The Promise Fulfilled, Part 2 (Revelation 21:1-5)

Main Idea: God’s promise was not merely to make some things new, as if Jesus is only the Lord and Savior of some, but all things new by His power and grace.

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I think I’ve mentioned this at least a couple times over the years, but the popular Christmas carol, “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” contains one of the most theologically rich and confusing statements ever to be written. Let’s sing the first verse together.

Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

Talking about Jesus being born on Christmas, the song contains the line, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” When Jesus was born, all of our hopes and all of our fears collided. Our fears, because our sin caused us to wander in darkness, not knowing what God would do with us, and our hopes, because Christmas is the answer to our fears and the answer to our question about God’s love for us.

I began this sermon series about the Promise of Jesus in the book of Genesis. We saw in the opening chapters of Genesis how the first sin led to God making the first prophecy of Jesus in the Bible: how the Offspring of the woman would crush the head of the serpent.

And we also saw in Genesis how this prophecy was clarified to Abraham so that we learned that this Offspring would not only destroy sin and Satan, but would bless all the families of the world.

We talked last week about how the birth of Jesus is the fulfillment of these and so many of God’s promises in the Old Testament. We read in Isaiah 7, written hundreds of years before Jesus was born, that “a virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son.” And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and gave birth to Jesus. The birth of Jesus was to fulfill the promise that God made to us, that He would send the Messiah who would save us from our sins.

But really, Christmas was just the very beginning of that fulfillment. Because, as I hope you know, Jesus going to the cross was also absolutely necessary to fulfilling that promise. And Jesus rising from the dead was also pivotal to that. So, we find in Scripture not only how God makes major promises, but how God fulfills His promises to us through Jesus.

But I want to focus this morning on some of the promises that are as of yet unfulfilled. Even though we believe in Jesus, we still wrestle with temptation and sin, even though God has promised to remove our sin from us as far as the east is from the west. And even though we read that God’s plan is to prosper us and not to harm us, sometimes we feel harmed and not very prosperous.

We don’t like to talk about how God hasn’t yet fulfilled some of His promises because it makes us uncomfortable. We know that God is faithful, so when we say that hasn’t fulfilled some of His promises yet, we feel like we’re accusing God of being unfaithful, which we know isn’t true. Or, at least, we feel guilty for thinking it. But if we’re honest, God has made a lot of promises to us, scattered throughout His word, and we just don’t know how He’s going to keep them.

I was talking with a few other pastors this past week, and it became clear to me that some of God’s promises make them very uncomfortable. Like, when Jesus said, talking about going to the cross, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.” That’s similar to the promise we read in Philippians 2:10-11, that “at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

When we read these kinds of verses, we tend to want to qualify what Scripture really means by them, and attempt to squeeze these kinds of things into our theologies, rather than let them simply say what they say. Rather than simply believing God’s promises, we doubt that God can really do what it seems that God is clearly promising.

So I want to talk this morning about when God will ultimately fulfill all of His promises. And to see that, we need to go to the very end. Revelation 21:1-5.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away. Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” (Revelation 21:1-5)

Father, help us to believe Your promises, and to wait with eager expectation to see You fulfill all of Your promises to us through Jesus. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

When a lot of people read the book of Revelation, they have a lot of questions. When is all this going to happen? And what order will it happen in? And will believers live through the tribulation, or will we be raptured before it? And is the Covid-19 vaccine the mark of the beast? I know some of you have wondered that.

Well, I’m not going to be answering any of those questions this morning, because I think when we read the book of Revelation, we often ask the wrong questions. Because the question that the book of Revelation and really all of the Bible answers is simply this: who wins, and does God keep His promises?

There was a story that made national news back in the 1980’s that happened in DeWitt, Michigan. A man named Kelly Terrell received an anonymous phone call from someone who stole his pickup truck. The car thief complained to Kelly on the phone that his truck was in really bad condition, and that he was tired of seeing it in such bad condition. But the man then told Kelly that he could find his truck in the parking lot where it had been stolen.

When Kelly arrived at the lot, he found his truck and a three-page list of repairs made by the thief. In addition to sanding and painting the pickup, the thief performed bodywork and made a number of mechanical repairs. Kelly told the news reporter, ‘I have no idea who the man is. It is all very strange, but that man can steal my vehicle any time he wants to.’

In the book of Job, we read that God gives but He also takes away. Our earthly treasures, our plans, and even our lives will all one day be taken away from us. We can’t keep these things forever. But there’s nothing that God takes away that He will not return to us, only it will actually be even better than it was before.

So we read in our passage this morning that the first heaven and the first earth are going to pass away. So don’t get so attached to the things we have in this life. It’s not going to last for eternity. Instead, God’s going to give us a new heaven and a new earth that will have none of the imperfections of what we see on this earth now. There will be no death, or grief, or crying, or pain. In the end, we will simply be able to enjoy God’s presence as God’s people for ever and ever.

Now, I should point out that Revelation 21 isn’t the very last chapter of the Bible. So what we read in this chapter isn’t necessarily the final state of things, but it’s really really close. In fact, I think at the very least, Revelation 21:1-5 is giving us the promise of the final state of things. Because what we read in Revelation 21, the last book of the Bible, is very much complimentary with what we read in the opening chapters of Genesis, the first book of the Bible.

In 2014, Yoshiyuki Morioka had an idea. He owned a bookstore in Tokyo, Japan, but he had been becoming more and more discouraged because he noticed that most books just sat on the shelves, and nobody ever paid them any attention. Many customers told him that they were simply overwhelmed by the number of books, and they often left his store without buying anything. And Yoshiyuki noticed that when they did buy something, it was often just the new release that everyone else was buying because they stopped by for the book launch. So his idea started with a question: why not start a bookstore that only sold one book at a time?

