If there’s anything that has shocked me since I started writing about prophecy, it’s the large number of Bible teachers and Christian authors who relegate the entire book of Revelation to the past or else regard it as an allegory meant exclusively for first century believers. I especially feel deep sorrow when I hear teachers claim that the last several chapters of Revelation have no significance for us today.
Revelation 21-22 is where John gives us a vivid description of the new earth and New Jerusalem where we will spend eternity. His account of heaven is not an allegory and most certainly not history; it’s something the apostle saw with his eyes and measured with his hands. The Lord showed him our future and told him to write down the words of “prophecy” (Rev. 21:5; 22:6-7). Why do many today say it’s not prophecy when Jesus says it is? I have no answer.
What John wrote at the end of the book of Revelation cannot reasonably be considered history or an allegory. At what point in the past did Jesus eliminate the experience of all sin, death, pain, and suffering (Rev.21:4)? And, how is this even remotely symbolical of anything the church has experienced in the past 2,000 years? It’s not!
So why do so many today put the fulfillment of the eternal state in the past either historically or symbolically?
I believe it’s because Satan hates the idea of heaven (i.e. the new earth and New Jerusalem); and throughout church history he has done all he can to discredit any teaching that regards Revelation 21-22 as literal future prophecy. He’s our enemy and as such loves to rip away our fondest hopes!
He does so for the following reasons:
- The Arrival of the Eternal State Signifies Satan’s Doom
The first reason our enemy despises the eternal state is because its arrival signifies his eternal destruction in hell (Rev. 20:11-15). He hates this prospect with a vengeance! Why wouldn’t he?
Because of this, the devil seeks to derail any teaching concerning this judgment or the eternal state that flows out of his destruction. The two cannot be separated since, without the great white throne judgment (and the reality of hell), we do not have the total destruction of death and Satan. And if that is the case, then the promise of no pain, suffering, and death in Revelation 21:4 falls by the wayside.
Our enemy thus does everything he can to hide the details of the new earth and New Jerusalem behind the façade of false teaching. Perhaps he thinks he can avoid his awful fate by denying it.
I realize that many Christians take a different approach to the last several chapters of Revelation. I do not doubt their sincerity or integrity, but I heartily disagree with them.
I am simply saying that Satan hates the biblical description of heaven in the last chapters of Revelation because it signifies his terrible fate. But that is not the only reason he despises John’s account.
- Heaven Showcases Jesus’ Ultimate Victory over Death
The second reason Satan hates the eternal state is that it showcases for all eternity Jesus’ victory over sin and death (1 Cor.15:54-57). Jesus defeated these things on the cross, of course, but it’s in the eternal state where the glory of his victory reaches its highest peak as it goes on display forever.
I believe teachings that deny the literalness of Jesus’ future reign upon the earth, as well as this eternal demonstration of His ultimate victory over death, diminish Jesus’ glory.
I know I will receive much criticism for putting it this way (as I have in the past), but the purpose of the millennium is to showcase Jesus’ power and glory, which is then further magnified through the perfection of the eternal state. Jesus’ reign on a new earth after the devil and death are destroyed in hell is the crowning achievement of His glorious victory over them.
If you take away the eternal state, you further diminish Christ’s glory. I cannot see it any other way!
I believe Revelation 2-22 is the unveiling of John’s initial vision of Jesus in all His power and splendor that we see in Revelation 1:9-20. The rest of the book of Revelation displays the magnificence of our Savior that we see in its first several verses.
The first chapter of Revelation introduces us to the far-reaching power and grandeur of Jesus, while the rest of the book showcases His display in the church; in bringing the world to its knees through judgment; in his wondrous return and defeat of the antichrist; in his reign over the world during the millennium; and through His ultimate victory over sin and death displayed throughout eternity.
You cannot take away a piece of the book of Revelation without diminishing the picture of Jesus’ glory!
- Heaven Holds the Promise of a Much Better Day
I believe the words of Revelation 21:4-5a are the most comforting and encouraging words in Scripture regarding our ultimate future: “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. And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”
When I focus on these words, the problems I encounter fade in importance. While I care who wins elections or who runs the government over me, these things cannot alter my ultimate future or joy. It’s not that the problems of this current world do not matter; they do. It’s just that I possess an overriding hope regardless of what I see or, for that matter, what happens to me. I have joy now, and it will only get better once I am with my Savior.
This promise of heaven encourages our hearts as nothing else can. The reality of the absolute removal of all death, pain, suffering, and tears is our sure hope along with the enjoyment of a new earth. It’s not some allegory reserved only for the church of the first century.
These promises are relevant to the saints of all ages. We will receive glorified physical bodies that will be perfectly suited for conditions on a wondrously restored earth.
Our hope in heaven is why we can rejoice as we step out of bed in the morning regardless of our age. It’s why we can stand against the attacks of our enemy. It’s why we should be the most hopeful and joyful people in the world.
Yes, we will forever enjoy the beauty of creation restored the way it was meant to be and dance on the streets of a spectacularly beautiful city. Such a great hope can brighten any day!
Because of the hope and joy it instills in us, Satan hates the eternal state and will do all he can to take our eyes off the glorious day when Jesus’ defeat of sin and death will be final and become our forever experience.
Prophecy, from beginning to end, is all about Jesus and His glory and a cause for much, much joy and thanksgiving!
Randy Alcorn said this in his book, Heaven: “Christ died not merely to make the best of a bad situation. He died so that mankind, Earth, and the universe itself would be renewed to forever proclaim his glory”[i]
Jesus is preparing a place for us where He will display His kindness to us for all eternity (Eph. 2:7). We have an amazing and joyous future; don’t let the devil discourage you with false teaching or with images of lonely people playing harps on clouds.
Website: Our Journey Home
[i] Randy Alcorn, Heaven (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004), p. 88.