Heaven: Won’t I Get Bored? (Revelation 22:1-9)

Monday, July 18th, 2016
Sermon Series: Heaven, Revelation

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Heaven: Won’t I Get Bored?

Revelation 22:1-9

Life in Heaven will be better than anything you can imagine. You will find more beauty and variety than you have ever known. You will know more freedom than you have ever had. Your relationship with God will be sweeter than you can imagine.

It happened to me a week or two ago. I need to confess it to you. We were gathered together as a family. It was one of those nights that comes after a busy day. I was tired and I had the kids gathered round. LJ was a bit wiggly and the girls were sitting next to me. I had one of the kids’ Bible books out and I was reading from it. The topic was the character of God, and I was about halfway down the second paragraph when it happened–I got interrupted. I couldn’t continue…I just yawned–a BIG one!

You ever been there? It’s horrible! How is that we can yawn as we talk about God? That’s what you want to convey to your kids about God, right? But have you done it? Has it ever happened to you? Maybe you’re more prone to falling asleep when you sit to read the Bible. Or you get distracted and think about other things while you’re supposedly praying. Let’s not even talk about what happens while the guy in front is preaching.

We are all guilty in some way–we do not make enough of God. We go through life and often do not appear to be very excited about God. Our affections and enthusiasm seem to gravitate towards other lesser things. We can be complacent about our spiritual life and our relationship to God. And that leads us to a complacency about Heaven. Few are the Christians who are genuinely enthusiastic about Heaven.

You might have grown up in a family like this. Your parents took you to church, but they didn’t appear to be excited about God. They were concerned about rule-following and seemed more fearful of Hell than excited for Heaven. It’s sad that the people I meet who are most excited about Heaven are usually the saints who are closest to getting there. The more that this life draws to a close, the more interested people become in the life to come.

Are you one of those people who doesn’t think much about Heaven? Maybe you have been thinking a lot about God and the Bible. I know people who get fired up about the character of God, His holiness and sovereignty. But does that enthusiasm for the character of God lead you to an enthusiasm for Heaven? Heaven is worth getting fired up about!

If you’re new with us today, we are in the last week of a four-part series on Heaven. We’ve been working our way through the very end of Revelation to look at the end of time. We’re looking at all the promises God has for His children, and what we should expect. Often when people think of Heaven, their mental image is of something cloudy and boring. But we’ve seen already that the final Heaven is very physical and not boring.

Can you imagine wandering through Paris? (Not California, not Texas–Paris, France!) It’s one of my favorite cities I’ve ever been to. You wake up, you wander the city. There’s grandeur and beauty everywhere. The food is amazing. You sit roadside and drink a café au lait. You watch people. You see art. You see creativity. Day after day, you explore the arrondissement, regional districts. I love that city, but compared to Heaven it’s going to be like wandering through Perris, California by foot.

Life in Heaven will be better than anything you can imagine. This is what believers in John’s day needed to know. There were not many of them. They were an outlawed religion, persecuted by the Jews and by the Roman Empire. Their leaders were being tortured and killed.

This is what believers today need to know. We may continue to move towards that persecuted state. But currently we enjoy freedoms and wealth and privilege. And we need to know that Heaven is worth living for. We need to know what awaits us. Our hearts need to long for it. It is the conclusion of all biblical revelation! And our passage today describes what life is like in the City of God.

Open up your Bibles to Revelation 22. If you missed the first week, here’s what happens. God destroys everything, the whole universe–and He judges all people. Then He makes a New Earth and a New Heaven. And then a city which no one has seen comes down from the heavens.

It is huge and is called the New Jerusalem. You could fit 5 billion people inside and walk all day and never see anyone. And the most unique thing about it is that God is at the center. His throne is in the middle and His glory shines through everything. Last week, we talked through John’s description of the City of God. And now today, we are looking at what life is like in the city.

1.  You will find more beauty and variety than you have ever known Verses 1 to 2

Right now, I love places like In-N-Out. I can order a hamburger or a cheeseburger and that’s it. I’m not confronted with a 12-page menu. There’s not a lot of options. It’s simple and I don’t have to think hard about what to order. Right now, variety can seem overwhelming. But really, that’s only true when we’re making decisions.

What makes a good trip to the zoo is when you see a lot of different animals. It would be the worst day at the zoo if you walked in and every cage and area was filled with different types of deer. We love variety when we don’t have decisions to make. In Heaven you will have variety without painful decisions. And you will find beauty that surpasses anything you can find on earth.

Revelation 22:1 to 2, “Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”

These first two verses wrap up the earlier description of the City of God. We already saw the abundant wealth that fills the New Jerusalem. The city is made of gold, with diamonds and precious jewels as decorations. You have never seen a city like the New Jerusalem. No city on Earth and no painting or movie comes close.

