WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 22, 2011
A NEW HEAVEN AND EARTH
(We worship the GOD WHO makes all things new)
The books of Isaiah (chapters 60 & 65) and Ezekiel (chapters 40-48) each contain parallels of the vision John shares here in Revelation 21, concerning the “new heaven”, the “new earth”, and, a new Jerusalem. The Israelites had long understood that the earthly Jerusalem was always intended to be the site for the temple of GOD. Since the days when King David first moved the Jewish worship center from Mount Gerizim to Jerusalem, he had in mind to build GOD’s temple there. Biblical history records, however, that the task of building that temple would be assigned to King Solomon, David’s son. The temple would be a symbol of GOD’s presence among HIS people, and would be a place where GOD could be approached in worship. Here in Revelation 21, the “new” Jerusalem fulfills the promise of the “old”, and we see GOD is present in reality, and, it is only HIS people who can worship him freely, for all eternity.
John’s vision of the new Jerusalem magnifies to a great degree, the visions of the Old Testament prophets that were expressed and depicted hundreds of years earlier. Isaiah, Haggai, and Ezekiel, all had visions of a “rebuilt” Jerusalem. When we consider those facts, it becomes increasingly easy to see that the idea of a “new” Jerusalem had been a constant dream of GOD’s faithful over the years. Here John pulls together these various visions and makes them his own, as a sort of verification to Christians, that, their earnest expectations will indeed be satisfied in GOD’s new Kingdom following the “White Throne Judgment”.
In the Greek, there are two words that are used for “new”. One is “neos”, and it is “a new version, or “type” of something that already exists, for example, a new car. We can build a new car, and in fact, new cars are constantly being built daily, however they are not new to the world, as cars have existed since the turn of the 20th century. The other Greek word used for “new” is “kainos”, and it is something that is new to the world, and has never existed before”, it is in this sense that the LORD is speaking in this passage, as in verse 5, HE says, “Behold, I make all things new”.
In verse 22, John reveals to us that there is no temple in this “new” Jerusalem. This may come as a surprise when we consider how precious the temple was to the Jews who lived in the current Jerusalem. However, the apostle’s description of the new city, as being in the shape of a cube 1400 miles in width, length, and height, suggests that Jerusalem itself is a temple, having GOD and the LAMB, both, eternally present within it. The city will need no physical edifice to serve as a temple, because, wherever JESUS is, there, the church will be also. And we should always remember, that, it is the presence of CHRIST JESUS that makes a gathering, a Church in the first place.
Furthermore, John reveals that there will be no need for light in the new Jerusalem, because the glory of GOD will provide ample illumination with JESUS the CHRIST being its lamp. John also sees a city whose gates will remain open forever, because there will be no night.
In verse 24 we see that, everyone who is saved will walk in the light of this wonderful city, and they will bring with them, the glory and honor that is uniquely their own.
From every nation of the earth, we have extracted some unique gift or talent, and our gifts and talents are our glory, given to us by GOD. To the Romans we owe for the ability to organize, formulate, and administer governmental law. And to the Greeks we owe for theology. But, on a smaller scale, every person that comes into the Church, for the purpose of serving, has talents and gifts that the LORD can use.
Shifting gears, in verse 27, John concludes this chapter of Revelation with a stern warning to those who refuse to discontinue in the evilness of their ways. Those who refuse to depart from evil will be forever barred from becoming citizens of this great community of GOD. It is not the “repentant sinner”, but rather, it is the “defiant sinner”, whose name will not be found in the LAMB’s Book of Life. All defiant sinners will be barred from entrance into the city of GOD.
All in all, it doesn’t really matter what we take away from this prophetic, mysterious account of the Apostle John’s revelation from CHRIST. And, in spite of what we think, its central focus will forever remain consistent as this book continues to pass down from generation to generation. The lingering message found within these pages, is one that is crystal clear despite its reputation of having enormous complexities. It simply serves to remind us that, in times of great conflict, GOD’s people must remain faithful, humble, and patient to the end.
The promise of victory through CHRIST, over the forces of the evil one, is something that is virtually assured. And to the unbeliever I have only this statement; “It is a life-changing thing, both, getting to know, and, becoming accustomed to practicing, the word of GOD. GOD’s word has already come, in fact, it has been with us since the beginning, and it simply cannot be, nor, will not be, disregarded. GOD’s word is synonymous with life, and therefore, it is effective and penetrating. It absolutely scrutinizes all of our thoughts, desires and intentions. All things lay naked before GOD, as HE simply sees all, hears all, and knows all that we do. And every one of us will have to make an account for the deeds done in our lifetime, and, whether or not we believe that HE exists, therefore, becomes totally irrelevant.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
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