Sermons

Finding God’s Heart: “Happy New!”

Expository Sermon on Revelation 21
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 12/31/2022
©2022 by Maylan Schurch

(To hear this entire worship service, click this link:)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOJyyERTm7k

Please open your Bibles again to Revelation Chapter 21.

Well, here we are on the very last day of a year whose name itself still sounds strange to an Adventist of my generation. I never thought we’d make it to the 2000’s, let alone 22 years beyond that.

Some of us might wonder from time to time, “Well, does the new year really matter after all? Is it really a big deal?”

Well, I don’t personally know whether our current calendar system means that much to God. Of course, the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God, so He keeps track of the weeks. And God obviously knows our birthdays. But back in Exodus 12, verse 2, God created a “new year” of His own. Just before He led the Israelite nation out of Egypt, He instituted the Passover service. And in Exodus 12:2, He says, “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.”

So God invented His own new year at that crucial point in the history of His people. It was called “Rosh Hashanah,” which means “the head of the year.”
So for us, tomorrow, January 1, is the “head of the year.” And if God is okay with starting over with a new year, we can be okay with it too. Anything that focuses our hearts on a refreshing, a restarting, is exactly what He is hoping for.

And we’ll see this very clearly here in the first few verses of Revelation 21. I’ve called this sermon not “Happy New Year,” but just “Happy New!” And you’ll see why.

Let’s just plunge into verse one.

Revelation 21:1 [NKJV] Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away . . . .

If you remember what has happened in the previous chapter, Revelation 20, you know that that is the great millennium chapter. And within that chapter, Satan is finally defeated and destroyed, along with all his angels, and with everyone who has firmly decided they want to reject their Creator and obey His Enemy.

And after this destruction, God could have said, “Okay, everybody. Now it’s time to go to work. I’m going to assign you all to various crews, and you are going to rebuild Planet Earth.”

But God doesn’t do this – just like He didn’t create Adam and Eve on Sunday and have them do a week’s worth of construction work on the Garden of Eden, before being allowed to rest on Sabbath.

Let’s keep reading.

Verse 1 : Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.

Some people might say, “Wait a minute. I’ve always sort of enjoyed ocean voyages. Why won’t there be any more sea?” Well, there will be a sea of glass in heaven, and there will also be rivers and streams. It’s just that today’s gigantic oceans are really old remnants of a worldwide flood. Imagine the amazing land-potential once all the oceans have been boiled away.

Let’s put down Sermon Point One while we’re at it. There will only be two sermon points today. If you’re taking notes, here is Point One.

God makes it all new.

Not just some of this planet – all of it. Right now, everything you see, every road you drive on, every breath you take of the oxygen you inhale, it’s all old. Remember the ugly wildfire smoke we had not long ago? That air got pretty old. The sunsets were glorious – but that was because of all the particles in the air.

Think of all the borders between all the countries. Think of all the fights that have happened because of latitude and longitude decisions. Can you imagine what it will look like to eventually walk on new earth, breathing new air, eating new and genetically unmodified food, not worrying about visas and passports and TSA checkpoints?

And it’s not only the natural world which God will re-create. Let’s keep reading.

Verses 2: Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband . . . .

So far we have three “news” – new heavens, new earth, and new Jerusalem. If you Google the current Jerusalem, and ask “how is Jerusalem divided?” You’ll see that it’s divided into four quarters – one for the Christians, one for the Armenians, one for the Muslims, and the smallest for Jewish citizens. (However, there’s a mixture of people in every quarter—as I understand it, a Jewish person can buy a house in the Muslim quarter, and so on. A lot of people have done this.)

But rather than re-purpose the old city, God has created a brand-new Jerusalem, from scratch, according to His own plans, and this is the New Jerusalem which will descend through space, to be bathed by the atmosphere of earth, and eventually settle down on this planet.

And the new creations keep on coming. Look at verse 3:

Verse 3: And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

So this is new—God being physically among us. This is actually an ancient wish of God’s. That’s how He set up the garden of Eden, so He could come and be with His children. But when sin came God had to back away for our safety. Another thing He did for our safety was to banish Adam and Eve from the garden so they wouldn’t keep eating the Tree of Life and live forever, perpetuating eternal sin amongst their descendants.

In fact this idea of God coming to live with us seems so new and unfamiliar that it can be intimidating. But anybody who’s unsettled by thinking about what that might be like, just needs to keep reading in this chapter.

Verse 4: And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes;

Don’t tears get old after a while? More than once, I’ve sat in hospital rooms, or around hospice beds, waiting with the family until a loved one passes away. Our human minds were not wired to accept death, and no matter how ill the patient has become, and no matter how logical it is to say, “Well, just let them slip into a restful sleep,” it’s still a heart-wrenching experience when it happens.

