God’s Presence and What’s To Come

Text: Rev 21-22

Revelation 21-2,3

Over the last six days, I’ve been sharing with you some big moments in scripture where heaven and earth come together. It’s been a journey through and a celebration of the story of God’s presence among us, through the ups and downs. Yesterday I teased that where the story goes from here is going to be much bigger than what we expect.

 

If we zoom out from scripture and get a big picture of it all, we see that at the very beginning, God’s intent is to be with us, here on Earth. For a while, it was great. We screwed some things up and got ourselves kicked out of the garden, and so we lost access to God’s presence. The story since then has been a record of God’s attempts to dwell with us again, to bring us closer to him, and to bring more people in to be his children. Scripture leaves us with the hope, promise, and expectation that this trajectory continues in the future. God is faithful!

 

Allow me to admit that I don’t have a perfect understanding of what the future holds. It seems there are as many different takes on end-time prophecy as there are grains of sand on all the beaches. So I am going to conveniently sidestep most of that and stick to only a few things that I believe are clearly taught in scripture about our hope for the future.

 

Resurrection

 

The idea of resurrection has been around for a long time in the scriptures, well before Jesus. We see hints in Job 19:25-27, Dan 12:13, Isa 26:19, a strange zombie army passage in Ezekiel 37, and several other places. But it isn’t until the resurrection of Christ that the concept comes into the forefront. After all, his resurrection was the defining moment and hinge-pin of the Christian faith.

 

Paul tells us that Jesus is the “first fruits” of the resurrection (1Co 15:20,23), meaning he is the forerunner. He is the first to go forward into this resurrected state, and someday we will follow suit. Our bodies will be made new and different somehow, like how Christ’s body was made new, raised imperishable, in glory, in power, and “spiritual” (1Co 15:42-44), much more than simply being raised from the dead.

 

But it isn’t just our bodies that get resurrected. Heaven and earth get resurrected too. Scripture promises a new heaven and a new earth (Isa 65:17, 2Pet 3:13, Rev 21). Let this declaration from Rev 21:5 ring out in your heart: “Behold, I am making all things new.”

 

I’d encourage you today or in the near future to reflect on some classic resurrection passages/verses: 1Cor 15, 1Thess 4, 2Cor 4-5, Phil 3, Col 3:4, Rom 8:9-11, 1Jn 3:2, 1Cor 6:14. I know I have been heavy on versage this week, but if you find the time for these passages, it will be worth it.

 

The Return of Christ

 

A return or reappearing of Christ accompanies the resurrection. Many of the resurrection passages above mention his return as well, sometimes in the same breath. The events are apparently closely linked, if not the same instant. To me, it brings up the question whether his return is the catalyst for our resurrection, or if there is something about being in the resurrected state that allows us to see through the veil into the heavenly realm and see our king just as he is (1Jn 3:2). They both sound great to me. Someday we’ll find out together.

While we do have Christ with us in a way now, through the Holy Spirit in us, being together with our Lord in person (and as fellow “resurrectees”) will be much better. Everything, even death, will be subject to him, and then he will hand everything over to God, himself included, so that God will be “all in all” (1Co 15: 24-28). This is the true rule of God, his Kingdom!

 

God Dwells With Us

 

At some moment, any moment, everything is going to change in the twinkling of an eye (1Cor 15:52). We’ll have new resurrected bodies, live on a new resurrected earth, permeated by a new resurrected heaven, with no more sea (chaos) or death or crying or pain, together as a new Jerusalem, adorned as a bride for our resurrected Lord.

 

That’s not all… “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them…” (Rev 21:3). This should sound very familiar this week. This is an almost identical echo of what God has been saying to his people all over scripture. It’s been his goal all along.

 

With heaven and earth joined completely, the temple is now obsolete. There doesn’t need to be a special room where they come together. It’s everywhere! John observes the city in Rev 21:22: “I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”

 

Revelation 22 opens with visions of a river, and a tree of life…wait…is this the garden again? That imagery is very intentional, designed to connect your thoughts and heart back to Eden, reflecting on God dwelling with mankind with no barriers. Yes, God is restoring that kind of relationship with him.

