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, the 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,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also, he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. (New Revised Standard Version)
The world as we now know it will someday pass away.
We have a future hope – and it will literally be heaven on earth.
God will descend to dwell with us, and, so, will bring us to humanity’s original design God in the Garden – an unhindered relationship between God and people in which we are no longer dogged by a sinful nature, a sinful world system, and all the temptations a sinful devil uses to exploit for malevolent purposes.
Tears, death, sorrow and pain will be a thing of the past. Our struggle with sin will be over.
The Apostle John’s revelation to the early church was a very encouraging message. The believers faced all kinds of trouble and persecution due to their commitment to Christ. To know that these problems are temporary, and that Christ’s changes are permanent, was a great comfort and boon to their faith.
One of the problems we experience in this present age is our chronic impatience. We want what we want, and we want it now!
Throughout history God’s people have looked ahead in hope for the ultimate fulfillment of divine promises. John did not really give a brand new revelation to the church but upheld and anticipated, for Christians, what was true for Israel.
“Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth,
and no one will even think about the old ones anymore.
Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation!
And look! I will create Jerusalem as a place of happiness.
Her people will be a source of joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and delight in my people.
And the sound of weeping and crying
will be heard in it no more.” (Isaiah 65:17-19, NLT)
In Christ’s first advent, God’s people believed all these promises would be fully and finally realized. But, like a young couple in their engagement period, the promises of God were initiated but not yet realized or consummated.
People throughout the centuries have struggled with patience, wondering if all this talk of renewal, restoration, and revival would ever happen.
“Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation….” But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:4, 8-9, NIV)
God is even now in the process of moving history to its final stage. Can we be patient, letting God work until that final day comes?
We live in an amazing time. Although the earth is a big place, we can traverse it by plane in less than two days. It used to be that a ship going across the Atlantic Ocean took three months from Europe to America. Now, we fly across the ocean in a matter of hours. Yet, we freak out whenever we have to be to the airport two hours before a flight and grump about standing in a twenty minute line to board a plane.
It used to be that communication moved at the same pace as a ship. Knowing about a significant event that happened in Europe took months to find out. Now we can know what kind of bread some Frenchman ate for breakfast almost instantly after he eats it because he posted it on social media. Yet, we complain about waiting a few extra seconds for something to load on our computers or smartphones, as if the world were about to end.
Well, actually, the world is about to end.
Until that day comes, we are not to spend our remaining time trying to figure out exactly the day and hour of Christ’s second advent. We properly anticipate Jesus coming again when we let God change our hearts and lives, our neighborhoods and workplaces, our families and churches, to be like Christ.
God is presently preparing for Christ’s return by doing away with the old to make room for the new. With every changed life, there is the reminder that God is not slow in keeping promises but is active in transforming lives for good.
The New Testament book of Revelation helps us break our fixation with the past and holding onto the ways we have always done things. We are reminded of God’s capacity and action for renewal. We can walk, right now, in newness of life.
So, what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!
That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country. (Romans 6:1-5, MSG)
To overcome impatience and embrace perseverance, we need a better perspective.
In the fall of 1991, a car driven by a drunk driver jumped its lane and smashed headfirst into a minivan driven by a man named Jerry Sittser. Sittser and three of his children survived, but Sittser’s wife, four-year-old child, and mother died in the crash.
In his book, A Grace Revealed, Sittser shares the following interaction some months after the accident with his son, David, who was one of the children who survived:
“Do you think Mom sees us right now?” he suddenly asked.
I paused to ponder. “I don’t know, David. I think maybe she does see us. Why do you ask?”
“I don’t see how she could, Dad. I thought Heaven was full of happiness. How could she bear to see us so sad?”
Could Lynda, my wife, witness our pain in Heaven? How could that be possible? How could she bear it?
“I think she does see us,” I finally said. “But she sees the whole story, including how it all turns out, which is beautiful to her. It’s going to be a good story, David.”
When all is stripped from our lives, and the world as we know it is done away with, what are we left with?
We are left with God. And a participation with Christ in the renewal of all things. We do that through alleviating and doing away with the evils and troubles of this world. Whenever we seek to eradicate things like global poverty and sex-trafficking; help others come to grips with the evil of this world; change old devilish ways of living; or come alongside others in their trouble; then, God is using us to make everything new.
The end is coming.
But it’s not yet here.
What’s here right now is God patiently bringing salvation to all kinds of people.
So, let’s allow God to be God. And let’s allow the Lord to use us in proclaiming the good news that all things are being made new.