Revelation Lesson 68 - Paradise Regained

Revelation Lesson 68 - Paradise Regained

Series: Revelation
Ref: Revelation 22:1–5

Our real joy in Heaven will not come from seeing golden streets and pearly gates and stunning topography; it will come from seeing God's face at last.

Transcript

Paradise Regained

Revelation 22:1-5

It’s been a joy to receive a number of comments from people regarding our series on Heaven. It’s been especially encouraging to hear that young people as well are engaging in our study too!

One mother sent me an email last week about her 9 year old son, Will.  He had a 102 fever and had to stay home from church, so his father fixed up the computer so that he and his mother could listen to our service live on the internet.  She wrote, “As you were described what heaven would not include, you were listing things like, no more sorrow, no more pain and my son, whose mind was a few steps ahead of you said, ‘And no more homework!’  Well, he was right!

A Sunday school teacher wrote me a few weeks ago . . . she’s also been teaching her 5 year old class about heaven and what it takes to get there . . . she decided to test them a couple of weeks ago, so she asked them, “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all the money to the church, would that get me into heaven?”  All the children said, “No!”  She said, “If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the church lawn and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into heaven?”  Again, the answer was a resounding, “No!”  She wrote, “I was starting to smile – they were getting it.”  She went on, “If I was kind to animals and gave candy to children, and loved my husband, is that what I’ve got to do to get into heaven?”  And they all shouted, “No!”  She wrote that she was bursting with pride that they were learning so well and she asked, “Well then, what do I have to do to get into heaven?”  And one 5-year-old boy shouted, “You gotta be dead!”

He’s right . . . our kids are getting this stuff right too!

Today our study of heaven takes us to Revelation chapter 22 and the final descriptive phrases of heaven.

Heaven, as we have learned already is a word for that eternal state which literally incorporates the newly created universe, the city of gold – the Father’s house, and a new earth.

All of this will be ours to enjoy in the glorious presence of God forever.

The truth is, the more you study the texts of the eternal state, and the descriptions we’ve been given, the greater the mystery seems to grow.

The more questions there are that come to mind.

Yet our curiosity and desire for heaven and the Father’s house and this new world only grows with what little we’ve been given.

And what kind of world is it?

It is a world that staggers our imagination and leads us to want to know more.

One British author from the 1800’s wrote, “The man who is about to sail for New Zealand as a settler, is naturally anxious to know something about his future home, its climate, its employments, its inhabitants, its ways and its customs.  It would be strange indeed to not desire information about your new abode.  Now surely, since we [plan] to dwell forever in that heavenly country, we ought to seek all the knowledge we can about it and become acquainted with our eternal home.” / J.C. Ryle, quoted by Randy Alcorn in, Heaven (Tyndale, 2004), p. 5

God evidently wants us to think about it . . . in fact it seems like He wants to blow our minds and stagger our imaginations.

We’ve encountered a house that makes Mount Everest look like a small hillside; we’ve been given the colors of gemstones the size of freight trains and pearls the size of stadiums. 

We’ve been struck by the pageantry as the parade of nations takes place in the opening ceremony of heaven’s glory; we’ve had great difficulty imagining a city sparkling like a flawless diamond, reflecting and refracting the brilliant light coming from God Himself.

Gold is so common place that it is the most common element in the capital city of heaven.

Reminds me of the story of the man who arrived at the gate of heaven and the angels stationed at the gate said, “Sir, you can’t bring that in here.”  “Why not,” the man said, as he strained at the handle on his suitcase. “I worked all my life for this and I’m sure it’ll be okay.”  The angels said, “Well, you’ll have to open it first.”  The man opened his suitcase up and displayed for them that his suitcase was filled with solid gold bars.  The angels looked at each other, somewhat puzzled, but finally agreed, “Okay, you can go in.”  After the man left one angel said to the other, “Imagine that . . . the man is intent on bringing in a suitcase full of pavement.”

