Friday, September 25, 2015
‘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, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live 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.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Rev 21:1-5
Somehow, reading the above text makes me think of Chinese New Year. For the Lunar New Year, we believe in a traditional emphasis on newness. Perhaps that is why so many people do last minute shopping. When they cross over at midnight into the New Year, their things are still very new. The smell is new. The taste is new. The look is new. Somehow the newness of everything surrounding us renews the soul and excites us. That is why I don’t think negatively of people who do last-minute shopping. This is the kind of newness presented in the passage from Revelation. It promises us a hope of newness. It makes us excited and restless for a coming of newness that will be eternal.
At the end of Revelation, the Apostle John gives us a vision of the final stage of God’s plan for an all-new creation. In the first 20 chapters, John uses very dramatic symbols to show God’s judgments on creation. The war between satanic forces and God’s people ends with the final defeat of the Devil. John then closes with the final judgment where everything that is not of God is thrown into the lake of fire. Now if the Bible ends at Rev 20, God’s people will face a dark and dystopian existence. That is because much of creation is still in a state of devastation. However as we turn the page to Rev 21-22, we see John describing the glorious inheritance which awaits all of God’s people. It’s an indescribable inheritance, beyond anything we can imagine. For those who believe in Jesus as Saviour and Lord, judgment day is past because Jesus has already taken the judgment we deserve. Instead, at the end of history, what await us are words of blessing, “Well done good and faithful servant! Let the little children come to me! Nothing can separate you from my love!” And we can see in Rev 21, a new creation replacing the present heaven and earth. The word ‘new’ means unworn, unused, fresh, original, etc. God is making all things new because he wants all things new, the best, from his children. Isn’t that how it is with you? If you had something new to use or wear, would you want to go back to your wardrobe and pick some old clothes to wear?
God is not satisfied just to refurbish his old creation, give it a touch-up and hand it over to us, saying ‘there you go.’ No, no, no, HE is making all things new - “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” There is not going to be a renovation or makeover. It will be a new earth that we will live in. It will have to be a glorious place. It will be a place where nothing that we have or build can compare with it. This is because God’s people have new bodies and so God gives us a new, glorious place fitting for our new bodies. Nothing in the old earth compare with what is in the new earth. In fact, nothing we can have today can compare with what awaits us. Our possessions, our cars, our homes, our trinkets and toys will be nothing in the new creation of God.
Not only will we be living in a new creation, we will also be a new community of people drawn out of every tribe and tongue and nation. The new Jerusalem is called a bride beautifully dressed for her groom. Whenever I counsel couples for weddings, I tell the bride-to-be that she only has one job to do on her wedding day and that is to look beautiful. A wedding always makes a beautiful picture doesn’t it? The high point is when the bride walks slowly down the aisle, beautifully gowned for her husband. She would have prepared months in advance for this special day so that everyone looks at her. The new Jerusalem is called both a city and a bride, “I saw the Holy City coming out of heaven from God prepared as a bride.” A bride is a picture of intimacy. A city is a picture of community. That is a wonderful picture of the church, beautiful in glory given to Jesus Christ. Our fatty livers, thinning hair, overweight body parts and bad hearts are not going to be a bother anymore because they belong to the past. All the people that we love will be radiant in their new bodies, looking glorious, morally and spiritually pure. Glorious as befitting the bride of our glorious groom, Jesus Christ.
The text promises us “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live 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." There will no longer be poor, rich, powerful, underprivileged people. Every citizen of this kingdom will be equal because the only qualification for citizenship is to receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour in this life. That’s the only thing that matters to God. How wonderful. Whether the one has only one leg or arm, suffers from autism, has poor dress sense, speaks poorly, or suffers any other disadvantage or disability, that one is still not disqualified from this new community.
How would we live our life if you knew that our eternal future is secure? All of us live with a sense of hope, don’t we? We hope the economy will do well so that our jobs will remain stable. We hope our children will do well in school especially if it is a crunch year like ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels. My wife may be hoping I will have more time for her this year. I certainly hope so too. Some of our hopes will be realized but some will be disappointed. Yet, there is one hope that all people can rejoice and never be disappointed. That is the glorious hope of the new world in and through our Lord Jesus Christ. Some of us may have struggled a lot last year. Some of us may have struggles ahead of us this year. There can be so many ways we can struggle through - a nasty boss, difficult politicking colleagues, and stubborn subordinates. Perhaps it could be the lack of work – retrenchment and restructuring. Perhaps it could be a relationship problem - a nagging wife, an uncaring husband, a rebellious child or an uncaring parent who does not bother to care for you. Maybe it is a health problem – a recurring pain, a tumour, disability, growing anxiety or depression. Although I hope not yet, none of us can guarantee it will not happen. There is one thing we do know. We have the glorious hope in Jesus ahead of us. That hope cannot change because it is the hope of glory before all of us.
Or perhaps we have been the cause of others’ struggles. Perhaps we have been a difficult boss, politicking colleague or stubborn subordinate. Perhaps you have been the nagging wife, uncaring husband, rebellious child or indifferent parent. The glorious hope of our future in Christ gives us all hope to change. Or perhaps we have changed but we still live with the guilt of what one has you done in the past. After all, there are some things broken that cannot be repaired so easily. And sometimes they may never be. The glorious hope of our future in Christ gives us hope too. We may never be able to make all things right in this life. But because of the glorious hope we have in Christ, we can let the guilt go. Because God will make all things new, we can ask him to change us, make us new in heart, mind and soul. Then we will not repeat the hurts we brought to others. It can happen because God is making all things new.