Revelation 21 – Part 3

“And 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.” Revelation 21:4

After the apostle John watched the New Jerusalem descend out of heaven from God to the new earth in this new vision about heaven (21:2), he hears the last of twenty times the phrase, “a loud voice,” is used in the book of Revelation, signifying a very important announcement. 1 “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘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.’” (Revelation 21:3). This loud voice most likely belonging to an angel, proclaims, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people” (21:3a). The word “tabernacle” (skēnē) refers to a “transcendent celestial tent.” 2 The verb form of this word is also in this verse, and it is translated “will dwell” (skēnōsei) and means to “set up His tent” 3 or “take up residence” 4 with them.

In this final stage of heaven, believers “will enjoy a new intimacy with God which is impossible in a world where sin and death are still present.” 5 God will finally “tabernacle” or dwell among His cleansed and forgiven people, and they will experience perfect fellowship with Him on the new earth.

“This fellowship existed, to some extent, when God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and when He dwelt among the Israelites in the tabernacle and later in the temple, hence the reference to ‘the tabernacle’ (cf. 13:6; 15:5). It also existed partially when Jesus Christ ‘tabernacled’ among people (John 1:14). It exists today as God inhabits the bodies of Christians individually (I Corinthians 6:19-20) and the church corporately (Ephesians 2:21-22).” 6

God’s “tent” or presence will be among humankind: “God Himself will be with them and be their God” (21:3b). At His first coming, Jesus Christ “dwelt” (eskēnōsen) among humankind, but He was rejected by them (John 1:10-11). In the New Jerusalem on the new earth, Christ will dwell with humanity in perfect harmony forever. 7 Unlike the temporary tabernacle in the Old Testament, the presence of God among humankind on the new earth will be permanent (Revelation 22:5). 8

Heaven is where God lives. So, in the final stage of heaven, there will no longer be a separation between heaven and earth because God will dwell on the new earth with His redeemed people forever (Revelation 21:1-3). Thus, heaven and the new earth will essentially be the same place. 9

God’s glorious presence on the new earth will introduce many wonderful changes. “And 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.” (Revelation 21:4). This one verse reveals several things you will not find in this final stage of heaven:

  • “wipe away ever tear from their eyes.” There will be no more broken hearts … rejection… loneliness… grief. No more heartache. That is heaven. God will wipe away every tear from your eyes. You will not have sadness or grief again. There will be no disappointing memories. Those will either be erased, or we will look at them from God’s perspective and no long experience sadness. Those of you who are grieving the loss of a loved one or maybe you have been going through a period of depression, one of the things that does in our lives is it just makes heaven seem a little bit closer. We want to go to heaven when we are in pain. Why? Because there is none there.
  • “there shall be no more death.” There will be no funerals or cemeteries in heaven. Why? Because in this final stage of heaven on the new earth no one ever dies. You won’t ever have to be concerned about losing a loved one because death will be gone forever!
  • “there shall be no more pain.” In heaven, there will be no more bad hair days ladies and gentlemen. Everything about us will be perfect. This will be a glorious time. We will have glorified bodies. There will be no eyeglasses, no braces, no wheelchairs, no hearing aids, and no crutches. There will be no more hospitals, no ambulances, no CPR. COVID-19 will not exist, aspirin will be gone, accidents over, heart attacks banished, AIDS a distant memory, cancer done away with. No more chronic pain forever!

All the pain and suffering we face now will be forever gone! Why? “For the former things have passed away” (21:4b). Anything associated with the fallen world will “have passed away,” never to return. The sin that caused tears, pain, and death will be forever removed! We can enjoy uninterrupted fellowship with God and with His people. All of creation eagerly awaits this new earth (Romans 8:20-23).

“How different is this concept of heaven from that of Hinduism, for example? Here heaven is depicted as a city, with life, activity, interest, and people, as opposed to the Hindu ideal of heaven as a sea into which human life returns like a raindrop to the ocean.” 10

It is important to observe that the complete removal of pain and sadness takes place long after the Judgment Seat of Christ which occurs in heaven during the seven-year Tribulation period (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3). 11 It is at the Judgment Seat of Christ that some Christians will suffer the loss of rewards (I Corinthians 3:15; 2 Corinthians 5:10), which will include shame (I John 2:28) and a deep sense of regret (Matthew 8:12; 24:48-51; 25:24-30; Luke 19:20-26). 12 At the most, this painful loss of reward will not last beyond the Millennial Kingdom since the permanent removal of pain and sadness takes place when the New Jerusalem rests upon the new earth (Revelation 21:1-4). It is conceivable that this painful sense of loss will take place only at the Judgment Seat of Christ and not beyond that. However, one cannot be dogmatic about the length of time this sense of loss will last.

