"1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God: 4 and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away. 5 And he that sitteth on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he saith, Write: for these words are faithful and true. 6 And he said unto me, They are come to pass. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. 7 He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 8 But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death." (Rev 21:1-8, KJV)
Throughout the book of Revelation an exposition of both temporality and eternality has been given. An understanding of both is essential to being an overcomer. All trial and affliction is temporary. Struggle and oppression are transitory. The devil is our foe, but only for a while. The forces he rallies are a threat, but not for long. The bottomless pit, when opened, brings great testing to the inhabitants of the earth, but it is limited. The most fierce of all opponents, the first and second beast, Babylon the great, the false prophet, and the great harlot-they are all temporary. For those in Christ Jesus, life is eternal, and every competitive influence temporary. This world is transitory, the world to come is a "world without end" (Eph 3:21). That world is our focus!
How much this perspective is needed among us! Hardship, opposition, and deficiency are all temporary! Temptation, warfare, and disappointment are momentary! A defensive posture, debilitating weakness, and captivity in every form are passing. None of these things, grievous though they be, can be approached as though they will never end.
All spiritual retrogression, however minute or momentous, takes place because this perspective is lost. Those who are drawn into sin have forgotten its pleasures are only "for a season" (Heb 11:25). It is imperative that the church be the "pillar and ground of the truth," majoring on things that make for clarity of vision and maturity in understanding.
Much, if not the majority, of what represents itself as being Christian majors on the things that are passing away. Vast religious enterprises are given over to "ministries" that are limited to this world and will quickly pass away when time is no more. Let none imagine that assisting the fatherless and widows in the affliction, doing good to all men, and assisting the needy are unworthy activities. They are most assuredly a part of the ministry of the saved. But they are all hands and feet, not the heart of our work. At no point are such ministries an end of themselves. They are the result of a proper focus, and not the focus itself.
A DIFFERENT EMPHASIS
You may have observed a total absence of contemporary religious emphases in the book of Revelation. The home, marriage, government, social corruption, and the hardships of earthly life are rarely, if ever, mentioned. The reason for this absence is NOT owing to our Lord's indifference toward such things. His earthly ministry confirms His compassion toward those who are suffering under the burden of life. In this book, however, we are given a loftier view of things. The only way to overcome the world is to rise into realms where it is no longer the prominent thing. As long as this world dominates our thinking, it will control our conduct and distort our perspective. Our affection must be on "things above" (Col 3:1).
Thus the Revelation confirms the absolute control and government of Christ. The destiny of all things is in His hand, and cannot successfully be opposed or contravened. In a moment Satan can be either bound or loosed, without any resistance whatsoever. Even the duration of our trials are determined in heaven. How vividly this has been affirmed in this book. ". . . ye shall have tribulation ten days . . . And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season . . . And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half . . . And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them . . . And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days . . . Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time . . . And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space . . .and bound him a thousand years . . . and after that he must be loosed a little season . . . they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years" (2:10; 6:11; 11:9,11; 12:6,11; 20:2,3,6).
In my judgment, it is a serious error to fasten upon the measures of time that are mentioned. While there can be no doubt that specific durations are involved, it is the control of the Lord that is the point. Whether it is 31/2 days or a thousand years, it is the King who determines the duration. Furthermore, all of those periods are associated with temporality, whether for weal or for woe.
ENTERING THE ETERNAL REALM
Now we enter into the eternal realm. Because all opponents have been removed, the battlefield itself is also withdrawn. Undistracted by the warfare, we will be better able to behold the glories of the world to come. This is nothing less than the fulfillment of God's "eternal purpose." we now will confront the objective for which we have been called and nurtured.A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH
"1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more" (ASV). What a sight to behold! Later, He who sits upon the throne will confirm, "Behold, I make all things new" (21:5). We are now confronting the Divine appointment, the objective for which salvation prepared us.
THE REASON FOR SALVATION
Here we come to grips with the reason for salvation, the purpose for redemption, and the goal of regeneration. I perceive this to be one of the most obscured realities in all of Christendom. In pulpit and pew, one can scarcely be found who is conversant with the WHY of God's great salvation. The nominal church is so institutionalized it cannot see beyond this world. It is anchored in time instead of "within the veil," and thus is tossed upon the ephemeral waves of "this present evil world." Somehow, men must be persuaded that a "new heaven and a new earth" are looming on the horizon-a realm in which a worldly emphasis has no place.
Salvation orients us for "the world to come," with which our text is concerned. No person unprepared to enter into that realm shall have been advantaged by Jesus. That IS the world over which we will rule. As it is written, "For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?" (Heb 2:5-6).
This World Is Not Our Domain
It is currently being taught in many circles that Christ restored to man the dominion Adam lost. This is not the case at all, and is a serious misrepresentation of the result of Christ's atoning death. The world order has been written off, "made subject to vanity" (Rom 8:20). As such, it is not our inheritance. The solemn injunction is not to rule this world, but to overcome it. Because "the fashion of this world is passing away" (1 Cor 7:31), it cannot be the primary realm in which our abilities are exercised. Rather, we have been "raised . . up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:6).
Christ';s kingdom "is not of this world" (John 18:36). If it was, not only would His people rule over the elements, they would "fight" their enemies in the flesh. If it is true that Jesus restored the dominion Adam lost, Paul would NOT have perils in the "waters" and the "wilderness." He would NOT have experienced "weariness and painfulness," "hunger and thirst," and "cold and nakedness" (2 Cor 11:26-27). What purpose would there have been for "learning" how to "suffer need" (Phil 4:12), if the most prominent Apostle had dominion over the elements? Or is there one who would dare to say Paul lived beneath his privileges? Why did he have to labor with his own hands (1 Cor 4:12)? Why didn't he command the elements to come to his aid? How is it that he "suffered shipwreck" three times? Is it that he did not know he had power over the elements, or that Jesus had restored the dominion Adam lost? I tell you emphatically, this doctrine is false to the core, revealing an abysmal ignorance of the nature and intent of salvation!
A New Creation for a New Realm
Becoming a "new creation" in Christ Jesus readies us for the new heaven and the new earth (2 Cor 5:17). It prepares us by uprooting our hearts from the transitory world, and giving us an appetite and affection for "the world to come." Whatever you may think of this world, as long as we are "in the body," we are "absent from the Lord" (2 Cor 5:6). Who is there among us that is content with that circumstance? If David yearned for the external "courts of the Lord" (Psa 84:2), how much more do those in Christ year to be "forever with the Lord?"
Through Peter, the Holy Spirit stated the case succinctly. "Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Pet 3:13). Are not the hearts of such people lifted when they read these words? "I saw a new heaven and a new earth!" The expression presumes a longing for such an environment, "the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest" (Job 3:17). Salvation begins a process that will culminate in our total adaptation to that realm in "spirit, soul, and body" (1 Thess 5:23). That is our ultimate destiny.
The Longing of the Patriarchs
Even before the Law, holy people longed for "a better country, that is a heavenly one" (Heb 11:16 RSV). Father Abraham "looked for a city which hath foundations, Whose Builder and Maker is God" (Heb 11:10). He was promised a fruitful part of this world, "all the land of Canaan" (Gen 17:8). The promised possession was extensive, and fertile in the extreme. "Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites" (Gen 15:18).
Abraham did arrive in the land promised to him. Yet he remained a stranger while in it, never really settling there. As it is written, "By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise" (Heb 11:9). Scripture goes on to tell us, God "gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on" (Acts 7:5). Abraham did not remonstrate at this circumstance, but looked beyond Canaan to a "better country." His faith produced this godly reaction.
Can it be that those in Christ would possess less of a longing for a "better country," and more of an at-homeness in this world than was found in Abraham? The very thought offends those living by faith.
PROMISED BY THE PROPHETS
What we are reading is the confirmation of promises made through the prophets. With remarkable clarity Isaiah said, "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind" (Isa 65:17). In confirmation of the covenant made with Abraham, God spoke to Israel about a new heavens and earth. "For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain" (Isa 66:22).
