Rejoice in What Will Pass Away

November 6, 2022

Pastor John Hering

Revelation 21:1-6

Revelation 21:1-6

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

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 water without cost from the spring of the water of life.

After 20 years of use in our back yard it was time to replace it—the 18’ above ground pool in our backyard.  My wife found a great price on Amazon and with the help of the kids we replaced it.  But, I lost something in the process.  The inserts of my shoes.  I looked everywhere and couldn’t find them.  When you lose something isn’t it frustrating, irritating and upsetting? Where did I put those inserts?  Where did I put my keys?  Where are my glasses?  It was so frustrating I bought lots of pairs of glasses and they’re laying all over the house, but how many times have I forgotten a pair when sitting in the restaurant trying to read the menus in the dim light!?!?  You young people just wait.  Your time is coming!  Or maybe it is coming already when you can’t hit a softball over the center fielder’s head and you’re happy for a single up the middle.  And just wait until those kids come along and you’re trying to figure out how to get the kids to school, softball, basketball, and hockey practice after their piano and trumpet lessons and sleep over parties.  And then their off to school, married and gone just like that!  When you lose something it can be so frustrating, irritating and upsetting….. and something just plain sad!

But, there some things we wish were gone!  Like the piles of cassette tapes in the closet, or the freezer that is sucking up the electricity as it runs and runs and runs.  There are physical and social things that we’re stuck with like a 50 lbs backpack that drag us down.  That’s what makes heaven such a relief.   That is the point of the vision Jesus gave to St John in Revelation 21 for us to enjoy on All Saints Day!  We get to

Rejoice in What Will Pass Away!

Gone Will Be Danger  

Jesus gave this vision to St John and it was recorded for the Christians living on the west coast of Asia Minor.  They were a mixture of Jewish and Gentile Christians that knew their Old Testament Scriptures. They knew the stories of the Children of Israel in the north and what happened when enemies would attack.  Those enemies would take their crops, tear down their houses and carry their family off into slavery.  But, the cities like Jerusalem had other plans.  Walls!  Every evening they could hear the creek of the doors as they shut and locked the city gates so people could sleep in peace without any more danger.

But what about the Christians in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea?  They lived at a dangerous time.  In 64 AD, a great fire ravaged Rome.  People speculated that Emperor Nero had set the fire himself in order to indulge his dream for urban revitalization.  So Nero blamed Christians for the fire.  According to the Roman historian Tacitus: Besides being put to death [the Christians] were made to serve as objects of amusement.  They were clad in the hides of beasts and torn to death by dogs.  Others were crucified, others set on fire to illuminate the night when daylight failed.  Emperor Domitian (81-96) executed members of his own family on charges of religious customs inappropriate for the empire, and it is generally assumed they were Christians.  Shortly after John wrote this vision, Emperor Trajan (98-117) passed a law that allowed persecution against the followers of the “forbidden” religion, and during the reign of Marcus Aurelius a few decades later a law was passed punishing with exile anyone who tried to influence people’s minds toward faith in God along with decrees which made it easier for Christians to have their property confiscated.  Those Christians knew what it meant to live in danger.

But danger also lurked within their city walls when the truth of God was corrupted or twisted by false teachers.  Persecution might hurt their pocketbook or their bodies, but false doctrine had the potential of becoming a lethal cancer on their souls.

John gave them hope to cope with present dangers and hope for a perfect future: 

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”

Revelation 21:1-2

He saw a vision of a city as beautiful as a bride walking down the aisle. In this beautiful city and danger was gone. That fire-breathing, slippery dragon from hell (Satan), that ferocious leopard-like beast with ten horns, seven heads, feet with razor-sharp bear claws, and fangs like a lion (representing political and social pressure on Christians), and that other beast who looked harmless like a lamb but spoke the lies of the dragon (representing the soul-killing force of false doctrine), all pictured in this vision, will be hurled into the lake of burning sulfur as this first heaven and earth pass away.  Gone will be danger That has Passed Away.

