1. Revelation 20:11-15 indicates that it is not a small problem for one to not see his name written in the book of life. What does the word "life" (in "the book of life") or the word "dead" (as in "the dead") suggest about the way to know whether or not one's (your) name is found written in the book of life? (John 1:4; 3:16-18; 7:38; 11:26; Acts 2:38; Romans 8:9-15)
2.Think about "a new heaven" and "a new earth" referred to in Revelation 21:1a. 21:5 also says, "I am making everything new." Discuss with one another what this "everything" (that is to be made totally "new") might possibly include. 21:1b states, "There was no longer any sea." Under the old order of things, seas are very necessary for mankind. Yet, under the new order, they are no longer needed. What does the absence of seas indicate about the condition of man's life under the new order of things? (21:6; 22:1,2)
3.Revelation 21 describes the Holy City in different ways. What do the following descriptions have in common? 1) the New Jerusalem (2); 2) the dwelling of God (3); and 3) the bride, the wife of the Lamb (9). What do these descriptions tell us about the ultimate purpose God has for his children? (3b; John 17:17-26)
4.Compare the one who "overcomes" in 21:7 with the ones who will be subject to the second (eternal) death. What are we to "overcome"? (Rev 2:7,11,17; 3:5,12)? How can one overcome what he has to overcome? (1Jo 5:5; Romans 8:31-39)
5.Revelation 21:9-21 describes, among other features, the following things: 1) twelve (pearly) gates (to the city) on which were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel with twelve angels at the gates; and 2) twelve foundations (of the city 'wall' consisting of gem stones) on which were written the names of the apostles.What do the words "Israel", "angel", and "apostle" have in common? (Exodus 19:5-6; Rev 1:6, 20; 5:20; Luke 9:1,2) What do these features indicate about the characteristics of the people holding citizenship in the City? (21:11,23; 2Co 3:18; John 17:24)
6.In Revelation 21:22-26, we can see that the City is an open society where people of the "nations" and "kings of the earth" flow in and out of it. What does the word "nations" or "kings of the earth" indicate about the overall picture of life on the new earth? (Isa 2:3; 11:9; Hab 2:14)
7.Revelation 22:1-6 also describe great features of the perfected world. What do the following descriptions tell us about the perfected world to come? 1) the river of the water of life; 2) [on each side of the river stood] the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit yielding its fruit every month; 3) the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations; and 4) they will see his face (Ex 33:20; Heb 12:14)?
This passage is about the new world and new home Jesus has prepared for us. Out of his great love, he has prepared a dazzling, beautiful paradise where we will live together with him eternally. Jesus wants us to take this seriously. He wants this hope, and no other, to be our greatest hope and desire. He wants us to live in a manner worthy of it and to live daily in preparation for it. Let us pray that the paradise with him covered in this passage may really impress us so deeply that we may make a choice to live in a new way according to this hope.
Part 1: The judgment (Rev 20:11-15)
The part is the prelude to the renewal of the heavens and the earth. In this part, Apostle John describes his vision of the final judgment. This is one of the many visions John received while he was exiled on Patmos in A.D. 95. (Patmos is a small rocky island in the Aegean Sea, about 15 miles West of Ephesus.) The vision came to John as he was carried along in the spirit by an angel of the Lord who was giving him a guided tour of the future of how the world would end and be renewed.
John says in verse 11a, "Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it." Here, the throne John describes is the judgment seat of our Lord Jesus (Mat 25:31; 2Ti 4:1; Jn 5:22); This throne of judgment is "great" in the awesomeness of its appearance, conveying the sovereign authority and power and majesty and splendor ofHim who is King of kings and Lord of lords. His throne is radiant "white", signifying purity and holiness, and signifying that the judgments from the throne are in perfect accord with the absolutely pure and holy standard of God.
Verse 11b says, "Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them." So awesome and terrifying is the Lord's presence that it is as though even his own creation cannot stand before him and must flee. In this scene, the earth and sky are literally consumed by fire; with a terrifying violence and with a great roar, they are burned up and melted in the heat (2Pe 3:10-12; Isa 51:6; Isa 34:4).
