When you think of the things in your life now that won't be heaven, what comes to your mind? Pain? Sin? Family struggles? Depression? The awesome reality is that none of us can even begin to grasp the glory of a world without these things because all we've ever known is a world full of them.
Here Comes the Bride
No matter where you travel or what culture you study, you discover the world’s fascination with weddings.
I did a little research on cultural customs and found more than I have time to repeat.
There is the Armenian tradition where the night before the ceremony the groom’s family brings beautifully wrapped boxes to the bride’s family. The boxes contain the veil, her shoes, perfume and even chocolate candy.
You might have heard of “jumping the broom” in a wedding ceremony. It is a tradition that traces back to the days of slavery when slaves were forbidden from marrying. They created this ritual to represent the beginning of their new life together – it was tantamount to an exchange of rings they couldn’t afford to buy. Jumping the broom was binding.
I learned that in the Czech Republic the tradition where the bride and groom were supposed to wear something old, something new and something borrowed. This supposedly prepared them for a life where they will no doubt have to borrow some things, they’ll be able to buy some new things but they’ll also have to put up with old things.
To start off a Czech wedding reception, someone in the wedding party breaks a plate at the feet of the bride and groom. The newlyweds have to sweep the broken pieces up to show their willingness to work together.
I discovered the traditional German ceremony does the same thing as the Czechs; they go further than that and break a number of dishes and bowls into pieces at the wedding reception – which they believe prepares them for the trials of life . . . either that or a really big argument in the kitchen.
Towards the middle of the reception party, back to the Czech Republic, all the groomsmen will kidnap the bride and the groom has to find her within a specific period of time, or else he must give the groomsmen money to buy her back, which symbolizes the fact that he will give everything he owns to take care of her.
At the end of the wedding reception, following the traditional national wedding song, the bride’s veil and the groom’s shoes are carried around by the best man and maid of honor so that guests can put in money for the couple. I think that money ought to go to the parents.
I thought this was funny . . . on the night before a traditional Irish wedding, the groom is invited to the bride’s house, where he is served a cooked goose. In America that would not have a positive meaning.
“Your goose is cooked” is not a good thing.
How bizarre is this traditional Swedish custom: during the wedding, the bride and groom enter the church together and the head of their future household is determined by whoever can say “I do” the loudest. That makes a lot of sense!
One Latin American custom I found is where the groom is not allowed to see his bride before the wedding day and it is the father of the bride’s job to actually keep her hidden away before the wedding and then bring her to the wedding ceremony to give her away.
Or he can keep his daughter hidden and never give her away – okay, I made that part up – somebody ought to start that custom.
One custom I actually had the privilege of seeing was an Asian custom that was incorporated into a wedding stateside. A young man I knew was marrying a missionary’s daughter who had grown up overseas and they incorporated their custom which included a ribbon tied across the middle aisle of the church in a beautiful bow.
When the father and his daughter came down the aisle and the pastor asked, “Who gives this woman to be married to this man,” the father responded, “Her mother and I” and he then untied the bow and escorted her past the ribbon to her waiting bridegroom.
Haven’t you discovered that this includes the moment everybody loves to see at a wedding?
It is that moment when bridal procession begins and the bride begins her walk down the aisle; every head is turned and necks are craned to catch a glimpse of the beautiful bride being escorted down the aisle.
- What a sight all of us married men can well remember, amen?
- We can all remember that moment, amen?
- And every bride is beautiful and yours was the most beautiful ever, amen?
That is true – every bride makes that beautiful appearance at the wedding.
The traditional American wedding has the bride and groom dressed as royalty – no matter what their station in life this is the moment where they appear in public as royalty; they are a princess and a prince.
During the days of Christ, the bride and groom would borrow from their wealthiest associates and friends to dress up in a way that played the role of king and queen for a day.
Jesus Christ spoke to His disciples with wedding imagery when He promised them and us – I am going away to my Father’s house and I’m going to prepare a place for you.
God the Father is the Father of the bride – believer’s are called the children of God (John 1:12).
