Good morning! We're going to start by reading our text for today. If you want to grab your Bible, we'll be in Revelation 21, verses 1 through 8. If you're with us and you don't have a Bible, there's one in the seatback in front of you. You can turn to page 1,041. We're going to be in Revelation 21:1-8. We'll read in verse 1:
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
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, for the former things have passed away.' And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' Also he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'
And 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 from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.'"
This is God's Word.
Good morning! How are you? Good. Some of you are okay. Some of you are alive. Welcome. Guys in the Fellowship Hall, good morning. It's good to be with you. If I don't know you, my name is Brady Goodwin. I'm one of the pastors here at the Dallas Campus. I serve within our Recovery Groups ministry. That just simply means I have the joy and the privilege of walking with men and women as they pursue freedom in Christ in the midst of sin and suffering.
Before I even go any further, what I want to encourage us with is the reality that while some of us may have a particular idea about what we think a setting like that might be, all of us have real problems. All of us have real brokenness. All of us need real hope. It's a joy to be with you this morning because where we've been these last few weeks has been taking the steps through the four weeks of Advent. We have been celebrating the coming of Jesus into the world for us and looking forward with expectant longing to his return.
Today, in particular, we're going to look toward the day when he returns, toward the day we are raised with him and to the day that all that's wrong will be made right. We're going to do this for a number of different reasons. The first is the Scriptures speak to this day all throughout its pages. We see the prophecies that speak to the coming of the incarnation of Christ into the world for sin and for salvation. We also see with it the promise that he will bring about the renewal and restoration of all things.
There's a present promise. There's a future promise. Whether that's Ezekiel 43, which mentions what it looks like for God to dwell in his temple with his people forever, or Isaiah 65 that speaks to almost verbatim what we read in verse 1 that, "I am creating a new heavens and a new earth," all the way up to the New Testament with what Colossians 1 tells us in verses 19 through 20. "For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross."
Paul later in Romans 8 says in verse 11, "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." Later on in Romans 8 in verses 22-24, he is saying, "For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved."
Some of you guys know 1 Corinthians 15 and what it says there. "What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power." Then Philippians 1:6. "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." The Scriptures speak to this day with a remarkable amount of content.
But this is a day that has yet to come in its fullness. We stand between the glory and the wonder of the incarnation and Jesus' death and resurrection and his return. It's what we call the "already not yet" of the kingdom. You guys have heard that phrase used here before. It just simply means Jesus has come. With his resurrection, he has inaugurated God's kingdom, but the full consummation of that kingdom awaits the day when he returns.
If you look at your lives, this is evident. Sometimes it's painfully evident because we are all people who bear witness to the fact that all has not yet been made right. All of us see brokenness and suffering. All of us see the proof of our frailties all around us. Some of you guys had a really great week with your families, right? It's Christmastime, looking forward to the New Year. Maybe a little bit of extra time off. You had a lot of celebrating about the time you were able to spend with those you love and the food you were able to eat, the enjoyment of celebrating Jesus' birth.
For some of you, the exact same thing was a nightmare. Your family may be the very source of that brokenness. It's not only that, but it could be the first time this year represents the marking of an anniversary of losing a loved one. Or it's the first time where we have walked through this season in a prolonged bout with a specific illness. Or it's the first time we have looked upon the aftermath of divorce, whether for ourselves or whether for those whom we love.
It could be the fact that some of us are walking through the struggle with infertility and the grief that comes with miscarriage or the fact that some of us have never tasted the hope of what it looks like to be expectant with the joy of bringing a child into the world. It could be a battle with addiction, a continual wrestle with anxiety, with fear, or with anger. I would be willing to bet none of us need anyone to tell us this season can be very difficult for those who are in the midst of struggle or suffering.
While our hearts stir with what's often a deep longing for relief, for restoration, for renewal, too often even these desires can terminate only on what's right in front of us and what's going to ease our pain right now. We can end up in a place where we run to things that, in and of themselves, are not bad things, but seen wrongly become the place where we run to to find relief and to find hope and to find worth and meaning. They always disappoint. That could be food. That could be sex. That could be even something we look at and say, "Well, this isn't necessarily great," but we run to it, like anger or bitterness or fear.
None of these things can satisfy the longing within our hearts. It could even be material stuff, right? Some of you guys, a few years ago, we would have been like, "Oh, didn't you see how awesome it was that I got an iPod for Christmas?" Now it's like, "That's so dated." Whatever it was, right? You got a new car for Christmas, and you're getting a door ding in the parking lot right now. You're going to go outside, and you're going to go, "It's all over." It doesn't matter what it is, when we run to it, it's giving us a false promise.
