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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:God fulfils His covenant promises
Text:Revelation 21:2-4 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2013-03-05
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


The Fulfilment of God’s Promises

Ps. 145: 1, 5

Ps. 112: 1

Hymn 15: 3, 4

Ps. 65: 2, 3, 5, 6

Ps. 84: 1, 4

 

Scripture reading:       Rev. 21: 1 – 8

Text:                              Rev. 21: 2 – 4

 

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

Genesis tells us that God created heaven and earth.

Revelation describes the new heaven and earth.

 

Genesis describes a Paradise which was lost.

In Revelation we find Paradise restored.

 

Genesis tells us that the serpent was cursed by God.

In Revelation we see that ancient serpent, the devil, cast into the lake of fire.

 

In Genesis we see man excommunicated from the Garden.

In Revelation we see God making His dwelling with man, and His people dwelling with Him in the glory of His presence.

 

In Genesis man was no longer allowed to eat of the tree of life.   Revelation says:

 

“Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.”

 

Through the redeeming work of Christ men will again obey God’s commandments and eat of the tree of life.

 

Yes, in Genesis we see the beginning; in Revelation we see the end.  

It is not simply history running its course.   No, God directs and completes history according to His eternal counsel and according to His revealed Word.  

In Genesis we see the seed of the gospel; in Revelation we see its final fruit.

God fulfils His promises.

From the beginning to the end God remains unchanging and faithful.

  

It is now within this framework that we find in our text the final and glorious fulfilment of all God’s promises.  

The new heavens and the new earth was part of God’s covenant promise; the very same promise that He swore to Abraham when He said:  To you and to your descendants I give this land; all the land of Canaan.

That same promise is worked out further when the apostle Paul repeats it in his letter to the Ephesians, where he says:

 

“‘Honour your father and mother’, which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’” – Eph. 6: 3

 

There the borders of the Promised Land include the whole earth.  

It is the same promise to which the apostle Peter refers, saying:

 

“…we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” – 2 Peter 3: 13

 

The new heaven and the new earth, here in Revelation, do not appear as an addition which has been added to the gospel as an afterthought.   Instead, it is the fulfilment of prophecy.

 

The same applies to the new Jerusalem and the tabernacle of God.   It is the fulfilment of prophecy.    And so, from this text, I proclaim God’s Word to you with the theme:

God fulfils His covenant promises

 

We will note…

1.      The New Jerusalem

2.      The Tabernacle of God

3.      The eternal blessing without curse

In the first place we note…

The new Jerusalem

 

The new Jerusalem is the church in its final state of glory.

 

This new Jerusalem is something more glorious than the new heaven and earth.   Jerusalem does not simply find a place on the new earth; no, the new earth is created for the sake of Jerusalem.

 

Just as in Genesis.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.   That came first.   And then He prepared the earth as a dwelling place.   That was all good, but the crown and most important focus point of God’s creation was man – man in the image of God and in covenant communion with God.

 

We see the same here in Revelation.

We read first of the new heaven and earth.   That is prepared as a sanctified dwelling place.   But the focus does not fall on the new heaven and earth.   It is the new Jerusalem and God’s tabernacle in the midst of His people that stand central.  

This holy communion between God and His people is the very goal of our salvation.  It is the glory and the focus point of the whole gospel.

 

The new heaven and the new earth are wonderful, but now we turn to something that excels the glory of the new heaven and earth: the church, the bride of Christ, entering into marriage with her covenant God, and God making His tabernacle with her.

 

“…I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (verse 2).

 

Jerusalem.   We know much about her.  

There we find the throne of David, and the eternal King that has been promised (2 Sam. 7: 12, 13), who is called “the Son of David” (Mt. 1:1) who will sit on the throne of David forever (Isaiah 9: 6, 7; Luke 1: 31 – 33). 

There, in the holy city, we also find the temple.   God dwells in her midst.

 

It is the city of God – Ps. 48: 1

Jerusalem is beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth – Ps. 48: 2

It is the city of the great King – again Ps. 48: 2

God Himself dwells in her palaces – Ps. 48: 3

She is the city of the LORD of hosts; God will establish her forever – Ps. 48: 8

 

“The LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.   Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God!” – Ps. 87: 2

 

Jerusalem is the mother of all believers.  

 

“…of Zion it will be said, ‘This one and that one were born in her; and the Most High Himself shall establish her’.   The LORD will record, when He registers the peoples: this one was born there.’… All my fountains are in you.” – Ps. 87: 5 – 7

 

All believers are registered in the book of life, and their “place of birth” is Jerusalem.   That is true of all believers.   Believers from every tribe and nation – Rahab, Babylon, Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia – they are all born in Jerusalem.  