Thus the Lord promised an environment in which His purpose could be executed without contradiction. It would be such a glorious realm, "the former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind." The glory of the world to come will not only remove the present heavens and earth, it will also dissolve all memories of the defiled realm! In the very fullest sense of the word, "old things" will pass away-even from our memory. Everything corrupted by and associated with the old order will give place to the new order!
THEY ALREADY EXIST
The new heaven and earth are not in a state of construction. They already exist. The creation of which He speaks is more from our perspective than that of the Lord. In another place the Spirit says, "And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain" (Heb 12:27).
Hidden beneath the realm of the seen is an invisible Kingdom. By faith, we have already received this Kingdom (Heb 12:28). It remains for it to be revealed-to be seen with clarity and joy. Right now, hidden from the eye of the flesh, a realm exists in which nothing defiled can be found. Salvation is designed to prepare us for THAT realm. Faith, which procures salvation, also "looks" for the revelation of the new heaven and the new earth (2 Pet 3:13).
THE FIRST ORDER PASSES AWAY
When the "first heaven and the first earth" are removed, it will strip many a soul of everything it counted precious. Life in Christ Jesus is designed to prepare us for this inevitability. Hundreds of years before Jesus came into the world, the Psalmist wrote, "Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed" (Psa 102:25-26).
Isaiah wrote of the earth being "broken up," "split open," "shaken exceedingly," reeling "to and fro like a drunkard," tottering "like a hut," and falling never to "rise again" (Isa 24:19-20). Again, the world is challenged, "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, The earth will grow old like a garment" (Isa 51:6). Our Lord Himself said, "Heaven and earth will pass away" (Matt 24:35). Peter affirms that when our Lord returns "the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up" (2 Pet 3:10NKJV). Those counting on this world being permanent are on the precipice of eternal ruin!
Now John is given to see the time when "the first heaven and the first earth were passed away." That means the purpose for them has been concluded. The temporal realm was the stage upon which the drama of redemption was unfolded. Salvation has prepared the people of God for this inevitability. Thus, for them, its passing is not accompanied by trauma or disappointment. Their affection has been uprooted from the passing and anchored in the eternal.
No More Sea
How precious the vision must have been to John. He had been exiled on Patmos, an Isle jutting out into the Agean Sea. Of course, the sea is a Divinely appointed representation of turmoil and agitation. Thus it is written, "But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt" (Isa 57:20). The sea is also a depiction of trial, as seen in the Israelites' confrontation of the Red Sea (Ex 13:18). It also reminds us of the agitating presence of false teachers who are described as "Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame" (Jude 12-13). No more agitation, turmoil, or unrest in the world to come!
The sea now covers the predominate percentage of our earth. 71% of the earth's surface is covered by the oceans of the world. Including lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water, nearly 87% of the earth's surface is covered by water, hiding much of the splendor and resources on the earth.
This is a picture of the curse of sin that has enveloped our world, obscuring Divine benefits from human consideration. Even after we come into Christ, this obscurity remains to a significant degree. The vast majority of what we have in Christ has "not yet appeared."
Thus, when the word is spoken, "And there was no more sea," we are to understand that all forms of restriction, as well as agitation, have been removed.
The Total Creation
The total creation is referred to as "heaven, earth, and sea" (Ex 20:11; Psa 146:6; Acts 4:24; 24:15). All of these were infected by sin, and all will pass away!
Before, therefore, we are given a view of the glories of the world to come, it is first confirmed that all that has been cursed will be removed. In this case, as well as all other aspects of the Kingdom, "the last shall be first." Also, as at the wedding feast in Cana, the Lord has kept the best for last (John 2:10). Our hearts must be convinced of the passing of the natural order before we will be able to let it go. Faith, however, can accomplish that task. It is imperative, therefore, that we hear the truth of the matter.
The Regenerated Realm
The "new heaven" and the "new earth" are the regenerated realm-the new environment for which we have been prepared. Here is "the creation itself," "delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom 8:21). This is the "world to come" over which the redeemed will preside (Heb 2:5-6), the "earth" the meek will "inherit" (Matt 5:5). The "children of God" have been prepared for this glorious realm. This is one of the reasons we "must be born again."THE HOLY CITY
"2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband" (ASV). We have been introduced to the new realm, now we will be exposed to the occupants of that realm. Let there be no mistake here, we are beholding the glorified church, "made ready as a bride adorned for her husband." A city as a dwelling place is never so described. This is not a place where saints will dwell, but is a depiction of the saints themselves. It is WHAT they are that is the point.
A Vital Perspective
Herein is a marvelous commentary on Divine emphasis! With the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and the appearance of the new heaven and new earth, what are we given to see? Does the Spirit launch into a description of the new heaven, telling us of celestial bodies and the renewed atmosphere? Is the renewed earth the objective of consideration, with a description of the terrain, the renewed brute creation, and a description of our resurrection bodies? Indeed not!
Immediately, the Spirit speaks of the redeemed-the glorified saints of God. He sees the church aggregate, with every vestige of the curse removed. With perfect preparation, it is ready to dwell forever with the Lord and reign with Him, world without end. The appeal of this passage is not to our carnal curiosity, but to our fath. Those who take this passage and attempt to lead us into a vivid description of WHERE we will be are in serious error. The point of the passage is not where WE will be, but where GOD will be-"with us."
We Have Been Introduced to the City
The Scriptures have introduced us to this city, with which we already have fellowship. "But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all" (Gal 4:26). This is the body of the redeemed of all ages. They are termed "Jerusalem" because God dwells among them. They are identified as "above" because they have been "raised up together" and made to "sit together in heavenly places in Christ jess" (Eph 2:6).
Jerusalem which is above is also "the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem," to which we have come in salvation (Heb 12:22). Earlier in the Revelation, Jesus referred to it as "The city of My God" (Rev 3:12). This is the "city" that Abraham sought: "he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb 11:10). Prophetically, the Psalmist spoke of this city when he said, "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King" (Psa 48:2).
The first person to build a city was Cain (Gen 4:17). The last one to build one is God (Heb 11:16). A united people in the land of Shinar conspired to build "a city and a tower, whose top may reach into heaven" (Gen 11:4). The "city of God" will come down from heaven to a renewed earth.
People, Not Structures
It is necessary to emphasize that we are now beholding people, not inanimate structures. When we think of cities in Scripture, the predominate thought is the people dwelling in them: i.e., Sodom and Gomorrah, Nineveh, Jerusalem, Tyre, Nazareth, Antioch, etc. When Jesus "beheld the city" of Jerusalem, He wept over it, saying "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes . . . " (Luke 19:41ff). He was not weeping over the structures, but over the people dwelling there! When Jesus upbraided Chorazin and Bethsaida, likening them to Tyre and Sidon (Matt 11:21), He was not speaking of buildings, but of people.
We must not allow ourselves to become fleshly in our consideration of this passage. We are beholding the glorified church, the people of God brought to perfection according to the appointment of God.
COMPARED WITH BABYLON
One of the chief opponents of the people of God is presented under the figure of a city-"Babylon the great." What a different city! Its end was to become "the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird" (Rev 18:2). Instead of being a "holy city," it is said of Babylon, "her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities" (18:5).
Babylon was no mere city of brick and mortar. It was an aggregation of people who conspired against the people of God. What she did can only be credited to people. "She made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication" (14:8). The "fierceness" of God's wrath was focused against Babylon (16:19). She was "the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth" (17:5). Babylon the great was not an architectural wonder, like Nebuchaddnezzar's Babylon (Dan 4:30). It was a spiritual wonder-a composite of people who were governed by the devil himself.
Likewise, the "holy city" is not a group of impersonal and lifeless structures. This is not an environment for saints, but a place for God Himself to dwell. The glorified saints themselves are the city.
