In the book of Revelation, the apostle John gives us a glimpse of things to come. The glorious vision of what God will consummate in the future and the world we live in, which as John says lies in the evil one. And in the middle, in the meantime, the promise that John also gives us, the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
That glorious truth gives us hope as we live here in the middle, in the meantime. Welcome to Renewing Your Mind. I'm Lee Webb, and today Dr. Sinclair Ferguson takes us to the book of Revelation to remind us of what has been prepared for those who remember what God said. This is the way, walk in it.
I remember as a youngster how excited I was when we got the mathematics textbooks for the beginning of a new year, opened the front page and saw those glorious words, the answers are all to be found at the back of the book. And that's where we're going to turn this morning to Revelation chapter 21. I'm going to read the first five verses there. Then, says the apostle John, 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. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people. And God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more. Neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And He who was seated on the throne said, Behold, I am making all things new.
Also, He said, write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true. In this picture book full of symbols, unlike much of the New Testament, the watchword is not simply listen. The watchword is see, behold, look, what do you see? And this is not a matter of God saying to us, what do you see here?
So that we go around the circle and say, well, what I like to see here is this, and what I like to see here is this. These are pictures interpreted themselves by the Scriptures themselves. And so, I want us to try and look at this amazing scene in Revelation 21 and 22 as though it were a dramatic, great painting painted by a master, and in our own little way to be able to gaze upon this whole painting and to say to one another, do you see what John means us to see here and here and here?
Details, but by no means the whole. And if we do that, I think the first thing that we notice in this whole section is the marvelous way in which, by God's grace, these chapters describe the reversal of a past day, the reversal of a past day. The whole drama of Revelation is the drama that, in a sense, begins with the serpent. But by the time we are in the first century, the serpent has grown into a dragon, and the dragon has brought forth a beast, and the beast has brought forth together with the dragon a false prophet. And together this anti-Trinity, this ungodly Trinity has brought forth an entire kingdom, an entire dominion, an entire city that is hostile to God called Babylon. And the story towards the end of the book of Revelation is the way in which, through Jesus Christ, that city and the unholy Trinity that lies behind that city will be systematically disarmed and systematically brought into its own wilderness, a fiery wilderness in the burning lake of sulfur.
And so, in these closing chapters, you see what happens. First of all, Babylon falls, the city of this world that stands against God. And then, in systematic order, the false prophet, and the beast, and then the dragon. And we are left now in these chapters beholding the throne of God, occupied by the Father, seeing the Lamb of God in the center of the throne and hearing the Holy Spirit towards the end of chapter 22, urging us to join with Him in saying to our Lord Jesus Christ, come, Lord Jesus.
Come, says the believer, come to me. Come in the skies and bring to an end the wilderness wandering in which we are engaged and into this glorious future city that is described here in these chapters that are before us. And yet, as John had said earlier in his first letter, all of this is here for us to see while we still live in a world which, as he says, lieth in the wicked one. And before we end, we have got to put these two things together, haven't we? The glorious vision of what God will consummate in the future and the world we live in which, as John says, lies in the evil one.
And in the middle, in the meantime, the promise that John also gives us that the reason, the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. And I think that's the reason why this is the story of the new garden that God is going to create. It takes us back to the story of the old garden, the story of the old garden where every tree was delightful to look at and its fruit looked delicious to taste. And Adam and Eve came to a tree identically described, and that's significant, identically described, whose only difference apparently between itself and any other tree in the garden was not that the fruit looked poisonous and ugly, but that God had said about that tree, do not eat the fruit of that tree or you will die. And so, in a sense, every natural instinct in Adam and Eve looking at that tree, that tree said to them, I am beautiful, the fruit is delicious, eat me. And every natural instinct in them would respond to that tree exactly the same way it would respond to any other tree. The only distinction was that this was God's call to them to trust Him and to obey Him simply because He was their heavenly Father and because He had said, this is the way, walk in it. And instead, they were enticed by what they felt and sensed about the tree rather than what they heard through their ears from the voice of God.
They saw in that sense through their eyes instead of seeing the tree through their ears. And the whole story of the gospel tells us about the reverse of that, how Jesus comes into the wilderness to face the tempter who has now grown into a dragon because He has consumed so many. And conquering Him in the wilderness then slowly makes His way to the Garden of Gethsemane.
And in the Garden of Gethsemane, He faces the very same issue that Adam and Eve had faced. There is a cup that has been placed in His hands. This cup is the cup of experiencing being desolated by God. This cup is the cup of experiencing divine desertion under divine wrath. And like Adam and Eve, but in radical contrast, there is nothing in this cup that Jesus can desire. There is nothing about this cup that would be attractive to Him.
