All Things New (Revelation 21:1-4)
On July 30, 2020, David Camp called me and asked if I would move to Deer Park and work with the church here. I jumped at the opportunity. No, I hadn’t met many of you; I had, however, spent time with the elders and their wives, so I knew this was a good church.
When David called and I accepted, I knew much would need to change. I hadn’t worked in nearly five years because of my dystonia. I would need to move from Virginia to Texas—that meant getting new driver’s licenses and new tags for the cars. I would need to find new doctors. I would need to find a place to live—Tammy left that decision with me; fortunately, she was pleased with my selection.
You may never have moved from one state to another, but you surely know the joy of something new. Maybe you saved money to buy your dream home. Maybe it was simply remodeling your “old” home with a new kitchen or a new bathroom. Maybe you didn’t remodel but you bought new furniture—a new bedroom or living room suite—or new appliances. Maybe you purchased a new car that you just absolutely loved. Maybe after years and years of hard work, you landed your dream job.
This morning’s text is about new things, but it’s not just about a few things which are new. The message of this text is: “God makes all things new.”
Remember, if you will, the historical context of this passage. The Christians to whom John wrote were facing death daily. If they were faithful to Jesus instead of worshiping the emperor, they could easily face painful deaths. Throughout Revelation, John mentioned the martyrs.
- The church in Pergamum did not deny the faith “even in the days of Antipas [Jesus’s] faithful witness, who was killed among” them (Rev 2:13).
- When the Lamb opened the fifth seal, John saw “under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne” (Rev 6:9).
- The ones who were participants in the first resurrection “had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God” (Rev 20:4).
Since these saints were suffering so intently for the gospel, Jesus gave John the Revelation to encourage his people to remain faithful. If you were being asked to lay down your life for the gospel, imagine how encouraging it would be to learn that “God makes all things new.” You would want to know that God was making a new heaven and a new earth and that he would annihilate all pain and hurt and sorrow in this world.
With those historical lenses in place, let’s examine our text.
Scripture (Revelation 21:1-4)
John saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. This new creation recalls the state of the original, perfect creation before sin entered the world.
The sea was no more. When John saw God’s throne, “before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal” (Rev 4:6). That sea prevented John from getting close to God; the sea separated John from God. The removal of the sea could indicate that God would no longer be separated from his people.
Also, the first beast came out of the sea (Rev 13:1). The removal of the sea could indicate that all sources of evil are gone.
John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. The city’s coming down out of heaven shows God is the city’s Creator. Jewish writings and coins referred to Jerusalem as “the holy city.”
The city was adorned as a bride for her husband. Cities were often personified in ancient writings—Jerusalem was often personified in the Old Testament. An ancient bride spent great care and effort to prepare and adorn herself prior to her wedding.
The city is here called a bride. As John was given a detailed look at the holy city, an angel told him, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev 21:9). Throughout the New Testament, the church is called Jesus’s bride (e.g., Eph 5:22-32). Although the city comes down from heaven, many people have identified this city as heaven itself.
How could heaven in any way be depicted as the bride of the Lamb? A city refers to its residents as well as to its physical space. The city is a bride because its individual residents are brides of Christ. The picture here, I believe, is the church at rest inside the new Jerusalem.
John heard a loud voice from the throne saying the dwelling place of God is with men. Notice it’s a loud voice—everyone needs to hear this message. Notice the voice comes from the throne—either God is speaking or the speaking is being done with God’s authority. God’s dwelling would be with man—man would no longer be separated from God.
God here promised to rid the world of sin and all its consequences.
- God will wipe every tear from their eyes. “Will wipe away” in Greek is called a “predictive future.” A predictive future gives a promise. You know how sure God’s promises are. The Greek syntax of “every tear” means every single one; not one tear will be left unwiped.
- Death will be no more. There will be no more dying for being faithful to God instead of the emperor.
- There shall be no more mourning. Families and churches will no longer mourn those who die for their faith in Jesus.
- There shall be no more crying. All tears have been wiped away. There will be no cause for even a single tear.
- There will no more pain. All the painful ways of dying for one’s faith in Jesus will be no more.
“The former things have passed away.” The Greek syntax here means that the former things are completely gone. These things won’t be coming back—they are gone forever.
“God makes all things new.”
You cannot possibly see this passage in the same light as our first-century brethren. You aren’t in danger of dying because you’ve come to worship this morning; your loved ones aren’t in prison for their faithfulness to Jesus; and you’re not facing untold physical pain for confessing Jesus as Lord. As much as you might try, I just don’t think you could ever fully get what these brethren faced.
However, you do struggle in this world. Maybe you’re sitting here this morning in great physical pain, and it took everything you had to make it to the assembly. Maybe you’re having trouble with your house—a leaky roof or a toilet that keeps running or an appliance that’s broken. Maybe you’re concerned about your job and whether or not you’ll be employed this time next year. Maybe you’re having a family crisis no one else in the assembly even knows is happening. Maybe you’re struggling financially; maybe rising inflation has you pinching every single penny. Maybe your faith is suffering, and you just don’t know how much longer you can trust God. Maybe you’re struggling with a sin you just can’t seem to put away from you.
This text speaks powerfully to you and reminds you that “God makes all things new.” How should you live in the hope that “God makes all things new?”
One: Look at your Pain.
To get through this world of hurt and sorrow, you need to rely on God’s hope for a new world. To develop that sense of hope in the world to come, I want you to spend some time looking at how bad your life is.
We’re all richly blessed, especially compared to many in the world. However, your pain and suffering are real. “Man who is born of a woman is few of days, and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). “All [a man’s] days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest” (Eccl 2:23).
Contrary to what some would have us believe, even the Christian’s life is no “bed of roses.” Paul and his traveling companions suffered so much in Asia that they “despaired of life itself” (2 Cor 1:8). After the Hebrew Christians were first converted, they “endured a hard struggle with sufferings” (Heb 10:32).
What is your “hard struggle with sufferings” this morning? Get really specific with yourself about what you don’t like in your life. What do you wish were different? What causes you misery? What causes your tears to flow? What causes you great anxiety?
Take a long, hard look at your pain in order to anticipate that Day when God makes all things new.
Two: Look for your Prize.
Why would I ever ask you to look at how bad your life is? Because I want you to see how glorious the life to come will be!
Look at the splendors of heaven. In this section of Revelation, John described the church at rest in that holy city, the new Jerusalem. Take time to read his description of that glorious abode. As best you can, with your human limitations, imagine what that city will be like. Imagine your joy when death is no more, and you’re reunited with loved ones. Imagine the splendor your eyes will behold in that heavenly city. Imagine your love when you gaze upon the face of the One who died for you. Imagine the peace of having your sin all behind you.
Heaven is going to be worth everything you’ve ever given up (and so much more!).
“God makes all things new.” One of the things that will be new is that sin will have been annihilated. Thus, those who live in sin will be cast into that place of eternal death: Revelation 21:8. If you live in sin, you will not gain the prize.
Do you need to give up sin in your life this morning?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.