All Things New!

Reading: Revelation 21.1-8

Today is Mothers’ Day and I have a question for all mothers to reflect on – I am sorry we don’t have time to hear all the answers! Perhaps husbands and children need to hear your response – and to resolve to do something about it, not just as a Mothers’ Day gesture, but as a continuing commitment to action.

Mothers, which household chores do you find the most burdensome? The dishes? Washing and ironing? Sweeping and vacuuming? Tidying? Cooking? Or…?

Cooking, of course, is essential – even if we go for pre-cooked or fast-food from time to time! Some mothers see cooking as a creative activity. For some there is creative fulfilment in sewing and knitting too. But those other chores… They keep coming back to us with little sense of creative satisfaction. They are what make for the saying, "A mother’s work is never done!"

At a barbecue or party we may have disposable plates and cups. But they haven’t invented disposable clothes yet! Whatever we make or buy seems to be subject to soiling. Or we move into our dream home – everything spotless, every item of furniture, every useful or decorative accessory exactly where we meant it to be. But we don’t have to live there for long – with or without children – before tidying and dusting and cleaning need to be done. We haven’t succeeded in eliminating those chores!

Our theme today focuses on words of God himself – "the one who sits on the throne" – "And now I make all things new!"

How would you like to live in that kind of world – a new kind of place where things didn’t get dirty, torn, broken or misplaced any more?

The First Creation

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth disappeared, and the sea vanished" (Rev. 21.1). This is John’s vision of what God will do – God, the Creator of the first heaven and the first earth.

The last book of the Bible reminds us of Genesis, the first book. "In the beginning, when God created the universe" (1.1) – literally, in the Hebrew, "the heavens and the earth". God created out of nothing – ex nihilo. The galaxies, the elements, the protons, the neutrons, the electrons, the quarks… – and whatever else may be discovered – all are his workmanship. He is the grand Designer and the Lord over all that he has made. God had made something new.

We are told that on the sixth day of creation "God said, ‘And now we will make human beings; they will be like us and resemble us. They will have power over the fish, the birds, and all animals, domestic and wild, large and small.’ So God created human beings, making them to be like himself. He created them male and female, [and] blessed them…" (vv. 26-28a). Marriage, motherhood, fatherhood, families… all were part of the divine plan. "God looked at everything he had made, and he was very pleased" (v. 31a) – it was "very good". As an earlier writer put it, "everything perfect in its kind, so that every creature might reach the goal appointed by the Creator, and accomplish the purpose of its existence" (C.F. Keil).

That sounds like a very good world indeed. The same writer concludes that "the existence of anything evil in the creation of God is absolutely denied." More recently, I have heard someone say that "God didn’t create junk."

Yet there is a great deal of "junk" about! The world doesn’t seem to be the ideal place that Genesis describes. Either Genesis has got it quite wrong – or something else has happened to change the nature of the ideal world and its main characters. The choice of our earliest ancestors to attempt life without reference to the Creator – a choice which each generation since has confirmed – that sinful choice brought with it not only breakdowns in human relationships but struggle and pain and suffering that were never meant to be.

In Romans 8, Paul wrote that "All of creation waits with eager longing for God to reveal his children. For creation was condemned to lose its purpose, not of its own will, but because God willed it to be so. Yet there was the hope that creation itself would one day be set free from its slavery to decay and would share the glorious freedom of the children of God. For we know that up to the present time all of creation groans with pain, like the pain of childbirth" (vv. 19-22). Paul was saying that, apart from the effect sin has had on humanity, the sins of humanity have brought about unintended changes to the whole of creation.

All Things New

But now in Revelation 21 John has a vision of a new heaven and a new earth. He saw "the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared and ready, like a bride dressed to meet her husband" (v. 2). The old Jerusalem had been the capital of the Jewish nation, the centre of the worship of the Lord – and the place of corruption and of the rejection of Jesus as the promised Messiah. The new Jerusalem will truly be the Holy City, made by God, purified and ready, truly given over perfectly and completely to the worship of God and the fulfilment of his will.

