************ Sermon on Revelation 21:22-27 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 7, 2010
"Things That are Missing"
Have you ever seen two almost identical pictures or drawings side-by-side with the caption underneath – "What is missing in the picture on the left"? You look and look and eventually find the seven or eight differences.
Today, I am going to put the present life on this earth side-by-side with the future life in the new heaven and new earth. And I want to ask, "What is missing?"
"What is missing?" What features of the present life won't we find in the future life?
Last time, if you remember, we looked at the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, the church. We looked at her walls and gates and foundations. In other words, we were looking at her outside. On this Preparatory Sunday, we change perspective and look at her inside as we ask the question, "What is missing?"
I No Temple
A Side-by-side, the present life with the future life. What is missing? John writes, "I did not see a temple in the city ..." (Rev 21:22). What is missing in the New Jerusalem? A temple!
Remember the city we are talking about? The Holy City, the New Jerusalem. Yes, this is not a literal city. Yes, this city represents the church, the people of God. Yet, you would expect even a symbolic city to have a temple. After all, every city in antiquity had at least one temple and some had more than one. Furthermore, a central feature of Jewish hopes included a rebuilt temple. But here, in the New Jerusalem, there is no temple.
Why? To answer this, let's ask another question: "What really is a temple?" A temple is a place where God puts His presence and His glory, a place that is set apart, a place that is cordoned off. As we see with Israel, this means a temple served two functions. First, it gave access to God; it is where God's people met with God. Second, it separated the people from God; the walls, curtains, courtyard, priests, and sacrifices acted as a buffer between the people and their holy God; they all reminded the people that God is holy other, that God is a consuming fire, that God is angry with sin.
When it comes right down to it, temples, sanctuaries, and places of worship, are needed by sinners. Fallen sinners. Sinners separated from God. Sinners who have offended the holiness of God. Sinners who face the wrath and judgment of God. Every church building, including the one we are in this morning, is a reminder that we are sinners living in a fallen world. Remember that as you prepare for the Lord's Supper this coming week.
But in the new heaven and new earth, inside the Holy City, there is no need for a temple. Again, I ask, "Why?" Two reasons. First, because the glorified church doesn't need to go and meet with God; instead, God dwells with His people and lives with them (Rev 21:3); the whole city is God's home so a temple is unnecessary. Second, the glorified church is washed so clean by the blood of the Lamb that she has no reason to fear the holiness and wrath of God.
B "I did not see a temple in the city ..." (Rev 21:22). Now, notice how this image is turned on its head. "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple" (Rev 21:22). What John sees and writes turns the words of the Apostle Paul upside down. Do you remember what Paul said?
(1Cor 3:16) Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?According to the New Testament, the church is God's temple. But in the New Jerusalem, the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the church's temple.
Meaning what? Meaning that God comes to us. Meaning that we no longer have to come to God for worship and praise and adoration. Meaning that God is His own temple! Meaning that God does not merely dwell with His people; rather, He envelopes them, He surrounds them, He encompasses them. Meaning that God and the Lamb are the environment of our eternal existence. In the new heaven and new earth, wherever we go, wherever we are, it will always be in the full presence of God.
My brothers and sisters, this means we will experience what was lost by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We will talk with God and walk with God. Ours will be an intimate relationship with God.
C "I did not see a temple in the city ..." (Rev 21:22). This tells us everything we need to know about eternal life. The defining feature of eternal life is NOT streets of gold, or gates of pearl, or crystal seas. The defining feature of future life is that it is lived in the presence of God. The full and immediate and unshielded presence of God. No walls, no barriers, no curtains, no priests, no altars, no sacrifices.
"I did not see a temple in the city ..." (Rev 21:22). Doesn't this make you glad? And, isn't this what the Lord Supper anticipates? The communion we will have with God next week is but a foretaste of what awaits God's people in the new heaven and new earth.
II No Sun or Moon
A Side-by-side, the present life with the future life. What is missing? There is no temple. But there is more. John writes, "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it ..." (Rev 21:23). What is missing in the New Jerusalem? The light of the sun and moon!
Didn't Isaiah foresee this, when natural light sources would no longer be needed?
(Is 60:19-20) The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. (20) Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.
In this life and on this earth we need the sun and moon. For photosynthesis, for tides, for wind and rain, for the changing of the seasons. In fact, life is not possible without the sun and moon. In its search for life on other planets, do you know what NASA looks for? It looks for planets that, like earth, revolve around a sun. For that is the only place we will find life. But, in the New Jerusalem the sun and moon are unnecessary.
B Why? "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp" (Rev 21:23). In the new heaven and new earth, all the light we need comes from the glory of God.
Remember what we learned from the previous verse? That the presence of God is the immediate environment of our eternal existence. Well, my friends, the glory of God always accompanies the presence of God. If you have God's presence, you have His glory. Where God is, His glory is.
God's glory is so great and so powerful that every other source of light is rendered obsolete, unnecessary, inessential. I like the way Isaiah states this:
(Is 24:23) The moon will be abashed, the sun ashamed; for the LORD Almighty will reign ... gloriously.The sun and moon, the two great lights in our sky, will be humbled by the infinitely superior light of the glory of God and of the Lamb.
C I want you to notice the small but significant distinction that John draws between the light-giving roles of God the Father and God the Son. The Father is the ultimate source – "the glory of God gives it light." And, the Son is the agent Who reveals the Father in His glory and truth – "the Lamb is its lamp." These have been the roles of Father and Son from eternity and, we now learn, to eternity.
D Two results follow from the presence of the Lord as the constant light source among His people. "The nations will walk by its light," and "the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it" (Rev 21:24).
