Entering His Rest.

10 And Joshua commanded the officers of the people, 11 “Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, ‘Prepare your provisions, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.’”

12 And to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh Joshua said, 13 “Remember the word that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, ‘The Lord your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land.’ 14 Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land that Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but all the men of valor among you shall pass over armed before your brothers and shall help them, 15 until the Lord gives rest to your brothers as he has to you, and they also take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving them. Then you shall return to the land of your possession and shall possess it, the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.”

16 And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses! 18 Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.” – Joshua 1:10-18 ESV

The conquest of the land of Canaan is about to begin. This day has been long in coming. It goes all the way back to the promise that God had made to Abram, when He called him out of the land of Ur.

1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” – Genesis 12:1-3 ESV

Abram did as God had commanded him and was led by God to the land of Canaan.

5 When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” – Genesis 12:5-7 ESV

The book of Hebrews tells us that Abram, who later had his name changed to Abraham by God, lived in the land, but never possessed a single acre of it, except the plot where his wife was eventually buried.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. – Hebrews 11:8-9 ESV

Abraham remained a nomad, living in tents within the land of promise, but never actually possessing any of it as his own, and the author of Hebrews says he eventually “died in faith, not having received the things promised” (Hebrews 11:13 ESV). Eventually, Abraham’s son, Isaac, had a son named Jacob, who had a son named Joseph. Joseph would be sold into slavery by his own brothers, out of jealousy over their father’s treatment of his as his favorite son, Joseph would end up in Egypt where, through a series of God-ordained events, he became the second-highest official in the Egyptian government. In time, a famine came to the land of Canaan, forcing Jacob, his sons, and their families to search for aid from the land of Egypt. There they were surprisingly reunited with the brother they had left for dead. But rather than seek revenge on his brothers for what they had done, Joseph assured them that it had all been part of God’s sovereign plan.

And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. – Genesis 45:5-8 ESV

Jacob was reluctant to move his family to Egypt, but he received a word from God, assuring him that this was all part of His plan.

3 “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again…” – Genesis 46:3-4 ESV

Jacob and his family did relocate to Egypt and, not long after his death, Joseph reassured his brothers of God’s involvement in all that had happened, and of his own intentions to care for them as long as they lived in the land of Egypt.

19 “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” – Genesis 50:19-20 ESV

And he kept that commitment. But the presence of the people of Israel in the land of Egypt would extend far beyond the life of Joseph. They would remain in the land of Egypt for 400 years. Eventually, a new Pharaoh came to power who found the explosive growth of the descendants of Abraham to be a potential threat to national security so, he began a program of enslavement and persecution of them that would last . And even this had been a part of God’s plan. Centuries earlier, God had told Abraham that all of this would happen.

Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. – Genesis 15:13 ESV

But God also had a plan for their deliverance. He used Moses to free His people from their captivity and to lead them to the land He had promised to Abraham. And Moses had been successful in his emancipation of the descendants of Abraham and his 40-year-long effort to get them to the land of promise. Which brings us to this moment in time, where Joshua stands poised to take a new generation of Israelites into the long-awaited promised land. You can almost sense the fear and anticipation among the people as Joshua commands his officers to inform them of what is about to happen.

“Prepare your provisions, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.” – Joshua 1:11 ESV

They had been here before. This was not the first time they had planned on entering the land of promise. More than 40 years earlier, Moses had them poised to take possession of the land, but the people had balked. When spies reported that the land was fruitful, but also occupied by apparently insurmountable armed forces, the people had refused to enter the land, even threatening to stone Moses and Aaron, and choose new leaders to guide them back to Egypt. So God, in His anger, cursed that generation, telling them that they would never enter the land.

22 …none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, 23 shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it.” – Numbers 14:22-23 ESV

And now, 40 years later, that next generation was being called to do what their predecessors had refused to do. Nothing had changed. The same formidable foes were still living in the land. There were going to be days filled with battles and the threat of death for everyone who obeyed God’s command to enter the land. But they also had the assurance that God was going to be with them. He was going to go before them. His promise of the land, given hundreds of years earlier to Moses, was going to be fulfilled.

And as they prepared to cross the Jordan River, Moses called upon the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, to assist them in their conquest of the land. At their own requests, they had all been given land on the opposite side of the Jordan, but they had agreed to fight alongside their brothers and sisters in order to ensure that all the land of Canaan was eventually possessed by the descendants of Abraham, just as God had said. And they assured Joshua of their commitment to keep their word.

16 “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses!” – Joshua 1:16 ESV

What is interesting to note is that this event signals the day on which the people of Israel were to enter their rest. As they stood on the banks of the Jordan, preparing to enter the land, they were doing so as an army. And yet, the minute they crossed over that river they would be entering not only the land of Canaan, but the rest that God had promised them. The very rest their ancestors had rejected.

“…don’t harden your hearts
as Israel did when they rebelled,
    when they tested me in the wilderness.
There your ancestors tested and tried my patience,
    even though they saw my miracles for forty years.
10 So I was angry with them, and I said,
‘Their hearts always turn away from me.
    They refuse to do what I tell them.’
11 So in my anger I took an oath:
    ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’” – Hebrews 3:8-11 ESV

Entering into God’s place of rest was not a guarantee of a trouble-free life. It was not to be a picture of ease and comfort. The land was not going to be taken without a fight. The days ahead would be filled with battles and loss of life. But they had ceased from wandering. They were no longer going to have to wait for God’s promise to be fulfilled. They would be in the land and resting in the presence and power of God Almighty. And the book of Joshua will close with a reminder that God would remain with them throughout the entirety of their conquest of the land, providing them with victory after victory and slowly solidifying their possession of the land.

43 Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. – Joshua 21:43-45 ESV

The author of Hebrews reminds us that the previous generation of Israel died in the wilderness, and it was “because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest” (Hebrews 3:19 NLT). And he warns us, as believers, to not repeat the mistakes of those stubborn Israelites who refused to place their faith and trust in God.

12 Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. 13 You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. 14 For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. – Hebrews 3:12-14 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Be Strong and Courageous.

1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:1-9 ESV

What do you do when your mentor and friend has died, the man who led your entire nation out of captivity in Egypt? And what if you’ve been tapped by God to act as his replacement and somehow lead the people of Israel in a Don Quixote-like quest to take over a land inhabited by nations that have no plans of being evicted? Welcome to the world of Joshua.

What we have recorded in the opening verses of this book is a changing of the guard, as the leadership of God’s people, the Israelites, is shifted from Moses to Joshua. Moses, the great emancipator of God’s people, the man who stood face-to-face with Pharaoh and brought the ten plagues on the people of Egypt, has died. Now Joshua is being commissioned by God to assume leadership over the people and to take responsibility for leading them into the land of Canaan. Sounds simple enough. And, initially, God almost makes it seem as if it was going to be a walk in the park.

“…arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them.” – Joshua 1:2 ESV

And God reemphasizes to Joshua that the land is a gift to be received. He is giving it to them.

“Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.” – Joshua 1:3 ESV

Then God gives Joshua a very clear description of the exact territory He has in mind. He leaves nothing up to the imagination. And then He assures Joshua yet again, “all the land…shall be your territory” (Joshua 1:4 ESV).