John, the author of Revelation, who also wrote the gospel of John and the epistles of John (1, 2, and 3 John), is speaking to a group of Christians who are standing face-to-face with the reality of brokenness and suffering and, in fact, persecution, where they are. They knew the sting of death. John is writing for their encouragement, but he is also doing it to give them a glimpse of what's to come when the suffering and brokenness end and where their hope truly lies.
Here's where our text meets us. John is saying there is a hope for us. There is a hope we desperately need. There is a glorious future reality that all of us long for that represents the ultimate fulfillment of what God has promised, where brokenness is restored and eternity is ushered in. It's the completion of what Christmas has begun. Tullian Tchividjian, who is a pastor and writer in Florida, had a blog post this week where he called Christmas "the beachhead of God's campaign against sin and sadness."
What John is telling us today is this is the ultimate consummation of God's victory in that war. This is where we're going today. We're going to see there is a future hope for us. There is the ultimate consummation of God's promises for us, but from this, we're going to also see there is, in fact, a present hope that, seen rightly, is going to change everything about how we live.
Then we're going to see our desires and our longings we experience today show us something very important about what it means to become partakers of this hope. We're going to see there's a future hope, a present hope, and a way we can become partakers of this hope. Let's look again. Verse 1. "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God…"
What are we seeing? We're seeing the promise of a new creation, a new heaven and a new earth. We're seeing the promise of the kingdom of God in its fullness. The future hope for God's people is the resurrection from the dead and, with it, life in eternity in a new restored creation. What I want to do is point to just a few things we need to see about what John is showing us. We could spend all day looking at this.
Some of us, that's even something fun we do around the house, right? You might talk and go, "What is it going to be like in eternity?" You go, "Well, I want to be a baker. I want to be…" (Whatever it is you want to be.) If it doesn't happen in your house, I'm sorry for being weird, but it happens with us. We're just going to look at a couple of things John shows us.
1. The new creation is physical. Just as we will be raised with transformed, glorified bodies, so too will creation be transformed in a glorious physical reality. This isn't a place where disembodied spirits go and sit on a cloud and play the harp, though there may be harp playing that happens in the new heaven and the new earth, which is okay. But it's not the only thing we're going to be doing. It's not going to be as if we're just an apparition with wings, with a little seat on top of our cloud so that we can play our harp and a little cloud music stand.
It's physical. Just as the body is raised physical, glorious, and transformed, so too will creation bear the same mark, that physical aspect. Our brothers and sisters in the Lord who have passed on before us are not in this reality today. They are with the Lord. They are in his presence and are partaking in unspeakable joy and peace. But even the Scriptures would say they long for that day when Jesus returns and ushers in with him the new heavens and the new earth. This is a day that's coming for us, but it's a physical reality.
2. The new creation, in addition to being physical, is also new. You go, "Okay, yeah, new creation. Of course." But it's not newness in the sense that we often understand it with relation to time. John is telling us something very important about the quality of what this is going to be like. He uses a word that speaks to newness without regard to time. Okay? Here's what I mean.
The first time I looked at the mountains face to face, they were remarkably new to me. I was standing there, and I'm with my mom and dad. They're sitting here, and they're going, "Yeah, I remember." I'm standing there. I just keep looking at them. Right? If you've ever seen something that bears such dramatic physical beauty, whether that's the mountains, whether that's the ocean, whether that's just even a simple landscape…
Some of you guys are like, "I'm from Dallas, so I guess this kind of… It has some kind of beauty like geometry has beauty." I remember looking upon the mountains and going, "That is unbelievable." It bore a remarkable sense of newness for me, but it wasn't as if the first time I looked at those mountains it was the first time they existed. They had been there. They had been bearing that majesty and that glory long before I ever looked upon them.
What John is showing us in the new creation is he is saying, "There's a newness that will be part of what this is like that is both ancient and marvelously and gloriously new. You're going to look upon it, and you're going to be filled with wonder, far more than that comes when you look at the mountains for the first time." In fact, that represents the fullest understanding of what we could ever even begin to scratch the surface in seeing in terms of wonder and glory, but it's going to be even more than that.
It's also going to be familiar. It's going to bear an undergirding that we just can't quite place, but I think we're going to know it when we see it. There are a couple of ways that help us understand this a little bit more. Think about what it looks like for you when you've read a Scripture passage 99 times, and every time you've read it you've had sort of the same understanding.
