Summary: This message introduces the book of revelation, the reality of heaven, in an intelligent and funny way. It speaks about the reality of heaven, God’s love and how God can love a fallen world.
John and the book of revelation
Inspired by a sermon of Paul Humphrey
The book of revelation talks about the ‘end times’ that is the time after Jesus has died until the end of creation. We have been living in ‘the end times’ for the last 2,000 years. Some things have already happened and some are still to happen.
Since Roman authorities at this time were beginning to enforce the cult of emperor worship, Christians--who held that Christ, not Caesar, was Lord--were facing increasing hostility.
The believers at Smyrna are warned against coming opposition (2:10),
the church at Philadelphia is told of an hour of trial coming on the world (3:10). Antipas has already given his life (2:13) along with others (6:9).
John has been exiled to the island of Patmos (probably the site of a Roman penal colony) for his activities as a Christian missionary (1:9).
Some within the church are advocating a policy of compromise (2:14-15, 20), which has to be corrected before its subtle influence can undermine the determination of believers to stand fast in the perilous days that lie ahead.
We need the book of revelation because it tells us about the time after Jesus, our time. How can we believe in Heaven when there is so much wrong with the world? When there is so much starvation, inequality and suffering. When people are dying on the news and you get your credit card statement telling you how much money you owe the bank.
For an adequate understanding of Revelation, the reader must recognize that it is a distinct kind of literature. Revelation is apocalyptic, a kind of writing that is highly symbolic.
Although its visions often seem bizarre to the Western reader, fortunately the book provides a number of clues for its own interpretation (e.g., stars are angels, lampstands are churches, 1:20; "the great prostitute," 17:1, is "Babylon" [Rome?], 17:5, 18; and the heavenly Jerusalem is the Church 21:9-10).
The book of Revelation uses a base 12 counting system. This means they count like 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,A,B,10. To say something is big we talk of 100,000 people because that is 10,000 times 10. So they talk about 12,000 times 12 being 144,000 people. There is nothing special in the numbers, they are just saying there is a very big group of people.
Some people like to focus upon the symbolism of the book and they create this weird fantastical world, so most people are frightened to read the book. The following clip is too dramatic but does contain truth for us to consider.
Today we are going to focus upon the idea of heaven.
I. There is a real heaven.
Because it uses symbols and stories the passage is able to compress quite a bit of teaching into a very small paragraph.
Here we learn that the church is married to Jesus.
REV 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
REV 21:5 He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
REV 21:6 He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. (NIV)
Scripture is clear to us that there is a real heaven. Every description of it draws a picture of perfection, be it numbers, or be it dimensions, whatever the descriptions are in the book of Revelation, we find perfection.
This earth is not our rest.
The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:19 “And if we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world.”
Great prophets proclaimed their sadness of this world.
Elijah requested that he might die, 4 Then he [Elijah]went on alone into the desert, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” 1 Kings 19:4