But notice what God does next. He bolsters Joshua’s courage. He goes out of His way to assure this obviously reluctant leader that he is up to the task. But not because Joshua is a good leader with all the right credentials and appropriate leadership skills. The key to Joshua’s success would not be based on his abilities, but on the presence and power of God in his life. The assignment being handed to Joshua by God was formidable and, if the truth be known, he was not up to the task. And no one knew that better than God. Which is why He told His newly commissioned leader: “I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5 ESV). Those words had to have been a huge relief to Joshua. He would not be alone. Moses was dead, but the God of Moses was not. Yahweh was alive and well, and ready to walk beside His chosen instrument, every step of the way. And this was not the first time Joshua had heard these words. Moses had told Joshua the very same thing.

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” – Deuteronomy 31:7-8 ESV

But this time, Joshua was hearing these reassuring words directly from the mouth of God Himself. And the assurance of God’s presence and power were to produce in Joshua strength and courage. God commands him to “be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6 ESV). In fact, God says it two more times, repeating it again in verses 7 and 9, and adding the addendum, “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Strength, courage, fearlessness and steadfastness. Those were to be the characteristics that marked Joshua’s life. But notice their source. They are to based on God’s power, not Joshua’s. It was the persistent presence of God that was to produce these qualities in Joshua’s life. He could have strength because his God was strong. He could show courage in the face of opposition, because his God stood before him. He could act fearlessly because his God was with him. And he could remain unshaken by any and all circumstances because his feet stood firmly planted on the rock-solid foundation of God Almighty.

But God added one important caveat that must not be overlooked. Yes, He would be with Joshua and He would be a constant source of strength and security. But Joshua must do his part.

“Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:7 ESV

Not only was Joshua to be courageous, he was to be careful. He was to observe the law given by God to Moses. And that obedience was to apply to all the people under his care. But it began with Joshua. He set the example, providing those under his leadership with a visible and tangible model of willful obedience to the law of God.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” – Joshua 1:8 ESV

God would be with Joshua. His constant presence was a promise. But it was important that Joshua prove that he was with God. Through obedience to the will of God as revealed through the law of God, Joshua would give evidence that He trusted God. God was not commanding Joshua to worship the law. He was not suggesting that obedience to the law would be the key to Joshua’s success as a leader. But Joshua’s relationship with the law would reflect how he thought about God. Jesus Himself said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15 ESV). The apostle John wrote, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3 ESV).

The law had been given to Moses by God. It was a gift from God to the people of Israel. In it, God revealed not only His will regarding the manner by which they were to live their lives, but He exposed to them His very character. By meditating on the law of God, Joshua would be discovering the truth about God. And by obeying the law of God, Joshua would be revealing his knowledge of and love for God. Again, the apostle John provides us with insight into the role between our relationship with the law and that of God.

Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. – 1 John 3:24 NLT

Joshua could be strong and courageous, not only because God was with him, but because he had the law of God to guide and direct him. By spending time thinking about the law of God, Joshua would come to know the God of the law. He would grow in his knowledge of God’s character and in his love for God’s holiness and righteousness.

The days ahead were going to be filled with difficulty. Leading the people of God was not going to be easy. Taking over a land inhabited by people who had no intentions of giving up without a fight was going to be anything but easy. But Joshua had everything he needed. He was assured of the constant, unwavering presence of God. He had been promised access to the power of God. And he had been provided with the law of God to guide, direct and protect him.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Come, Lord Jesus!

12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.  Revelation 22:12-21 ESV

For the second time in this passage, Jesus assures John of His imminent return. In verse 7, John recorded Jesus’ promise, “behold, I am coming soon.” And here, in verse 12, Jesus repeats that same phrase, but adds the warning, “bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.” He is coming back. For some that will be extremely good news, while for others it will mean payback time. In a sense, Jesus is promising a coming payday for all. The actual Greek word John uses is misthos, and it means “dues paid for work.” But it can also refer to refer to the fruit that naturally resulting from our efforts. In other words, we reap what we sow. We get what we deserve.

Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. – Galatians 6:7-8 NLT

The return of Jesus to the earth, in the form of His second coming, will be for the purpose of judging the nations. According to the prophet Jeremiah, Jesus alone has the capacity to discern the nature of each man’s heart, examining not only his outward behavior, but his inner condition of his character.

The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it?

10 “I the Lord search the heart
    and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
    according to what their deeds deserve.” – Jeremiah 17:9-10 ESV

The judgment that Christ warns about will not be works-based or focused solely on outward behavior. He will judge the hearts of men, because, “from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander” (Matthew 15:19 NLT). The external actions of those whom Jesus will judge will simply indicate that their hearts are far from Him. They will have relationship with the Son, so they will have no relationship with the Father. Jesus told His disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is” (John 14:6-7 NLT). The presence of sin will not be the basis for Jesus’ judgment. It will be the absence of a relationship with the Father, made possible through faith in His Son.

Back in the gospel of Matthew, we have recorded the following statement by Jesus, regarding those who attempt to enter into His eternal Kingdom based on their efforts. Some will offer up examples of their “righteous” deeds done in the name of Jesus, but will be surprised to hear their confession of good works met with bad news.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” – Matthew 7:21-23 ESV

In spite of doing what appear to be good works, Jesus will expose them as workers of lawlessness, because they will lack a relationship with the Giver of the law. Psalm 50 provides us with a very stark reminder of how God views the deeds of the wicked and why Jesus will judge their behavior so harshly when He returns to the earth.

16 But God says to the wicked:
“Why bother reciting my decrees
    and pretending to obey my covenant?
17 For you refuse my discipline
    and treat my words like trash.
18 When you see thieves, you approve of them,
    and you spend your time with adulterers.
19 Your mouth is filled with wickedness,
    and your tongue is full of lies.
20 You sit around and slander your brother—
    your own mother’s son.
21 While you did all this, I remained silent,
    and you thought I didn’t care.
But now I will rebuke you,
    listing all my charges against you.
22 Repent, all of you who forget me,
    or I will tear you apart,
    and no one will help you.” – Psalm 50:16-22 ESV

Jesus provides John with a list of His divine credentials that give Him the authority and right to judge. First of all, He reminds John of His eternality: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13 ESV). He is the source of all things and, as such, He is sovereign over all things. Just a few verses later, Jesus states His royal pedigree and divine right to rule as King of kings and Lord of lord.  “I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (Revelation 22:16 ESV). He is the rightful King, not only of Israel, but of all the earth. He is the morning star, a sign of a new day coming on the earth. His Kingdom will be greater than that of David. His reign will be righteous and holy in every way. His domain will stretch throughout all the universe, and nowhere in His Kingdom will be found sin, rebellion, or unrighteousness of any kind.

In His Kingdom, only “those who wash their robes” will “have the right to the tree of life” (Revelation 22:14 ESV). They alone will be allowed to “enter the city by the gates.” Everyone else, all those whose hearts were found to be wicked and unrepentant, will find themselves outside of the Kingdom of God. “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Revelation 22:15 ESV). Their destination will be the lake of fire. Jesus made that point quite clear in the previous chapter.

“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.” – Revelation 21:8 ESV

With this stark reality in mind, Jesus offers both an invitation and a warning. First He extends an invitation to “come.” He calls out to all those who will read John’s book, extending to them an incredible opportunity: “let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17 ESV). Jesus is offering eternal life. But it is available only through a relationship with Him. His words echo those recorded by the prophet Isaiah and written hundreds of years earlier.