And in the same way, you have never seen a river like this one. The throne of God is in the center of the city. The triune God is upon it, as we can see because it’s called, “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” And from His throne, which must be massive, a river flows. There is no snow melt. There is no mountain run-off. The source of the spring is the throne of God.

We were in Yosemite about a month ago. Our kids climbed through Happy Isles and every slow-flowing stream that they could find. And those were beautiful and we could see through the water easily. Yet we could also see dirt, debris and other stuff floating along in the water. This river in Heaven has none of that. It is clear as crystal. There’s not a speck in the water.

The river contains the water of life. As we talked about last week, it’s very possible that we drink from it. But the major purpose that water will serve is to be a reminder, similar to communion today, of the eternal life we have through Christ Jesus. The water will help us remember how desperately needy we were on Earth–and how God poured life into us through His Son. Those who hungered and thirsted for righteousness found it in Jesus and never thirsted again.

This picture of a crystal-clear river that never dries up would be a thing of beauty to the original audience. Today, we have water at the tap. Turn the faucet on and clean water flows freely. We have a water department that collects and cleans water for us. But back in John’s day, there was no such thing.

Most people lived off wells and cisterns (catch-basins). The water inside was stale and often dirty. And they lived in the desert like us, and they knew droughts like us. A nearby stream or river was a precious thing. Typically they dried up once summer came. A crystal-clear river without end, with no rain required is a thing of beauty. Its setting is equally beautiful.

The river is big and it runs down the middle of this huge street. It’s got a single tree that has spread to both sides of the river–somewhat like a banyan tree today, which can have multiple trunks but still be one tree. And the tree trunks to this one big tree are lining each of the river banks. It’s another sign of the great beauty and lushness that await us in Heaven.

Ezekiel had long-ago said it would happen this way. Ezekiel 47:12, “By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing. And this tree that overhangs the water of life is called the tree of life.”

That was the name of a certain tree that was in the midst of the Garden of Eden. It was a tree that sustained eternal life, whether by its growth or by eating its fruit, it’s not clear. Man has been kept away from it since the day of Adam’s sin. Genesis 3:24, “So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.”

This tree in the Garden of Eden shows back up in the New Jerusalem–which is awesome! It is the fulfillment of the promise in Revelation 2:7, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. ‘To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’ “

Ezekiel and John both tell us that the tree is a sign of the great variety that exists in Heaven. In Revelation 22:2, the tree bears twelve kinds of fruit. It’s possible that John means twelve crops, as a statement of abundance–but most scholars agree that he is talking about a new kind of fruit arriving each month. Why would God do this?

In Exodus 16, when Israel has left Egypt and is on their way towards the Promised Land, God provided manna for them to collect and eat. Manna was a form of bread that would appear every morning, and they would collect it and bake or boil it to their liking. It was a sweet bread that tasted good and God used it to sustain the Jews. But due to their disobedience, they were stuck in the wilderness for 40 years.

Now picture eating chocolate cake for 40 years–and you gain no weight. Day 1—“This is great.” Day 19—“I’m loving this.” Day 10,950—“I could make do with a piece of chicken.” Manna was great for sustaining, but . . . in Heaven, there is variety in the food. That’s the point of the twelve kinds. God is telling us that Heaven will not be to simply sustain you. There will be a wondrous variety of things for you to enjoy.

If you look at God’s creation now, and are awestruck by mountains, valleys, bears and platypuses, then you need to know that you haven’t seen anything yet. And we will live in a city, which means there is technology. Cities don’t exist without a degree of technology. But this city will not be limited by man’s thinking, nor will it be affected by sin. God’s new creation will be filled with beauty and variety. And in that city . . .

2.  You will know more freedom than you have ever had  Verses 2 to 3

We see a hint of this at the end of verse 2. It says that, “The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” This tripped me up when I first read it. Why is it talking about healing? We already read in 21:4 that there are no tears, no pain, no sickness, no death. God will comfort every hurting person. Their pain will be over. So why is there healing now?

It didn’t make sense till I looked into the word. It’s the word from which we get the word “therapy”. It is better understood as “life-giving” or “health-giving”. It is not penicillin, but a vitamin. They are not for the curing of an ailment. They are given to maintain and improve health. The leaves of the tree of life will promote growth and health.

So think about this–you will grow in Heaven. You will mature in Heaven. I’m not saying that you will age. Scripture doesn’t provide any indications that you age. Right now, we identify age in two ways–first by physical and mental growth, as a child becomes an adult, and second by physical and mental decline, as an adult begins to decay. And we all wanted the first kind, until we found out we’d slipped into the decline part.

In Heaven, you will grow and mature without decline. You will be free of the effects of age. The age spots you get, the loss of hair, the gaps in your memory–you will be free of tumors and blood clots and disease and sickness. Imagine never getting sick again. Never being worn-out and run-down. Right now, I watch my 3-year-old boy longingly, wishing I had his energy. We long for that.

