To begin a discussion on values, a youth pastor asked the teens this question: “What would you do if your doctor told you, you had only twenty-four hours to live?” The teens’ responses were typically, “Be with friends and family.” But the discussion came undone when Jason, a thirteen-year-old, said, “I’d get a second opinion.”
Two years before his death, Mike Hanzas, who lived alone, began to prepare for his demise. He bought a lot in the cemetery. Weekly, he visited the site where his mortal remains would be buried. He planted grass there and mowed it regularly. On Memorial Day, he placed flowers on the gravesite, for he said, “I want to see flowers there now. I will not be able to see them when I am gone.”
A while later Mike went into a funeral home. “I want to buy the casket which will be my new home, “ he said. Whenever he passed the funeral home, he would go in. Standing beside the casket he would say, “That is where I am going to live someday!”
One day Mike invited a nephew and the rest of his family to come to see him. After a hearty meal, Mike began to give some canned goods and personal effects to his visitors. Then he handed his nephew his will. As he did this, he dropped dead of heart failure!
So far as we know, Mike Hanzas had made every provision for his body but none for his soul. In the midst of this meticulous preparation, he failed to reckon with the fact that God would someday say to him, “This night thy soul shall be required of thee.” God’s word says, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”
I. THE PHYSICAL PRESENCE OF GOD V. 3
In the Old Testament times, God’s dwelling place first was the tabernacle in the wilderness, and later the temple; and His presence was manifested by the Shekinah glory. In the coming of Christ, God took up His dwelling temporarily among us (John 1:14). During the church age, God now indwells His church, which is His temple (Eph. 2:22); but this is a dwelling in the Spirit, which can be understood only by faith, not by sight.
In the consummation, all this will change, faith will be changed to sight, and we who are believers will see His face (Rev. 22:4). The New Jerusalem is where God lives among His people. He comes down to be with us just as God became man in Christ and lived among us. Wherever God reigns, there is peace, security, and love. The physical presence of God in the New Jerusalem is a reality, which we cannot visualize; but direct, unmarred fellowship between God and His people is the goal of all redemption. This is further expressed by the phrase; “they shall be His people.” This is an echo of an OT idiom, “I shall be their God and they shall be My people,” which expresses God’s self-revelation and all of God’s dealings with His people. In the New Jerusalem, all the promises of God’s covenant with people, made first through Abraham, renewed through Moses, and embodied in Christ, are at last brought to full realization.
In the New Jerusalem, man will see God and live. Indeed, believers will live because we see God, for this holy fellowship is the fount of life for every believer. And all that Emmanuel connotes comes to perfect fulfillment during the consummation, because “God Himself will be with them.” Have you ever wondered what eternity will be like? “The holy city, New Jerusalem is described as the place where God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Just last year 2020, we witnessed the untimely death of thousands of people all over the world due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Like our community here in the United States, many homes are filled with tears, because of the death of loved ones.
II. THE COMFORT OF GOD V. 4
But a day is coming when God Himself will wipe away every tear from the eyes of Christians. Here in this life, we face the threat of death; we face sorrow, but one of these days, God will take His eternal handkerchief and wipe away the tears from the eyes of everyone who has believed in Christ His Son. In the life of a Christian, death is not a period but a comma. Death is a transition from this life to the very presence of the heavenly Father. In the New Jerusalem, there will be a sweet homecoming when God Himself will comfort those who have embraced His Son Jesus Christ.
This revelation meant the entire world to the apostle John because he lived in a day and time when it was a crime to be a Christian. It was a crime not because Christians were criminals, but because Christians would not trade their loyalty to Christ for Caesar. All of John’s contemporary apostles had been viciously killed. John himself had been banished to a little island called Patmos. To be sent to Patmos was a death sentence because this was a lonely place. In the midst of his loneliness, John receives this revelation from Jesus Christ that the battle has been won. Sin, Satan, and death have been defeated. Therefore, the death of a dearly beloved father, who is a Christian, is not a loss. Rather it is a coronation; it is to be in presence of the heavenly Father, who will one day wipe every tear away from the eyes of His children. Forevermore, there will be no death, mourning, crying, sorrow, or pain. What a wonderful truth! No matter what you are going through as a believer, it is not the last word—God has written the last chapter, and it is about true fulfillment and eternal joy for those who love Him. We do not know as much as we would like, but it is enough to know that eternity with God will be more wonderful than we could ever imagine.