1 Come, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
    and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
    and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
    hear, that your soul may live. – Isaiah 55:1-3 ESV

Entrance into the Kingdom of God comes with a price, but not one that any human being can meet. Our money and our human effort cannot gain us entrance into God’s Kingdom. It is made possible only through the blood of Jesus Christ.

18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. – 1 Peter 1:18-19 NLT

All we have to bring is our thirst, and Jesus provides the living water. We simply bring our need and Jesus satisfies that need with His abundance. This is all in keeping with the words of Jesus found in His Sermon on the Mount.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” – Matthew 5:6 ESV

They echo the words of Jesus, spoken to the legalistic, works-focused Pharisees.

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” – John 6:35 ESV

But Jesus also extends two warnings to all those who read the words recorded by John in his book. First of all, if they add to them in any way, they will experience all the plagues found in them. Secondly, if they take away any of the words written in John’s book, “God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city” (Revelation 22:19 ESV). These are serious warnings, and they convey the gravity of God’s attitude toward His prophetic word. No one is to tamper with the content of this book. No one is to add to it or take away from it. Jesus is so serious about it, that He warns that even if a believer should treat the contents of this book with contempt, they will forfeit their right to the tree of life. Remember, this is a warning. It is meant to dissuade anyone from doing what is being mentioned. The threat of losing access to the tree of life and, therefore, eternal life, should be enough to keep any believer from tampering with God’s prophetic Word. And yet, how often have well-meaning Christians attempted to add to the words of John through vain speculation and what amounts to be little more than idle conjecture. We must be careful to refrain from explaining away the truth of what God has revealed, by allegorizing its message or spiritualizing its meaning. While we may not fully understand all that is found on the pages of John’s book, we must treat it as the Word of God and nothing less.

Finally, Jesus offers John one final reassurance. “Surely I am coming soon.” It is a done deal, fully guaranteed by God and backed by the One who is trustworthy and true. He is coming. And John responds with the simple, yet profound words, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Those should be the words that come from the mouth of every Christ-follower, each and every day of their lives, as they eagerly and expectantly wait for His return. May we be those who, like the apostle Paul, pray for the day when our Savior comes again.

“…our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  – 3:20 ESV

He is coming. Do you believe it? Better yet, are you ready for it?

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

Worship God.

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”

“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”

10 And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” Revelation 22:6-11 ESV

John’s vision, given to him on the island of Patmos, is quickly coming to a close. And as it does, hears repeated some of the same words he heard when he began his incredible experience.

1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. – Revelation 1:1-3 ESV

The angel reminds John that every word he has heard is trustworthy and true. They can be trusted for their veracity and accuracy. The visions he has been privileged to see and the words of prophecy he has been commanded to write down have been given to him by the God of the spirit of the prophets. This phrase is meant to qualify the content of John’s visions as having been God-breathed. The same God who spoke through Isaiah, Zechariah, Micah and a host of other Old Testament prophets, had just spoken to and would be passing His message through John. Peter reminds us that God is the one who gave the prophets the words they wrote in their books. He was the author behind their predictions, many of which find their fulfillment in the future events John has just witnessed and chronicled.

For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. – 2 Peter 1:21 ESV

At the birth of John the Baptist, the final prophet of God, who heralded the coming of Christ, his father spoke spoke these words:

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us. – Luke 1:68-71 ESV

God, the author behind every word spoken by the prophets, has just spoken to John. And because God is trustworthy and true, His words can be relied upon.

And John is reminded once again that the things he has seen “must soon take place.” There is an degree of imminence to the angel’s words, but this does not necessarily mean immediacy. The Greek phrase John uses is en tachos, which means “with quickness or speed.” The angel is not saying that these things are about to happen, but that when they do, they will come in rapid succession. And there is another aspect to this warning that we are all to take to heart. None of us know the day of their coming. Jesus Himself told us, “no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows” (Matthew 24:36 NLT). But we are to live as if they could happen at any minute. As believers, we are to conduct our lives with an expectation that Jesus Christ could return for His church at any moment. Paul told the Philippian believers, “we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior” (Philippians 3:20 NLT). He encouraged the believers in Corinth to “eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7 NLT). He told the church in Rome to “wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us” (Romans 8:23 NLT). He complimented the Thessalonian believers for their reputation for “looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead” (1 Thessalonians 1:10 NLT).

So, there is a sense in which we are to eagerly look for the return of Jesus for His bride, the church, because it will usher in the period of the tribulation and inaugurate the final days of judgment. And John hears the voice of Jesus, assuring him that His return is indeed growing closer with each passing day.

“And behold, I am coming soon.” – Revelation 22:7 ESV

When the time comes, Jesus will come quickly or without delay. Right now, He is in a holding pattern, waiting for the very moment in time when His heavenly Father commands Him to return for His church. But He is ready. And we should be as well.

And Jesus also reminds John that there is a blessing associated with the faithful reading and keeping of the contents of this book.

“Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” – Revelation 22:7 ESV

The Greek word John uses is tēreō, and it means “to attend to carefully, to take care of or guard.” The words contained in each and every prophecy given to John and recorded in his book are to be taken seriously and treated with reverence and awe. They are the words of God and, as such, come with a blessing. Knowing what God has planned for the future of the world should bring us hope and assurance. It should provide us with confidence and endurance. It should alleviate our fears and eliminate our uncertainties about the future. We don’t have to worry about which side wins. We don’t have to wonder if God has forgotten about us. There is a perfectly planned timeline in place and God will enact it at the very right moment. When He deems best. It has already been predetermined and its outcome preordained.

And in response to all that John had seen or heard during the course of his vision, John fell at the feet of the angel in worship. He couldn’t help but subjugate himself to the one who had provided him with such amazing news. But the angel refused John’s adoration, demanding that he worship God instead. And that is the point behind the entire book. What we read on its pages should drive us to our knees before God Almighty. It should remind us that our God is not only great, but good. He is just, holy, righteous, and in complete control of all things – in heaven and on earth.

And John is told to keep his book open. He was not to seal or close it, but to allow its content to be readily available for all to see, read, and heed. Because it is meant to be a constant reminder to the people of God that the events disclosed on its pages will happen before they know it – “for the time is near.” And then Jesus utters some rather strange words that carry with them a certain degree of pre-determinism.

Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” – Revelation 22:11 ESV

The sad truth is that there are many who will never accept God’s free gift of salvation made available through His Son’s death on the cross. They will hear, but not heed. They will be offered salvation through faith alone in Christ alone, but refuse to accept this priceless gift. And Jesus is simply saying that they will continue to live as they always have, committed to a life marked by sin and open rebellion against God. And yet, there will be those who, in God’s plan, have heard and accepted God’s gracious gift, received forgiveness for their sins and been imputed the righteousness of Christ. And they are to live as who they are: Sons and daughters of God.

As John has seen and as his book reveals, there is an outcome in store for all. The righteous and the unrighteous have a future already in store for them. Those who choose to reject God will receive the judgment they deserve. And as has been shown all throughout John’s vision, there will be many times within the seven years of the tribulation when people will be given ample evidence that God is bringing judgment upon sinful men, but they will refuse to repent, choosing instead to maintain their independent, autonomous lifestyle of self-determination. Even under the unrelenting, heavy hand of God, they will reject Him as God and choose instead to worship false gods, including the Antichrist himself. The evil will continue to do evil. Right to the bitter end.

