Author: Ron Graham
What Eternity Lacks
—Overview of Revelation 21
The Beauty of Heaven (Revelation 21-22) >Seven Final Visions >7th vision >Excursus on Eternity
Revelation 21 makes us think about eternity, especially what eternity lacks. When we leave this present temporal world and enter eternity, some things we take for granted here will be no more and gone forever.
1 No purpose of Your Own
Here in this world we are used to going about our lives according to the purposes we have set for ourselves. We do things “on purpose” and thus we order our lives. We may do this with God’s help and counsel, but we set our own purposes even though we may try to make them fit and follow the purpose of God.
In eternity things will be very different. People will have no purpose of their own. The only purpose that exists in eternity is God’s purpose and people in heaven will participate in it with all their being. Those excluded from heaven will not participate in any purpose. They will be without purpose forever.
So we must seek "God’s eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 3:11). We must ensure our destiny is "according to the purpose of God who does all things according to the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11).
John sees in a vision God’s heavenly city and its people pictured "as a bride adorned for her husband" (Revelation 21:2). This shows the most intimate relationship between God and the people with him. They are the bride of Christ. They have surrendered themselves entirely to the eternal purpose of God in Christ. There is no other purpose for them —no distracting lesser purposes such as we juggle in this present life.
John heard a voice say, "Behold, [in the holy city] the tabernacle of God is among the people and he will dwell with them and they shall be his people. God himself shall be with them and he will be their God" (Revelation 21:3).
2 No Yesterday or Tomorrow
In our present world, day follows night and night day; things begin and things end. We grow up from infancy to old age by stages over time. Our lives are divided into Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. We experience progress and regress, rise and fall, renewal and corruption. We live in motion in space and so we are conscious of the “Arrow of Time”.
In eternity that arrow is in the quiver of Christ. There is no succession, no motion in space. In eternity, there is either “one eternal day’ with no night, or one eternal night with no day.
In the heavenly city "there is no need of the sun or moon to shine, for the glory of God shines in it and the Lamb [Jesus Christ] is its light... there is no night there" (Revelation 21:23-25).
In the beginning God created the sun and moon as "lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night and for signs and seasons, and for days and years" (Genesis 1:14-19). In eternity the lights will no longer shine, days and seasons will no longer come and go.
I hear you object, “But if time ceases, won't people in eternity be frozen in timelessness, stuck in their final moment?”
Jesus says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the First and the Last" (Revelation 22:13).
In eternity there is no succession from Beginning to End, or from First to Last. However, in heaven Jesus Christ enables unlimited purposeful action to be experienced in him, even though that progress is not through space and time.
Outside of heaven there is no day in which to work, and no Alpha and Omega to provide progress. In eternity outside of heaven, people are in darkness, at a dead stop forever. Though they may try to improve their lot and move forward, it cannot be done. What action they conceive, they fail to achieve.
3 No Mix of Good and Evil
In this present world, we have become used to good and evil each fighting to destroy the other’s power. Evil tries to gain supremacy over good. Good attempts to bind evil. The spiritual battle goes on and those on the side of good must put on the armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-17).
In eternity that battle will be ended because good and evil will be completely and forever separated. There will be no mix of good and evil. Joy will no longer be mixed with sorrow, nor pleasure with pain, nor life with death, nor love with hatred, nor truth with lies. In Heaven there will be pure good, and God’s tabernacle (his dwelling) shall be among the people.
In another entirely disconnected realm, there will be pure evil and people will be forever cut off from God. Those who did not become citizens of heaven will dwell among evil. There will be no good thing, no glory. There will be only defilement, abominations, and lies. Evil will no longer be mixed with good, opposed by good, and mitigated by good. In eternity evil will be on its own.
In heaven, however, "they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it, but nothing can possibly enter it that defiles or causes abomination or a lie. Only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will enter" (Revelation 21:26-27).
This does not mean that evil will be at peace and able to progress and build an empire. Evil can build nothing if there is no good thing for it to exploit. In that eternal realm, suffering will continue for no healing balm is there, nor any blessing, nor any God to pray to.
In heaven, however, "there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; there shall be no more pain... the leaves of the Tree of Life are for the healing of the nations" (Revelation 21:4, 22:2).
Now is the time to ensure that you spend eternity in heaven. "Repent and be converted so your sins may be blotted out and times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord... All who desire, let them come and take of the water of life freely" (Acts 3:19, Revelation 22:17).