So that’s what he did. Every six days, he sells just one title. If you were to walk into his bookstore, you’d see lots of books, but they would all be the same book. Then, on the seventh day, he completely removes any remaining copies of that book from the store, and replaces them with a different book. And Yoshiyuki found that people really liked the idea of simply walking into his bookstore, and buying the one book they had for sale.

Now, with the Bible, we never have to remove it and replace it with another, and yet, it’s a similar idea. God doesn’t give us options. There’s just one Savior, Jesus Christ, and there’s just one book that perfectly directs us to trust in Jesus: the Bible. God doesn’t encourage us to find our own way to heaven, He gives us Jesus and gives us His word that we might know Him.

And that’s just what all of the Bible is about. From the first page to the last, it tells one story, and it’s all about Jesus.

So as you read the Bible, you’ll likely have lots of questions, but you’ll also find that Scripture perfectly answers our questions. In Genesis 1, the beginning, we read that God created the heavens and the earth. And in our passage this morning, Revelation 21, the end, we read that God created a new heaven and a new earth. In Genesis 3, we read that mankind was cast out from the garden of Eden because of their sin, away from the presence of the Lord, and in Revelation 21, we read that God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them.

That’s an awesome promise, and yet, today, we still have lots of questions. If Jesus came to rid the world of death, grief, crying, and pain, then why do we still see so much death, grief, crying, and pain? I mean, what is Jesus waiting for? We like the idea that Jesus was born, and that He died for our sins, and that someday we’ll get to go to be with Him in heaven forever, but we wonder why someday has to be so far away?

I read a story about a little girl, barely old enough to walk, who was walking home one night with her mom who had her hands full with groceries. Her mom just wanted to get home so that she could put her little girl to bed and get to bed herself, but her daughter kept stopping every few feet to lay down on her back on the sidewalk. So each time, the mom would have to stoop down, put down her groceries, pick up her daughter, put her on her feet, pick her groceries back up, and sternly instruct her daughter to keep walking.

This happened several times, to the point that the mom was just plain exhausted. So when her daughter laid on her back again, the mom set down her groceries, and laid down on her back next to her little girl. And when she looked up at the sky, the same sky that her little girl had already stopped to look at so many times, she saw the most amazing display of stars in the night sky that she had ever seen.

God isn’t in a hurry because He sees the beauty of His creation every day. Yes, there are many pains and sorrows along the way, but He has a plan for those, too. Romans 8:28 promises us:

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

And if we would simply slow down, and trust His plan, I think maybe we would see the beauty of it all.

Leading up to Christmas, we talked about how God promised to send Jesus because of how we’ve all disobeyed His commands. God originally made everything good, even very good. But then we sinned, and we separated ourselves from God. So God came down in the form of a man, Jesus, and died for our sins to reconcile us back to Himself, and He promises to be with us forever.

So we’re given the promise in this passage that not only did Jesus come, but He conquered. He did what He set out to do. We’re reminded that Jesus completely destroyed sin and all the effects of sin. While our sin causes us grief, crying, pain, and even death, God promises that in the end, all of these effects of sin will be no more.

We live in a time now where we don’t quite see the full effect of Christ’s death on the cross, but His sacrifice means that His victory over sin is inevitable.

There’s a reality found in Scripture that we need to remind ourselves of from time to time, and it’s this concept of “already, not yet.” We’ve already been completely forgiven, made clean, and been justified by Jesus through His work on the cross, and yet at the same time, right now, we don’t always live as if we’re sanctified and forgiven.

So when we wonder why God seemingly has not yet dealt with things like death, grief, crying, and pain, we ought not to blame God. We’re often the ones still clinging to these things. We cling to our sin, and our sin or the sins of those around us are what lead to these realities in our lives. And all the while, God extends grace, purpose, and hope to us through Jesus.

Peter says it this way in 2 Peter 3.

The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Peter was writing primarily about salvation, but I think it also pertains to all of our hopes and fears. So what hopes and fears do you have? In other words, what longings do you have, that you feel are yet unfulfilled?

Maybe you long for reconciliation with family. Maybe you long for peace and joy in your life. Or maybe you just long for things to go back to normal, whatever normal is. I’m not saying that if you have faith in God, you’ll see all of your longings fulfilled in this life. But I am saying that when God takes something away, or allows something to be taken away, as we read in the book of Job, God always outpours an even greater blessing in eternity because Jesus will right every wrong, and turn all sorrow into joy because of His birth, life, death, and resurrection.

Just as we sing, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

Verse 5 says:

Then the one seated on the throne [That’s Jesus] said, “Look, I am making everything new.”

You see, Jesus’s promise is not merely to make some things new, as if He is only the Lord and Savior of some, but to make all things new by His power and grace.

This is something God promised in the Old Testament, as Trevor read in Isaiah, and yet God is still promising it in the New Testament, and even, it appears, in what we would consider to be the very end.

Jesus is making a new heaven and a new earth. In his letters to the church of Corinth, Paul wrote that we’re new creations in Jesus, and that we’re going to be given new, imperishable bodies, no longer corrupted by sin. And it’s all because Jesus conquered our sin on the cross. These are some awesome promises! And they’re yours by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

So I hope you see that Jesus wins. Jesus accomplished all He set out to do. He wins. And, He most definitely has kept and will keep all of His promises.

So, will you trust in His promise?

Pastor Chris Huff

Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009.  He and his wife, Abby, have four children.  Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)

Bible Passages: Revelation 21:1-5
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