I'm borrowing this illustration from some of the sermons Tim Keller has given on this same idea. What he says is that hundredth time all of a sudden it stands out to you in a way you never understood before. All of a sudden, it gives light to that in a way that didn't exist before. That's the type of thing we're talking about.
Another way of understanding it (and you'll have to forgive me in advance because I'm about to nerd-out) is Frodo. Okay, we're done. We're done today, right? I'm just kidding. Tolkien describes something amazing about the first time Frodo looks upon the land of Lorien. If you know what Lorien is, way to go. If you don't, it's a place where some of the elves live, and it's a place that exists, in some ways, outside of time. Tolkien is trying to capture this same idea. This is what he says about the first time Frodo looks upon this land.
"It seemed to him that he had stepped through a high window that looked on a vanished world. A light was upon it for which his language had no name. All that he saw was shapely, but the shapes seemed at once clear-cut, as if they had been first conceived and drawn at the uncovering of his eyes, and ancient as if they had endured forever. He saw no color but those he knew, gold and white and blue and green, but they were fresh and poignant, as if he had at that moment first perceived them and made for them names new and wonderful."
This is what John is describing for us. He is saying the new creation is going to be new. We see physicality. We see newness. We also see, even more than this, what John tells us about the new creation. In fact, who will inhabit it? Let's keep reading. Verse 2. "And I saw the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."
3. The new creation is a place where God will dwell with his people. John is showing us our God will demonstrate with glory and power all the Scriptures speak to about him as our perfect husband. The numerous places where the analogy is drawn as, "I will be a husband to my people, and they will be my bride," this will be fulfilled. Even more, his bride (the church) will be presented in splendor, coming down out of heaven, adorned as a bride for her husband, having been washed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
In other words, all of the brokenness of this age is going to give way to the glory of a people God has called together for himself. This is the climax of redemptive history, that God, with all his glory and splendor and majesty, is weaving history together so in the new creation we're going to be with him. This means you, body of Christ, will dwell with him in his glory. You will be with him.
Imagine what John's original audience understood when they read this as a people who experienced the struggle of suffering and persecution. John is saying, "Be steadfast because he is faithful, and he'll do what he has promised. There will be a day when you'll be with him." How we understand this fully is what we see in verses 3 and 4. Let's read there.
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 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, for the former things have passed away.'" The new creation is physical. The new creation is new. The new creation is the place where God dwells with his people.
4. The new creation is the place where the effects of the fall are reversed. All of us bear the scars of our sin. All of us! All of us have wounds from the things others have done to us. All of us! All of us bear the effect and know firsthand what it looks like to live in a broken world. If you don't understand and can't immediately identify all three of those areas in your life, it's just simply because you haven't lived long enough or you're somehow fooling yourselves into thinking somehow that's not you. But it is.
There's coming a day when all of the pain we carry, all of the wounds we've experienced are going to be done away with, when the losses we've known don't possess the sting they once did, when the scars of abuse are fully healed, when all the sadness we've known is washed away. Again, in the words of Tolkien, everything sad is coming untrue. That's that day.
What this means for us is in our joy and gladness today, if that's you who had this beautiful week of celebrating, it ought to stir within you something all the more that points to the face that this is just a shadow of the goodness and glory we'll know in the day when Jesus returns. That ought to stir our worship all the more, because we know there's something greater coming than even this.
In our sorrow, we need to know there's a day coming that all that's wrong will be made right. It will be made right! There's going to be a day when death is no more. In fact, there's going to be a day that, as we mentioned in Isaiah 65 when the Lord says, "I'm creating a new heavens and new earth," what he also says is, "…the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind."
There's going to be a day where the glory of the new creation and the glory of God dwelling with his people overwhelms and surpasses anything we've understood, so all we see is the hope that is to come, the reality of what he is doing to bring together a people for himself to save. What's beautiful and astounding for us is, though we are awaiting this future hope that's to come, in the resurrection of Jesus, that future hope has come near to us and is a type of that newness John describes for us today.
Let's read verse 5 so we can see what this present hope looks like. Verse 5. "And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' Also he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.' And he said to me, 'It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.'" There are two things he is saying to us that ought to knock us right off our feet. The first is the coming of this new creation, this future hope, is a fixed and certain reality. The very words of God tell John to write this down because you can trust it.
Even more, he says, "It is done!" It's a way of him saying, "It's done! It's finished! It will happen." These words come under the authority of the One who created everything to begin with and the One who will bring it to fruition at the day of Jesus Christ. Even more, in some very real ways, this reality has already begun to break into the present. This reality has already begun to break into the present! Did you see how the sentence starts? What does he say?