God is pictured as the one who gave life to her . . . He brought her from death to life – from sin to salvation.
And the believer is the beloved bride of God the Son.
Christ is our kinsman redeemer. We are Ruth and He is Boaz. We were foreigners and destitute strangers, but He loved us and bought us by paying the redemption price of His own life blood.
Already in Revelation we have read of the marriage of the Lamb to His bride – the redeemed. (Revelation 19:7)
Now as the new heavens and new earth are created and the eternal state is about to be entered into by God and His beloved redeemed, all of human history literally culminates in wedding imagery.
In Revelation chapter 21, here comes the bride takes on new and eternal meaning.
I invite you back to that great chapter that introduces us to the glory of God and His heaven . . . I want to make three major observations our study today.
First, Heaven’s Permanent Relocation;
Secondly, Heaven’s Primary Relationship;
And thirdly, Heaven’s Profound Reversal
- Heaven’s Permanent Relocation
Let’s get a running start at verse 1. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away.
There may be some confusion as to the reference to heaven here, especially because it appears as a singular noun.
The word is ouranos (ouranoV) and is used throughout the New Testament to refer to one of three places.
There are three heavens, so to speak.
You could call the first heaven the home of the sparrows, the birds.
The first heaven is the atmosphere around us.
Jesus Christ used this same word John used in Matthew 6:26 when he said, “Look at the birds of the air” – ouranos – literally, the heavens.
James used this word to refer to rain pouring down from the sky – literally from heaven (James 5:18).
This first heaven is the atmosphere – the sky – which for us is Carolina blue.
So we could refer to the first heaven as the home of the sparrows.
We could call the second heaven, the home of the stars.
This is the astronomical heaven – the outer universe of stars and planets and galaxies.
Jesus Christ predicted the coming tribulation when the power of heaven will be shaken – the sun darkened and the stars falling as it were out of their orbit. (Matthew 24:29).
The Book of Hebrews uses this word in the context of Jesus Christ, the Creator, where we read that He laid the foundation of the earth and created by His hands the heavens. (Hebrews 11:10)
This reference to heavens – ouranos – is the same word, only in this instance it is referring to the universe – the heaven which happens to be the home of the stars.
So we have the home of the sparrows and the home of the stars;
The third usage of this word refers to the home of the saints.
This is the place of God’s throne where the spirits of deceased believers are immediately transported.
This is the heaven in mind when Christ said in Matthew 5:16, Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
The Apostle Paul is transported and given a tour he writes about afterward where he says he was taken up to the third heaven and was so enraptured by the tour of heaven that he didn’t even know if he had a body or not. (2 Corinthians 12:2)
So you have the first heaven – the home of sparrows.
The second heaven – the home of sun, moon and stars
And you have a third heaven – the biblical description of God’s home and the home of the believer.
When John uses the word here in Revelation chapter 21 and verse 1 he is referring to the home of the sparrows and the home of the stars.
God effectively creates a new universe – a new earth and a new first and second heaven.
The reason I want to point this out is because John will use the same word in two verses and they will refer to different heavens.
In verse 1 he’ll refer to the first and second heavens – that is, God will create a new earth and a new atmosphere and universe.
In other words, the first creation is passed away and there will be a second creation.
Now in verse 2, John will use the word ‘heaven’ to refer to the third heaven – that is, the home of the saints. Notice there John writes in verse 2, And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God . . . which informs us by the way that God does not replace this third heaven with a new one; it isn’t replaced, it’s actually relocated when the New Jerusalem is brought down to the New Earth. / Randy Alcorn, Heaven (Tyndale House, 2004), p. 253
This is the heavenly city Abraham looked for which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10). Hebrews 12:22-23 says, “But you have come to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and God, the judge of all, and the spirits of righteous men made perfect.
This New Jerusalem comes from the third heaven. It is the golden city where God occupies His throne and with His saints displays His glory is seen by John descending and literally becoming the capital city of the eternal state on a new earth surrounded by a new universe.
We’ve been singing about it for years without probably even knowing it, in the hymn text:
This is my Father’s world,
The battle is not done;
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and heaven be one.
