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, 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, "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away." And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold I make all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." And 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 from the fountain of the water of life without payment. He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death."
Richard Baxter was a very effective pastor in England in the 1600s. His whole adult life was spent battling one sickness after the other. He was harassed by a constant cough, frequent nosebleeds, migraine headaches, digestive ailments, kidney stones, and gallstones. He believed in supernatural healing and said several times he was restored to fruitful labor because of God's direct intervention. He said once a cancerous looking tumor in his throat vanished while he was in the pulpit testifying to God's mercies in his own life. Yet bodily suffering was with him to the end, and he once said that from the age of 21 he was "seldom an hour free from pain."
Richard Baxter's Regular Meditation on Heaven
One of the effects of this suffering was to make him intensely conscious of how temporary his life is and how inevitable death is. Once, when he was 35, he was bed-bound by one of his diseases and thought he would probably not recover. He began to meditate on the joys of heaven and the age to come in preparation for leaving this world. He focused especially on "the hope of glory" and began to write his thoughts.
To his surprise he recovered and his thoughts became a book entitled The Saints' Everlasting Rest. He took up the practice of meditating on heaven a half hour each day because of the powerful impact it had on his life. He commended the same thing to his readers. He said,
If you would have light and heat, why are you not more in the sunshine? For want of this recourse to heaven, your soul is as a lamp not lighted, and your duty as a sacrifice without fire. Fetch one coal daily from this altar, and see if your offering will not burn . . . Keep close to this reviving fire, and see if your affections will not be warm.1
We Are Citizens of Another Age
This is good advice. Paul told us to do this in Colossians 3:1–4.
1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
In other words, if last week's message is true and our resurrection with Christ is so sure as virtually to have already happened, then we are to live in the constant consciousness that we are citizens of another age. We are to set our minds much on that age. We are not to be conformed to this age, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. And that renewing means conformed to the newness of the age to come, because God says in our text, "Behold I make all things new" (Revelation 21:5).
Pondering the Greatness of the Age to Come
So I want us to take one more step this morning in our series on "God's Invincible Purpose: Foundations for Full Assurance." I want us to focus on the objective reality of what is coming for us in the age of the resurrection. Last week we affirmed with Romans 6:5, "If we have been united with Christ in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his." Today I want us to see some of what that will involve for us and for the creation.
And I hope you repudiate with me the notion that pondering the greatness of the age to come makes a person less useful for this age. I think exactly the opposite is the case. The person who knows that his destiny is glorious and certain will be free to live the most radical life of love and sacrifice here on earth.
If somebody falls out of an airplane with no parachute on and you don't have one either, you aren't going to jump out after them. It won't do any good. Two deaths aren't better than one. But if you have a parachute on, you just might try one of those awesome rescue attempts, and free fall like a bullet to catch the helpless and pull your cord. It's the hope of safety in the end that releases radical, sacrificial love now.
Paul said in Colossians 1:4–5, "We have heard of the love you have for all the saints because of the hope laid up for you in heaven." It's the assurance of the hope of heaven that releases the radical, risk-taking love that makes people look at your life (like Peter says) and "ask a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15). What do those people see when they ask that? They see you jumping out of an airplane to save another person. So they say, "Hey how can you jump out of the comfort and safety of this airplane?" And you answer, "I have a parachute called the hope of glory."
That's what I want us to think about this morning. What will it be like?
Four Ways in Which God Will Make All Things New
The invincible purpose of God for creation and for his people will not be complete until all things are made new and the glory of the Lord fills them all. In verse 5 God says, "Behold, I make all things new." And he enforces the certainty of it in two ways. He is sitting on his throne when he says it—the throne of the universe. "He who sat upon the throne said, 'Behold I make all things new.'" And after he had said it, he added, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." So God wants us to read this and be sure of it. He wants us to have assurance that no matter how much evil and suffering and futility we see now, he will make all things new.
Let's look at four ways the newness is coming.
1. Spiritually and Morally New
God is going to make us spiritually and morally new and glorious.
The Greatest Frustration of This Age
The greatest frustration of this age is that we still sin. I believe Romans 7 describes this painful truth. For example verses 23–24: "I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind." This war is the most frustrating thing about life in this age—at least it is for the children of God. We want to be holy and we fall short of the holiness we long for. We want to love and we say hurtful things. We want to worship and we feel cold. We want to walk in peace and we feel anxiety. We want to be pure in thought and impurity bombards our minds.
There is some progress as the Spirit helps us in our weakness. But what we long for is deliverance from this bent to sinning.