He doesn't say, "I will make all things new." He says, "I'm making all things new!" He is using what's called a progressive present. Right, grammar nerds? Yes! Which just simply means this is a verb that describes an action that has present and ongoing results. He is saying it's already begun to happen. This hope we long for has already begun to break into our lives. It's something we can actually know today, but how? I would say it's through the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
Here's what I mean. When Jesus came to us, he had one purpose as Colossians 1 says: to reconcile all things to himself, things in heaven and things on earth. This means he came for us. He came to rescue us from sin and from death, but he also came for the renewal and restoration of all things. "All things" is not this sort of, "All things. Like, all people." It's all things. It's the created reality. It's the cosmos themselves that God has come in the flesh to redeem and restore.
When he was raised from the dead, he was raised for our justification (as Paul would say in Romans 5), but he was also raised as the firstfruits of what's to come when that renewal takes shape fully. N.T. Wright and a number of other folks have phrased it this way: his resurrection means eternity with all the splendor and glory of the new creation has broken into the present, which means when we look at him, when we look at the risen Christ, what we're seeing is a glimpse of what that day will be like.
It also means because the Holy Spirit indwells the hearts of men and women who have called upon the name of Jesus (as Ephesians 1 puts it, the one who is the down payment of our inheritance), it means we can begin to experience a glimpse of that future reality today. What I mean is those who trust and are found in Christ begin to see renewal in their lives. They begin to see the inward work of transformation that becomes a signpost for what's going to happen on the day when Jesus returns and restores all things.
Think about it. What was it like when you first began to understand some of the freedom that's found in Christ? Some of you guys may not have experienced that yet, but for many of us, we know there was a day when someone looked at us and said, "Who is Brady? What is he like?" There would be a description that says, "Okay, he is proud. He is kind of snobby. He is arrogant, and he is pretty inconsiderate." Every single one of those descriptors would have been right.
Now those things still might be there a little bit. That's where I want to run to the Lord and fight against those things. But what you'll see and what many of you can understand is all of a sudden when someone puts their trust in Christ, there begins a work of renewal that begins to change the way we look. We start to see some things. Where we used to run over here in a certain situation, we used to respond this way, now we respond a different way.
It's easier for us to do it. Where we used to never be able to respond with grace and patience to people, all of a sudden, there's patience that's there. The same can be true of a number of our lives. Think through stories of addiction where you've known people who were enslaved to something and they found real freedom.
Not the kind of freedom that says, "I don't drink anymore, but I still smoke cigarettes and drink coffee like it's my job," but the kind of freedom that says, "I don't need any of that stuff, because there's a growing and increasing peace that's occurring in my heart that I can't quite explain, but I think I know who is responsible for it."
Every single life that bears a mark of transformation by the Holy Spirit is a picture of what's to come. Every single life that has been restored and redeemed and saved from sin is a glimpse of what that day will be like when we are restored, renewed, transformed, and with him in the new creation. What this also means is the sufferings we experience, the things that have wounded us, the things that have caused us grief, don't have the same kind of sting they once did.
The reason this is true is the hope we have is an objective hope, which just means it doesn't rest upon us, but it rests upon another. When we look at Jesus raised from the dead, ascended into heaven, the one who proclaims he will come again, what we're seeing is that fixed realty that if Jesus was raised from the dead, everything God has promised to us will in fact occur. We have an objective hope that doesn't rest upon our own ability to manufacture it. He will, because he was raised, complete what he came to do.
What this means for you is we don't have to set up false places of refuge that always end up disappointing and leaving us exposed. We can run to the one who is a certain and fixed refuge that provides us ultimate shelter in the storm. That's what I love about the way Paul Tripp so, sort of concisely, words it. He says, "Hope is a person, and his name is Jesus Christ."
Some of you guys who know me and know my wife Aimee, you know for the last several years we have walked through a long season with a struggle with infertility. We've been married for seven and a half years. For the last two and a half of those years we've desired to have kids. We've longed for what it will be like to be a mom and a dad. The Lord in his grace and in his mercy has not allowed that to happen for us.
There have been days where that's been a lot harder than it might be today. I know I'm not the only one who has experienced that. It can be very difficult for us when we come into a place that's literally filled with babies. Praise the Lord that it is, but it can be difficult for us because we know the longing. We know the desire. This is what we've learned in the midst of this. All of the desires we have, all of the things we've longed for, have shown us what we really need and what we really desire is that objective hope. It is Jesus.
