Revelation 21:1-23 The New Heaven
August 1, 2021
Have you ever done any serious thinking about heaven? As I was preparing this sermon, I thought I’d see if there were any good jokes or stories about heaven. I searched the internet and found all kinds of not so funny jokes and stories. People tend not to take heaven seriously. On the other hand, those who have done polls of people’s views of heaven reveal that many do take heaven seriously. Some 80% of those polled believe that heaven is real, and some 77% of those who believe heaven is real rate their chances of getting there as good to excellent. What are the chances of you entering heaven when you die? I’ll say some more about that later.
Christians down through the ages have believed that heaven is a real place. On the last Passover dinner Jesus had with his disciples, he taught them a lot of things and comforted them. He said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14:1-3).” He is very clear that life does not end with the grave. He died, was raised from death and ascended into heaven. There he is preparing a place for those who believe in him. Heaven is a place prepared for people who believe in Christ Jesus, who have repented of their sin and received forgiveness and eternal life. The cartoon images of angels sitting on clouds are clearly not true and very different from what the Bible tells us. One writer said, “Heaven is a prepared place for people who are prepared.”
When it comes to images or verbal pictures of what heaven is like, John, the writer of the Book of Revelation gives us many images on which to reflect. He gives this description: “And he (an angel) carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal (Revelation 21:10-11).” Heaven is a beautiful place. It is beautiful beyond our imagination. John gives us a view of the new heaven and new earth. The New Jerusalem is not only beautiful it is huge. John writes, “The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He (an angel) measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length [1400 miles], and as wide and high as it is long . . . it [the wall] was 144 cubits thick [around 200 feet]. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass (Revelation 21:16-18).” It’s a bit hard to wrap one’s brain around what John saw.
If you like jewels and gems, you will like the New Jerusalem. “The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite (yellow-green peridot), the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth (transparent orange-red zircon), and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street was of gold, as pure as transparent glass (Revelation 21:19-21). I’m a rock hunter and even with my experience I cannot wrap my rock hound brain around the New Jerusalem. Bottom line: heaven is more beautiful than we can ever imagine. John reports what he saw in a vision. One Bible scholar wrote, “Whether or not the images are to be taken as literal descriptions is debatable, but the most important lessons we learn are taken from reality to which these symbols point.” I suppose I’ll be like a country boy going to the big city for the first time. My eyes will boggle out in amazement at what I’m seeing. Heaven is a remarkable place prepared for people who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Heaven is also a place where there is no suffering, pain or death. John writes, “He (God) will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 22:4).” One thing we can say about living is that it is a mixed bag of joy and sadness, and pain and pleasure. Over the years, I have seen many people suffer great pain and agony. I have seen families in grief over the death of a loved one. I’ve visited people who have languished in nursing homes awaiting death. I recall one 90 year old woman asking me, “Why doesn’t God take me now. I’ve lived long enough.” She was in a lot of pain. When I think of people I knew who have suffered long years, I cry out, “It’s unfair.” My mother suffered from Alzheimer’s disorder for nearly 14 years before she died a month after her 90th birthday. She was a vital woman who did all the things the neurologists say are right for brain health. She read a lot, she did crossword puzzles, and she kept her mind alive. Life is a mixed bag. It is comforting to know she is in a place where there are no brain disorders, no pain, no sadness, no confusion, no fear, and no anger.
There are a number of things that are not in heaven. One preacher highlighted what one will not find in heaven: “There are no jailhouses, no prisons, no reformatories, no hospitals, no orphanages, no old folks’ homes, no drugstores, no doctors, no dentists, no lawyers, no courts, no blind, no deaf, no mutes, no cripples, no weak, no aged, no feeble. Sin and Satan are banished forever.” In addition, there is no death or dying in heaven. All the things that plague people will not be in heaven.