This new, joyful experience on the new earth is made possible because of Jesus Christ. “Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’” (Revelation 21:5). Jesus is portrayed as the One “who sat on the throne.” He is presented as the Judge in the book of Revelation. He is the Judge Who walks among the seven lampstands (Revelation 1); He judges the seven churches (Revelation 2-3); He judges rebellious humankind (Revelation 4-19), and He judges nonbelievers (Revelation 20). 13

Now the apostle John hears the Lord Jesus Christ, proclaim, “Behold, I make all things new.” Following His many judgments, King Jesus, announces that He is making “all things new.” This is a summary of the entire vision that the apostle John receives. It is the climax of the entire book of Revelation.

“Think about it. No more terminal diseases, hospitals, wheelchairs, or funerals. No more courts or prison. No more divorces, breakdowns, or breakups. No more heart attacks, strokes, or debilitating illnesses. No more therapists, medications, or surgeries. No famines, plagues, or devastating disasters. He is making all things new!” 14

The Lord Jesus says to John, “Write, for these words are true and faithful” (21:5b).  Christ instructs John to “write” about all these new things: new heavens [universe], new earth, and a new capital city, the New Jerusalem. Since Jesus’ promise to “make all things new” may seem too good to be true or believed, He says to John, “for these words are true and faithful.” Christ’s promise can be believed and trusted because it comes from Someone who is “true” and never misleads or tells a lie (Titus 1:2). It is spoken by Him Who is always “faithful” to keep His promises (2 Timothy 2:13).

Heaven is going to be an incredible place! God loves you so much that He wants you to live with Him there for eternity. To do so, you must receive His free gift of eternal life. Why? Because the Bible says we are born with sinful hearts – “Surely, I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5). From the moment of conception, we possess a sinful nature that causes us to break God’s rules. Because all of us have sinned (Romans 3:23), we deserve to be separated from God forever in the lake of fire (Romans 6:23a; Revelation 20:15).

But God’s love for those who don’t possess eternal life is so great that in the final two chapters of the Bible He offers eternal life (“the water of life”) as a free gift (Revelation 21:6; 22:17). “The water of life” is eternal life and Jesus offers it “freely” to those who believe in Him. You don’t work for eternal life because it has already been paid for when Jesus died on the Cross for our sins and rose from the dead.  Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47).

What is Jesus asking you to do that is hard for you to trust Him with? Is He asking you to trust Him for eternal life, but it’s hard for you to let go of your works and trust Him alone? It is so simple that children get it and adults miss it. None of us are promised tomorrow. If you were to drop dead in the next minute, are you absolutely certain you are going to heaven? If you are not, you can make sure right now. Why would anybody put it off? You need to settle this issue right now and you need to put your trust in Jesus for eternal life.

When you trust Him, He gives you everlasting life (John 6:47), He forgives all your sins (Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14), He places you in God’s family forever (John 1:12; 6:37), and He comes to live inside you through His Holy Spirit (John 7:39a; Galatians 4:6). He guarantees that you will live with Him forever in His heaven when you die or are removed from the earth through the Rapture of the Church, whichever occurs first (John 3:16; I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11; I John 5:13).

If you just believed or trusted in Jesus alone for His gift of everlasting life, you can tell Jesus this through prayer. But praying this prayer is not what gets you to heaven. Only believing or trusting in Christ alone gets you to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now trusting in His Son.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I come to you now as a sinner who cannot save him or herself. I believe You died in my place on the cross for all my sins and rose from the dead. I am now trusting in You alone, Jesus (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion) to give me everlasting life and a future home in Your heaven. Thank You Jesus, for the everlasting life I now have and the future home I will have in heaven. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

When you believed in Jesus, He gave you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). He forgave all your sins (Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14) and placed you in His family forever (John 1:12; 6:37). Christ’s Spirit now lives inside you to comfort, guide, and teach you how to follow Jesus as you read and apply the Bible (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus, please download our free digital Pressing on materials to go through with those you love.

