New Heavens, New Earth, and a New Way of Life-November 17, 2013
In driving down the road the other day I recall a gas station that used to sit where now there is a large home improvement store. I had not thought about the little place in some time. It had gone out of business and then started to look run down and then one day it was gone. It a few short weeks construction began on the new home improvement store. I was reminded each day of the disrepair that the old gas station had fallen into, but when this new place had come, I barely remembered it at all.
Without a fresh new start the decay and dilapidation in our own lives is a reminder of how far we have fallen and how hopeless things can seem. This constant reminder of our of hopelessness can weigh us down and make the will of God for our lives seem so distant. God still speaks and moves, and we can call out to Him, but what about the early days of creation where God would walk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening.
When I was young my Sunday school teachers would tell me if I opened to the center of the Bible that I would find the book of Psalms. Although that may be true (before study Bibles added so much material) I would contend that the book of Isaiah may be the theological center of the Bible. Isaiah is like a hinge addressing the current day and culture with the reminders of the past and how they got to this place. Isaiah though does not leave us there but looks ahead to what God will do to complete this work. It is a broad picture of the movement of God through Israel and as well for those who trust in Him. It is truly the hinge in the modern-day between those first walks in the Garden of Eden and His reminder in Revelation of the creation of a New Heaven and New Earth.
In Genesis we find described creation with way God desires for it to be. It is uninterrupted time with God in an intimate way. They were provided for in the garden, there were now labor pains. There were no labor pains.
We are living in a world in a world that we have created and shaped it by our own sinful decisions. This world is one that is dying and in decay much like the old gas station. At our best we can never create (if we were able to) anything but a sinful world. Unless we are good, perfect, and holy we will never to be able to create what is not in us. However, God can and that is the story.
The opening chapters of the story the first man and woman choose the tree of knowledge (of good and evil) rather than the tree of life. Their choice brought sin into their lives fractured their relationship with God, others, and creation. It would not be harder to get food to grow, labor pain increased, etc. The were removed from intimate walks and relationship with God and where a displaced people all the way back to the removal from the Garden. Six chapters in things are so bad that this is the destruction in the flood.
Joseph was sold be his brothers into slavery in Egypt. In Joseph’s time their act of harm was tied to their destiny. Later he became very trusted and a high official in Egypt. During a time of family Joseph’s brothers come looking for food and do not know that it is him, but he shows them mercy. His family flourished in Egypt. The opening chapters of Exodus states that there arose a new king over Egypt who did not know Joseph. In his not knowing, he enslaved Joseph’s people. They were a displaced people.
Forty years in wilderness, 200 years of conquest in the period of the Judges. They ask for a king, and the Lord tells them they need no king they have the Lord. This only halfway worked for 3 kings, then there is a split in the kingdom and a long period of conquests, occupation, and exile. Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greeks, a brief period of limited freedom was marred with infighting, and then eventually Rome.
This is a transitional time where the people are wondering if they will ever be a people again with a national home and a national identity. In this God will make new and the former things will be forgotten as if they will never be remembered. God speaks of restoring creation and natural enemies will come together in peace. It is a restoration of all that was destroyed in the fall, most importantly the relationship of man to God, others, and nature.
God comes with a fresh start, creating anew. Blessing is being proclaimed again over the place where curse had once stood. This existence will be one where the very presence and Word of God will live in our hearts. It will be intimate, holy, complete, and joyous. God is there for and with us even before we finish the need or ask the question. These words of Isaiah are not just words of fancy but rather what is accomplished by God in and through Christ.
The word of God through Isaiah is pushing us forward to the new heaven and new Jerusalem in Revelation 21 where there is no more death, tears, everything is new and complete. The tree of life makes a comeback and the Jesus announces that he is coming back soon. May we echo those closing words of the Bible. Amen! Come Lord Jesus!