 

Jerusalem above is the mother of us all – Gal. 4: 26.

All believers are born and gathered and nurtured in her bosom.

 

In such prophetic language Jerusalem represents the church – the whole church of all times and places.

 

When the apostle John sees the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, then it is clear that Jerusalem represents the bride of Christ.

For, immediately it is added that the holy city, Jerusalem, was prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

 

Furthermore, the angel says to John:

 

            “…Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife” – verse 9.

 

And then the angel shows John “the bride, the Lamb’s wife”:

 

“…the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God” – verse 10

 

It is clear then that the holy city Jerusalem that descends from heaven, and the bride of Christ, is the same.

 

Jerusalem is called new in the same way that the heavens and the earth are called new.   It is not altogether a different Jerusalem.   It is still the same church of all ages, but the church is called new, because it will be completely restored and sanctified in perfection and glory.

 

We also note that she will be “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband”.

Our text is indeed speaking of marriage: the marriage of Christ and His bride.  

The marriage itself is described in the following verse, verse 3, where we read:

 

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.   God Himself will be with them and be their God.”

 

God will marry His people.   He will dwell with her and she with Him.  

That is why the church is here called the bride and the wife of the Lamb.

 

It is not a new theme that suddenly pops up.  It is the fulfilment of prophecy.   It is the fulfilment of God’s covenant promise.   It is the day in which the marriage covenant between God and His people will find its full realisation in unspeakable glory.

 

In chapter 19 we read:

 

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.   And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.   Then He said to me, ‘Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!...” – chapter 19: 7 – 9.

 

There it is clear that the bride, the church, has made herself ready for the wedding day.   And it is that wedding day that is now portrayed in our text.   We see the church, adorned with holiness and righteousness, united with God.

 

Her jewellery and adornment is holiness.   The fine linen clean and bright is the righteous acts of the saints.   These wedding clothes were given to her, and she has clothed herself with it.

 

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with jewels.” – Isaiah 61: 10

 

Brothers and sisters, the garment of salvation, the robe of righteousness, is given to us. 

We are clothed with the righteousness of Christ.   That is our wedding dress.   His holiness and righteousness are the jewels and the clothes with which we adorn ourselves.  

At the same time we see that this wedding dress is not only the imputed righteousness of Christ; the garment of salvation includes our sanctification.   The fine linen, clean and bright, is the righteous acts of the saints.   We are not only justified in Christ, but also sanctified by Him.   We do not only receive the wedding dress, but we are also putting it on.

 

Christ adorns His bride with His righteousness, but she also eagerly adorns herself with that same righteousness that has been given to her.  

Yes, the church adorns herself with the clothes of holiness and righteousness.  

That is how she prepares herself for the wedding.

 

Furthermore, the fact that this holy city, New Jerusalem, comes down out of heaven from God, makes clear that this city, the church, was built by God and not by man.

 

God is her builder and maker – Hebr. 11: 10.

 

Now that she appears in glory, now that her preparation is finish, now that she appears as a bride on her wedding day, the wedding is sure to follow.

 

We note that in the second place…

The tabernacle of God is with men

 

The tabernacle which Moses had to make according to God’s instructions was a copy of the true tabernacle in heaven – we read that for example in Hebr. 9: 24.

God’s tabernacle is in heaven.

 

The tabernacle on earth was a picture of God’s tabernacle in heaven.  

Now, the focus point of the whole tabernacle was the holy of holies, symbolising God’s most holy presence.   But in order for man to enter His most holy presence, atonement had to be made.  

Therefore, on the Day of Atonement the blood of atonement had to be carried by the High Priest into the Most Holy Place to make atonement for the people in order that the people may live in the presence of God and He may dwell with them.   But of course that was only a shadow, only a picture, of the true atonement of Christ.

 

When Christ died on the cross the veil tore from top to bottom.   By His death on the cross, by His atonement for our sins, we may now freely enter the most holy presence of God.  

 

You see then how God’s tabernacle on earth was a picture of the whole gospel.   It symbolised His dwelling in the midst of His people.   But how could a holy God dwell in the midst of a sinful people?   How could the light of His glory shine in the Holy of Holies, there in the tabernacle in the midst of Israel, without consuming them?  

That was only possible because of the one sacrifice of our true High Priest that would come, Jesus Christ, who has entered the heavenly tabernacle with His own blood, there to intercede for us in the most holy presence of God.

 

“Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.   Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” – Hebr. 9: 11, 12

 

Dear congregation, Christ, our High Priest, is at this moment seated at God’s right hand, seated on His throne in the Most Holy Place of heaven; that is: in the most holy presence of God.   He is seated there as our King and High Priest.  

