Jack Graham - Finally Home
It's been a long journey really, step by step through Revelation, beginning at chapter one and now we come to the last two chapters: Revelation 21, Revelation 22. We are on our way home! After the millennial reign of Christ, one thousand years reigning from Jerusalem, our reigning and ruling with Him; after the Great White Throne Judgment and Satan is banished forever into the lake of fire, along with evil which is now eradicated; heaven and earth become one. The new heavens and the new earth! And so we are told here in the Revelation what that is like.
Now no tongue or pen can describe it, no words can describe it. This is why in the book of Revelation we have so many symbols and illustrations and images of what heaven will be like. I will tell you this: there are five hundred references to heaven in the Scripture and fifty-four references to heaven in the last two chapters of the Bible. There's a larger description of heaven in the last two chapters, these passages that we're going to be looking at, a larger description, a wider description of heaven than any other place in all of the Bible, in any other place in God's Word.
So beginning in Revelation 21, 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 Tabernacle or) 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, (and) neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things are passed away.' And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'"
There's our target zone. That's what we've been talking about from the beginning of our Revelation study. That's the theme of this book; it's the theme of the Bible: when God makes all things new through our Lord Jesus Christ. "He said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'" Today I want you to think with me first regarding the preparation of heaven. Heaven is a prepared place. Note the word prepared that shows up in these initial verses of Revelation chapter 21, "as a bride prepared for her husband". This brand new heaven and earth, a new creation. The word new here means not new of an old kind, not as though it were some kind of a renovation, but a revolution; something brand new: "new heavens and new earth".
This fulfills what the prophet Isaiah said in Isaiah 65 and verse 17: "I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind". It was Jesus who said, "Heaven and earth will pass away". This world will be drastically and dramatically changed. Because the first heavens and the first earth will pass away. Look in your Bibles at 2 Peter chapter 3, you're in Revelation, just go left in the scriptures, we'll put this on the screen if you need it. "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn"! But according to His promise, "...we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells".
Everything in this world today, everything that is earthly is temporal, not eternal; it is temporary. And everything in this world and even the solar systems, these are winding down. It's as though we are on the clock... on the clock, and things are winding down. You know, one of the reasons I love baseball, I'm obsessed with it, is because there's no clock. You just keep playing till somebody wins, right? No clock. But if you've ever been to a football game or a basketball game, of course, there's the clock and when it gets down to the end, urgency and excitement builds, and the clock is ticking down. If you're going to get it done, you better do it right now. Well, that's the idea here, that this world is currently winding down. The world and everything around us is stored with fire. Everything is stored with atoms and elements. I mean, this pulpit, this platform, this building, that cell phone in your hand, your Bible. Everything is stored with fire and one day it's all burning up.
That's the prediction of Scripture. That's how this world is going to end. People say the world began with a big bang. I don't know about that but I know it's going to end with a big bang. And everything in it will explode. The new heavens and the new earth will descend. This world is not going to last. So hold onto the things of this world loosely in your hands. Don't live for just now; live for that which is eternal, the unseen world that is all around us. 2 Corinthians 4:18 speaks of the unseen world that is all around us, the unseen realities that are all around us. You see, the spiritual world, the eternal world is very near, a lot nearer than you would expect. It's really life in a new dimension. Heaven is not in a far, far off galaxy, but heaven is all around us. Heaven is very close. So close that Jesus said that "I will come for you in moment, in the twinkling of an eye".
Paul actually said that. That Christ will come for us "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye". Just like that we're going to be in His presence. The great Rapture passage when we're taken into the presence of the Lord as believers. First Thessalonians chapter 4 tells us that just like that, in an instant we are going to be enraptured into His presence, elevated into His presence! It is very close, very near, this wonderful heaven that is all around us. And one day the new heavens and the new earth will be united and it will be totally different from what we have seen or known in the past. Different in that it is brand new and it never disintegrates, it never decays, it never wears out. Totally different!