THE HOLY CITY
The saints of God are precisely that-"saints," or holy ones. In this world, righteousness is imputed, or credited, to them. When they are glorified, they will be thoroughly holy, spirit, soul, and body (1 Thess 5:23). God is holy (1 Cor 3:17). The Lord Jesus is holy (Acts 4:27). The Spirit is holy (1 Thess 4:8). The angels are holy (Matt 25:31). The Scriptures are holy (Rom 1:2). How could an unholy people fit into an environment like that!
Of old time, the city of Jerusalem was called "the holy city" (Neh 11:1,18; Isa 52:1; Matt 4:5; 27:53). But it was not inherently holy. Sin and iniquity were found in it-so much so that God judged it with a grievous judgment. That city was "holy" because of its association with God, not because of its character. That city was holy because God chose to put His name there (1 Kgs 11:36). It was a place of Divine association, where His law, worship, and blessing was found. All of that was in spite of the people comprising its citizenry.
How different the glorified church. It is holy by nature, having partaken of the very holiness of God. No vestige of iniquity is found in it. The inhabitants have no corruptible bodies or souls bent toward the earth. Every remnant of the curse has been removed from them. They are, in every sense of the world, "the holy city."
THE NEW JERUSALEM
This is the "Jerusalem" of a new and eternal order-a different kind of city. Comprised of a perfected people, this Jerusalem will fulfill all of the statements made of her. "At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the LORD . . . Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness . . . and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth" (Jer 3:17; 33:16; Zech 8:3).
While it is true that Jerusalem is associated with coming spiritual renewal and blessing, that is but a prelude to the "new Jerusalem" which will leave nothing to be corrected.
When earthly Jerusalem is at its best, the nations will "flow" into it (Isa 2:2). But that is not the picture being portrayed in this section of Revelation. Rather, this is a Jerusalem into which the Lord Himself comes (21:3). The point is not how the nations respond to Jerusalem, but how God responds to it!
John beholds the city "coming down from God out of heaven." It has been associated with God all along, and in a very real sense has been joined to Him. Yet now it will come into its inheritance.
In redemption, we become identified with God Himself. We are "reconciled to God" (Rom 5:10), become "servants to God" (Rom 6:22), and "bring forth fruit unto God" (Rom 7:4). We are made "acceptable to God" (Rom 14:18), have "turned to God" (1 Thess 1:9), and "draw nigh" to God (James 4:8). The church is referred to as "sons of God" (1 John 3:1), the "temple of God" (1 Cor 3:16), and "the house of God" (1 Tim 3:15). It is a "habitation of God" (Eph 2:22), "heirs of God" (Rom 817), and "the elect of God" (Col 3:12). Here is an association that is too often left out of preaching and teaching. Once seen, however, it brightens the text we are now considering.
From every viewpoint, the glorified church will come down "from God." While they lived on the earth, their lives were "hid with Christ IN GOD" (Col 3:3). Those who died were "absent from the body, but present with the Lord" (2 Cor 5:8). When the Lord Jesus returns, He will "gather" the saints together (Matt 24:31). Together they will be "caught up" to "meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thess 4:17).
Here, therefore, the people of God are beheld together, glorified, and coming into the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world (Matt 25:34).
PREPARED AS A BRIDE
Earlier the people of God are referred to as the Lamb's wife, that "made herself ready" (19:7). That description emphasized her personal involvement in the preparation. Now we see her from an even high vantage point. Having been glorified, she is, in the fullest sense, "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." The redeemed no longer dwell in tabernacles of clay. Their souls are no longer cast down, nor can they be. They have been glorified and made suitable for eternal and expanded involvement with the Son of God, and with God Himself.
This is why God called them. This is why they were born again, with sins forgiven and their names written in heaven. Remove this glorious event and there is no reason for a Savior, Gospel, or godliness. It is imperative that the people of God be regularly exposed to the "end," or objective, "of their faith" (1 Pet 1:9). If we are not given to contemplate our state AFTER the passing of the first heaven and the first earth, we will be confined to futility. If our thoughts are not focused on our involvement with the new heaven and the new earth, we will be unable to please the Lord. This is His appointed objective for us, and it must capture our minds. A religion that emphasizes this world finds no profit in a passage like this. It rather chooses to actually dwell on the things that cannot, by their very nature, remain. This is nothing less than a Satanic snare.GOD HIMSELF SHALL BE WITH THEM
"3 And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell with them, and they shall be His peoples, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God" (ASV). Again, we hear "a great voice." The Revelation began with John hearing "a great voice, as a trumpet" (1:10). Later, he was summoned up higher by "a great voice from heaven" (11:12), coming from "the throne." Twice he heard "a great voice out of heaven" (16:1,17). All of these announced Divine appointments-things that could by no means be averted or effectively contradicted. Now, a "great voice" comes "out of the throne." It is the second time such a voice has been heard. The first time it was not a "great voice," as it is here, but was a voice of exhortation. "And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great" (19:5). But this "great voice" is giving no exhortation. Rather a proclamation is made. What God has determined has come to pass, and the announcement of it reverberates throughout the new heaven and the new earth.
THE TABERNACLE OF GOD
While there is a sense in which God now dwells in us (2 Cor 6:16; 1 John 4:13), it is in a preliminary sense. God inhabits His people "through the Spirit" (Eph 2:22). He does so only in the part of us that has been regenerated-our spirit. We do not yet have the fulness of His dwelling, because there are parts of us that are incompatible with Him, and would be destroyed by his glory. Our bodies most evidently fit into that category.
The dwelling of God among His people is mentioned often in Scripture. We have read of this dwelling before. "He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them" (Rev 7:15). This is an immediate dwelling, and is the fulfillment of Ezekiel's prophecy. "My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Ezek 37:27). There is a marvelous play on words here. In this world, we come to God. In this text, God comes to the redeemed. He comes to dwell with them forever.
HE SHALL DWELL WITH THEM
In this world, God is a God who "hides" Himself (Isa 45:15). There are times when His presence is not apparent, and we must navigate through faith alone.
In the Spirit, God now takes up His abode with those who love Jesus and keep His words (John 14:23). That aiding presence, however, is conditional. It must be preceded by loving Jesus in an environment that discourages such love, and keeping Christ's words in a realm where we must grapple with forgetfulness. Further, Deity now dwells within our hearts "by faith" (Eph 3:17).
But this proclamation declares a time when faith will not longer be the means, and contrary influences will no longer be experienced. There will be no more Mediator as we now have. We will never again be unaware of His presence, and the element of mystery, or veiling, will have been removed.
How glorious are the words: "God HIMSELF shall be with them, and be their God." From an experiential viewpoint, it will be just as though the individual and God were the only ones present. There will be an acute and unfading awareness of His presence, His favor, and His purpose. There will be no need for chastisement, correction, or forgiveness. We will no longer "seek" the Lord, strive to "find Him," or be unable to see Him with crystal clarity!
A LONGING IS PRESUMED
All of this presumes an intense longing within the saints for the immediate and unveiled presence of the Lord. This is not the passing along of mere information. It is language for the oppressed, good news for the persecuted, and a promise to the longing ones. It all means nothing to people firmly entrenched in this world. Salvation will, if heeded, create deep longings for these very things in the heart of the believer. Where such longings are absent, the Spirit has been grieved and quenched, and the soul is in serious jeopardy.
This message MUST be delivered to the people of God! A message that majors on the affairs of this world and fleshly experiences is not from God. Such a word does not have Christ at the heart of it, or heaven at the end of it. It is spurious in every sense of the word, and is to be rejected by the saints. Our religion must not allow us to focus on this world to the neglect of the one to come.THINGS THAT HAVE PASSED AWAY
"4 . . . and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away" (ASV). I cannot overemphasize the necessity of nourishing the saints with this blessed vision. The things with which we presently contend are only temporary. We dare not approach them as though they are to have no end. The best way to do this is not by philosophizing, or even pretending they are not present with us. Rather, we must heed the voice that comes from the throne. It speaks of the end of things that grieve us!
THE END OF TEARS
" . . . and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes." What child of God does not rejoice to read these words! Tears will not simply cease to flow, God will "wipe away every tear." Until this is accomplished, the tears of the righteous are carefully stored in God's own "bottle" (Psa 56:8). None of them have been shed in vain!
