All Things New (Years Eve)
Christmas is over and now it’s on to New Years. Of course that means every New Years Eve we start thinking about the future. 2017 is all but over and it’s old news. So what we do every New Years is we start to envision ways in which the upcoming year can be successful. You’re planning a wedding over the next year or maybe you are trying to get pregnant. Maybe you’re thinking about weight loss, or a job promotion, graduation, taking a vacation, winning a championship, or spending more time with the grandkids. Wherever you find yourself this morning, as we are all in different stages of our lives, you’re probably thinking about the future today and you are probably hoping that it’s bright.
I can promise you, if you’re a follower of Jesus Christ this morning, you indeed have a bright future. The Bible tells us that Jesus is going to return someday, even as Pastor Kevin read of our hope of resurrection from 1 Corinthians 15, that Jesus Christ will return in fact to raise the dead, judge the world, and make all things new. As we finished the season of advent together last week and looked at the hope of Christ, the hope of the gospel, we know and we remember our hope is not only in the first coming of the Lord Jesus, but also in his future second coming as well. When we talk about these issues of the end times, last days, theologians use the word eschatology, which literally means the study of the last things, to describe this theology. The last days or the last things began when Jesus resurrected from the dead and ascended into heaven sending the Holy Spirit to be with his people. We’ve been living in the last days for the last 2,000 years.
As Pastor Kevin mentioned earlier, and I didn’t know he was going to mention this, but it is very fitting, sometimes when Christians start thinking and talking about the last things, it gets a little tense. People start arguing and people start treating third tier issues such as your position on what Revelation 20 calls the millennial, people take a third tier issue like that and try to make it a distinguishing mark of orthodox Christianity. It is not. They are not first tier issues. As we meditate this morning, as we stew this morning on the new Heavens and the new Earth and think about our future as Christians, we don’t want to focus on the minor details that good Christians have disagreed upon for the last two millennia, but we want to focus the major doctrine that is a central hope of Christianity, and this is this – Jesus is going to return to make all things new. Jesus is going to return to make all things news. That is an essential doctrine of Christianity. If you don’t believe that, you are not a Christian. Anything else that is a last things issue, besides that, good Christians disagree. Jesus is returning to make all things new. I want to encourage your heart this morning, believer. If you’re trusting in Jesus, your hope will not be put to shame. As we start this new calendar year together as a church, we’ll meditate upon the new creation together. As you prepare for New Years Eve parties tonight, we will feast on the bread of life together this morning.
Long before the apostle John saw his revelation of Christ from his island prison cell, Isaiah had written about and spoken of a new heaven and a new earth. We’re going to see this morning that the new creation is not just a NT truth, but it is a hope that stretches back to the old covenant. The book of Isaiah, if it has been since you’ve been wading in Isaiah’s waters, the book of Isaiah is a prophetic book, a prophecy that is speaking judgment indicting Israel, indicting Judah for their sin against their covenant Lord YHWH. But as the rest of the story of redemption always does, judgment is accompanied by salvation. Judgment in the gospel is always accompanied by salvation. By the time we get to the end of the book of Isaiah, a whopping 66 chapters, YHWH is giving the prophet a vision here of the glorious future that awaits God’s people, that the Old Testament calls the day of the Lord, the day of YHWH. And here in chapter 65, Isaiah envisions a glorious new world. What would God’s new world look like? So together now let’s journey into the text and try to catch a glimpse of this whole new world that God has planned for us, so as Aladdin says, “Don’t you dare close your eyes.”
In verse 17 he starts, for behold. For behold. We live in a time where people don’t very often behold. Everything in your life is instant. Your Keurig makes your coffee right away, by the time you get to the drive-thru window your food is ready (unless you are at Tropical Smoothie Café, then you have to pull up to the door), you can type anything into Google and you have instant information, but seldom do we ever behold. The word itself seems foreign to us. It’s like a word from a fairytale isn’t it – behold! The prince saw the princess. It feels like a happily ever after word. Yet here, at the beginning of the text, God beckons us here to take a break from our hectic, stressful, busy lives and to behold. The doctrine of new creation, church, ought to be precious to us. It shouldn’t be something that we get angry and it shouldn’t be something we fight over. Instead we should be like a woman who has just been engaged and can’t stop staring at the diamond. The more she gazes at it the more her heart is made glad. That ought to be the doctrine of new creation to us.