Now all that is left before the Lord is his court. And gathered there are the multitudes of the dead. Verse 12 reads, "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books". Here John saw two different categories of books: the books recording the deeds of the dead, and the book of life. The former I would call “the books of deeds”, the latter simply “the book of life.” Why the books of deeds, and why the book of life? We can find an answer to this question in verses 13-15. “The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”According to these verses, especially verse 15, God showed John the book of life in addition to the books of deeds in order to send a message to everyone: All whose names are not written in the book of life will all suffer in eternal fire. There is no single exception. This observation then makes us stop and consider two things:
First, the dreadfulness of the judgment.
Verse 12b says that the dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. Here the dead are not the ghosts of the dead. These people standing here are physically alive again, their bodies having been fetched from the grave and reunited with their souls. Upon confirming that their names are not written in the book of life, they are thrown into the lake of fire. The substance in this lake is burning sulfur (Rev 21:8, 20:10), the same substance that rained down upon Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:24; Luke 17:29-30). Sulfur (or brimstone) is a pale yellow crystalline substance which can be easily ignited. The flames of burning sulfur are not red as we might imagine; they are blue. Yet these flames will not be able to illuminate the lake or its surroundings – the entire place will be blanketed with the blackest darkness (2Pe 2:17; Mat 25:30; Jud 1:13). Sounds will be heard – the roaring of the flames, the cries of people in torment – but nothing will be seen, except blackness. And the word "lake" implies that it contains sulfur in a liquid state. Solid sulfur liquefies at 235 degrees Fahrenheit and boils at 832 degrees. (The boiling point of water is 212 degrees). So this place will be quite dreadful. And we can now understand better why is called "the second death" (v 14). Those who are cast into this lake will have physical bodies, as real as ours, which are capable of feeling pain. And they will suffer so unbearably as though they are dying over and over and yet they never die. Strangely, they will never be burned up even though they are on fire. Moses was curious when he saw the burning bush (Exodus 3:2-3) – a bush that was on fire and yet was not burned up. It will be this way for the people incarcerated here. They will be tormented unceasingly for ever and ever (Mat 25:46; Rev 20:10).
Second, the importance of having your name found written in the book of life.
Again, verse 15 says, "If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." The question then becomes, “Whose name will go there?” Or “How can one be assured that his name is found written there?” In order to find an answer to these questions, one needs to study the 66 books of the Bible. But I have no time to go into all the details of the teachings of the Bible concerning the question of salvation. For our own purposes, it can be said that the word "life" or "dead" indicates that only the names of those who have God's life (as was originally in Jesus and has been given by Jesus to each of the saved souls) will be found written in the book of life. So one of the ways to know whether or not one's name is there is to consider whether or not he has this "new" life inside of him here and now. Jesus calls this life a "new life" (Acs 5:20). If you repent and believe in the Lord and ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Lord God gives you the Spirit who in turn ensures that this new life is there inside of you (Jn 1:4; 3:16-18; 7:38; 11:26; Acs 2:38; Ro 8:9-15). In order to further help us, especially new comers, better understand the way of salvation, we prepared a handout entitled “Salvation in three steps”. In addition, I would encourage those who are interested in knowing the way of salvation in depth to sign up for bible studies on such books as four gospels, especially John’s gospel, then the book of Genesis, the book of Romans and so on. Studying these books of the Bible is very important because they have a direct bearing on one’s eternal destiny – either eternal death in the fiery lake of burning sulfur or eternal life in the eternal presence of God. It has been said that preparation for eternity starts here and now. Here and what? Yes. Now.
Part 2: I am making everything new! (Rev 21:1-8)
Now we can think about something truly exciting and wonderful. This next part introduces the paradise of God, the glorious new home for God's people. Verse 1 reads, "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." Here John does not elaborate on the details of the new heaven and the new earth. All he says is that they will be “new”, not “old.” The old has gone, the new is come. The word “new” indicates a radical, unheard of change that's happened in the form and substance of a thing. So this tells us that this is a new kind of earth and universe. The properties will be quite unlike what we now see around us.
