VISION 2019: HEAVEN ON EARTH
These are my teaching notes from the Cornerstone Church on Sunday, January 6, 2019. This teaching was the final installment in the series called The End.
Today, I want to talk to you about our Vision for 2019. I'm going to answer two questions: 1). Where are we headed, and 2). How will we get there? Revelation 21 will guide us to some answers. So ... without more ado, let's answer the first question: Where are we headed?
WHERE ARE WE HEADED?
History is not, as some suggest, cyclical - a never ending series of events, endlessly repeated. No, the biblical concept of history is linear. There was a beginning, there is a middle, and there will be an end, a grand conclusion to it all. And neither is history meaningless or random. There is definite purpose behind it all.
Revelation 21 is a description of the conclusion and purpose of history. That is where we're headed. It's inevitable - it will happen - because God is in charge; he's the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End (verse 6), the one who was sovereign over the beginning and the one who will be sovereign over the end of history. The words of Revelation 21 are "trustworthy and true" (verse 5).
Revelation 21 describes the fulfillment of all God's covenant promises. It is the realization of the perfect world pictured in OT prophecies, such as Isaiah and Ezekiel. This is the perfect end-game in God's mind.
Revelation 21 tells us three things about the conclusion and purpose of history:
1. God will remove sin and its effects from the world - verses 1, 4.
The world as we know it is not what God designed. The world as we know it has been shattered by sin and death. Satan has been given authority here. Jesus called him "the ruler of this world" (John 12:31). Paul wrote that the world is subject to futility (Romans 8:18-23).
But that's all about to change. Verse 1 reads "There was no longer any sea." In Revelation, the sea represents evil. It's at war with God. In 13:1, the antichrist comes out of the sea. Sam Storms writes:
"The “sea” was typically regarded as symbolic of evil, chaos, and anti-kingdom powers with whom Yahweh must contend (Isaiah 17:12-13; 27:1; 51:9-10; 57:20; Jer. 46:7-8; Job 26:7-13). And we must not forget that in Revelation 13:1 (see also 17:2, 15) the “sea” is the origin of the Beast as well as the pagan and rebellious nations that oppose the kingdom of God. It is also the place of the dead (Revelation 20:13) and the location of the world’s idolatrous trade activity (18:10-19). As Ladd has noted, in ancient times the sea “represented the realm of the dark, the mysterious, and the treacherous” (Psalm 107:25-28; Ezekiel 28:8; Daniel 7:3ff). Thus, this is John’s way of saying that in the new creation all such evil and corruption and unbelief and darkness will be banished."
That will bring about a massive change in our lives: Verse 4: "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.” This reflects the promises in Isaiah:
(Isaiah 25:8) He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces.
(Revelation 7:17) For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’
(Isaiah 35:10) Those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
2. God will make all things new - verses 1, 2, 5.
(Revelation 21:1-2, 5) Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” ... 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. ... 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
The Holy City, the new Jerusalem is both the glorified people of God (see verses 9-10) and the place where they live. The word translated "new" means new in quality. This will be an entirely new kind of existence. All we've ever known is life clouded by the dark shadows of sin and Satan (Romans 8:20-21), but that will all change.
We're so used to darkness that it's difficult to imagine anything else. But something much better is coming. The new creation in which we'll live is so beautiful, and radiant, and delightful, and full of joy, and of God's presence, and exactly as God designed it, that we'll "forget" this life forever (Isaiah 65:17).
(Isaiah 65:17-19) See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.
(2 Peter 3:10-13) The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
(1 Corinthians 2:9-10) However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”—the things God has prepared for those who love him—10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
3. God will live with his people - verses 3, 6b-7.
(Revelation 21:3, 6b-7) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
"The purpose of history is to bring about the enduring fellowship between God and his people, which was lost in Eden (Genesis 3:8,24), anticipated by the OT tabernacle (Exodus 25:8) and temple (2 Chronicles 6:18), promised by the prophets (Ezekiel 40-48), and made possible through Jesus’ incarnation (Matthew 1:23; John 1:14). The new Jerusalem is presented as a glorious temple-city, fulfilling OT prophecies and patterns of God’s dwelling with his people." (From The NIV Study Bible notes, page 2623)
(Leviticus 26:11-12) I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. 12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.
(Jeremiah 32:38) They will be my people, and I will be their God.
(Ezekiel 37:27) My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.
(2 Corinthians 6:16b) For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
In the new creation, God will not only live among us, he will also be the center of our lives:
(Revelation 21:6b-7) ... To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.
Revelation 7:16-17 (NIV-WS) Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”
Isaiah 49:10 (NIV-WS) They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water. (See Isaiah 55:1-2)
The conclusion and purpose of history, then, is this: God will live with his people and he will be their one center, their deepest joy, and their fulness forever. Sam Storms writes:
"What makes heaven heaven isn’t the absence of the things that we dislike now on earth. What makes heaven heaven is the presence of God! Heaven will be glorious not primarily because there will be no sin or death or pain or tears but because of the presence of God."
