Watch the livestream beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. After the livestream is finished, the video will be available to watch at any time.
Church Service Leader(s):
Senior Pastor Ryan Wolfe, Liturgy and Sermon
I have an app on my phone that I’m a little unhappy with. You see, I’ve been using this app for at least seven or eight years. It connects with our church membership software and lets me look up people’s phone numbers and addresses wherever I’m at. It’s great, but it’s old and it could use a couple updates. So when I saw the update coming out, I was excited. Until I downloaded it. It went from version 1.1.5 to 1.1.6. If you’re a computer person you might be familiar with the idea of version numbers. A piece of software comes out and the first version is numbered 1.0. Then as the developers start adding and improving little things they start changing the version number. You get version 1.1 or 1.2. This goes one and on until a major change happens. Then they don’t just change the numbers behind the decimal but the number at the front. Changing from version 1.1.5 to 1.1.6 means nothing really exciting happens. I was hoping for version 2.0. That would be a big deal.
In the book of Revelation Jesus reveals to us that when he returns and changes the world it won’t be a minor version upgrade – it will be a whole new thing. A 2.0 kind of change, if you will. Jesus’ return will mean something completely different for the world and the believers in the new world. It will mean a new home with God. A new peace with God. Earth 2.0 is everything we could want, and nothing that we don’t.
In the first half of the book of Revelation we find multiple different pictures of heaven. A place where we will gather around Jesus and worship him. A place of countless multitudes from every tribe and language and people giving honor to the Lamb who sacrificed himself for us. A place where believers called out of this world of tribulation stand in glory before God’s throne forever. In the next three weeks of worship we will be looking at the last day and the eternity that follows.
Our text begins, “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.” We know what Judgment Day will be like. It will start out like any other. We’ll be working and playing and laughing and crying and all of a sudden the trumpets will sound. We’ll look up and see Jesus returning from the clouds the same way he ascended up to them. On that day, John says in verse 4, “the old order of things [will] pass away.”
How exactly that will happen, we don’t know. It seems that the new heaven and new earth will be created from the destruction of the current one. In Romans 8 Paul talks about the effect of sin on the world. He describes the world as groaning and eagerly anticipating freedom from the weight of sin. Peter paints a graphic scene of destruction in the third chapter of his second letter. There he describes a cleansing fire so hot that it destroys or converts the very elements
that make up everything in the world. Whether it’s an entirely new creation or a perfectly renewed one doesn’t matter I suppose – when Jesus returns everything will be different. Our new home will be a place of beauty and peace, unlike anything we’ve ever experienced here. A place so perfect, so removed from the world that we know, that God doesn’t tell us what’s there. No, he tells us what isn’t. “No more death or mourning or crying or pain.” Those things that virtually define our world here won’t even be a part of the next. Our new home is not a version upgrade – it’s a whole new thing. 2.0
And not only will we have a whole new home. We’ll have a whole new home with God!. In verse two John sees something else new. “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” Apparently, brides in John’s day put just as much effort into looking beautiful for their wedding as American brides do today. Now, I might argue that modern brides put too much work and too much money into the wedding dress and jewelry and such, but there’s no denying the fact that when the groom sees his bride, beautifully dressed and prepared for the wedding – it is an awesome sight. Here, John sees the people of God, the inhabitants of a new Jerusalem prepared and beautifully dressed. How did they get that way? In a part of Scripture that we use for weddings all the time, listen to Paul describe Christians in Ephesians 5, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish.”
Throughout Scripture God pictures his relationship with his people as a marriage. The church is described as the bride of God, the bride of Christ. But as we picture the glory to come, let’s not forget the grace that makes it possible. How is it that we sinners can come into this perfect place? We know that in the eyes of a holy and perfect God, we could never claim to be without stain or wrinkle or blemish. If the clothes that we wear showed the quality of our hearts before God, what would they look like? Torn? Ragged? Stained? I think wrinkles would be the least of the problems with my appearance. Take as just one example the list of blessed qualities in our Gospel lesson. The poor, the hungry, the weeping and persecuted. Do any of us look for that kind of life? Or do we complain when those blessings come to us?
Our text only includes the first seven verses of Revelation 21. I thought about adding the 8th verse, but I wanted our focus to be on the future we will enjoy as believers. Nevertheless, the 8th verse ought to lead us to sing praises to God right now for the future that he saved us from. Because it tells us not what we’re saved for but what we’re saved from. Jesus says there, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.”
Make no mistake, our spiritual clothes are stained with sin, and torn with transgressions of every kind. Yet we will never taste the lake of burning sulfur. We will never go to that place because God has given us a new place in Christ. Jesus changed everything. Instead of death coming to us as the wages of our sin, he took it on himself on the cross. Instead of judging us on our broken and sinful lives, God judges us based on Christ’s perfect life. It’s a little sad that we don’t wear robes on Saturday nights because we lose the amazing picture that Revelation paints often. Believers always wear robes of white in this book. It’s a powerful picture of that robe of Christ’s righteousness that covers our tattered lives of sin. I think of it every time I put
a robe on for worship. Jesus has washed and cleansed us. He prepared us and made us beautiful. We are the bride of heaven and our place is not in the burning lake, but at the head table of the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb.
I touched on it in last week’s sermon. We are sons, not slaves, remember? In heaven too we will be with God, not as his servants but as his sons. Jesus says at the end, “To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” Imagine the new heavens and the new earth that God has prepared for you: a perfect home without mourning or tears. A perfect place with God in which you celebrate as a bride at her wedding. What love God shows us in washing us clean, in calling us home, and in preparing us for heaven. We can hardly wait for that heavenly home.
Our place in that new home with God waits for us. Think of our worship theme said backwards – “they in glory shine, but we feebly struggle.” Today we celebrate the saints triumphant already home in heaven. But don’t think their glory doesn’t mean anything to us already now. We have to wait for that glory, but knowing their place, and our future, gives us a new peace with God already now. Sometimes I think when we talk about the blessings of heaven, we think only in the future tense. What it will mean for us then. But recognize what it means for us now. You are already washed and made clean. You are already a child of God. Your place at heaven’s banquet is already reserved. Your home is already prepared.
These are blessings that bring us peace now. So if you carry guilt for sins of the past, be at peace. If you worry about future things in this world, be at peace. If you struggle and suffer, if you are tempted and tired – brothers and sisters, be at peace. Jesus tells us here in this text that he makes everything new. Rejoice that that includes you as well. A new creation in Christ, waiting for a new home in heaven. Not just a little better. A perfect Earth 2.0. To God be the glory. Amen.