The Creation Of The New Heavens And The New Earth
April 19, 2009
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
God Does New Things
1. It is written in the passage of scripture read for today, "Look! I am creating the new heavens and the new earth," (Isaiah 65:17). God is doing a new thing. When God acts, new things happen. The following words from the Lord are also recorded in this same book of Isaiah. "Look! I am performing a new deed. It is now sprouting," (Isaiah 43:19). It is one of my favorite messages from scripture.
2. God is doing a new thing. A lot of such wording is written in the scriptures. Right from the start it is that way beginning with the narratives of the creation of the heavens and the earth which are found at the very beginning [of the Bible]. God created the universe out of nothing. It is that way even with the events from Exodus in which the Israelites are recollected by way of their origins. When God came among and caused activity among the Israelites who had been slaves in Egypt for four hundred years, he did new deeds there. The Israelites were set free from Egypt. It was that way even when the Israelites became captives in Babylon. The words I quoted just ago, "Look! I am performing a new deed," are a message from the Lord which he had spoken in those days [in Babylon]. And in fact, the Lord did perform new deeds. The people of the captivity were permitted to repatriate back to Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple.
3. It was that way even in the history of this same Israel when the time was full and God sent his son. A new thing happened there. The atonement for sin was accomplished on the cross of Christ, and the power of sin was cracked for good by the resurrection of Christ. Furthermore, it was also that way when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the earth at the occasion of the Pentecost Festival, that fiftieth day. A new thing happened there. The disciples, who at one time deserted Jesus and fled, had come forth and turned into men boldly proclaiming Christ. Thus, the history of the church's mission and proclamation had begun.
4. As for the history of the church's mission after that, we can say that it is a history in which God has kept doing new things. When God enters into the lives of persons one by one through the gospel which the church proclaims, a new thing takes place in that life. The person is born anew. He or she is made into a child of God, and begins to live calling God the heavenly father. We not only see in the Bible the new works of God, but we can see them even in our own lives. Therefore, we discover and know. Our futures as well as the future of this world are not merely extensions of the past and the present. They are always being opened to God's new works. As for the future, God is creating it by the new works he is doing.
God Creates The New Heavens And Earth
5. Thus, God is doing new things. Even what is stated in the passage I read to you today is saying that. However, the message being given today is extremely special. The Lord says, "Look! I am creating the new heavens and the new earth." What is being expressed by the combination of "heavens and earth" is the entire world. It is the entirety of the created world, comprising the whole universe, the entirety of everything visible and invisible. The Lord says that he will make it all completely new. [With the earth] in second place going by how the passage stated it, the whole thing goes totally beyond the boundaries of our thinking; because we are only a small part of the created world [and part of the second place held by earth]. We cannot imagine it or even think it the way we are. [Today's passage] is stating that this kind of thing is ultimately what God is going to do.
6. And, this theme is found again at the very end of the Bible. It is found in The Apocalypse Of John (The Book Of Revelation). The new heavens and the new earth are spoken of in it as the fulfillment of salvation. The works of God being spoken about in this text are performed for our salvation. God will finally perform on our behalf something preposterous that exceeds our imaginations. That's what "creating the new heavens and the new earth" is saying.
7. The fact that God is making these preparations for us is essentially something that is happening that goes way beyond our imaginations, but God does re-state it in such a way that it fits more compactly within the boundaries of our imaginations. [He does it] in verses eighteen and following. With the super colossal rendition of "the new heavens and the new earth," [the text] reduces the huge situation and reduces it again and speaks of it on a small but amazing scale. What's more, though, as it still barely comes within the boundaries of our human imaginations, by limiting all of salvation even more to one itty bitty section, it speaks of it so as to make you taste, just a fraction, the frosting from a big wedding cake so to speak. Thus, making it extremely smaller, God re-states the huge situation of "the creation of the new heavens and the new earth" as a picture of "a brand new Jerusalem."
8. [It is the place] where the saved people live, the capitol city made anew by God's works. We can get a picture of it perhaps with this. Of course, by having tasted only a portion from the frosting you have not yet gotten to eat the cake itself, however, with that though you will have come to experience a certain amount about the cake. In the same way then, through the snapshot of this new Jerusalem we can come in contact with a glimpse of the huge salvation that God intends to give, that God intends to do at the end.
The World In Which Long Life Will Be A Blessing
9. So, when you focus your attention on these verses starting from verse eighteen, at the center of the attention it gives the depiction that the saved will "live long lives." People will "live long lives." "There will no longer be persons dying young or persons who do not fill out a long life at old ages. Those who die at one hundred will be considered youth, those who do not reach a hundred years old will be considered cursed," (verse twenty). Don't you think it interesting that the world of salvation that God will give us is being expressed as "a world of long life?" Of course, it states it that way so that it comes within the boundaries of our imaginations, but even though it is that way, the world of salvation being expressed as "a world of long life" is truly interesting. As a matter of fact, please ponder with me about "long life" in this passing world. Does "long life" [in this world] relate that easily to "salvation?" Can you easily think of "longevity" as "a blessing?" I'd hardly say we can. Japan is one of the best countries in the world when it comes to long life. But, is being an elderly person in Japan a happy thing? We certainly find a lot of pleasant smiles on the elderly in churches. But, realistically, in this society there are so many elderly folks who want to die younger.
