By Mark Scott
The New Testament has two different Greek words translated new (four times in our text). One is “chronos,” which refers to something new in time. The other is “kairos,” which refers to something new in quality. John uses the latter when describing Heaven. Our next four lessons describe Heaven in terms of a social reality that is brand new.
In a sermon, Randy Harris of Abilene Christian University outlined the book of Revelation in the following way: 1—God’s team wins. 2—You get to pick a team. 3—Don’t be stupid.
If we are wise we will pick God’s team because it always wins and celebrates in a brand-new home.
A little chorus says, “Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace.” It is also filled with things that are familiar (like the old heaven/earth and the city of Jerusalem that we know). It is filled with beauty (like that of a bride). It is filled with a temple (which is really God himself). It is filled with joy (and the absence of tears, death, mourning, crying, or pain).
In this text heaven is a place filled with sights, sounds, and words. And they are all new. John saw a new heaven and a new earth. In fact, Revelation is a series of things that John saw (an expression that appears in Revelation 5:1; 7:1; 10:1; 13:1; 15:1; 18:1; 20:1). The fact that the new heaven and new earth could be recognized is because they resembled the old heaven and earth enough to see the similarities. Also there is no sea—a symbol that refers to the source of evils (Revelation 13:1).
Inside or alongside of the new heaven and new earth is a new city. It looks familiar too. It favors Jerusalem, but it also is new—and holy (Isaiah 48:2; 52:1; Matthew 4:5). This city stands for the presence of God because it comes down out of heaven. Its main description is delayed until next week’s lesson, but here it is described as a bride beautifully dressed (where the English word “cosmetic” comes from) for her husband.
John not only saw beautiful things. He also heard wonderful words. He heard an angel announce two things: 1—That God is dwelling (Greek word for “tabernacle”) intimately with his people again. 2—That God will remove the old order with all of its pain and suffering. So we see that this new place is totally holy, splendidly beautiful, perfectly sorrow-free, and infinitely filled with the presence of God.
There is such a thing as a do-over with God. People get second chances, and the whole world gets rebooted. The news of this new beginning is so important that God does not leave the announcement to someone else. The one who sits on the throne (God himself—Revelation 1:10-20; 4:1-3) makes the announcement. Much of our lesson is summed up in the words, “I am making everything new!” Earlier John was asked to look. Here he was asked to write—an imperative that appears several times in Revelation. The reason for this writing is because the words are trustworthy and true. These words have positive effects and negative effects.
Positively this new beginning is based on God’s nature. He is the Alpha and the Omega (which is like saying the “A” and the “Z”). This new beginning is also based on God’s invitation. People who are thirsty (a metaphor referring to having a parched throat for the things of God—Isaiah 55:1; John 4:14) are offered free water. This new beginning is also based on a powerful promise. The victorious people (overcomers) will inherit all the wonders of this brand-new city. For a second time in our text God promises to be our God (see also Ruth 1:16).
Negatively (which is another way to appreciate the beauty of this city) God lists seven groups of people who won’t be in this city. Most of us can understand why the murderers, sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, and idolaters would be left out. But cowardly, unbelievers, and liars? Are all sins equal? They are not equal in effect, but they are in results. They will be consigned to the lake of fire (like what will happen to the trinity of evil—Revelation 19:20; 20:10). This is not just physical death. It is eternal (second) death.
Brother Seth Wilson was correct when he preached: “Jesus Christ is the most important person in your future.”
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.