Second Corinthians 5:1 to 2, “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven.” In Heaven, you will be more free of physical limitation than you ever have been.

And verse 3 goes on to add, Revelation 22:3, “There will no longer be any curse.” Think about this–every part of your life is affected by the curse. It’s not just that you struggle with sin. Your best relationships are affected by the curse. Your 50-year anniversary still bears the curse of sin. The house you live in is under the curse. It’s clear that our freeway system is. The oceans are under the curse of sin. So is the sky and the animals and even the stars.

Romans 8:21, “The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” That curse is done away with and we will live in a world freed from sin. The particular curses which man and woman received will end.

Genesis 3:16, “To the woman He said, ‘I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’ ”

Genesis 3:17 to 19, “Then to Adam He said, ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 19 By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’ ”

Women will no longer have relational conflict. That curse is done. There will be no more struggle about who’s in charge and who is supposed to do what. That curse is done. Men will work without trouble. Though you still work, toil and sweat will be unknown. That curse is done. There will be no death–not just due to age, but even from accidents. That curse is done. Every trace of sin everywhere will be removed.

In the final Heaven, you will enter into a place without any curse. You will experience true freedom from sin. John 8:36, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” You will be truly free. And I say this–and I don’t think I even grasp what this really means for life. But here is what I know . . .

3.  Your relationship with God will be sweeter than you can imagine Verses 3 to 5

Revelation 22:3 to 5, “There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; 4 they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. 5 And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.”

All of this describes how a Christian’s relationship with God will be forever changed. The Father and Son share a throne, at the center of the City of God. He is at the center of all life. Heaven is not about the tree or the water or the gold and jewels or the city itself. It’s all about God and the relationship we have with Him! And that relationship is similar yet entirely different from what you know today. It is described in three different ways, and each of them is incredibly sweet.

a) We will serve Him

We see this at the end of verse 3–His bond-servants serve Him. The word bond-servant (or servant in ESV) is the word doulos. It is used to describe a slave in a Roman master-slave context. John is saying here that in Heaven, the Father’s will is your will. You will have given Him total allegiance.

Right now that is a struggle–but in Heaven you are fully His. You will live to serve Him. And I worry that some of you are disappointed. Too often, we think of Heaven as a place we go to serve ourselves. It’s described as a party, as a vacation, as a rest, and as a place of fellowship. We think of it as a place where we are at the center.

But in Heaven you will live to serve God. But think about this–what does God need you to do? If He genuinely needs you for something, He is not God. God doesn’t require your service. We will serve God in Heaven out of delight, not out of duty.

Right now, there are mornings when the alarm clock goes off and you don’t want to get up. You don’t want to help the kids get breakfast. You don’t want to drive to work. But you do it because it needs to be done. You do it because you are the person who has to do it–it’s your responsibility.

In Heaven, you will not do one thing out of obligation and duty. Everything you do will have an element of delight. The word that says “serve” or in ESV “worship” gets at this. That word has both meanings, because when we worship God we do what is pleasing to Him. When we live in a way that shows off His surpassing glory, then we are serving Him. Our relationship with God in Heaven will be sweet because our time is filled with serving Him, which means we will delight in Him and enjoy Him forever.

b) We have His presence

This is the significance of verse 4 when it says, Revelation 22:4, “They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.” In the winter, I love to build a fire in the fireplace. It’s not usually cold enough to bother, but when it gets down into the 40s at night, we have a fire and get books out and bake stuff–that’s a good evening!

Sometimes I’ll have scrap lumber, pieces of plywood and pine–if you’ve ever thrown those in the fire, you know they burn hot and fast. Our kids will start sitting close to the fire and in a few minutes they are 8 to 10 feet away saying, “It’s too hot!”

In Heaven, you will see God’s face and not be overwhelmed by the blazing light of His glory. You won’t need to move away because the fire is too hot. Right now, you can’t even stare at the sun without seeing spots–and it is 93 MILLION miles away. In Heaven, you will see the face of God!

No one has ever experienced this before. Exodus 33:20, “But He said, ‘You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!’ ” To see His face is to know Him fully. First Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”

You will be in the presence of God and not fear. Right now, if this were to happen you could not take it. Revelation 6:15 to 16, “Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.’ “

But in the New Jerusalem, your relationship with God has changed. Because of Christ’s death on the cross, you can stand before Him and not want to die. It’s not that you lived good enough–it’s that Christ lived for you. In Heaven, you will know Him more fully than you ever have. And because He is limitless, you will continue to grow in your knowledge of Him for the rest of eternity, always expanding in your knowledge of who He is.

The second phrase of Revelation 22:4 promises this new relationship also. It says that, “His name will be on their foreheads.” In the Old Testament world, a person’s name was a description of their character. When Adam named the animals, it demonstrated His rule over them. When God’s name was put somewhere, it indicated that His presence was there. To be given a new name was an indication of a new status.

And whether this is literal or metaphorical. Whether it’s a tattoo or a ball cap, the point is the same–Christians will be united with the presence of God. You will not be identified as Irish or Greek or Mexican or Republican or Democrat. Your identity will be united to God. His presence will be yours! And that means you will know true joy.

The best parts of life now will be like playing with mud. Psalm 16:11, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” It’s going to be amazing! You’ll be happier and more satisfied than you’ve ever been. You will be a slave of God. And you will know the pleasures of God in a way you never have before.

c) We will reign with Him

Revelation 22:5, “And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.” Throughout Scripture, night and darkness are regularly portrayed as a place for evil. In darkness, men gravitate towards sin. In darkness, we do what is evil to God.

John 3:19, “The Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” The Apostle John uses darkness throughout His gospel and epistles to describe rebellion against God–82% of New Testament usage is by John. So by saying that there will be no night, he is implying that there will be no evil in Heaven.

But then he adds that you don’t need a lamp or the sun. So it may be that we will experience an eternal Alaskan summer, where the sun never sets. But the light will not come from the sun. The major point is that the glory of God lights up everything! God will shine on you and through you. And as He lights you up, you will reign with Him. This is the fulfillment of the promise in 2 Timothy 2:12, “If we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us.”

Revelation 3:21, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” And this immediately makes me ask, who do we reign over? There are no unbelievers left to rule over. The promise of reigning with Christ is made to all Christians, so there are not some who rule and some who serve.

In Genesis 1 we were given rule over creation, so that is likely what is meant here, Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ ”

Whether that means there’ll be new animals there, I have no idea–but it’s possible. The great emphasis here though is not on the subjects. This is a statement of royalty. The point is not you lording over others. The point is that you will be kingly and queenly. With Christ, you will reign. Daniel 7:18, “But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.”

We serve God, we experience His presence, and we reign with Him. It will be such a different relationship with God than what you know now. You may have sweet times of prayer. You be amazed by what you read in the Word. But that is nothing compared to the intimate relationship with God that nourishes and enriches every child of God in Heaven. Heaven will be spectacular!

That’s the end of John’s vision. And you have to see his response. Look at verses 6 to 9. There’s three appropriate responses to what we’ve learned. All of this should lead you to . . .

1.  Be ready Verses 6 to 7a

Revelation 22:6 to 7, “And he said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true’; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place. 7 ‘And behold, I am coming quickly.’” The New Testament is full of warnings that Jesus will return soon. Matthew 25 has parable after parable that instruct us to be ready for His return. 2 Peter 3:10 says that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief, unexpected and surprising you.

To the church in Sardis, Revelation 3:3, “So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.” So friends, what we have read is faithful.  It is true. These are things which must take place soon.

Jesus is returning quickly. Will you be ready? Will you be afraid or joyful on the day of His return? Are you living in a way that He will find pleasing? Are your days spent on things that matter? Are you now hiding things from God that will come to light? Are you investing into things that God will find pleasing

2. Live wisely Verse 7b

Revelation 22:7, “Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.” Do not be so foolish as to hear what Heaven is like and then return to playing in the mud. The word “blessed” here in verse 7 means happy. The promise of Scripture is that you will be happy if you listen to what it says.

The world is full of people who hear but do not listen. The words go in one ear and out the other. Set your mind on Heaven, where God is. Forget everything that lies behind you–the good stuff and the bad. Press on toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Look at your family with eyes on eternity. Look at your job with your heart set on Heaven. Look at your bank account and credit cards with Heaven in view. Live wisely. Ephesians 5:15 to 16, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Make decisions in light of eternity. Jesus could return any day!

3. Worship God Verses 8 to 9

Revelation 22:8 to 9,”I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. 9 But he said to me, ‘Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book.  Worship God.’ ”

After all that he has seen, John can’t help but worship. He’s so overwhelmed by the angel who led him that he begins to worship the angel. And the angel quickly corrects him. The angel agrees that the response is right and redirects him. Worship God. So Christian, if this sight of Heaven has done anything for you–worship God.

Which does not mean sing loud during the next song. It does mean give all of your life over to Him. Devote yourself fully to serving Him now. If you have been living for yourself, repent–not just admit that what you did is wrong, not just say sorry . . . but actually change! Worship God.

If you have been calling yourself a Christian, but living in rebellion to God–repent. Confess your sins to God. Ask him to place your sins on Christ. Beg for him to give you Christ’s righteousness instead. He will do it if you ask. Turn to Christ. Now is the time to worship God while there’s still time.

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John serves as a pastor and elder at Faith Bible Church

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