Fretting the Fans
The night before I gave this lesson I was outside a gym in South Carolina reading a book. Almost everyone else was inside, but I get all steamed up by the fretting of fans. Not able to easily box up their emotions or how their emotions fire mine I was avoiding, and reading to keep my mind occupied away from those chafing winds. I was reading one of L’Engle’s Crosswick Journals. She wrote a very interesting thing about literature saying that a hero or a protagonist we know more by their traits than their shapes. The opposite is true of the minor characters. On the new earth we will see how God molded our inner traits.
Lessons in the hope people really want
3 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. 4 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.” (Revelation 21:3-4–ESV)
We may want to skip to verse 4, but in God’s view of things 4 stands on verse 3. In Revelation 4 the throne of God was spoken of, and about half way through the lesson on that chapter we studied it. (Here is a link.) The voice comes from this throne and notice what type of voice it is: a loud voice.
God wants to be with us
So who is announcing this business? God himself. John is not saying that an angel told him God’s dwelling is with man. This is not some earth-bound, man-conceived description. This is John in a vision hearing God say a thing for people. 1 That thing is that God will dwell with men.
Is that so odd or can we glimpse that tendency elsewhere in scripture? Two situations let us consider. First, there was that similar place long, long ago called Eden. Remember how God would walk with man in the garden in the cool of the day? It’s back in Genesis 3 down around verse 8. That fell apart after the fall. God did not desire that fracture, but it happened.
Second, think of Jesus while on the earth. On a number of occasions the disciples did their best to limit access to Jesus. Think of the children. Move from there to the day Jesus and his disciples left Jericho. Do you recall who was outside those gates? It was Bartimaeus. What was he doing that day? Hearing and not seeing for he was blind, but so reasonably wanting to see he called out. The energy and boisterousness of his calling led many to try and hush him. Jesus having none of it shifted the gears of that crowd and had Bartimaeus brought.
So God is keen on people. He does not view us as nuisances from which he must run and hide in heaven. That is rather our own foolish notion of him. That is the way sin makes us. Adam and Eve learned that on the heals of their fruity disobedience. Even, then though, God was “looking” for them.
Before I can leave this section I find I cannot skip that name for Jesus: Immanuel. Recall to your mind what that means: God with us.
God’s got a big box of Kleenex
Suffering is a chief lot of man and the whys of that are best left elsewhere. Why we suffer does not take away that we do. Frankly, we are less interested in a verbal answer than we are in its relief. Often quoted is this passage of God wiping away the tears. It is quoted because of our common lot with trouble.
In Christ there is hope. Through his redemption of us from our sins and then the maturity that newness begins we have a living hope. We have a hope stored up for us in heaven. The old order of things, the suffering way of things, will pass away. The people of God will dwell together on the earth where sin and its consequences are no more.
This will be more than the Thousand Year Theocracy where Satan was gone but Sin was not. The new heavens and the new earth will be about God with us and sin gone from us. Think on this and let your hope float.
For my final word on this lesson let me give you a riddle of sorts: There’s no hope in heaven.
Answer: it’s not needed. (when we are in heaven we won’t need hope any more)