Sunday, February 3, 2013

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 49 - Revelation 21:1-8

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." (ESV)

New Heaven and Earth

What evidence to we have that not all Christians believe there will be a new heaven and earth? 

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son:
and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be:
world without end. Amen.

These words may seem very familiar to some and others may have never heard them. I’ve heard them in various churches. These are the words of the Anglican Churches’ version of the Glori Patri.[1] It is sung in most English denominations today. Some sing it every Sunday. When I was young, I said it every time I started to say the Catholic rosary. This prayer is an example of how easy it is for people to hear and grab on to something that sounds good, but isn’t biblical.  

How was it like in the beginning?  

In the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (Gen 1:1-2 KJV)  

God created the heaven and the earth, before that there was anything. After the initial phase of creation, the earth was in darkness, it had no form, and it was empty. That certainly doesn’t describe it as it is now. You could argue that the author of the prayer meant that it is now as it was after the six days of creation. Well, that’s better, but how accurate is that?  

For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: (2 Peter 3:5-6 KJV)  

Peter says that people deliberately forgot that there was a flood. The result of the flood has rendered this earth a much different planet that it was before. In addition to that, we know that creation was subject to decay after the fall. The Garden of Eden was apparently designed without death or decay (Rom 8:20). 

What about the future, will heaven and earth remain without end?  

But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:7 KJV)  

Peter and the previous chapter in Revelation clearly explain that the whole earth as we know it will disappear. The beginning of chapter 21 clearly states that there will be a completely new heaven and earth. It will not resemble in any way the previous heaven and earth. The first one was created with a sea. This one will not have a sea. There will not be a need for the sun or moon as indicated in verses 23 and 25. It doesn’t say there won’t be a sun or moon – it leaves room to have them but they won’t be needed because God will illuminate the city.

Verse 4 in the NIV says that the old order of things has passed away. This is a significant, extraordinary, revolutionary, dramatic announcement! There is no way the Glori Patri could be true. We can say God is the same and ever shall be, giving glory to Him for His unchanging nature as the Glori Patri was originally written, [2] but not the world. If you wanted the Anglican version to be correct, you would have to change the last sentence to “The coming world will be without end.” The “ever shall be” in the Anglican Glori Patri is a direct contradiction of Scripture.  

What have you learned from this examination of the Glori Patri? 

Isn’t it interesting how often we don’t really pay attention to the details of our worship? How easy it is to get off track! As I read about this online, I was astounded to find that its origins had been twisted over the years. It appears that the Roman Catholic Church made the change as the Eastern and Orthodox Churches still have the original. I speculate that the change came because the theology of the Roman Church changed when Jesus didn’t come back as soon as expected. The theology that the Church will bring about a new heaven and earth (postmillennialism) fits with the changes made.

There is a danger in blindly singing worship songs without examining their content. They can easily introduce heresy or other misleading doctrines. When we worship our Lord it must be in spirit and in truth (John 4:23) because that is the worship that the Father wants.  

If Jesus restores the earth for the millennium, why do we need a new heaven and earth?

God has said He will establish a new heaven and earth, a new order, for a reason. We are very much attached to the things of this world; some people are more attached than others are. We are attached to some things more than other things. The original creation was made in a specific manner to serve the purpose of God. He wanted a people to call His own. He wanted to dwell with those people. He wanted to be a part of them. The old order was a testing ground to provide a people that would be after His own heart as much as possible. He can have fellowship with those people. It has served its purpose, so now the imperfect things are being removed. In the new order, there will be nothing that we will become attached to except God. He will be with us. 

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isa 7:14 KJV) 

God told us that He would come to us in person. When Jesus came it was truly the first time that God was with us physically. But His first physical dwelling with us was only temporary. Since Pentecost, He has been with us spiritually. The only problem is that He is not with all men. Even now, if He were to appear, we could not stand before Him in our mortal bodies. He has to create a new order so that He can be with us. He has to get rid of all of the sin and evil, for He will not manifest Himself in the presence of evil. He will not look on sin. In this new order, He will be able to be Himself in all His glory and be among us. 

Why will God still need to wipe away our tears? 

An important thing to note about the new order is that He will wipe away every tear. I am sure that there will be a lot of mourning for those who were thrown into the lake of fire. We have loved some of them deeply and personally. God also loved them. Not only that, but He provided another way for them if they wanted it. I am also sure that He is deeply grieved that they chose the other direction. But He is also the One who comforts us. 