John has informed us that the streets are made of gold . . . so keep that in mind as you’re tempted to dedicate the best of your energy and service to the simple acquisition of something which in heaven will be nothing more than pavement - asphalt.

Now, in chapter 22, John gives us several final snapshots of the eternal city.

And as John moves us deeper into the Father’s house, we discover that it is a beautiful garden, reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. / Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Victorious: Revelation (Victor Books, 1987), p. 151

Let’s first simply read verses 1-5 of Revelation chapter 22

Follow along as I read, Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb in the middle of its street.  On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  3.  There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; 4.  They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads, 5. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.

Don’t miss this . . . the beginning of human history was a story of Paradise lost.  The end of human history is a story of Paradise regained.

Human history began in a garden with a river flowing through it and a tree of life and it ends in a garden, with a river flowing through it and a tree of life. / Stewart Custer, From Patmos to Paradise (BJU Press, 2004), p. 254

But don’t be mistaken . . . this isn’t some kind of circle – it’s more like a spiral, because the paradise of Eden was only a fraction of what the paradise of Heaven will be like.

Paradise was lost because of sin; but a new and eternal Paradise has been won because of the Savior.

And what a Paradise!

John has shown us a city with gemstone foundations, walls of jasper, gates of pearl and streets of gold.  He now takes us inside to show us water, trees and fruit.

Now as we take a tour inside the new paradise, we’re going to focus on 5 snapshots from John’s vision.  Five captions could be written underneath John’s photographic word-pictures of heaven:

  1. The first caption would be, The River of life is flowing forever.

Back in verse 1, John is shown by his angelic guide a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God.

John is struck by two things – the river’s color and it’s source.

He tells us that the river is as clear as krystallos (krustalloV) – a Greek word transliterated to give us our word crystal.

In other words, this mighty river is sparkling and shimmering with a brightness that seems to John to be like light refracting off crystal.

John also notes that the river originates with the throne of God.

In the Garden of Eden a river flowed through it; in the Millennial kingdom a river flowed from the Temple mount, but here in the eternal city, the river is literally flowing from the throne, which means that God is forever creating the river of the water of life.

David the Psalmist had predicted centuries earlier of a river whose streams will make glad the city of God (Psalm 46:4).  The prophet Joel wrote that a fountain will flow out of the house of God. (Joel 3:18)

These are literal waters that are of such a nature and quality that we have never seen before, just as we’ve never seen a literal city like this before. / Robert L. Thomas, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 1995), p. 482

Perhaps you’ve sailed or stood at the banks of a great river – perhaps you’ve seen the mighty Mississippi, the Ganges or maybe the Colorado . . . there’s nothing quite like the sound of rushing water over rapids and certainly the sound of a waterfall as the river’s waters drop several feet in the air.

If my understanding of this pyramidal structure of the Father’s house is correct, with 12 levels or floors stretching 11miles into the air with His throne at the very top, then this river would travel through miles of garden until it drops as much as 1 mile to the next level where it courses through greenery, flanked by trees, and then cascades in a massive thundering waterfall once again to the level below.

All the while it will be flowing, shimmering, cascading, sparkling as the lights of gems and gold reflect off its crystal waters.

It will be spectacular.

God has created a place in which His beloved will be enraptured by the spectacular beauty and wonder of their new surroundings.  People today travel for miles to see some national park or a nature reserve, but in this paradise, God’s people will be living in the midst of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. / Custer, p. 254

And John informs us that this river not only has literal properties, but symbolic meaning – it is the River of Life – the river which symbolizes life.

In other words, this river flowing from the throne of God will symbolize eternal life which originates in the person of God and the promise delivered by God incarnate, Jesus Christ, to those who would drink of His gospel – that they, by believing in Him, would be given the water of everlasting life and never thirst again (John 4).

  1. The Tree of life is flourishing forever

But not only is there a river of life flowing forever, there is, secondly, a tree of life flourishing forever.

Notice verse 2.  And on either side of the river was the tree of life.

Does that object sound familiar?

