HBC 2023 Family Service

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27 Aug 2023

HBC 2023 Family Service

Passage Revelation 21:1-11

Speaker Tom Wood

Service Morning Service (All Age)



We just sung: “My sin on Christ, he died for me: the guiltless judged, the guilty free.” But what about now? People still sin, the world is still messed up, and people still die. [Slide 1]I went onto the BBC World News website yesterday and found the following words in the top 5 headlines: lies, crash, dead, killed and destroying. The Bible says that Jesus has defeated sin and death, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. Will that ever change?

That’s exactly what today’s passage is all about. When Jesus comes back, God will bring in a new creation. God will bring in a new creation. Before we dive in, let me just talk a bit about picture language. This passage is full of word pictures. For example, God’s people are described as both a bride at a wedding and as a city. That sounds a bit strange if you were trying to imagine what that would look like. A new meaning for the word Bridezilla perhaps? And although this passage is describing what will happen in a real, physical place—God’s new creation—the words that are used are of word pictures, so if it all sounds a bit strange, don’t worry, I’ll try and explain as we go along. Children, if you were at Holiday Bible Club, see if you can spot bits that we’ve seen before during the week. Then you can help explain it to your families if they have questions afterwards.

I want you to imagine that King Charles[Slide 2] has phoned you up and asked you to solve the housing crisis by designing a brand new city. What would you put in it? Maybe some brilliant inventions. I asked my children and here are a few of their suggestions: [Slide 3] (i) a giant waterslide; [Slide 4] (ii) video games for free; [Slide 5] (iii) brightly coloured houses and (iv) a giant golden sign that says “Nathan’s City”. Bet you can’t guess who came up with that one. But equally important as what’s in the city is what’s not allowed in the city. My children came up with: no sludge machines and no power off buttons that parents can press.

Let’s see what our passage has to say about these things: [Slide 6] Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. What’s not in? No sea? What’s that about? Well, remember that this passage uses word pictures. In ancient times when this was written, the sea was a symbol of chaos and terror. [Slide 7] Even today, the most dangerous occupation in this country is being a fisherman: it’s six times more deadly than anything on land. So when God says there will be no sea in the new creation, it’s a picture of there being nothing chaotic and terrifying and scary. Nothing to ever have to worry about. That shouldn’t be surprising. As we were learning over the week, when Jesus was caught in a storm on a boat, he wasn’t worried. Because Jesus was able to quiet the storm with just a couple of words. Jesus is the one who has power over chaos and disorder and they won’t be in his new creation.

So what is in God’s new creation; have a look at v3: [Slide 8] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. Perfect relationship with God. That’s what’s in the new creation. Because the big question is not what’s in, but who’s in. God’s in. The one who created everything, the one who is only good all the time, the one who even when we sinned, sent his only Son to rescue us, the one who has defeated death. We don’t need to worry about what will be in, because God will be there and living with us. You can see how important it is for us to grasp it, because God tells us the same thing several times in different words here. God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. Before, sin had stopped us from living with God. Adam and Eve were banished from the garden of Eden. Even the temple, God’s house in Jerusalem, had a great thick curtain stopping people from seeing God. But when Jesus died on the cross, that curtain was ripped in two from top to bottom. There’s no more “keep out” sign when it comes to seeing God.

And look at what else is not in the new creation. [Slide 9] Verse 4: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Everything bad will be gone. Everything bad that has ever happened will be made better by God himself, personally. There will be no death and no mourning: Jesus defeated death. There will be no crying or pain. Of course there won’t be: Jesus defeated sin. The older you get, the more we have aches. Not just physical aches, but deep emotional aches, ones that make your heart sink even many years later. God will make them better. He will wipe every tear away.

How can that possibly happen? Well, the old order of things has passed away. And then, [Slide 10] the next verse: 5He who was seated on the throne said: “I am making everything new!” There’s someone in my home who likes watching George Clarke’s Old House New Home. [Slide 11] If you’ve not seen it, the idea is that this guy, George Clarke, goes around really quite old houses that don’t work for the modern day and gives people ideas for how to renovate them into something useful. And the results are very beautiful, mostly. But the new creation won’t be like that: God’s not tinkering with what’s there, God’s making everything new. And George Clarke’s renovations will eventually crumble, but God’s new creation won’t. This creation is ultimately cursed: we see it every day. But in the new creation, everything is new: that means no more sin and no more consequences of sin. Of course sin has to be out, because God cannot live with sin. But we’re sinful. And the passage is clear that if sin’s out, that means that those who are sinful are out: there’s that list in verse 8. We’re probably not worried about some of them, but all liars? Everyone has lied. And God makes it clear that there is no entry for those people. So how do we get into God’s new creation?

One of the most wonderful things in a passage full of wonderful things: entry to God’s new creation is completely free. Look at verse 6 with me, [Slide 12] God speaking: He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.’ Now, there are some pretty good things to do for free in Oxford. There are wonderful museums, picturesque colleges and streets. [Slide 13] And according to TripAdvisor, coming in at #15 in free tourist attractions is the Headington Shark. For some reason, they don’t include the defining feature of that house in the picture. It narrowly beat the Westgate Shopping Centre, although I think it’s a bit of a stretch to describe that as free. Well, it’s said that the best things in life are free, [Slide 14] although to get that printed on canvas will set you back £17.85 on Amazon. (You can return it for free of course). [Slide 15] Nothing beats God’s offer though: free water from the spring of life. It’s another word picture, which we thought about last Sunday if you were here: life from God is free. He sent Jesus and Jesus took away all of our sin when he died on the cross. All we have to do is receive the free gift. And it’s so good. Nothing beats this free offer and nothing will ever beat it. Free life from God and with God.

As we finish, you might be thinking what are we going to do in the God’s new creation? Our last two verses [Slide 16] give us another word picture: [The angel] carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. Here is a word picture of God’s people reflecting his glory, like a jewel reflects light. When God made the world he made us in his image to be like him. Sin spoiled it, but in the new creation, we will finally do that perfectly: shining with God’s glory. Perfectly like him and with him for ever. The best free offer you could ever have.