 

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

The Tree of Life.

1 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  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. 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. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 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. Revelation 22:1-5 ESV

John’s vision of the Jew Jerusalem continues, but this time, it moves from imagery involving architecture and building materials to those pertaining to physical and spiritual sustenance. The city will be beautiful, but it will also be practical, filled with good things that will help secure the ongoing well-being of all the redeemed. First of all, John sees a river, the river of the water of life, and it is flowing directly from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In one sense, this river is both symbolic and literal. It is apparently a real river flowing through a real city. But the fact that John sees it flowing from the thrones of God and His Son, reveal that it is pure in nature and completels uncontaminated by sin. It is the water of life because it flows from the givers of life. God and His Son are the creators of all physical life, and Jesus is the source of eternal life. In his first letter, John described Jesus in these terms:

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. – John 1:3-4 ESV

Physical life is impossible without water. Man cannot exist for very long without access to this essential resource. But in the eternal state, there will be no death, so there is little likelihood that the water from the river will be required for man’s sustenance. Our glorified bodies will be eternal in nature, not susceptible to disease or decay. But the river reveals that it is the presence of God and His Son that makes our new life possible.

There is an interesting parallel passage found in John’s gospel that portrays the Spirit of God as living water. Compare what Jesus has to say in these verses with the description of the river flowing from the thrones of God and His Son in John’s vision.

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. – John 7:37-39 ESV

So, perhaps the river is symbolic of the Spirit of God, flowing from the other two members of the Trinity and filling the New Jerusalem with all the life-sustaining properties of righteousness, holiness, joy, and love. It is difficult not to consider the fruit of the Spirit, listed by Paul, when thinking about this river of life flowing through the streets of the New Jerusalem.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control… – Galatians 5:22-23 ESV

It is impossible to have life, true life, eternal life, without the presence of this fruit. A life that has no joy is not really life at all. A life devoid of love is like a stagnant pond, incapable of ministering to anyone other than itself. When John speaks of eternal life, he is not just referring to life without end. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 ESV). He came to bring abundant life, a life filled with all the good things that only God can provide. It is important to remember that even those who refuse God’s gracious offer of salvation though His Son, will also inherit eternal life. But their ongoing, non-ending life will be devoid of the fruit of the Spirit. They will have no access to the river of life flowing from the Godhead. Their eternal state will radically different.

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. – Revelation 21:8 ESV

So, John sees a river that symbolizes life, spiritual and physical, in all its glory and goodness, flowing from God and His Son, and made possible by the Spirit. But the imagery of life is does not stop there. John also sees a tree, the tree of life, growing along the bank of the river. This is an obvious reference to the tree of life mentioned in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis.

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. – Genesis 2:8-9 ESV

God created man and placed him in the garden, and provided him with access to a variety of fruit-bearing trees, from which he could eat. This included the tree of life. The Hebrew word for life that Moses used in these verses is chay, and it refers to “living.” It was the tree of living. The fruit of this tree provided Adam and Eve with life. And it is important to note that, after having eaten from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve were banned from the garden by God. And the reason behind their ban was to prevent any further access to the tree of life.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. – Genesis 3:22-24 ESV

It seems that, as long as Adam and Eve had remained obedient, they would have had access to the fruit of the tree of life. It would have been a normal part of their daily diet, provided for them by God. But, when they failed to keep God’s command, and ate of the one tree He had specifically forbidden, they lost their right to life. Not only did they forfeit their intimate communion with God, they gave up their access to the source of life for their lives. And mankind has been stuck in that same sad state ever since. But Peter reminds us that God remedied man’s problem by sending His Son as the payment for man’s sin debt.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. – 1 Peter 2:24 ESV

Jesus gave up His life on a different tree, a wooden cross, manufactured by human hands, and designed to take the life from a man. But God used this cruel form of torture and death to make eternal life available to humanity once again. And for all those who place their faith in Jesus Christ, the tree of life will once again be accessible and available. And John states that the tree will come with “twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2 ESV). Notice that the tree offers variety, a selection of fruit that changes each month. There will be no monotony to life in the eternal state. No one will be bored. Eternal life will be abundantly rich and diversified life, marked by unimaginable variations of quality and quantity. And the citizens of the eternal state will have constant access to the fruit of the tree of life, as well as to the leaves, which John says bring the healing of the nations. But what does this statement mean? Why would there need to be healing, if there is no longer any sickness and death? And who are the nations? First of all, the Greek word that is translated “healing” is therapeia, from which we get our word, therapeutic. The root word for therapeia has to do with service or administering to the needs of others. So, in a sense, “healing” has to do with health-giving or the promotion of well-being. Even the leaves of this tree will have life-giving, therapeutic value. Since there is no sickness in the eternal state, there will be no need for healing. But the tree of life will be a source of spiritual and physical well-being, providing mankind with abundant life in every way possible. 

One of the things that is easy to miss is John’s statement that, in the eternal state, “No longer will there be anything accursed” (Revelation 22:3 ESV). The curse that God pronounced upon man and upon creation as a result of the fall will be forever lifted. The prophet Zechariah prophesied about this day.

And Jerusalem will be filled, safe at last, never again to be cursed and destroyed. – Zechariah 14:11 NLT

There will be no more threat of judgment. Sin will be non-existent, because there will be no sinners. Disease, a byproduct of man’s rebellion against God, will be eradicated. The atmosphere of the heavenly state will be permeated by the presence of God, the Son and the Spirit. And all will worship them and them alone. Think about that. There will be no one worshiping self. There will be no idols or false gods to which men bow down and offer their worship. All honor, glory, reverence, gratitude and praise will be offered to God. And there will be an intimacy restored to the relationship between God and man that has not been known since Adam and Eve sinned. At one time they enjoyed unbroken fellowship with God, walking with Him in the cool of the day in the garden. But sin destroyed that fellowship. And then Jesus restored it. He has made it possible for sinful men to be made right with a holy God. And the eternal state will be marked by fellowship with God and His Son. We will see them face to face. And John spoke of this incredible experience to come, in one of his letters.

Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. – 1 John 3:2 NLT

The day is coming when God will make all things new. He will restore His creation, marred by sin, to its original, pristine state. He will glorify all those who have placed their faith in His Son. He will once again provide unhindered access to the tree of life. There will be no darkness, sorrow, sin, disease or death. Light will be provided by God Himself. Joy will flow from the throne of God. Contentment will no longer be a pipe dream to be pursued, but never achieved. Every citizen of the Kingdom of God will be fully satisfied, completely content, and eternally joyful. Hard to imagine? Yes. But what John describes in these verses is the essence of our faith. And the author of Hebrews would have us remember: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV).

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

No Temple? No Problem.

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 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, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15 And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. 18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Revelation 21:9-27 ESV

At this point in his vision, John receives a close-up look at the recently-descended New Jerusalem and his personal tour guide happens to be one of the angels who poured out the bowl judgments on Babylon. The wicked city of Babylon had been destroyed by God. And, as we saw in chapter 18, Babylon had been powerful and beautiful. It had been a city of great influence, politically, economically and spiritually. It had been a city built by the hands of men and filled with the power of Satan, but in virtually no time at all, God had brought it to an end.