If you found this article to be helpful, please share it with those you want to see in heaven. Thank you and may Jesus reveal more of Himself to you as you learn to follow Him.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 236; John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 6537.

2. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 928.

3. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1583.

4. Bauer, pg. 929.

5. Walvoord, location 6357.

6. Constable, pg. 236.

7. Vacendak, pg. 1583.

8. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 373.

9. Randy Alcorn, Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004 Kindle Edition), pp. 80-81.

10. Constable, pg. 237 cites Alan Johnson, “Revelation,” in Hebrews-Revelation, Vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), pg.  593.

11. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1147.

12. Constable, pg. 237.

13. Vacendak, pg. 1583.

14. Swindoll, pg. 375.

Revelation 21 – Part 2

“Then I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Revelation 21:2

After the apostle John begins to receive a new vision of what heaven will be like (21:1), he sees a specific feature of “the new heaven and new earth.” John then sees “the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (21:2a). The “New Jerusalem” is called “the holy city” in contrast with the earthly Jerusalem that existed as the capital city of the Millennial Kingdom of Christ. 1 That earthly Jerusalem will be destroyed at the end of the Millennium when the old heaven and earth are destroyed by fire (21:1b; cf. 2 Peter 3:10-13).

“A holy city will be one in which no lie will be uttered in one hundred million years, no evil word will ever be spoken, no shady business deal will ever even be discussed, no unclean picture will ever be seen, no corruption of life will ever be manifested.” 2

When God creates “the new heaven and earth” (21:1) He will send the “New Jerusalem… down out of heaven from God” to the new earth (21:2a). The fact that this city is mentioned in conjunction with the new earth, and it has huge foundation stones (21:14) implies that it will rest on the new earth. 3 Just as the earthly Jerusalem was Christ’s capital city of the Millennial Kingdom, so the “New Jerusalem” will be Jesus’ capital city of the new earth. 4 Jesus has already mentioned this new city when He said, He who overcomes… I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God.” (Revelation 3:12).

“Since God had promised His people that He would give them the land of Israel forever (cf. Genesis 13:15; Joshua 14:19; I Chronicles 28:8; 2 Chronicles 20:7; Ezra 9:12; Psalm 37:29; Jeremiah 7:7; 25:5; Isaiah 60:21; Ezekiel 37:25), it is not surprising that along with the new heaven and new earth John now sees the” 5 “New Jerusalem” descending down to the new earth. John refers to this city as “coming down out of heaven from God” not because it will be suspended above the new earth forever as a satellite city, but to demonstrate the truth that this city’s “builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10; cf. 12:22). 6 This city was not constructed by human hands but by God Himself.

John describes the New Jerusalem as a city prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (21:2b). The word “prepared” (hetoimázō) is the same word Jesus used in John 14:2-3 when He said to His disciples, 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare [hetoimázō] a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare [hetoimázō] a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:2-3). In Revelation 21:2, the word “prepared” (hētoimasmenēn)is in the perfect tense, meaning that Christ has been preparing this city for believers since He ascended to heaven after His death and resurrection, and He continues to prepare this place to the present. For centuries the Lord Jesus has been preparing this incredible place for His “bride” to be inhabited by His church consisting of Jewish and Gentile believers from the church age (21:2b; cf. 2 Corinthians 11:2: Ephesians 5:27). This magnificent city has been “adorned” (kosméō)or “made to have an attractive appearance through decoration”7 “for her husband,” King Jesus (21:2b; cf. Revelation 19:7-9).

God created the earth in six days (Genesis 1:1-31), but Jesus has been preparing our place in heaven for almost two thousand years. Remember, Jesus was the Son of a carpenter (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3) – so heaven is going to be a fantastic place – a real place. We will look at the specifics of this wonderful place later in our study of the book of Revelation.

Currently the New Jerusalem is being prepared by Christ in the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2) where God dwells with the immaterial parts (soul and spirit) of all believers in Jesus who have died 8 (John 14:2-3; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23). When Jesus refers to this city as a prepared “place” (topos) in John 14:2-3, that Greek word specifically refers to a “locatable place.” 9 This assures us that heaven is a real, physical place.

