Sermon for the 6th Sunday of Easter May 26, 2019
Text: Revelation 21:9-26 ILCW Series C 19:2133
Theme: That Side of Heaven – Awesome!
A little girl walked with her father along a country road at night. The night air was clear and the child was enthralled by the splendor of the sky, lit up with twinkling stars from one end to the other. After moments of silent reflection, she looked at her father and said, “Dad, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, how wonderful the right side must be!” She was simply echoing the words of the psalmist who exclaimed: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky proclaims the work of His hands” (Ps.19:1).
No human tongue or mortal pen has ever succeeded in describing the grandeur, the glory, the magnificence of heaven. That it is a place of entrancing beauty and matchless splendor is shown to us here where John was instructed to write of it in terms of costly jewels, precious gems, rarest of metals, and immense sizes. How could it be anything less than awesome! If this side of heaven can be so beautiful, what must that side of heaven be for it is the habitation of our God, the royal palace of the King of kings, the Mansion to which He has gone in order to prepare a place for all who believe in Him! How do you picture it? Look at the view God gives through the inspired pen of the Apostle John. First of all, he shows us…
I. …a city well fortified.
He writes, “An (angel) said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.”
Why did the angel take John to a mountain? Because in the mountains you have the vantage point of looking out and all-around, to see a great panoramic view. If you’ve been to the mountains, it’s quite an awesome view, isn’t it? Even going into the hills around us and down towards Branson gives one a great view. It can be breathtaking to see the splendor of the earth God created.
Something like that happened to John, except it wasn’t earth John
saw. The angel plucked him up and took him away to a great and high mountain. From that high vantage point above he watched in a state of heightened spiritual awareness as the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, God’s heavenly Church came down from above. It had a great, high wall with 12 gates and with 12 angels at the gates – 3 on the east, 3 on the north, 3 on the south, and 3 on the west – symmetrical, balanced, perfect. The wall had 12 foundations one on top of the other. That’s a lot. I think that no flood is going to take that foundation away. The city was laid out in a perfect cube – 12,000 stadia long, 12,000 stadia wide, and 12,000 stadia high. (Keep in mind that the number 12 in Revelation represents the Lord’s Church.) Now, what’s a stadia?
We get our word “stadium” from it, a football stadium. In the Greek world it indicated a distance around a track for foot races, about 600+ feet by our measurements. 12,000 stadia translate into roughly 1,400 miles. So, the city was 1,400 miles that way (side), 1,400 miles that way (front), and 1,400 miles that way (up). Can you think of a place that’s 1,400 miles away from us?
Driving to Los Angeles is a little over 1,400 miles from here. Can you imagine a city 1,400 miles wide, long, and upward into the sky? In addition, the wall that surrounds it is 144 cubits thick. This is a cubit (elbow to fingertip), roughly 18 inches of our measurement. So, the wall is about 216 feet thick. That is over 2/3rds the length of a football field. No wonder the angel took John up on a high mountain to look down into this city. It must have been an awesome sight.
No enemy is going to get into this city, either over, under, or through the wall. You see, walls around ancient cities served the purpose to protect the inhabitants from enemy attacks. This wall is impregnable. And no enemy is going to get through any of those gates with God’s angels defending them.
Think of the time when God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden because they disobeyed Him and ate the forbidden fruit. What did He place at the entrance to the Garden to keep them from going back to eat from the tree of life? Cherubim with flaming swords. No one ever got back. And no enemy can ever get to God’s people in heaven. But the gates are wide open for believers to enter from every direction. And angels greet them. What does it mean?
Security, folks, eternal security that God’s people enjoy that side of heaven. There the Word of God protects them. Nothing can harm them with God’s protection surrounding them – neither death, nor the devil, nor any evil, nor anyone who torments you for your faith here. What a thought! You are headed towards such security if you believe in the Lord Jesus as your Savior – a city well fortified from all evil.
