Q. Revelation 21 Seems To Be After The Millennium Where It Says There Will Be No Pain Or Tears. Yet Ryrie’s Notes Say Otherwise. If It Is During The Millennium How Will There Not Be Pain And Tears When The Devil Is Released To Deceive The Nations?
Dear Brother ******,
I think we have to begin by observing that no one, absolutely no one, had the first coming of our Lord figured out, so that they simply checked off the events in chronological order. A very few recognized Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy, but only partially. Such were folks like Simeon, and Anna:
And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law (Luke 2:26-27, NAU).
And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38 At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38).
These godly people did not know the plan, just as the Old Testament prophets and the angels did not:
10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven-- things into which angels long to look (1 Peter 1:10-12).
Now, as I read the gospel accounts of the birth of our Lord, it is clear to me that none of these folks grasped the full meaning and plan which God had for Messiah:
The miraculous birth of John the Baptist and the response of Zacharias, his father, caused many to wonder what all this meant:
64 And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God. 65 Fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, “What then will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him (Luke 1:64-66).
Joseph did not fully grasp what the virgin birth of Jesus meant. He obeyed the angel, and took Mary as his wife (without sex), but he did not know where this was going. Neither the magi, nor Herod, nor the religious elite of Jerusalem grasped God’s plan of salvation, which would be fulfilled by Jesus. There were prophetic hints (Luke 2:27-35), but these would only be understood after the saving work of Jesus at Calvary, and His resurrection.
Mary, also, did not fully grasp what God’s plan was for Jesus, and thus she stored things up in her heart, to reflect on them:
But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.
And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart (Luke 2:19, 51).
Nobody fully realized that God’s plan for saving men was being fulfilled in Jesus, or what form that salvation would take:
But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves (Luke 23:34).
“And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also” (Acts 3:17).
27 “For those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, recognizing neither Him nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning Him. 28 “And though they found no ground for putting Him to death, they asked Pilate that He be executed. 29 “When they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb” (Acts 13:27-29).
Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:6-8).
Surely we can agree that the disciples had not figured it out until after the death and resurrection of Jesus and the advent of Pentecost.
If this is so, then why would we possibly conclude that we can figure out the sequence of events surrounding the second coming of our Lord?
6 So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:6-8).
All of this calls to mind the words of Deuteronomy 29:29:
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.”
We do have some revelation from God about the last days and the Second Coming. We surely know from our Lord’s words, that much of the plan for His coming again has not been made known to us:
36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 37 “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:36-39).
There are signs indicating the Lord’s return is near, and we are to be watchful, so as not to be caught unawares. But many of the details have been kept from us. There are those who become more interested and invested in what we don’t know, than in what we are told. That would be to miss the point of prophecy.
I must also take into account that Jesus first answered the disciples’ questions about His Second Coming by warning them not to be deceived, as many would be:
3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 6 “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:3-8).
In this text, and also in the Book of Revelation, the Scriptures are clear that saints will suffer, greatly before the Lord comes to meet out judgment and to establish His kingdom on earth. That should give pause for thought to those who would like to believe that the saints will all be taken away before tribulation comes. (Here, I would distinguish between “tribulation” and “the Great Tribulation.” I see very severe tribulation taking place when men pour out their wrath toward God on the saints. I see the Great Tribulation as the time when God pours out His wrath on those who have rejected Him and who have brought great suffering upon the saints):
1 Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; 4 therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. 5 This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. 6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed-- for our testimony to you was believed (2 Thessalonians 1:1-10).
All of this should underscore the fact that God did not intend for us to know all of the details and the sequence of events surrounding our Lord’s return. Hampton Keathley has done a good job of identifying some of the major differing views regarding the events and timing of our Lord’s return and the establishment of His kingdom on earth. This also reveals the degree of mystery related to these things. I would add that every view of prophecy has its weak points and its problem texts that it must seek to explain.
As a result, I do not strongly embrace any view as the one “correct” understanding of prophecy, while concluding that the other views are wrong. I have a friend, now with the Lord, who used to say, “I’m a pan-millennialist. I believe that in the end it will all pan out as God intended.” I’m not sure I would put it just that way, but I think he has the right attitude regarding prophecy and the future.
Your question pertains to a statement you read, written by Dr. Charles Ryrie. I have great respect for Dr. Ryrie. I had him as a teacher in seminary years ago, but his interpretation of Scripture is not perfect, nor is any of ours. I would surely disagree with some of his beliefs related to Dispensationalism. Also, I believe that Revelation 21 and 22 describe the final outcome, following the defeat of Satan and the establishment of the kingdom, mentioned earlier in chapter 20.
I would also say a couple things regarding ‘weeping” and “tears” in heaven. The first is Abraham’s response to the announcement that God’s judgment was coming upon Sodom:
20 And the LORD said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. 21 “I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.” 22 Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the LORD. 23 Abraham came near and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 “Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 “Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18:20-25).
That is our assurance. God will deal justly with all mankind. We must trust His hand, because of who He is. I am reminded of this definition of faith in Hebrews:
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
In addition to this, we must keep in mind that God’s preference, desire, and pleasure comes from the salvation of men, not their eternal destruction:
“Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live? (Ezekiel 18:23)
“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord GOD. “Therefore, repent and live.” (Ezekiel 18:32)
“Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:11)
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
The second comes from experience, but I believe it is true to the texts above. The mother of a woman in our church drowned in a flood in Colorado. She never professed faith in Jesus. But her daughter said this, “I know that when I get to heaven, I will see this through God’s eyes, and I will know that He did what was right.” I believe that is true. The fact is that all of us have friends and relatives who have died without professing faith in Christ. No doubt such folks will be in hell. But when we are in heaven, and see things as God sees them, we will shed no tears, because we will see that He has done what is right; indeed, He has done all things well.
Related Topics: Dispensational / Covenantal Theology, Eschatology (Things to Come), Prophecy/Revelation