10. In order for long life to be spoken of as a blessing, there definitely needs to be some preconditions for it. [One needs] "to have happiness and joy." [One needs to have] joy accompanying the living part. Therefore, before it speaks about long life, it speaks first about joy. The Lord says, "Take delight with joy for ever, generation after generation, throb with joy. I am creating. Look! I am creating. Look! I am creating Jerusalem as a people throbbing with joy, the people as persons taking delight with joy," (verse eighteen). Much of the joy experienced when young is lost as one racks up the years. Unless God makes us take delight with joy, our joy and pleasures will be lost. Therefore, unless God causes us to be joyous, long life will not turn out a blessing. Indeed, this text speaks on even more than deep joy. It states that "I will make Jerusalem a joy, I will make my people a pleasure," (verse nineteen). True joy, unchanging joy is not only the joy that God causes us to have, but is found in becoming God's joy. The world of salvation that God is preparing is that kind of world.
The World In Which The Wolf Lives With The Lamb
11. And that joy cannot be dismembered from what is written beginning in verse twenty-one. The text says the following there. "They build and live in houses, they plant vines and eat its fruit. Foreigners do not live in the places they built, foreigners do not eat the things they planted," (verses twenty-one and twenty-two).
12. It is translated as "foreigners" here in this text, but the original meaning is "others." The reason others live in what they had built and others eat what they had planted is none other than because [what they had] had been robbed by others. They cannot help but live in fear of being robbed or their hard work being in vain because this dog-eat-dog world exists so grimly and we live in that cut-throat competitive world. From the small squabbles among siblings at home to the wars among nation states, humanity has interwoven to this very day nothing other than a history of struggling against one person or another.
13. But, the text portrays a world in which the fear of being robbed has now been taken away. [It portrays] a world in which the fear of being harmed has been taken away because God is close by and God is governing. Just as the text declares, "Before they call out [to me], I will answer, while they are still addressing [me], I will grant [their request]," God will be as close as that, and he will intervene in the real world and govern with his power like that.
14. Hold on, what is written here is greater than that. God will not only keep those who are being robbed from the robbers, God will not only take away the fear of being robbed, he will take away the very evil of struggling against each other and robbing from each another. He will close the book on the dog-eat-dog competition and crimes against one another. He will take away the very evil of harming one another. Then everyone will come to live together [as one] in a true sense. It will be like [the Bible] puts it, "The wolf and the lamb will chew grass together." The joy that God gives will fill the world where we will live together like that. The world of salvation that God is preparing is that kind of world.
While Tasting Ahead Of Time The New Heavens And The New Earth
15. The portrayal of Jerusalem, that holy mountain, is not a portrayal of the new heavens and the new earth themselves as I've already stated. [The analogy] was fashioned so that it would fit within the boundaries of human thought. It is only a taste of the frosting on a huge cake. The salvation ultimately given to us sure seems to be something that goes way beyond our imaginations. At the least from these words, in regard to what the Lord is wanting to give us, I guess we can come into some kind of contact with the mind of the Lord. The Lord intends to remove the very evil itself of robbing and harming one another. He desires a world where we will truly live together [as one]. And he desires a world where we share the joy of God, a world that is beaming over with joy so that, for instance, long life will be considered a blessing. Of course, God not only desires it, he is preparing it. In a manner that goes way beyond our thoughts! In such a way so that it can only be expressed as the creation of the new heavens and the new earth!
16. Furthermore, we are not awaiting these new heavens and new earth as persons who cannot even imagine them, we are permitted to await them, while, so to speak, swiping a taste of the frosting from the cake, gulping down one part from it. Just ago I stated this kind of portrayal of Jerusalem is [like] the icing of a cake, and we not only are reading that in the scriptures, but the grace to taste it in real life is given to us. When we accept the rule of God, begin to live under God by being led by the Holy Spirit, and the evil of the dog-eat-dog struggle in it ends even on a small scale, then we come into contact with a glimpse of the new heavens and the new earth. Even if the joy we get from the passing world is lost, when we receive joy from God, when we receive the kind of joy in which we can see long life as a blessing, and when we, who live like it is that way more than any thing else, discover we are God's joy, we will come to taste and see, so to speak, the world of salvation which God ultimately intends to give. That is our practical faith life. Yes, it is. God has already begun a new thing. Having entered into our lives and already done a new thing, he has given us this faith life to practice.