But you don’t have to wait until you are there to enjoy God’s
security. The Word of God protects you from the devil even now. The Psalmist writes, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear…for the Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Ps.46). A mighty fortress is our God and unattackable is He. Nothing can pluck you from His hand. It’s true here as your eyes are on Him, and even truer there. “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt.16:18). Ah, look at the view on that side of heaven. Look. It’s awesome, eternally awesome. A city well fortified.
II. …a city of indescribable beauty.
And there’s more besides security that is pictured. There’s indescribable beauty that God wants you to see through John’s eyes. He writes, “The wall was made of jasper.”
Some think jasper was a brilliantly greenish or whitish colored stone or gem in the ancient world. Some think it was brownish or reddish. Others describe it as translucent like a diamond. We don’t know for sure what it was back then, but imagine a city wall 1,400 miles wide, long, and high made of brilliantly polished stone.
“And the city was of pure gold, as pure as glass.”
I’ve got gold here on my finger in my ring. I don’t know for sure if it’s pure. I know it’s not transparent like glass. I can’t see through it. How do you see through gold?
Then, remember those 12 foundations? They’re listed as jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethyst. Some I know, others I’ve no idea what they are; scholars aren’t sure either. But they sound most impressive, don’t they? I’m not sure that the colors make them impressive as much as their intricate designs and mineral content do.
Then there are the gates, 12 of them, each one carved out of a single pearl – 12 gigantic pearls in all. Where could you get pearls that big? You can’t. But this is God’s city, that He has made for Himself and redeemed through the blood of Christ. As such it is a place of indescribable beauty! It’s His Church in heaven. Awesome!
Look at it. This side of heaven God’s Church is beautiful, wrapped in Christ’s robe of righteousness. And that side of heaven it’s even more transcendent. God wants you to see it to create in your heart hope and a longing for its indescribable beauty. Such a longing helps you bear patiently the difficulties that come to you now in a sinful world. If only we get a chance to see it! By faith you will.
III. Where God’s presence turns the whole place into a temple.
And there’s one last thing to consider. It’s the greatest thing of all. John writes, “I did not see a temple in the city.” Actually, the way he said it in Greek is more like this: “A temple I did not see in it!”
John was surprised, maybe shocked. He’s a Jewish Christian, remember. No temple! That can’t be! It’s almost like you looking down from a mountain top and crying, “No church! Hey, where’s the church? There’s no church there!” Not quite the same, but close.
The temple was the place where the Lord came into Israel’s presence; where He came to talk with them through Moses. It was the place where they worshiped God, where they offered Him their gifts, where they came to pray, where they came to hear His Word, where they enjoyed their closest communion with Him, where He forgave them. It was special. That’s the reason the Psalmist wrote (123): “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’” Think of the 12-year-old Jesus. He didn’t want to leave it.
Don’t you feel that way about church? This is God’s House; this is where He comes to speak with you. This is where He comes to promise you forgiveness and the blessings of salvation through Christ’s blood. This is where you find peace with Him. This is where you get to sing His praise and pour out your heart in prayer. You can do that anywhere because Christ has made that possible. But isn’t there something special about going into God’s House to do it? I would miss it greatly, greatly, if I didn’t have “church,” big or small. It’s God’s House. It’s where He comes to meet me, to comfort me, to promise me His divine protection, beauty, and grace. That matters!
John thought that too until he realized he was looking into heaven, God’s world. Heaven doesn’t need a temple, and it doesn’t need a sun because God and the Lamb who was sacrificed for sin are there. They fill the place with glory and give light everywhere. Why do you need a building and a sun when the Lord Himself is present? His presence turns the whole place into a temple. Awesome!
If I think this side of heaven is beautiful, and I do, I can’t wait to see that side. It keeps me going in saving faith. It’s a great encouragement when things aren’t going right here. There’s more to come there – indescribable beauty, security, and most of all, the God of grace Himself. God grant us its hope in faith; for Jesus’ sake. Amen.