Jesus once promised, "Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh" (Lk 6:21). That day is surely coming! Often, like David, we "drench" our "couch" with our "tears" (Psa 6:6). They are an expression of the futility that characterizes our flesh. Were we able to control everything about us, as some liars claim, we would have no tears at all. Our tears are the proof we are not now in control. Sometimes tears are our food "night and day," as we are not able to get away from them (Psa 42:3). Even in the service of the King, Paul sometimes wrote to believers "with many tears" (2 Cor 2:4). In Ephesus, the Apostle "ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears" (Acts 20:31). He was even thoughtful about the "tears" of Timothy (2 Tim 1:4).
Regardless of their volume or frequency, in the world to come God will "wipe away every tear from their eyes!" In this world, we wipe tears. In the one to come, they are wiped "AWAY." By this, the Spirit means the things that occasioned the tears will no longer be remembered. Too, the total affect of those occasions will be moved from us. Because this is such an essential matter, it is repeated two times in this book. "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes . . . God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes" (7:17; 21:4). Isaiah spoke of this blessed time also. "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces" (Isa 25:8). This circumstance is much desired by those living by faith.
This, then, speaks of the affect of life in this world upon us. All such affects will be removed. Hear it again, and rejoice in the truth of it. "The Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces."
THE END OF DEATH
" . . . and death shall be no more." With the advent of sin, death entered into the world. As it is written, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin" (Rom 5:12). Ruthlessly, death has reigned over the entire human race. The landscape of this world is cluttered with the graves of those "swallowed" up by death. There is no time or culture where death has not ruled the race. No one has been able to elude its rule but Enoch and Elijah-and their translation was the result of Divine action, not personal accomplishment. It is even said of the patriarchs who lived by faith, "these all DIED" (Heb 11:13). Presently, we face "the power of the grave" and its "sting" (1 Cor 15:55). We stand at the graves of the godly as well as the ungodly, and mourn the loss of those with whom we have been united, and with whom we have labored.
No matter how long we live in this world, we do not grow accustomed to death. It is "the last enemy" to be destroyed-and it surely will be destroyed (1 Cor 15:26).
When Sarah died, the Scriptures tell us "Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her" (Gen 23:2). When mighty Jacob died, a gigantic entourage came with Joseph and "they mourned with a great and very sore lamentation: and he made a mourning for his father seven days" (Gen 50:10). When Aaron, the saint of the Lord, died, Israel mourned for him for thirty days (Num 20:29). They did the same for Moses (Deut 34:8). All Israel lamented the death of Samuel (1 Sam 28:3). Those whose lives have proved an advantage for the faithful are sorely missed when they die. Although they go to be with the Lord, the wake of their death leaves tears and sorrow behind them, as well as thankfulness and joy..
When Stephen, full of faith and the Holy Spirit, died at the hands of God's enemies, "devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him" (Acts 8:2). It was apparent to them that they had sustained a great loss in the death of Stephen. I have known a few such people in my lifetime-people whose death created a sort of void that caused sorrow.
But the appointed time is coming when there will be "no more death." God Himself will be the plague of death (Hos 13:14), and its "sting" will be forever removed (1 Cor 15:55). The curse enforced in Eden will finally be dissipated, praise the Lord (Gen 2:17; 3:19).
There is much involved in the removal of death. There will be no more vanity, futility, or hopelessness in any form. The tendency to fear will be removed, as it is a sister to death. There will be no more fading glory, deterioration in any form, or any kind of separation. How glorious the announcement! "And death shall be NO MORE!" Not only will there be no more death, all of the things that accompany is will also forever pass from us.
THE END OF MOURNING
" . . . neither shall there be mourning [sorrow, KJV]." Mourning, or sorrow, is an offspring of faith. It is a sister to repentance, and is characterized by grief. In this world, those who mourn because a regret over sin, are promised a blessing. "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted" (Matt 5:4). Among other things, that means mourning creates a condition that requires comfort and bolstering. It depletes our resources, and weakens our soul.
Speaking of sorrow-even "godly sorrow"-the Spirit says, "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation" (2 Cor 7:10). This, I gather, is the type of sorrow or mourning meant. By saying there will be "no more sorrow," or "mourning," the voice means there will be no more occasion for it. There will be no need for the confession of sin, for sin will have been forever banished. No more debilitating weaknesses. No personal unwilling thoughts entertained. None will ever again be taken captive by Satan, nor will there ever be frustrated desires and ambitions. As Isaiah said, "they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (Isa 35:10). The sorrow produced by the awareness that we "come short of the glory of God" will forever be removed from us (Rom 3:23). Never again will we find "another law" in our members, "warring against the law of our mind" (Rom 7:23). There will be no more mourning, or sorrow!
THE END OF CRYING
" . . . neither shall there be . . . crying." Since the transgression of Adam, there has never been a day when the voice of crying was not rising from the earth. The word "cry" does not mean shedding tears, although tears accompany such cries. This is strong longing that erupts from the mouth-i.e., a cry for help, or crying out.
When Jesus approached His death, He cried out to God. Of that occasion it is written, "Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared" (Heb 5:7). Who can forget his words from the cross, "Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt 27:46). "Crying" is no small word.
Often the Psalmist would say, "I cried unto the Lord" (Psa 3:4; 120:1; 142:1), or "I cried unto Thee" (30:2; 31:22; 119:146; 130:1; 142:5). One time, when he was surrounded by his enemies, Jehoshaphat "cried out, and the LORD helped him; and God moved them to depart from him" (2 Chron 18:31). Crying speaks of times of helplessness, when fervent calls are sent up to God for strength and protection.
By saying there is "no more crying," therefore, the Spirit means there will never again be a time of crisis! Trouble will never again be confronted. No one will sink in stormy waters, encounter fearful adversaries, or be faced with an end of their own strength. Who is not able to see the blessedness of this marvelous promise. We must hear it often.
THE END OF PAIN
" . . . neither shall there be . . . pain." There are at least two kinds of pain, and neither of them is easy to bear. Pain can be in the body or the soul. When Job was afflicted, he had both kinds of "pain." Because of sin, the woman experiences pain in giving birth (Gen 3:16; Psa 48:6). When Joseph was bound with fetters of iron, he was in pain and hurt (Psa 105:18). Paul confessed that in his labors for the Lord, he experienced "weariness and painfulness" (2 Cor 11:27).
Speaking of inward pain, David once said, "My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me" (Psa 55:4-5). When pondering the coming judgment of his people, Jeremiah said "I am pained at my very heart" (Jer 4:19). How blessed it is to contemplate the time when there will be "no more pain."
I have been with kindred and brethren when they experienced great pain. I have witnessed them gather strength to call upon the name of the Lord as the devil sought to restrain them. I have joined them in their prayers for relief. I also know the distracting influence of pain. Pain of any kind, inward or outward, is diverting and hard to bear.
Let no man or woman of God hide from us the glories of what is to come! When our tears flow, tell us of the time when God will wipe them all away! When we confront death face to face, and even walk into the valley of its shadow, tell us of the time when death will be no more! When we sorrow and mourn, and comfort is difficult to appropriate, tell us of the time when there will be no more sorrow! When we sense the futility of our own strength, and circumstances drive us to cry out to God, tell us of the time when all crying will cease, and we will never again come to the end of our strength. And when pain strikes us down in body or soul, and we are tempted to despair, tell us of the time when there will be no more pain! How we need to hear these things. Faith, which "comes by hearing," requires that they be heard!
THE FORMER THINGS
The magnitude of this expression is remarkable. The Spirit gathers all of the entire temporal order--nature, trials, and disheartening experience--and wraps it in a single phrase: "former things." None of them exist any more. They served their purpose, and thus "passed away." They could not remain a single second after their purpose was fulfilled.
