We have come to the end of the book of Revelation. After all of the frightening, difficult prophecies given, God wraps things up on a note of victory and hope. Our children need to know that this world is not our home. This world is not where we will spend eternity. We will also not spend eternity in some far-out, cloudy, nebulous “heaven” in the sky! We will spend eternity on a perfect, new earth–earth as it was meant to be. We will be physical beings on a physical planet, doing things that physical humans enjoy doing. Too often, the after-life is depicted as surreal, unearthly, and boring! We will have work to do on this new earth, but it will be enjoyable, fulfilling work that will satisfy our human need to feel useful and our human desire to learn and grow as people. These needs and desires, so distorted and often discouraged on this sinful earth, will become as they were meant to be on a perfect earth.
Remember that during that last battle at Armageddon, Jesus appears in the sky on a white horse and defeats His enemies just by speaking a word! The Antichrist and his people are captured and punished. Then an angel grabs Satan himself and chains the devil up in an abyss, or a great pit. John explains that Satan will be held in this prison for one thousand years. During that time, Jesus will be the ruler of the earth and we who believe in Him will rule with Him and help Him. We don’t really know what life here on earth will be like for that 1,000 years. We know that there will still be unbelievers living here, still stubbornly rebelling against Jesus, even though Jesus will be here in person and there will be no devil to deceive or tempt them. After the 1,000 years is over, Satan is released from prison and the unbelievers still here on earth will get the chance to choose once and for all whether to be with Jesus for all eternity or go with Satan to the Lake of Fire. Can you believe that some people will still choose to follow the devil? That’s very sad, isn’t it? But God promised to give everyone free will. If a person chooses to spend eternity in the lake of fire, God will allow him or her to do it. God does not force anyone to accept Him or follow Him. No one has to be with God if they don’t want Him.
After all this happens, everyone who ever lived must stand before God’s throne and be judged. All the people who had died come back to life and all the people who are still alive at the time will gather together in God’s presence. God has books in which He has written down everything anyone has ever done. He wants everyone to know that He is judging them fairly based on what they have done with their lives. Those who never accepted Him will be reminded of all the times He asked them to come to Him. He will remind them of all the believers He sent to them to tell them the truth. God gives everyone every chance possible to believe in Him. Those who do believe in Him have their names written down in another book, the Book of Life. It is this book that determines who lives with God for eternity and who goes with Satan into the Lake of Fire. The other books, the ones that record everyone’s works and deeds, are there for reminders. But the Book of Life is the book that tells who lives with God forever and who doesn’t. If you believe in Jesus–if you believe that Jesus died for your sin and rose again–then your name is written in the Book of Life. Your good deeds will not get you into that book and your sins will not get your name erased from it. Once your name is written there, it’s there forever. Isn’t that a wonderful thought? You will be rewarded for the good things you have done, but your sins will be forgotten–buried in the deepest part of the sea.
After this time of judgement, God destroys this old, tired, sin-stained world and makes a brand-new, shiny, perfect one! Death itself will be destroyed–thrown into the Lake of Fire along with Hell and Satan and all of Satan’s servants. On this wonderful, new earth, there will be no death or sin. There will be no tears, no sadness or pain. John says, “the old things have passed away. He Who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new.” Isn’t that exciting? A lovely new beginning to everything. The holy city, the New Jerusalem, will come down from heaven and sit on the new earth as its capital city. This city is what people tend to think of when they think of what heaven will be like. It shines like a diamond or clear crystal. Its twelve gates are each made of a single, giant pearl, and each gate is named for one of the tribes of Israel. The city rests on twelve foundation stones, and each of these stones are named for one of the twelve apostles. These foundations are decorated with many kinds of precious stones, and the buildings and streets of the city are made of gold. The city glitters and shines with brilliant light, but not with the light of the sun. Jesus lives there and He is the light that makes it shine. From the throne of God in the middle of the New Jerusalem, a river flows, right down the middle of main street! On either side of the river grow trees bearing twelve different kinds of fruit, one for each month of the year. There will be no night in that city, and the gates will never be shut. Everyone will be welcome to the city of God at any time. Of course, not everyone living on earth will live in this city. We will be living all over the new earth, working to make it the kind of earth God meant it to be when He created the first one so long ago–the earth Adam and Eve were meant to live in, before sin came into the world. Can you imagine how wonderful that will be?
Here are the last words Jesus says to John before this wondrous vision ends: “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. . . . I, Jesus, have sent My angel to give you this testimony for the churches.” Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet, and Omega is the last letter in the Greek alphabet. Jesus started all of creation–He is the one who made everything, and everything was made for Him. And all creation was made with words. God said, “Let there be. . .”, and there was! Words are made up of letters, aren’t they? So when Jesus says He is the “Alpha and the Omega”, He is saying He is all the Words of God. Remember that John says in the Gospel of John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus IS the Word of God! He started everything with a Word, and He will end everything with a Word.
John ends this book, and God ends the whole Bible, with these beautiful verses: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’” Who is the Spirit and the who is the Bride? It’s the Holy Spirit of God and the Church, isn’t it? John goes on: “Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. . . . He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Even so, come Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”