If you’ve ever climbed up a mountain (or a very large hill), you’ll know how much hard work it is. It’s something that you just can’t do quickly. If you were to try, your legs would turn to jelly in less than a minute. Ending up in a quivering heap is always the result of such ambitions, rather than reaching the top any quicker. At this point children will pass by and stare as they make their way to the top! So it takes a steady pace, any things you carry will only get heavier, unless they are food and water which are fuel for the journey. Hiking to the top is also a challenge of mental strength; where every ridge brings the hope of reaching the final summit, only to disappoint at the sight of yet another upward trail.
Being a Christian can be a bit like this. When challenges come up against us the thought to stop the climb altogether can come at any time. It could be a moral challenge where a relationship is testing your obedience to Jesus or the influence of friends leading your life in a different direction. When God seems distant or you feel uninspired in prayer or Bible study, that can also feel like an uphill struggle. What we read about today is the view from the top of the mountain. This view will encourage you. It’s the reward that awaits those who persevere! Much like the slice of heaven you get at the top of the mountain, you feel the thrill of having completed the climb and take in the beauty of God’s creation.
Throughout the Bible and particularly the New Testament, we are given the most wonderful promise from God: eternal life. Now that evil has been dealt with, the new things are able to take place. Today we’re given a glimpse of this promise. As the first heaven and earth pass away, there’s no distance between humans and God anymore! We’re told “the sea was no more” (v1). Is this the sea of glass that was the dividing point between heaven and earth? It has finally been removed! Now John sees heaven and earth being joined as he witnesses the people of God together, descending from heaven, having been made new (v2). With renewed bodies that are immortal, the ability to sin is now gone. “Behold!” God says (v3), announcing this new thing that He has done.
First God announces that His original intention for humankind has come to pass, “and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (v3). Now the Lord and His people will live together for eternity. You might have experienced this, where you’re hanging out with your friends at summer camp and you’re having such a great time that you just don’t want it to end. God’s desire is to be with us like this and is described by the words “dwelling place” meaning “tent of God.” Of course God is “omnipresent” which means He is already with us invisibly by the Holy Spirit. However, this describes to us how God will be with us both in Spirit and physical form.
This is a great moment of comfort as God recognises the hardships you and I have gone through for His name. It doesn’t matter how old we are, we all need comforting when the tears fall. How tender is God’s love for you and me? Here is a special message for the early church where God is showing that He has seen every tear of those who have lost family and friends through arrest and execution. These were things that were not meant to be a part of this earth. Now things are new.
John sees all of this as a past event; which is God’s way of announcing the certainty of it taking place. Yet God is not satisfied to let even one person go uninvited. His offer of eternal life is for all who desire to know God. Just as we need water to maintain the balance of our bodies, so our soul needs the sustenance that comes from God. You can’t climb a mountain without stopping for water! This life is not meant to be done without stopping to be refreshed by God. The Lord wants you and me to conquer this mountain, to endure to the end and be found faithful.
Father God! I want to recognise how thirsty my soul is! Help me not to ignore the signs of my spiritual need of You. I will stop trying to make it in my own power. Holy Spirit, increase my spiritual thirst! In Jesus’ name.
This is an excerpt from Paul Martin's latest book which simply explains the book of Revelation in 49 devotions. To buy the book click the photo below to view it for purchase on Amazon.
Mountain view photo by Alfred Aloushy - Unsplash