You say, "How different"? Well, start with the fact that as we noted in Revelation 21 there will be no more sea. Now some of you who are surfers and boatsmen and so on, you may be a little concerned about that, but I promise you what we'll have will be far better, okay? There is a river of life running through eternity and through heaven! But one of the first things that John notices in his vision of heaven is there is no more sea! Seventy-five percent of the world, or two-thirds at least covered by water! Most of our bodies are water-based! So when he says no more seas what does that mean? Seas represent the separation of nations. Seas separate nations and nationalities. And for John personally, exiled on the Isle of Patmos, as he looked out over the Mediterranean from that desert island or that judgment island, he was separated from his loved ones and his friends and his family members and the church that he loved. And he was lonely. And when he looked at heaven he saw there was no more sea separating them, and no more sea isolating him from the presence of God and the presence of his loved ones. No more seas, no more sin, no more sorrow for it says he will wipe away ever tear from their eyes and there will be no more suffering.
Can you imagine a place? No more tears, no more fears, no more sighing, no more dying, no more crying. Most people have shed buckets of tears in their lifetime, some, many more than others. God is tracking our tears. He keeps our tears in a bottle, says the scriptures. He knows every teardrop. And one day He will do what human hands can never do and that is to wipe away every tear from our eyes! As a pastor it's been my responsibility to bring comfort to people in times of great loss, broken hearts, broken homes, broken families, broken bodies. And I feel so inadequate except when I bring God's word. I never fail to find comfort in God's Word and bring comfort in God's Word. But we are so inadequate in trying to comfort people. But words can't comfort you until the day when God wipes away every tear from your eye; every hurt, every heartache, no more. No more regrets, no more failures, no more temptation, no more sin, no more pain.
Some people get up every day and face chronic pain in their bodies. But in heaven you'll leap and dance and praise God with eternal youthfulness. Nothing in this world lasts forever. Nothing on earth will last forever! And that is why we set our hearts and our hopes on the heaven that is forever, because heaven is permanent. Eternal life is everlasting life. That's why I say the best day you will ever live is the day you die and you're in the presence of the Lord Jesus! Let me say it again. The best day you will ever live is the day you stand in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, either when He comes for you or calls you home! And when we get to heaven we will be home. I know there's something about heaven in our minds this side that is austere and awesome, and it is, but Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you and the place that I'm preparing for you is my Father's house".
I heard about an old man who was talking about his Christian life and his desire to go to be with Christ in heaven. He said, "You know, when I was a little boy I used to hear about heaven and think about heaven as streets of gold and pearly gates". We'll get to that, it's all in Revelation 21-22. But he said, "I would think about streets of gold and gates of pearl and dazzling emeralds and diamonds and massive tall buildings and churches steeples and spires ascending into heaven. And I would think about heaven in that way. And yet there was not one single person there that I knew". He said, "When I was a teenager I had a little brother die, and from that moment on I thought of heaven as golden streets and gates of pearl and dazzling beauty and my little brother who was waiting for me there".
And then he went on to say, "Through the years, I'm an old man now, loved ones and friends have gone before me, my wife of fifty years plus, children, brothers, siblings, sisters, friends. And so now when I think about heaven I rarely think gates of pearl and streets of gold and golden spires and all the beauties, but I think of the dear family and loved ones, of friends who are waiting for me there in the presence of the Lord that I love". Heaven is home. It's a place where families and friends will be reunited forever. And we should be homesick for heaven. One older man said to his son as he lay dying. His son said, "What's it like to die, pop"? And he said, "I feel like a boy on Christmas Eve"! Hope, heaven! We should be homesick for heaven. Have you ever been homesick? I have a few times. It's that feeling deep in the pit of your stomach that you can't describe. I couldn't wait to get to college my freshman year.
Tom and Emogene, my parents drove with me and helped me unload, and I'll never forget standing in my room, 1726 Anderson Hall in Abilene, Texas, and watching the taillights of my dad's and mom's car drive off into the distance, and that feeling of, uh-oh, I'm homesick already. And I was. And there's one sense in which we are homesick for heaven. I've never been to heaven but I miss it already cause heaven is so wonderful. Nothing compares to it! No wonder the Scripture says, 1 Corinthians 2:9, "Eyes have not seen nor ear heard nor enter into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him". And the best of earth is just an hors d'oeuvre of heaven, it's just an appetizer for the things to come! And when we go to heaven we'll not be leaving home, we will be going home! Going home! The preparation of heaven.