YHWH says in verse 17, “behold, I create new heavens and a new earth.” In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1.1), and now he takes us behind the curtain to reveal to us that he’s going to do it again. But unlike a disappointing sequel or an overhyped sophomore album, this new creation is going to be even more glorious than the first. Remember, in Genesis 1 and 2 God said that our creation, though it has been marred by sin before the fall was “very good” but this one is even better. The original creation, though, has been marred by sin and death after Adam’s fall, but Isaiah says that in the new world the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. Now we have to pause for a moment and check our surroundings so that we can read the text correctly. We want to interpret it appropriately. Let me give you a quick hermeneutical reminder just so that we are all on the same page. You notice this, in my bible and I am assuming this for everyone else’s though I am not going to assume that it is all the same, but in my bible you see that the way how the text is structured in this staggered pattern. It’s not in a normal paragraph format. Now I would assume most of yours are like that, maybe they all are I don’t know but you see how in my bible it is almost staggered, every line is different. What the editors of the bible are doing they are showing you that this text, this pericope is poetic, that this is poetry. This isn’t supposed to be read like straight prose but was written in a poetic format or genre. So you ought not read Isaiah 65 as a history book or a newspaper or even a letter, but you ought to read it as a poem.
So when Isaiah says that the former things shall not be remembered, I don't think that he means that we’re all going to have eternal amnesia. If that were the case, I don’t see how life now would matter if you were not going to remember anything from this creation or this age. But I think what Isaiah is saying is similar to what Jesus says in John 16. In John 16 Jesus says, when a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. She no longer remembers the anguish because it has been replaced by joy. Now, full disclosure I have never given birth before. But for those of you who have, I think you would say that even after it was all said and down, when you were holding that precious baby in your arms, you still cognitively remember that there was physical pain in the labor and delivery of the child. But it is not that you can’t intellectually ascent that there was pain, but that the joy of gaining that baby has made the pain worth it. The joy that you are experiencing holding that child in your arms makes all the pain of labor and delivery worth what you have gone through. I think Isaiah is saying something very similar here. When we get to the new creation, when we see Jesus as he is, when his kingdom has fully come and his will is fully done on earth as it is in Heaven, we will look back on the trials and tribulations, the pain and the suffering of this life, everything that we suffered for Jesus and we will say that it was worth it. The joy of knowing Christ and being with Christ will make this life validated. I think that is what he is saying.
I love what the LORD says in verses 18-19. He gives us three things. He gives his people a command, he gives them the reasoning for the command, and then he gives them a promise. He says, [b]ut be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people. God commands us to rejoice and to be glad forever. The Hebrew text literally reads, “Rejoice and rejoice, forever and ever!” Both words are 2nd person plural imperatives. They are commands. You must rejoice. He’s commanding his collective people to celebrate. We must be people who celebrate. Why? He gives us the reasoning – first the command and then the reasoning. The reasoning is that he created his people for rejoicing. For behold I create Jerusalem to be a joy and her people to be of gladness. Because that’s true, the Lord then gives us a promise. A command, reasoning, and promise. The promise is that He will rejoice in us. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and I will be glad in my people. We must rejoice in this New Jerusalem, church, because that’s why God’s making it, for joy and gladness. He himself will rejoice in the eternal city.
Rejoicing is the only appropriate response of the Christian to the new creation because there will be no weeping. In fact, death itself will be laid to rest. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. Now remember, this is poetic language so we are reading this poetically, so don’t let your modernistic, western mind cause you to stumble as you read this. You are wondering to yourself, this doesn’t make sense there is a new Heaven and a new Earth but people are dying. That doesn’t make sense to me, I don’t understand how the two can coexist. Because when there is a new Heaven and a new Earth I thought that death is done, death is finished. We cannot read it wrongly. This wrong reading of the genre has cause theologians to try to answer this hypothesis with questions about the millennium and return and things get weird and everybody is disagreeing. Now I submit to you that I believe this is poetic language, this is the new Heavens and the new Earth. The truth is, there are two things. First of all, Isaiah didn’t have a clear picture of what the day of the LORD would finally look like. What was or is in reality 2 events – the 1st and 2nd coming of Christ – to him looked like one event, the day of the Lord. He did not see how the Advents of Jesus would play out finally and fully. Isaiah didn’t have the NT to help him understand the fullness of the gospel. But second, this is also poetic language. What he is saying is that in this new world, God’s new world, the new Creation is going to be so full of life now picture this, it is so full of life, death is going to be so eradicated that if a man were to die at 100 years old, people would say “Man that guy was young.” He died young. My grandfather is 101 years old; he’ll be 102 in May. No one considers him a young man. That is not where we are living, is it? Isaiah says, “Picture this, death is rare, so gone, so eradicated, that if you are 100 years old and you die, people would mourn at how young you were when you died.” On the flip side, he says the sinner who is 100 years old will be cursed. This new world, sin will be so eradicated, it will be so gone, that even if someone where to be a sinner in this world, they wouldn’t get away, justice will be served, they would still be accursed.
