This may be the single most overlooked verse in the Bible. The truth and it is so powerful!
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 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. ‘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 21:1-4)
It’s the word now that jumped out at me. This is the final scene in God’s grand plan.
If it were a movie, it would be something epic—a film that spans generations like the Star Wars franchise, but with the depth, passion, victory and heartbreak of Lord of the Rings. This is the metanarrative of the Bible, that God sought to engage man and man blew it up. God, being patient, set out on 6,000-year-plus plan, to restore mankind to himself.
From Garden to Garden
The Bible begins in a garden and ends in a garden (Rev. 22:2), with God seeking fellowship with humanity at both ends. Isaiah 7:14 speaks of a young woman, presumed to be virgin (a non-virgin conceiving would hardly be a supernatural sign!), having a baby, who name is Immanuel. Except his name is not Immanuel, it is Yeshua. But Immanuel is a description of his role, for he is El Imanu אל עמנו, God with us. He was God visiting humanity for a very particular purpose.
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Php. 2:6–8)
This is always God’s goal. Even the calling of Abraham and the nation of Israel was with the goal of using that nation to reach the rest of the world (Is. 42:6-7, Is. 49:6, Ps. 67). At first reading, we think that the Hebrew scriptures merely reveal a story about God and Israel. But Paul shows us (Rom. 3:29, 11:11, 15:11-12) that God was always thinking beyond Israel, and how Israel was God's means of engaging the entire world.
This desire of God is foreshadowed in the tabernacle in the temple and the holy of holies, which both emphasized the idea of God dwelling in a specific location. While God is everywhere, humans live in time and space.
And then we get the down payment or deposit in the form of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:14) when we become believers. But this is merely a tiny deposit of what is to come.
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. (1 Cor. 2:9 quoting Isaiah 64:4)
And what is coming is complete fellowship between man and God, with no barriers, no sin, no flesh to contend with; just deep intimacy with the creator of the universe. That’s what John is conveying here!
NOW, God gets want HE wants—and shockingly, it is us.
This is what we should be looking forward to--not merely going to heaven or participating in the coming messianic Kingdom, those are merely locations. The prize is God himself, face to face, as Paul puts it. (1 Cor. 13:9-12) Get ready!