Isaiah adds something significant to the phrase. "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind" (Isa 65:17NKJV). It is good to know that the memory of difficulties in this world will not haunt us in the one to come. There will be no recollection of injustices, persecution, or even personal setbacks. Not only will the "former things" pass away, they will not be remembered.
The yoke of trouble we are called to bear is only for a little while. As for those who trouble us, ponder this blessed Psalm. "For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, But it shall be no more" (Psa 37:10NKJV). When the light of the glory of God floods all things, all adversity, with its memory, will be ended, and never again come to mind! Purity of heart and mind will be total.A WORD FROM THE THRONE
"5 And He that sitteth on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new . . . (ASV). With great power, the Spirit has directed our attention away from the warfare. The burdens of both life and death are not now addressed. We are not warned about the devil, the beast, the false prophet, Babylon, or the great harlot. At this point, churches are not upbraided because they have left their first love, tolerated false teachers, or for being dead. No congregation is rebuked for defiling their garments or being lukewarm.
The net of the Kingdom has been drawn in, and the fish have been separated. There is no more prayer, no more faith, and no more hope. The objective of all those things has been realized, and we are forever with the Lord. Tears have been wiped away, sorrows drowned in a flood of joy, and death swallowed up of life. Our bottled tears have been exchanged for shouts of joy. What heart is there that is not touched by the scene!
FROM THE THRONE
Now "He that sitteth on the throne" speaks. He will not speak of the past conflict, but of the blessedness of what is ahead. He will speak to faith providing spiritual substance for us to grasp. This is the throne that is presently ruling the universe. Your spiritual life was commanded from this throne. It is the source of your sustenance and the reason your adversaries have not prevailed over you. The place where our Lord sits is not an easy chair, or a footstool. It is a throne. It is not a place of service, but a position of rule.
Throughout this book, we have heard of and from this throne. Holy associations have been made with it. A brief recollection of some of them will underscore the power of what we are about to hear.
Victory (3:21) Awesome sight (4:2-6) Honor and glory (4:9) Worship (7:11) Providence and control (5:1,6,7) Fear and dread (6:16) Salvation (7:9-10) Service (7:15) Care (7:17) Prayer and attention to it (8:3) Singing (14:3) Faultlessness (14:5) Finality and fulfillment (16:17) Praise (19:5) The passing of heaven and earth (20:11). Now this throne is a "throne of grace," dispensing what is needed to safely navigate through the difficult straits of this world. It is a throne with which we are familiar by both experience and Scripture. We have learned to trust what comes from this throne, neither doubting nor questioning it.
"I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW"
Here is a word the saints need to hear-and it comes from the enthroned Lord of glory. It is spoken to those in tribulation (1:9), and is designed to bring a blessing (1:3). The Lord calls for our attention: "BEHOLD!" This not word addressed to those IN glory, but those who are fighting the good fight of faith.
Through Isaiah, God foretold a new creation. "Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them" (Isa 42:9). "Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert" (Isa 43:19).
Much of what Isaiah prophesied has been fulfilled in Christ Jesus. Our God has made a "way in the wilderness," raising up a highway upon which we can travel to glory (Isa 35:8). After making us a "NEW creation in Christ Jesus" (2 Cor 5:17), He surrounded us with newness-glorious newness. We have been given a "NEW song" (Psa 33:3), a "NEW name" (Isa 62:2), and a "NEW spirit" (Ezek 11:19). By His grace we have a "NEW heart" (Ezek 18:31), a "NEW man" (Eph Col 3:10), and a "NEW commandment" (John 13:34).
As great as these things are, they are only a pledge of what is to come. They are to our ultimate destiny what the grapes of Eschol were to Canaan.
Whatever needs to be made new WILL be made new. Whatever sin has infected, God will restore to wholeness. Whatever tends to grow old will be made new. When our bodies are fatigued and grow inadequate, remember: "I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW!" When our affections are sluggish and must be prodded with exhortations, remember: "I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW!" When you experience persecution and opposition, and your enemies seem to prevail, remember: "I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW!" When we experience inner warfare, finding a recalcitrant law within our members, remember: "I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW!" When we find ourselves doing what we do not want to do, contending with unwanted thoughts, remember: "I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW!" If any one experiences members of his own house becoming his foes, remember: "I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW!" If you are called to endure the loss of loved ones, remember: "I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW!" When tears of sorrow and repentance fill your eyes, remember: "I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW!" When our hearts are slow to understand these precious things of God, remember: "I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW!"
There is NOTHING that will not be made new. "I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW!" There is not an unpleasantry of life or a frustration of effort that will not be changed. "I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW!" Let this truth warm your heart and buoy up your spirit! Allow it to strengthen hands that hang down and the feeble knees! Better days are coming. "I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW!"
WRITE IT DOWN!
"And He saith, Write: for these words are faithful and true" (ASV). This is the twelfth time John has been told to "WRITE." For me, this underscores the importance of the Revelation.
"What you see, WRITE in a book and send it to the seven churches" (1:11). "WRITE the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this" (1:19). "To the angel of the church of Ephesus WRITE" (2:1). "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna WRITE" (2:8). "And to the angel of the church in Pergamos WRITE" (2:12). "And to the angel of the church in Thyatira WRITE" (2:18). "And to the angel of the church in Sardis WRITE" (3:1). "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia WRITE" (3:7). "And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans WRITE" (3:14). "WRITE: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on" (14:13). "WRITE: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!" (19:9). "Behold, I make all things new. And He said to me, WRITE, for these words are true and faithful" (21:5).
If you are ever tempted to question the outcome of your faith, remember "these words are faithful and true!" It is not possible for you to believe them and be disapppointed.
THE WATER OF LIFE
"6And He said unto me . . . " (ASV). The worth of being addressed by the One sitting upon the throne cannot be overstated. It tells us something about the Holy One. Surely this passage confirms the statement of Isaiah. "For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones" (Isa 57:15). Not only was John's spirit revived by the words given to him, but all those who read and believe them are revived. These words are pregnant with spirit and life. We must not come to them with an academic magnifying class, language expertise, and theological precision. Whatever part those things play in the good fight of faith, there comes a time when they must be laid aside. Only faith can grasp the words of Him who sits upon the throne!
THEY ARE COME TO PASS
"It is done!" What a word is this! Only the Lord can speak in this manner, declaring things are "done" even before they have come to pass. Faith needs this kind of affirmation. It needs to hear the surety of the things upon which hope is founded. We "do not know what a day will bring forth" (Prov 27:1), but we do know the outcome of all things! We do not know if we will live or die by tomorrow (James 4:15), but we do know how everything will turn out! All of our foes will be vanquished, and all things will be made new! The Lord has declared it!
There is not the slightest chance this will not come to pass. The Lord of glory says, "IT IS DONE!" He has revealed what He has determined, and nothing can change that! Hear the word of the Lord. "For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure . . . Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it" (Isa 46:9-11NKJV).
It is as though the Lord hurls the word in the devil's face, challenging him to overturn it, or cause one jot or tittle of it to fail. At the very beginning, the Lord told the devil what He was going to do (Gen 3:15)-and He did it! He announced to Abraham that He was going to bless "all families of the earth" (Gen 12:3)-and He did it! He revealed He would cause a virgin to conceive and bring forth a Son, and that the government would be placed upon His shoulder (Isa 7:14; 9:6-7)--and He did it!
Now the Lord has taken us to the end of time, the conclusion of all things. He has declared the cessation of all trouble, the consignment of the devil and all of his hosts to the lake of fire, and the glorious triumph of the saints. He calls upon believers to peruse everything that has been contaminated by sin, then tells them: "I make all things new!" Then, to secure the matter to our heart, He affirms, "IT IS DONE!" Speaking from the same perspective the Lord says elsewhere, "the works were finished from the foundation of the world" (Heb 4:3).
Why does the Lord speak in this manner? It is because faith requires this kind of word. Faith cannot take hold of ambiguity or things uncertain. Possibilities cannot sustain faith. It needs a sure word from God. We do need to know what to do-what the Lord "requires" of us (Mic 6:8). However, we do not live by the commandments, as much as we love them, and as necessary as they are. Faith thrives on Divine affirmation. "Your sins ARE forgiven you for his name's sake . . . you ARE not in the flesh but in the Spirit . . . you ARE the temple of God . . . but ye ARE washed, but ye ARE sanctified, but ye ARE justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God . . . you ARE no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God," etc. (1 John 2:12; Rom 8:9; 1 Cor 3:16; 6:11; Eph 2:19).
Now faith hears the word, "IT IS DONE," and rests confidently upon it. It reasons that it is just a little while, and we will ever be with the Lord.
ALPHA AND OMEGA
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end." Jesus has said this before (1:8,11), and will yet say it again (22:13). This is a word that needs to be riveted in our spirits. It speaks of our Lord's total control of things. The "Alpha" is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and the "Omega" is the last. In this case, the alphabet stands for all that God has determined to do. It is what brings rationality and order to everything.
In the highest sense of the word, nothing has occurred, or can occur, outside the perimeter of God's will. The worst atrocity ever perpetrated by mankind was the death of God's Son. In that single deed, the wickedness of man was unveiled and confirmed. Yet, when assessing that great evil, the Spirit constrained Peter to say to the guilty parties, "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23). Later, the church, joined together in one mind, said of that event, "For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done" (Acts 4:27-28).
But all of this is pointless if we make no connection with the good fight of faith. We must believe the Lord is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, concerning the destiny of His people also.
In this affirmation, the Lord is assuring our hearts that everything is in His control, and that He is ruling in our favor. When He is finished with the devil, He will cast him into the lake of fire. When the purpose for the present heaven and earth has been completed, they will pass away, and the new heaven and earth will appear. When our warfare is finished, it will pass away, never again to be remembered. Tears will be wiped away, and death, sorrow, crying, and pain will come to an end. Everything will be made new--totally and refreshingly new. IT IS DONE!
THE WATER OF LIFE
"I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely." Now our attention is turned to the individual whose soul has been nurtured by grace. It is with great sadness that I must acknowledge the rarity of this type of person within the average church. Notwithstanding that condition, this is the ONLY kind of person that has any promise whatsoever of glory.
The word "athirst," or "thirsty," is not a casual word. The word means to suffer from thirst, long for earnestly, and have a strong desire for. Jesus used this very word when pronouncing a blessing upon His people. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (Matt 5:6). It is certain that these are the ONLY ones who will realize eternal satisfaction. If, in this world, an appetite and thirst for the Lord is not awakened, there is no hope of being forever with Him. When one contemplates the condition of the contemporary church, this is a most disturbing thought.
David thrice expressed this type of strong thirst. "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God . . . My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water . . . My soul longs for You like a thirsty land" (Psa 42:2; 63:1; 143:6). If David could express such strong longings BEFORE grace brought salvation and the Spirit was given to men, what type of longings should be expected today? The truth is that David so far excels the average churchman that is it mind-boggling.
One of the strongest affirmations of this type of thirst is expressed by Paul. It is a standard in the New Covenant. "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead" (Phil 3:7-11NKJV). That properly depicts "him that is athirst."
This promise cannot be overstated. At once you should be able to see it is largely irrelevant in the nominal church. Furthermore, where it is found, it is rarely nourished and encouraged. The individual with a thirst like this is such a misfit in the average congregation that he is looked upon as strange and fanatical.
But the Lord Jesus sees such souls, and speaks to them with power. He knows their hearts, and how they long for His presence and blessing. These people confess, "For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness" (Psa 84:10). Whatever the world offers them is paltry next to the promises of God. They will forfeit all of the world for but a moment in the courts of the Lord. That is what it means to be "thirsty."
Jesus was attracted to such people when He walked amongst us. On one occasion, during a great feast, Jesus stood and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:37-38). Here is a unique aspect of the Kingdom. The thirsty person, after drinking, becomes a secondary resource. "OUT of his belly," or inmost being, will "flow rivers of living water." The drinking begins now, but will be brought to the level of thorough satisfaction in the world to come.
Notice the glorious expression. "I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely." This is a promise of drinking from the Source, without receiving second hand. Now, in this world, the water comes to us through appointed means. The Scriptures, ministers, and edifying assemblies serve up the water. It is true, we draw from the well within, but what we have is nothing to be compared with the "fountain of the water of life." There is more abundance for us.
This is an expression denoting thorough satisfaction-what is longed for is experienced in abundance. In this world, things for which a strong appetite exists may only be enjoyed in small measures. Often there is not an abundant supply of such things. Too, sometimes our appetites are not adequate to ingest large quantities of the desired thing.
But it is not so in the world to come! There, we will have a capacity to receive an an abundance. The Lord will never say, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now" (John 16:12). Nor, indeed, will the words ever again be heard, "Melchizedek, of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing" (Heb 5:10-11).
The word "freely" means gratuitously. That is, He gives it because He wants to give it, and there is no charge. Here is the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price" (Isa 55:1).
Suffice it to say, a religion that does not develop and sustain a voracious appetite for the things of God is a dangerous one. It will, unless overcome, keep a person out of heaven. Rest assured, there will be noone with the Lord who has not fervently desired to be with Him. Those with small appetites are tottering on the edge of a Christless eternity. They are not to be envied!
You will observe that the promise assumes the existence of spiritual thirst-a strong desire for what the Lord has to give. That thirst begins in this world, but will not be fully satisfied until we are divested of our carnal nature and bodies, and the present heaven and earth pass away. Then we will be able to drink freely and enjoy complete satisfaction. Too, that condition will never end! A copious and unending supply for thirsty souls. What a blessed prospect for those who have developed a hearty appetite for eternal things!INHERITING ALL THINGS
"7 He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. The promises here expressed are not exaggerations. If anything, they are understated because of the infirmity of our flesh. Yet, it is rare that one hears reference to these "exceeding great and precious promises." It is as though the Lord piles blessing upon blessing in His commitments to His people. Twelve glorious commitments have been made to this point.
No more separation from God: The tabernacle of God with men. The unhindered and obvious presence of the Lord: God dwelling with men. The revelation of our relationship to God: The saints will be His people. No more Mediator required: God Himself with them, being their God. The impact of all sorrow, trouble, and sin removed: God will wipe away all tears. No more separation in any sense. The cessation of death. Grief, heartache, and all forms of lamentation ended: The end of sorrow. The call for help, deliverance, or rescue, will never again be heard: No more crying. Agony, grief and affliction will never again be experienced: The termination of pain. All things associated with and contaminated by sin will be removed from sight and memory: The former things passed away. All things contaminated by sin will be recreated: Everything made new. Limited understanding and secondary knowledge never again experienced: Free access for the thirsty to the fountain of living water. Yet, the end is not yet! There will be a personal reward that will confirm the blessedness of the good fight of faith. The child of God will not simply receive some things. There will be no representative inheritance, like we experienced while living by faith. Now we enjoy the "firstfruits of the Spirit" (Rom 8:23). Then we will "inherit all things."
This promise is exceedingly large! It includes the new earth (Psa 37:11), God Himself (Rom 8:17), and the Kingdom of God (Matt 25:34). Of old time, Hannah caught a glimpse of the magnitude of the saints' inheritance. In her prayer of thanksgiving for the birth of Samuel, she said the following. "He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory" (1 Sam 2:8). Isaiah spoke of those inheriting God's "mountains" (Isa 65:9). Paul reminded us "things to come" belong to the saints (1 Cor 3:22).
Also, "all things" include everything just mentioned. It will ALL be given to the INDIVIDUAL who overcomes by faith. Not one whit shall be withheld from those who kept the faith and finished their course. Who, knowing this, is not willing to spend and be spent for the Lord?