Maltbie D. Babcock, The Worship Hymnal (Lifeway, 2008), p. 46
Listen, this is all about the sovereign Lord. This is all about the supremacy and satisfaction of Jesus Christ in His new creation!
And it is glorious.
And would you note how John refers to this city in verse 2. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready . . . stop there for a minute.
The city is made ready. That word is the word for, prepared.
This is the same word used by the Lord Jesus when He told His disciples, “I go to – what? – prepare a place for you.
Hebrews 11:16 says of the saints of old, “They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.
Same word, prepared.
The Apostle Paul uses this same word when he says of heaven; Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9 KJV)
And all the saints from all time now experience the finishing touch as this city literally touches down and rests on a new earth.
Heaven and earth are one . . . the eternal state officially begins and it will never end.
Now, notice how John begins his description – which will become very specific later one.
He writes in verse 2, I saw the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God made ready, as a bride adorned for her husband.
The word, adorned, is cosmeo (kosmew) from which we get our word cosmetics. It refers to the bride who has put on her cosmetics – the word means, to adorn, to decorate, to make beautiful. / Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament(Regency, 1976), p. 857
Throughout the Bible, the beloved of God is referred to as a bride. Israel is called the bride of Jehovah; the church is called the bride of Christ. / Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation: God’s Last Word (Zondervan, 1971), p. 400
So as John describes for us the permanent relocation of the city, the focus is on the beauty of the bride.
John effectively says, “Here comes the bride” . . . she is beautifully adorned and readied for her beloved.
And He will know us by name for we will have trusted in His name alone.
Even now, we are members of that everlasting bridal party as the Bride of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
By the way, if the name, Jesus Christ, is not the name of your Bridegroom, you will not be a member of the bridal party.
The name matters.
I found that out in the most embarrassing way possible.
Years ago, I remember making the worst of mistakes – I called the bridegroom by the wrong name.
The groom’s name was Richard. But I had performed a wedding a few months earlier and his name was Robert.
But to save time as I prepared my wedding notes, I cut and pasted the vows – and forgot to change his name from Robert to Richard.
And so the moment came for the wedding vows. I looked at the bride asked her to repeat after me, “I Suzanne take you Robert to be my lawfully wedded husband.”
She just froze and stared at me. The color drained from her cheeks. I looked down and realized what I’d done . . . but then I got flustered, I scanned my notes – was it Robert, Richard . . . Richard Roberts or Robert Richards.
Do you want him or not?
You ever seen that airplane commercial, Want to get away? You bet . . . quickly!
Well, I realized my mistake and finally got this bride married to the right man.
Let me tell you, the name mattered.
So also with our eternal Bridegroom.
- There is no other name, under heaven, given among men whereby you must be saved (Acts 4:12)
- Call upon the name of the Lord and you shall be saved. (Romans 10:13)
- Acts 16:30-31; What must I do to be saved? Call upon the name of the Lord and you will be saved.
The name of your bridegroom matters.
We are looking for that blessed hope and the appearing of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus (Titus 2:13).
You’re gonna be left at the altar if you’ve put your hope in another bridegroom.
You’ll be a jilted bride if you trust in another.
But Jesus Christ will keep His word – He said, I go to prepare a place for you and if I go I will come again and receive you to myself that where I am you may be also.
Count on it.
John says, Here He comes and with Him comes His bride.
John focused for a moment on the beauty of the bride in verse 2. But now in verse 3, John will focus on the Father of the Bride as we move from heaven’s permanent relocation to:
- Heaven’s Primary Relationship
Notice verse 3. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.
The glory of Heaven is the glory of God.
We, the bride, are nothing without Him.
The stunning aspect in John’s revelation is that God dwells permanently with His beloved.
The Bible gives us an interesting record of the dwelling places of God. First, God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Then He dwelt with Israel in the tabernacle and later the temple – His glory filling the Holy of Holies. Later, Jesus Christ came to earth and tabernacle among us (John 1:14). Literally, He came and pitched His tent among mankind. Today, God does not live in man-made temples (Acts 7:48, but in the bodies of His redeemed – we are the temple of God; He also dwells in the assembly of His church (Ephesians 2:22). / Warren W. Wiersbe, Revelation: Be Victorious (Victor Books 1987), p. 146
It is literal yet invisible.
