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Everyone needs hope. Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said that, ‘To live without hope is to cease to live.” And psychologists will tell you that a lack of hope is where depression comes from. Yet, what is hope? Hope is the combination of two things: desires and expectations. Hope is not just wishing for something to happen; it’s living with the expectation that it will happen. Unfortunately, the English word hope has come to mean just wishful thinking. So, you’ll hear people say, “Expect the worst, but hope for the best.” But the biblical concept of hope is a confident expectation of a positive future. It’s not simply what you want to happen; it’s what you know will happen. Everyone needs hope, and what Christianity offers the world is a hope that if you see it and experience it, you’ll be able to face anything in life. One of the best places in the bible that this hope is described is in Revelation 21:1-5. This passage is a vision of the ultimate cosmic renewal of the five main aspects of life.
John says, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth.” The word for new that John uses is not new in the sense of time, but new in the sense of quality. It’s like the difference between Apple releasing a brand new product versus Apple releasing an amazing new update. It’s not new in that it just appeared, it’s new in that it’s now everything that it was meant to be. It may come as a surprise, but heaven is not a believer’s final destination or home. Don’t get me wrong, heaven is a real place. It’s a real state, but it’s not a Christian’s permanent real estate. In the bible, the ultimate goal is not to get earth to heaven, but to get heaven to earth. That’s why they pray, “Thy Kingdom come.” That’s why the Apostle Paul wrote, “…Creation has been groaning” (See Romans 8:22). Creation is waiting for the day when, just like in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, “Everything that is Winter will turn into Spring.” One-day creation itself is going to be renewed. God is not going to release a brand new product; he’s going to release an amazing new update.
Next, John says, “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Now, the point of the city metaphor is not for readers to imagine buildings and skyscrapers going up, but to imagine a diverse group of people going out. The church is meant to reach out to the world as a new community of radical relational diversity. And this relational reconciliation and renewal is meant to start now and be a glimpse of what’s to come. It’s also said to be a city wearing a wedding dress. Obviously, this is highly symbolic. John is showing his readers that when they get to the end of the story, they’re not going to be alone, and they’re not going to be ashamed. They’re going to be together, and they’re going to be fully redeemed by God. Christ is going to look at his people with the look of affection, love and lasting approval.
Moreover, John says that “…The dwelling place of God is with man!” In other words, one-day God is going to permanently move right into our neighborhood. The union and communion, the relationship and the fellowship that believers have now with God will one day be complete. There will no longer be any sin to confess or any distance to interrupt fellowship with God. Listen to how John Piper put it – “The greatest frustration of this age for the child of God is that we still sin. We want to be holy and we fall short. We want to love and we say hurtful things. We want to worship and we feel cold. We want to walk in peace and we feel anxiety. We want to be pure in thought and impurity bombards our minds.” But one day the struggle will give way to victory because every believer will see God face to face and experience the ultimate spiritual renewal.
Then, like a father who has compassion on his children, God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” The hope set before every Christian is the day when eyes full of tears will turn into eyes full of wonder when they see how God has turned every single apparent tragedy into triumph and every evil into good. One day all mourning will turn into dancing.
Lastly, John says, “And death shall be no more.” The bible describes our current bodies as a tent, because a tent is temporary. It’s not meant to be a permanent dwelling. Tents gets torn. Tents get torn down, but a home is lasting. There’s coming a day when every believer will be in their permanent home. They will have bodies that never breakdown and die. What a picture of hope and renewal this is. It’s ultimate renewal. Creational, relational, spiritual, emotional and physical. Everyone needs hope, and this vision is offered to all believers so that when they are tempted to look at their circumstances and see a hopeless end, they would look at their future and see an endless hope.