Discussion Guide for Revelation 21
One of my favorite parts of ministry at Venture Church is to meet people visiting the church for the first time. It is very satisfying to hear the reasons why they enjoyed visiting and want to come again soon.
Those reasons usually revolve around four things that we as a church try very hard to do well:
- Preach the entire truth of the Bible in a way that people can understand it
- Sing praises to God in a worthy manner
- Bury people with kindness when they come in the door so that they know that we love them and are happy they are here
- Treat kids with love while we teach them the Bible.
When a person comes to a church that is good at fulfilling its calling, they often describe the experience as a little piece of heaven on earth.
- What aspects of church give life to your soul?
- What parts of church stress you out?
- In your experience, how does the church resemble heaven?
As we come toward the end of the book of Revelation, Satan and all of his work have been judged and eternally destroyed. Those who live deceived by Satan have been cast into the lake of fire with him. What remains of the earth is made new, without any of the taint of sin. Just like Revelation 19, the language of a marriage covenant permeates this entire chapter.
We have to get our theology of marriage right in order to properly understand heaven. Revelation 22:1-5 illustrates a recreation of the Garden of Eden. The Garden was a place of life where man and woman dwelled in a perfect marriage and a perfect relationship with God.
Bible scholars point out the book of marital love, Song of Solomon, also likens marriage to a delightful garden. The ancient interpretation of Song of Solomon as an allegory of the love of God for the church may bear some truth.
In Revelation, the new Jerusalem is prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. The man and woman were innocently naked before each other and God in the Garden. In the new creation, all of the shame of sin and death will be cast away. All of life will be lived in the presence of light.
Adam and Eve were created to help God rule over the Garden. The church is a new creation to help God rule over the renewed earth.
Marriage is all about a man and woman dwelling together in unity. The New Jerusalem is about a place where God dwells (tabernacles) with his unified people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
We could literally write books and books that would parallel heaven and marriage.
- Does your marriage prepare you for the New Jerusalem?
- What can you do this week to help your marriage reflect the union of God and His church?
- How does the union with God have even greater significance for a person called to live in singleness?
Much is often made of the presence of jewels and pearls and crystal and gold. I hate to throw cold water onto the typical southern gospel singing where they go on and on about the physical riches and beauty of heaven, but that is not the point of this passage.
A person who is interested in heaven because of the gold and jewels is not interested in the heaven of the Bible, and probably is not interested in the savior who is the way to heaven.
Heaven is the place where God decides to dwell in an eternally abiding covenantal relationship with His bride, the church. The point of heaven is that we get to spend our eternity in the presence of God! This reality is only a comfort to those of us who know and love Him.
The description of riches is to convey the point that God’s presence has infinitely more value than anything this world has to offer.
The cubic shape brings to mind the shape of the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s temple, where the presence of God continually dwelt in the midst of the people of Israel. The dimensions of 12,000 stadia correspond with the dimension of the known Grecian world of John’s time.
The implication is that the presence of God will fill the entire earth and will not be withheld from any of those who are washed clean and given a place in the eternal city1.
- What does the word covenant mean to you in regards to your relationship with God?
- Do you believe the shallow nature of our relationships with other people in modern western culture makes our relationship with God more or less meaningful?
- What does it mean to thirst for the spring of the water of life?