Rev 21:1-7 Ascension Lutheran Church, Littleton, CO
Rev. Michael J. Zehnder, May 15, 2022
It seems there was a clergyman and a bus driver who arrived at the pearly gates of heaven at the same time. An angel gave the clergyman a plain cotton gown, a wooden halo and assigned him to modest living quarters containing only the bare necessities. To the bus driver, the angel presented a complete wardrobe of the finest materials, a golden halo, and lavish living quarters with every imaginable luxury and convenience. The clergyman protested, “Why does he get so much and I get so little?” The angel checked the records and said, “It seems that when you were preaching the congregation was sleeping, but when he was driving the passengers were praying! 😊 So in the interests of my future living quarters in heaven, please maintain consciousness!
When I was a kid, I recall that just once a year they would show The Wizard of OZ on television and it was always an almost magical night as the family gathered around the TV to watch it together. When a tornado rips through Kansas, Dorothy (Judy Garland) and her dog, Toto, are whisked away in their house to the magical land of Oz. They follow the Yellow Brick Road toward the Emerald City to meet the Wizard, and en route they meet a Scarecrow that needs a brain, a Tin Man missing a heart, and a Cowardly Lion who wants courage and sang a great song, called, “If I were the King of the Forest.” For some reason I always remembered that there was a commercial break right after the great wizard of OZ spoke to the cowardly lion and in fright, he would jump through a window. Cut to commercial. After the commercial, The wizard asks the group to bring him the broom of the Wicked Witch of the West to earn his help and they embark on many scary feats trying get that broom. In one of the last scenes, Dorothy throws a bucket of water toward the scarecrow to put out a fire and some of it splashes on the witch and she starts melting into the ground. “Oh, I’m melting, I’m melting” she says, and then delivers that classic line, “Who would’ve thought that such a little girl could destroy my beautiful wickedness. Oh, what a world, what a world….”
In the end, Dorothy just wants to get out of OZ and go back to the farm she grew up on and see Auntie Em, and to get there, she is instructed by the good witch to click the heels of her magical glass slippers together and repeat, “There’s no place like home, There’s no place like home until she reawakens at home on the farm, safe and sound.
The idea of HOME as a magical, wonderful place is embedded in our culture. It really comes out in our songs at Christmastime and we hear songs on the radio like “Well, there’s no place like home for the holidays” as well as “I’ll be Home for Christmas…if only in my dreams.”
Well, two thousand years ago, the disciple John had a vision from the Lord about being home at last, but it wasn’t some nostalgic vision of a place he grew up in. Being safe and home at last wasn’t about going back to some place he had been before but rather, it meant going to a brand new place. In Rev 21, our Epistle for today, he writes about seeing a new heavens and a new earth. God is not going to click “UNDO” He’s going to click “REDO.”
• It was not some kind of MEDICATION that caused him to hallucinate and see these things
• It was not something that he ATE for supper that caused this vision to occur
• It was not a bump on the head caused by falling off the back of a camel that caused this vision
God gave this vision DIRECTLY to John, here’s what the Word of God records. Revelation 21:1-3, “And I saw a NEW HEAVEN and a NEW EARTH: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”
Notice, there is going to be a NEW HEAVEN and a NEW EARTH.
WHY MUST THERE BE A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH? Why not just fix the old ones?
Because Satan has left a trail of sin and corruption wherever he has been.
Illus: Have you ever seen one of those slimy snails that crawl around, and every where they go they leave a trail of slime behind them?
That’s what satan is like. Wherever he goes, he leaves a TRAIL OF CORRUPTION, TEARS AND SORROW BEHIND HIM. For example:
• When he was in heaven, he rebelled against God and caused perhaps up to one-third of the angels to oppose God
• When he was cast to earth, he continued to rebel against God, and caused the majority of the population to rebel against God. People got so bad and so violent that already 4,000 years ago, God send a world-wide flood to wipe out the lives of all but 8 people who had become totally corrupted.
- Jesus maintained that He had come to bring us an abundant life, but he called satan a thief who had come to kill, steal and destroy” (John 10:10).