Return to your rest, O my soul, For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For You have rescued my soul from death, My eyes from tears, My feet from stumbling. I shall walk before the Lord In the land of the living. (Ps 116:7-9 NASU)

What shall I render to the Lord For all His benefits toward me? I shall lift up the cup of salvation And call upon the name of the Lord. (Ps 116:12-14 NASU)

In the new heaven and earth, this will become a reality forever. Our souls will be finally and completely at rest with Him because He has delivered us from death. Death will be gone forever. No one will ever die again. God meets every need of our soul, emotions, and spirit now, but then He will be doing it up close and personal. How can we repay the Lord for what He has done and will do for us? Only by taking His salvation and calling on His name. Only then can we serve Him, and share His salvation with others. 

Why does God nee say that His words are trustworthy and true? 

In a sense, it seems almost funny to have God, who is trustworthy and true, to preface His comments with a statement that what He is about to say is trustworthy and true, but He does. How much more clearly can God state the importance of what He is about to say? He clearly directs John to write down what He is about to say. I get the idea that we had better listen to what He has to say.  

What is the first thing He says and what does this imply? 

First of all He says it is done. He is speaking to us now, not to those who are in heaven with Him in the future. Yet He restates that He has no beginning or end. He is the Alpha and Omega. While He divides this into two sentences, the second explains the first. The visions that John has seen are as real and complete to God as if they had already happened. It can’t change because God has declared it already done. If anyone were to think that God might change His mind about the way things will turn out, then they are greatly mistaken. 

How do His statements explain salvation?  

As God declares this, He is also reiterating what has always been true about salvation. Number one is that it doesn’t cost us anything as He states that He will give water of life. It cost Jesus His life but it is free to us.  

Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price. (Isa 55:1 NKJV)

Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." (John 4:10 NKJV)

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” (John 7:37 NKJV) 

This is a good example of His message in the Old Testament. It hasn’t changed and Jesus reaffirmed it in the New Testament. Salvation is a free gift that can’t be earned. We must come to Jesus to get it. If we think we can earn it then we really don’t understand what Jesus did on the cross. We don’t understand the great separation between sinful man and our holy God.

The second thing about salvation is that faith and obedience are intertwined. God says that those who overcome will inherit all of the new heaven and earth. An overcomer is a person who has lived a life in obedience to Christ. Taking free water and participating in salvation is proved by obedience. Even our ability to overcome is by His grace and power, not ours. Once we have committed ourselves to Him, He will ensure that we are overcomers.  

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: (Phil 1:6 KJV)   

Overcomers are rewarded with an inheritance as well as having a personal relationship with God.

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. (Eph 1:18 NLT)  

God is about to show us part of that inheritance, the New Jerusalem. He is letting us know that we are part of it. Most importantly though, is the personal relationship we will have with Him when He will be our God and we will be His sons, unlike anything that we know now or can even imagine.

In addition to the two positive aspects of the gospel, there is bad news for those who don’t embrace Jesus. God gives us a short list to describe those who will not or have not embraced Jesus. They will not have any part of the New Jerusalem, the temple of God.  

In the list of those who will not inherit eternal life, what does the word abominable bring to your mind? 

The word was translated as vile in the NIV but is translated as abominable in the ESV, NAS, KJV; the RSV says polluted. The Discovery Bible (NAS translation) indicates that this is a condition that occurred in the past but is still true.[3] It is the result of action having a lingering result or a continuing effect. It is a condition or state of lasting significance or status. In other words, the people who are vile or abominable have done nothing to change their status and it will continue that way forever.  

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:9-11 RSV)   

Paul is saying the same thing that God is saying in Revelation about vile people, but he is also letting his readers know that their status has changed. For believers, there are no lingering results to what we were before we embraced Jesus and let Him justify us. It is past tense for us. Yes, we can all admit to having done something, even as a Christian, that fits into either this list or one of the many other lists in the Bible. But the Holy Spirit has washed, sanctified, and justified us – all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who continue doing these things without repentance have proven that they haven’t accepted Jesus. The lingering result for them is the second death and exclusion from inheriting the New Jerusalem. Their status will continue forever. 

How does the fact that cowardly people will not enter heaven tell you? 

The word cowardly surprised me. The KJV translated it as fearful but most use the word cowardly. It is only used when Jesus rebuked His disciples when they were in the middle of the storm and He was sleeping (Matt 8:26, Mark 4:40). The word means timid, faithless. Cowardice comes when we do not act in faith on what we know from faith to be true. In a sense it means unbelieving, because if we did believe we would have the faith to go ahead. If we say we believe and do not act on it in obedience, then we are cowardly or fearful.

