Thirsting for the Day When We Thirst No More
Topic: Thirsting for God Passage: Revelation 21:1–21:7
Thirsting for the Day When We Thirst No More
There’s a new ad out on Pandora that contrasts “present you” with “future you”. In the background you hear someone playing an intense game of tennis and trash talking their opponent, and the ad says something like, this is present you, being selfish as usual and not thinking about future you. The implication is, If you were thinking about future you, you might think twice about humiliating your boss at tennis and then rubbing it in with insults about their game.
Present you giving thought to future you…that’s actually pretty good advice. Now the ad goes on to suggest that you think about future you by going out and buying a “cash for life” lottery ticket…which is not such good advice! But this morning as we close out the series we’ve been in, Thirsting for God, I want to co-opt the good part of the NY State Lottery’s message by taking the next several minutes to talk to present you about future you. Specifically to talk about the future that God has in store for His people and how we should not only think about that day, we should long for it.
Title: Thirsting for the Day When We Thirst No More
Rev. 21:1-7 (pray)
There is coming a day when there will be no more thirst. Right now we live in a thirsty world. We are born with hearts that thirst for something that this world just can’t ever seem to deliver. The Bible tells us that at our core, we thirst for a relationship with God, but that thirst for God gives birth to a lot of other thirsts too. We thirst for our lives to have meaning. We thirst for love. The suffering person thirsts for an end to their pain. The lonely person thirsts for an end to their loneliness. The oppressed person thirsts for justice. The orphan thirsts for a parent. The outcast thirsts for a place where he or she belongs. The homeless person thirsts for a home. We live in a thirsty world.
Jesus gives the living water that satisfies our deepest thirst. In John 7:37-38 he says, “if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Jesus not only satisfies our deepest thirst, he overflows through us so that our lives can be thirst-quenchers for others. Personally I remember coming as a teenager to Jesus with my deep thirst and he filled my heart and quenched my thirst. Many of you can tell the same story. Jesus quenches our thirst, but the truth is, he doesn’t eliminate it. But Rev 21 tells us that there is coming a day when there will be no more thirst. There will be a river flowing with the water of life and the thirsty will quench their thirst and they will never thirst again. From these seven verses I want to share a few thoughts about what that means and why we should thirst for it now.
But before we jump into these verses, if present you tends to the pragmatic side you might be wondering why we should spend time thinking about something that is so far removed from life as we know it. Honestly these verses describe a day that feels as relatable to our lives as the newest Transformers movie. Rev 21 transports us to the end of time – and the end of planet earth - as we know it. This is after the great tribulation. This is after the Lord Jesus returns to earth in power and glory. This is even after the Great White Throne judgment. We don’t know when any of this is going to happen, so we can’t necessarily say this is in the distant future, but I agree that it is hard to relate this stuff to life as we know it now. Is there really any benefit to thinking about something so far removed from the here and now? Shouldn’t we stay firmly anchored in the present and keep our minds on what God has for us today? After all, we don’t want to become so heavenly minded that we’re of no earthly good.
Listen, I understand what we mean by that saying. We don’t want to become so spiritually weird or disconnected from the world that we’re on no earthly good, but the Bible doesn’t agree that becoming heavenly minded will render us of no earthly good. To the contrary, the Bible tells us that it’s good for us to think about eternity. One of the most engaged and effective missionary who ever lived, the Apostle Paul, tells us to “set our minds on things above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also appear with him in glory.” (Col. 3:2-4)
We are to set our minds on heavenly things - not so we can disengage from life or escape from life but for the opposite reason: so that we can more effectively engage with life and face it head on. So we can more effectively put sin to death. Thinking about, meditating on, and longing for – thirsting for – the day when Christ’s kingdom will be established here on earth motivates us with a kind of “this life isn’t all there is” abandon that helps us to be more effective and more passionate about the work God has given us to do today. What else has the power to pry our grip off of the things of this earth, of this day, of our own pleasures and selfish pursuits but a dawning hope that there is a far better day ahead? What else has the power to motivate us to choose sacrifice and suffering for what is right – and do it with joy – more powerfully than the strong belief that there is an eternal reward that far outweighs any earthly pleasure or reward?
In Matt. 5 Jesus tells us when we’re persecuted and reviled for his name’s sake to rejoice and be glad. Why? “Because great is your reward in heaven.”