I WILL BE HIS GOD, AND HE WILL BE MY SON
The personal aspect of glory needs to be seen. All of the saints will be there, to be sure. There will be aspects of glory that will be accentuated by the togetherness of the people of God. There are other facets of it, however, that are intensely personal. From a practical viewpoint, it will be just as though we were the only ones there. There will be personal access to, and fellowship with, the Lord that has never before been experienced. In this world, we are only introduced to Divine fellowship. We have been "called into" it by grace (1 Cor 1:9). However, our present situation limits that fellowship to a significant degree. We are in a body incapable of being close to God. We are in a world that is at war with God. And we are in time, that eventually will be no more. But this will not be the case in the world to come!
Earlier, with an accent on the people of God, it was said, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people" (v 3). Now the promise becomes more personal: "and I will be his God, and he shall be My son."
It is not that God will begin to be our God, or that we will begin to be His sons. We have already received "the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father" (Rom 8:14-17). "NOW we are the sons of God" (1 John 3:1). Jesus is "bringing many sons" to glory-individuals who have already been adopted (Heb 2:10). But, as wonderful as this is, it is only introductory.
A Conditional Sonship
In this world, our sonship is conditional. This is because we have not yet been fully redeemed. We are "waiting for the adoption, to whit, the redemption of our body" (Rom 8:23). Until that occurs, we must be on guard, vigilant, and faithful.
There is a remarkable consistency in this representation.
Jesus associated being "children of the highest" with loving our enemies, doing good, lending, and hoping for nothing again-conditions (Lk 6:35). Again, he said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God"-a condition (Matt 5:9). Those receiving Christ are given power to "become the sons of God"-a condition (John 1:12). Being "sons" and "daughters" of God is, in a sense, contingent upon separation from defiling influences-conditions (2 Cor 6:16-18). Now, we are "all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus"-a condition (Gal 3:26). Being the "sons of God without rebuke" is also related to us doing all things without murmuring and disputing-a condition (Phil 2:15). These things do not suggest we are NOT really sons of God. Nor, indeed, do they imply that we fall in and out of this relationship, never able to be confident of our status. What they do suggest is that our sonship cannot be taken for granted. It is something that must be demonstrated, or shown to be true. Our status of "sons of God" is held by faith. It is a real condition, but is conditioned upon faith, which overcomes all opposing influences (1 John 5:4-5).
In this world, Adam and Eve can be expelled from the very Garden in which God placed them. Israel can be thrown out of Canaan, after God placed them there. Judas can "fall by transgression" after he was made an Apostle. Some can "depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons." We are in a war zone, and anyone that imagines there is no danger or jeopardy here has been lulled to sleep by unbelief.
But in the world to come, none of these conditions will exist. There will be no need for shield or amour. Vigilance and alertness, as we know it now, will not be required. No part of us will be unregenerated or require subordination. There will be no jeopardy, danger, or hostility in any form.
Thus, Divine fellowship will obtain a consistency and thoroughness that could not be experienced this side of the veil. That is the condition to which God refers when He says, "I will be his God, and he shall be my son." Then, there will be no "IF's." Until then, they are very present (Matt 6:14; 17:20; 8:31; 15;7,10,14; Rom 4:24; 6:5,8; 8:13; 1 Cor 11:31; 15:2; Gal 5:18; 6:9; Col 1:23; 1 Thess 4:14; 2 Tim 2:11,12; Heb 2:3; 3:6,7,14,15; 4:7; 10:26; 12:25; 1 Pet 1:17; 2 Pet 1:10; 1 John 1:6,7,8,9,10; 2:10; 4:12; 5:9,14,15).
Again, this by no means suggests believers live in uncertainty and fear. Faith produces an assurance and confidence that stabilizes the soul, enabling it to live triumphantly in "this present evil world." There is such a thing as the "full assurance of faith" (Heb 10:22), and blessed is the person possessing it. But faith is the solitary means by which this is accomplished, and faith is not automatic.
Thus when the Lord says, "I will be his God, and he shall be my son," He means not a solitary influence will diminish or threaten that status. There will be no conditions attached to His presence, because there will be no liabilities or enemies with which to contend. There will be a personal identity with Him that can scarcely be imagined in this world, and it will be glorious! This, dear reader, is what God has called you to!A FINAL WORD ABOUT THE UNGODLY
"8 But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death" (ASV). This book began with the assessment of Christ's churches. Faults and deficiencies were found in them that jeopardized their relationship to Him. Some were close to being vomited up by Jesus, cast away from His presence. These conditions existed because we are in the realm of danger-an evil world. Now, lest His church become complacent, the Lord reminds us of the destiny of those who do not fit into the world to come. His words are stern and to the point. If believed, they will assist us in separating ourselves from contaminating influences.
None of the promises just recounted are for those now reviewed. Rather, there is a "part" reserved for them in the "lake of fire." hat very circumstance reveals the abomination of these individuals.
These are not those who fear the Lord, but those with the "spirit of bondage unto fear" (Rom 8:15). Having the "spirit of fear," they hide themselves from God. They do not draw near to God because His is contrary to them. They are dominated by "the fear of death," and thus devote themselves to things that cause them to ignore that reality. Their dread of facing the Lord does not compel them to seek Him, but to ignore Him. They run from Him in fear, rather than running to Him in reverence and godly fear.
Their fearfulness "surprises" them. As it is written, "The sinners in Zion are afraid; Fearfulness has seized the hypocrites: "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" (Isa 33:14). The idea is that such people do not think of God, live for Him, or plan to meet Him. When suddenly they are confronted with Him, or made aware of His Person, fearfulness rushed into them, thrusting them from Him.
Those who are repulsed by the Lord will certainly have no place in His presence!
What a dreadful description: unbelieving! This is the individual who has not believed "the record God gave of His Son" (1 John 5:10-11). The "unbelieving" are those without faith, who possess neither the substance of things hoped for nor the evidence of things not seen (Heb 11:1). They stagger at the promises of God, and are not persuaded that God is able to do what He has promised (Rom 4:20-21).
Because of their unbelief, everything they do is defiled. As it is written, "but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work" (Tit 1:15).
Being "unbelieving" particularly applies to refusing the Gospel. Removing all doubt about the matter, Jesus said, "he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mk 16:16). In another place He said, "if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins" (John 8:24). Unbelief caused some of the Israelites to be broken off (Rom 11:20). It makes the heart "evil," causing the individual to "depart from the living God" (Heb 3:12). Of old time, Israel "could not enter" into Canaan "because of unbelief" (Heb 3:19). It will also exclude people from glory, and be the cause of them being cast into the lake of fire.
This is not the absence of intellectual assent, but a refusal to trust in and rely upon the Christ declared in the Gospel.
There are people who are themselves "abominable." The Spirit refers to those who profess they know God, but deny Him in their works, as "abominable" or "detestable" (Tit 1:16). This is the opposite of being "beloved" or "precious" in the sight of the Lord (Deut 33:12; Isa 43:4). Those who imagine that God has an attraction to everyone are sorely mistaken!
There are some people who are personally reprehensible to God. "All who behave unrighteously, are an abomination to the LORD your God . . . For the perverse person is an abomination to the LORD . . . These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: . . . A false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren" (Deut 25:16; Prov 3:32; 6:16-19). At one point the Lord's own inheritance, Israel, became obnoxious to Him. "Therefore the wrath of the LORD was kindled against His people, So that He abhorred His own inheritance" (Psa 106:40).
It is no wonder such individuals will not enter the Kingdom, but rather be cast into the lake of fire. I find it a matter of great concern that some believe such people do not even exist. They are convinced God "loves everybody," and is incapable of hating any one. It is written, "But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates," and "You hate all workers of iniquity" (Psa 11:5; 5:5). Again, it is written, "My heritage is to Me like a lion in the forest; It cries out against Me; Therefore I have hated it" (Jer 12:8). Men do well to avoid falling into this category!
Because man is made in the image of God, murder is a particularly serious sin. For man to take life that God has given is an attack against the Almighty. The first murderer was Cain. The Spirit says of him, "who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother" (1 John 3:12). Jesus said of the devil, "He was a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44), thereby confirming he is the influence behind all murder.
