Summary: What will eternity be like? What does ’a new heaven and a new earth mean? Where are our loved ones in Christ now? The Bible is our final authority in these matters.
THE RETURN OF THE KING – Revelation 21:1-5
When did you last read a good book that was difficult to put down?
Some of you here are keen readers who occasionally come across good books that keep you guessing what kind of an ending there will be. An excellent film or drama series can have the same effect.
The Drama of Scripture is like this – only more so!
• We are part of the story.
• We are in the script.
• We all have a walk on part in the pages of Scripture.
• We are there in the background.
• And there is a future and an ending yet to be unveiled the likes of which we can only imagine.
There is a sense in which the lives we live are like an impromptu performance for which there is no rehearsal. Like in the imaginative film ‘The Never Ending Story’ in which the reader finds himself within the text of the book he is reading, so we also find ourselves in the Drama of Scripture, and each one of us writes more of the script each day through our daily choices and daily living.
But how will the drama end? In the Drama of Scripture there is a future which our all-knowing, all-seeing God reveals in part. God, who created time and who transcends time knows the beginning from the end and has been pleased to reveal to us something of what is yet to take place.
This sermon today is the penultimate in our series on the Drama of Scripture.
• We have watched the drama unfold from the opening scenes in which Creation was established by God, and humankind were formed.
• We have watched as the Creation became entirely corrupted through original sin and we have traced God’s plan of Redemption through the calling of a covenant people for himself, on to the coming of the Messiah, the Second Adam, who accomplished in his death all that was needful for our salvation.
• History has now caught up with us and we find ourselves in the story waiting for the second coming of the Lord and for what must yet take place.
• But what will the future be like? What will eternal life be like? What can we expect?
• And where are our loved ones in Christ now who have already gone from us?
The Scriptures lift the corner of the veil:
READING Revelation 21:1-5
What an uplifting description we have here in John’s vision of Creation redeemed and restored. This is not so much a vision of what could be described as ‘heaven’ as it is Creation restored – A new heaven and a new earth. It is that which is described by Peter in 2 Peter 3:13
But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
With good reason, Christians ask the questions:
‘What is the afterlife like?’ And,
‘Where are my loved ones in Christ just now?’
It is of the utmost importance that we look for our answers in the Bible and not to the philosophy of Plato or to our own imaginings.
The Holy Bible is our final authority in matters of truth.
THE DRAMA OF SCRIPTURE – THE FINAL SCENE
This final scene in the drama of Scripture pictures the future redemption of the whole of Creation.
That which became entirely corrupted through the sin of Adam is now entirely redeemed through the obedience of Christ.
Here are combined images of Eden and of the temple and Jerusalem - the dwelling places of God.
The Bible reveals that both heaven and earth will be restored.
People acquire a different understanding – put simply – of ‘going to heaven when you die’, but as Craig Bartholomew states in The Drama of Scripture:
John’s vision of salvation is not an escape from earth into a spiritual heaven where humans souls dwell forever. Salvation is the restoration of God’s creation: a new earth.
N T Wright says: ‘Very often people have come to the New Testament with the presumption that ‘going to heaven when you die’ is the implicit point of it all… They acquire that viewpoint from somewhere, but not from the New Testament’. [Probably from the philosophy of Plato]
So – According to the Bible - Just as EVERYTHING was corrupted through Adam so EVERYTHING is restored through Christ.
John’s vision in Rev 21:1-5 is of a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Heaven and earth are physically rejoined. Peace and harmony is re-established between the creator and creation. God dwells on earth with humankind and sin and all its effects are removed.