Vs 22: We continue with the vision of the city of the New Jerusalem. John notes that there is no temple in this new city. There is no temple because the symbol of God’s dwelling place (the temple) has now become the reality (God dwells among his people). There is no need for a temple because it has replaced by “the Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb.” The reason John tells us there is no temple is not so much to describe the manner or design of heaven but to speak significantly to a people for whom the temple equated as the supreme dwelling place of God’s presence.
Vs 23: The New Jerusalem does not have a sun or moon to shine because it is everything is illuminated by the glory of God. John is not supplying his readers with information about future astrological changes but setting forth the splendor that will emit from the presence of God and the Lamb.
Vs 24 – 26: John does not envision salvation for a small handful of people and the destruction or annihilation of most of the humanity. This hope for the nations differs from Jewish sources that expected the Gentile nations to be annihilated at the end of the age or to be defeated and to bring tribute to Jerusalem as subject peoples.
The gates of the New Jerusalem are open because with the destruction of evil there is no need for security. Day continues forever without interruption because darkness never comes. Thus, there is no need of closing gates.
Vs 27: Everyone who enter the city are not evil or wicked, only those whose names are written in the book of life. Only those who dwell in the new city have access to it.
Vs 1: The central statement of this verse is that in the eternal state the faithful will live at the source of the life-giving stream that proceeds from the very presence of God. The river is described as “clear as crystal” and this describes the river as a sparkling rush of pure water. It comes from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In 7:15 and 12:5 we read only of the throne of God.
Vs 2: In the New Jerusalem the river in the street is pure and gives life. It is a sign of blessing. On each side of the river grew a tree of life and in the early chapters of Genesis we read that if Adam had eaten of the tree of life, he would have lived forever. Thus, the tree of life was a regular feature in Jewish portrayals of Paradise. To eat of its fruit would give eternal life. The tree bore twelve kinds of fruit and there was both an abundance and the variety of fruit that are emphasized. This is seen as God’s provision is new and plentiful.
The tree also has leaves that bring about healing. Is there need for healing in this New Jerusalem? This is intended to show that in the restored Eden everything has been reversed: originally eating of one tree brought the curse—now eating of this tree brings eternal life. The healing leaves signify the complete and total absence of physical and spiritual want. The life to come will be a life of abundance and perfection.
Vs 3 - 4: There will be no more curse. The curse that humanity brought upon itself in the Garden of Eden will be removed for all eternity. In return the greatest of all eternity’s blessings is reflected in the one phrase, “They will see his face.” Remember that Moses, the great lawgiver was not permitted to see the face of God because God had declared, “No one may see me and live”. To see God’s face means direct communion with him.
On the foreheads of God’s servants will be stamped the name of God. His name stands for his character. The followers of the beast bore the mark of the beast upon their foreheads, contrarily the faithful will bear the name of God upon theirs. This metaphor emphasizes ownership and likeness.
Vs 5: In the New Jerusalem God’s presence, and his glory makes all other sources of light unnecessary and pointless, thus there is no darkness or night. Revelation ends with the promise of the restoration of all things. In Romans Paul teaches creation is currently in bondage to deterioration, at it groans as it eagerly awaits the time when it will be freed from its captivity of death and decay. This takes place when the children of God are brought into the eternal glory that God has prepared for them. The Revelation of John is the final chapter in God’s eternal plan for his children. It brings us full circle to the original intent of God in his creation of all that is.
Verses 6–21 of chapter 22 form the Epilogue of the book of Revelation.
Vs 6: The angel verifies that this revelation is authentic throughout the whole vision. These words that relate the visions are trustworthy and true. The angel confirms that he was sent by God to show John all the things that must come to pass.
Vs 7: The speaker is now Jesus, and he informs the reader that he is coming soon. He announces a blessing to those who stand fast in the great persecution about to break upon the church. They are those who keep the prophetic commands of the book.
Vs 8 – 9: John now attests that he has heard and seen all the things that are recorded in the book. John once again falls to worship the angel but is prevented from carrying out his intention by the angel, who explains that he is a fellow servant with John, the other prophets, and those who keep the words of the book. The angel’s urging, “Worship God!” puts in the most concise form of the theme of the book of Revelation.