There is His throne.  There is the mercy seat.   That is God’s true tabernacle.  There is our High Priest interceding for us.   There is the Most Holy Place filled with the glory of God.

 

But now the apostle John sees something new.   He says that that heavenly tabernacle of God is no longer in heaven!   It is on earth!

Heaven descends on earth!  

The tabernacle of God is with men.  

 

The glory of this plain announcement is beyond our comprehension.   It is the fullness of splendour and riches and glory.   It is the fullness of salvation and life: God with us.

 

“…Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.   God Himself will be with them and be their God.”

 

Brothers and sisters, God’s glory will not only be found in a certain place on earth.   The whole earth will be filled with His glory.   God’s glory which once filled the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle behind the veil, yes, that same divine glory, will fill the whole earth.

 

Again, it will be the fulfilment of prophecy.   The glory of the LORD, and the knowledge of His glory, will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea, as the prophets have spoken (Numbers 14: 21; Isaiah 6: 3; 11: 9; Hab. 2: 14, etc.).

 

Moreover, God will not only make His dwelling in our midst; He will also dwell in us.  

God now already dwells in His church, but then His indwelling will be full and complete.  

As His glory once filled the tabernacle of old, and as His glory dwelt there in the Most Holy Place, so He will dwell in us, and make His whole church a Holy of Holies.

He will be with us, one with us, and in us.  

 

It is the gospel of Immanuel.   It will be the marriage of Christ and His bride.   Christ became one with us, and we will become one with Him.   Our covenant communion with God will be most intimate and complete and everlasting.   Here is a marriage that will last forever.   Here we see the gospel unveiled in all its splendour and glory.

 

This gospel has been proclaimed from the very start of history.   We find its first traces already in the Garden of Eden.   But as we turn through the pages of holy Scripture the picture becomes brighter and brighter.

 

I will only remind you of a few passages.

 

“I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you.   I will walk among you and be Your God, and you shall be My people” – Lev. 26: 11, 12.

 

“…I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them…I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore.   My tabernacle shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people” – Ezekiel 37: 26, 27.

 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and tabernacled amongst us, and we beheld His glory…” – John 1: 1, 14.

 

Here in our text we see the final fulfilment of this gospel.   His church becomes His sanctuary filled with the fullness of His glory.  

 

Congregation, this gospel comes to us in the heat of a fierce struggle.  

The whole book, Revelation, gives us a lively picture of the struggle that is now being fought both in the spiritual world and on this earth.   We are in the midst of it.   We see the church sorely oppressed and afflicted and persecuted throughout all of church history.

Moreover, each one of us is also personally involved in this fierce struggle.  

 

Therefore this prophecy comes to us like soothing oil on wounds.   Christ comforts His afflicted church, saying:  

 

“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.   I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes out of heaven from My God…” – Rev. 3: 12.

 

This promise is not given to men who think that they have arrived.   It is not given to a proud and mighty church.   God proclaims this promise to a small and miserable little church, to men and women who are despised in this world and afflicted, and He assures us that in the glory of His presence all our tears will be wiped away.  

 

We note that in the third place…

The eternal blessing without curse

 

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.   There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

 

Because of the atonement and redemption and sanctification of Christ there will be no more sin.   And where there is no sin or guilt, there is also no curse, no death, no pain or sorrow.

The earth will no longer produce thorns and thistles.   There will be no curse on the new earth where righteousness dwells.  

Instead, there will be only blessing and peace.   The “shalom” of God will be complete, and His glory will fill the earth.

And God Himself will comfort us.

 

“…the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads.   They shall obtain joy and gladness; sorrow and sighing shall flee away” – Isaiah 35: 10 (compare also 51: 11).

 

“Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.   Be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.   I will rejoice in Jerusalem and joy in My people; the voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying” – Isaiah 65: 17 – 19.

 

Jerusalem will be comforted.   Her sorrow and pain flees away.   And she shall dwell with her God in the light of His glory forevermore.

 

Dear congregation, in the words of the apostle Peter: God has given us “exceedingly great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1: 4).

May God open our minds and hearts to see it!

 

God will make us, His church, His eternal tabernacle and fill us with His glory.

 

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people…”.

 

God Himself will be with us and be our God.

In the midst of all our present sufferings and trials, let us take courage, for yet a little while and we shall not only see the new heaven and earth, but enjoy the perfect holiness and happiness of that new creation, and of that eternal marriage with the Son of God when He will make His tabernacle with us – with His church and in His church.

It is firm and sure, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.   Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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