Text: Rev 21:5-8
NT Parallel Text: 1 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Featured Verse: Rev 21:5 "And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Main Idea: After the final judgment, God will renew all things in heaven and on earth. Unfortunately, the passage makes it clear that the "all things" does not extend to those who are outside of Christ, remaining characterized by their sin.
You'll notice that we will take these final two chapters at a bit of a slower pace. As we move toward Easter Sunday, we will get an in-depth look at the end goal for God's plan of redemption.
Analysis and Application
The final two chapters of Revelation give us an inside look at true utopia. I mentioned the concept of "utopia" in a prior post. All human attempts to create a perfect world order, this side of the return of Jesus, are fraught with peril. Yes, we should seek to make the world a better place. But, no we cannot create "heaven on earth" in our own strength. Realizing that brings humility and constraint to our efforts. In the end, recognizing our limitations helps make the world a better place, here and now. But the true Christian hope is found here. After the return of Christ and the final judgment all things will be renewed. Heaven comes down. God's people are given new bodies. The earth itself is made new and restored. In fact, this is what the creation has been longing for the whole time. (Romans 8:22-23)
There is a lot that we don't know about what the New Heavens and the New Earth will actually be like. John shows us only the barest of sketches, and it is sometimes hard to know how certain images should be understood. But this much is clear. This created world will be renewed. We will be renewed - body and soul. We will gather as God's people with immediate access to him. ("Behold the dwelling place of God is with man." - 21:3) There are a lot of threads we can pull on in these images, and we will explore that a little in the coming days. For example, what does it mean that leaves on the tree of life are for the "healing of the nation"? (22:2) Interesting.
For now, here is what we can say. The original purposes that God had for humanity in their creation will be resolved and fulfilled in the New Jerusalem. We don't want to be too specific, since the images are not given with exact specifications. But we can expect to see the fulfillment of our good longings and desires in the recreated world order. As my friends Pastor Bill Glaze says, "let me use my sanctified imagination" to explore this a little.
- In the New Heavens/New Earth (NE/NH) our relational needs will be fulfilled in perfect relationship with God. The disappointments and pain of this life will be washed away in the immediate presence of God.
- In the NH/NE we will be God's "people." Therefore, we can expect that we will recognize other people, and enjoy fellowship with them. While God is at the center, it seems that we would also honor God through our relationships with each other.
- In the NH/NE the cosmos will be re-created. There will no longer be a place of chaos, represented by the "sea." I'm not convinced that this means there is no large body of water. Afterall, there is a "river." (22:1) I have no idea how the renewed creation would relate to our current creation. But, if the model of the resurrection of Jesus is meant to be an example, the renewed creation would have recognizable features. This is where my sanctified imagination kicks in, but I think it is plausible, that the New Heavens and New Earth would declare the glory of God the way our current ones do. (Psalm 19) And therefore, our enjoyment of the created world in the NH/NE would be one of the ways in which we glorify God. Perhaps there will be a renewed version of the Grand Canyon or Mt. Kilimanjaro.
So, that is fun to think about. Of course, much is uncertain, but given the Biblical emphasis on this theme as our hope, it is better to think about this too much (with appropriate safe guards and humility)... than not enough. I suspect that most of us fall on the side of thinking about heaven too little. There is, however, a somber note in the midst of these speculations. John is a pastor and inserts his pastoral concerns at several points during the vision. Toward that end, verse 8 sends a stark warning. Those who persist in sin will not enter the NH/NE. Those who align with the powers and privileges of this present world will be removed along with that entire order. I have no idea if people in the redeemed creation will spend any time thinking about the "lake of fire." But as people who live on this side of it, the warning is jarring. Like a flashing red light, John suddenly erupts with the concern that breaks into our reality. The first century churches in Asia Minor were being challenged with hard questions about Jesus. Will you remain faithful? Will you trust him when things are hard? Will you worship God alone? Will you say no to idolatry and immorality? Will you put your hope fully in the grace that will be yours when Christ is revealed?
Along with the beauty of this picture is a clear warning. This renewed reality is for those who are in Christ. Those who trust him for salvation and who are saved by his blood. It is for those who abide in him by faith and remain in him in the face of many dangers, toils and snares. It is worth losing your life if your soul is safe in Christ. (Matthew 16:26)