Murder is taking the life of another. The Spirit expands this sin to include hating ones brother. "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (1 John 3:15). There is no hope of a person in this condition entering heaven. At some point, such must be separated from this category of persons, or they will have their part in the lake of fire.
Other versions use the word "sexually immoral" (NKJV), "fornicators" (RSV), "immoral persons" (NASB). The Greek word used here is po,rnoij, (porn-ois). It is a man who practices immorality, and particularly refers to sodomites or homosexuals (Thayers Lexicon).
Here is a sin that has become tolerable in our age. Palatable terms like "live-in" and "single mothers" have been sanctified by the world, to say nothing of "same-sex marriages." It is not at all surprising to find fornication, and even sodomy, in the average church. Often it is treated with sympathy, and viewed as a simple weakness. But this is not the case at all. There will be no exception to this proclamation. This is a truth that is evident to the faithful. "For this ye know, that no whoremonger . . . hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God (Eph 5:5).
Sorcery is frequently condemned in scripture. Pharaoh had sorcerers who opposed Moses (Ex 7:11). Israel allowed sorcerers to creep into their presence and determine what they did (Jer 27:9). Nebuchaddnezzar also had sorcerers (Dan 2:2). Malachi prophesied against sorcerers that had gained prominence among the people (Mal 3:5). Paul confronted a sorcerer in Paphos (Acts 13:6,8), and Peter encountered one in Samaria (Acts 8:9). What sorcery, and why is it condemned.
Because the word "sorcery" comes from mageu,wn (mag-eu-ov), and means to practice magic (Thayer), some have concluded it was mere slight of hand, or an appearance of something supernatural. That, however, is a modern definition of magic. The "magicians" of the Bible were not at all like the entertaining magicians of our day (Gen 41:8; Ex 7:11; Dan 1:20).
Definition.-- In its modern accepted sense magic may be described as the art of bringing about results beyond man's own power by superhuman agencies. In the wide sense of this definition divination is only a species of magic, i.e. magic used as a means of securing secret knowledge, especially a knowledge of the future. Divination and magic bear a similar relation to prophecy and miracle respectively, the first and third implying special knowledge, the second and fourth special power. But divination has to do generally with omens, and it is better for this and other reasons to notice the two subjects-- magic and divination-- apart as is done in the present work.(from International Standard Bible Encylopaedia)
Sorcery has to do with unlawful knowledge-knowledge attained from unlawful sources. An example of this type of knowledge is found in a woman from Ephesus who possessed a spirit of divination. This woman followed Paul for many days crying out, "These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation" (Acts 16:1-17). Technically, she could not have been more correct. Yet, the knowledge was not obtained lawfully. Therefore, "Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her" (17:18).
A similar example is found when Jesus confronted a man with an unclean spirit in a Capernaum synagogue. The spirit cried out to Jesus, "Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are; the Holy One of God!" (Mark 1:24). The statements concerning Jesus were precisely true, but they were not lawful when coming from an unclean spirit. Therefore Jesus rebuked the spirit saying, "Hold thy peace, and come out of him" (1:25).
The sin of sorcery has been popularized in our day through witchcraft (Wicca), astrology, fortune telling, and psychic phenomenon. The first lady of our land has even sought knowledge from such sources. Law enforcement agencies frequently hire psychics to track down criminals or obtain detailed information about mysterious crimes. Millions of people regulate their lives according to astrological charts, placing great stock in the "sign" under which they were born. These are condemned practices.
For some, this is all a lot of delusion. However, the Scriptures do not represent sorcery as a harmless bit of manipulation. Moses warned the people about contact with such people. "Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God" (Lev 19:31). He does not say to avoid those who SAY they have "familiar spirits," but with those who HAVE them! Manasseh is said to have "dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards" (2 Chron 33:6).
Isaiah also warned the people of God not to seek knowledge from such sources. "And when they say to you, Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter, should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa 8:19-20). Seeking consultation from the realm of the dead is condemned by God.
I have provided this somewhat extended explanation because a prevalent view among the people with whom I have been identified. They do not see sorcery as real, but consider it as delusion and mere phantasy. If that is the case, this is the only instance in the Bible where a sin that is unreal is condemned.
Here is a sin that ranks unusually high. It was specifically condemned in the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:4). It involves the ascription of Divine qualities to something other than God. The Spirit informs us that those serving idols are really worshiping demons (Lev 17:7; 1 Cor 10:20).
In Christ, the meaning of idolatry is expanded to include covetousness: " . . . covetousness, which is idolatry" (Col 3:5). In this case, idolatry is serving ones own appetites and desires, something quite common in our day.
This involves more than simple misrepresentations of the facts, although that is certainly not excluded. "All liars" are those under the powerful sway of Satan, who cannot speak the truth. Jesus said of the devil, "When he [the devil] speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it" (John 8:44).
Moved by the Spirit, John further defines the liar. "Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son" (1 John 2:22). In particular, this is the person who misrepresents Christ Jesus, luring people away from Him and His great salvation. John also referred to a "liar" as one who claimed to know Christ, yet does not keep His commandments. "He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4). He also identified the person saying he loved God, yet hating his brother, as a liar. "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar" (1 John 4:20).
Paul described the liar as one whose words contradict the word of the Lord. "God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged" (Rom 3:4).
All such people will be cast into the lake of fire. By their words, they have confirmed they are not possessors of the Divine nature.
There is no chance that people so characterized will enter heaven. Either they become separate from these things in this world, or they will be excluded from the one to come.
All of these traits are contradictory of the Divine nature. Those dominated by them, by that very circumstance, have excluded themselves from the presence of the Lord. These sins remove an appetite for, and appreciation of, the living God.
Not only do such people NOT fit into glory, they DO fit into hell. There is no place for them in the Lord's presence, but there IS a place for them in the lake of fire. These "shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."
Eternity will confirm where the individual belongs! In this world, every person is becoming acclimated to an eternal environment. Those who have nurtured godless appetites and lived apart from the Lord will find they simply do not fit into the "world to come." It will be even more offensive to them then than it was when they rejected it in this world.
But those who have "their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone" will not find it pleasant. They will fit in there, or be suitable for that horrible place, but not experientially. Being incongruous with the realm of glory, their natures will only blend with the order of pain and rejection. Heaven will be distasteful to them, but they will find no relief in the lake of fire. From one point of view, there will be no place where they will be comfortable. All ability to enjoy, be comforted, and be satisfied will be withdrawn from them. They chose to reject the Divinely appointed remedy. It is, to be sure, a most dreadful consideration. They will be miserable in their eternal dwelling. It is a fearful thing to fall into then hands of the living God!CONCLUSION
Salvation is designed to develop and nurture an appetite for the glory to come. If the individual does not have an yearning for glory, he will not participate in it. It is most disconcerting to consider the smallness of spiritual yearning that dominates the professed church. It is a condition that is most serious, yet is almost universally ignored. Professional religion caters to the small spiritual appetite. Brevity is the epitaph over most religious gatherings. The people are not there long enough to really get anything from God. What is more, they love to have it so. While the entertainment and athletic media lengthens their programs, the church is shortening its program, even curtailing the number of times they meet together.
And why does this condition exist? Because there is an absence of enjoyment of the things of the Spirit of God! Some are even bold enough to join the evil Israelites in their petition to the prophets. "Who say to the seers, 'Do not see,' And to the prophets, 'Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits'" (Isa 30:10). Woe to the person who succumbs to such demands!
Faith cultures an appetite for what God has promised! It constrains the believer to move toward the fulfilment of those promises by pondering them and preparing for their realization.
This is one of the primary ways we lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven (Matt 6:19-20). There has been a lot of frothy things said about such treasures, and how they are to be "laid up." It is accomplished by setting "your affection on things above, and not on things on the earth" (Col 3:1). If that does not occur, there is no chance of obtaining those things.
In the end, everyone will get what they want. Those who earnestly desired the Lord will inherit Him. Those who did not want Him will go into a Godless eternity. Now is the time to nurture the proper appetites and longings. Now is the time to develop a yearning for what God has promised.