Everything that Satan has come into contact with has been corrupted by sin and the effects of sin. Scripture says that “All creation is in bondage to decay and cannot free itself” (Romans 8:21). That is why we have tornados and hurricanes and drought and disease and cancer and dementia and war and murder and all the things that plague our bodies, our world and our society. It’s all totally corrupted except for people who have been redeemed, bought back by the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. But even though our sins are forgiven and our souls bought back to God by Jesus, our bodies are still part of the old order of things; they are hard-wired to love sin even though our spirits have been renewed by the Holy Spirit. That’s why God has to give us NEW BODIES and create a NEW HEAVENS and a NEW EARTH. The corruption of the flesh and it’s bondage to decay is a fact. Scientists call it the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. It’s the simple truth that all things deteriorate; they never get better or more complex without an outside force. So the old system must be replaced; we need a new universe without the 2nd law of thermodynamics which in spiritual terms is that all things are in bondage to decay because of sin and the effects of sin.
God is going to completely wipe from existence the old heaven and the old earth that Satan has corrupted. It will be thrown away like an old dish rag that has served it’s purpose; a new heaven and earth will be created.
This chapter that we’re looking at in Revelation 21 is an apocalyptic vision of the final events of human history, that is, it deals with the very end times. It’s not written to scare you or frighten you – just the opposite, these things are written to give you hope and confidence in your future. What’s scary is turning on the current news and hearing about war in Ukraine, possible future war in Taiwan, possible nuclear war. Turning on the news we learn of violence and threats of violence everywhere, people thieving, murdering, looting. We learn of corruption at the highest levels of institutions we should be able to trust, there are advertisements for every kind of pill imaginable for maladies of the body I never even knew existed till I saw the ads for pills to heal the problems. Jesus was a realist. He said, “In this world you WILL have troubles.” The Good News is His next sentence, “But take heart, I have overcome this world” (John 16:33).
The Good News of Rev 21 is that this present evil world is coming to an end. We’re not going to have to put up with this forever as in the hymn we sang just before this message, “I’m but a stranger here; heaven is my home.” A new heaven and earth and a New Jerusalem representing the Bride of Christ – that’s us – is in the making. God says, “Behold, I am making all things new. The first earth is passing away and the sea is no more.” The sea represents fear and evil. Along with evil, death and sorrow, all pain will come to an end. Think of all the people we pray for every week just from our church who are suffering. It’s a pretty big paragraph in the Happenings and now even our pastor is suffering as he recovers from a horrific car accident. All that pain and suffering is coming to an end. Hallelujah. A new order will come into existence and it specifically says that “God Himself will be with His people. Some translations use the word dwell. God will dwell with his people. Even though we are saved and believe in God we all have that longing to be closer to Him, to be even surer than we are, to feel closer than we do to have zero doubts, zero complaints, zero worries about our future. Well, your chance is coming because “every eye will see him” and He will live with us and be with us and the closeness will be constant; all doubts, all fears will be erased.
If you’ve watched “The Price is Right” one of the most exciting prizes they have to announce is “A NEW CAR.” NEW is a word that attracts most people. It sounds exciting to hear about a new watch, a new phone, a new car, a new home, a new vacation spot. A new life, a new beginning, a new look is always in demand and that’s how we advertise many things. Now under new management. To be old is to be obsolete, outmoded, worn-out, old fashioned. In terms of heaven, God is on the side of the new. He makes all things new, but the wonderful thing is the new that God creates will never become old or obsolete. He makes all things new and it stays new. This is our future hope. This present world is saturated with the power of evil. Satan struts across the continents inciting the nations to war and all people to evil.
The new world order is so different from anything we’ve ever experienced that Scripture describes it more in saying what it is NOT than what it IS. First, in case you didn’t get the message, it says “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.” That’s new right there. Nothing to cry about. Ever. There will be nothing left to make you sad, nothing left to worry you or make you angry, “for the old order of things has passed away.” God then gets specific. Here are four things that are not part of heaven (or as scripture calls it today, “the new heavens and the new earth.” 1. No more death. 2 No more mourning. 3. No more crying. 4. No more pain. Think about it. No car accidents, no fires, no cancer, no arthritis, no murder, no random shootings, not a thing that cause a tear. But what will there be? It says, “God will dwell with us.” The fact we (His Church) are called the bride of Christ, with Christ as bridegroom is a picture to show just how close and beautiful this relationship of love is going to be.
Now to get there you don’t have to click your heels three times and say, “There’s no place like home.” Our reading from Rev 21 says, “It is done….To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.” So take a deep drink of this free gift of eternal life and God’s free and full forgiveness. It’s already yours for the taking and yours for the believing.