Theme: Mercy in the End
In these lessons we focus on heaven as the place where God and his redeemed people will dwell forever.
Scripture: Revelation 21
A funeral service of the Book of Common Prayer is a very beautiful thing—both in its simplicity and in the wise way it uses Scripture. The Old Testament readings have to do with many of the Psalms. There is the twenty-third as you can imagine, as well as the forty-sixth Psalm, which tells us that the Lord is our refuge and our strength.
The New Testament readings include 1 Corinthians 15, the great chapter on the resurrection, and also Romans 8, with its promise that nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ. There’s a reading from Revelation 7 that introduces us to the people of God in heaven, and then from John 14, where Jesus admonishes, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” And just before that final quotation from the words of Christ, there’s a reading from Revelation 21. There we are given a vision of the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, which is the abode of the saints, and the symbol of all that is pure, holy, permanent, and blessed. And it’s therefore that to which those who compiled the funeral service from the various texts in Scripture wanted to direct the minds of those who were sorrowing.
I say that’s wise, and I’m sure you understand why because as we read it, we find it speaking there of a new heaven, and a new earth, and a new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God as a bride prepared for her husband. This chapter is particularly meaningful here in the Book of Revelation as well because the earlier chapters have introduced us to the great judgments of God. There is a judgment of the seven seals—one after the other of which are broken—and judgments pour out upon the earth, the judgments of the seven trumpets, which are blown. And as they’re blown, judgments fall upon the earth. And there’s the seven bowls that are poured out, and judgments pass upon the people of the earth as each of the bowls are poured out. And we go through all of that, and we come to the destruction of Babylon, which symbolizes all that is secular and hostile to God. Then we come to the twentieth chapter, and we find Satan cast into the lake of fire with all his followers forever and ever.
It’s at that point that we read, “I saw a new heaven, and a new earth, and a new Jerusalem.” That’s a wonderful thing. If there were no new Jerusalem, if there were no new heaven, and if there were no new earth, we could read to this point in the Bible and at least, on the basis of what we know of human sin, say the story is wonderfully told because judgments are what we deserve, and the lake of fire is what we have earned, and the overthrow of Babylon is what is due. But God in His great mercy with which He loved us has provided the kind of destiny for His people that’s portrayed in this chapter.
Why is the description of heaven at this point in the Book of Revelation particularly meaningful?
Read Revelation 21. What do you learn about God from the description of heaven that is given?