Good morning and welcome to worship! Throughout the summer we’ve been in a sermon series on what the Bible says about Jesus, the Holy Spirit, sin, marriage, money, sex, what happens when we die, and several other topics pertinent to our lives. Last Sunday Pastor Ralph preached a powerful message on what the Bible says about the Bible. These messages are always available in print and audio on our church website.
This morning we conclude our series with what the Bible says about the new heaven and the new earth. The Bible says for those who are ready and anxious for his return it will be a day of joy beyond our imagination.
But the Bible also warns us that for those who are not ready, those who have been living in rebellion against the Lord it will be a day of unspeakable terror for we will all see God as he really is. Are you prepared to meet your God? If you’re not sure - then listen up!
God created Adam and Eve and all the rest of us with one purpose in mind. He wants to have fellowship with us. He wants us to enjoy our company and he wants us to enjoy his company – forever. But we rejected him. We rejected his love, his holiness, his beauty, his purity, his faithfulness and we chose depravity, deceit, wickedness, immorality. He offered us a palace and a crown. We rejected him and turned what he created good into a sewer.
But he refused to give up on us. He put a plan in place so that our sins could be forgiven, we could be cleaned up and have our dignity and our place in his kingdom restored. Jesus said, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not die but have eternal life.” John 3:16
But I’m getting ahead of myself. What’s the Bible say about a new heaven and a new earth? It all began with Jesus’ resurrection and continues with his return. “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call and they will gather his elect from the four winds from one end of the heavens to the other.” Mt 24:30-31
The Apostle Paul puts it this way… “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope…. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
At this point things begin to get a little uncertain. Some faithful Bibles scholars point to passages in Revelation that refers to a 1000 year reign of Christ on earth. This view is called premillennial. Other scholars who are just as faithful to the Bible say this 1000 year reign is figurative. Their view is called a-millennial. Both have valid points and difficulties. In fact, some of the best most conservative Bible scholars have actually changed their minds in both directions. I like the Bible scholar who said he was pan-millennial. It will all pan out it in the end. I’m ok with that. The point isn’t a 1000 year reign but Jesus as Lord forever!
Following the return of Christ will be a general resurrection of every person who has ever lived. The Apostle John in his old age had a vision of this that he recorded in the book of Revelation. “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” Rev 20:11-15
Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, He will sit on this throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.” Mt 25:31-33
“Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world – I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…. the righteous will say “When did we do this…? And the King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Mt 25:34-40
As for those on the other side, Jesus says they will sincerely believe they have lived their lives in serving him, but in reality, they have only served themselves. The King will say to them. “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these you did not do for me. Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Mt 25:45-46 These are the words of Jesus.
Following the great judgment, Satan, his fallen angels, and those who have served him will be thrown into the great abyss. “…The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.” Rev 20:13-15
Is your name in God’s Book of Life? How does a person get signed up? Through faith in Jesus Christ! Remember what Jesus said, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not die but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Two books will be opened in heaven. One lists the deeds of our lives. Everything good and everything bad is listed there. The problem is heaven is a holy place and even one sin, let alone a lifetime of sin will shut us out of heaven.
No one will get into heaven on the basis of their own righteousness because we have none. We are all sinners. But Jesus came to make a way for our sin to be forgiven and our names to be written in the Lamb’s book of life. When our names are written in his book, the sins in the other book are stamped “forgiven, paid in full” and we are given a ticket into the kingdom God has prepared for us. All those without a ticket will be thrown in the lake of fire.
What’s the new kingdom look like? NT Wright says it looks like Jesus when he came out of the tomb. He is the first fruit of the new creation! “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.” Rev 21:1-4
Do you long for that day? If not, I suggest you do some soul searching about what you do long for. If you are longing for your own kingdom, God will allow you to do that. But it will be devoid of the blessings you now enjoy. Things like truth, order justice, grace, mercy, love. Your kingdom without the Lord will be worse than what you already have. And it will be forever! But listen to the blessings that will be yours in the Kingdom of God.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” Rev 22:1-5
When will all this happen? Jesus said only the Father knows. Our job is to be ready. When he comes, he wants to find us doing the job he has called us to do, doing his will, advancing his kingdom. The Bible tells us that before the Lord returns…
1. The Gospel must be preached to all nations.
2. The Great Tribulation will begin – we are probably already in it.
3. False prophets will arise that will work signs and wonders and deceive many into following them.
4. There will be “signs in the heavens”.
5. The “man of sin”, the antichrist, the beast will make his dramatic appearance.
6. The salvation of Israel and large numbers of Jews coming to Christ.
Until then we’ve got a job to do! The great commandment and the great commission aren’t finished yet. Let’s close by reviewing the things the Lord has called us to do until his return.
The Great Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” Mt 22:37-39
The Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you, always, to the very end of the age.” Mt 28:19-20
Prayer: Lord we want to be ready when you come. Forgive us for letting other things take your place on the throne of our heart. We repent of our idolatry and ask you again this morning to take your rightful place on the throne of our hearts.
We also ask that you would help us be about the things you have called us to do until you return. Help us love you and love our neighbor. Help us boldly invest our lives in sharing our faith and making disciples of all nations. We pray in your name..