Tears in this verse represent all human sorrow, tragedy, and evil. The most fearful cause of tears is the awful reality of dying as we have seen in the year 2020, but in the presence of God, death shall be no more. God will abolish death and Hades and throw them in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14). The triumph over death is not, however, an end itself; it is a blessing which flows from fellowship with God. Not only is death destroyed; there will be neither mourning, crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away. In the New Jerusalem, all the evils that have burdened and cursed human existence will flee from the presence of God. In the present life, you and I face hurts, pain, and suffering. Above all, we have to deal with the reality of death.
Since September 11, 2001, many men have become real. Before the tragedy of September 11, 2001, Hollywood had desensitized men from shedding tears. The society and Hollywood had painted the image of “a macho man.” Many people thought that it was a sign of weakness for men to weep or cry. The society and Hollywood said, only sissies’ weep, but real men don’t weep; big boys and real men don’t weep that was what they said. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a lie. Real men weep, because the Bible urges us to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. Besides, Jesus, a Man’s man wept at the tomb of His friend Lazarus. Ladies and gentlemen don’t ever believe the health and wealth gospel that some preach today. You know why? Because the only place where God banishes suffering, pain, sorrow, mourning, and death is in the New Jerusalem. But as we live in the present world of sin and evil, we shall always face pain, tears, and death, because we are not yet home. Instead of buying into the health and wealth gospel, learn how you can comfort others who are weeping today. It is okay to shed tears today because it shows that you are a normal person. Many men are becoming tender because they allow the tears to flow. I like the apostle Paul because he was transparent. He said that God comforts us so that we can also comfort others. In the New Jerusalem, God Himself will dry the tears from our eyes. Death, pain, tears, and anything that causes sorrow will be destroyed forever.
My concern now goes to you who do not know Christ. The promise of eternity with the LORD and the cessation of suffering and death belong to only those who have given their lives to Jesus Christ. The Bible on the other hand, paints an abysmal picture for those who die without Christ. God does not wipe away tears from the eyes of those who die without Christ. Rather, the Bible says they will face unending suffering in the lake of fire. I would like for you to trade place from hell to heaven, from agony to rest in the bosom of God the Father.
III. THE RECREATION OF GOD V. 5
God is the Creator. The Bible begins with the majestic story of His creation of the universe, and it concludes His creation of a new heaven and a new earth. Back of creation is the Creator, the one who makes all things new. This renovation has already been wrought in principle in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” This is a tremendous hope and encouragement for the believer. The process of renewal will include the physical world itself. God will redeem the physical world as well when He makes all things new. Salvation in the biblical sense is not only the salvation of the souls of men and women; it includes the redemption of the body and even of their physical environment.
The Holy One revealed this to John, and then instructed him to write the revelation. The revelation can be relied upon because it is trustworthy and true. What God revealed to John was not a dream. This revelation is not a make-up story. It is genuine revelation. It is credible. Many of us might be weeping today but remember that God is making all things new. Those of you who have lost believing parents, friends, and relatives, God is making all things new. In this present world and the world to come, Christians are not losers but winners. When you are with God, with your sins forgiven and your faith secure, you will be like Christ. You will receive a glorified body like Christ. We will live in a perfect environment where sin, suffering, sorrow, pain, and tears and anything that hurts will be destroyed. You and I will see the ultimate destruction of death. Today it seems that death has power, but in reality, Christ has broken the power of death. Death where then is your victory? Death has no victory over a believer in Christ. Blessed are those who die in Christ. The good news is that because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, there is hope beyond the grave for every believer in Christ.