There is nothing in this cup that would say drink me. And indeed from one point of view, if Jesus had naturally desired desertion by God bearing the wrath of God, it is scarcely possible that He could have been a holy human being. No holy human being could ever desire to be deserted by God, of course not. But like Adam and Eve, but in reverse, God is saying to Him now in the garden, my child drink it simply because I am your Father and this is the way to the salvation of sinners. And so in that unique moment in His prayer, the one thing in His Father's will He ever asked that it might be possible to be removed from Him.
If it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not what I will. Isn't that interesting?
In my holy humanity, this is never what I could will. But I do this gladly, willingly, not because of the thing itself, but because in the councils of eternity I have learned that this is the only way for sinners to be saved. And so He drinks every last drop, beginning apparently when He takes the cup from His Father's hands in the garden of Gethsemane and you sense that the die is cast.
And then isn't it interesting? I find it interesting, intriguing, although I don't think one can be dogmatic about this, that on the morning of the resurrection as John uniquely portrays the meeting of Jesus and Mary in the garden, we have this little line in that garden that is full of theological significance, where we are told that Mary supposed He was the gardener. You feel the weight of that when you place that over against the story of the other garden, where the gardener had sinned and fallen and the garden had been turned into a wilderness and he became, as it were, the wilderness man. And now Christ has come from the wilderness into the garden to drink the cup, to bear the shame and scoffing rude, to bear the judgment of God against our sin in the desertion of the cross, in the cry of dereliction. And now in those early moments of the day of resurrection to step forward and by the first witness to His resurrection to be assumed to be the gardener, and that's what He was. He perhaps was the first person ever to say, this is one small step for a man, but a giant leap for mankind because in His resurrection what Jesus Christ does is He begins to garden the earth. That's why He says to the apostles, now go into all the world under My authority and bring the power of fructification of new life to that world through the preaching of the gospel and go to the ends of the earth.
I mean, you would think there are eleven men listening to this who come mainly from northern Galilee and He's telling them to go to the ends of the earth. The only possible thing that makes sense of this is that He is in the business of this great reversal of the past day, and He's inaugurated it. By His grace you and I are beginning to live in it. And that's part of the picture. As an art expert might point to a section of a picture and say, now you see how all of this is ultimately focused in the Father on the throne and the slain Lamb before the throne and the Holy Spirit who brings us the invitation. Do you see how all the little details fit into that grand picture? And that part of the meaning of what you're seeing here is that Jesus Christ is bringing the reversal of the last day. But then, of course, there's another theme that's clearly drawn in this picture, and that is that John is seeing through the eyes, through the lenses of Scripture in this revelation on the island of Patmos, he is seeing now forward to the glory of a future day. Now, as I say, this is variously described, isn't it, in the New Testament? There is the dramatic way in which Simon Peter describes this, this conflagration that brings about the cleansing of the heavens and the earth and the emergence therefrom of the new heavens and the new earth. And the way in which Paul builds up that picture by speaking about Jesus as the second man and the last Adam and rising Himself from the dead and then bringing about the resurrection of the dead. And then, as Paul says, leading the resurrected dead to the throne of His heavenly Father as their Savior, as their representative as the second man and the last Adam and saying to His Father, it is finished, here we are. We offer this resurrected, restored, renewed creation to you as John has this glorious vision of a future day in which the wilderness will become a garden, in which the city of Babylon will be replaced by the city of the New Jerusalem.
And there's something else that's interesting here. John, of course, was brought up in Galilee from a fishing industry family, but we know he must have gone to Jerusalem frequently. What would he expect to see in the New Jerusalem? What dominated the Old Jerusalem?
Why did people ever go to Jerusalem? Because there was the majesty and glory of the temple of God, where the heart of God exclusively could be known, where atonement sacrifices exclusively could be made. Jerusalem and the mentality of the old covenant believer was absolutely dominated by the temple, and what he sees here is there is no more temple. And the reason is because everything is temple.
You probably know well enough that the Garden of Eden is described in many ways with indications that it is reflected in the tabernacle and then later on was reflected in the temple. But here there is no need for that, and the reason there is no need for that is because here in Immanuel's land, God and the Lamb are the temple. Everywhere is temple. Everywhere is church. Everywhere is faith. Everywhere is praise. Everywhere is access into the presence of God.
