#49 A Rest For The People Of God
Heb 4:9) “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.” Our text is found in Revelation 22. We have reached the end of our journey through this wonderful book. It is interesting that there have been casualties along the way. We started with 15 members and are now down to three. Is it that God’s word has weeded out those who don’t care for the t ruth? Is it that they went out from us and so proved that they were never part of us? Are we part of the faithful remnant? Only God knows the hearts of men. Only He can read the thoughts. Only He knows those who are truly His!
It saddens me that they are no longer here for I believe they have missed a true blessing. I also believe that their departure is a danger signal that we all must heed. God has been merciful in declaring His truth to us, in showing us what lies ahead, in preparing our hearts to endure to the end. Will we too leave, for whatever purpose? Jesus spoke of endurance, of perseverance, of remaining faithful to the truth. He spoke of this persevering faith being a sign that we are true children of God! The reason is that true faith is a gift of God. It is not something that we grunt up, it is bestowed upon those whom the Father draws to the Son and this faith, unlike the fleeting fancy of sinful men will continue “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Php 1:6)
This is the only reason that we will endure to the end: Christ will see us through to the end…and then He will usher us into His heavenly Kingdom to inherit the blessings that He has prepared for us! Consider with me these several passages which speak of endurance, perseverance, of remaining faithful to the end and the blessings that await those who persevere.
In (Mt 24:13) Jesus said, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. The word “endure” comes from the Greek word hupomeno which means to abide. For the God called, justified, sanctified believer there will be no drawing back, shrinking back, no receding or fleeing, no departure from the once for all delivered to the saints faith! The true Christian will hold fast to Christ under all trials. They will endure cruel treatment without apostasy.
The writer of (Heb 10:39), speaking to real, genuine believers said this, “But we are not of those who shrink back (who retreat from their former profession of faith…and as a result go) to destruction, but he says, we are of those who have faith who actually possess true, God sent, Christ purchased, Holy Spirit bestowed saving faith to the preserving of (possessing, as opposed to the loss of) the soul. We are looking for a rest, our eternal home in the heavenlies! The Christian will endure bravely and calmly knowing that as they leave this life they will be ushered into the presence of God and enter into His rest. In (Mt 25:34) Jesus says “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…
As we approach our text today we will be given a glimpse into the heavenly kingdom, the Celestial City and I am reminded of the ending of Christians journey in Pilgrims Progress. Bunyan writes, “Now I saw in my dream, that these two men (Christian and Hopeful) went in at the gate; and lo, as they entered, they were transfigured; (the mortal puts on immortality, corruption puts on incorruption) and they had raiment put on that shone like gold. There were also those that met them with harps and crowns, and gave them to them; the harps to praise withal, and the crowns in token of honour. Then I heard in my dream, that all the bells in the City rang again for joy; and that it was said unto them, “Enter ye into the joy of your Lord.” I also heard the men themselves, that they sang with a loud voice, saying, “Blessing, honour, glory, and power, be to him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever” (Re 5:13,14).
Now, just as the gates were opened to let in the men, I looked in after them: and behold, the City shone like the sun: the streets also were paved with gold; and in them walked many men, with crowns on their heads, palms in their hands, and golden harps to sing praises withal. There were also them that had wings; (The Seraphim) and they answered one another without intermission, saying, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord!” And after that they shut up the gates, which when I had seen, I wished myself among them.
Look with me at our text now and see the future rest for the believer in Christ. We read in verse 1, “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. We cannot relate to this for we have no reference point to bring as a comparison. In this fallen world there is nothing pure. There is nothing here, no mountain stream that could be called clear as crystal. But in heaven all will be as it should be, untainted by the curse of sin. There is no sin, therefore no imperfection. All will be perfectly holy, perfectly pure, perfectly wonderful!
