Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5 ESV
10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God,
22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
Our text is from a book of the Bible that has caused a lot of division and even more confusion in the last 170 years. But notice that I said only a 170. Prior to 1850s roughly, the teaching on John’s Revelation was solid and met with little criticism. Over the last 170 years, there have been tracks, pamphlets, literature, books and even religions started because of people missing the point of John’s vision; a vision that was granted to him for a few very important reasons.
Here’s just a few:
- John was granted the vision to give hope to the Jewish people still looking for the Messiah of God. The vision was a gospel of sorts, pointing to Jesus as the fulfillment of the coming Messiah.
- John was granted the vision to restore hope to a ravaged and persecuted people—people who were of his congregations that he pastored. There were things that had happened, things that were happening, and things that were to come.
- John was granted this vision to warn and prepare those way ahead, that some of the things of this vision to his current congregations were not going to be experienced by the near future but by those John would never know.
There is so much going on in this book and we will be working toward’s teaching this to those interested, possibly in the Fall or Winter. But to bring the focus back to our worship today, there is so much to walk away with from our selection.
To jump right to it, the purpose of Heaven is not for it to be a place we go to or a place that is out of reach, but that Heaven would be a place brought to us and for us. Heaven is a place that is moving closer every day. That movement of Heaven towards Earth begins with the purpose of the Old Testament. At the end of the day, the OT is the story of God preparing His people to be a kingdom people. The purpose of the New Testament is to see that God is sending His people out into the world to live all that they had been preparing for; to work with God inside them for the kingdom-come. And then, the testimony of Revelation is a rich recounting of both the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the reality of Heaven-Coming-Down so that we may rest from our God-given work because the kingdom has in fact, come.
The great take away from Revelation is actually very simple: God desires to be with us. And since we can’t get to God, God will come to us. Again, this begins with Jesus, as God wraps Himself in flesh, choosing to walk with us, among us, carrying burdens as we carry them. Experiencing pain and peace; suffering and relief; sadness and joy. God isn’t clueless to anything we have ever known or experienced.
Therefore, Heaven coming down is gift. This is God’s desire: to give bliss, blessedness, and perfection to those who would draw near through faith. God wants for Heaven to be joined with His creation. No more gaps, spaces, distances. Just closeness and intimacy, as God desired in the very beginning.
And we see the journey from the Garden to the Garden, as Genesis begins with a Garden and Revelation culminates with a Garden. It’s a romantic story of how God pursues the stubborn lover, refusing to let Hell stand between Him and the apple of His eye.
Heaven coming down is about Heaven joining with us, the two becoming one, just as it says in Genesis, “and the two will become one flesh,” the reason for all of the beautiful bride and groom images that are used throughout both Revelation and the rest of the New Testament.
Heaven coming down in this way, with the presence of God being all things for us, is the evidence of there being nothing standing in the way of us and God any longer. We live our lives every day with a constant struggle against the things that stand between us and God. Jesus has removed the obstacles and come close to us in God, but the fullness of ALL of God’s glory is what we call an “already but not yet” moment.
It’s like your parents calling you and telling you, “We’re here,” when they cross into the city limits. God, too, is here but is coming, moving closer and closer and closer, through every second, every moment, every heartbeat. God is getting closer through every baptism, every communion meal, every act of faithfulness. But here, right here in our scripture is what we are longing for; that great fulfillment when we will have among us God in all His glory. The struggle being over, the pain gone, the doubt wiped away. It is then just us…and God.
We long for that day. I longed for it yesterday as I presided over one of my former youth from years past who died unexpectedly, 20 years old. A sanctuary filled with both old and young, long and wishing for Heaven to come down. Well, Church, Heaven has come down in Jesus Christ, and what we read about in this text today is a reality here and now if we are drawing closer to God through faith and faithfulness. He’s crossed into the city limits of our lives and we will soon feel His embrace, His squeeze, His peace and His presence. God is here but O, for Heaven to come down. May it be so and soon. Amen.