Fifth Sunday After Easter

Theme
Welcome To The "New Jerusalem"
Verses
Revelation 21, 10-14. 22-23
Hymns
145, 214, 215

                                                                            Revelation 21:10-14,22,23

               And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.

            Ever come to one of those “Welcome Centers,” as you enter a new state on your travels?  They have racks filled with brochures advertising special attractions of their fine state.  Brochures like “Welcome to Michigan!  America’s playground for children of all ages!”  Or “Welcome to Holland!  Home to the Tulip Festival!”  Or “The Detroit Zoo welcomes you!”  These brochures are intended to peek your curiosity, and entice you to come and visit these places, and enjoy the spectacular sights our state has to offer.   

            As we read this chapter of Revelation, it sounds a little like one of those travel brochures.  John is describing the spectacular sight called Heaven.  He is trying to entice you to come and see just how spectacular it is!  John describes Heaven as a majestic walled city.  If one corner of this city was in New York City, the other top corner would be 300 miles west of Omaha Nebraska, and the southern point would be Cuba!  The walls would extend some 1400 miles into space!  The foundations for this city would be made out of the most precious gems known to man.  And yes, the streets are paved with gold.  

What a glorious place! Spectacular!  The most beautiful place a person could imagine.  And in this chapter John invites us to come and see it, as he tells us, WELCOME TO THE “NEW JERUSALEM!”

                                                                                                I

            Now when we get to Heaven will we really live in a walled city the size of two thirds of the United States, with streets paved with gold?  Will we really live in our own mansion?   Or is God simply using pictures to describe the most beautiful thing we could ever imagine?  I don’t know.  But one thing I do know, when you get there, you won’t be disappointed no matter what it looks like!

            But in our world people get so wrapped up in the details and in the spectacular and in the glorious that they miss the real joy of Heaven.   It’s not about gems and gold covered streets.  It’s not about powerful and majestic.  John says, there’s more to this “New Jerusalem.” 

            John describes this city as having a great high wall with twelve gates.”   Obviously, this city isn’t worried about resisting attacks from enemies, or keeping people out!  It is more interested in allowing people to enter.   In fact, those twelve gates are divided equally on each side.   Tree gates on each side.  To make it easy for people to enter no matter what part of the world they come from. 

            These gates also have “twelve angels at the gates,” to let the world know, “This is God’s City!”  And “on the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.”  The way to enter this city is not a secret hidden from all but a few that the rest of us have to guess!   The way to enter this city is the way God set up at the beginning of the world.   The way that He gave to the world through His people Israel.   When God chose His people Israel, He wrote down what He wanted them to do, what He expected from them, and what He was going to do for them.   There was nothing hidden!   The rules didn’t change from time to time, depending on the situation.  It’s not that you had to try and figure out what God wanted.  Or that God’s ways were so fickle and difficult that you needed some priest to explain it to you.   No! It was clear!  It was changeless!  And it was meant not just for the chosen people of Israel.  It was meant for everyone who came to believe, even Gentiles!   

            God’s Word was like a beacon on a hill.  Sure, most Gentiles were terrified of the God’s of Israel.   Most Gentiles suffered when God fought against them.  But many Gentiles came to know the true God of Israel, they came to know the promise He made, the salvation He promised to Adam and Eve.  And these people came to God’s kingdom, and were accepted as part of God’s kingdom.

            And John says, the path to Heaven hasn’t changed.   It’s the same as it has always been.   Trust in the Savior God promised the savior God’s Old Testament people showed you.  God’s way is the only way to get to Heaven.  Follow His way!  Trust in His way!   Believe in His ways of salvation and this gate is open for you.  

            But there’s more about this “New Jerusalem.”  “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”  This New Jerusalem is not just about a promise that God made!   It’s about the promise that our God kept!  The message of the Apostles!  God has kept His promise!  God has sent the Messiah!  Jesus died on the cross, and then rose again from the dead.  The tomb was empty on Easter.  And now through the blood of Jesus, we have peace with God.  Our sins are forgiven!  We have a place in Heaven.  Because of the promise God made in the Old Testament, and because of the promise God kept in the New Testament, those gates are open to us.  Regardless of what part of the world we come from, regardless of what language we speak, regardless of what we used to be, now we are covered with the blood of Jesus, and we can enter those gates, and we can become full time residents of Heaven.  Whether the streets are made of gold or not!  Whether the foundations are made of precious gems really doesn’t matter!  What is important is that I am allowed inside those gates, and have become a resident of the “New Jerusalem.” 

