Most of us are aware that one of the most difficult-to-understand books of the New Testament, if not the most difficult-to-understand, is the book of Revelation. In that book, John’s use of apocalyptic language often makes it hard for us to figure out what he’s talking about without serious study of the Old Testament. As a result, we are usually very cautious in making applications from most of Revelation.
One exception to that caution, though, appears in the last couple chapters of the book. There, John describes a city called “the new Jerusalem” in terms that are familiar to us from dozens of gospel hymns: golden streets, pearly gates, the river of life, and so on. The problem is, though, that the more we study that text, the murkier the identity of that city becomes. It may be heaven, but it may also be a vision of the victorious church, and I think there are strong points to be made on both sides of that debate. It’s much too complicated to untangle in a single sermon!
If we want to get a clear understanding of heaven, then, the end of the book of Revelation is not where we should turn. Instead, we should consider the fourth and fifth chapters of the book, which we know are about heaven because John says, “This is heaven.” Let’s spend our time together this morning, then, examining John’s vision of heaven. Continue reading