The tree of life appeared in the Garden of Eden and from that tree  Adam and Eve were barred lest they live forever in their sinful state (Genesis 3:24)

And God sent the cherubim – angelic creatures – with flaming swords, assigned to keep Adam and Eve from eating the fruit of the tree of life, gaining immortality in the midst of their sin.

Here there are no cherubim guarding the saints from eating.  Back in Revelation chapter 2, the Bible promises the beloved that they will one day eat from the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7) - literally, the garden of God.

Now John uses a singular word, translated tree here in verse 2.  Greek scholars take this as a collective singular, given the fact that John tells us in this same verse that they are located on both sides of the river.

It is one species of tree . . . lining the river of Life as it winds its way through the Father’s House – the Heavenly City of God.

You don’t have a tree – you have what seems to be rows of trees on either side of the river in this magnificent garden of God.

And what an interesting tree . . . would you notice that John describes it further in verse 2 as a kind of tree that bears 12 different kinds of fruit every single month.

So what you have is not just rows of trees, but an orchard.  And the fruit is always ripe.

What kinds will it be?  We don’t know.  It could be peaches, or apples, dates, kiwi, mango, guava, figs, plums, pears, bananas.

12 kinds every month.  In fact, Greek scholars are unanimous in their understanding . . . it could be 12 different kinds each month – and even perhaps 12 different fruit on each tree which could give you the potential of 144 different kinds of fruit throughout the year.

That’s right.  We’re going to have months, which imply years. 

Henry Morris writes, “The fact that months are identified indicates that the orbital and rotational motions of the earth will go on [in the new creation] as God established them in the very beginning and that the moon likewise will continue orbiting around the earth. / Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record (Tyndale, 1986), p. 466

Be that as it may, things will be remarkably different and unusual because at least these trees – perhaps only these trees which symbolize eternal life – will bear a crop of fresh fruit forever.

Which God has promised we will enjoy.  Which means we’re gonna have mouths to eat the fruit, tongues and taste buds to savor the fruit and I would hope teeth to chew the fruit.  I don’t wanna have to use a juicer.  I don’t want strained peaches . . . I wanna bite into that crisp apple.

John also tells us in verse 2 that the leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations

The word for healing is the word therepeia (qerepeia) which gives us our English word therapy.

But why would the nations need healing if all evil and sin has been eliminated?  John is not telling us that there would be illness in the new earth; he was actually emphasizing that this is the permanent condition of the beloved. / Life Application Bible: Revelation, (Tyndale House, 2000), p. 268

The leaves of the tree symbolize that the fact that now in the kingdom of heaven, there is perpetual refreshment, food, water, and health – in fact, there is never ending satisfaction

C.S. Lewis put it well when he wrote that he had found within himself desires which no experience in this world could satisfy and the most probable explanation was that he was made for another world 

And in this world is the river of life and the tree of life with healing in its leaves . . . literally therapy for the nations – a comprehensive concept that incorporates mental, emotional, spiritual and physical healing – the beloved will be healed forever!

Think of what that means emotionally . . . no more scars; no more sorrow; no more haunting memories or dashed hopes and dreams.

Think of what that means spiritually . . . no more failure; no more confusion; no more struggle with imperfections; no more battling with the flesh and the world and the devil.

Think of what this means physically.

John informs us that the presence of this tree is God’s way of saying there is no possibility of disease in the eternal state, of any kind. / Thomas, p. 485

Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic told of speaking to a class of mentally handicapped Christians.  They thought it was great when she said she was going to get a new body.  But when she added, “And you are going to get new minds” they broke out into applause.  They knew of their unique struggle . . . they knew of their limitations.  Heaven for them offered unique healing.