It is that kind of fear that makes people want to protect themselves and keeps them from accepting Jesus. When someone says he is afraid to accept the Lord, he needs more faith. Faith comes from hearing the Word. At this time it would be good to quote God’s Word.  

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:15-18 NIV) 

The first step out of fear is to turn to Jesus. When we do, we will have God living in us. We can trust Jesus for our salvation because we know that God is love. When we know we are saved, we don’t have any fear for the day of judgment. We know we will not be punished for our sins even though we deserve it. No wonder John is told that the cowardly or fearful will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

What is there about sorcery that we need to be aware of in today’s world? 

I would like to digress to look at one more of these categories. It is not always mentioned in other lists, but is here. It is the practice of magic arts. The reason for digression is that Wicca and other forms of magic arts and witchcraft are gaining acceptance as valid forms of religion. We always need to be sure we know what God has to say about it. 

"There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a wizard or a necromancer, … for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.” (Deut 18:10-11, 14 ESV) 

God gave the Israelites a new land, just as He has given us a new heart. They were to drive out the previous inhabitants because of their detestable ways. We need to drive out the detestable ways of our previous lives. These detestable things are all lumped together with sacrificing children. It isn’t surprising to me that the increase in witchcraft and abortions in society go hand in hand.

When I first wrote this as an email many years ago, abortions were increasing. Now they are decreasing, at least that is what seems to be reported in the media. However, there is now an even more abominable connection between witchcraft or sorcery and abortions.

The meaning of the Greek word for sorcerer is pharmakeus (far-mak-yoos'); from pharmakon (a drug, i.e. spell-giving potion); a druggist ("pharmacist") or poisoner, i.e. (by extension) a magician.[4] Witchcraft has the same root word. It has become apparent to me that we are actually having more abortions than previously because they are being performed by pharmacists with the morning after pills. What is even worse is that our government is forcing companies to pay for these evil potions (I can’t call them medications) in their health plans. So far, Christians who own companies have not been able to claim religions freedom or conscience to keep from falling under this law. 

What is divination and why is it an affront to God? 

Divination is the art of obtaining secret knowledge, especially of the future. It is the spiritual counterfeit of the gift of prophecy. To seek knowledge of the future from any other source then God is to insult Him by looking to someone other than Him to discover our purpose in life. The only other possible source of future knowledge is demons – something from the spiritual world (Acts 16:16). No wonder we should avoid it at all costs. 

What does sorcery encompass and why is it so dangerous? 

Sorcery is a much broader term than we’ve already discussed. It encompasses the whole of occultic endeavors. It includes calling people from the dead, using oracular formula, incantations, and mystical uttering. This is supported because the Hebrew word (kashaph) for a witch or sorcerer has a root meaning to whisper a spell, or to incant or practice magic.[5] What the rest of the verse is doing is describing what a sorcerer is in Biblical terms. It is not attempting to list a bunch of different things, but to expand on divination and sorcery.

We’ve already seen the source of the Greek word for sorcerer. It literally means druggist but was always used in connection with magic. Many people who are using drugs are doing it to escape reality. They want a spiritual world that they can touch and experience. The only trouble is that reality is Jesus. The reality that they experience with drugs is an open door to demon possession because they are rejecting the only way to God – through Jesus.

The magic arts described in Deuteronomy are divided into two categories. The first we talked about is looking to someone other than God for information. The information can come from various sources, which include the dead, omens such as how cards are dealt, and stars – you name it. It doesn’t just have to be about the future.  

What is the second use of magic described in Deut 18:10-11, 14 and why are they so spiritually dangerous? 

The second is the attempt to use spiritual powers to affect the future or change the present. Drugs do that in a sense. For a while the person thinks things are something other than what they are. But spells are something different. People trying to imitate the miracles of God use spells. It doesn’t matter what the spells are intended to produce, whether apparently good such as healing or bringing prosperity, or to imitate God’s wrath and bring disaster; people want the same power that God has. They want to “play God.” 

Now, therefore, please come, curse this people for me since they are too mighty for me; perhaps I may be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed. (Num 22:6 NASB)

 Then Balak said to Balaam, "What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, but behold, you have actually blessed them!" And he answered and said, "Must I not be careful to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?" (Num 23:11-12 NASB)  

Balaam was considered to be a sorcerer of sorts. He would curse people for a price. But God wanted to use him to bless Israel and to let the other nations know that Israel was blessed. Note that the purpose of bringing a curse upon Israel was to change the course of history decreed by God. Balaam’s comment is what we really should be looking for in our own lives, to speak what God gives us.  

