christians who don't want Jesus to come back. They rather have a jolly good time here thank you very much. Heaven sounds boring. Unfortunately our idea of heaven is mostly drawn from cartoons. People in white gowns playing harps etc. Or from books written by people who have supposedly been to heaven and came back. The most gracious thing I can say about that is: let's stick to the Bible. It's the most dependable source. It has all that we need to know. Anyway what we are looking at today is the final state of the new heaven and new earth which nobody has ever been to because Jesus hasn't come back yet. Right now, if you're a believer and you die now, you body will go to the grave, but your soul will to go be with Jesus in heaven. Contrary to popular belief, thats not the end of the story. Eventually when Jesus does finally return at the end, there will be a resurrection (). Resurrection doesn't mean we will live forever spiritually. Resurrection means we will have our physical bodies restored to us again. Of course our bodies will be newer and better. They will be incorruptible. The point I'm making is our final hope is not that our souls will escape this earth to go to heaven. Our final hope is that we will have resurrection bodies in a radically new heaven and a new earth forever. Its this new heaven and a new earth that we are looking at today.
One last preliminary note. Like the rest of the Book of Revelation this passage is full of symbolism. Images that represent something else. Its not because God wants to make it hard to understand but to help us understand because we simply don't have categories for them. For example: say you met a tribe of people on a remote island who are completely disconnected from the modern world. How are you going to explain to them what a car is? They don't have a word for it in their language. They've never seen one before. Now if they know what a horse is, and what metal is, then maybe you can say: A car is a metal horse that we ride. You have to use language and concepts that they are familiar with to explain realities they are not familiar with. That is what John, inspired by the Holy Spirit is doing here. He's using symbolic language here to describe what we cannot even imagine yet. Much of the symbolic language comes from the OT. Remember the Bible is ultimately one unified story. And this is the climatic ending. You can't just pick out a novel from the shelf and turn to the last chapter and expect to understand and appreciate whats going on. But thats what we'll try to do today. Obviously I don't have time to cover everything in detail but lets focus on 3 main themes here.
Intro: The topic assigned to me is called "Return to Me" - a sermon about repentance, turning back to God. We could look at this topic from so many different angles but here's why I'm preaching from . In the familiar Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Son leaves his father and squanders his inheritance. When does he decide to come home? When he was sitting with the pigs thinking to himself, "Man even the servants in my father's house eat better food than this!" Its not a perfect analogy but I hope you get the point. Its when we realise just what we are missing out on that we will be motivated to return. My goal today is to make you home sick. The Book of Revelation was written to churches that had all kinds of different problems. Some of them were suffering, persecuted by the world. Some of them were compromising, allowing the church to become like the world. And so the apostle John is given these visions, some of them are very scary, but some of them are so wonderfully beautiful, both to encourage and challenge the church to return and remain faithful to Christ. Repentance comes when people catch a glimpse of the horrors of hell and the happiness of heaven. Some people warn that if you think about heaven too much then you won't be of any use here on earth. Firstly I haven't met anyone like that, have you? Our problem is we don't think about heaven enough. We are so earthly-minded. Thinking only of the present and thinking only of whats right in front of us, what we can see and touch here. Thats why we always focus on things that don't matter. And love things that won't last. I even know of professing Christians who don't want Jesus to come back. They rather have a jolly good time here thank you very much. Heaven sounds boring. Unfortunately our idea of heaven is mostly drawn from cartoons. People in white gowns playing harps etc. Or from books written by people who have supposedly been to heaven and came back. The most gracious thing I can say about that is: let's stick to the Bible. It's the most dependable source. It has all that we need to know. Anyway what we are looking at today is the final state of the new heaven and new earth which nobody has ever been to because Jesus hasn't come back yet. Right now, if you're a believer and you die now, you body will go to the grave, but your soul will to go be with Jesus in heaven. Contrary to popular belief, thats not the end of the story. Eventually when Jesus does finally return at the end, there will be a resurrection (). Resurrection doesn't mean we will live forever spiritually. Resurrection means we will have our physical bodies restored to us again. Of course our bodies will be newer and better. They will be incorruptible. The point I'm making is our final hope is not that our souls will escape this earth to go to heaven. Our final hope is that we will have resurrection bodies in a radically new heaven and a new earth forever. Its this new heaven and a new earth that we are looking at today.