But where exactly is heaven located now? We do not know the exact physical location of heaven right now, but we know that it is “up” since the Bible tells us at the ascension of Jesus that the angels of God told the watching followers of Christ, This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11). Ephesians 4:10 also says, “He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens.” When Paul writes that Jesus “ascended far above all the heavens,” he is including the first heaven which includes the atmosphere surrounding the earth where we see the domain of the clouds and birds (Genesis 1:6-8, 20; Isaiah 55:9-10). This also includes the second heaven which consists of the domain of the sun, moon, stars, planets, and galaxies (Genesis 1:14-17). 10 So, we know that heaven is up above us.

The apostle Paul spoke of being “caught up to the third heaven” which he also referred to as “Paradise” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4), which is beyond the first and second heavens and is the current dwelling place of God 11 where believers in Jesus go when they die (cf. Revelation 4:1-4; Acts 7:55-56, 59; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23). So even though we don’t know the specific location of heaven, we do know that it is a real physical place that Jesus is preparing for those who believe in Him (John 14:1-3). Christ will take believers there with either an angelic escort when we die (Luke 16:22a) or while we are still alive at the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth prior to the seven-year Tribulation period (I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 4:1-4).

Are you prepared to enter Jesus’ heaven? If you don’t know for sure you will go to God’s heaven in the future, you can know for sure right now. It is important to understand our need to prepare to go to heaven. The Bible tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Does that include you and me? Yes, it includes all people. God demands complete perfection. But as sinners we have fallen short of that standard. All of us have sinned against God and deserve to be separated from Him forever (Romans 6:23a; Revelation 20:15).

To deal with our problem, God provided a Substitute. That Substitute was Jesus Christ who was one hundred percent perfect because He is God (John 1:1; I John 5:20). He had to take our punishment because one sinner cannot die for another. God allowed His only perfect Son to die in our place. The Bible says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).

Years ago, a little girl was playing near a rock in her backyard. Underneath that rock was a rattlesnake. As she was playing, the snake lurched out and bit her in the leg. She fell to the ground dying. Her brother was standing a short distance away and saw what had happened. As soon as he saw her fall, he rushed over, and he sucked the venom from her leg. He didn’t know that there was an infection inside his mouth. The venom entered the infected area and in moments he died. He died, but his sister lived. Out of love for his sister, he took what would have caused her death and took it upon himself.

Because of the even greater love Jesus Christ has for us, He entered this world and took the sins that should have caused our death and placed them upon Himself. He became our Substitute. Because Jesus died, we can live forever.

Christ paid our sin debt in full (John 19:30). There is nothing left for you to pay. God can now offer eternal life freely – as a gift. That is why we are told, “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). Gifts though, must be received and there is only one way to receive this gift. The hand that receives this gift is faith. Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). To believe means to be persuaded that Jesus is speaking the truth and is therefore trustworthy. And then believing or trusting in Him alone to give us everlasting life as a gift so we can live with Him forever in His heaven.

If you have never received Christ’s free gift of eternal life, why not do so now? Simply take Jesus at His word when He says, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life,” and you will spend eternity in heaven with Jesus and all those who have believed in Him for eternal life. Here is how you can tell God in a simple prayer what you have just done.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I come to You now as a sinner. Nothing I am or do makes me deserve heaven. I now understand that You took my punishment when You died on the cross and rose again. I am now believing or trusting in You alone Jesus (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion), to give me everlasting life and a future home in Your heaven. Thank You for the gift of eternal life I just received and for the future home I will have in Your heaven. Please use me now to tell others how they can know for sure they will live with You forever. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 6517.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 234 cites Wilbur M. Smith, “Revelation.” In The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Edited by Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), pg. 1522.

3. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 454.

4. Constable, pp. 234-235.

5. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg.1582.

6. Ibid., pg. 1583.

7. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 560.

8. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2420.