Now as to this crystal river; do you remember that sea of glass which is before the Throne of God? Some scholars say that it refers to people and many times in the scripture it does. But here in our text we could have a crystal river and its crystal source. This is merely speculation for there are mysteries here. The fact we can cling to is that it is beautiful beyond compare. There is absolute purity here before God, in His heavenly kingdom. This Water of life symbolizes the continual flow of eternal life from God’s throne to heaven’s inhabitants.
We continue in verse 2 and we read that “In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month.” Where did we first encounter the tree of life? It was in the Garden of Eden was it not! In that setting man was forbidden to eat of the trees of Knowledge and Life. It was not time. But here, we will be allowed to partake of its fruit for this will be part of our inheritance. Heaven belongs to those who, knowing their souls are parched by sin, have earnestly sought the satisfaction of salvation and eternal life. Interestingly there will be, if this passage is taken literally, twelve months still. Note also that these trees are never barren. There will be an abundance of fruit at all times. Of course this could also be symbolic of the superabundant character of our salvation, an absolutely full measure of a most blessed and ever abiding communion with God for all the inhabitants of the Holy City.
The verse goes on to say that “The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” Note that in this life there is tribulation, nation rising against nation wanting what the other has and so commits murder to obtain. But in heaven all such want will cease. There will be no more wars; nation will not rise up against nation any longer but they will be healed of their sin, of their covetousness, lust and envy. Each man will have enough and more still. The picture I see is this; while we are in this life, though we are saved we still have wicked desires.
We still want ‘more’ for we fail to understand that in Christ we have everything. We fail at times to realize that Christ is our all in all! And so we go through the gyrations that James noted when he said in (James4:1-4) “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Now who was James writing too? Was it not to believers who had been scattered abroad? He would not have spoken to a non Christian about his ‘faith’ would he? No, he is dealing with Christians. He is calling them to deep self examination. He is calling them to look into what motivates them. and he pinpoints the problem; REMAINING SIN!
James is calling us to turn away from those things that would dishonor God and bring shame to the gospel of Jesus Christ! He finishes his instruction by saying 6 “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable for the sin that remains and causes you to disobey the Lord…and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
This is all part of the struggle that is the Christian life! But in heaven we will be transformed. Corruption will put on or be clothed in incorruption. We will be healed of our infirmities, all of them. We will be at perfect rest. We will cease striving for there will be nothing to strive for! Look with me at the words of our LORD. He said through His prophet (Isa 25:8) He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken. Then we read in (Re 7:17) “for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” And finally we are told in (Re 21:4) “and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” What are these first things?
Tears, death, mourning, crying, pain…all symptoms of the curse. All things will be new! Here we are poor in spirit but there we will receive the kingdom of God as the inheritance of sons! Here we mourn but there will be comforted. Here we strive to be gentle, we strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ, and the result is that we will inherit the earth! Here we hunger and thirst after righteousness, and there we will be filled. Here we strive to be merciful for His sake, and there we will receive the ultimate expression of mercy. Here we strive to be peacemakers, showing men their enmity toward God and the ransom which was paid by Jesus. In this we demonstrated that we are sons of God as we plant seeds of truth in the hearts of men. I could go on but you get the picture don’t you?
On earth you have tribulation, a result of the curse. But what do we see in heaven. Verse 3 tells us “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. You see that the first things have passed away! All strife will cease. All envy, lust and wickedness will be banished.
The children of God will be at perfect rest for 4 “They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.” What stupendous words, “They shall see His face!” I ask you this; do you want to see God’s face? Is this your hearts desire? Think before you answer for we are speaking of God Almighty here! Do you really want to see His face? That is the question of the ages is it not! And in moments of boldness we say stupid things like “I’m going to walk right up to the Throne and ask God about… Such statements are foolish. Consider the Seraphim who cover their faces and feet. Consider the 24 elders who fall before the Throne and cast their crowns before Him and worship!
While we will be allowed to see His face there will be no arrogance in heaven. I dare say that no one will ‘walk right up to the Throne’ for anything. No we will bow and worship. We will sing praises to His Name for His mercy endures forever!