Paul encourages us that the momentary afflictions of this life aren’t worth comparing to the weight of glory that affliction is preparing us for. What motivates risk-taking, sold-out mission, Paul says, is looking not to the temporary things that are seen, but to the eternal things that are unseen.
We are to think of and thirst for that eternal day and eternal kingdom, not as a way of escape, but as a way of encouraging ourselves and one another to live lives that are sold out for Jesus. It’s good for present you to take some time to think about future you in light of the amazing future that God has in store for all those who have trusted in Him and to long for that day. Paul says in Rom 8 that we groan inwardly for that day. We thirst for it. I want to point out two things from these seven verses in Rev 21 that we thirst for.
- We thirst for a renewed earth that’s different …yet familiar (vs. 1)
What we have in chapter 21 is God’s recreation of the heavens and the earth. The end of history is a redo of the beginning, a reversal of the effects of the fall on creation. It’s Genesis chapter one again, except when God recreates it, He’s going to make it different than the original. There will still be a sense of continuity – it’s the heavens and the earth – but they aren’t just reproductions of the first heaven and earth– they are renewed. It will be completely different…and yet strangely familiar.
It’s similar to what happens to our bodies at the resurrection. We will be very different, and yet the same person and recognizable to others. These earthly bodies wear out because we were created as temporary beings, designed to wear out. Our resurrection bodies will be created as eternal bodies that will never wear out. In a similar way, the heavens we know and the earth we know is temporary. Earth – and even the universe - was designed to wear out like a garment. The new heavens and earth will be eternal in their recreation just as our resurrection bodies will be eternal.
In the English translation when it says that the old earth and heaven are going to “pass away” and God is going to make a new heaven and new earth it sounds as though God is going to completely annihilate this earth and the universe, but in the Greek it has a different meaning – it’s more of an intense refining than a completely destruction. In other words, we will be on an earth that is completely and perfectly renewed. All sin and effects of the fall will be completely eradicated…and yet at the same time it will be familiar. It will be dazzlingly new. And instantly familiar. And we will feel like we’ve come home.
A couple weeks ago we traveled to Michigan for a family wedding. While I was there I felt this odd sense of roots, because I was born in Michigan and spent the first nine years of my life in Michigan. I envy those of you who have the rootedness of being brought up in a stable nuclear family and going to the same school with the same friends year after year. My parents got divorced when I was six years old and I spent most of the following years with my father and we moved almost every year. So, without getting on a couch and having you psycho-analyze me, there is sometimes this sense of lack of roots, this who-am-I-really that bothers me a little (but only a little because my identity is in Christ). All of that was echoing in my heart as we were in Michigan – not because it was all that familiar to me, but because I knew it was my first home, the closest thing I have to childhood roots in this world.
I’m not denying that I’m a little weird but I do think something similar plays in all of our hearts. We feel like we have roots in this world, and yet, somehow we don’t. This is our home, and yet we are pilgrims just passing through. Does being “in the world but not of it” mean we don’t enjoy this world at all, we just tolerate it? Do you ever feel like you love this world and will miss the beauty of it? Do you ever feel guilty for enjoying the good things of this world, such as watching a sunrise, or grilling a burger on a summer night, or watching a World Cup with your friends? Randy Alcorn makes the point that we set ourselves up for hypocrisy if we think that all this is “the world” and we shouldn’t enjoy it. He writes:
…we may pretend to disdain the world while sitting in church, but when we get in the car we turn on our favorite music and head home to barbecue with friends, watch a ball game, play golf, ride bikes, work in the garden, or curl up savoring a cup of coffee and a good book. We do these things not because we are sinners but because we are people. We will still be people when we die and go to Heaven. This isn’t a disappointing reality – it’s God’s plan. He made us as we are – except the sin part, which has nothing to do with friends, eating, sports, gardening, or reading.
As Christians we should be able to enjoy this life way more than those who don’t know the Lord. I don’t say that in an arrogant way – it’s just that Jesus is the spring of eternal water springing up in our hearts and we live knowing that we are forgiven and loved by God and in fellowship with Him. And we have an eternal mission to help others know Jesus too. So we can enjoy a beautiful sunrise or a good cup of coffee or a great song or an ocean beach and still love Jesus. This world is our home. And it’s not. We thirst for a renewed earth that’s different…and familiar.
