April 30, 2014 Broadcast

No More Tears

A Message by R.C. Sproul

The Bible does not give us very many details about heaven. References to heaven are often obscured in metaphors and figures of speech. What can we know for sure in the midst of such ambiguity? Dr. R.C. Sproul gives an encouraging answer to that question in this lesson from the series titled, Heaven.

From the series: Heaven

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  1. devotional

    No More Tears

  2. article

    Paradise Restored

  3. devotional

    The Blessedness No One Has Imagined

No More Tears

Yesterday, we were reminded that Christianity does not teach the dissolution of the physical world. The Christian’s final, eternal state will not be an ethereal reality in which wispy souls float through the clouds without bodies. Instead, there will be a cosmic renewal. Our bodies will be resurrected and reunited with our souls to dwell forever in the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 20:11–15). Today’s passage describes this corporeal reality in great detail.

Revelation is an apocalyptic work, and so it contains many rich symbols and imagery. Whether or not all its images are to be taken as literal descriptions is debatable, but the most important lessons we learn are taken from the reality to which these symbols point. The first thing we notice is that in the new heavens and new earth the sea is “no more” (21:1). This might make little sense to us until we remember that the ocean was viewed by the ancients as a place of destruction and chaos. Israel never developed a thriving sea trade, and her enemies, the Philistines, ruled the coastlands. To be rescued from the waters was the great desire of the psalmist (Ps. 18:16–17). When John tells us there will be no sea, he is telling us that there will be no destruction there. God’s terrible judgment and wrath will not be upon those granted a place in His eternal kingdom.

We also read in Revelation 21:4 of the absence of tears. All of us grow sorrowful at times and need to be comforted. However, even when our tears are dried in this life, we know that sadness will bring them to us again. But when the Lord wipes away our tears in the new heavens and earth, they are gone forever. Perhaps we will shed tears of joy, but the tears of sorrow will be gone forever as there will be no pain, sickness, death, or any other tragedy to make us mourn.

In the new heavens and earth there will be a new Jerusalem (vv. 9–14). Note the dimensions of the city are a perfect cube (vv. 15–16), which is important because the Holy of Holies in the temple was also a cube (2 Chron. 3:8). Plainly, John is telling us that in the new Jerusalem we will have unhindered access to the Lord Almighty. It is there we will see His face (Rev. 22:4). 

Paradise Restored

Keith Mathison

Where do believers go when they die? If you ask any Christian this question, the response will likely be: “Why, they go to heaven of course.” But if you then ask them, “Where do believers go after they go to heaven?” there is a strong probability that your question will be answered with a quizzical expression of surprise. “What do you mean, where do believers go after they go to heaven? They just go to heaven, right?” Well, actually no, not according to Scripture.

According to Scripture, the soul of a believer does go to be present with the Lord in heaven when he or she dies. But this is only an intermediate state, and the intermediate state is just that — intermediate, or “in-between.” It is not the final state or the ultimate future of believers. The ultimate future of the believer is the resurrection of the body at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15). On that glorious Day, the soul and the raised and transformed body of the believer will be one again as God originally created them to be. Not only will our bodies and souls be freed from the remnants of sin, the heavens and earth will be renewed and freed from the curse of sin as well (Rom. 8:18–25). This new earth, in which righteousness dwells, will be our home.

Modern Christian pop-eschatology has largely obscured this blessed hope by positing a rather Platonic view of the afterlife in which the souls of believers exist in an eternal state of disembodied bliss, floating among the clouds and playing harps. This has occurred because the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, which is central to Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel, and the corresponding doctrine of the new heavens and earth have not received the same attention in our preaching as they did in the preaching of the apostles.

As Paul explains so eloquently in Romans 8, our eager desire for the redemption of our bodies is intimately connected with our hope for the redemption of the entire creation from the ravages of sin. The doctrine of the new heavens and earth, then, is not a peripheral doctrine or a side-issue. It is a key element in the redemptive work of God. It defines the eternal state in which we shall live with Christ forever.

End-times doctrines are often surrounded by controversy and confusion. This should not cause believers to throw their hands up in despair. It is the hope of the editors of Tabletalk that this issue will help to rekindle the biblical hope in the hearts and minds of God’s people who live coram Deo, before the face of God.

The Blessedness No One Has Imagined

Righteousness, peace, and joy characterize the citizens of the kingdom of God and the life these citizens will enjoy forever (Rom. 14:17). The eternal possession of these things is one of the many comforts we receive from our belief in “the life everlasting,” which we confess in the Apostles’ Creed (The Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 58). Moreover, the benefit of eternal life, according to the Father’s plan and as a reward for the Son’s perfect obedience, comes to us through the work of the Holy Spirit. First, He regenerates us and gives us the gift of faith. Then He unites us to Jesus Christ, who conquered death and rose to life, never to die again (John 3:5–6; Rom. 6:5, 9; 8:1–11). Faith is the means by which this union is accomplished, faith that only the Spirit can work in us (Eph. 2:8–10).

Though we know that righteousness, peace, and joy are ours forever in eternal life, we must admit that the blessings of eternal life go beyond what we can fully describe. In today’s passage, the Apostle Paul tells us that those things God has prepared for us have never been seen, heard, or imagined by human beings (1 Cor. 2:9). The Holy Spirit has revealed to us that such indescribable blessings are ours in Christ (v. 10). He has not, however, unveiled them to us in their fullness. In other words, the best is yet to come. God has promised us an eternal reward that is far better than the choicest pleasures this life offers. We will enjoy such beauty, such satisfaction, that the best things of this world will be put to shame.

One of these enjoyments will be our face-to-face vision of the Creator Himself (1 Cor. 13:12). Scripture does not tell us precisely what that will be like, but there are hints that it will be an experience of light so pure and so lovely that we would never want to look elsewhere again (Rev. 21:22–26). This vision will not inspire the terror that sinners feel in God’s presence, for we will be like Christ and, therefore, clean enough to look on our Lord without fearing destruction (1 John 3:1–3). We will never be bored with this experience, for it is what human beings were created for, namely, to fellowship with God directly (Gen. 3:8; 1 John 1:3). But this blessing will be ours only because of the grace of God and the work of our Savior, who has earned for His people the right to become children of God (John 1:12–13).

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