Remembering Our End
2 Peter 1:12-15
2 Peter 3:11-13
AUDIO FOR THIS SERMON CAN BE FOUND HERE
As we start the new year, and as we jump back into our study of 2 Peter, 3 things keep rattling around in my brain.
First, is Peter’s commitment to make the truths he is leaving with his readers something they can easily recall.
This requires repetition. Much as we see Jesus doing in the 4 Gospels, and Paul doing in his letters to the Churches. Often, the same core material is repeated over and over again in the recognition that since the Fall in Eden, some part of man’s capacity to retain spiritual truth has been injured and requires us to hear these things again and again and again in order to retain them as part of our daily thought process.
Second, as Peter nears the end of this letter, he reminds them and us that central to the genuine Believer’s mindset is a conscious focus upon the return of Christ and what that will mean for all of us. He apparently takes his cue from Jesus once more – who especially in His last days on earth, spoke in great detail about His own death, but also of His return. Matthew 24-26 is a prime example.
Matthew 25:13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
The Christian life is one of loving anticipation of Jesus’ return. So Paul will conclude 2 Timothy by turning his reader’s attention that event: 4:8 “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”
Note the reference to those who have “loved His appearing”. Those who are joyfully looking for that day are those who are rewarded. Those not believing in and anticipating His return as the consummation of all our joy and blessedness – will be rewarded. Those not – will not.
Third, is my own conviction that the Church as a whole has lost the emphasis of previous generations to be fixed on the hope of Jesus’ return, and what He has prepared for those who love Him and His coming.
We can discuss the various reasons for that – such as careless teaching about Jesus’ return which has over and over miscalculated what cannot be known – precisely WHEN He will return, which has had the effect of dampening people’s anticipation through disappointment after disappointment.
Whole denominations of Believers have fallen into this trap and have fallen into a distrustful malaise over the entire topic.
Another reason is how easy it is – especially in the aftermath of something last year’s intensive focus on the presidential race, to be so caught up in current affairs, that our future in Christ loses the power to impact how we live today.
So while I will break no new ground here today, I do hope by the Spirit’s enablement, to turn your eyes once again to the promise of what is before us in the return of our Lord and Savior.
The entire book of the Revelation was intended to buoy the hopes of God’s people in difficult times, and to refocus their hearts and minds so as to truly “love His appearing.”
Those of you who have been with us when visiting this passage in the past will recall that I like to point out the unique approach John takes in relating the information recorded here.
Because John is receiving a revelation of things truly unimaginable to his readers, he spends more time describing what the New Heavens and the New Earth is not – more than describing what it is.
This is because the wonder of what he beheld is quite simply, incomparable.
Years ago on a business trip to New Orleans, I was treated to some interesting street vendor fare. My boss said go ahead and get it, and if you don’t like it, I’ll eat it. So I ordered the “gator on a stick.”
And if you were to ask me what it tasted LIKE – I would be at a total loss to compare to any other known thing. It was AWFUL! And my boss did finish it. But it did not taste LIKE anything else I had ever tasted – or ever hope to taste again.
So John is so overwhelmed by this vision, that he notes 13 things that aren’t there in an attempt to give us some sense of the unspeakable glory and wonder God has laid up for those who are in Christ Jesus and love His appearing.
We start right off in 21:1 –
1 / 21.1 – No more SEA / Some have quipped that the reason John notes the absence of the sea, is because having been in exile on a barren island in the Mediterranean sea at the time, he could think of nothing better than to never see the sea again. It had filled his vision for so long, he wanted relief.
But more than likely there are 2 far more interesting reasons why he notes this reality first.
a. He is relating the fact that the New Heavens and the New Earth are so drastically different from our existence now, that there is a completely new economy even in terms of ecological life.
This is a wholly new existence. One not dependent upon the things we presently count as necessary to life on this planet.
b. In Biblical literature, and especially in previous chapters of this book, the sea always represents that which is turbulent. Things unknown and unstable and unsafe. So it is in Revelation 13:1 John writes: “And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads.”
The Beast which terrorizes God’s people and tries to conquer the earth, rises out of the sea!
But in the New Heavens and the New Earth, there will be nothing deep and dark anymore; nothing hidden; nothing threatening; nothing unstable, etc.
All is brought into the light and is full of blessedness rather than fear or mystery.
Instead of a sea – there are vss. 2-3: Revelation 21:2–3 “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 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.”
2 / 21.4 – No more DEATH: / No one and no thing shall ever die again. Imagine this if you can. IN our present state, death is so much a part of our frame of life, that an existence where there is no more death whatever, is truly beyond our comprehension.
John doesn’t say how it is he knows there is no more death except it is part of what the “Loud voice from the throne” announced to him in vs. 2.
In other words, this is a revelation from God Himself to cheer and fill the hearts of His people with wonder at how the death and resurrection of Christ will at last deal with everything sin introduced into the world in the Fall.
