When she was 18 years old, Joni Eareckson Tada went swimming with some friends in the Chesapeake Bay. Joni was healthy, active, and had what appeared to be her whole life a head of her. What she did not plan for was on that same day, she would end up a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down. Joni decided to dive into the Bay but misjudged the shallowness of the water and suffered a fracture between the fourth and fifth cervical levels of her spine.
While in rehabilitation, Joni experienced anger and depression over her injury. She wrestled over whether or not life was even worth living, and even contemplated suicide, but then she found hope in the midst of her profound disability after placing her faith and trust in Jesus. Since her accident, Joni has written over forty books, founded Joni & Friends which is an organization committed to bringing the Gospel and practical resources to people impacted by disability around the globe, and continues to serve around the world by communicating the gospel. She is now in her 70s, and has since survived cancer and COVID.
A frequent theme in all Joni’s books, messages, and conversations is her hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ that promises a redemption that includes a resurrection. One of the things that motivates her is a promise from the Bible that no other religion can offer, here is what she said: “No other religion, no other, promises new bodies, hearts, and minds. Only in the gospel of Christ do hurting people find such incredible hope.
The Reign of the King will be Enjoyed
In Daniel 7:13-14 we are told that, “one like a son of man” will come to the Ancient of Days and dominion, glory, and a kingdom will be given to him, then we are told that, “…all people, nations, and languages should serve him…”. The “should” is not a suggestion, it is what will happen under the rule and reign of the Son of Man. The Son of Man is Jesus who will come again, and when he does, he will establish universal peace, not through politics or diplomacy, but through his dominion alone. This is what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote to the Philippian church: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).
When Jesus comes, he will come to make war with all who would fight to keep things as they presently are. This is why Jesus said of that day when he comes again, “…all of the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30). However, we are assured that what sets Jesus apart from all other kings and religious leaders is sevenfold according to Revelation 19:11-16:
- Jesus will come as the triumphant King. The color white does not symbolize purity here as it does when used to describe garments. The white warhorse that Jesus descends from heaven on symbolizes His role as a conquering King. A roman emperor would wear white only after the defeat of a nation or enemy, but Jesus will come already dressed in white because His victory will be sure.
- Jesus will come as the Faithful and True King. Faithful and True are not simple adjectives attributed to Jesus although faithfulness and truth do describe Him. Here, “Faithful” and “True” are ascribed to Jesus as the essence of who He is: Jesus is the embodiment of faithfulness; He is also the embodiment of truth. If you want the perfect example of faithfulness or if you are not sure what truth in its purest form looks like… look at Jesus.
- Jesus will come as the righteous King. When Jesus comes, He will come in righteousness to judge the nations. There will be no room to accuse Him as being harsh, rash, or unjust in the execution of His judgment. The wars we read about in our history books and the ones we hear about on the news often leave a wake of injustice and suffering. The purpose of Jesus’ second coming is to reverse the curse of sin and to establish true and lasting peace that can only come with the presence of God Himself.
- Jesus will come as the discerning King. This is the third time in Revelation that Jesus is described as having eyes like fire (see 1:14; 2:18); every time He is characterized this way, it is metaphorical of His ability to see all things, including the human heart. As King, Jesus will execute justice on all those who have rejected Him as the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus sees what is really in your heart; what you and I try so hard to hide, Jesus sees as if it were in plain sight.
- Jesus will come as the King of kings. In verse 12b, John notices something on Jesus’ head: many diadems. The Greek word for diadem also means a “ruler’s crown”. It is used only three times in Revelation; it is used to describe the crown worn by the dragon (12:3), the beast (13:1), and Jesus Christ. The point that is being made here is that the dragon (Lucifer) and the beast pretend to be what Jesus actually is. Their authority is temporary and given by God, Jesus’ authority is absolute and universal (This is why John records that Jesus had many crowns. The use of many is one way of saying innumerable).
- Jesus will come as the avenging King. Why is Jesus’ robe dipped in blood? Is His robe dipped in blood to symbolize what He did on the Cross? No. Isaiah 63:2-3 gives us a clue to the meaning behind what John sees, “Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? “I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel.” When Jesus comes, he will come to judge the nations for their evil.
- Jesus will come as perfect and divine King. Jesus is the Word of God, a title that is not unfamiliar in the New Testament. It is fitting that John closes his description of Jesus with this title because it gets at the reason why Jesus is qualified to come and judge the nations: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1-5).