Vs 10: The angel now tells him that it is important is that the visions should not be sealed up and all that John has seen is prophetic and should be shared, heard and understood. Since “the time is near,” the message of judgment and hope is to be proclaimed among the churches.
Vs 11 – 22: Jesus announces again that he is coming soon and when he comes he will bring rewards to repay the deeds of the people.
The chapter closes out with another blessing to those who remained faithful to God during this time as they will have access to the eternal city. Those who denied him will be left and thrown outside the gates with the dogs.
The revelation comes to a conclusion with a stark warning against adding to or taking away from this message. This warning is not addressed to scribes who might be tempted to corrupt the text (but to “everyone who hears,” (the members of the seven churches of Asia) where the book was to be read aloud. The caution is against malicious alteration of the message.
The Apocalypse closes with Christ speaking again and informing everyone that he is coming soon to which John says, Yes Lord come soon.
The book of Revelation is complete. It is intended to inform the readers of that day (and for us) that God is sovereign, and his eternal plan will come to fruition. However, until that time there will be aggression and resistance, but this all must come to pass. People will be faced with the choice of pledging their allegiance to the beast or to the Lamb. Those who choose the mark of the beast will eventually share the same fate. The great city Babylon will fall. Those who choose to follow the Lamb, will be brought into eternal fellowship with God in the city of New Jerusalem. The end has been explained to the recipients of Revelation. Believers are encouraged to remain faithful and wait eagerly for the return of Christ, who will forever destroy evil and bring in the eternal state of blessedness.
There are times throughout the year when Pastor Sam and I have decided that we would take a week to preach whatever we like as we transition from one sermon series to the next. This is one of those weeks. If you recall I started this “open-ended” series back in December as I talked about 1 Thessalonians chapter 1 and what it means to be an imitator of Jesus Christ. Seven months later we are picking up where I left off as we will look at chapter 2 and what it means to boldly preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We will continue to come back to this series at various times throughout the year.
Purpose of the Letter
The Epistle of 1 Thessalonians was a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Thessalonica. The church is believed to have been a mixed local congregation made up of a few converted Jews and many former pagans who have converted to Christianity. It is believed that the church was a predominantly Gentile congregation; so, it is assumed that the believers were young in faith and unfamiliar with Jewish traditions and more specifically Christianity. Almost immediately after its establishment this young congregation faced persecution from both unbelieving Jews and pagan Gentiles which was not uncommon at this time.
Paul’s reason for writing this epistle was to encourage this young congregation. Unfortunately, when the church was developed the apostle was unable to properly disciple this group of believers because he had to leave the city due to a riot (Acts 17) that ensued. It is likely he was concerned for the young church as he feared that they would not stick with the faith during their intense persecution. Initially, Paul had wanted to visit the believers of Thessalonica, but he was hindered. Because of his hindrance he sent his travel companion, the young pastor Timothy to Thessalonica, and upon his return to Paul, he gave him the great news that all was well at the Church of Thessalonica. Timothy not only reported about their faithfulness during persecution but also that the church was thriving amidst persecution.
1 Thessalonians 2:1 - 10
An Audience of One
Vs 1 – 3: We have seen through scripture that Paul was one who never shied away from preaching the Gospel nor did he ever try to hide it or act like it didn’t impact his life. He boldly proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ no matter where he was or who he was with. His zeal and passion for the Gospel was so stirring that he has inspired so many to have this same zeal for proclaiming the Gospel.
But there have been times in my life when I lacked the zeal that was so inspiring. I would neglect my calling to boldly proclaim he gospel simply because it was inconvenient or I would tell myself that I don’t want to come across as pushy, I don’t want to be made fun of for my faith or I rarely I would think for some ridiculous reason that I may come across as “overly righteous”. Yet, we know that it is important to learn from Paul, in proclaiming the gospel that we have nothing to be ashamed of. Paul himself writes in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” The gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful and full of hope, joy, peace, love, and salvation.
