By Stephen W. Hiemstra
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and
the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind…
The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,”
says the LORD (Isa 65:17-25).
Home! Sweet Home! is the name of hit song written in New York City by John Howard Payne in 1822. Then as now, for most of us nothing is so sweet as place where we grew up—even if only because we possess a selective memory! And God knows this! So the vision of heaven given in Revelation is familiar, yet different in exceeding expectations!
So we groan for our redemption and all of creation groans with us (Romans 8:22-23). As the Apostle Paul reminds us: our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20). Here on earth we are sojourners, travelers, exiles—not even permanent residents! (1 Peter 2:11). So in Revelation 21, we get a glimpse of our eternal home.
Heaven in John’s vision is the new Jerusalem. For Isaiah, the dream of a new Jerusalem had an earthly address—a place where the Babylonian destruction would become a distant memory. In John, the new Jerusalem also had an earthly address—a place where the Roman destruction would become a distant memory.
For us the new Jerusalem does not have an earthly address, but is truly an answer to the prophecy: And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people (Lev 26:12). The presence of God is transformative: heaven is a radiant cube lit by the glory of God and watered from the spring of life freely given (Rev 21:6, 11, 23).
In verses 15-17, we see an angel again with a measuring rod, much like in Ezekiel 40-42. The purpose is not stated but may be to show the heavenly city dwarfs earthly imitations in size and splendor. For it houses the redeemed of all eternity.
This week I attended the funeral of the son of a close friend. In the eulogy, the pastor read from the Gospel of John: In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (John 14:2)
Our comfort with John 14 arises not because we gain a new address or get a glimpse of the real estate, but because we know that God will finally reveal his full glory. And: he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore (Rev 21:4).
Knowing who God is, how he keeps his promises, and how life’s story truly ends, our joy is complete even in the presence of death.
1. Why does John say that the sea had passed away? (v. 1)
2. How does John describe the new heaven? (vv. 1-2)
3. What are the attributes of a new bride that are similar to heaven? (v. 2)
4. What are 5 things that are special about heaven? (vv. 3-7)
5. Who are excluded from heaven and what is their fate? (v. 8)
6. What does heaven look like? (vv. 10-1, 16-21)
7. What is missing from heaven? (vv. 22-23)
8. What is the effect of heaven on the nations? (vv. 24-27)
Chapter 21 of Revelation: Home Sweet Home
Other ways to engage online:
Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.
Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2jaUhI7