We worship Him whom we cannot see.
But that will change.
You might note the emphasis of John’s words when he writes at the end of verse 3 – God Himself will be among them.
We can’t understand what that’s going to look like, but what we’re told is that we will experience the glorious manifestation of the Triune God upon His glorious throne.
The greatest miracle of this new universe and our new bodies and this new earth will be the fact that we will individually have physical access to the glory of God, seen through Jesus Christ.
Jesus prayed his Father in that high priestly prayer, Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory…” (John 17:24)
Our eyes will see Him and our ears will hear him and we will behold His glory – the glory as of the Father.
Heaven’s greatest treasure will be our access to the throne of God and face-to-face fellowship with the physical embodiment of God – Jesus Christ our Bridegroom.
Jesus Christ said, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you may be where I am” (John 14:3).
Jesus Christ promised His disciples that He would eat with them in his Kingdom and that will be a foretaste of His physical presence with all the redeemed in fellowship so unique and so personal we cannot imagine it, but that is what makes heaven, truly heaven.
Going to heaven without Jesus Christ would be like a bride going on her honeymoon without her groom. / Alcorn, p. 181
It would be like a new bride moving into a new home built by her husband but then finding out on moving day that her husband has decided to live in a house in another country.
There will be no joy for the bride in the Father’s house – this golden city, spectacular as it is, without the bridegroom.
There we will see Him as our feeble faith is turned into perfected sight – and we will see Him just as He is (I John 3:2).
So John reveals a permanent relocation of heaven; with great joy he emphasizes the primary relationship in heaven with our Lord; and he now reveals a profound reversal in heaven.
- Heaven’s Profound Reversal
Our focus moves from the beauty of the bride and the Father of the bride to the future of the bride.
Notice verse 4. And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer by any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain . . .
John describes the joy of heaven by telling us not only what will be there, but what will not be there.
In fact, things in heaven are so difficult to describe, some of the first details given to us by John are things that aren’t there.
One author commented on this passage by saying, Heaven will be the place of “no more”. / Ray Stedman, God’s Final Word: Understanding Revelation (Discovery House, 1991), p. 338
No more death, sadness, crying or pain.
It’s as if God shouts in triumph and the believer with Him, “That’s it . . . we’ll have none of that in here . . . no more!”
Notice the first statement – He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
One of the first corrections we need to make about heaven is that many take this out of context and assume we’ll never weep again. That our emotions will be so transformed that even tears of joy will not be shed.
I believe with a number of authors who’ve reminded me of the context of this passage – these are tears related to the following events of life that bring sadness.
In other words, we won’t shed even one tear ever again because of death, sadness or pain.
But that doesn’t mean we won’t weep for joy – or be moved by the glory of God and weep over the thrill of His grace.
In fact, I’m looking forward to having my emotions perfected so that I can weep more.
What John is saying is that God is gonna to wipe out disappointment – He’s going to wipe out sadness . . . not one tear will fall – the Greek language emphasizes – because the context of sadness and pain is forever gone.
There will be no tears of misfortune, tears over lost love, tears of remorse, or tears of regret. / John MacArthur, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 2000), p. 269
Notice, John specifically mentions 4 “no mores” and the first mentioned is no more death.
When Adam and Eve fell in the Garden, the first intrusion into a fallen world was death.
At the outset of fallen humanity and to this very day, the promise of God has been kept – You sin, and you shall surely die.
In heaven – no more death – which has vast implications, from the animal kingdom recreated by Christ to the very cellular structure of your bodies.
Not even one cell will die – there is nothing of death in His new creation.
Which means you will never feel fatigued. Nothing of your body needs replenishing.
It is, indeed, eternal rest.
But that doesn’t mean inactivity.
It isn’t the rest of a rest home where tired people sit, too exhausted to walk very far.