In this new world abortion, miscarriages, and dying too young will be a thing of the past. So will homelessness and so will theft. Sin and suffering are not welcome in God’s new world. It’s as if God is undoing the curse that infested the world from the fall. Notice, in verses 22-25, the Edenic language that is used. In verse 22 he says, for like the days of a tree, the days of my people be. This is a good, this is a pro-tip. People like pro-tips when you are reading your bible, especially the Old Testament. Whenever you see anything about a tree you need to train yourself to think Garden of Eden. The Holy Spirit is using the imagery of the garden to teach you something. For example, Psalm 1 blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked; he will be like a tree planted by streams of water. They want you to think, this Eden, that things are going to be good like the way they were supposed to be. That is what Isaiah is saying here. That his people will be like a tree, they will be fruitful. It will be like the garden. It will be like the garden, but better. He says, “my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.” The word “enjoy” in Hebrew literally means to wear out, to wear your hands out. The elect will exhaust the bounty of their work; there will be no return lost. Every investment will be a good investment in God’s new world.
Notice in verse 23, Isaiah gives a literal reversal of the curse. They shall not labor in vain, they shall not bear children in calamity. In Genesis 3, Eve was cursed with pain in labor and delivery. Adam was cursed in his labor of provision for his family, But Isaiah says, they shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity. The labor of both Adam and Eve will be un-cursed in God’s new world. Notice also in verse 24 the communication that was lost from the garden will be fully restored. The Lord says before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. Remember Adam and Eve had open undefiled communication with the Lord in the garden, until their sin. God says, in the new World, before you even say anything he is going to answer you. Before you have the need to call on him, he will be there for you. The curse had affected the animals in Genesis 3 and you see that in Genesis 6-9 when Noah gets off the ark, but this too shall be made right. The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox. Now we don’t live in a rural farming community, so we have to force ourselves to think about the importance of this language, but remember, since the fall, shepherds have had to protect the sheep from wolves. But in the new creation, the wolf and the sheep will graze side by side. Then we find ourselves in the middle of verse 25, and there’s one animal that will be cursed forever. Dust shall be the serpent’s food. Even in the new earth, dust shall be the serpent’s food. Part of the curse of Genesis 3 is that the snake will now slither on his belly because of the part that he played in Satan’s rebellion. Man was made from dust and the reptile tried to devour him in the garden. Now Isaiah says that he can eternally bite the dust. The victory of the gospel is eternal. The serpent’s head will be crushed forever. That snake is going to be eating the dirt forever. They shall not hurt or destroy on my holy mountain, says the Lord. A lot of creation language throughout the passage, if you notice that.
There’s another biblical author who reinterprets the language of creation too, and he helps us understand Isaiah prophecy a little better. The Apostle John begins his gospel, in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made (John 1.1-3). In verse 14 John says, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory. Church, God’s new creation has already begun. It has already begun in the advent of Christ Jesus. He is the firstborn of the new creation. I love what Peter Leithart says about this this is good. He says, “The incarnate Son isn’t merely a means for renewing creation. He is what the tabernacle was: New creation in miniature, a microcosm of the world God is making through Him. In the Word tabernacled in flesh, ‘all things hold together.’”
We have a hope of new creation because Jesus is the new creation and he’s going to cover the globe with his glory. You notice Isaiah says, in verse 25, that in the new world that we will not hurt or destroy in all the holy mountain. Brothers and sisters that’s true because Jesus was hurt and destroyed on mount Calvary. Jesus was crushed for our transgressions; Jesus was pierced for our iniquities. God’s wrath was poured out on the Son on the cross and because he did, it will never be poured out on us. We will not hurt or destroy in the new creation because Jesus did on Good Friday. Because Jesus was hurt on the mountain, we shall not hurt in the eternal mountain. Let me encourage you this morning. Please do not disconnect your eschatology, do not disconnect your understanding of the last days, from the gospel of Jesus. Jesus is new creation and he’s bringing a new heaven and a new earth.
I said at the beginning that Christmas is over, but that’s not true. We’re actually in the middle of Christmas season. Christmas starts on December 25th and lasts all the way until Epiphany on January 6th – the 12 days of Christmas. The 12 days of Christmas start on Christmas and go to January 6th. This is the 6th day of Christmas. You know why? That’s because the Wise men or the Magi found Jesus on the 12th day. The Epiphany is the revelation of Jesus to the wise men, to the gentiles. If you think about it the hope of new creation really is a Christmas doctrine, the best thing about the new world is that God is dwelling with his people. Listen to Revelation 21 using the language of Isaiah 65, 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. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “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.” That is what the new creation is all about, God and man dwelling together forever.
Church, Matthew gives us some insight into what really happened on that first Christmas night in chapter 1 of his gospel. He says, all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Jesus is God with us. The hope of new creation is that God will be with us forever. So let me encourage you this morning as you prepare for midnight and a new year tonight, if you only have one New Year’s resolution this year, make it this: live like the doctrine of new creation is true. Long for God’s new world. Spend your money like money is not eternal. Give of your time like you’re going to live forever. Eat, drink, and be merry because a day is coming, church, when Jesus returns and it’s always Christmas and never winter.