This portion of Scripture brings to close description of what we can expect eternity to be like, at least to extent we can comprehend in this life. Intended by God to spur us on to perseverance, continuing faithful through trials and hardships, knowing he will make it all right in the end. Also gives confidence that Paul was right when he wrote: “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:18) If you’re following along the outline from couple weeks ago, emphasis in this section on: God’s world renewed, word validated, work completed.
A. God’s world renewed – the river and tree of life v.1-5
all that was lost in Eden regained in heavenly city but way better. Milton wrote of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained; if Eden was first paradise, this in our text is not simply Paradise Regained but Improved. Things present in original Eden also be in New Jerusalem but even more magnificent including God. I know, God himself won’t be more magnificent, but… Our perception of him will be immeasurably enhanced and the Lamb (not present in Eden) will be there.
complete satisfaction (1-2a) not stagnant pool, not even lake of fixed size; a never-ending river pure and clear whose source is God. Visual reminder of nature of life – eternal, always being refreshed/renewed, never boring or humdrum. You can’t stick your foot in the same river twice – same river, different water.
from the curse (2b-3a) all nations have been healed; those healed now have free access to tree of life. Result of curse: way to tree of life barred by armed angels. Tree of life in New Jerusalem probably a species, not individual specimen. No restrictions on use of shade or fruit symbolic of complete cure from sin and its curse (lifted from all creation, not just the saints). No limit to those who can participate in its benefits – people redeemed from every nation.
to serve (3b) doing God’s bidding whatever it might be – fulfillment of Lord’s Prayer: thy will be done.
in worship (3c) without exception, without interruption, all of life will be characterized by worship. Everything will truly be done for glory of God – pure motives, perfect obedience, all credit and praise given to God and the Lamb.
complete fellowship (4) Man was created imago Dei; will be “re-created” bearing image of glorified Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). No veils, no limitation to afterglow of glory shown in his goodness, seeing face-to-face God in his full glory, wearing his glory as Moses did but more so. Here the reward in its fullness of the beatitude: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matt. 5:8
complete restoration (5) Additional reminder that God’s glory illuminates entire “city”; artificial lights unnecessary. cf. creation mandate (Gen. 1:28) man intended to be God’s viceregent, the one appointed to govern and manage living things for God. Rulership in Eden was limited in both scope and duration, thanks partly to the Fall. Glorified saints will be granted rulership once again and in fuller measure – no limit to its duration!
B. God’s word validated – these words are trustworthy and true v.6-11
source of the words – the one who sent the prophets sent his angel (6) The words address issues of life and death, temporal and eternal significance, things in this age and the next. Essential that we depend on what is reliable with regard to our soul. Clear from angel’s message his words can be trusted – not because he’s an angel, but because of source: God himself. Angel not speaking on his own authority, nor John writing on his own – contents of Revelation and all of scripture authoritative because it is word of God, albeit communicated to us through means.
promise of the words – blessing (7) First of three reminders in chapter, Lord Jesus will return quickly/suddenly, without warning; means need to be vigilant and diligent, not slacking off. Promise is explicitly stated, not merely implied: God rewards faithfulness and obedience. Requires knowledge of what is contained in the prophecy: must know the dangers in order to avoid them, the expectations in order to satisfy them.
response to the words – worship (8-9) without thinking who was standing in front of him, John fell down in worship as significance of angel’s message became clear to him. Our response should be exactly the same – all sorts of wrong responses: dismissive, casual, get me out of here now; one right response: worship the Lamb. First thought should be God-ward, then applying concepts/truths to personal circumstances afterward.
timing of the words – without delay (7a, 10)
countdown is underway, what will take place in this age, not the next age as for Daniel. Countdown began at Incarnation, the hinge point of history. Means the message of the prophecy is directed to the church on this leaf of the hinge. No other major event in redemptive history between John’s day and the return of Christ.
when God’s purpose for this age is complete, Christ will return suddenly and immediately without advance warning. No longer delay when last saint is added to the church, God’s provision of opportunities for repentance ends.
purpose of the words – positive and negative (11)
harden the rebellious – God’s word does not have positive effect on all people. Can have a hardening influence, encouraging further or greater rebellion. Many/majority of wicked actively resist any restraint placed on them, especially by God; reject any threat of judgment in favor of own view of future.
encourage the righteous – understanding God’s plan based on his word helps righteous look past present circumstances, keep God in view. Add to that the fact that immersion in God’s word brings about sanctification through accompanying work of Holy Spirit.
C. God’s work completed v.12-15
reminder – be ready (12a) Reminder with purpose, he’s not coming just to visit, check up on how things are going. Will come to do something particular: bring this age to an end with no opportunity for modification.
coming to reward (12b)
coming as paymaster, disburse wages based on work done. Works done as sinner or as saint: done by sinner still in sins has reward only of eternal death; those done by saint, even though imperfect are rewarded as done by favored child.
will be just and final because Sovereign Lord is in charge (13) knows all things, what he is doing, and does what is right. Has the authority to do so in addition to knowledge; verdict is not subject to dispute or appeal. Is the beginning and the end, has declared end from the beginning and nothing can alter God’s decrees.
reward identified – right to eternal inheritance
viewed by God as wearing righteousness of Christ, making both them and their works acceptable; are treated by God as children, brothers and sisters of Lord Jesus, having been adopted by the Father and sealed by Holy Spirit.
righteous will receive everything promised them by God (14) have been promised eternal life as a blessing, means it comes with accessories that make it blessed. Simple change from mortal to immortal would be curse – seen by guard at tree of life in first Eden. Blessings include residence in New Jerusalem and all its privileges.
rebellious will be denied everything promised to the righteous (15) no hint here of second chance or doctrine of purgatory. Those who die in their sins or are still in sins when Jesus returns are forbidden entrance into city. Not that it will be big deal then, rebellious won’t want experience of New Jerusalem; only desire would be to destroy it or remake it to their own liking. In either case, reward issued is
When that great day arrives, God’s work for this age completed, the saints will be complete also, confirmed for all eternity (a right to the tree of life). No danger of sin or from sinners, no probation, no further need of mediation; pure happiness on foundation of pure holiness. Saints will owe absolutely none of that reward to any personal merit – attributable solely to God’s gracious benevolence toward them from beginning to end. God views his children and their works as completed in him – what he intends to make them because of what his Son did on their behalf and completing what his Spirit is presently doing in them. What a great blessing, that our salvation from beginning to end is accomplished by God with nothing left that we need to add.