                                                                                           II

            But then John also notices other things about Heaven.  “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”  He looked all around him!  No churches!  He checked the Yellow Pages for Churches in “New Jerusalem!”  There were none.  Not one church!  They aren’t necessary!

            In our world, we build our churches, so we can get away from the world, and escape all the troubles and heartache and pressure of the world, and simply focus our attention on our God.  When we enter those doors, the world is left behind.  Anything that would separate us in the world outside, has no bearing inside.  In here each of us is a child of God, looking to be fed God’s Word, and sacraments, to be strengthened in our faith, to spend some time with our God.  

            But in Heaven we won’t need that.  There will be no sinful world we need to escape.  Our entire world will center around our God, worshipping and praising God, every minute of our day.  We won’t need a temple.  “Because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”  Our worship will be not just directed to the almighty God of the Universe, who has all power and majesty.  Our worship will also be directed to “The Lamb,” who humbled Himself to the point of death in order to save us.  We worship and praise, not just the God who can do anything, but also the God who sacrificed Himself on the cross, to save us! 

            There’s another thing John notices about this “New Jerusalem.”  “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”   In this world we need the light, because there is darkness all around us!  We can’t maneuver in the dark.   We need the light so we don’t stumble.  And that is true whether we’re talking about physical darkness, when we’re trying to walk through a dark room without tripping over the ottoman, or the spiritual darkness, where we’re trying to get away from Satan’s trap and his desire to capture us. 

            But we won’t need that in Heaven either.  There is no darkness.  There is no more physical darkness!  And there is definitely no more spiritual darkness because Satan has been judged.  Satan has been defeated.   Satan can no longer get us to fall and sin, and anger God.  Now we have nothing but light.

            And again, who is it that will be our light in the New Jerusalem?  “For the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”  Not just the glory and majesty and power of God!  But the humble sacrifice of the Lamb as well.   The light that shone out of Jerusalem of the Old Testament, that beacon that invited Gentiles from all over the world to come to God, wasn’t just the power and majesty of God.   Oh, every nation knew the power and majesty of the true God, and they were terrified of it.  But the real light that shone was God’s mercy and grace!  God’s promise of salvation for those who sin.  God’s invitation for sinners to come and be saved. 

            And that is the same light that shines out of God’s Temple in the New Testament, and God’s temple in the “New Jerusalem.”  God’s power and majesty and glory is fantastic.  But what really gives us hope and comfort and peace is His mercy and grace and love to sinners, and His sacrifice to bring us into His kingdom.

            Think about it.  When we’re going through a rough time, when we’re hurting, or troubled because of our sin and weaknesses, what gives you hope?  God’s power and majesty.  The fact that God can work any miracle He needs to help you?  Or God’s mercy, and grace?  The fact that God loved you enough to sacrifice Himself just for you.  The fact that God loves you enough that He promised to walk every step of your life with you, keep you safe in His arms until the day you walk through those gates of “New Jerusalem”?  It’s nice to have an all-powerful God who can do anything.  But it’s even better to have a God who loves us so much that He will do anything to help us!  And the lamb on that cross proves that very point! 

            Many people are so into the glory and majesty of God, and the spectacular things of heaven, that they lose sight of the real joy of Heaven.  It’s not the precious gems!  It’s not the golden streets!  It’s not the mansion I’m going to get!  It’s not the power and majesty of God.  It’s the humble sacrifice of the Lamb that gives me the right to even enter those gates.  That’s the confidence I have even in this world, as Jesus holds me safe in His arms.  That is the confidence that will get me through those gates into Heaven!   

            And so, because our Lamb is there, whether the streets are made of gold, or not, whether I have a huge mansion, or just a room, it doesn’t matter.   With my Lamb there, I have all that I need.  And because of what my Lamb has already done for me, He will smile and tell me, WELCOME TO THE “NEW JERUSALEM!”