One last preliminary note. Like the rest of the Book of Revelation this passage is full of symbolism. Images that represent something else. Its not because God wants to make it hard to understand but to help us understand because we simply don't have categories for them.
For example: say you met a tribe of people on a remote island who are completely disconnected from the modern world. How are you going to explain to them what a car is? They don't have a word for it in their language. They've never seen one before.
Now if they know what a horse is, and what metal is, then maybe you can say: A car is a metal horse that we ride. With the strength of 200 horse (horsepower).
You have to use language and concepts that they are familiar with to explain realities they are not familiar with. That is what John, inspired by the Holy Spirit is doing here. He's using symbolic language here to describe what we cannot even imagine yet.    Much of the symbolic language comes from the OT. Remember the Bible is ultimately one unified story. And this is the climatic ending. You can't just pick out a novel from the shelf and turn to the last chapter and expect to understand and appreciate whats going on. But thats what we'll try to do today. Obviously I don't have time to cover everything in detail but lets focus on 3 main themes here.

Whats is different?

Whats new about the new heaven and new earth? To answer that we notice:

a) What is no longer there

i) No more sea
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
For those who love sailing or marine biology, this doesn’t sound like good news right?
But its okay there’s still a river of water of life (22:1). Okay so no sea but got river. What about lakes? Besides the lake of fire of course.
But is John really trying to give us the topography of the new earth? e.g Are there still deserts, are there snowy mountains etc? I don’t think thats the point.
The Jews were not a sea-faring people. They much preferred to stay on land. For them the sea was considered a place of chaos and danger.
So that even in the Bible the sea can be used to represent the realm of evil that threatens God’s people. In the beast (the antichrist) comes out of the sea.
But now, “there was no longer any sea” on this new earth. Our eternal home will be completely free of chaos and evil.
This point is illustrated in different ways.
ii) No more night : On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.
From vs 2 onwards the vision shifts focus to a city. The New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven. Heaven will be on this new earth. I’ll say more about that later.
But I want to highlight that in this city of God, the gates will never be shut.
Now for us modern people, our cities are no longer protected with walls and gates. The enemy can easily fly over our walls and bomb us from the air. So there’s no point.
But in the ancient world, walls and gates kept out the enemy. Usually the gates were open during the daytime for business, for trading etc. Plus during the daytime its easier to see your enemy coming from far.
But at night, its more dangerous. Even today, with our night lights in the city, its still more dangerous. Parents will still tells their children, especially girls, be very careful when you go out at night. So in the ancient world the city gates will be shut at night.
But at night, its more dangerous. Even today, with our night lights in the city, its still considered dangerous.
Parents will still tell their children, especially girls, be very careful when you go out at night. You could be robbed or rapped, or kidnapped or killed.
And we will make sure our doors are locked.
In the ancient world the city gates will be shut at night. But in the new Jerusalem, you won’t need to shut the gates because there will be no night.
But in the new Jerusalem, there will be no night.
Don’t miss the symbolism. The apostle John loves to play with light and darkness metaphors. You see it throughout John’s writings.
e.g Jesus is the light of world. Or if you remember 1 John “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother is still in darkness”.
Or how about at the Last Supper. When Judas leaves them to go betray Jesus, John writes “And it was night” (). Now of course it was night time.
But its also John’s way of saying, that this is the time when the darkness of evil is allowed to gain the upper hand for a while. “It was night”.
But in our eternal home, there will be no more night. But always light. We will be perfectly safe. The evil forces are completely defeated.
iii) No more curse
I
No longer will there be any curse.
In chapter 22 onwards, the vision shifts focus to a garden.
Everything began in a garden. The Garden of Eden. And now its ends with a Garden too.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve sinned, so God cursed the earth.
Until today, we humans experience all kinds of pain and frustrations as we work and live out our days on this earth.
But now, because sin has been completely removed, there will no longer be any curse.
Small wonder then…why...
iv) There will be no more death, sorrow or pain.
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Are you in much pain right now? Perhaps due to some chronic sickness. Hold on. Its only temporary.
Perhaps someone has mistreated you. Hurt you in some way. Hold on, its only temporary.