We will rest from our labors, from our striving against sin and we will worship in His presence forever.
I find it interesting that those who here on earth are workaholics see heaven as another duty station. What I mean is they see heaven as a place where work will be done. I remember one man saying “Well somebody has to sweep the streets of gold.” Oh really? Do you actually believe that there will be dirt and dust in heaven? Are not dust and dirt a sign of the curse just like moths and rust? In heaven there will be no corruption. What there will be is perfect rest, perfect peace! For, “They shall see His face!”
All the things that man’s mind perceives will not even come close to what’s going on up there! Remember the words of Paul who reminded us in (1Co 2:9 ) “But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” All our supposed perceptions of heaven will not even approach the half of what the reality will be! What we have in the scriptures are wonderful glimpses into the eternal kingdom. But finite man cannot fully grasp the truth, the reality of it. Why? Because we really have no point of reference to relate to what heaven is really like. Have you ever seen a street of gold? Have you ever seen a gate made up of one pearl?
Nothing in this life has prepared us for what God has in store for His children. Consider this next verse. We are so used to the sun and the moon and the stars and lights and nightlights. We are afraid of the dark. Why? Darkness represents evil, sin! Wicked men and women hide in the darkness to perform their evil deeds. Thieves, robbers, rapists, murderers, all use darkness as a cloak for their monstrous acts!
But in heaven, darkness will be banished. We read in verse 5 “There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And what light it must be! Remember that when Jesus visited Paul on the road to Damascus a light shown down from heaven brighter than the noonday sun! Look with me at (Ac 26:13) Paul relates this story as an eyewitness. Notice what time of day it is. “at midday, O King, at the brightest part of the day…I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. It must have been quite a sight. And this is only a glimpse again, of what is in heaven. The light that shines there will be as transcendent as God is transcendent over His creatures.
There will be no more darkness, for there will be no more sin. Darkness represents the curse and since the curse will be lifted, darkness will be banished. Only in hell, the ‘place of outer darkness’ will there be no light for they will be apart from God, excluded from the presence of the Holy One. But of the righteous, of those who love the Lord and long for His appearing, of those who are granted admittance into the heavenly kingdom we read… “And they shall reign forever and ever.” All I can say of this is that we will have been granted some kind of authority to reign. But remember the 24 elders. They have crowns and so have some authority as well. But they, at every opportunity cast those crowns before the Throne of God for He is the ultimate authority. They merely have delegated authority. Just as we are merely reflectors of the True Light, so too, we will merely be exercising delegated authority.
This is a place in scriptures where men get puffed up and say, “I’m a-gonna reign with Christ. I’m a-gonna be a king with crowns and a throne. These same people are the ones who speak of ‘walking right up to the Throne of God to question Him, or talk about their glorified bodies and what they will be able to do with them. All such talk is nonsense. Why will we have an eternal body? So that we can live in heaven before the Throne of God for all eternity! In an earlier lesson I spoke of the fact that our finite bodies have limited endurance. We can only go so long before we need rest. We can only worship for so long before our bodies need rest. Our finite, un-glorified minds cannot endure endless worship here. But in heaven, all such limitations will be eradicated and we will be able to worship endlessly.
Also I spoke of the fact that in our present condition we cannot see God for He said ‘no flesh can see Me and live.’ But on that day when we are recreated, transformed; when corruption will have put on incorruption, when this mortal shall have put on immortality, then we will be able to endure the presence of Almighty God. Then we will be able to see Him face to face. And what a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see, and shall look upon His face, the One who saved me by His grace.
When He takes me by the hand and leads me to the Promised Land, what a day, glorious day that will be.
