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A Thing of Science Fiction: A New Heaven and Earth? April 24, 2016

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Revelation 21:1-7

Fifth Sunday after Easter

April 24th, 2016

 

Focus:  God is making all things new.

Function:  That the hearers trust in the Word of Christ given for them.

Structure:  Walking through the Text.

 

A Thing of Science Fiction: A New Heaven and Earth?

 

This is one of my favorite texts in all of Scripture.  And I’m so excited to have the opportunity to share it with you, to preach on this section of Revelation.  It holds glorious words of promise, what Christ has done for you, but also what Christ is still doing for you.  And, it lets me show my inner nerd self, and talk about science fiction, but, for real.  Like, actually happening.

But before we get there, let’s just take a step back and look at where we are.  During the season of Easter, we’re plowing through the book of Revelation.  For six consecutive weeks, this is the epistle focus of the lectionary system.  We started three weekends ago with Revelation chapter one.  Then we hit chapter 5, and last week chapter 7.  But now today, we jump all the way to Revelation chapter 21.  We lose the rest of 21 next week with confirmation, but Pastor Fritsch will wrap up the book two weekends from now with chapter 22.

But that means we skipped a lot.  From chapter 7 to 21.  That’s hopping over two-thirds of the letter.  We just flew by the censors and the trumpets.  We bypassed dragons and demons battling with angels.  We miss out on the epic warfare, that ends much faster than the devil thought it would.  We miss the end of the world.  Literally.  That’s chapter 20.  We’ve skipped past all of the images of what’s going on in the world, in your life, right now.

But that’s not the point of Revelation, to be an A to Z timeline of what happens in history.  Rather, we see the ongoing reality of man intertwined with the kingdom of God, the people who put their hope in the Second Coming of Christ.  That is, God’s victory for us.

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

 

Wow!  What a verse!  The former things, the things of this world that we know and sadly that we still cling to, are no more.  Done, passed away.  People often ask if this is symbolism, it’s just prophecy right?  God isn’t actually going to destroy heaven and earth is He?  Why does heaven have to go?  Chapter 20 hints at this really happening.  Verse 11, “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.”

As we sit before the judgment throne of God, even heaven and earth scatter.  Even they aren’t perfect, they can’t come into His kingdom.  Under the judgment of God, heaven and earth are seen for what they are: broken under us.  Just like we are corrupted by the sin of Adam and Eve, all of the earth is, all of creation is.  Broken.  They were stewards, it was entrusted to them, and they broke it.  We break it.  The heaven and earth of Genesis 1:1 are no longer suitable for the resurrected children of God.

It’s not just Revelation that tells of the new heaven and new earth.  Jesus said it.  Peter said it.  Isaiah in his 65th chapter says, “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.  The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”  This is where we get the imagery of the wolf and the lamb lying down together.  The lion eating straw for a meal.

This is where we can have all kinds of science fictiony fun.  We can explore, we can think, we can imagine.  We’ll probably be wrong, but it’s fun nonetheless.  What happens to the old, and where does the new come from?  Some have argued for terraforming, the recreating of a planet that it might be habitable for new life.  From H.G. Wells and Isaac Asimov, to Star Wars, Firefly, Titan A.E. and Doctor Who, terraforming isn’t a new concept, completely changing the surface and the atmosphere of a planet.  It’s also not just science fiction, as many are studying if we can do just that to the surface of the moon, or even Mars.

If God will cleanse the earth in this sense, or if He’ll completely wipe it out and build a new one, I don’t have the answer, but it’s an incredible promise when you think about what it takes.  But then again, He created the universe in six days.  He can handle it.

The sea has a unique place in this, but we’re going to talk about that in a couple minutes.

In who Jesus is and what He’s done, the end of the world, the judgment, already happened.  The new creation is already.  We won’t see it until the last day, but it’s already real.  John sees the cosmos, including the heavens, angels and demons, and declares they’re passing away.