How might people today be unaware that they are actually engaged in a form of sorcery?

When you get right down to it, anyone who is not a Christian who prays is practicing sorcery. They do not know the Father, because they do not know the Son. They want to affect the future, but until they pray to receive Jesus, they are praying to someone else. It is even more blatant with those who pray to saints or anyone other than God or a god with a different name that they think is God. This can even include Christians who do not know any better. He is the One who is in control and He is the One that can change the future.

So, whether people are praying to a deceased saint or a foreign god they are indeed dishonoring God and attempting to cast spells. At the head of every religion other than Christianity or Judaism is a demon that claims to be God. Unfortunately, Judaism has not listened to God and has not honored the Son, so while they may pray to the correct God, their prayers are most likely ineffective because they do not honor God by honoring the Son (John 5:23). 

And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13 KJV)  

This is the way God wants us to change the future.

How can we make sure that our children or we are not drawn into witchcraft?  

In Gal 5:19-21, Paul lists some of the deeds of the flesh. Witchcraft is sitting right there in the middle of other sins. It is another form of the word used for sorcery. It is not just one activity but encompasses all occultic behavior. One of the ways that people are drawn into these things unsuspectingly is as children. The Bible tells us to be careful about this. 

But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. (1 Tim 4:7 KJV)  

We are to have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives tales. As a Christian, we should not be involved with these things in any way. They are godless. Instead, we should be training ourselves to be godly. There comes a point in every Christian’s life when he has to put the old away and start on the new.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Cor 13:11 KJV)  

As Paul said we need to advance from childish things. I am thinking in the terms of our children. Fairy tales may have a place for a time provided they could be used allegorically to help understand God and the difference between good and evil. However, at some point kids must be weaned off fairy tales and turn instead to devoting the time to godly pursuits. Otherwise, they can lead right into the occult.

In the last few years, we’ve seen a significant increase in books, TV, and movies that sometimes seems harmless. The Harry Potter series of books certainly had many Christian parents concerned. We also have an inordinate fascination with vampires and zombies. Not all of these things are overtly bad, but some are decidedly evil and should be avoided. The subtle ones may be more dangerous in the long run than the ones that have obvious evil in them. 

What should you and your family do with these modern fairy tales? 

These are all a part of our modern culture. We can’t completely ignore them. Our children will be exposed to them even if they attend a strict Christian school. We need to be prepared to engage our kids as well as unbelievers where they are, what they think about these things, without becoming part of it. If we are entertained by these things, then we need to understand what they are trying to do our thinking.

I admit that I’m a Sci-Fi fan – of sorts. I read classic stories when I was a kid and enjoy some of the space thrillers such as Star Trek. However I avoid most of it because it is more about evoking horror and extremely ungodly concepts. Even my favorites are packed with subtle (and some not so subtle) attacks against Christianity.

If you can’t identify these and discuss the morals of a story with your children or unbelievers in your circle of friends, then you have no business participating in this kind of entertainment. If you can’t discern the purpose of the entertainment, then you will be susceptible to its influence. It will affect your reasoning and what you believe. It will be a detriment to how you live out your Christian faith.

One of the main concepts of the entertainment that uses magic of one form or another is that there are powers outside of our physical universe that can help us battle evil. Unfortunately, those powers do not include the true God of the Bible. In essence these and others teach that it is OK to use these powers. It is OK to use your own abilities. It is even OK to overcome evil with evil instead of with good (Rom 12:21). 

How many times has the second death been mentioned and what should this tell us? 

This is the third mention of the second death. This should remove any doubt about what will happen to unbelievers. If they doubt, it is because they have not read these chapters or they have simply refused to believe what is written. It is strange to think that people are so afraid of dying, yet they love sin so much more that they refuse the solution. Instead they ridicule and condemn those who preach hell fire and brimstone saying it is manipulative and scares people into accepting their religion. The truth is that they are convicted and do not want to hear it anymore.

Let’s look forward to the new heaven and earth. When we arrive, we will look back on this life as if it were only a dream. Let’s also be careful what we believe and how we act on our belief so that it won’t look like a nightmare when we look back.

[1] "Gloria Patri." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Nov. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.
[2] Earliest versions of this doxology are rendered: Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, Both now and always, and unto the ages of ages. Amen. The second phrase relates to the trinity, not the world. Ibid.
[3] Hill, Gary, and Gleason L. Archer. The Discovery Bible. Chicago: Moody, 1987. 513.
[4] Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.
[5] Ibid

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