In verse 1, John provides us with an example of one the new features of the new heaven and the new earth. John says, "...and there was no longer any sea". 71% of the earth's surface is presently covered with ocean– that is 140 million square miles. So without the ocean, there will be a tremendous amount of room made available for us to use. Another benefit: Presently, 97.5% of all the water vapor floating in the sky comes from evaporated ocean water. So, without oceans, no clouds will form. Imagine: the skies in this new world will always be bright and clear. No more violent, stormy weather and no more depressing overcast skies. But still, with or without clouds, with or without rain as we see it now, I imagine that, in the new environment, God can and will find millions of different ways to make the life of the saved not boring but truly exciting: For those who love snow God can make snowy seasons; for those who love plants God can make beautiful plants grow; for those who love animals, God can arrange all the beautiful animals to come around and play with them, yet never mess up the area, and the list goes on and on. In this way the general environment will be absolutely wonderful!
But John does not focus much on the new world itself. Rather, his focus is on the city that is in the new world, and especially on God who is in the city and the relationship we will enjoy with him there. Verse 2 reads, "I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband". Here, the city comes down from above, from God who is the architect and builder of it. When Jesus was about to leave this world in John 14:2, he was probably referring to this city when he said that in his Father’s house there are many "rooms". Although they are called “rooms” they are not like any living quarters built by men. Man-made structures are subject to deterioration and destruction. Termites can eat them up. Fire can reduce them to ashes. Earthquakes, Tsunamis, or mudslides can wipe them out. But it is not so with the rooms made by God. They were made to last forever.
Who will live there? Look at verse 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"". According to this, God and the members of his church will live together inside the city. There will be only one marriage in the new world: The one between God and his church. We will live with God in this new home as his beloved bride. Verse 3a is literally saying, "Now the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he will tabernacle with them". This is a direct reference to the OT tabernacle, the tent where God dwelt among his people. So this means that, in the Holy City, the Immanuel God will dwell among his people again, not behind a curtain or in human flesh, but in the fullness of his glory. We will see his face (Rev 22:4), seeing him as he truly is. And we will be like him (1Jo 3:2b). There will be no more sin inside of us to struggle with. We will perfectly reflect his love and glory and holiness. We will shine like the sun (Dan 12:3; Mat 13:43).
Next, in verse 4, the loud voice proclaims, "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." All the elements of curse will be removed – all of what was introduced by Adam’s sin. Death was cast into the lake of fire (21:14) and is gone. No more will there be death or pain, sickness or disease. No hospitals or funerals. No aging. No wrinkles or gray hair. Methuselah lived to be 969 years old (Gen 5:27), but that's nothing. We will reach the age of a 1000 and keep going. The nations of people will be as one family in one home. And among them will be only gladness and singing and love. No longer will people quarrel or hurt each other's feelings.
Rev 21:5a is the key verse of this lecture and of this conference. Can we read this verse together? "He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"" God the Father is speaking here (Rev 21:7b, 1:8). He announces that he has got big plans -- plans to make things dazzlingly new. He’s saying that we must expect the unexpected – that when we arrive in this place, it’s going to be so very beautiful and different – unheard of and unimaginable. The word “new” here means newness in kind, in properties. We will not see new things but things made new – a Jerusalem made new and an earth made new and so on. And most of all, we ourselves will be made new – glorified. Our thoughts will be made new. We will graduate to a higher dimension of thinking. We will be absorbed with fascination and love for Christ and with the enjoyment of him. And, in this place, we will worship and serve him and reign with him forever (22:3b, 5). Worship service will not be the same (4:9-11). It will be as though the way we think now is on a child’s level (1Co 13:11). We will still wear the same face and the same physical body and we still be able to recognize each other, but, yet, we will shine like the sun in a fabulous, spirit-dominated body that allows us to appear anyplace we want to be, instantly (John 20:19). The fact that there's no night in the city (22:5a) suggests that our new bodies will not need to sleep. For those who love sleep, this may sound terrible, but when you think about the reason why you “need” sleep, you can easily understand why the new life in the new environment is so good.