9. David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2015 Kindle Edition), pg. 14; cf. Bauer, pg. 1101.

10. Jeremiah, pp. 16-17.

11. Ibid., pg. 17.

Revelation 2 – Part 1

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7

John now records “the things which are” (1:19b), consisting of the exalted Lord Jesus’ messages to the seven historical churches in Asia Minor in the first century (Revelation 2-3). Jesus gives these seven local churches warnings and encouragements that are as applicable today as they were in the first century. 1

There has been substantial debate about the meaning of “overcomers” in the book of Revelation. Two major interpretations are at the core of this debate. The perseverance understanding holds that all genuine Christians are overcomers. 2 This view argues that every believer is an overcomer (I John 5:4-5) who inherits eternal bliss (Revelation 21:7) and, therefore, proves his salvation with his works (Revelation 2:26). According to this position all true Christians will persevere in good works to the end of their lives.

The second interpretation understands the “overcomer” to be an obedient Christian who receives rewards for his faithfulness to God. 3 This view understands I John 5:4-5 to be true for all Christians. There is a sense in which all Christians are overcomers when they believe in Christ for new birth. This single act of faith at the moment of salvation is “the victory that has overcome the world” which is antagonistic toward this saving act of faith (I John 5:4b) and is satanically blinded to the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). But this interpretation understands that I John’s statements about overcomers is not the same as Revelation’s statements about overcomers as we shall now observe.

The word “overcome” comes from the Greek word nikaō which means to “be victor, conquer, overcome, prevail.” 4 John uses this word in Revelation to refer to victorious Christians who persevere in a life of faith.

It is important to understand that Revelation 2-3 is addressing Christians because the term “church” refers to believers. 5 The issue is not salvation, but discipleship or Christian growth because the focus is on persevering in works (Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15), and not a single act of faith for salvation from hell (cf. John 4:14; 5:24; 6:35, 37-39; 10:28-29; I John 5:1-5, 13). For example, access to the “tree of life” (Revelation 2:7) is not based on a single act of faith in Christ (I John 5:1, 4-5), but upon obedience to Christ’s commands (Revelation 22:14). Revelation is talking about Christians being overcomers through obedience to Christ until the end of their lives so they can gain eternal rewards such as eating from the tree of life or ruling with Christ (cf. Revelation 2:8, 26-27; 3:21; 22:14).

Also, in Revelation there is the call to hear (Revelation 2:7a; cf. 2:10, 17, 29: 3:6, 13, 22). Only those Christians who hear the call and appropriate the promise will be able to live a victorious life for Christ. Jesus is addressing the whole “church” consisting of believers in the letter (Revelation 2:1; cf. 2:8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14), but the call is to the one “who has an ear” and to the one “who overcomes.”

With this understanding, let’s look at the first church Jesus addresses. “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.” (Revelation 2:1). Ephesus was the ‘New York City’ of the first century. Located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, it was a leading center of Greek culture as well as idol worship. Being a city of wealth and commerce, it contained the amazingly ornate temple of the goddess Diana (cf. Acts 19), one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was also a city that had been effectively evangelized by Paul over the course of several years (cf. Acts 19:10, 20) and had become a gathering place of believers earnestly devoted to the Lord and His work. Unfortunately, over time these dedicated believers ‘left their first love.’ Therefore, with great concern the Lord speaks lovingly yet directly to His Bride in Ephesus to woo her back to her original devotion and zeal.” 6

Jesus describes Himself as the One “who holds [authoritatively with power] the seven stars [angels of the churches] in His right hand” and “walks in the midst of the seven lampstands [churches]in that He is involved in these local churches (2:1). Jesus was active among local churches in the first century and He remains active in churches today. Christ knows what is going on in our churches and He first offers encouragement.

2 I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.” (Revelation 2:2-3). Christ commends this church for their hard work, perseverance (“patience”), and discernment of false teaching and teachers (2:2-3). “They tested everything by the Scriptures and rightly found that some so-called apostles did not teach pure doctrine.” 7 “In general this church had continued in its faithful service to God for more than 40 years.” 8

Next, Christ Jesus rebukes this church. “Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Revelation 2:4). The order of words is emphatic in the original language; the clause could be translated, “Your first love you have left” (τὴν ἀγάπην σου τὴν πρώτην ἀφῆκας). 9

While this church had excelled in their service for Christ and their orthodoxy, they had left their “first love.” This refers to their original love and devotion to Jesus. They were doing the right things now, but not with the same love and devotion they had in the beginning.

