Summary: As God ushers in a new phase of eternity, John describes it in the form of a city, a wedding, and a tabernacle. All pain, sadness, and death will be stripped away. We will be with God forever, completely fulfilled in him.
Heaven on Earth
The famous Christian author, C.S. Lewis, once wrote, “The Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.” Today and next week we’re going to think a little of the next world. We’re in week two of a four-week series on some key passages in Revelation. Today we get a little taste of heaven on earth, as the heavenly city of Jerusalem descends into a new heaven and a new earth.
You should thank me. We’re picking up near the end of the book after all the bad stuff has ended: sinners have been judged and condemned; Satan and his evil demons have been thrown into the lake of fire. It’s time now for God to begin the rest of eternity with a redeemed people who have had their sin forgiven and stripped away. That’s us!
The commentator Erik Heen summarizes our passage well. He writes, “As the vision of the new creation continues to unfold in Revelation, the distinction between heaven and earth simply falls away. Heaven quite literally descends to earth, radically renewing it. In the process, all life on earth is restored to God's intent for it.”
Our writer of Revelation, the Apostle John, gives us a couple of images to relate what this new heaven and earth will be like. First, John describes a “city,” but not just any city. This is the holy city of Jerusalem, the capitol city of heaven. God has prepared it in the heavenly realms and God now lowers it down to a waiting new earth. Here is a perfect place for all its kingdom citizens to reside.
John also talks of a “wedding.” Ancient Hebrew weddings included three phases: First, there was the “betrothal” period, what we might call an engagement, except back then breaking a betrothal required a divorce; that’s how serious it was. Next there was the “presentation,” a series of festivities that might last several days, all leading up to the last phase: the “ceremony,” which included an exchange of vows.
Currently we are engaged to Jesus, so to speak. Someday we will be presented to him at what the Bible calls the wedding feast in heaven. And then comes the ceremony itself, which John describes here: the church of all true believers is adorned as a beautiful bride walking down the aisle toward Jesus, the groom. I’ll never forget seeing my bride enter the back of the sanctuary, on the arm of her father, and how radiant she looked as she came down the aisle to meet us. God says his church of believers will be radiant—with all sin stripped away—as we meet our groom, Jesus Christ, at the altar.
Now, according to Jewish custom, the bridegroom would take his bride to live in an extension he built onto his father’s house. (This is still done in certain cultures today.) That’s why Jesus promised, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2)