The gospel is foundational to everything we hold on to and believe as followers of Jesus Christ. The word gospel is derived from a Greek word that means good tidings or good news. The gospel speaks of the good news of the kingdom of God which has come and is still to come through Jesus the Messiah. It is the good news about the truth of salvation through Jesus Christ. It is the good news of the death of Jesus Christ and through his death He has reconciled (or made peace) with God and all those who believe will be saved. It is the good news of the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ for our justification. It is the good news of his return in all majesty and His coming Kingdom. This good news needs to be proclaimed boldly both through words and in the lives we live.
Vs 4 - 7: Speaking the truth in love. Thus boldly proclaiming the gospel or speaking the truth in love can be difficult sometimes. For me speaking the truth of God’s Word from the pulpit is one of the joys and curses of being a pastor. I love that every week I have the honor and joy of teaching God’s Word from the pulpit. I love that I have the calling to preach the Gospel on a regular basis and share God’s grace, love, and mercy. However, there have been times when I come across a subject or passage from the Bible that I know might offend someone or it is sensitive subject matter and I have to determine in my heart... do I speak truth of what God wants me to speak or do I skirt the subject and go on to something else? When I face these situations, I am reminded of the words written by Paul to the Thessalonians, " For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our heart." (vs. 4)
I/we need to be reminded often that proclaiming the Gospel (in the pulpit or in everyday life) is not intended to please people or make people feel good about themselves. It is intended to bring people the throne of God and reveal their sinful nature and ultimate need for a savior in Jesus Christ. My prayer is that the words I do speak from the pulpit bring hope not because I spoke it with eloquence or creativity but because I proclaimed the truth in love.
The gospel message is offensive to many and if pastors and believers continually proclaim it, we will eventually offend someone. Since this is the case, we cannot let this affect the message we proclaim. We have the great privilege to proclaim God's Word because we are "approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News."
This does not, however, give us permission to be abusive, manipulative, or judgmental with our words. We are called to be "gentle" in our delivery and allow the Word of God to speak for itself and to penetrate the hearts of those to whom we proclaim it. Our job is to deliver the message of hope to and if/when it offends, we must understand that it's not because of us, they are offended by the Word of God and there is nothing we can or should do about that.
Vs 8: This is why it is important that we share the gospel with one another and in our community. There is a myth in Christianity that people believe the Christian faith is a private and individual matter. There is an attitude that some hold that faith is about Jesus and me. People think (and sometimes say), “I don’t need anyone as long as I just have a personal relationship with Jesus.” To which I respond, “There is no such thing as a ‘Lone Ranger’ Christian.” The church is called to community and fellowship.
The gospel of Jesus is the core of our faith. As Christians we are to share the “good news” of Jesus with others. The Apostle Paul tells the Thessalonians that they were ready to share it with others. Then he says (and I am paraphrasing), “We not only want to share the gospel with you, but we want to share ourselves with you because you are like family to us.” You see as disciples of Jesus we are called to community and not seclusion. We are called to share ourselves with one another. What does this really mean? I believe Paul is telling his dearly beloved readers in Thessalonica that as Christians, they need one another. They need to share one another’s burdens, joys, trials, concerns and so on. They need to share themselves with one another so they may edify and build up the body of Christ. They need to share themselves so they can pray for one another, encourage those who were downtrodden and give hope to those who may feel hopeless.
The same goes for us today. We have trials, concerns, troubles, health issues etc. in our lives. We are human and difficulty and trials comes with the territory. We can weather the storms of life when we have loving brothers and sisters behind us and supporting us. In the same sense, when something fantastic happens and you see the hand of God in action in your life, don’t you want to share it with everyone?
As a Pastor I DEPEND on the prayers and support of this congregation, my friends and family all over the world. When I feel downtrodden and beaten up, I lean on the support of this congregation and on my fellow friends and colleagues who are there to support me. We need one another. The Christian faith is a journey that we walk, and we cannot, nor should we walk it alone.
Vs 10: I am in awe of the confidence and boldness Paul has in his conduct and faith. As a Pastor AND Christian, I have the great joy and burden of not only proclaiming the gospel but also in living a holy and godly life. It’s not the “job” of Pastors only to preach the gospel and live a holy and upright life; a holy and upright life is the call for every follower of Jesus. Jesus says, in John 13:35, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Our character and our conduct speak volumes about who we serve. For example, a selfish, unloving, and greedy person shows that he serves self. A selfless, loving and giving person points to the Jesus he/she serves. (*Note, I am not stating that all selfless, loving and giving people are Christians, just if you are a follower of Christ this should be the image you bear because Jesus is all of those).