Everywhere is luminous with the glory of God. And every eye is focused on the throne, and that's the picture here, isn't it, of this glorious focus on the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. And the great message is we live in this world as those who have seen the world to come, as those who understand where this world first of all came from and where it has fallen, and how the tragedy is that we have lost the glory of God. And the wonder of the gospel is that it's beginning to restore that glory, which means inevitably that the Christian believer will be radically different, modestly different, but so different that the Christian church and the Christian believer will be able to cease the ploys of twentieth-century evangelism in trying to find ways of getting my questions to non-Christians, which was almost the necessity of twentieth-century evangelism for this reason that non-Christians were not doing what apparently non-Christians were doing in Peter's day, so that Christians needed to be ready to give an answer and a reason for the hope that was in them because non-Christians were driven to ask, why is it that you are so different from us?
Why do we find you so strange? And in the way in which the twentieth-century church seemed to adopt the philosophy that the way to reach the world was to become as like the world, to make itself as likeable to the world as possible with disastrous results, both for the world and for the church, in a world of enormous comfort for the church. And here John understands in the privation he experiences and the challenges that these churches in Asia are going to experience that the call is to wash their robes in the blood of Christ in chapter 20 to pursue holiness in the face of persecution and to live unreservedly for Christ.
And he gives this assurance that Christ will keep us and that Christ is waiting for us. I came over to the United States on Tuesday. I'd been waiting two years to do this. It was like being Bunyan under conviction of sin. But now the journey began and the first thing was my flight was cancelled. And then there was turbulence. And then I got to the airport and characteristically could not find my driver. And so I wandered around in the slough of despond until eventually a Ligonier evangelist angel gave me instructions about the way to go. And my kindly driver drove me to the hotel and I made my way in my heavy coat from freezing point in the Highlands to 80 degrees in Orlando and staggered into the hotel and wondered why the nice lady at the reception desk didn't tell me the number of the room until they eventually found it on the key that she had put in my hand. And I made my way along the corridor to room 418. And as I looked up, there was a man standing and it looked as though he was trying to get into room 418. And I said, I cannot bear to go back down and say there was a man waiting to get into my room. And he said to me, sir, is this your room?
I said, yes, it's my room. I opened the door. He said, let me help you in.
He helped me in and he said to me, if there is anything you need here, let me know. And he turned away. And as he turned away, I looked at the name badge on his coat and it was Jesus. And he was gone.
And as I staggered into the room, I thought, that's exactly what I need. If Jesus is waiting for me, and if Jesus says, if there is anything you need, ask me, then all will be well. And He is making all things new. And we're being sent out now, are we not, to live for His glory. Dr. Sinclair Ferguson reminding us of the glorious future that awaits those who have placed their faith and trust in the finished work of Christ. We're glad you joined us today for Renewing Your Mind. All week we have been focusing our attention on upholding Christian ethics. That was the theme for this year's Ligonier National Conference, which was held back in March here in Orlando. We've been learning that the holy character of God is the absolute standard of right and wrong, and God has spoken.
So when our culture rejects God and abandons His Word, the very foundation of morality is undermined. R.C. Sproul started this ministry in 1971 at a small study center outside of Ligonier in western Pennsylvania. I'm looking at a picture of R.C. here from those early days. He's standing in the middle of his living room there.
Young people are sitting on the floor listening, taking notes as R.C. makes a dramatic point. You can readily see the passion that R.C. had to teach people about the holiness of God. More than five decades later we remain committed to his goal of proclaiming and defending God's holiness, and it's having an impact on listeners like Brian. I began listening to R.C.
actually right after his death. I started seeing videos popping up on Facebook and other social media outlets, and I began listening to him and became absolutely obsessed with all his teaching series and videos. It was shortly after that somebody recommended the app that you guys have released, and literally all of my winter break in college I spent listening to all of R.C.
's different teaching series and lectures. And now at this point I listen to Renewing Your Mind every morning. It's a perfect time.
It's 20 minutes, 25 minutes to school commute, and that's exactly how long Renewing Your Mind is. And so I listen every morning. I don't miss a day. So I would like to thank you guys and also R.C. and Vespa as well for the profound impact that you've all had on my life and many others.
So thank you. Brian, if you're listening now, we thank you. And to you, our listeners, let me ask you to prayerfully consider joining with us in Gospel partnership by committing to a monthly gift of $25 or more. This ministry is powered by people like you, and every partner makes a meaningful difference. To sign up and become a ministry partner or to give a one-time gift, call us at 800-435-4343. You can also give your gift online when you go to renewingyourmind.org. Thank you for joining us today, and I hope you'll make plans to be with us again tomorrow for Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-10 09:15:24 / 2022-11-10 09:24:25 / 9