16 “Alas, alas, for the great city
    that was clothed in fine linen,
        in purple and scarlet,
    adorned with gold,
        with jewels, and with pearls!
17 For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.” – Revelation 18:16-17 ESV

But the once great Babylon has been replaced with the city of God, the New Jerusalem. And John once again describes seeing it as “coming down out of heaven from God.” This is a repeat of the very same phrase used in verse 2. Unlike Babylon, this city has not been built by the hands of men, but by God. Perhaps, this is the very place to which Jesus was referring when He told His disciples:

2 “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”  – John 14:2-3 NLT

We are not told when the New Jerusalem came into existence. It could be that it has always been there, but makes its earthly appearance at the end of the millennium. But the important thing to note are the many words and terms used to describe its uniqueness. It comes down from heaven. It is holy and called the bride of the Lamb. It contains the glory of God Himself and it is His glory that provides all the light needed for life. There is no night in the city and no presence of anything unclean, impure, immoral, sinful and unrighteousness. This is the ideal city. And it is fascinating to note the difference between what God provides and what mankind attempt to provide on its own. One can’t help but contrast the scene recorded in Genesis 11, when the people of earth chose to disobey God and, rather than spreading across the face of the earth, being fruitful and replenishing it, they chose to stay in one place, build a city and a great tower and make a name for themselves. Moses records that “the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built” (Genesis 11:5 ESV). They had been successful. They had turned their dream to “build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4 ESV) into a reality. Over and over again, we read their ambitious words, “let us make” and “let us build.” Notice that the creation of their city and its great tower were their doing. They built up. But God’s city came down. It descended from God and, as a result, it contained the glory of God.

As he has done so many times before, John attempts to provide us with a detailed description of all that he is seeing, but he’s constrained by the limits of human language and inadequacy of earthly images as comparisons. The point of his description is not that we might have a detailed architectural rendering of the city, but that we might begin to grasp its sheer glory. This city is massive in size and magnificent in design. There is order to its every detail. There is meaning behind every aspect of its shape, size, and structure. But when it comes to the exact dimensions, it would seem that John is not trying to give us precise architectural measurements so that we might be able to recreate the city on a piece of paper. The whole chapter seems to suggest that this city is unable to be replicated by man. It is one-of-a-kind and divinely unique in nature and appearance. All the mention of gold and precious jewels are meant to provide us with some idea of just how beautiful and priceless this city will be. It will be massive in size and scope, and yet filled with precious metals and priceless stones, which happen to be used as construction materials, not simply adornments.

The other significant aspect of the city is its inclusion of references to both the people of God, Israel, and the church. There will be 12 gates guarded by 12 angels, and above those gates will be engraved the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. And the wall of the city will have 12 foundations upon which will be written “the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:14 ESV). Paul refers to this very same thing in his letter to the believers in Ephesus.

Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. – Ephesians 2:20 NLT

The people of God and the church of Jesus Christ are represented in this city. And while it is referred to as “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:9 ESV), that does not mean the city is a representation of the church. This is the city of God, and it will include all the people of God, including the remnant of His chosen people, the nation of Israel, as well as all those chosen or elect in Christ. And we are told that the nations of the earth will come in and out of the city, bringing their glory with them. This is not a reference to their own personal glory, but the glory they bring in order to honor God. The focus of eternal state will be God and Him alone. No longer will men self-glorify or make much of creation. They won’t be tempted to magnify self or worship something other than God. Idolatry will have no place in the eternal state. There will be no false gods. The New Jerusalem and the new earth will be filled by all those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

And one of the most significant aspects of this new city is found in verse 22. In almost a flippant, throw-away sense, John simply states, “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” This is hugely significant. Both the tabernacle and the temple were primary structures in the religious mindset of the Israelites. These were the places where the people came to offer their sacrifices to God. The Holy of Holies contained the mercy seat, over which the glory of God hovered, and upon which the yearly atonement was made for the sins of the people. But in the New Jerusalem, there will be no temple. There will be no holy place or holy of holies. Because, as John states, its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. No longer will men have to try and earn access into God’s presence, because His presence will permeate every aspect of life. We will have unlimited, unhindered access into the presence of God and His Son, at all times. Their glory will surround us, in the form of light. Their grace will be constantly available to us. There will be no darkness to obscure our view of them. There will be no sin to separate us from them. The prophet Isaiah spoke of this very day and his words provide us with God’s promise that the vision of John will one day become a reality.

19 The sun shall be no more
    your light by day,
nor for brightness shall the moon
    give you light;
but the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory.
20 Your sun shall no more go down,
    nor your moon withdraw itself;
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your days of mourning shall be ended.
21 Your people shall all be righteous;
    they shall possess the land forever,
the branch of my planting, the work of my hands,
    that I might be glorified.
22 The least one shall become a clan,
    and the smallest one a mighty nation;
I am the Lord;
    in its time I will hasten it. – Isaiah 60:19-22 ESV

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

All Things New!

1 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.” Revelation 21:1-8 ESV

In a way, this chapter provides a link all the way back to the opening chapter of the very first book of the Bible, where we read the words, “In the beginning…” (Genesis 1:1) . The universe and all it contains once had a beginning, a starting place, a point in history when God stepped into time and space and created ex nihilo – out of nothing. And all that He made, He deemed good. But that creation was eventually marred by sin. The good that God had made was made wicked because of man’s choice to rebel against the sovereign will of God. And the apostle Paul reminds us that the entrance of sin into God’s creation left its mark on all that God had made, including mankind and the world it inhabited.

20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. – Romans 8:20-21 ESV

But with the opening of chapter 21 of Revelation, John is given the privilege of seeing what will be a brand new beginning. In a sense, it will be Genesis 1 all over again. Take a look at the amazing similarities. In Genesis 1:1, God made the heavens and the earth. In Revelation 21:1, John is shown a new heaven and a new earth. In the Genesis account, we are told that God created the sun, but in Revelation 21:23, John notes that there will be no need for the sun, because the glory of God provides all the light needed. And while God originally created night, with the new beginning, there will be no place or reason for its existence. Darkness is the absence of light and, since God is light, and His righteousness will rule the new creation, there will never be a lack of His pervading, illuminating presence. In Genesis 3:19, we have the entrance of death into the original creation account. But in verse four of this chapter, we are told “death shall be no more.” And John states quite matter-of-factly, “the former things have passed away,” which includes all mourning, crying and pain.

Back in chapter 20, in verse 11, John described seeing Jesus seated on the great white throne and he stated that, “From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.” Now, with the opening of chapter 21, we get a better idea of what he meant by that statement, because he “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” (Revelation 21:1 ESV). He does not tell us how this will happen, but just that it will. The old will be replaced with the new. Peter provides us with some insight into the nature of this radical transformation. He describes how God made the original universe and how “the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God” (2 Peter 3:5 ESV). And then he goes to describe how, at one time, God spoke again and “by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished” (2 Peter 3:6 ESV). Finally, Peter lets us know what will happen when God chooses to make all things new.

“…by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” – 2 Peter 3:7 ESV

But wait, there’s more.

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” – 2 Peter 3:10 ESV

We don’t know exactly how God is going to accomplish all of this, but we can rest assured that it will be done. He will make all things new. He will re-create His creation. And the prophet Isaiah quotes the words of God Himself, speaking of the very day John is being given the privilege of seeing in advance.