“They had correct doctrine, but not a correct heart. The key word here is first, not love. As with romantic love between a man and a woman, first love always involves passion. Yet there was not passionate pursuit of an intimate relationship with Christ in the church. They were merely following a program. Duty had replaced devotion.” 10

This can happen to any church or individual Christian. We start out passionate in our love for Jesus considering all He did for us in saving us from our sins. But as the years pass by, we can easily shift from passionate love for our Savior to more of a program mentality whereby we function out of duty instead of devotion to Christ. We go through the motions, but our heart is not connecting to the Lord like it was in the beginning of our Christian lives. We can become so familiar with the teachings of the Bible that we become less sensitive to what God is saying to us. Familiarity can produce apathy in our Christian lives.

How can we regain our first love for Jesus? How can we restore that original devotion and passion we had for our Savior? The Lord gives us three commands in this one verse: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:5).

REMEMBER. We can regain our first love for Jesus if we “remember” our original love and devotion for Him. Think back to what it was like when you first became a Christian. Remember how the Bible came alive for you? It was so new and life-giving. The beauty of Jesus’ love and grace for us captured our hearts. Talking to the Lord was such a joy. It is important to remember those early days in our Christian life to rekindle that original love for Christ.

– REPENT. The word “repent” (metanoeō) means a “change of mind.” Jesus was calling the church to change their thinking about their love for Him. Jesus was not a program; He was a Person Who loved them infinitely. As their thinking about Christ changed, so would their affections. The more they could see Jesus as Someone Who loved them and enjoyed their presence, the more passion they would have about connecting with Him and serving Him. The same is true for us today.

– RETURN. Jesus was also inviting them to return to “the first works” that increased their love for Him. As a new believer in college, I remember memorizing the book of I John. I worked at the University of Iowa Hospital until 11 pm at night, so when I walked home it was very dark outside. I would recite my I John verses aloud as I walked home. Those were some of the most intimate times I ever had with the Lord Jesus. God is inviting His church to return to those works we did early in our relationship with Christ that brought us closer to Him.

Should the church at Ephesus (or any church) refuse to “repent,” the Lord would “remove” their “lampstand” or witness and close their doors which eventually happened in the fifth century. 11 In fact none of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 exist today because each one failed to maintain a repentant attitude toward the Lord. Such will be the fate of any church whose activity is about them rather than about the Lord Jesus. Failure to prioritize intimacy with God will result in the removal of one’s influence for Christ. As one commentator notes, The church that loses its love will soon lose its light, no matter how doctrinally sound it may be.” 12

Following this warning, the Lord Jesus added one more commendation. “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” (Revelation 2:6). The Greek word for Nicolaitans means “to conquer the people.” 13 Little is known of the Nicolaitans, but their name typifies any system that focuses on dominating people rather than serving them. 14

Jesus then says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7). Jesus is addressing the whole Ephesus church consisting of believers (Revelation 2:1), but the call is to the one “who has an ear” and to the one “who overcomes.” Only those Christians who hear the call and appropriate the promise will be able to live a victorious life for Christ till the end of their lives on earth and receive Christ’s promised reward.

Thus, the overcomers spoken of here in chaps. 2–3 are those people who not only believe in Christ for eternal life, but also walk in godliness (cf. 2 Peter 1:5-11) and remain faithful to Him until the end of their lives (cf. Matthew 25:20-21; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:26).” 15

Jesus promises to reward the overcomer for his or her faithfulness by giving them the privilege “to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” “There is a connection between the ‘tree of life’ and man’s rule over the earth. Adam in his unfallen state had access to this ‘tree,’ but when he fell, God kept him from it (Genesis 1:26-28; 3:22).” 16 The tree of life will be “in the midst of the Paradise of God” in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:2, 14).

This reward is reminiscent of the original paradise in Genesis 1– 2 where Adam and Eve were allowed to eat from any tree in the Garden, including the tree of life. At the end of the Book of Revelation, the tree of life is described as bearing twelve kinds of fruit, one for each month, with leaves that bring healing to the nations (22:2). Not everyone has the right to eat from the tree of life (22:14). A person can forfeit the right to eat from the tree by adding to or taking away from the words of Revelation (22:19). Aside from this, little is known about the tree of life, but its vagueness makes this reward even more tantalizing and motivating.” 17

People love to eat! I enjoy eating food every chance I get! The Lord Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what will motivate us to live faithfully for Him till the end of our Christian lives on earth. Christ promises the faithful believer access to “the tree of life” in the New Jerusalem in the future (Revelation 2:7; cf. 22:2, 14). Eating the fruit from the tree of life may give faithful believers the resources to rule more effectively on the new earth (Revelation 2:25-27).