 

Through scripture, we don’t often see God trying to get things back to exactly how they were. Usually, he is moving forward in ways that surprise us, both because we didn’t see it coming, and because what he did was actually quite a bit better than what we could have gone back to. Case in point: Having Jesus cover for us is way better than going back to the law and trying to fulfill it on our own.

 

In a similar fashion, I contend that John’s description of our future with God in Revelation 21-22 isn’t just a restoration of Eden, it is even better.

 

Well, certainly John can’t do it justice. And if he can’t, there is no way I can. However we envision these events unfolding, however powerful our imaginations are, we won’t be able to help being caught completely off guard, staggered, and surprised at the suddenly revealed beauty of God’s presence among us.

 

It could happen at any moment now. May it be soon.

 

-Jay Laurent

 

(Thank you, Jay for a great week looking at God’s presence throughout Scripture.  Tomorrow we jump back into our New Testament chapter-a-day reading – with the book of Acts to see what God was doing with the early church.  Until then . . . seek Him!)

What Do the Stars Tell You?

Psalm 19

 

I have always been amazed at God’s creation here on earth.  The beauty.  The creativity.  The grandeur. In fact, I have always wondered a little bit about the the new heaven and new earth that Revelation 21 records will herald the new Kingdom of God.  Could God really create something more majestic than what we have already seen?  Is there a chance that the new heaven and earth will be a little bit of a let-down?  I am after all a tad attached to what we have here and now.

And then, I saw pictures of Jupiter!  They are breathtaking!  NASA’s space probe Juno has been on a carefully routed 5 year trip to reach Jupiter – and in August 2017 Juno sent back to Earth stunning pictures of the planet it is now orbiting.  Here are just two pictures … many more can be found at https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/juno/images/index.html

jupiter swirling south pole            jupiter south pole from Juno

 

 

 

 

 

And all of a sudden, I am again in awe of Him and His creations.  And I know I can trust Him.  I can trust Him to create a spectacular new heaven and earth and I can trust Him today with my life.   There is so much He knows that I do not.  There is so much power that He has that I do not.  He is a great Big God and sometimes I forget how much I need Him because I think for just a few minutes that I have this world figured out.  And then my mind is once again blown away by how many stars there are and the new-found beauty of a planet we are just beginning to really discover.

David says it well in Psalm 19.  “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.  There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.  Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4).  God’s masterpiece speaks for Him.  His works of art tell us about the artist.

In the New Testament Paul writes similar words to the believers in Rome.  This city was proud of what they considered their superior culture, amazing architecture and roadways (some of which can still be seen today), and numerous temples to foreign gods (amongst them, Jupiter and Juno).   In many ways it was not too unlike our society today.  Paul writes to the church in Rome: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20).  His artwork proves the power and majesty of the artist.

And yet, as we well know there are those who prefer to be blind and create their own explanations for the intricate and beautiful creation.  Interestingly, not one but two psalms begin with these words: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” (Psalm 14:1 and 53:1).   You get to decide which camp you will set your tent in, but there will be a day when everyone will acknowledge God (Romans 14:10-12).

This brings us back to the rest of Psalm 19 which you can read or listen to here –  (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+19&version=NIV).

The first six verses of Psalm 19 speaks of God’s magnificent creation and how it points to God.  The next 5 verses give us a little foretaste of Psalm 119 which we talked about yesterday: the superiority and importance of God’s Word and commands.  “By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:11).  And the final three verses emphasize watching my own actions, attitudes, words, and thoughts to see that they are in line with God’s laws and desires for his children – and seeking forgiveness and change when they are not.  I love the final verse of the Psalm as much as the opening verse: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14).

We serve an awesome Creator God who has provided a detailed guidebook for our lives and a brilliant plan for the future  – which will include everyone acknowledging him.  May we always strive to be pleasing in his sight.

Marcia Railton

(Stars photographed by Chris Mattison – thanks for sharing!)