But notice how God handles our grief. He could have simply sat on His throne and said, “I now hereby decree that nobody will ever need to cry tears of grief, ever again,” and left it at that. Instead, like the eternal, loving Parent He actually is, He comes and wipes away those tears. What that will look like, I don’t know. But in some way, He will come so close to each of us that we will feel His tender, sympathetic touch.

Verses 4 – 5: And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.””

Years ago, in late December, Shelley and I would enjoy listening on the radio to those “year in review” programs, those year-end summaries of the big news events. Often we would learn facts we hadn’t been able to pick up about these events throughout the year.

But ever since the Internet arrived, and since we can now keep up in the minutest detail with every breaking story, she and I don’t seem to have the taste for those broadcast look-backs any more. To re-live all those old details often causes us pain.

But God says, “Behold, I make all things new.” Write that down, He said to John. These words are faithful! You can depend on them!

But here’s where things get a bit uneasy. I would like to breathe the air from those new heavens. I would like to take up residence in the new earth. I would like to step through the gates of the New Jerusalem and stroll its streets. I would even like to spend personal time with God, and let Him wipe away my tears.

But here’s what has caused me concern. I want to be there, but notice what verse 7 tells me.

Verse 7: [Still quoting God] He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

What concerns me is that word “overcomes.” It’s the Greek word nikao, which is where the Nike company got its company name. It means to get the victory. In secular Greek it was a sports word, and also it was a word used for military victory.

Now, I have never been what you could call an athletic person. I don’t have a lot of experience with even overcoming an opposing ping-pong player, for example. So once somebody starts using the “overcome” word, it sounds like it would take a lot of effort and skill and strength which I don’t have, to put into practice. And I’m just not used to that.

So it’s easy for me to get dazzly-eyed about all of the newness that God promises, but then be discouraged by the Nike-word.

However.

And this is really important. This shows how very crucial it is not to skip Bible verses. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been encouraging all of us to read large sections of the Bible rather than just Pogo-stick our way from verse to verse. If you are watching carefully, you’ll notice that I skipped verse six. And as far as I can tell, verse six is the answer to my worries.

Let’s read it.

Verse 6: And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.

Remember the “water of life”? Hold your place here in Revelation 21, because we’ll be back in a minute, but turn to John chapter 4. In John 4, we see Jesus sitting at a well, getting acquainted with a woman who was a Samaritan. It’s noon, and He is thirsty, and she comes along with a water pot to let it down into a well.

Jesus asked her for a drink, and she bantered back and forth with Him about why He is asking a woman–and a Samaritan–for a favor.
And notice what Jesus says.

John 4:10: Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

The woman is intrigued by this, and she tells Him it almost sounds too good to be true. And notice how Jesus replies.

Verses 13 – 14: Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

So this water Jesus is talking about is not literal water. It’s spiritual water. It’s water that, once you drink it, makes you yourself into a fountain of this water.

And if you remember the story, this woman was somehow given this living water, and she was so excited that she rushed into town and started spreading the news that Jesus was the Messiah, and He was out there by the well, and they should come and see Him.

I mean, when this woman received this water, suddenly, she did a whole lot of “overcoming.” She must have been out there at the well at noon to avoid the other women of the town, who normally came out to get their water in the morning or the evening.

But suddenly she overcame her fear of these women, and her shame, and rushed into town delivering the gospel message. And the whole town hurried out to the well and got to meet Jesus.

So, back here in Revelation 21, now that I have actually read the verse I skipped over, the “overcoming” idea doesn’t sound so intimidating. Even though I was not very sports minded, I did do my share of running across the South Dakota prairies, and I always remember how refreshing a cold drink of water was from our well. Two or three gulps, and it was as though I was filled with life and energy, and I was ready to take another run.

Because of what we just read, we can now take a look at Sermon Point Two.

Here in Revelation 21, we’ve already found out that God makes it all new. Sermon Point Two is:

And that goes for you!

God makes it all new—and that goes for you!

Notice how important this is:

Verses 6 – 8: And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

I mean, these are the people who have refused to accept God’s offer of living water. The Samaritan woman had been “sexually immoral,” but she drank of Jesus’ living water, and became one of the Savior’s most instantly-effective evangelists.

So what do I do, now that I know that God makes it all new, and that this goes for you and me?

It’s a no-brainer. I ask Jesus for His living water. I’m assuming that another way to put this is to ask Jesus to give us His Holy Spirit, who brings with Him the Savior’s own refreshing, life-changing, heart-changing presence.

Would you like to do that? Would you like to raise your hand and vow to the Lord that 2023 will be a year in which you seek His presence in ways you never have before? Raise your hand if you like to do this.

 

 

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