Keep Your Eye on the Prize!
O Lord God, my dear heavenly Father, You have promised that the history of this world will come to an end—that this heaven and this earth will be replaced by a new heaven and earth in which righteousness will dwell. O Lord, keep these truths ever before my eyes as I make my plans for this life. Do not allow my temporal goals to over-shadow Your eternal goals for me and for others. Help me to walk with faithfulness all the days of my life, so that I may by Your grace through faith in Jesus enjoy the gift of everlasting life. Amen.
Malachi speaks of the coming of the Savior—both His first coming and His second coming. He came to the temple as God’s Messenger during His earthly ministry, but He will come again in judgment at the end of time. Let us ever be prepared for His arrival!
Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead. He will welcome God’s believing children into the bliss of heaven, while sentencing all unbelievers to the fires of hell. The good works of believers will be a testimony to their saving faith, while the absence of those works will demonstrate the just judgment of God upon unbelief.
Text: Revelation 21:1-4
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
In Christ Jesus, who will come again to judge both the living and the dead, dear fellow redeemed:
We live in a goal-oriented society, and that is good in many respects. Parents have goals for their children. Students have goals for their education. Businesses have sales goals. Workers have retirement goals. Goals are good, because they help us focus our attention on those things that need to be done in order to be successful.
In Philippians the apostle Paul speaks of his spiritual goal when he writes: “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (3:14). To what is Paul referring when he speaks of “the goal… (which he then describes as) the prize of the upward call of God”? He is talking about everlasting life in heaven. As he goes on to explain: “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ!” (3:20)
While our personal goals may vary to a large extent, I am confident that the spiritual goal identified by the apostle Paul is one goal that we all share. As we near the end of the Christian church year and are reminded once again of the coming of Judgment Day and God’s gift of eternal life, I would encourage each of you—KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE! As we shall see from our text, that prize includes a new world, a new body, a new relationship, and a new life!
Yes, KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE…a new world! John the apostle writes, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.” While I have stated that personal goals are good in many respects, they can also be bad in some respects—especially if they distract us from the spiritual truths God would have us understand and the spiritual priorities God would have us embrace. God wants us to understand that this world and our lives in this world will come to an end. This world and everything in it will pass away. Consequently, while we want to take advantage of our opportunities in this world to accomplish everything God would have us accomplish, we should not focus our entire attention to this world. The apostle Peter informs us: “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). Considering this ultimate reality Peter asks: “Since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?” His response: “Be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless” (2 Peter 3:11, 14). Peter urges us to make our relationship in Jesus Christ our very highest priority—to believe in Him, to trust in Him, to obey Him in every aspect of our lives. But then Peter also urges you toKEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE, for he says, “We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).
When this world passes away, God will create in its stead “a new heaven and a new earth.” Imagine what that will be like—a new heaven and a new earth, in which Peter says righteousness will dwell. No more pollution…no more fears of global warming…no more tornadoes, or hurricanes, or floods, or fires, or natural disasters of any sort! No more harmful radiation, no more cancer-causing radon, no more blights, or diseased plants or animals. No more natural divisions, such as the seas to keep people separate. God’s new heaven and new earth sound as if they will be like the Garden of Eden all over again! Our world, in spite of all of its problems, still remains breathtakingly beautiful in spite of the fact that much of its beauty—the mountains and valleys—were formed by God’s destructive power at the time of the Great Flood. Imagine the beauty of the new world that awaits us—a world created not by destructive power, but solely by the creative genius of God! KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE…a new world!
And…a new body! John writes, “Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Frequently in Scripture, believers are called the bride of Christ and that there awaits all believers a heavenly wedding feast at the end of time. In his epistle to the Ephesians, when speaking of marriage, the apostle Paul writes: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (5:25-27). We have been cleansed by God’s grace through faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ. We are by faith the bride of Christ. The Scriptures also speak of us as being the New Jerusalem. The writer to the Hebrews says, “You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven” (12:22)—that is us!
On the last day we will be united with our Savior, but not as you see us today. As citizens of the New Jerusalem, we will experience a change unlike anything else we have ever experienced. With reference to the resurrection, the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15: “The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (42b-44a). For those of you who are mature in age, imagine a body not ravaged by time. For those of you dealing with disability, imagine a body without defect. For those of you plagued by disease, imagine a body entirely healthy. For those of you with glasses or hearing aids, imagine perfect sight and perfect hearing. For those of you whose minds are confused, imagine clarity of thought. One day all of the troubles that plague are physical bodies will be no more! KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE…a new body!
And…a new relationship! John writes, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them and be their God.” To what is being referred when the voice from heaven mentions “the tabernacle of God”? The tabernacle in the Old Testament was the tent in which the Ark of the Covenant first resided. Moses had it constructed at Mount Sinai and it moved with the people throughout their desert wanderings and afterward remained the center of worship for centuries during the period of the Old Testament judges. The tabernacle was for Old Testament Israel a visible, physical symbol of God’s invisible, spiritual presence in their midst. Later the temple became that visible, physical symbol—a symbol no longer needed after Jesus came in the flesh to this earth. That is why Jesus was able to cry out: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).
In heaven God will be with us—He will dwell in our midst…visibly! We will be able to see His glory and rejoice in that glory. We will not have to be afraid, for there will be no sin—no reason for shame or separation. God’s plan for our future, in view of this, is even better than His plan for our past. When God first created the world, He placed Adam and Eve in charge of the world and upon occasion during the evening hours would walk and talk with them (cf. Genesis 3:8). He was not present visibly at all times. He, therefore, created a sun to provide them with direct light, and He established marriage, so that man would not be alone. But in heaven, God will be with us and dwell in our midst. The Bible suggests there will be no sun in heaven, for there will be no need—God will provide the light. The Bible suggests there will be no marriage in heaven, for there will be no need—we will never be lonely! Yes, ours will be a special and close relationship with our Creator-Redeemer God! No fear, no shame, no questions, no blame—only joy, only confidence, and only contentment! KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE…a new relationship!
And…a new life! John concludes: “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” It is interesting, is it not, that when the Bible here speaks so directly about heaven, that it speaks in the negative—what heaven will not be like, rather than what it will be like! When King David spoke of heaven many centuries earlier, he spoke in the positive—“In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). Yet, even here David is very general, for, after all, which of us has ever experienced “fullness of joy”? None of us! Which of us has ever experienced “forevermore”? None of us! We have, however, all experienced the negatives mentioned in our text. We have all cried. We have all been sorrowful. We have probably all experienced the effects of the death of someone we know and love.
Did you ever think about the fact that most of us will be “out of work” in heaven? Not really, for there will be many things to do in heaven, but they will not be the same things we do here. There will be no doctors or nurses in heaven, for there will be no sickness or disease. There will be no police or fire personnel, for there will be no crime and no accidents. There will be no social workers, there will be no soldiers, there will be no more insurance salesmen…come to think of it—there will be no more pastors! Why? Because “the former things” will have passed away!
All sorrow, all sadness, all suffering will be a thing of the past, for there will be no sin in heaven! There will be joy. There will be singing. There will be awesome challenges and even more awesome successes! My dear friends, KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE—a new life beyond anything any of us has ever or will ever experience in this world. Do not allow your earthly goals, no matter how important they may be, distract you from your personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a proper understanding of His truths as revealed in the Bible. Remember—our God is in control of this universe. What He has determined will come to pass. Let us serve Him with diligence here, so that we might rejoice in His presence forever! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting