"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." Revelation 21:1
On Sunday, we bloggers were privileged to give the message, sharing some of the insights that God has given us as we’ve been going through Revelation and especially in relation to Revelation 21:1-8. For followers of Christ, it’s a beautiful and encouraging passage about the present and future hope that we have in Jesus; the promise of a day when there will be no more tears, death, mourning, crying out to God, or pain.
One thing we didn’t get time to look at in detail though was the final verse in our passage, verse 8, ‘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’. Emily touched on it briefly when she said that all these people are looking for fulfillment and satisfaction outside of God, and that all of us have a choice whether to find fulfillment in God as the only one who can make us happy, the only one who can take our pain away, or in other things. But, even so, it can seem like a terribly harsh, severe verse to tack on the end of a passage filled with so much hope for restoration. Hasn’t Revelation made the point enough already?
I agree with Emily that this verse does remind us that we have a choice, but it also serves other purposes as part of the passage. It is not only a challenge to us to find fulfillment in God, but it also forms part of the encouragement of the vision of the new heaven and new earth. You see, if the things described in this verse are not part of the new heaven and new earth, then our future happiness is secure. As Poythress writes, "No sin or second fall into evil will disturb the permanent security and bliss of the new world."
The exclusion of anything that could taint the splendor and beauty of the new heaven and earth is also hinted at in verse 1 where we are told that there will no longer be any sea. Many of us love the beauty and majesty of the sea, and I do not think we will be robbed of that pleasure in heaven. Rather, the absence of the sea here is symbolic of the evil and chaos that ancient people associated with the sea. In many places in Scripture the sea is connected with destruction, death, and frightening sea monsters (see for example Psalm 69:1, Jonah 2:3, Daniel 7:3, and Isaiah 27:1). Again Poythress writes, "The removal of the sea means the permanent removal of the challenges to God’s order and hence the peace and stability of the new world."
The security of this new heaven and new earth is important as we are going to be there for a while; in fact, forever! And for anyone who has experienced even a degree of uncertainty or instability in their earthly homes, be it through abusive or failed relationships, financial hardship, sickness, and even death, the significance of this won’t be underestimated. In at least three places in this short passage of Scripture (and if you read the passage again or listen to the message you may spot more!) God goes to great lengths to impress upon us the truth that the future home he is preparing for us, in contrast to the current world we experience, is a place of safety and peace.
- How does it make you feel to know that there will be a new heaven and new earth free from pain and suffering? How does it change the way you view life on earth now?
- Jesus said, "In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" (John 14:2) On Sunday, Dave spoke about how heaven is not just a fuzzy, spiritual place but it will be a physical place where we find joy and fulfillment working in the presence of God. How does this impact your own ideas of heaven?
- Spend some time in prayer thanking God for this future hope and asking Him to help you find fulfillment in Him, instead of the things of this world.