Applying The Bible to Our Culture and World

These are the opinions of Jeff Phillips, pastor of an inner city Southern Baptist church in the heart of the bible belt. These views do not represent Woodfield Park Baptist Church, Ashley my wife, our 3 dogs or 3 cats.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

No More Tears, No More Death, No More Sorrow

Revelation 21:4, "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."

One of the most encouraging verses in the bible for believers is Revelation 21:4. In this verse God promises us that one day in heaven the things of this earth that have brought us to tears, brought sorrow and pain, have brought death, will be wiped away by God Himself. It is indeed a great comfort to know that one day we as believers will no longer have to deal with the troubles of this fallen world. But while this verse is indeed true, and a day will one day come when all of these things are fulfilled, do we really understand its meaning? Many misinterpret this verse to mean that once we die, and come into the presence of Jesus Christ, all of these things will be fulfilled. Sadly, this is not the case.

I'm an expository preacher, which means I preach through books of the bible chapter by chapter and verse by verse. I do this because I believe that this is the best way to communicate the true meaning of God's word, to give it out in the context that He gave it to us. For accurate biblical interpretation, context is king, and what comes before and after a certain verse or section of scripture has direct bearing on the meaning of that scripture. With this principle in mind, let's look at this verse.

Revelation chapter 21 is obvious preceded by Revelation chapter 20. In Revelation chapter 20 we have the final judgment of the dead, those who died without faith in God and salvation in Jesus Christ. We call this the "Great White Throne Judgment." It is the judgment where for eternity those who died outside of Christ are thrown into the "eternal lake of fire," what we commonly refer to as hell. We are with Christ at this judgment, as we have returned with Him on "white horses," "clothed in white linen , white and clean(Rev. 19:14)."

There is even a case to be made that we will judge in righteousness with Jesus as in Revelation 20:4 in tells us that judgment "was committed" to those who were martyred during the Tribulation period, those who gave their lives for Christ in the face of Antichrist. Also, in 1 Corinthians 6: 2-3 Paul makes the statement to believers that we will judge "the world" and "angels." Whether we will be part of the judgment of these at the "Great White Throne" is debatable, but there is no question we will be there when judgment is made.

I mention this to make a point. The promise of God in Revelation 21:4 of "no more" tears, death, sorrow and pain comes after the "Great White Throne Judgment." This judgment is in fact called the "second death," eternal, spiritual death that the guilty, those outside of Christ and whose names are not found in the "Book of Life," will be sentenced too. So if this promise in Revelation 21:4 follows the "Great White Throne," what will it be like for us as we either cast the guilty verdict with Jesus or watch as He declares all who stand before Him guilty?

If our father or mother, sister or brother, son or daughter, best friend or neighbor, stands before the "Great White Throne" before a holy and just Jesus, and is declared guilty, what will our reaction be? While we no doubt will agree with Jesus in His judgment, I cannot help but believe that as we watch as our loved one(s) are cast into hell that there will be pain; there will be sorrow; there will be tears and crying. As we watch our family and friends cast into that "lake of fire," how could we not feel these things? We know they deserve it, but that will not numb the pain of eternal judgment.

So I'll ask you these questions; who do you know who may not be or is not saved? Who do you know that may stand before you and Jesus on that day? Who do you know who is guilty of their sin as it had not been washed away by the blood of Christ? Friends, this day of judgment approaches, possibly faster than we think. Do you have a sense of urgency regarding the souls of those you love? Are you a faithful witness before them in word and deed concerning the salvation available only through Jesus Christ? Do you really want to be in this position of eternally judging them or watching them be judged?

Friends, if that day at the "Great White Throne" does not burden your heart for the lost people in your lives, you may want to ask yourself this question; am I really saved? For there is no way we can claim to be a "born again," "new creation" in Jesus Christ and not be broken hearted over our loved ones spending eternity in hell.

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