When we say, "Hope is a person, and his name is Jesus Christ" in our house, we understand it and we mean it. We run to it again and again and again, because it's the present hope we need in the midst of all of the things that would show us we're still living a broken life in a broken world. It's here. When the desires of our hearts begin to show us, when the cry of our hearts begin to reveal to us, we long for something, when we see the future hope, we see the reality of a present hope. It's here where our desires begin to give way to what it actually means to become partakers of this hope.
Let's continue reading, verse 6. We'll pick up where we left off. I want you to pay careful attention to the first three words. "To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son." We become partakers of this hope when the desires we have within us don't terminate on creation but they terminate on the one who created it in the beginning.
We understand what it looks like to drink amidst our thirst from the waters of life when we look to Jesus and Jesus alone as our hope. That's where it is. That's what it looks like. You want to know what it looks like to become a partaker of the hope of eternity? It's to run to Jesus in your thirst. All of the desires we have, all of the ways we long for this restoration but we run again and again to temporary, broken things to heal our brokenness, they're actually ways (though distorted by sin) we're expressing a thirst for Jesus as our hope and security.
Isn't that amazing? Even your sinfulness reveals what you were really meant for and what you really desire the most is the healing that comes through Christ alone. It's one of the reasons why we see in Ecclesiastes this bold statement that God has put eternity in the hearts of men. All of our hopes, all of our desires, have as their ultimate object the person and work of Jesus.
What God is telling us is when we thirst for him he is going to give freely to us. He is going to give to us from the waters of life. That means both salvation and hope in this life but also eternity with him in the day that's coming. Does this mean your struggles go away and the suffering you've experienced somehow ceases to exist? No.
We still live in a broken, fallen world. But what he is telling us now is there is hope that's going to anchor us amidst the storm. He is telling us there's a way to withstand the sorrow of that brokenness. The evident reality of what day we live in today still means we will see death. We still will see illness. We still will see the sufferings of this present age, but it's not the final word. It's not the end of the story God has woven for us, and, in fact, now it's possible for us to taste joy today because Jesus has tasted sorrow to make it available to us.
Let's read verse 8. "But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." What we need to know when we read a list like that is we're not talking about some people who are somehow different from us. We're talking about you and me, those who, in our darkness, in the depravity of our own hearts, have all run to the things that are going to lead to death.
All of us have shown cowardice. All of us have been faithless. All of us have breathed murder in our words and lust in our hearts. But what Jesus is telling us is, in him, we can have a new hope that goes beyond the shadows of the things we've run to for so long to show us a surpassing hope that's going to undergird us and sustain us in any situation. It's a hope that's going to overwhelm darkness. It's a hope that's come for us and one that's coming again, and it's coming soon.
Here's where I want to leave us. Some of you have never tasted this hope. You have never known peace after the storm. You've only known the storm. You've never drunk from the waters of life in his name. You've only sought to sate the thirst in your heart with things that lead you back to the desert. But what he is telling you is, "I will satisfy you. I will renew you. I'll renew you today, and I'll renew you in the day that is to come. I will give you a new hope that's going to lead to unending newness and joy."
My encouragement and my exhortation to you who have never tasted that hope is to believe upon Jesus who died and was raised for you so you might know the newness of the hope that is to come and the hope that is for you today. For those of you who are believers and you're struggling and you're wondering if, amidst all of the darkness you've walked through, that hope is still for you… Have you ever been that person who says, "Yeah, I believe the gospel saves, but I just don't know if it saves me"? This is what he is telling you.
He is telling you you can trust him. All of the doubts give way to the objective reality of what he has done for you and what he is doing in your life today, and you can run to him. You can run to him from the fleeting pleasures of what can never satisfy. He is calling us to be steadfast. He is calling us to run so he will sustain us. He is telling us the darkness we experience today will give way to life. All things will lead to our good. All things! The same promise that brought us from death to life is the same promise that will sustain us today as we await the hope that's to come. Let's pray.
Our Father, we give thanks to you that because Jesus has been raised from the dead, because he will come again, we have a living hope just as your Word tells us that we have been born again to a living hope, one that is to come and one that's for us today. We pray you would strengthen us to see, to trust, and to believe your words are, in fact, trustworthy and true. I pray you would be with us. Stir us by the Holy Spirit's power so we might be people characterized by a hope that is surpassing and unfading that will give way to life. We pray in the name of Jesus, amen.