What will we be like when we are in heaven? I don’t believe we will be wearing white robes, sitting on clouds, and playing harps. That’s one common image of heaven that does not resonate with me. Some believe that at death we will be obliterated. In other words, we will be like a computer hard drive that has been erased. The belief that we will be annihilated makes no sense in light of the Bible. Dr. W. A. Criswell, a well-known Baptist scholar commented that the individual personality survives into eternity. Another Bible scholar, R. C. Sproul writes, “The continued conscious existence of the soul after the dissolution of the body, the continuity of personal, conscious existence is the very essence of life after death.” We will be ourselves minus the sin we have struggled with. In heaven, we will recognize people and be recognized by them. We will see the Lord face to face as we will see our loved ones who reside in heaven.
The Apostle Paul had many things to say about heaven. He reminded the proud Roman Christians of the city of Philippi that they had a better citizenship than their Roman citizenship. He said, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:20-21).” I have a Passport that affirms that I am an American citizen. Unlike many today, I’m proud to be a citizen of the USA. However, that is a citizenship that ends with my death. Those who are committed to Christ Jesus have an eternal citizenship which began when they accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. They are citizens of heaven. At death, citizens of heaven are given a regenerated heavenly body that will last for eternity. One of the things we don’t have to worry about is our earthly bodies as we will be given a new glorious body.
How can you be sure you are going to heaven? In popular culture there is the false belief that everyone goes to heaven. Some heretical notions are known as universalism. That is, they believe that regardless of one’s life and beliefs all go to heaven. This is clearly not a biblical view. Some believe that the key to getting to heaven is that one’s good deeds will outweigh one’s bad deeds. It’s a common false belief that one earns one’s ticket to heaven. Most human developed religions place the onus on human actions that get one to Paradise. Once I did a poll of church members and one of the questions I asked called for a true or false answer. The question: “I have to work hard in being good to get to heaven.” Sad to say most church people answered it true. Genuine Christianity is quite different than this.
Whereas religion places a heavy burden on people, God has made it quite easy for us to go to heaven. Christianity is about God’s grace. It’s about his unmerited favor, not our good deeds. We are saved not by our actions, but by what God has done through Christ Jesus. Jesus paid the price as he suffered and died for your sin. There’s no way we can merit heaven. God’s standard is perfection and there’s no way we can achieve that. There’s no way any of us can merit heaven due to our intrinsic sinfulness. The good news is that God provides a solution to our problem. Through the shed blood of Christ Jesus on the Cross our sins were blotted out forever. Through the shed blood of Christ Jesus on the Cross we are saved. We are not saved by our own human actions. That simply is not enough. Only through Christ Jesus are we saved and given a ticket to heaven.
You can have the assurance of your salvation and assurance that you will go to heaven when you believe in Jesus, confess your sin, receive his forgiveness and live as he calls you to live. You can know that you are going to heaven when you completely trust in Christ Jesus for your salvation. I’ve talked with a number sincere Christians over the years who did not know that they could have the assurance of salvation. If you have trusted Christ Jesus for your salvation, you are saved and heir to his promises. One of his promises is that he is preparing a place for you in heaven. Those who trust Christ Jesus are assured of salvation and a place in heaven. It’s not complicated but very simple to qualify for heaven. Your citizenship in heaven is your passport and Jesus leads the way.
There is one place other than Scripture that I found joy about heaven and it is the hymnal. You will find that many hymn writers express the joy of heaven & the assurance of salvation. Andrae Crouch writes, “Soon and very soon we are going to see the king, Hallelujah, hallelujah, we’re going to see the king. No more crying there, we are going to see the king, Hallelujah, hallelujah, we’re going to see the king.” And there’s the old Spiritual: “Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home, swing low sweet chariot coming for to carry me home.”
If you worry about getting to heaven, perhaps you might do well to pray with me, “Lord, I believe in Jesus and trust him for my salvation. I confess my sin and seek your forgiveness. I want to live as you want me to live. Lord, give me the inner assurance of my salvation and the assurance I will enter heaven when I die. Thank you, Jesus, for what you have done for me in going to the Cross.”
One of my favorite songs was written by Eliza Hewitt in 1898: “Sing the wondrous love of Jesus, sing His mercy and His grace, in the mansions bright and blessed, He’ll prepare for us a place. When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be, when we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory.” May we all shout the victory!