Monday, January 19, 2015

Heaven - the Land of "better than" and "no more"

Revelation 21:4-5 "and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. 5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”

Personal note: As I noted yesterday, my dad went to be with the Lord several days ago. As he basks in the presence of Jesus, his 56 of 73 years of walking the Christian walk are deeply imprinted on my mind. These next several posts are written with the idea of purposefully reflecting on the teaching of the New Heavens and Earth in Revelation 21-22, as well as the Biblical teaching on Heaven in general. May the reader be blessed today as you read about how Heaven is the "better than land" and "the land of no more". 

Introduction & Review
In yesterday's post we did a brief overview of Revelation 21-22 to begin  a new series of posts. Though Revelation 21-22 occupies 2 of the 1189 chapters of God's Word, the "Age to Come" or what we're calling "Eternal Heavenly Glory" will know no end.  Here is a summary of the outline of Revelation 21-22 from yesterday:

I. Eternal Heavenly Glory Defined Revelation 21:1-3

II. Eternal Heavenly Glory Described Revelation 21:4-22:5

III. Final Invitation to Eternal Heavenly Glory 22:6-21

Yesterday we saw that in Revelation 21:1-3 a brief summary of the three main areas of Eternal Heavenly Glory to be described by John: New Everything (21:1); New City (21:2) and the throne of God and the Lamb (21:3). Those are the three main points John will use in this final vision of the New Heavens and Earth.  In today's post we aim to unpack that first element of "New Everything" (New Heaven's & Earth) in Revelation 21:4-22:5.

"The Land of No More"
Preachers of old have often referred to the New Heavens and New Earth in the Eternal Age to come as "the land of no more".  Consequently this title fits the context since so much referrence is made to what will not be present in the Eternal Heavenly Glory of these chapters.  By noting what is not in the glorious scene or what is "no longer" to remain, we can begin to grasp a little bit of what the Apostle John is communicating. Let the reader note the following things that will be "no more" or "no longer":

1. No longer any sea 21:1
2. No more death 21:4
3. No more mourning 21:4
4. No more crying 21:4
5. No more pain 21:4
6. No more past (i.e former things) 21:4
7. No more debt (i.e without cost) 21:6; 22:17
8. No temple 21:22
9. No sun 21:23; 22:5
10. No moon 21:23
11. No night 21:25; 22:5
12. Nothing unclean 21:27
13. No abomination 21:27
14. No curse 22:5
15. No lamps 22:5

As one preacher describes it: "No more sea means nothing to separate us; No more death means nothing to grieve us; No more pain means nothing to hurt us; No more night means nothing to frighten us and No more curse, therefore nothing to defile us."  

"The land of better than" 
Having considered what this heavenly glory will be missing, we can now consider what will be in the New Heavens and Earth.  Another theme that can be found in Revelation 21-22 is how this Eternal Heavenly Glory is better than anything we know of right now.  Oftentimes I have heard people say that the goal of God is to restore us back to paradise, being that in the first three chapters of Genesis we see paradise lost. I would suggest that God's goal is not merely to restore a paradise lost, rather His aim is to redeem that lost paradise and to make a "better than" paradise. A quick comparison of Genesis 3 and Revelation 21-22 will highlight this thought:

1. Genesis 3 there was death; Revelation 21:4 there is no more death and in 22:1 a river of life

2. Genesis 3 witnesses separation from God; whereas Revelation 21:3, 22:1 sees reconciliation to God

3. Genesis 3 see no access to the tree of life; whereas in Revelation 22:2 there is full access

4. Disease, sickness and pain come out of Genesis 3; whereas healing, wholeness and harmony come out of Revelation 22:2

5. Nothing but curse in Genesis 3; No more curse in Revelation 22:3

6. Broken fellowship persists in Genesis 3; Full fellowship in Revelation 22:3

7. Veiled faces of shame mark Genesis 3; unveiled faces mark Revelation 22:4

8. Darkness sinks into Genesis 3; No more Darkness in Genesis 22:5

9. Mankind lost his position in the first Adam in Genesis 3; All who are in the New Adam by Grace through faith are restored and more in Revelation 22:5

"Better than Heaven"
To add to this "better than theme", the New Heavens and Earth are going to be "better than heaven".  We know of 4 places in scripture defined by the term "heaven".  There is the 1st heaven or sky, the 2nd heaven or universe and the 3rd heaven or where believers go right now to be with the Lord.  In as much as the third heaven is a glorious place (2 Peter 1:11-12) beyond description (2 Corinthians 12:4), we know that the New Heavens spoken of here in these last two chapters of Revelation are beyond and better. 

To illustrate, when my family and I lived in Florida years ago, we would go sometimes to the part of Disney world called "down town Disney". That area was a little town-like place located immediately outside the park.  What many people don't realize is that one can enjoy a taste of the full Disney experience in places like Down Town Disney.  When we would go there we could spend all day without having to pay admission. We also would get on the park monorail and ride for free through the palatial hotel lobbies that dotted the outer perimeter of the vast acrage of Disney.  We could not get over how enjoyable it was. 

However a group of our friends decided to purchase tickets for Debi and me (they took the kids!) to enjoy The Epcot Theme Park and one of its Grandest Hotels. Let me tell you, the experience made Down Town Disney pale in comparision.  Though I had lived only an hour away from Orlando, when I got inside the actual park, I could see why people the world over will spend untold amounts of money to make what could very well be a trip of a life time.  And to think there were two other parks (The Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios) that we had not even seen!

Do you know dear friend, the place where our Christian loved ones and friends go now is undoubtedly glorious and comforting (Luke 16:19-21,25). Such a heavenly reality has gates to welcome us (2 Peter 1:11-12) and is saturated with the very presence of God (2 Corinthians 5:5).  Revelation 4-5 describes a little bit of what the activity and beauty of the third heaven is like, full of light, sound, singing and rejoicing over the glory of God the Father, the Lamb and the Spirit proceeding out from the midst of that throne.  The saints of old pine after it (Psalm 73:24-25).  However the new Heavens and New Earth are going to be "better than" heaven.  How so? To answer that question will require us looking at the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:10-27 and inside that vast metropolis in Revelation 22:1-5 tomorrow. 

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