Again, God says in verse 5a, "I am making everything new!" Only God can make things new. Only he can glorify everything and make it a paradise. But we easily forget this point. We try to upgrade our life here on earth, forgetting that this present world is not our permanent home. And we forget that God has engineered this place with a curse so that we can never make it "new". Solomon said (Ecc 1:9), "there is nothing new under the sun". "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again". This is an insurmountable reality in this world. We've got new technology, the World Wide Web, and new medical advances. But the death rate is still 100%. The news is always filled with the same fundamental old news – death and mourning and crying and pain. Always sin and death and curse has the victory. Everyone who brushes aside God's new paradise to build his own paradise – his or her own little piece of pie in the sky here on earth – is going to meet with serious disappointment. Such a life under the sun is meaningless! Meaningless! God says, "I am making everything new!" We must participate in what God is doing. We must invest our lives in his plan, not in our own plans for this world. His plan for our tomorrow is the best. There is no better plan we can come up with. So it is quite worthy of investing into.
The Lord told John, "write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true" (5b). That God should do such wonderful things for us undeserving sinners, making everything new as described, may seem a little too good to be true. So, God here tells us that ought to be very be certain about his words. He means what he says. What he says is surely going to happen and we can trust that. He says "It is done" (6a). This means, it is as good as done already. The words "It is done," echo the final words of Jesus on the cross: "It is finished" (John 19:30). God is surely going to make as a finished reality all that Jesus finished legally for us on the cross. (I like the word "done". If you want to impress your boss and he asks you to do something, say, "Done!"). So, God says his promise is a done deal. "Done!" And for the time being, we have the Holy Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is yet to come (Eph 1:14).
Who then will be qualified to live in this place? Look at verse 7a, "He who overcomes will inherit all this..." To inherit all this wonderful place, we must be "overcomers" –fighters and conquerors. The word "inherit" implies getting a fabulous inheritance from our Father that we don't even deserve only because of our adopted status as his children by faith alone through grace alone in Jesus alone. This is quite true, but nonetheless, if our faith is not accompanied by real struggles with sin in our private world and in public resulting in triumph over sins, then our faith and hope is a delusion -- we have no real claim at all on what God promises. As his children we must be overcomers. We must have a humble and trembling heart, and, knowing our weakness, fight to live as dignified, honorable (21:26), pure (21:27) children of light holding citizenship in the city of light overcoming this dark world and overcoming against all those elements that threaten to separate us from God – things outside of us such as the strain of practical difficulties, and the pressures and temptations in our daily life, and things inside of us such as the desire to go the easy way and please our flesh. Jesus overcame the world (Joh 16:33). By faith in what he did for us on the cross, we can access the power to be "overcomers" too (1 Joh 5:5). Through the word of God —by accepting it, and sharing it, even making disciples of all, despite conflicts—we can be "overcomers".
Unfortunately, not everyone is an "overcomer". Verse 8 describes the "succumbers", the people who don't struggle against sins and who give into the world and their sinful desires. This verse is so solemn and dreadful... "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars -- their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death." So there are 8 categories of people here: 1) the cowardly; 2) the unbelieving; 3) the vile; 4) the murderers; 5) the sexually immoral; 6) those who practice magic arts; 7) the idolaters; and 8) all liars. Is there a category here that you belong to?And, if you happen to belong to any of these categories, what do you think you need to do now?
Part 3. Come I will show you the Bride (Rev 21:9 - 22:6)
In this part, an angel takes Apostle John on a guided tour on the Holy City. In verse 9, an angel takes him in the Spirit to a very high mountain and shows him the splendor of the city as it is gracefully "coming down out of heaven". As the city gets closer and closer, and brighter and brighter, John describes it, saying, "It shown with the glory of God..." (21:11). The city's highly polished, reflective surfaces and transparent materials allow the light of the glory of God to pass through the city. The brilliant light was sparkling like a diamond. And John, from high on the mountain, saw the city landing. Then John was taken in his vision around the city to view its exterior. He saw that the city had a great high wall with twelve pearl gates (21:12, 21).
In 21:16, John's angelic tour guide measured the city and found it to have the dimensions a perfect cube. John says it was "as wide and high as it is long" (21:16). This cubical shape is exactly like that of the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle and the temple – the place where the LORD Almighty sat enthroned above the atonement cover of the Ark of the Covenant (1Chr 13:6).