Perhaps someone has mistreated you. Hurt you in some way. Hold on, its only temporary.
Maybe its a pain of another kind. Are you in much sorrow right now? Lonely and heartbroken? Hold on. Its only temporary.
Are you in much sorrow right now? Heartbroken? Hold on. Its only temporary.
Maybe you have just lost someone. Death has taken away someone you love. Hold on.
Are you in much sorrow right now? Maybe you have just lost someone. Death has taken away someone you love. Hold on.
Are you in much sorrow right now? Maybe you have just lost someone. Death has taken away someone you love. Hold on.
Are you in much sorrow right now? Maybe you have just lost someone. Death has taken away someone you love. Hold on.
God will wipe every tear from your eyes. And its not that He will have to keep wiping away them. No its once and for all.
For there will be no more sadness. There will be no more reason to be sad. In our eternal home, there will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain.
It will be a perfectly happy place. Because it will be a perfectly holy place.
Optional: No baddies?
Now that we’ve seen what would not be there. Lets focus on what will be there.

b) What is there (and central)

In short: God will be there.
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 I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”.
The Bible’s story is about God’s plan to have God’s people in God’s place enjoying God’s presence. (Repeat)
Thats how the whole story began. Adam and Eve (God’s people) in the Garden of Eden (God’s place) enjoying God’s presence. God walked in the Garden in the cool of the day ().
But, God’s people sinned. And they were exiled from God’s place, separated from God’s presence.
But God is so loving that He still wants us to be with Him. So the rest of the Bible’s story involves God’s plan to bring His people back to His place to enjoy His presence again.
So the rest of the Bible’s story involves God’s plan to bring His people into His place to enjoy His presence again.
Israel, God’s people was redeemed from Egypt and brought to the Promised Land (God’s place) to enjoy God’s presence.
Obviously a Holy God cannot really dwell with sinful humans but God chose Jerusalem to be the place where His temple will be.
God chose Jerusalem to be the place where His temple, His dwelling place will be. It was a reminder of God’s presence among His people. But it was also a reminder that sin has separated them from Him.
Only God’s chosen priests could enter into the temple. And only the High Priest, could enter into the the innermost part of the temple, The Holy of Holies.
The Holy of Holies was where the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s presence, was kept.
The High Priest couldn’t enter anytime he liked (you know what today I think I’ll go see God) but only once a year.
And not in any way he liked. He has to be protected. The High Priest has to clothe himself with holy garments, and be covered by the smoke of incense, so that he will not die as he enters into the Holy of Holies.
Because he is a sinner. How can a sinner stand in the presence of a Holy God?
You know the rest of the story. Israel sinned again and again without repentance. And so finally God exiled His people from His place. Just like Adam and Eve were exiled from Eden, Israel is exiled from the Promised Land. The Temple (the symbol of God’s presence) was destroyed.
Inside the temple is a special room, the Holy of Holies, where
The place where sinners
Humans now sinful can no longer just walk in and enjoy God’s presence. Only the high priest. The place where sinners
And that is basically the story of the OT. Israel, God’s people were redeemed from Egypt
You know the rest of the story. Israel sinned again and again without repentance. And so finally God exiled His people from His place the land, the Temple (the symbol of God’s presence) was destroyed.
But even as they were going into exile, God’s prophets spoke of a time when God’s people will return. But the way they described it, they language they used was so fantastic.
It sounded more than just a return to the land of Israel. It sounded like a return to the Garden of Eden. But even better than that.
And of course it has to be. Whats the point of going back where history could just repeat itself. No its way better than the original state.
What the prophets described was a place where God will dwell with His people forever. And thats fulfilled here in the new heaven and the enw earth.
Remember Jerusalem was the place God chose to house His temple. It was God’s dwelling place on earth.
But this is a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven. Heaven will be on earth. Radically transforming the earth. Because God’s permanent dwelling place with be here.
In fact we are given the measurements of this new Jerusalem.
In fact we are given the measurements of this new Jerusalem.
The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He [the angel] measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long.
In fact we are
Basically the city is a perfect cube. Its width and height and length are exactly the same. Whats the significance of that?
There’s only one perfect cube in the whole Bible: The Holy of Holies (). This whole city will be a Holy of Holies.