17 “For behold, I create new heavens
    and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
    or come into mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
    in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
    and her people to be a gladness.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem
    and be glad in my people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping
    and the cry of distress. – Isaiah 65:17-19 ESV

And John states, “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2 ESV). The information John provides us about this city is quite sparse at this point, and he doesn’t immediately give us a detailed description. He simply states its arrival. But John does hear a loud voice, emanating from heaven, and shouting, “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” (Revelation 21:3 ESV). With the arrival of the New Jerusalem, the presence of God returns to the earth in a permanent form. The unbroken fellowship Adam and Eve enjoyed with God as they walked in the garden will be recreated as God sets us His tabernacle and His Holy City on earth. Again, one of the Old Testament prophets, this time Ezekiel, wrote down the words of God, promising to keep the covenant He had made with His people, return them to the land and return to their midst in all His glory.

26 “I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” – Ezekiel 37:26-28 ESV

This is an important promise made by God, because earlier in the book of Ezekiel, the prophet was given a vision of God’s glory leaving the sanctuary. He was abandoning the place in Jerusalem where His glory had dwelt above the mercy seat for generations, but because of the sin and rebellion of the people of Israel, God would no longer tolerate living in their presence.

18 Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. 19 And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them. And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the Lord, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them. – Ezekiel 10:18-19 ESV

But with the vision of John, the glory of God returns. And John pronounces the good news that, with His return, “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” (Revelation 21:4 ESV). The presence of God brings joy, peace, life, contentment, fulfillment, comfort, and a sense of unbroken, undiminished love to the earth. And there will be no Satan or sin to mar this scene. Those who live under the new heaven and on the new earth, will be redeemed and glorified. Their bodies will be new and in their eternal, glorified states. Their natures will be sinless and perfectly righteous. And that is why Jesus, the one seated on the throne can boldly declare, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5 ESV). Notice the interesting contrast between this statement and the one that follows. Jesus first says, “I am making…” and it is a present active verb, indicating an action that is in process. And yet, in the very next verse, Jesus says, “It is done!” It carries with it the idea of completion. He has accomplished all that He has set out to do. In a sense, throughout the entire book of Revelation, John has been seeing the work of God unfolding in all its intricate details. And when Jesus states that He is making all things new, He follows it with a command for John to “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:5 ESV). At this point, John was still in note-taking mode, chronicling all that is going to happen. Remember, this is a prophetic book. But John also hears Jesus say that it is done, because the final outcome of all that is going to happen is assured. It’s going to happen just as John has been shown, down to the very last detail. And Jesus adds yet one more statement and this time it appears to be a promise for the future. 

To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” – Revelation 21:6 ESV

As the events of the tribulation come to a close, we can find ourselves overwhelmed by all the imagery, including the description of a city descending from heaven. But Jesus reminds us that the real miracle of all this has to do with eternal life. He is going to quench the spiritual thirst of all those whom come to Him. It recalls the promise made to the Samaritan woman who Jesus met at the well one day.

13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:13-14 ESV

And the prophet Isaiah provided us with this reassuring promise from God:

“Come, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without price. – Isaiah 55:1 ESV

Jesus lets us know that all those who conquer, which is simply a reference to all those who will be standing in the presence of God the Father and God the Son, because of  Christ’s victory over sin and death, will inherit all that has been promised to them. And they will enjoy their permanent position as children of God – for all eternity.

But there is devastating news for all those who refused to accept the grace of God in the form of His free offer of unblemished righteousness, made possible through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. With His death, Jesus offered up His righteousness in exchange for our sin. He took on our debt and paid our penalty with His own life. But for all who refused His offer, their eternity is secure, but in a very different way.

“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.” – Revelation 21:8 ESV

The book of Revelation provides us with a stern warning and a comforting reminder. There is a judgment to come. And God’s offer of salvation by grace along, through faith alone in Christ alone is not just a nice gesture on God’s part. It is the determining factor to every man’s eternal state.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

The Great White Throne Judgment.

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-15 ESV

John now receives a new part of his vision. He is shown a great white throne upon which someone is seated. John does not provide us with the name of this individual, but it is safe to assume that it is God. More significantly, it is probably Jesus, the Son of God, as the second member of the Trinity, who is prepared to judge the world. Jesus spoke of this very moment to His disciples.

25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” –  John 5:25-29 ESV

We can also turn to the words of Jesus, spoken to the church in Laodicea.

“The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” – Revelation 3:21 ESV

Matthew also recorded the words of Jesus revealing this coming moment in time.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. – Matthew 25:31-36 ESV

So, in this scene, it is likely that the one seated on the throne is Jesus Christ Himself. We know this, that His eminence and power are so great, that John describes the earth and sky as fleeing away from His presence. We cannot be sure exactly what John means by this phrase, but we know from elsewhere in Scripture, that God is going to completely destroy the old heavens and earth and completely remake them.

…the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. – 2 Peter 3:7 ESV

…the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. – 2 Peter 3:12-13 ESV

This fits in with the words of Jesus revealed in the very next chapter of Revelation, and spoken from the very same throne.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” – Revelation 21:5 ESV

His throne is white, signifying His righteousness and justice. The psalmist provides us with insight into the nature of His throne and why He is the one who is worthy to sit in judgment on the nations.

1 The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice;
    let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
    righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. – Psalm 97:1-2 ESV

It is important that we note the difference between this scene and one described by Paul in his second letter to the believers in Corinth. In his letter, he was encouraging them that, while they must suffer in this life and undergo the ongoing decay of their mortal bodies, there was a day coming when they would received new, resurrected bodies. In the meantime, they were to be of good courage, to walk by faith and to live their lives in order to please God.  And then Paul told them, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV). This is a different scene altogether from the one John is seeing in his vision. The Greek word Paul used to describe the seat or throne upon which Christ will sit in judgment of the Corinthian believers was bēma, and not the word, thronos that John uses. The Bema Seat of Christ refers to the time and place from which He will judge all those who are part of His bride, the church, immediately after the rapture of the church. The apostle Paul told the believers in Rome, “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:10 ESV). Paul also told the believers in Corinth what would happen on that day, when they stood before the Bema Seat of Christ, immediately after their rapture from the earth.

12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. – 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 ESV

The Bema Seat will be a judgment reserved for the church. And it will be a judgment of a different sort. Rather than judgment of our righteousness,  it will be a judgment of the works we have done on this earth as followers of Christ. This will have no impact on our salvation. It will not be used to determine our worthiness to enter into God’s presence, but will reveal “what sort of work each one has done.” Paul goes on to tell the Corinthian believers, and us, the Jesus will “bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5 ESV). All we be saved, but we will be shown just how many of the works or deeds we did in this life were not done in the power of God and for the glory of God. Those unworthy deeds will be burned up, leaving only those things that God did through us by the power of His indwelling Spirit.

But back to the great white throne. This is a different time and place. This scene takes place at the end of the 1,000-year reign of Christ. And John describes seeing “the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened” (Revelation 20:12 ESV). It would appear from the context, that these individuals represent all the evil or unbelieving who have ever lived and who died in their sins, apart from God. Upon death, their souls were sent to Hades, a holding place for the wicked. The reference to death in these verses has to do with not just their physical death, but their spiritual separation from God. Those who die outside of Christ, do not go to be with Him in heaven, but their souls are sent to Hades, where they remain until the Great White Throne Judgment. As John sees in his vision, at this judgment, the millions upon millions of unbelieving dead will appear before God, with newly resurrected bodies.