Now look with me at verse 6 Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true.” In other words, God has said it and He will do it. (Nu 23:19) tells us that “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
God has declared the end from the beginning “And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.” Indeed He says 7 “Behold, I am coming quickly! He speaks of quickness and I am reminded of Him saying that He would suddenly come to His temple. The Greek word Taxu here speaks of the quickness, the suddenness of His return. Remember how He told us to watch, to be on the alert. He has told us to hold fast to the confession of our faith without wavering and he say here “Blessed is he who keeps (who holds fast, who orders his life according to) the words of the prophecy of this book.” I could say it thus; blessed is he who obeys the commandments of Jesus and so proves to be His disciple. Over such the second death has no power.
Notice verse 8 “Now I, John, saw and heard these things. He speaks as an eyewitness to all that we have read. He has related to us what God showed him. And we can rest assured that all we have seen will take place just as God has ordained it.
Now also in verse 8 we see the difference between the holy angels and the wicked demons. Any demon would love to be worshiped. The devil himself sought to overthrow the kingdom of God in heaven. His desire was to be worshiped as God. But the holy angels will not allow such things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. 9 Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” Take that statement to heart. There is only one Being that we must worship and that is God alone. He alone is worthy of all our praise and adoration for He alone is God!
Now for those who would say that the book of Revelation is a sealed book, that we should never attempt to read or study it or preach from it, behold the word of God; 10 And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, and he adds, for the time is at hand. What does that mean? When Jesus sent His disciples out to preach He told them to say “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” That means it is imminent. It is near. And so the angel is telling John that the time of the end is near. How near? Well John wrote 2000 years ago. What he means is that the next thing on God’s timetable is the end; all that we have seen portrayed in this book is at hand, it is next.
The angel is not naming the day or the hour for no one knows that but the Father. But we can rest assured that what He has spoken, He will do. What He has decreed, that will He bring to pass.
Now verse 11 is rather interesting. We read, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” Consider this thought from William Hendriksen; “First of all there is a let of exhortation “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts.” Here the wicked is urged to forsake his evil way. This let always comes first. But suppose that, in spite of all the earnest pleadings, admonitions, invitations, and judgments, the wicked refuses to obey and accept the water of life freely. What then? There is another let, not a let of positive exhortation but a let of withdrawal. God says, as it were, “Let him alone!”For the wicked it is a terrible let. Paraphrasing this passage we can say, “Do not hinder the man who, in spite of all pleadings, admonitions, exhortations, has completely hardened himself in his wickedness; do not hinder him from continuing in his unrighteousness, neither hinder the filthy one from continuing in his filth. Similarly do not hinder the righteous and holy person from continu9ing in the way of sanctification.
The hardened man has been hardened by God, blinded to the truth, devoid of the Spirit. Consider King Saul. God told Samuel to stop praying for him for He had rejected him! He was left to his own devices. The God fearing man is such because God has visited him and granted him eternal life and the Holy Spirit to lead him into all truth. This one will continue in the way of the Lord for the Lord Himself is leading him into paths of righteousness for His Names sake!
To each Jesus says 12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.”The wicked man will receive the reward of the damned and the righteous will enter into the rest of God. Then Jesus says 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” He is the beginning of all things for He spoke the world into existence and He will be the end as he speaks the world out of existence. 14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, who obey Him from the new heart of love to Him which is the gift of God, that they may have the right the privilege to partake of the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. These will hear those wonderful words, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…
In contrast to the blessings of the just men made perfect were read in verse 15 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. They too will hear the voice of God but it will not be pleasant to their ears for we read in Mt 25:41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; These will be excluded from life, from light, from rest, from God!
How sure are these things? 16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” These words are as sure as Jesus is true! Hear a true invitation from the scriptures. 17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” The Holy Spirit and the Church of Jesus Christ calls sinners to repentance.
And let him who hears those with ears to hear, say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts who has heard the truth come. Whoever desires, (such desire has been implanted in him by the Spirit of God, let him take the water of life freely.
For those who would try to make the word of God say anything other than what it says our Lord declares 18 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. 20 God’s word says exactly what He wants it to say. He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! 21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.