International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday May 22, 2011
Purpose: To reflect on how worship enables believers to be impacted now by the new heaven and earth that are yet to come
Scripture Text: Revelation 21:1-8 (NRSV)
(1)Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. (2)And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (3)And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; (4) he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” (5)And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”(6)Then 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 as a gift from the spring of the water of life. (7)Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. (8)But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Last week's lesson on “Thankful Worship” from Revelation 7 received more comments than another lesson I have posted over the past three years. This week we jump all the way to the 21st chapter, and I should point out we are studying a theme about “Worship” and not just studying the Book of Revelation. Having said that, I hope this lesson sparks within each of you a desire to know more, not only the Book of Revelation, but also the other books that have been covered in this quarter's studies.
Once again to get a better understanding of our text, we need to refer back to the Old Testament writings. Such as Isaiah 65:17 “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.” and Isaiah 66:22 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, says the LORD; so shall your descendants and your name remain.
The “first heaven” and the “first earth” that John sees is a broken, fallen, sinful state that no longer exists. What John sees now is something akin to what Paul said in Romans 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, (39) nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
This new heaven and new earth will not be a return to a better Eden, where God visited occasionally, but rather a future place where God chooses to dwell with us, much as Christ dwelt with us for a season. God is going to be “tabernacling” with His people. Thus fulfilling His promise of Leviticus 26:11-12 “I will place my dwelling in your midst, and I shall not abhor you.(12)And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people.”.
Similar to last week's text in 7:17 “for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” God's proximity guarantee's the removal of everything that can cause affliction. Then God assures John that indeed “He is making everything new, and that God is trustworthy to do what He says.”
The statement “it is done” is interesting and at first glance it would seem comparable to the final words of Christ on the cross, “it is finished.” Certainly the idea of divine completion exists in both statements. As for the word “from the spring of the water of life” refers back to Jesus’ words recorded by John in chapter 7 verses 37-39 of his gospel (37) “On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me,(38)and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” (39)Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
The promises are for those that conquer or overcome. The cowardly, faithless, polluted, murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters and liars will not be able to enjoy these promises but will receive what they have been promised, which is a second death.
How does all of the above affect your worship today?