This was all made possible by our risen and living Lord Jesus walking by our side as the light of the world.  We’ve got his holy Word which is a lamp for our feet and light for our path (Psalm 119:105).  Best of all, we have the promise of a future that leads us to rejoice because gone will be danger all because of Jesus who takes his Saints to heaven.  Gone will be Danger, and

Gone Will Be Dirt

The people who read Jesus’ Revelation to St John also knew the Old Testament rules and regulations.  Many were ceremonial laws written for the Israelites to keep, but some sound very practical.  For instance: “Don’t touch carcasses or dead bodies.  If you have to remove roadkill or gut an animal from the hunt, if you have to prepare a body for a funeral, then wash your hands and your clothes.  If you have a boil or a burn or an itch or a sore, show it to the priest who is qualified to determine if you need isolation for healing, and then wash.  If mildew creeps into your house, remove the contaminated stones, scrape the yucky stuff away, wash the stones, and re-plaster (Leviticus 11-15).  Germs, bacteria, and dirt are bad for your body, but sin is dirt on your soul.  As you clean your body and clothes and house, so you need to be clean and get rid of sin.”  Those laws from God were recorded in the book known as Leviticus.  But what’s the very next chapter after those “be clean” laws?  Leviticus 16 and the great Day of Atonement, picturing the payment for and removal of the dirt of sin.

Dirt is good for growing flowers and veggies but not so good when dragged from your shoes into the house.  Dirt is what the first human was made of, but dirt on cars, hands, mirrors, and windows is irritating, frustrating, and sometimes hard to clean.  Some stains you can go at with all kinds of cleansers and elbow grease, and they’re still there.  Even worse would be dirt on your reputation.  I saw a documentary of college athletes who did a very bad thing at a party with inappropriate and sinful behavior but were accused falsely of a crime.  It took over a year to clear their names and some are still affected by it.  Imagine how hard it would be if a dirty reputation was true and deserved?

How do you rebuild your reputation before God if it’s dirty when God clearly states nothing impure will ever enter [the heavenly city], nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful?  But there’s no way sinners with a dirty reputation are going to have their names written in the heavenly book of life, and that’s all of us!  You don’t get in the record book if you never broke any records.  You don’t get into the hall of fame with a big “L” for “loser” imprinted on your forehead.  You don’t get into the heavenly hall of faith with a dirty reputation.

But John writes:

3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:3-4

Something spectacular must have happened.  And it did!  We’ve been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.  Jesus came to live among us the first time to die on the cross to wash away all our sins.  When he returns in all his glory, or when we are called to heaven, then the dirt of this world will be gone.  We Rejoice because gone is the dirt of our sin from God’s eyes now and in heaven gone will be dirt forever.  And

Gone Will Be Division

The first Christians who read Jesus’ Revelation to St John also knew the Old Testament rules and regulations. They knew all about the laws God had given to the nation of Israel, some of which were to keep them separate from others so they would not get absorbed into other nations and cultures and disappear as the chosen nation God chose to bring the Savior into the world.  The Israelites of old knew all about political, national, and racial divisions.

The people in the seven churches of Asia Minor knew about divisions, too.  Just thirty years earlier Paul devoted an entire letter to the church in Ephesus, one of the seven, in order to lead them to oneness and unity because the congregation had been plagued by divisions between those with an Israelite background and those with a non-Israelite background.

Jesus gave John a vision of the end of division which echoed Paul’s letter:

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  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 water without cost from the spring of the water of life.

Revelation 21:5-6

For people being pressured and persecuted by ruthless, godless rulers it was hard to imagine a time without division. But sure enough!  Two hundred years later Emperor Constantine declared that Christianity would be legal since he himself was a Christian and the water of life was freely proclaimed to the world.  They could rejoice because division would be gone, imperfectly and partially on earth but eventually and completely in heaven.

We carry a heavy burden as Americans and citizens of this city with racial biases and our own unwillingness to see past our personal bigotry.  Yet no matter what color of our skin, we all have blood of the same color – red – and a sin-status before God that is identical – bad.  But Jesus, who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!  It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, his love and forgiveness for sinners that removes division.  We rejoice because in Christ gone is division, imperfectly now but perfectly in heaven.

I sure don’t like to lose things, well, most of the things I lose I miss.  But, there are a few things I don’t miss at all. I don’t miss the braces on my teeth. We sure won’t miss the mortgage payment or the car payment. Who wouldn’t love to hear the doctor say, “You’re cancer is gone.”   But, what about this Message from Jesus through John on All Saints Day: Rejoice!  For Everyone in heaven danger, dirt, and division are all gone.  And someday you’re gonna miss it, too! Amen!

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