She wrote further, “I still can hardly believe. I, with shriveled, bent fingers, atrophied muscles, gnarled knees and no feeling from the shoulders down, will one day have a new body, light, bright, and clothed in righteousness – powerful and dazzling.  Can you imagine the hope this gives someone like me?  Or someone who is cerebral palsied, brain-injured, or who has multiple sclerosis. Imagine the hope this gives someone who is manic-depressive.  No other religion, no other philosophy literally promises new bodies, new hearts, [new emotions] and new minds.  Only in the gospel of Christ do hurting people find such incredible [promise]. / Alcorn, p. 286

Beloved, this tree will symbolize the fact that all the hurts of humanity have been forever healed!

The truth is, we’ve never known one moment in life like this. / Stephen J. Lawson, Heaven Help Us! (Navpress, 1995), p. 160

The first breath you took in that delivery room, or back seat of the car if your Dad didn’t drive fast enough – was followed up with your very first, piercing cry.

And since that time you have never experienced one moment of perfect peace and perfect health and perfect security and perfect freedom and perfect satisfaction and certainly not perfect sinlessness.

You have had a lifetime of struggle – you will have an eternity of unhindered and uninterrupted joy and delight.

And how long will it last?  What has David gotten a head start in enjoying?

How long is eternity?

Imagine it this way, and I close with this.  Imagine the earth turning into a solid steel ball – all the way around the crust of the earth – some 25,000 miles in circumference – and all the way to its inner core – changed to solid steel.

And imagine one little sparrow is released to land on the planet where he proceeds to sharpen his beak, only to be taken away. 

But a million years later, the sparrow is released again and he sharpens his little beak on this planet of solid steel.

A third time and it happens again – 3 million years have gone by and this sparrow has sharpened his beak 3 times.

But every million years, he’s back again . . . and again and again.

By the time that little sparrow sharpens his beak enough times to wear down this planet of steel to the size of a marble, forever will have just begun

But we will experience it here as Paradise is regained and so much more!

There is a crystal river flowing forever!

There is a forest of trees flourishing forever!

And thirdly;

  1. There is a curse finished forever.

In verse 3 he reminds us again, There will no longer be any curse; how? for the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him.

The unity and equality of God the Father and God the Son is expressed here in dramatic terms for they occupy the same throne.

The place of primary authority and sovereignty and dominion is jointly held together by the Father and the Son. They reign in perfect equality and unity without any competition. / Lawson, p. 160

And to the utter delight of the redeemed, the beloved, God delegates the right to rule to us as well.

Again, it’s interesting that of all the titles given to Jesus Christ, God the Son, the term used here again is the title, The Lamb.

But it fits this context perfectly.

The curse is gone in heaven . . . how?  By virtue of Christ becoming a curse for us.

The curse in the Garden of Eden brought 4 things into being that had not existed before: sorrow, pain, toil and death.

The very same things we are told that will not exist in heaven and that is because of the Lamb of God who came to suffer all four.

  • He was a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief so that he could bear our grief and carry our sorrows (Isaiah 53:3 & 4);
  • Christ sweat as He toiled for our redemption; sweating great drops of blood in agony over the curse He would become (Luke 22:44);
  • He suffered the pain of crucifixion and even wore on the cross the symbol of that which came into the world because of the curse – a crown of thorns (John 19:2);
  • And he suffered not only the sorrow of tears and strong crying (Hebrews 5:7) but death.  Death, so that we could be given life (Romans 6:23) / Morris, p. 440

And so we see The Lamb here in this scene of great joy and glory for all of us – and at the same time we are reminded that we are there because He came here.

The glory of Heaven is our because of the curse shattering, curse destroying work of Jesus Christ.

When I began preparing this sermon, the outline I had developed had the word “forgotten” here instead of “finished”.

I had originally intended to say that the curse is forgotten forever.

But it occurred to me that John’s description here is once again intended to remind us of the cross – which will remind us of the curse.

For we will see the Lamb, slain on our behalf.  And you remember that Christ in His glorified body came to the disciples in the upper room after His resurrection and said to Thomas, “Look at my hands and my feet.” (John 27

In other words, “Inspect my wounds”.  Which informs us that Christ had chosen to retain the scars of His atoning work on the cross as our Passover Lamb.