The concept of time is another fun thing of science fiction.  Time travel, whether forward or back.  Can we manipulate it, can we change it?  Or is history set in stone?  But regardless of all those theories, the simple reality is that God created time.  It is not master over Him, but He is master over it.  This is how Christ telling the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise,” fits.  No matter how literal we take it.  This is how God can look upon us and see Christ, because we’re already judged, judged righteous on account of Christ.  You may not have died, but you’ve already died.  It’s already the last day.  Mind-blowing stuff.  Fun stuff.

2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

 

When asked about going to heaven, I usually redirect, change the language.  Not heaven, Paradise.  A new creation, a new heaven and a new earth.  And Christ promised He was going to prepare a place for us.  This is it.  And whether this new Jerusalem is symbolic or not, we get a new creation to live on.  The only perfect thing we know of is the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve lived pre-sin.  They worked the ground, they cared for the animals.  Everything was bliss.  Paradise isn’t about getting your own cloud or your own planet.

A new heaven and a new earth.  A new Jerusalem.  The best analogy John’s gives for us here is the bride.  God is the foundation, the whole of His creation will be restored to splendor, and the imagery of the bride adorned for her groom on her wedding day is what he gives us.  I don’t really need to lay that image out.  You know it, you see the picture in your mind, your own wedding, your child’s wedding, another you’ve been to recently.  Much effort, care, and time has been put in to make it perfect.  To be presented to the groom as spotless.  That’s this new Jerusalem for us.  Spotless, uncorrupted by sin.  Perfect.  Paradise.

3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 

Here God declares His intentions.  Jesus declares His intentions.  God will dwell in the new creation with His people, just like in the Garden.  King among us.  God incarnate with us.  Sharing our lives, sharing our joys.  There truly will be no more pain, no more suffering.  This is the reason why verse 1 said there would be no sea.  When we think of oceans, dread falls on many of us.  Drowning, storms, floods, destruction, devastation.  Noah and the ark.  Water eroding the land.  No more.  Will there be water? Probably.  But it will be a life-giving water, not life-taking.

This is the same thing we see in the chopped off verse.  See our text today ends at verse 7.  The text for next Sunday begins at verse 9.  Let’s spend a moment on verse 8.

8But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

 

You can kind of see why the lectionary didn’t want to end on this verse today.  But it fits.  These things will be destroyed.  In Christ. Christ has overcome it.  And all who believe in Him, will enter into this Paradise where there is no more pain, suffering, or death.  There is no more sin.  And so all of those who seek not to cling to God, but to their own lives on this earth now, will lose it.  Hell, everlasting separation from God, the source of all good things, is the second death.  It is very much real.

5He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

 

All of your suffering, gone.  Jesus Christ has declared it.  In who He is and what He’s done, the end of the world has already come, the judgment has already happened.  And in this Son of God, crucified for you on the cross and raised from the dead on Easter morning for you, you are His.  Sins forgiven.  Robe washed white.  An heir of Paradise.

And while the words of men are corrupt, while our desires are self-serving, while our ideas are nothing but the misleadings of our own hearts, this Word is true.  Write it down John.  These Words are true.  And He goes and roots it not in us or our works, but in Himself.  These words are true because:

6He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.

 

Jesus quotes the Father.  The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.  Nothing exists apart from Him.  This new creation, the new heaven, the new earth, the new Jerusalem, the place where God dwells with us, is rooted in Christ.  In His Word.  In what He has done for us, in words that sound like His final cry from the cross, “It is done.”  He has declared it.  These Words are trustworthy and true.

7He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

 

This is the beauty of all of this.  The beauty of the cross and the empty tomb.  The beauty of life and creation.  The beauty of a new heaven and a new earth.  You are conquerors.  Not of your own doing, but of His.  He has done it.  In the life-giving water of baptism, He has declared you an heir of Paradise.  In faith, in Christ’s work done for you, this Paradise is your promised home.  You live here.  And He is not some distant God.  But even better, He is your Father.  He has called you by name, adopted you as His child into His kingdom, His Paradise.  Amen.

 

 

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