Paul lived a life that was honorable among the people he ministered to and the God he served. I pray one day I will be able to stand before all the people I served over the years and say, “As you and God are my witnesses, I have tried by the power of the Holy Spirit to live a holy, righteous and blameless life by the grace of God.” Notice I did not, nor does Paul say “sinless”. To live a holy life means to live your life set apart for God. You aim to please the Father through your life, and you live with him as your God and King. To be righteous means you live a just life or aim to be in right standing with God. To live a blameless life means you have lived a life (or strived to live a life) where nobody can make accusations of you living contrary to what you believe. In other words, as Christians, we must live our lives to please God. However, we cannot live to please God in our own power. Each one of us (if you are a believer) must depend on the Holy Spirit to help us live holy, righteous, and blameless lives. Therefore, I make it a point to pray often “Lord help me to live the life that will bring honor and glory to your name. I can’t do it in my own power, so I depend on your Spirit to live it through me.”
So, what is our take home for today? I want to challenge you strive to be imitators of Jesus. In doing so there are three action steps from today’s passage that we can take with us.
The final two chapters of Revelation are the fulfillment of Isaiah 65:17 “Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore.” This final vision comprises the last major component of the Apocalypse. This chapter stresses on the renewed fellowship between God and his people and the vision encourages the reader to see in this final section a reconstitution of the garden of Eden.
Vs 1 – 2: In this vision the heaven and earth are renewed by a new heaven and a new earth. The renovation of the old order is a teaching of apocalyptic tradition (2 Peter 3:10 – 13). This vision also includes a New Jerusalem as well. The concept of a New Jerusalem that comes down from God, this, also is a common teaching in Jewish apocalyptic tradition. Some hold that the New Jerusalem is an actual city, but many suggest it is a symbol of the church in its perfected and eternal state. However, the point is that Jerusalem is the site of the temple, the place where the presence of God dwells. The New Jerusalem is adorned as a bride for her husband. In Chapter 19 the people of God are presented as a bride; but here the same figure is used of the place of their dwelling place, the heavenly Jerusalem. The difference between the earthly city who is described as a prostitute and the heavenly city as a bride is obvious.
Vs 3 – 4: The voice from heaven declares that the dwelling place or the home of God is with the people, and that he will live with them. When the John writes that God’s home or the tabernacle of God is with us, he is saying that God in his glory has come to dwell with us. This does not suggest a temporary dwelling, but from here on out God dwells with his people for all eternity. It is the presence of God, and the fellowship with him of ALL believers, that comprises the fundamental trait of the coming age.
Death, sadness, and pain are all part of the “old way” that has now passed away.
Vs 5 – 7: God’s silence is broken when he declares, “I am making everything new!” The throne upon which God sits represents his sovereignty and splendor. It is from this position of tremendous power that he announces his intention of creating the new order.
God proclaims, “It is finished!” He then declared that He is the Beginning which refers not only to the fact that he was first in point of time but also, he is the source and origin of all things. He is the end in the sense that he constitutes their goal or aim. He also allows those who are thirsty to drink from the spring of the water of life. Scripture often employs the figure of thirst to depict the desire of the soul for God.
It is the overcomers/victors who will receive these blessings. In the letters to the seven churches, we learned that the overcomers will eat from the tree of life, not be hurt by the second death, be given hidden manna and a white stone, receive authority over the nations, their names will not be blotted from the book of life, be a pillar in the temple of God, and sit with Christ on his throne. All this is the inheritance of those who remain faithful during the period of final testing.
God also declares that the victor will be his child and he will be God. Those who deny Christ and are seduced by the solicitations of the prostitute have no inheritance in the family of God.
Vs 8: On the contrary those who live contrary to the ways of God… cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars will receive their destiny… the second death… burning sulfur and hellfire. The same fate as the Beast, False Prophet, and Satan.
Vs 9: One of the angels who held one of the seven bowls of plagues tells John to come and see the bride of the lamb. As a bride the church is pure and lovely, and as wife she enjoys the intimacy of the Lamb.