Imagine standing before the Judgment Seat of Christ to receive your rewards from King Jesus (Romans 14:10-12; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10). He tells you that because you were not faithful to Him till the end of your Christian life, you will forfeit certain rewards which include ruling with Him and eating from the tree of life (cf. Revelation 2:7, 25-27; 3:21; 22:2, 14). Think of the regret, sadness, or shame you will have at this time (cf. Matthew 25:18-19, 22-30; Luke 19:15, 20-26; I John 2:28). If only you had remained faithful to Christ, such rewards could have been yours.

Now fast forward to the New Jerusalem on the New Earth (Revelation 21-22). You are sitting at a table in the New Jerusalem with your friends or family, and one of them receives a call from the office of King Jesus, informing them that they have a special meeting with the King in an hour. At this meeting, fruit from the tree of life will be served for all to enjoy who are invited to this gathering. Because you were not faithful to Jesus till the end of your Christian life, you will not receive such a call nor have access to this special fruit.

Even though there “shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying…” and “no more pain” on the New Earth (Revelation 21:4), you will not be able to experience as much closeness and enjoyment with King Jesus as those who were faithful to Him to the very end. Only those believers who hear the call and appropriate the promise (“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says”) will be able to live a victorious life for Christ (Revelation 2:7). All believers will be in heaven, but not all believers will experience the same degree of rewards in heaven. Specifically for the church at Ephesus and those like it, those who do not lose passion for Christ in this life will experience a special place of intimacy with the Lord” 18 in heaven. Knowing this now is intended to motivate us to live faithfully for Christ with an undying love and devotion for Him.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as we listened to Your message to the church of Ephesus, our hearts have been stirred. We know that we have lost the love and devotion we once had for You. Instead of prioritizing intimacy with You, we have focused on programs and performance. We have done things for You, but not with You. Thank You for loving us enough to confront us and woo us back to our original love and devotion for You. Lord, we want to regain our first love for You. Help us to remember the beauty of Your love and grace for us at the beginning of our relationship with You. Grant us a change of attitude toward You so we are not so careless to put ourselves ahead of You. Enable us to return to those things we did when we were passionately in love with You. May our love for You in some small way reflect Your incredible love for us. Thank You for promising us access to the tree of life if we will remain faithful to You to the end of our lives on earth. In Your glorious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1501.

2. James Rosscup, “The Overcome of the Apocalypse,” Grace Theological Journal, 3:2 (1982): pp. 261-286; John F. MacArthur, Jr., The Gospel According to Jesus, Revised and Expanded Edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988, 1994), pp. 123-133, 134-148, 164-172, 188-194, 252-254.

3. Harlan D. Betz, “The Nature of Rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ” (Th.M. Thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1974), pp. 36-45; Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse (Dallas, TX: Redencion Viva, 1985), pp. 97-111; Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings (Miami Springs, Fla.: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1992), pp. 37, 470, 474; Arlen L. Chitwood, Judgment Seat of Christ (Norman, Okla.: The Lamp Broadcast, Inc., 1986), pg. 48.

4. pg. 673.

5. Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse, pg. 108.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1502.

7. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2371.

8. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

9. Ibid.

10. Evans, pg. 2371.

11. Walvoord, pg. 164.

12. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 31 cites Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, Scripture Press, 1989), pg. 572.

13. Vacendak, pg. 1502.

14. Constable, pg. 31.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1504.

16. Constable, pg. 33.

17. Vacendak, pg. 1504. 18. Evans, pg. 2372.

A Look into the Future – Part 7 (Video)

This is the seventh in a series of videos about the future as recorded in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. This video focuses on the New Heaven and New Earth.

The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com.  Other digital images are used with permission from Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing (www.FreeBibleimages.org) and GoodSalt (www.goodsalt.com). The music and video scenes in this video are used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”