There are at least two books mentioned as being integral parts of this scene. One is called the Book of Life. And much like the Bema Seat Judgment, this judgment will involve a judgment of works or deeds. But in this case, the wicked who stand before God will be “judged, each one of them, according to what they had done” (Revelation 20:13 ESV). And because they had no indwelling presence of the Spirit, all of their works will be tainted and marred by sin. There will be no works of righteousness. And, as a result, they will have no inherent merit or earned status of righteousness by which to gain access into God’s presence. And John provides us with a sad reality concerning this scene of judgment. Not one single person will find their names written in the book of life, because they did not accept God’s free gift of salvation, made possible through the gift of His Son. And John makes it painfully clear that, “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15 ESV).

One day, when Jesus was speaking with a group of Jews who had been following Him, He told them:

27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” – John 6:27-29 ESV

Notice that they wanted to know what they must do to inherit eternal life. And Jesus made it clear that they must believe in Him, the One whom God had sent to be their Messiah and Savior. That is the one work that must be present at the Great White Throne Judgment in order for anyone to find their names written in the Book of Life. And, according to John”s description of the account, there are none found standing before the throne whose lives were marked as having done that one required work: Expressing their belief in Jesus Christ.

The one thing that seems to be missing in this scene is the judgment of those who are alive at the time, but who have placed their faith in Christ during the days of the tribulation. We also are given no indication of when or how those who have died as martyrs during the time of the tribulation and those believers who die natural deaths during the 1,000-year reign of Christ are judged. This time, location and specific nature of this judgment, which most certainly will happen, is not given to us in Scripture. But the Great White Throne Judgment will be reserved for all those who have died apart from Christ and without having accepted the free gift of grace made possible through His death and resurrection.

One of the most enlightening passages of Scripture concerning what we see happening in this vision was provided to us by John himself in his gospel account.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” – John 3:16-21 ESV

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

Satan’s Final Fall.

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.  Revelation 20:7-10 ESV

Ever since his attempt to overthrow God and take His place in heaven, Satan has stood opposed to God. His entire existence has been one dedicated to tempting others to rebel against their Creator. It began with Adam and Eve, and it has continued to this day. And even when Christ returns and defeats Satan and his forces, captures him and confines him to the Abyss, where he will remain for 1,000 years, his attitude toward God will not soften and his rebellious heart will not repent. Immediately upon his release, he will instigate yet another rebellion against God, His Son and His people. And the sad reality is that he will have no shortage of volunteers to join his insurrection. So, in this passage, we see Satan’s unwavering commitment to be god by eliminating the one true God. And we also see that humanity, even after having lived under the righteous and just rule of Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, will choose to side with the enemy, rather than remain under the rightful rule of Christ.

Just as Satan deceived Eve in the Garden, and just as he attempted to deceive Christ in the wilderness, he will, immediately upon his release, set out to deceive the nations. The Greek word John uses is planaō, and it means “to cause to stray, to lead astray, lead aside from the right way” (“G4105 – planaō – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).”), And the nations of the earth will eagerly follow him, and buy into his offer to lead them into battle against Jesus Christ and the people of God. Once again, it is important to note that this rebellion against Christ will take place after 1,000 years of peace and calm on the earth. Jesus will have ruled with a rod of iron, meting out swift and righteous justice. It will be a period of law because Christ will be ruling over a world that still contains unbelievers. There will be millions on the earth at that time who are not His followers and they will still have their sin natures. But their sins will be dealt with immediately. Jesus, the King, will not tolerate insurrection or allow sin to go unpunished. During that time, believers will play some kind of role in the judgment of the unbelieving. Paul seems to allude to this fact in his first letter to the Corinthians:

Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide even these little things among yourselves? – 1 Corinthians 6:2 NLT

So, when these unbelievers choose to align themselves with Satan, they will, by their actions, demonstrate the unrelenting depravity of man. They will have experienced an entire millennium marked by justice, equity, mercy, grace, and the blessings that come from sitting under the rule of a truly righteous King. And Psalm 72 provides us with a vivid picture of just how remarkable that day will be.

1 Give the king your justice, O God,
    and your righteousness to the royal son!
May he judge your people with righteousness,
    and your poor with justice!
Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
    and the hills, in righteousness!
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
    give deliverance to the children of the needy,
    and crush the oppressor! – Psalm 72:1-4 ESV

12 For he delivers the needy when he calls,
    the poor and him who has no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
    and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
    and precious is their blood in his sight. – Psalm 71:12-14 ESV

But, in spite of all this, they will reject their King and choose to rebel against Him, disregarding His law, and hoping to replace His dominion by that of Satan.

John tells us that Satan will gather forces from the four corners of the earth, and he uses the phrase “Gog and Magog.” We are not told who or what this refers to, but we get some insight in the prophecy of Ezekiel.

1 The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him and say, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. And I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in full armor, a great host, all of them with buckler and shield, wielding swords. Persia, Cush, and Put are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer and all his hordes; Beth-togarmah from the uttermost parts of the north with all his hordes—many peoples are with you.

“Be ready and keep ready, you and all your hosts that are assembled about you, and be a guard for them. After many days you will be mustered. In the latter years you will go against the land that is restored from war, the land whose people were gathered from many peoples upon the mountains of Israel, which had been a continual waste. Its people were brought out from the peoples and now dwell securely, all of them. You will advance, coming on like a storm. You will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your hordes, and many peoples with you. – Ezekiel 38:1-9 ESV

Because of key differences found in the scene that is described in Ezekiel’s account, he is most likely dealing with a battle that appears before the millennial reign of Christ. But John’s borrowing of the designation, “Gog and Magog” reveals that there will be similarities. It appears from Ezekiel’s prophecy, that Gog is a reference to a ruler and Magog is the land or the people over which he reigns. So, when John mentions that Satan gathered the nations of the earth, “Gog and Magog”, he is saying that Satan was able to entice and recruit all the rulers and their people, from the four corners of the earth. And they gathered together outside the “the camp of the saints and the beloved city” – the city of Jerusalem. They set up a siege against the capital city of Jesus Christ, the King. Satan and his forces intend to storm the city, remove Christ as King and destroy all those who follow Him. This includes all those who are part of the church, as well as the tribulation saints, the 144,000 witnesses, all those martyred during the tribulation who were resurrected at the beginning of the millennium, and the Jewish people. But they will fail. John tells us that “fire came down from heaven and consumed them” (Revelation 19:9 ESV). This appears to be the work of God the Father. He steps into the scene and brings the final judgment against rebellious mankind, destroying each and every one of them. Except for Satan. 

and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. – Revelation 19:10 ESV

Satan is finally removed from the earth, never to deceive the world again. He joins the other two members of his false trinity, Antichrist and the false prophet, in the lake of fire or hell, where he will remain forever. In essence, Satan will get what he has always wanted: Complete independence from God. He will never enter the presence of God again. He will be completely and utterly removed from any further interaction with God. But it will be a period marked by perpetual torment. He will discover the painful reality that life apart from God is anything but freedom and joy. It is misery and pain. It is the daily, ongoing reality that all you had placed your hope and trust in is incapable of meeting your needs. The false gods you have erected in this life will become your permanent gods throughout eternal life. And they will continue to fail you and let you down as you spend eternity trying to satisfy your longings with that which cannot deliver. Hell will be a real place filled with real people. It will be marked by great pain and suffering. But perhaps the greatest suffering will be man’s inability to find satisfaction or fulfillment of any kind. Hunger will go unmet. Thirst will never be quenched. Joy will be perpetually illusive. There will be no source of happiness. Contentment will be unattainable. Love will be unavailable – either to receive or give. And the pain of loss will be unbearable. And yet, our God calls out to us, pleading with us to accept what He offers and to turn to the One who makes satisfaction, joy, contentment and a life filled with love possible.