Daniel tells us that Jesus’ dominion will not pass away and his kingdom shall not be destroyed. Jesus will come to not only reign as King forever, but in reigning, he will give his people what has alluded mankind since the garden, namely peace. When he comes, Satan will be bound and then condemned to the lake of fire where, according to Revelation 14:11, “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest day or night…”.
Only after the dominion, glory, and the kingdom are given to the Son, will it then be given by the Son to his people. Revelation 20:11-15 tells us that all whose names are not written in the book of life will be sentenced to the lake of fire; all whose names are found in the book of life will be those who will receive the kingdom in the form of a new heaven and new earth.
The Face of God will be Encountered
To have the face of God shine upon you is to experience the favor of God. This is why Aaron’s blessing from Numbers 6 was recited generation after generation. What made the blessing so special was that it was from God for His people. To have the face of God shine upon you is to have him beam with delight over you. For Him to be gracious to you is to experience His unmerited mercy. For God to turn His face towards you is to have the loving attention of the Father.
When Moses asked to see the glory of God back in Exodus 33, he wanted to see the face of God, yet not even Moses was permitted to see the face of God: “And the LORD said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.’” (Exod. 33:19-20). The reason Moses could not see the face of God is because of our sin problem. There was a time when mankind was permitted to see the face of God and that was in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve’s sin.
The giving of the Kingdom to the people of God can only come once the curse of sin is remedied once and for all and his people experience a resurrection like the one Jesus experienced when he rose from the grave. This is why it is not until after dominion is given to the Son of Man in Daniel 7:14 that, “the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever, and ever” (v. 18). Before the face of God can be encountered, the people of God must first be ransomed; this is why Revelation 5 comes before Revelation 21, “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’” (Revelation 5:9–10). Jesus received the scroll in Revelation 5 so that the earth can experience a redemption like the one we will experience that will result in a physical resurrection; the apostle Paul describes our resurrection as a time when, “what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 5:4). When Jesus comes to establish the Kingdom, revelation 21 will become our reality:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “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. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1–4)
On the new earth, we are promised: “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads” (Rev. 22:4). In other words, we will forever know the favor of God experientially.
The Life of the Redeemed will be Experienced
When our experience is that of a new heaven and new earth, we will experience Eden, but it will be so much better than the first Garden. Heaven and Earth will be one place, and it will be spiritual as well as physical. We are told that all of earth will be holy and everything about the culture and worship of heaven that is true today, will become the physical and tangible experience of all God’s people on the new earth.
Although the earth will be physical, it will also be very different. The most obvious characteristics of the new earth listed in Revelation 21 are things we experience today that we will never experience again:
There will be no more sea (v. 1)
The sea is symbolic of chaos, confusion, and conflict. The sea will be no more, and so will the experience of chaos, confusion, and conflict on earth.
There will be no more death (v. 4)
The word “goodbye” will no longer be the human experience on the new earth, because all that is mortal will be swallowed up by life (2 Cor. 5:4; 1 Peter 1:4-5). Isaiah 65:18 promises, “But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.” Death is the great thief of joy; when death is swallowed up by life, we will know only joy.
There will be no more mourning, weeping, or pain (v. 4)
Without death, disease, or the damning effects of sin, there will be no place for mourning. We are promised that when we receive the kingdom, “everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isa. 51:11). Because death will be swallowed up by life, there will be no place for disease or pain. In the kingdom, we will thrive.
There will be no more curse (v. 3)
Because there will be no more curse on the new earth, not only will suffering cease, but peace will be so pervasive that what is impossible today, will be normal:
“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6–9)
Only after there is no more sea, or death, or mourning, or weeping, or pain, or the curse of sin… will there be no place for weeping. When we receive the kingdom, God will wipe away our tears because we will know for the first-time what human thriving will be like, for it can only be the experience of a humanity where the face of God can be encountered within a kingdom the Son of God governs for the joy of his redeemed Bride.
Suffering, governments, or whatever other scary beasts are currently threatening you cannot destroy you if your hope is in God the Father (the Ancient of Days) and Jesus (the Son of Man). If your faith and trust is in Jesus, then you are a citizen of God’s kingdom, for this reason, Daniel 7 states repeatedly that the people of God will inherit the kingdom of God.