2. We thirst for a day when we will thirst no more (vv. 3-7)
John sees the New Jerusalem which symbolizes God’s people, the bride of Christ, coming down from heaven which means this renewed earth is where we will live forever. And yet in verse 3 a loud voice says, Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them and they will be His people and God Himself will be with them as their God.
Where God dwells is the place called heaven (not to be confused with the term “heavens” speaking of the sky and stars and universe). This means that there will be no longer be any separation between earth and heaven. It’s not, we live here on earth, God lives in heaven, and maybe we can visit Him sometimes. No, this creation will merge with God’s eternal dwelling and heaven and earth will be one. Will we live in heaven? Yes. Will we live on earth? Yes. The two will become one.
And there will be no more thirst. The first thing God is going to do is to wipe every tear from their eyes. Wow, think about that. God will personally wipe every tear of every one of His children who have suffered, who have cried, who have felt loss, loneliness, fear. From the eyes of those who have been betrayed or rejected. And from all of us who have tears of regret for how we sinned against the Lord and for all the hurtful effects of our sin on other people.
Tears represent the deep pain and deep sorrow that life holds at points. We all have seasons of happiness – times when our hearts are filled with gladness and celebration – and we should. But the nature of this fallen planet pulls us to deep sadness and pain, if for no other reason, than we are daily being pulled towards the heart-breaking separation of death. The Bible doesn’t deny or downplay the grief we experience.
Instead God’s word speaks of a day when God Himself will wipe every tear away. This is an amazingly tender picture of God’s care for His children. He doesn’t just hand out a box of Kleenex and say, “pass these around”. He personally wipes each eye dry. But it’s not like when we dry our eyes here knowing the tears will return. When God wipes our eyes dry, it is a symbol of Him wiping away every bit of pain and sorrow from our heart forever. It will be gone and it will never return.
Death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Vs. 4
No more crying, no more death. No more separation, no more goodbyes. No more mourning – the heartache of bereavement. Loved ones that we have said goodbye to on this earth, we will say happy hellos to – and there will never, ever, be a need to say goodbye again. As Sam Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings puts it, everything sad will come untrue. This seems so unreal, so fantastical, that we can be tempted to be skeptical that such a day and place can actually exist. But that’s only because this world with its weight and sin and tears and death and pain and brokenness is all we’ve ever known. It’s our normal, but it’s not really normal – it’s an aberration, a product of creation rebelling against the Creator. One day God will set it right. And we will thirst no more.
But remember that at the core of all our thirsts is one great thirst – our spiritual thirst for God. These verses promise that on that day we will be with God and He will dwell with us. It is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end who says He will give the spring of water of life to the thirsty. It reminds us of Jesus’ claim:
“if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
Don’t think water. Think God. In chapter 22:1-5 says,
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
It’s reminiscent of the garden of Eden. The tree of life. A river running through it (just as Eden had). And as Adam and Eve walked with God in intimate fellowship, the Lord Jesus will be right there with His people. And he gives this living water to the thirsty without payment. God isn’t charging for eternal life because we could never pay the price but His Son Jesus paid the price for us on Calvary. We can eat from the tree of life, because Jesus hung on the tree of death, the cross, to make the payment we could never make.
Not gambling with our future (call band back up)
The ad I mentioned at the beginning of the message deals with the effect of our present choices on our future state in a humorous way, but their answer for future you isn’t funny or wise: they are recommending a one-in-22,000,000 gamble. They’re urging you to trust future you to a long shot that defies the odds.
There is no gamble with the promises of God. In verse 5 Jesus says, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And then he says to John, “It is done!” Our eternal home was secured at the cross when Jesus said “it is finished.” Whatever may lie between present you and future you, if you are a follower of Christ and trusting in his payment on the cross, the day will come when you will be with him on a renewed earth and you will never thirst again.
And if you don’t know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, I want so badly for you to see that this isn’t some far-fetched myth, this is real, Jesus is real, and he will save you in an instant if you will but turn from your sin and believe in him. If you will surrender your present, and your future, to his Lordship. In a few minutes, after we sing a song, I’m going close us in prayer and if you aren’t a Christian but you sense God working on your heart this morning, I want to invite you to pray with me.