So here, in all the glory of heaven, Jesus Christ is seen as the Lamb of God.

And that sight will only increase our love for Him and our joy in His grace.  We will never forget why we have gained entrance into Heaven . . . ever!

The wounds of Christ will be eternal reminders for Christ became the curse for us (Galatians 3:13) so that He could abolish the curse . . . He could finish it off, forever.

And because the curse is gone, and we are like Christ, we will be able to view the glory of His presence.

John adds in verse 4 – and they will see His face.  In other words, in our glorified state, John writes here that we will see the face of God. 

Now, since God is spirit, we’re not told exactly what we will see.  The Bible doesn’t tell us if we’ll see physical expressions or forms of the Father, Son or Spirit.

We will either see some form that God the Father chooses to show us, or we will simply be looking into the face of our glorified, Savior, Jesus Christ, who is the bright image of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15)

We do know this . . . when Adam and Eve sinned, the curse fell and they ran and hid from God.

But we will run to God.  And experience greater, more intimate fellowship than the fellowship of God’s physical manifestation with Adam or the partial glory of God’s back seen by Moses or the brilliant light seen by the Apostle Paul. 

Here we will see Christ face to face in all His glory. 

Charles Spurgeon preaching on this text said, seeing Christ face to face implies five things:

  • Certain salvation [from Him]
  • Clear knowledge of Him
  • Conscious favor [with Him]
  • Close fellowship [beside Him]
  • And Complete transformation [to be like Him] / Adapted and Quoted in Custer, p. 256

The Curse of Eden is overturned . . . it is finished forever.

No more thorns, thistles, floods, fires, sorrow, pain, sin, separation, grief, guilt or death.

And no more homework!  Young Will is right.

Hey, and no more storage bills to pay!  Whoever you are . . . gonna come see me afterward.

Would you notice that John writes next in verse 4 that His name will be on their foreheads.

This might be some form of marking on the beloved, just as the Antichrist tried to imitate God’s authority by marking his followers on their hand or forehead.

It also might be an inscription on a regal crown that sits upon the head of we the co-reigning beloved. 

The crown or turban that Aaron wore as the high priest had a golden plate that covered his forehead. / Morris, p. 469

The name of God on our forehead implies:

-ownership – we belong to Him;

-it implies service – we will represent Him as we serve;

-it implies royalty – we will reign with Him as co-

 regents in the eternal state forever.

So, keep that in mind . . . your future eternal life is glorious and meanginful. And God wanted you to live today, with a perspective of that day.

  • So no matter how painful life is for you now . . . it’s not forever.
  • No matter how difficult your disability is . . . it’s not forever.
  • No matter how fresh your sorrow is . . . it’s not forever.
  • No matter how great your struggle with the world, the flesh and the devil is . . . it’s not forever.

There is a sparkling river flowing forever from the throne of God;

There is a forest of trees that will flourish with fruit forever;

There is a curse and all that it represents that will be finished forever; and all that will remain of it are the visible scars our Savior has chosen to bear forever. 

The only scars in heaven will be His.

And because of Him, our joy and excitement and discovery and anticipation and gratitude and praise and song and service and fellowship and royal reign with Him will last forever.

So . . . just how long is forever?

Imagine it this way, and I close with this.  Imagine the earth turning into a solid steel ball – all the way around the crust of the earth – some 25,000 miles in circumference – and all the way to its inner core – changed to solid steel.

And imagine one little sparrow is released to land on the planet where he proceeds to sharpen his beak, only to be taken away. 

But a million years later, the sparrow is released again and he sharpens his little beak on this planet of solid steel.

A third time and it happens again – 3 million years have gone by and this sparrow has sharpened his beak 3 times.

But every million years, he’s back again . . . and again and again.

By the time that little sparrow sharpens his beak enough times to wear down this planet of steel to the size of a marble, forever will have just begun.

Paradise regained will have just been introduced and our lives in the presence and fellowship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit along with all the redeemed and all the angelic hosts of heaven will have just begun.

And it will go on, forever!

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