This isn’t the people outside Cracker Barrel who fill up all those rocking chairs so you can’t sit down and play checkers – of all the nerve.
Heaven is perpetual, ongoing, never ending, never dying even at the molecular level of life so that your body and mine will be as active as God commands but never experiencing fatigue or wear and tear.
Which means no more weakness, disease, decay – not even a cavity and the coffin, the funeral and the grave will be things forgotten.
That word goodbye will never be heard again.
John goes further and writes, there will no longer be any mourning.
This can be translated “sorrow”.
In the late 1800’s Pastor and educator, J.C. Ryle wrote, “our worldly goods are taken from us and we have sorrow; we are encompassed with difficulties and troubles and we have sorrow; our friends forsake us and look coldly on us and we have sorrow; those whom we love and we have sorrow; our own hearts are frail and full of corruption and that brings sorrow; we are persecuted and opposed for the Gospel’s sake and that brings sorrow; we see those who are near and dear to us refusing to walk with God and that brings sorrow. Oh, what a sorrowing, grieving world we live in. / John MacArthur, The Glory of Heaven Appendix Four: J.C. Ryle (Crossway Books, 1997), p. 259
But in heaven – there will be no sorrow.
God will say, “Enough!”
There’s another “no more” in this text: John writes, there will no longer be any crying.
Isn’t that redundant?
This reference to crying is another Greek word entirely – the word krauge (kraugh) which refers to shouting or screaming – literally someone crying out in either grief or anxiety whether real or imagined. / Rienecker & Rogers, p. 859
This word is used in Greek literature in a number of contexts: this is the cry of anguish; this is the scream of anger; this is the lamenting cry of the guilty; this is the weeping of the condemned on their way to their execution; this is the cry of the mob as they rush to kill Stephen in Acts 7; this is the cry of a woman in labor; this is the sobbing of the depressed; this is the anguished wail of captured inhabitants of a defeated city as they’re taken into slavery. / Gerhard Kittel, Editor, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Volume 3(Eerdmans, 1965), p. 898
There will no longer be any cause for this kind of crying.
John writes further, there will no longer be any pain.
Again that takes us back to the curse of Adam and Eve who was promised multiplied pain in childbirth (Genesis 3:16); Adam was promised painful thorns and a stubborn earth to plow (Genesis 3:18).
This fallen couple soon experienced the shock and sadness of the death of their son by the hand of their other son . . . and ever since then pain has become a passenger on every train and in every compartment of life.
You can’t outrun it . . . you can’t erase it . . . you can’t hide from it . . . you can’t shelter yourself away from it and you can’t be vaccinated against it.
Pain is part of life and Job said it well when he lamented, “Man is born for trouble just as sparks fly upward!” (Job 5:7)
Not just physical pain, but emotional and mental pain.
That means no more asylums, no more triage, no more prosthetics; no more hospitals and emergency rooms either; no more fever, no more arthritis; and no more broken hearts either; no more arguments; no more fights or hurt feelings; no more shattered dreams or missed opportunities; no more damaged relationships . . . [No more fearful anxieties; no more painful consequences and no more prison sentences and no more painful memories.] / Adapted from Sam Gordon, Worthy is the Lamb: Revelation (Ambassador, 2000), p. 424
God says, “No more pain . . . of any kind!” This is the last time you read the word ‘pain’ in the Bible.
John writes at the end of verse 4, these first things have passed away.
In other words, this was the old order of things – this was the old way of life and the old earth and old world system.
That’s all gone forever . . . do you grasp the significance of this?
The Apostle John is actually describing the reversal of the effects of sin and of the curse.
Heaven is the great reversal!
Death into life
Sorrow into song
Crying into the consolation of Christ
And pain into pleasure
You know what this means to the believer? This means no matter what you might have gone through in the past, or what you might be going through today, it’s not the last word. / Philip W. Comfort, editor, Life Application Bible Commentary: Revelation (Tyndale House, 2000), p. 256
It’s not the last word! This is the last word! God has written the final chapters! And God will have the final say. And what He says is glorious.