(Revelation 21: 1-6a)


What will it be like when we get to heaven?  What will it be like when Jesus comes again in his glory?  Will we get to see our loved ones who have gone on before us?  Will they look the same or will they have this new body we’ve heard so much about?  Will we be able to pick up with them where we left off having those great conversations about fishing, baseball, cooking, and all those things that created such wonderful memories?  Will we get a second chance to say those things we regretted not saying when we had the chance?  Will they meet us just inside the pearly gates and show us to our very own mansion?  Will it even matter?


It will matter, and that’s what the Apostle John wants us to understand in our scripture reading for today.  John wrote the Book of Revelation as a way of conveying to God’s people what the future held for believers and not believers alike.  The Revelation was his vision of the new heaven and earth.


Now John’s Revelation can be pretty scary and foreboding for some as it goes into great detail about the apocalyptic events that will precede Christ’s return.  It’s the fodder of not only a lot of sci-fi movies and books but also some end-of-times televangelists who want to scare you into submission.  But for us Wesleyans we see it as a reminder, a charge to practice love for others, promote justice and peace, and care for God’s creation in anticipation of the coming of God’s new heaven and new earth.  It’s knowing that a new Jerusalem is coming that helps to shape the identity and mission of Christian communities, calling us to live as a foretaste of what God is up to in the world.  For John’s first-century audience, the Revelation offered a perspective that confronted the idolatrous and deceptive worldview of the Roman Empire.  For us, it challenges the dominant stories told by our own cultures, stories that tempt us to worship something other than the God who sits enthroned on high or to follow something other than the way of the slaughtered Lamb.


After graphically describing the apocalypse to come and the end of times John transitions in Chapter 21 with the good news for those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ.  He says: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  God’s magnificent creation as we knew it was gone.  John continues by saying: I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  For us guys, this imagery takes us back to our own weddings where we got to see our bride as we had never seen her before, in all her radiant beauty, or as we gave our daughter’s hand in marriage as she went to cleave to another, or when we got all choked up at the sight of our granddaughter who was suddenly all grown up transitioning into a woman.  Then John says: I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look!  God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples.  God himself will be with them, and they will be his peoples.  God himself will be with them as their God.”  How reassuring this must have been to John’s Christian readers who had, up to this point, endured much persecution for their faith in what is not seen, as opposed to what is seen in Caesar.  He then offers words of comfort when he continues: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  Death will be no more.  There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  What a great comfort to those reading it then and to those reading it now.  All your pain, suffering and misery are gone to be experienced no more.  True peace has come at long last.  John then tells us that the one seated on the throne said: “Look!  I’m making all things new.”  He also said: “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Then he said to me, “All is done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” 


In the Apostle’s final vision, God’s loving purpose for the world reaches its ultimate triumph and goal.  Its been a long time coming and as the New Jerusalem descends from heaven, God reasserts his perfect rule over the whole of his creation.  John’s Revelation ends not with a final and harsh judgment and the total destruction of the world, but with a new heaven and a new earth for his children he has redeemed by and through the blood of Jesus Christ.  But Revelation’s vision of the New Jerusalem gives us more than a snapshot of our future destiny.  While the holy city belongs in the future, the closing chapters of Revelation pictures a reality that shapes the worship and witness of the church now.  By embracing the glorious future of God’s mission, foretold in these chapters, God’s people receive the grace to resist the allure of Babylon and the beast in the present; the evil, hate, prejudice, and destruction we see and experience all around us, even in the shadows of our own churches.


The New Jerusalem is where God lives among his people.  Instead of our going up to meet him where he is, he comes down to be with us, just as God became man in Jesus Christ and lived among us.  Just as God finished the work of creation and Jesus finished the work of redemption, so the Trinity will finish the entire plan of salvation by inviting the redeemed into a new creation.  It’s this new creation, this New Jerusalem, that fulfills all of God’s promises to his people.  It’s when you reflect upon what John says in his Revelation that you realize that these are some of the most comforting words found in all Scripture.  It’s a reminder that God’s unmediated presence will comfort us and protect us from the pain and death of the “old order” that has passed away, and we will suffer no more.  The ones who overcome will be drawn closer and closer into God’s presence and conformed to the person of Jesus becoming themselves a new creation.


John’s vision of a new earth and heaven equips and energizes the church of Jesus Christ to live now as a foretaste of the new creation to come.  And that’s our goal here at Community United Methodist Church, because as the Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5: 17: If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  We have been conformed to the person of Jesus Christ.  Through the work of the Holy Spirit we have been equipped and energized to be a church that eagerly lives within our community making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world as we await God’s perfect timing in coming down to live with us in the New Jerusalem, in the way he has planned for us all along.


Let us pray.


Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King.  Yes, soon and very soon we will all meet King Jesus when God the Father in all his glory comes down to meet us in the New Jerusalem where he will live among his redeemed children.  Yes, soon and very soon we will live with Christ in a new creation where there will be no more dying, a place too beautiful to describe where there will be no more crying.  Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  We are going to see the King.  Amen.