The measurements of the city indicate that it is colossal! Imagine ¾ of the length of a football field. That's the thickness of the jasper walls (21:17). Picture a map of the United States. The city would cover 66% of that area (ignoring Alaska). It would stretch from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the shore of the Atlantic to the state of Colorado (21:16). How tall is the city? It is so tall that it would protrude straight through the top of the earth's atmosphere 600 miles into outer space. If the city was resting on this earth today, we would see our Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites striking the sides of the city at high velocity, shattering to pieces. The city is half the size (by volume) of the moon. How many people can live inside of it? The volume of the city is 2.6 billion cubic miles. So, if a population of 2.6 billion was in the city, each person could have one cubic mile of living space.
John did not see a temple in the city because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city did not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, nor does anyone need the light of a electric lamp or a candle, for God the Father and Jesus Christ will provide the city with light. This city is an open city where the glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Most importantly, this city is a holy city, because “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (21:27).
Then comes the highlight of the tour. Let us read 22:1-2 together. As the angel took John toward the middle of the city, suddenly John heard the sound of rushing water. A fountain (21:6) of water gushed from the throne. It is called the water of life and it characterizes the Holy Spirit who cleanses and gives life (John 7:37-38). This water, crystal bright, flowed down the middle of that great street of pure, highly polished gold (22:1). John says, "On each side of the river stood the tree of life" (22:2). This is the same tree from the Garden of Eden. It was never destroyed. Rather, fallen man was denied access to it. This means that history from Genesis 2 to Revelation 22 is a big circle. We see the paradise that we lost access to at the beginning is restored to us here at the end. The tour yields several interesting points for us to consider:
First, the perfect unity of love (21:9-11)
Revelation 21 describes the Holy City in different ways: as the New Jerusalem (2), the dwelling of God (3), and as the bride, the wife of the Lamb (9). Jerusalem is an idiom for God’s children with whom God identifies himself. The dwelling of God refers to the presence of God who resides in the hearts of men through the Spirit. The Bride refers to the members of the church, who Jesus bought with his blood (Acs 20:28; 1Pe 1:2; Rev 5:9; 14:4). The wife denotes those who have repented of their unfaithfulness, received Jesus as the Lord and Savior, and have formed a unity of love with Him. These symbols indicate that the Holy City represents the fulfillment of God’s vision to establish a perfect fellowship between God and his children in perfect unity of love. This observation makes us to stop and ask: “How much do I know Him?” “How is my relationship with Jesus Christ?” “Is anything or anyone standing in the way to my relationship with Him?”
Second, the unity based on God’s Word (21:12-21)
This chapter describes 12 pearl gates on the city on which were written the names of 12 tribes of Israel with 12 angels at the gates, and 12 foundations of the city wall consisting of gem stones on which were written the names of the 12 apostles. Here “Israel”, “angels”, and “apostles” have one thing in common: They are the ones called to serve God’s word to the dying world. They are the ones who work to build God’s kingdom in men. No wonder that the Holy City is accessible through, guarded by, and founded on, the word of God proclaimed by the servants of God’s word. This observation indicates that without the solid foundation of God’s word, it is impossible for us to secure membership in the kingdom of God. So let us pray to commit ourselves to studying, internalizing, obeying, and spreading God’s word.
Third, unity as the spring fountain of life for all peoples on earth (21:22-22:6)
These verses show us that, like the Garden of Eden in Gen 1-2, the City is an open society where people of the "nations" and "kings of the earth" will flow in and out of it. The word "nations" or "kings of the earth" indicate that, in the perfected world, all peoples on earth will worship one God as the only true King, so that the Lord's prayer, "Your kingdom come [here] ... on earth as it is in heaven" will come true. (Rev 11:15; 1Co 15:28; Isa 2:3; 11:9; Hab 2:14) Furthermore, Rev 22:1-6 describe the great features of the perfected world: 1) the river of the water of life; 2) the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit yielding its fruit every month; 3) the leaves of the tree [which] are for the healing of the nations; and 4) "they will see his face" (Ex 33:20; Heb 12:14). These features all point to one conclusion— that is, in the perfected world, where God is the true King, all peoples on earth will have life and have it to the full, all to the honor and glory of God.
In conclusion, let us read Rev 21:5a. "He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"". Thank and praise God for revealing to us the vision of His kingdom. May the Lord bless us to deeply accept this vision and share it with all peoples on earth, especially the younger people of this nation and world.