“Behold, I Am Making All Things New!” (Revelation 21:1-7)

Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 19, 2019

“Behold, I Am Making All Things New!” (Revelation 21:1-7)

Today we’re starting a three-part sermon series I’m calling “Behold, the New Jerusalem!” These messages will be based on the readings from Revelation chapters 21 and 22, where St. John is given a vision of our eternal dwelling place, the new Jerusalem. What we will discover over these next couple of weeks is what you and I have to look forward to as the people of God. Brothers and sisters, it will be new and exciting and beyond our wildest imagination!

We begin today with the opening verses of Revelation 21. Here St. John is given a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, and he sees a new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. In fact, the Lord God says–and this is our theme this morning for the first message in our series: “Behold, I Am Making All Things New!”

Listen, what God has in store for us is so good that it will exceed–far exceed–our expectations! It has not even entered into our minds all that God has prepared for his people. But we do get a glimpse of it in these chapters, enough to whet our appetite and to give us a firm hope to hold on to, in the midst of all the distress we experience in this life.

Our text begins with St. John letting us in on the vision the Lord gave him. He writes: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” A new heaven and a new earth. But what was so wrong with the first heaven and the first earth? Why do they need to pass away? After all, in Genesis 1 it says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. . . . And God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Now, to be sure, there are still many good things about this creation that we live in. Beautiful sunsets. Birds singing. Trees. Flowers. Music. Children and grandchildren. The marvelous abilities of the human mind. These all are good things, and they give us joy. So the heaven and the earth in which we live still bear the stamp of the goodness of God.

At the same time, though, there is much about this created order that is no longer good. Tornadoes leave a swath of destruction in their path. Flooding across much of the Midwest. Drought and wildfires out west. Nature doesn’t work right. We humans don’t work right. Cancer destroys the body. Alzheimer’s fogs the mind. People commit deeds of unspeakable evil. Death and disaster, heartache and sorrow, plague heaven and earth as they now stand.

What happened? In a word, sin. Sin entered this world when our first parents doubted God’s word and turned against him. And all of their children–that’s us–have been sinning ever since. That’s the inheritance we receive from our fathers. As a result, the earth itself came under a curse. The whole creation is out of whack. Things don’t work the way they’re supposed to. Death and decay surround us. We are passing away, and one day this world will pass away.

St. Paul puts it like this in Romans 8: He says that “the creation was subjected to frustration.” “The whole creation has been groaning,” he says. But, “as in the pains of childbirth.” For one day “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay.” In the meantime, though, “the creation waits in eager expectation” for that day. What’s more, “we ourselves groan inwardly as we wait eagerly” for the redemption of our bodies.

So a new day is coming. And that’s what St. John is given a glimpse of here in Revelation. A new heaven and a new earth. God will remove all the bad stuff from this first and fallen creation: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Out with the old; in with the new! Out with sin and all of its damaging effects. Disease and death–no more! Fightings and fears, troubles and tears–no more! All these belong to the old order of things, and they are on their way out.

Out with the old; in with the new! In with all things new. Things like fellowship with God–something we know now, but then our fellowship with God will be perfect, undisturbed by any sin. All things new. Things like being the people of God gathered in his presence–something we are now, but then it will be fulfilled to the greatest possible degree. In that day we will hear a loud voice proclaiming the consummation of the ancient covenant promise: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”

Our Lord gives us his word on this. He says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Notice, he does not say, “I am making all new things.” It’s not like God is going to annihilate every thing and every one so that they bear no resemblance to their current state. No, there will be some continuity. You will still be you. Aunt Martha will still be Aunt Martha. Our physical bodies will be glorified and raised imperishable, no longer subject to decay, but they will still be our bodies. There will still be some sort of a heaven and an earth. A new heaven and a new earth. The Greeks have two words for “new.” One means “absolutely new,” new in time, recently come into existence. But that is not the word that’s used here. Instead, this word for “new” has the idea of “renewed,” a new quality that exceeds the old. “A new heaven and a new earth” thus means a “new kind” of heaven and earth. So it will not be “all new things,” but rather, “all things new,” made new, renewed and restored to a more glorious state.

So John sees a new heaven and a new earth. What else does he see? A new Jerusalem. “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem,” he says. The holy city. Now with all this talk of a new heaven and a new earth, you’d think John might see something like out of Genesis and the Creation account. You know, a new Garden of Eden, “Paradise Restored.” A garden, not a city.

Cities as we know them can be both beautiful and ugly. The city I grew up in, Chicago, on its official seal has a motto written in Latin, “Urbs in horto.” That phrase, Urbs in horto, means “city in a garden.” This was certainly the ideal of the city planners–that Chicago would have enough parks and places of beauty that it would seem like a “city in a garden.” Now there still are some nice parks and a beautiful lakefront, but I’m afraid that much of Chicago is more like an urban jungle than a city in a garden. Rundown areas, crime, congestion–whether you’re in Chicago or St. Louis or any major metro–these are the negative aspects of life in a big city.

But the new Jerusalem sounds like it truly will be a city in a garden. A city, large enough to be home to all the peoples of the earth who will live there. A community where people live together–that’s the nice thing about cities. Yet it also will be a garden, a return to Eden, a beautiful place where God and man and nature dwell together in peace and harmony. This new Jerusalem really will be the best of both worlds.

But why Jerusalem? The name “Jerusalem” means “city of peace” but historically it has been anything but. Fought over for centuries, Jerusalem today is the tense and overcrowded home to several political, religious, and ethnic factions. Even in biblical history, Jerusalem was far from being an ideal city. David, Solomon, and the other kings who ruled there did not always rule wisely or well. Jerusalem was the city that stoned the prophets and killed those sent to her. Jesus wept over Jerusalem, knowing that God’s judgment would come upon it.

But there was also something about that city that made it holy. Because Jerusalem was where God chose to make his dwelling place on earth. The temple was in Jerusalem. The place of God’s presence. The place where God provided for sacrifices to be made to atone for sin. Those sacrifices pointed ahead to the final sacrifice, made by the Son of God himself. On the cross, Jesus Christ offered his own life for the sins of the world. Jesus died there at Jerusalem. In Jerusalem our redemption was won.

So notice what John says about the new Jerusalem: “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” This tells us that God is the source of our redemption. The new Jerusalem comes “down out of heaven from God.” Just as Christ himself came down from heaven for us men and for our salvation. And because he did, now we are part of the holy Christian church, the people of God who will live forever in the new Jerusalem as the glorious church triumphant.

“I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” The church is the bride of Christ. St. Paul uses this husband and wife imagery in Ephesians 5: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or blemish, but holy and blameless.” We the church are the bride of Christ. We will enjoy the closest communion and the most intimate fellowship with our Lord for eternity. In Holy Baptism, Christ has prepared us by cleansing us from our sins. Now we are the people of God, the new people of God, the radiant bride of Christ. And we await the coming of heaven on earth, in the new Jerusalem.

In 2 Corinthians 5 we read, “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” You, baptized Christian, you are already fitted out for the new heaven and the new earth, because you yourself are a new creation! Baptized into Christ, you are a citizen of the new Jerusalem. You will be at home there. So we have a new home that we’re going to be moving into. It’s already ours–Christ purchased the title to it by his blood! This new home is going to be great, better than anything we’ve ever had so far. I’m excited! Are you?

“Behold, I am making all things new.” The new has already come. The newness of Christ has already come into your life. And yet the new is still coming. It’s on the way, and we look forward to it. This old world is passing away, but behold, there’s a whole new world coming! You can count on it! Our Lord has given us his word: “Behold, I am making all things new!”

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Published in: on May 18, 2019 at 9:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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