May 5 – Revelation 21:1-5


Main Focus:The point of everything is to be with Jesus.

This is our last week in the Jesus & People series, and you’ll notice that it breaks with the pattern. Up till now we’ve focused on Jesus’s specific interactions with individuals—not exactly what’s going on in Revelation 21:1-5—but we’re turning here to see the fulfillment of all those interactions. Ultimately they all point to the point of God’s work in human history: “They will be my people, and I will be their God.”

This passage in Revelation 21 occurs at the end and new beginning of all things. As verse 1 describes, the first heavens and earth have been done away with like an old garment (Isaiah 51:6) and replaced with a new universe no longer stained by the effects of sin. And in this new reality we find the culmination of the biblical story—we see not creation but re-creation, not a rebuilding of Jerusalem but a new, unearthly one descending from the heavens. And here, most especially, we see the climax and fulfillment of all of God’s covenant promises to his people, the promise to dwell with them for eternity free of sin and the effects of sin.

In discussion (after an intro question to wrap up the Jesus & People series) we’ll focus on the core point of God’s dwelling place with man. When we read this passage we might be inclined to focus on verse 4, and for good reason. Reading “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,” our mind likely jumps to a family member or friend we’ve lost to an illness, or how often we sin or are sinned against and long for a different reality, or when we struggle to get a glimpse of hope through the tears of this life. The promise in verse 4 of Jesus’s perfect coming kingdom—free of death, mourning, pain, and sin—is meant to give us a massive anchor for hope through the difficulties of this earthly life.

However, verse 4 isn’t the primary focal point of this passage so much as a secondary benefit to the main point: being in God’s presence. God is holy, and sin cannot dwell before him, meaning there simply can’t be evil or suffering where God is. Sadly, this is the same reason Adam and Eve were exiled from the garden of Eden and the Holy of Holies in the Temple had to be closed off by a curtain. On our own, sinful humanity can’t be with God. So here in Revelation 21 we see that the true goal of God’s promises, and the real pinnacle of this passage, is God himself.

Track back through the history of God’s dealings with mankind and you’ll find a consistent promise: Immanuel. This was the lost treasure of Eden, the heart of the promise to Abraham (“to be God to you,” Gen. 17:7), the unique aim of the Law and the Tabernacle (“let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst,” Exo. 25:8), and the revealed hope of the New Covenant through Jesus’s blood (Jer. 31:33): that “He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”(Rev. 21:3)

That phrase, “dwell with them” might remind you of John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Immanuel, “God with us,” is the fulfilled and perfected version of the previous covenants; at one point God could only be present with his people behind a curtain, but now he will dwell with them face to face.

In discussion we’ll try to hit how weighty this promise is, asking what it means and how it stirs up our emotions. We might find ourselves in any sort of state, either stirred up to worship, mourning the sin and suffering we still live with today, or suddenly aware of our apathy towards God’s presence. No matter where we find ourselves, hopefully we can receive the grace this passage has for us, that God himself is the goal and also the answer for any and all states in which we find ourselves.

We’ll finish by asking how this passage can help us know how to live between now and then. This passage doesn’t just provide a prediction of the future but a purpose for today—it tells us what we’re living towards. It puts our life and all that tends to fill our waking and sleeping hours into context; for example, much of what we yearn and strive for now (career, wealth, prestige, comfort) will, with the earth, simply pass away. Living with this passage in mind will help us prioritize the eternal over what is “light and momentary” (2 Cor 4:17). Similarly, it clarifies the goal of our life in the context of all life. The whole universe is headed towards being renewed and united under Jesus and in his presence (Eph 1:10). In light of this we can ask ourselves whether or not our lives are being lived in that same direction.

Discussion questions

– What’s something from our Jesus and People series that has been meaningful for you?

– Could someone read Revelation 21:1-5 for us?

– Could someone summarize what this passage is describing?

– Look at verse 3—what do you think is significant about this?

– What feelings does this passage stir up in you?

– How can this passage help us know how to live between now and when this will happen?