Vs 10 – 14: John is taken in the Spirit to a great mountain to see the Holy City descending from heaven. As the holy city descends from heaven, it shines with a brightness that shows the presence and glory of God. It is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel that in the restoration the glory or presence of the Lord will rise upon them and he will be their everlasting light.
The city is surrounded by a great wall with twelve gates, which are guarded by twelve angels. On the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. The wall is not needed for security reasons in the eternal state. The wall is simply part of the description of an ideal city as conceived by ancient peoples accustomed to the security of strong outer walls. There are twelve gates and they are named after the twelve tribes of Israel. It is believed that the twelve gates symbolize abundant entrance.
Vs 14: The mention of the “Twelve apostles” is a reference to the disciples without specific mention of Judas. In Ephesians 2:20 Paul teaches that the house of God is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Historically, the church rests upon the apostles and prophets, this means it is built upon the faith and efforts of those who first proclaimed the gospel message. The combination of the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles shows the unity of ancient Israel and the NT church.
Vs 15 – 17: These verses describe the measuring of the heavenly city. If you recall in chapter 11 John who was told to measure the temple of God and the altar, and then count those that worship there. However, the holy city is to be measured by the angel who appropriately uses a reed or staff of gold. Traditionally it is believed the reed measures slightly more than ten feet in length. The measuring in chapter 11 was to ensure protection; in chapter 21 it serves to portray the colossal size and perfect symmetry of the eternal holy city.
The city that appears to John as a square, but more likely it refers to a three-dimensional form—a cube whose length, breadth, and height are all equal.
Vs 18: The jasper wall indicates that even the walls of the city declares the glory of God. The gold of the heavenly city is as pure as glass. This is normally taken to mean that it had a transparent quality, which meant that it had no impurity.
Vs 19 – 20: The twelve stones parallel the twelve gems that are in the breastplate of the high priest, this suggests that the privileges once reserved for the high priest alone under the old covenant are now available to all the people of God. These precious stones were/are desirable for their beauty and scarcity. The stones mentioned in the Bible are hard to identify with any precision because of the many different types and colors as well as the lack of a standard terminology. But the idea behind the description of this city is that the city is magnificent beyond description.
Today we conclude our series titled FEVER PITCH. In the previous weeks we have talked about many “hot button” topics in our culture that have escalated to a fever pitch. In this series we have talked about and learned how we can approach and respond to these topics in a biblical manner and in ways that bring glory to God.
Today is July 4th, Independence Day, so it is fitting that our discussion panel talks about God and Country. Today our panel will tackle some hard questions like “Is war Godly?” “What about being a soldier and fighting?” and “How can the church remain patriotic without falling into idolatry?” These are great questions! Let’s see what today’s panel has to say about them.
America, land of the free and home of the brave. We are truly blessed to live in a country that values freedom and independence. Because of this we have the liberty and protected right to assemble to worship freely, to preach the Gospel openly without negative ramifications, and have the freedom to choose to be religious or irreligious.
Today is the day we observe and celebrate the freedom we have as a nation. Many of us will gather with family and friends to watch fireworks, some of you may have adorned your homes with American flags and patriotic décor. Hopefully, all of us here in this room will fellowship after the service to celebrate our freedom and country by doing all things Americana. This is all well and good. But let us not forget as Christians what true independence looks like. True Christian independence does not give us the freedom us to do whatever we want; however we want, with whomever we want. Christian freedom comes with parameters, but they are not constricting parameters. Our freedom comes at a cost that was paid on the cross of Calvary.
Romans 5:20 – 6:14
Dead to Sin… Alive in Christ
As I conclude, I want to stress that all of us are truly blessed to live in a country that values freedom and independence.
I am proud to be an American.
I love my country.
I love that our freedom of speech, and our freedom to practice religion without government interference is protected.
I am grateful for the men and women who have fought and sacrificed for our freedom.
But I stand up here today to say that as much as I love being an American, I am loyal to Jesus Christ only. I am a child of God first and foremost. I will be faithful to the Word of God and put into practice the Word of God over any political ideology. I am not allied with any political party; I am allied only with Jesus Christ. Can I be all of these and still be patriotic? Yes! But as a Christian I must be devoted to God first and all other things, including country, come after.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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