Do you see what John sees? John sees the nations. Not just Israel but Rome, Greece, Spain, Egypt, Thessalonica, Asia, Galatia, Pamphylia, Crete, and so on. Or, as John puts it in Revelation 5 & 7, he sees people from every "tribe and language and people and nation" (Rev 5:9; 7:9). John sees believers from all the nations.
Do you know what this means? That missions will succeed. That missionaries will see results to their work. John gives us a picture of eternity, beloved. And what does John show us? That the nations will be there. The nations are like moths drawn to the light of a lamp. In this case, they are drawn to the light of the glory of the presence of God.
E "The nations will walk by its light," and "the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it" (Rev 21:24). These two statements tell us something important about our future life.
First, let's note that the nations will be there. Obviously, John sees them, John recognizes them, John identifies them. Do you know what this tells us about the new heaven and new earth? We will not all look the same, act the same, sound the same, and walk the same. To borrow from an earlier image, the jasper does not become a sapphire, the emerald does not become sardonyx, beryl does not become topaz. In other words, we keep our individual traits and culture. Blacks will remain Black, Hispanics will remain Hispanic, Asian will remain Asian, and Whites will remain White. God is not going to toss all believers into a giant divine blender to make them uniform, carbon copies of one another. Which tells me, if you can't live with people of other races on this earth, you are going to hate the New Jerusalem and probably have no place there.
Second, we note that the kings will bring their splendor into it. Meaning what? We're talking about culture here. In the ancient world a king was not just a ruler. He also represented his nation's whole culture. A king provided for arts and learning. His patronage was given to starving artists, struggling musicians, and fledgling authors. Revelation 21 pictures kings – these can only be believing kings – as marching into the New Jerusalem. Meaning what? Meaning that their culture comes with them. The best of human accomplishment will be brought into the New Creation: whether it is in the area of intellect, science, art, music, technology, math, or whatever.
It is true that most of human culture today is twisted and pagan. For instance, the gift of music can be turned to perverse and Satanic lyrics. Expertly trained physicians abort rather than save children. Top-quality photography equipment is used in making pornography. TVs and DVDs glorify sex and violence. Yet, John sees culture, human culture, the culture of the nations, in the new heaven and new earth; however, this culture is redeemed or reclaimed or redirected; it is culture that glorifies and praises God. As John puts it in verses 26 & 27:
(Rev 21:26-27) The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. (27) Nothing impure will ever enter it ...
III No Darkness and Impurities
A Side-by-side, the present life with the future life. What is missing? There is no temple. There is no sun or moon. But there is more. John writes, "On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there" (Rev 21:25). And, "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful" (Rev 21:27). What is missing in the New Jerusalem? Darkness! Impurity!
What did the cities of the Ancient World do at nighttime? They closed their gates. Why? For protection. So no enemy could slip in under the cover of darkness.
Here, again, we are reminded of the safety and security of the church in the new heaven and new earth. She is so safe and secure in the presence of God and in her walk with God that her gates never need be closed. Not only will no enemy get in, there is no enemy to come in. For, they have all been banished to the lake of fire and burning sulfur. As John puts it in verse 27:
(Rev 21:27) Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful ...
B "There will be no night there" (Rev 21:25). We can say more about the darkness. Paul talks about the deeds of darkness: orgies, drunkenness, sexual immorality, debauchery, dissension, jealousy, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk, coarse joking, idolatry (Rom 13:13; Eph 5:11). These are the kinds of things sinful man does under the cover of darkness, in secret, when no one is watching.
"There will be no night there" (Rev 21:25). Meaning what? Meaning the deeds of darkness are also gone. No more sin. Nor more temptation. No more evil. All of this is gone. Or, as John puts it in verse 27, "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful" (Rev 21:27).
I cannot help but observe that what is true for the New Jerusalem, is also true for the Lord's Supper. If there is unconfessed sin in your life, impurity, darkness, then you need to get down on your knees before the Savior before you can eat and drink from the Lord's Table. There is a reason, my brothers and sisters, that the list of sins included in the Preparatory Form – sins that keep you from the Lord's Table – is the same as the list of sins that keep you from the New Jerusalem. Unless, of course, you repent and believe.
C "There will be no night there" (Rev 21:25). The gates will be opened and remain opened.
Do you know why the gates are open and remain open? So that all those "whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life" (Rev 21:27) may go in. Which means that not one of the elect will ever come upon a closed gate. Not one of the elect will stand at the door knocking to get in. Those in the Lamb's book of life gain automatic entrance – not because they deserve it, not because they earn it, not because they are better than all others, but because they have been purchased by the blood of the Lamb. I think John wants us to imagine a continual stream of people going in – don't forget, they are a great multitude that no one can count (Rev 7:9).
But there is more. The gates are open and remain open so "the glory and honor of the nations may be brought in" (Rev 21:26). Think of what happened in Rome after the conquest of an enemy. The victorious general enters into the city and behind him comes the bounty of the nations he has conquered: gold, silver, slaves, cattle, horses, cloth, linen, precious stones, grain. When Jesus has finally conquered, the bounty and culture of the nations is a river of tribute to the conquering king.
Side-by-side, the present life with the future life. What is missing? No temple. No sun or moon. No darkness or impurity.
Can you imagine this? Have you ever thought of what this would be like? On the negative side, no more lies, no more jealousy, no more hate or greed or pride. On the positive side, life with God, basking in the glory of God, gaining entrance into the presence of God. If you are a Christian, this is your future.
If you are not a Christian, there is only one thing you need to hear. That you need to repent of your sin and believe in the Lord Jesus. Because only Jesus opens the gates to the New Jerusalem. Only Jesus gives you access to God. Only Jesus gets rid of your impurities.
Come to Jesus and get clean. Come to Jesus and celebrate the Lord's Supper next week. Come to Jesus and someday you will enter into the New Jerusalem.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page