John's Vision of the Beautified Bride
That is what God promises when he makes all things new. We will be made spiritually and morally new—not just partially as now, but wholly. Look at verse 2: "And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."
This is a picture of the church prepared and beautified for her husband, Jesus Christ. When God makes all things new, he makes the church—the people of God—spiritually and morally beautiful for his Son. Look at the way this is described in verses 9–11:
9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, and spoke to me, saying, "Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb." 10 And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God [the same image as in verse 2], 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.
When God makes the bride ready for the Son, the way he does it is by giving us his glory—verse 11: "having the glory of God." And this glory will purify us so deeply and so thoroughly that we will be like a rare jewel, clear as crystal. Don't you long for the day when you will be so good and so right and so pure that you will be like a translucent jewel that people will look at and see straight through without seeing any impurity at all? Nothing hidden and nothing shameful.
That's the first way the newness is coming. God will make us spiritually and morally beautiful for our final marriage with his Son.
2. Physically and Bodily New
Second, God is going to make us physically and bodily new and glorious.
Our Final Hope Is Not Disembodied Spirits
The Bible does not teach that the final state of glory is one of disembodied spirits. Plato and his kin wanted it that way because they thought the body was a drag on the freedom of the spirit. But the Bible teaches a very different destiny for God's people. God will make all things new—including our bodies.
Verse 4 points in this direction: "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away."
No more death. No more pain. No more tears. What that means is that the body we know now will be changed. Because it dies. And it hurts. And it cries. If death is gone and pain is gone and tears are gone, then the body as we know it here is gone. That may sound like Plato—good riddance to the body of pain. Revelation is plain that the point is not good riddance to the body but that God will make all things new.
A Glorified Body Like Christ's
Paul put it like this in Philippians 3:20–21,
Our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change the body of our lowliness to be like the body of his glory, according to the working by which he is able to subdue all things to himself.
That's what he meant last week in Romans 6: "We shall certainly be united to him in a resurrection like his." It is a new body: it will never die again, it will never hurt again, it will never cry again—except perhaps for joy.
There are a lot of people who feel that they didn't get a fair shake when the bodies were passed out. Some people have dramatic deformities, some have lost limbs, some are paralyzed, some can't hear, some can't see, some have extensive skin blemishes, some have freakish distortions. But God has no intention of leaving anybody in that condition if they will trust him. He has his purposes in letting a man be born blind and leaving him blind for much of his adult life (John 9:1ff.). But he has no intention of leaving anyone with pain and disability who trusts him.
When God makes all things new, he makes our bodies new.
3. The New Creation
Third, God is going to make the creation new and glorious.
This is the point of verse 1: "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." I don't think this means that God picks us up and takes us to a new solar system—though he certainly could if he wanted to. The hope of the prophets seems to be that this earth and these heavens will be made new. God will renovate the whole thing—a kind of global rehab project. And everything futile and evil and painful will be done away.
Paul put it like this in Romans 8:21, "The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the liberty of the glory of the children of God." The newness and the glory of the church, the children of God, is primary and first. But then God promises that the glory of his people will demand a glorious creation to live in. So the fallen creation will obtain the very freedom from futility and evil and pain that the church is given.
So when God makes all things new, he makes us new spiritually and morally, he makes us new physically, and then he makes the whole creation new so that our environment fits our perfected spirits and bodies.
That leaves one last work of renewing when God makes all things new.
4. A New Relationship with God
God will make our relationship with him new and glorious.
John tells us about this in verse 3: "I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them."
It's true that God is with us now. His Spirit dwells in us (1 Corinthians 6:19). Jesus promised never to leave us to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). But in 2 Corinthians 5:6–7 Paul said, "While we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord, here we walk by faith and not by sight."
So there is a deep and painful sense in which we are "away from the Lord"—we do not see as we will one day see. "Blessed are the pure in heart," Jesus said, "for they shall see God." It's a promise. Something greater is coming for all of us in our relation with God.
How many times will a little child say what we all feel, "But daddy, I can't see him"? That is a real heart cry that we should never lose. Revelation 22:4 gives the answer to it: "They shall see his face and his name shall be on their foreheads."
When God makes all things new, he will make us spiritually and morally as pure as flawless crystal, he will give us a body like the body of his glory, he will renovate all creation to take all futility and evil and pain out of it, and finally he himself will come to us and let us see his face. And so forever and ever we will live with pure hearts and glorious bodies on a new earth in the presence and the glory of our heavenly Father.
1This material on Baxter was taken from Timothy Beougher and J.I. Packer, "Go Fetch Baxter," in Christianity Today, vol. 35, no. 15, December 16, 1991, pp. 26–27.