And not only is there no death – but “He” God, now dwelling with mankind in His unmediated presence – will personally wipe every tear from the eyes of His beloved Children.
He won’t have us do it to one another, nor and angel nor even an archangel – He personally will take away both our sorrow and its expression.
3 / 21.4 – No more MOURNING: / Not only no more death, but not even a reason ever again to mourn over ANYTHING!
One wonders just how this can be, when we stop to think that certainly most of us if not all of us will have loved ones who will not be there, and will in fact be tormented in an eternal Hell under the just judgment of God.
And I tell you, I do not know. But I know what the text says was revealed to John by the voice from the throne – and that we are being assured in that announcement that there will never again be any reason to grieve or mourn.
4 / 21.4 – No more CRYING: / Think of all the things which produce weeping here (negatively), and each and everyone of them will be gone forever.
Can you even imagine never shedding a sorrowful tear ever again for all eternity?
I cannot. And if it were not revealed to us in God’s Word, we would have no reason to even hope that it might be so. But here it is.
And it is given to His Saints so that we might loosen a bit of the grip we have on this present life which is so distorted and damaged by sin that it lulls into believing this is the way it will always be.
But it will not.
I was talking with my Sister some time ago, and she reminded that we as a family have lost nearly 20 family members, near and distant in the past 10-15 years. Not to mention those of us in the ECF family in just the past few years.
But the day will come when not a tear will well up in our eyes ever again. Not only because death has been abolished, but for ANY REASON.
5 / 21.4 – No more PAIN: / As I look out at this congregation and I think of the personal stories of so many of you here, and how you have suffered great injuries over the course of your lives, and others who struggle every day with chronic pain and other conditions – I can only weep for joy today as I have the pleasure to announce to you on the authority of God’s Word that one day – there will be NO PAIN!
Neither by accident, disease, or any other cause,
Neither physical nor mental nor emotional pain of any kind.
Your God and Savior has heard your every moan and groan and creaking joint and He will remove all of it, from the smallest discomfort to the greatest incapacity – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at His return.
And knowing how unbelievable this all is – it is reinforced in the most emphatic way in Revelation 21:5–8 “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.” 6 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. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 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.”
Now to be perfectly honest with you, if this was all this passage had to reveal to us, I would be more than happy to go home one very happy camper.
But the truth is, our God is a God of abundance. He promises and provides for us far beyond anything that we can ask or think.
So, as though all of what we’ve seen so far is not enough, at this point in John’s account, the scene shifts dramatically.
Revelation 21:9–21 “Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15 And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. 18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.”
So on top of what we’ve heard, we now get this vision that is quite beyond our senses to grasp.
A city built of gemstones and as high and wide as it is long – perhaps a cube, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1300 -1500 miles in each direction. Completely unimaginable.
And from here I’ll pick up the pace some.
6 / 21.22 – No more TEMPLE: / All worship will be conducted face to face. We won’t go anywhere to worship, worship will be our state of being.
7 / 21.23 – No SUN or MOON: / No such thing as reflected light because of the nature of the glorious presence of God and the Lamb.
8 / 21.25 – No LIMITED ACCESS: / Going to and fro before the face of God always. How we long at times for nearness to God now – not then. All access, all the time.
9 / 21.25 – No NIGHT: / No darkness of any kind. Nothing hidden.
10 / 21.27 – Nothing UNCLEAN: / Perpetual, undefilable purity.
11 / 21.27 – No one DETESTABLE: / Never any kind of perversion of the truth and the communication of the Glory of God.
12 / 21.27 – No LIARS or LIES / – Nothing but the truth.
13 / 22.3 – No more CURSE: No more CURSE – Every last aspect of God’s anger with sin in RELATION to us is completely and forever banished in totality.
Everything we experience here and now in this present world – every discomfort, grief, pain, loneliness, disease, violence, distress, sorrow, worry, the unknown, fear, doubt, unbelief, besetting sin – committed by us or perpetrated upon us – is every single bit of it – temporary.
And it will all be swallowed up in the wonder and the glory of the unveiled presence of our Christ and King.
1 Corinthians 2:9–10 “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.”
Even at this, in our sin-broken state, we can only glimpse and comprehend but the smallest smidgen.
But He has promised it.
He has revealed it.
And it belongs to everyone who has surrendered their whole being to the Lord Jesus Christ – trusting in Him as their sin-bearer.
Now I must ask you – are you one of those who will inherit this New Heavens and New Earth?
Do you know Christ as your sin-bearer?
Have you trusted in His atoning sacrifice on your behalf – and bent the knee to Him as your Sovereign and Lord?
If not, not a word of this applies to you. The Bible describes a far different end for you. Just as certain and eternal as this is for His saints.
But it can!
YOU can come to Him today. You can own your sin before Him and ask of His forgiveness, and by faith, receive the gift of eternal life and cleansing for all of your sin and rebellion against His right to rule you spirit, soul and body. You can become part of the Family of God as an adopted son or daughter.
Won’t you call upon Him to save you today?