1 “Is anyone thirsty?
    Come and drink—
    even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
    it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
    Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
    You will enjoy the finest food.” – Isaiah 55:1-2 NLT

 

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

The Millennial Kingdom.

1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. Revelation 20:1-6 ESV

The Millennial Kingdom of Christ. There are those who believe this supposed era on earth is the figment of man’s imagination. They call themselves amillennialists, and they have been around for centuries. They tend to read the book of Revelation in a metaphorical and allegorical sense, and see any mention of Christ’s thousand year reign on earth as symbolic in nature. They interpret this passage as being spiritual in meaning and as a metaphorical reference to the current church age in which we live. They deny that there will be a literal 1,000-year long period of universal righteousness and peace on the earth when Jesus will rule from the throne of David in Jerusalem. And yet, as we look at John’s vision and its content, it is difficult to see how these things can simply be spiritualized and sanitized to mean something other than what they explicitly state.

Repeatedly in Scripture, we read God’s promises that He made to the people of Israel regarding a future day when God will bring an extended period of peace, justice and righteousness to the land of Israel.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’ – Jeremiah 23:5-6

8 “When the time for them to be rescued comes,”
says the Lord who rules over all,
“I will rescue you from foreign subjugation.
I will deliver you from captivity.
Foreigners will then no longer subjugate them.
But they will be subject to the Lord their God
and to the Davidic ruler whom I will raise up as king over them.” – Jeremiah 30:8-11 NET

Revelation 20 is the only place in the entire Bible where the 1,000-year reign of Christ is mentioned, but it appears six times in this chapter.And there is no apparent reason we should take this numerical figure as anything but literal in nature. Why would God use this somewhat arbitrary number and repeat it six times in this passage, if He did not mean it to be taken as literal. Premillennialists view this as a literal 1,000-year period of time, during which Christ will set up His Kingdom on earth and rule from the throne of David in Jerusalem. He will reestablish the kingdom of His forefather, David, and return the scattered people of God to their land once more. The prophet Micah told of this day to come.

1 In the future the Lord’s Temple Mount will be the most important mountain of all;
it will be more prominent than other hills.
People will stream to it.
Many nations will come, saying,
“Come on! Let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain,
to the temple of Jacob’s God,
so he can teach us his commands
and we can live by his laws.”
For Zion will be the source of instruction;
the Lord’s teachings will proceed from Jerusalem.
He will arbitrate between many peoples
and settle disputes between many distant nations.
They will beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nations will not use weapons against other nations,
and they will no longer train for war. – Micah 4:1-3 NET

One of the things we must ask ourselves when reading these prophetic passages is whether what they promise has already taken place. In this case, the answer is no. So then, when will they take place? When will God fulfill this promise that He made to His people, Israel? Revelation 20 provides us with the answer. It will take place when Jesus Christ returns to the earth and sets up His earthly Kingdom. This will be in keeping with God’s plan to restore His people and to return righteousness and justice to the earth. To do so, His Son must return and establish His earthly Kingdom. But Satan, the great deceiver, liar, and enemy of God must be removed so that his influence over mankind can come to an end. And God reveals to John just how that will take place.

In his vision, John sees another angel coming out of heaven, carrying a key to the bottomless pit or abyss in his hands. He is also holding a chain. John watches as the angel seizes “the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan” (Revelation 20:2 ESV), and throws him into the bottomless pit or abyss, where he will be kept bound for a thousand years. In other words, all during Christ’s reign on earth, Satan will be a non-factor. He will have no influence. He will be totally incapable of deceiving and deluding men. The great tempter will be put out of commission. We know from Revelation 19:20 that Antichrist and the false prophet have already been dealt with. They were defeated by Christ and thrown into the lake of fire or hell. Now, God turns His attention to Satan.

With Christ’s death on the cross, He officially defeated, condemned and judged Satan. But Satan was not bound or locked up at that time. He was left to continue to spread his lies and influence the people of the earth to join his rebellion against God. And it doesn’t take any imagination at all to see that he has been successful. But with the return of Christ, his rule as the prince of the world (John 14:30) will end. At least for 1,000 years. John is told that Satan will be kept in custody until the millennium is over, then he will be released. And John will be given further insight into the purpose behind Satan’s release a bit later on.

With Satan locked away in the abyss, John’s attention is turned back to earth, where he sees “thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed.” He also sees “the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands” (Revelation 20:4 ESV). Who are these people and what are they doing? Jesus told His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28 ESV). It would seem that they are included in this group seen by John. But there is also a possibility that the church is in view here as well. When writing to the believers in Corinth, and chastising them for their propensity to take their disputes to the secular courts, Paul reminded them:

Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! – 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 ESV

In Revelation 22, John is told that, once Christ’s Kingdom is established on earth, “his servants will worship him” (Revelation 22:3) and “they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:4 ESV). So, perhaps those sitting on the thrones include believers as well.

But John also sees another group. They are those who gave their lives as a result of their faith in Christ during the tribulation. They were martyred by the Antichrist because they refused to bear his mark or bow down to his false idol. But John says, “They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4 ESV). Those who faithfully served Christ during the dark days of the tribulation and willingly gave their lives for the cause of Christ will be resurrected and rewarded with places of prominence in His earthly Kingdom.

John refers to this as the first resurrection and writes, “Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection!” (Revelation 20:6 ESV). They are blessed because “the second death has no power” over them. They “will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6 ESV). But what does John mean by “the second death”? As we will see later on in this chapter, all those who have died without Christ, will also be resurrected at the end of the Millennial Kingdom. And they will stand before the Great White Throne for their judgment and final condemnation. At that time, they will suffer a second death, when they will be cast into eternal judgment by God. The “second death” is final death beyond physical death. It will involved both the soul and the body. The unredeemed dead, at the time of their resurrection, will have their souls reunited with resurrected bodies. These bodies will be eternal and permanent in nature, meaning that their bodies will be capable of enduring the eternal punishment God has in store for them.

As we will see in the next portion of this chapter, there are others who will be alive during the 1,000-year reign of Christ. There will be non-believers on the earth, who will find themselves living under the righteous rule of Christ and benefiting from the blessings that come from having a just and holy King as their leader. But they will not follow Him. They will not view Him as their King of kings and Lord of lords. And this will become painfully clear when Satan is released and he, once again, influences these individuals to turn on Christ one more time, as part of a final attempt to overthrow His rule on earth. The stubbornness of lost humanity is difficult to fathom. But it reveals just how hardened the heart without Christ really is. Even with Christ ruling from the throne of David and meting out justice and righteousness on the earth, the lost will continue to reject Him as their Savior and Lord. Even with Satan out of the way for 1,000 years, they will still refuse to worship God and His Son. And it will take no time at all for Satan to convince them to join him in his final attempt to be the god of this world. But he will fail.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson