Monday, 18 July 2011

Revelation 21:1-18 Hope in a New Creation

We were continuing our series on Christian Hope last night, here are the notes.

Revelation 21-22 comes as the climax of a book written to encourage churches to live faithfully in the midst of a hostile world, a world of false teachers and persecution. It is a call to view the world rightly and an encouragement to remember the significance of their being a part of God’s plan to remake a broken universe. In Rev 21-22 we see their and our final destination, earth is not their home or hope, heaven is not their home or their hope, but(1) their home and certain hope is a new heaven and a new earth. Heaven is a wonderful place because Jesus is there, but it is not what the bible calls us to hope in. We to live waiting for and hoping in Jesus return from heaven when he will bring our promised inheritance with him.

Our hope is not heaven it is Christ’s return and the new age it will usher in, when the first heaven and earth have passed away and the new heaven and new earth are established. The first heaven and earth are not destroyed as in obliterated but rather are transformed through judgement being purged, renewed and regenerated. Look at (5) “I am making everything new!” are the words from the throne, not I am making all new things, it is new in terms of nature and quality, but there is continuity, the labour pains of creation seen in its groaning lead to new birth not obliteration.

That matters because it means that things we experience now; the beauty of music, the thrill of sport and exercise, the enjoyment of food and different tastes, the wonder of creation will all be there though transformed and transcendent. There is no sense in which the new creation will disappoint us, there is no way in which we will think I wish this or that was here, or I miss this. But too often we focus on those features of the new creation, but actually that is not the stand out characteristic of the new creation and of our hope, in fact that is just a by-product of our hope realised. So what is our hope?
1. Our hope is the glory of God
As we read these verses its helpful to see what sits at the centre of them both literally and figuratively – it is God(3-4, 7) “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will be dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be their God.” Do you see the repetition of ideas to emphasise the point he is making, the stand out feature, the defining characteristic of the new creation is God with his people.

It is what marked out the early days of creation as Adam and Eve enjoyed an intimate relationship with God before sin drove man from God’s presence and forfeited God’s glory. From then on sin meant man could not dwell with God, could not be with the God of glory. It’s an idea that runs throughout the bible.

In Exodus 40:34-35 when Israel build the tabernacle and it is finally complete in all its God given detail and instruction, God fills the tabernacle – he dwells there – and **what happens? Everyone is driven out, even Moses cannot enter? **Why? “because... the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.”

In 1 Kings 8:10-11 **when the temple is finished in all its glory and splendour what happens? The cloud fills the temple and the priests cannot serve in it because they cannot be in the presence of God’s glory. Sin separates man from the glory of God, from his presence. 

That’s why at Pentecost it is so significant; as the Spirit of God comes it does not just rest on the disciples but it fills them (Acts2:4), not temporarily but as a permanent indwelling because Christ has given them new hearts. And the spirit is just the firstfruits of this new relationship with God, he is a divine empowering foretaste of what full unfettered, unhindered relationship with the God of glory will be like in the new creation saturated and suffused with his glory.

Our hope is God in all his glory – an intimate, unalloyed, unbreakable relationship with the God of glory in all his splendour, holiness and majesty where every moment of every hour for eternity is bathed in his glory and we are transformed to perfectly reflect and irradiate his glory. That is our hope!

If you turn to 22v1-5 you will see the same key facet of the new creation as it is described in terms of Eden Restored. **What marks it out is God’s throne where? In place at its centre and his servants seeing his face and bearing his name. God is our hope because he fills the new creation – his glory, his majesty, his presence and we will be so transformed that we bear his name, reflect his character and irradiate his likeness.

Do you see the defining feature of our hope, it is not the side effects, the by-products of God’s presence but it is the very presence and glory of God himself, Rom 5:2 “And we boast in the hope of glory of God.” Revelation gives us a glimpse of our hope realised.

2. A New Creation Saturated with God’s Glory
Everything else in these chapters is glorious and exciting but only because it reflects the glory of God in its fullness, it flows from that defining reality of God’s presence with his people realised. It is the glory of God manifest in a new creation stamped throughout with his glory seen in its goodness.

It is because of God’s presence that he will wipe every tear from our eyes – God’s presence in all his glory will make every moment of suffering worthwhile, every hardship and struggle seem fruitful.

Because the new creation is defined by God’s glory and his presence with his people there will be “no more death, or mourning, or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Because the new creation is defined by God’s glory and presence his people will be eternally safe and secure(6) and live forever in right relationship to their Father.

Because the new creation is defined by God’s glory and presence there is no rebellion or sin or any effects of the curse(8, 22:3).

The new creation is not just new version of this one only slightly better. It is not version 1.1 rather than 1.0, like some update on a computer programme designed to patch a glitch. It is utterly transformed so that it bears the hallmark, it is stamped throughout with God’s glory; every part, being, cell, molecule and atom will be transformed so that it declares the full glory of God and can sing its symphony of praise.

Do you see the importance of grasping that these things are the result of God’s glory which is our hope. The features of the new creation are not ultimately what we hope for. Death, mourning, crying, and pain ended are wonderful and we look forward to them because they are symptomatic of a sin sick world dislocated from God but they are not our hope, it is the glory of God which is our hope.

So what?
So what are the implications of understanding this? What should it change?

a. We can’t make this creation the new creation. Revelation 21-22 remind us that it takes the presence of God to eradicate sin and suffering, and that will only happen on Christ’s return when (ch20) all opposition and rebellion is dealt with. This means that there is no way we can bring it about in society now, any such attempt is arrogant folly, sin permeates our very fabric and that of the world around us. We can’t bring about the age to come, but we are to look forward longing to is, to hope for God’s glory.

b. The Church gives a glimpse of the new creation. But neither are we to withdraw from the world around us and simply wait fatalistically. The church reconciled in Christ to God and one another gives the world and beyond a glimpse of what it means to have God’s glory as its chief concern and at the centre of everything. It provides a glimpse of what a broken world reconciled to its creator and one another looks like, and it carries the power to change the world one life at a time as it holds out the truth of the gospel and the hope of the glory of God.

c. The new creation spurs us on to endure suffering. It reminds us that this world is not all there is and that one day we will reach our final destination. But between now and then Revelation paints a picture of a world at war with God and his people, we live amidst that war. But God is the alpha and omega whose word we can trust, and one day he will wipe every tear from our eye. It also reminds us we do not suffer alone but as part of God’s people with a common identity and destiny. We wait together, groaning together, hoping together, spurring one another on as we remind one another of our glorious hope; the glory of God.

d. We desire to know now what we will fully know then. Why is Revelation written? It is written (1:13-2:3)so that God’s people know their hope and live in the light of their future. It is written to whet our appetite to know and taste that the Lord is good. We long to know our hope in God’s glory realised, and so we put his word into action now, living for his glory, learning more of his glory, and praying for him to come in glory that out hope may be realised.

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