Secondly, think with me, the satisfaction of heaven. When you read these verses and the entire passage you see that it is satisfying and fulfilling in every way. Verse three says that the dwelling of God is with man. "He will dwell with them and they will be His people and God Himself will be their God". We're told that there is a fountain, flowing and filling the city with life and love, that there is satisfaction here, that we will drink of this fountain every day. Every need, in other words, it's a picture, a word picture, every need that we have will be met. Every one of us are born with desires and needs. We are made by God and for God. Ultimately we are made for eternity. We are made for heaven. And that's why the things of this world can never satisfy the deepest longings of our heart. But in heaven every desire will be fulfilled! Every need will be met! We'll not be wringing our hands worrying about anything in heaven. We'll not be anxious or fearful because it is a life of perfect fulfillment. You will live in perfection.
You know the Stones sang way back in my generation, voted the top rock song of all time, "I can't get no... satisfaction". "I've tried and I've tried and I've tried and I've tried but I can't get no satisfaction". That's this side! But in eternity completely satisfied. Satisfied with the presence of God, the provision of God, the preoccupation that God will give us. We'll talk about how we will work and serve and worship in heaven. It will be a perfect day every day. You know, one thing, make a list maybe, if you're journaling, make a list that you won't hear in heaven. You know one thing you probably won't hear in heaven? "Have a good day". Every day's a good day in heaven! We will be with Him! What does it take to satisfy you? Family, friends, good things. Food, work, the fulfillment of work? God put that in us. Achievement? Okay. Making money, doing your best, your house, your land? What satisfies you? Entertainment? Does it take pleasure to satisfy you?
Even the best of things in this life cannot permanently satisfy us. But in heaven, when our hopes are fulfilled, satisfied! And the most fulfilling thing of all is that we will be with Him! This is why I say we should have, you should develop right now a taste for heaven, an appetite for heaven. That you would have a heart for heaven, that heaven would be let's say the habit of your heart, the regular focus of your life. You say, "How would I do that"? Meditate and contemplate about heaven. Read the Scriptures about heaven. Read good books. Randy Alcorn has written an incredible book on heaven. The best thing I've read lately on the subject. But there are good books to read, there are songs to sing about heaven. Sing the songs of heaven. Sometimes I think the songs in our generation are so here-focused and now-focused and me-focused rather than God-focused and heaven-focused. The greatest songs in my opinion are the songs about hope and about heaven. Teach your children well about heaven.
You say, "Well, I don't want to scare my children". I'll tell you what's scaring your children. Remember that prayer we used to pray when we went to bed, our parents prayed over us? I can remember being a little guy, my mom tucking me in, "Pray this, Jackie. Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take"! Oh my gosh! No, teach your children the right way, about the hope of heaven and how wonderful heaven is. You will live, love and serve with greater purpose in heaven than even in this world. Don't dread the passing of the years and the time that you will one day be with the Lord in heaven. Don't dread that. Dread the wasting of your years. Don't dread the passing of your years; dread the wasting of your years. For the Christian there's no need to stress about the future because the secret of life is living for eternity.
Just living for the day when you see Jesus, to do what matters until then! And if you live this way, it will add not only years to your life, but life to your years! Let this be a motto: Every day for eternity! Every day for eternity! Proverbs 4:18 says that "The path of the righteous is like the light of the dawn which shines brighter and brighter until the Perfect Day". So life is a journey and we're on our way home. Let me wrap this up today by talking about the occupation of heaven. What makes heaven heaven: not streets of gold, pearly gates, the beauty, the brilliance, the brightness; not the big buildings; not even the reunion with loved ones and friends as great as that will be. But what makes heaven heaven is the fact that Jesus is there. This is God's heaven.
Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you and if I go, I will come again, receive you to myself that where I am, there you will be also". We will see and be with the King someday. In the ancient world, certainly John's world, even in our world to some degree, you would never see a king or a world leader, you would never be up close and personal of someone of this magnitude. But in heaven you will see the King face to face! You will be with Him! "That where I am there you may be also"! The psalmist said, "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and then I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever"!