"Now God’s home is with human beings! He will live with them, and they shall be his people. God himself will be with them, and he will be their God. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes. There will be no more death, no more grief or crying or pain. The old things have disappeared" (vv. 3-4). That is how it was always meant to be. The old things that came from the sinful choice will be gone.

Before the Fall God walked in the garden with Adam and Eve – that was how it was meant to be. For the Jews moving from Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan, the Tabernacle was God’s tent among all their tents – the reminder that God was living among them. But in Revelation 21 there is the complete fulfilment of what was only partially realised before this. Death and sorrow and pain will be completely removed. For the one on the throne declares, "And now I make all things new!"

A New Creation

It sounds good, but it is not just now. How do we live now? How do we make sense of our present life and struggles? In that picture of the future, is there some secret for living now?

At one level the history of humanity has been an attempt to make a meaningful life without reference to our Creator who desires and deserves to be our heavenly Father. At a deeper level history is, as someone put it, "His Story" – the story of the seeking God who has been acting to bring fallen rebellious humanity back to himself.

At the moment we are told we should think of this year as 1998 CE – to reckon our time as CE (Common Era) or BCE (Before the Common Era). Most of us – by both habit and conviction – will continue to refer to the years as BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini, in the Year of the Lord). The monk Dionysius Exiguus in 525 AD made an error in calculation, so that Jesus was most likely born in 4 BC. In spite of this, our calendar continues to fulfil its intention of bearing witness to the centrality of the coming of Jesus Christ to our human history.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote that, because of Christ’s coming, crucifixion and resurrection, he now views all people differently. "Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being," he writes, "the old is gone, the new has come" (v. 17). In the original Greek there is a note of excitement in what Paul says – he leaves out some verbs! Literally, he writes, "If any in Christ, new creation (or creature)!" We can’t go back to the innocence of Eden, but for every person who trusts Jesus as Saviour and Lord there is a new beginning, a new creation. For the moment we may still have a struggle with old sins, with old habits, with old fears and doubts… But the new has come in Christ and we have begun to experience the newness of what God has intended and of what he has done for us in Christ.

Listen to his promise, "To anyone who is thirsty I will give the right to drink from the spring of the water of life without paying for it" (v. 6b). In Isaiah 55 we hear his invitation, "Come, everyone who is thirsty—here is water! Come, you that have no money—buy corn and eat! Come! Buy wine and milk—it will cost you nothing!" (v. 1), and his call, "Turn to the Lord and pray to him, now that he is near. Let the wicked leave their way of life and change their way of thinking. Let them turn to the Lord, our God; he is merciful and quick to forgive" (vv. 6-7).

In John 4 we listen to the conversation of Jesus with the Samaritan woman. This woman, known for her unfaithfulness, came in the heat of the day to draw water. Jesus said to her, "All those who drink this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring which will provide him with life-giving water and give him eternal life." "Sir," the woman said, "give me that water!…" (Jn 4.13-15a).

It is the offer of God’s grace – are you thirsty? Then come and drink freely at the spring of the water of life.

The offer is open to all, but it is possible to persist in refusing the offered grace and to face the consequences. "Cowards, traitors, perverts, murderers, the immoral, those who practise magic, those who worship idols, and all liars" will go to the lake burning with fire and sulphur" (v. 8).

Paul writes to the Corinthians, "Surely you know that the wicked will not possess God’s Kingdom. Do not fool yourselves; people who are immoral or who worship idols or are adulterers or homosexual perverts or who steal or are greedy or are drunkards or who slander others or are thieves—none of these will possess God’s Kingdom. Some of you were like that. But you have been purified from sin; you have been dedicated to God; you have been put right with God by the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor 6.9-11).

Are you thirsty? Do you have a longing for a life and a world that is new? Then come! Through the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God he waits to give. What you begin to taste now you will experience in fullness in eternity!

(c) Peter J. Blackburn, Buderim Uniting Church, 10th May 1998, Mothers' Day
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Good News Bible, © American Bible Society, 1992.
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