In the new earth, John Piper's vision will be fully realized: "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him." And God's promise to the ancient prophet will be fulfilled: (Habakkuk 2:14) For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
So .... that's where we're headed. But how will we get there? How will we, and all God's people, arrive at this marvelous conclusion of history. Let me show you.
HOW WILL WE GET THERE?
The Cornerstone Vision and Purpose Statements
Since day one of the Cornerstone, our stated vision has been this: "In eternity, around God's throne, will be a huge number of worshipers brought there by the people of the Cornerstone Church." Our vision is just a restatement of Revelation 21. We want to be a church that is on track with God's purpose for history.
So, what do we need to do to fulfill that vision? We make it clear in our purpose statement: "We help people find and follow Jesus." Why? Because the only way anyone gets into the new creation is hand in hand with Jesus.
Only Two Groups of People in the End
Revelation 21 tells us, in the end, there will be only two groups of people: those who are faithful to Jesus and those who aren't. Look at verses 7-8:
(Revelation 21:7-8) Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Humanity will be made up of two kinds of people: the conquerors and the cowardly. The conquerors find and follow Jesus and inherit all God has promised. They are faithful no matter what comes against them because Jesus is THE overcomer.
(Revelation 17:14) They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph (conquer, overcome) over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”
(Revelation 3:4-5) Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who is victorious (overcomes) will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, etc)
(1 John 5:4-5) Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
On the other hand, the cowardly reject faith and follow the antichrist. And they inherit all that is coming to Satan and his followers: the lake of fire. They do not enter the new creation; they go down with the old creation. Because they choose to.
Our Vision 2019
This picture of the future fills me with joy and sorrow. Those strong emotions lead me to a compelling vision for 2019. That vision fuels my daily determination to help as many as possible find and follow Jesus. I'm asking you to commit to this with me.
So, what do we have to BE & DO together in 2019 to help people find and follow Jesus?
We will build courageous, overcoming, followers of Jesus who reach out to share Jesus everywhere with everyone.
We see you as surrendered to Jesus, committed to his church, worship-full, well-taught and grounded in the faith, prayer-full, living a Spirit-filled lifestyle, faithful under pressure, dreaming and doing great things with God.
Our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting is a key part of the vision. Our Power thru Prayer gathering on January 26 advances the vision.
I'M ASKING YOU TO COMMIT TO VISION 2019.
To engage as fully as possible with the Cornerstone. Sundays, small groups, serve.
To complete 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting.
To attend the Power thru Prayer gathering.
First, we will be people whose love for those who don't know Jesus is as wide as possible, so that we can share Jesus as often as possible, in order that God will save as many as possible.
I want to get very practical here. The days of programmatic evangelism are over. You know what I mean: Advertise an event, people will come, hear a gospel presentation, and get saved. We've been trying that for 21 years. I don't think it ever worked very well and now it isn't working at all. People don't want what we're selling.
The best and most effective way to help people find Jesus is to befriend them, touch their lives with love and compassion, and when the time is right share Jesus with them, gently and personally. I do not know a single person at the Cornerstone who has found Jesus as God and Savior any other way. It's not a program; it's a way of life.
Secondly, in order to form people who draw people to Jesus, we will focus our energy as a church on providing opportunities to grow deeper and stronger in faith. This is how we get fueled up to follow Jesus as faithful overcomers. For example:
If I do all I can to help you follow Jesus by teaching and encouraging and praying for you, you will draw friends to Jesus. You'll make Jesus "visible" and attractive.
If you experience the power of prayer, your faith will grow deeper and stronger. And if you experience the presence of God in Spirit-filled worship, your faith will grow stronger and deeper and you will draw friends to Jesus. You'll make Jesus "visible" and attractive.
So, everything in our church calendar will be focused on helping you and your kids follow Jesus, to grow deeper and stronger in your faith, so that you can draw friends to Jesus.
That's my Vision 2019. And you have a part to play. I'm asking you for three things:
Commitment: Something happened in church world in the last decade. We used to define a committed participant as someone who came to church three times a month. Now, that has dropped to once a month. I cannot fathom how we can achieve our Vision 2019 with that kind of commitment. Here's what I'm asking you to commit to: be together here with the church family three times a month. Let's defy statistics. Let's refuse to bow to the culture. Let's show our love and devotion to Christ and his Church.
Engagement: I'm asking you to do more than show up. I'm asking you to get involved. For example, bring your kids to Kids Zone on Wednesday evenings. Drive your students to youth group. Join our men's and women's Bible studies. Join a small group. That's how you get what you need to grow strong in faith.
Investment: I'm asking you to do more than get involved. I'm asking you to volunteer in something. There are so many opportunities to invest your life in ways that matter, that help people, that make an eternal impact. Make some history. Transform someone's destiny.
Those three simple steps will be enough to transform the Cornerstone. You are the key to the health and progress of this church. You can help make a good church into a great one, an ordinary church into an exceptional one, a pleasant group into a powerful one.