Its not like the old Jerusalem which had a temple and inside the temple is the Holy of Holies which only the high priest could enter once a year. No in this new Jerusalem, there’s no temple.
Notice in . I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
Remember when Jesus came in the flesh. He said “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days”. And then John comments “But the temple he had spoken of was his body” ().
Its Jesus himself who is God dwelling among man. He is the true temple where God and sinners are reconciled.
The whole city is the Holy of Holies where all of God’s people have complete unlimited access to freely enjoy God’s wonderful presence always.
Its through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that God’s plan to have God’s people dwell in God’s place enjoying God’s presence. finally dwelling in God’s place enjoying God’s presence forever
And since both Jesus and the Father both dwell in this city and this city is filled with their glory, why do you need a physical temple anymore? Its completely redundant.
There would be no need for a temple in the New Jerusalem. The whole city is the Holy of Holies where all of God’s people have complete unlimited access to freely enjoy God’s wonderful presence always.
The whole city is the Holy of Holies where all of God’s people have complete unlimited access to freely enjoy God’s wonderful presence always.
Thats also why the city gates are never shut. Its another way of saying there will be unlimited access to God.
Thats why there will be no more night. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
Thats why there’s no more sorrow. In his presence is fullness of joy at His right hand are pleasures forevermore ().
Thats why no more night for God’s glory shines all the time.
And so God’s people will finally dwell in God’s place enjoying God’s presence forever.
God’s people will finally dwell in God’s place enjoying God’s presence forever.
In his presence is fullness of joy.
But there’s one more layer of symbolism here. In 21:2 it says that the new Jerusalem is beautifully dressed like a bride on her wedding day.
But there’s one more layer of symbolism here.
In 21:9-10 it says that the new Jerusalem is the bride of Christ.
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb”. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.”
John’s told he will be shown the wife of the Lamb but what he really sees is this new Jerusalem.
Now obviously Jesus is not married to the walls or buildings of the city. The city represents His people.
We all know that in the NT, the bride of Christ is the church. Not the building, but the people. Christians.
And we all know that in the NT, the bride of Christ is the church. Not the building, but the people. Christians.
This new Jerusalem represents them.
In this city has a great, high wall with twelves gates. On these twelves gates were written the names of the twelves tribes of Israel.
In this city has a great, high wall with twelves gates. On these twelves gates were written the names of the twelves tribes of Israel.
In this city has a great, high wall with twelves gates. On these twelves gates were written the names of the twelves tribes of Israel.
In The wall of the city had twelves foundations, and on them were the names of the twelves apostles of the Lamb.
This is a way of saying that this city represents the totality of God’s people. All of God’s people, both from the Old and the New Testament are here.
So its a mixing of metaphors. On the one hand, this new Jerusalem represents God’s dwelling place, but it also represents God’s people.
This is a way of saying that this city represents the totality of God’s people. All of God’s people, both from the Old and the New Testament are here.
So on the one hand, this new Jerusalem represents God’s dwelling place, but it also represents God’s people.
But whats the point of mixing the metaphors?
God will dwell in His people. In His beloved.
So intimate will our union with Christ be, that the only image that comes close is the intimate union between a man and his wife on their wedding.
So intimate will the union between Christ and us be, that the only image that comes close is the intimate union between a man and his wife on their wedding day.
In weddings sometimes we say that the couple were made for each other. Well we were made for God. And we will be Him and live happily ever after.
All this is possible only because of Christ’s great sacrifice love for us.
I think thats why John keeps referring to Jesus as the Lamb, the wife of the Lamb. Its to emphasize the fact that He was slain. He was sacrificed.
Jesus is the husband who died for His wife. To make her pure. So that she can be with Him in perfect union.
All your Korean dramas lose to this. This is the greatest love story ever.
We have a saying ‘all good things must come to an end’. But not true here.
Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God.
Notice how God centered the new heaven and the new earth will be.
Now that we had a glimpse of whats is so different about the new heaven and new earth. How different should we live now?
Notice how God centered the new heaven and the new earth will be. I know that sounds like almost a redundant statement but think about it. When most people talk about heaven, they’re saying “I’m looking forward to seeing my grandma.” Or “I’m looking forward to not being sick anymore.
tree of life (on both sides is like the city gates wont be shut = unlimited free access) God Christ
God dwelling in us its foreign The holy spirit dwells with us thats why in a secondary sense we too are said to be the temple of God.
