(79) Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them – Revelation 21:3

At the beginning of the Bible we see a world that is good. For two chapters everything is perfect. Then in the third chapter of Genesis we are introduced to Satan, the accuser and the one who seeks to undermine the relationship between man and God. Towards the end of Revelation we read more about Satan and his efforts to spoil everything good in God’s world and to destroy as many people as he can.

He is depicted as a dragon, accompanied by fallen angels, at war with the archangel Michael and his angels. He is thrown out of heaven where he has been accusing God’s people to God and from there he is banished to the earth where he makes war on “those who keep God’s commands” (Revelation 12:17).

Satan has many ways to deceive people but one of the most subtle is the lure of material things. The world’s commercial system brings many good things to people but also has great power to corrupt those who make money from it at the cost of human exploitation and misery. The more interconnected we become the more opportunity there is for all of us to become guilty by association with this system which is symbolised by “Babylon the Great” (Revelation 14:8) in Revelation. She is overthrown and utterly destroyed and this news is welcomed with praise in heaven.

Satan is finally dealt with in the third chapter from the end of the Bible. After making war on God’s people and deceiving many, he is “thrown into the lake of burning sulphur” where he is “tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).

After this, Jesus, who is both God and knows the human condition from personal experience, will judge every man and woman that has ever lived. He is uniquely qualified to see to the heart of every issue and everyone is judged “according to what they had done as recorded in the books” (Revelation 20:12). This will be an intensely personal experience for each of us as we face a judge who will fully understand our every action and motive. We may be able to deceive a human judge, who can never be 100% sure of our motives, or even ourselves, but we will not be able to deceive Jesus.

If the final outcome of the judgement was made purely on what each of us has done then none of us would qualify for a place in the new heaven that John is about to see. But, as John wrote in his gospel, the good news of the Bible is that “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16) and in Revelation the final decision about each individual is made by reference to “the book of life” (Revelation 20:15) which records the names of those who have believed. After the dead have been judged, the future for those whose names are found written in the book of life is described in the final two chapters of the Bible when perfection returns.

John sees, “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1) and a new city of Jerusalem. The magnificence of this new city is hard for John to comprehend and, yet again, he struggles to describe what he sees. This is a place of perfection and those who want to persist in their pride and wrongdoing will not be allowed in. They would not enjoy God’s presence. But for those who do enter the new city, God “will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).

Although there is much in the book of Revelation that is hard to understand, the message of the glorious future hope that awaits those who put their trust in what Jesus has done for them and opens the door of their lives to him is very clear. This is not an exclusive, hidden offer but has been openly advertised by the Holy Spirit and by the church for two thousand years. The offer is for all: “Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17).

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