I know that sounds like almost a redundant statement but think about it. When most people talk about heaven, they’re saying “I’m looking forward to seeing my grandma.” Or “I’m looking forward to not being sick anymore.
Its not just GOd will be there. Its a consummated marriage.
Buts its all about God. Heaven is only heaven because God is at the center. Just as He should be.
God reigns. Every blessing flows from the throne of God.
Notice how God centered the new heaven and the new earth will be. I know that sounds like almost a redundant statement but think about it. When most people talk about heaven, they’re saying “I’m looking forward to seeing my grandma.” Or “I’m looking forward to not being sick anymore.
Now there’s so much more to say. But I really did need to move on to implications.
ii) Why is it different?
Now that we had a glimpse of whats is so different about the new heaven and new earth. How different should we live now?
Perhaps the best part is it will be like this forever and ever. ‘All good things must come to an end’? Not true here.

How different should we live now?

Not everyone will be able to enjoy all this. Please notice
Please notice “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those who names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
: “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those who names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
How do you know if your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life? By putting your faith in the Lamb who was slain.
First of all you must realise that you have wandered away from the God who created you. You have tried to replace Him with other things. Other gods.
It doesn’t matter if you are an atheist. We all worship something. We all look to something or someone to get what only God can give us. We all rely on something or someone to give us happiness, meaning in life, protection or worth.
Whoever or whatever those things are, you have forsaken the one true God.
Jesus Christ, the son of God who became a man, and took our place on the Cross, to die for our sins.
And if you believe in Him, trust in Him, then all your sins are forgiven. You are reconciled to God as His child. And you will inherit all this for free.
Christ is the husband who died for His wife. To make her pure.
And if you believe in Him, trust in Him, then all your sins are forgiven. You are reconciled to God as His child. And you will inherit all this for free.
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 water without cost from the spring of the water of life.
Its free because its already been paid for. By the blood of the Lamb.
The only condition is that you are thirsty. That you realise your need of God.
That in your sins you have been searching in all the wrongs places, for things only God can give you. Acknowledging that He is the only one who can satisfy your deepest needs. -we don't need bucket list (u wan to die without visiting this place? Tell them oh I will visit it in my resurrection body when it's all made new) -remain faithful until death -but not just reactive, but proactively we can sacrifice
-we don't need bucket list (u wan to die without visiting this place? Tell them oh I will visit it in my resurrection body when it's all made new) -remain faithful until death -but not just reactive, but proactively we can sacrifice
Tourists research their destination and prepare accordingly. holiness - joni tada quote
Only born again ppl will enjoy heaven not just enter it. Heaven would be hell for someone who does not love God.
The fact that we will reign/judge angels means
Symbolism: heavy on its use not to make it hard to understand but to help us understand. Because we simply don't have the categories for it. how to explain to someone a car. Its a metal horse! You have to use language and concepts that they are familiar with to explain realities they are not familiar with.
Everyone will be single again one day. Some things are said of their spouse that should only be said of God. Marriage between humans are only temporary because its a shadow of the reality that we will all have with Christ in the new heaven and new earth.
Cowardice is condemned. My fear of coming to Christ to have problems fixed will not prepare ppl to be faithful until death. I think many Christians will be shocked "this is not what I signed up for". But Jesus told us to count the cost. It should be even if God blesses me with health and wealth and love, praise God. But even if not praise God. Because all this is rubbish compared to Him. And this ushers into the next point of what is central in heaven.
C.S lewis on rewards See Carson on James (middle). The joys and pleasures of heaven are the same as sex for a loving couple that just married (hence why marriage is used as an illustration). In contrast to sex with a prostitute paid with money.
Outtake:
If this sounds very new to you its because this doctrine has been sadly neglected. But its a very basic Christian truth. Its even in the Apostles' Creed: "I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting". In fact in the early church if you insisted that our final hope is that our souls will go to heaven you will be accused as a Gnostic heretic. True Christians, believed in the resurrection of the body.
Scholars now recognise that Revelation is the NT book that uses the OT the most.
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