The New Heaven and Earth

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”
Revelation‬ ‭21:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The horrors of the scene involving the fiery lake were fading from John’s vision. There was a momentary pause in events, defined by the first word in Revelation 21 – “then”. In a previous part of John’s vision, he saw the Great White Throne appear, and the earth and sky tried to hide from God’s presence. Well, we now know what had happened to them, because we are told that they just “disappeared“. And they took the sea with them. So the scene before John was blank. But then he could hardly believe his eyes. He blinked just to make sure he wasn’t seeing things. A marvellous sight came into view, displacing the darkness. A new heaven and a new earth appeared. New. Did that mean a new creation, as we read in Genesis, or did the new heaven and earth just appear, fully finished and ready to go? 

We consider our current earth and the sky above it. A finely tuned creation of atoms linked together to form an infinite number of different animal, vegetable and mineral products. Products that include and sustain the life we know so well. And to support those products, the physical properties of the sun and gravity, amongst many others, ensure a stability that has sustained the earth in its right place in space since the universe was created. Scientists talk about the “Goldilocks zone”, a planet’s position within a solar system where life as we know it can be sustained. But it’s more than that – we are God’s creation. Our planet and all its contents. And God has removed the old so that He can bring in the new. 

God is always creating something new, though. He didn’t make the world and its contents and then walk away, letting animals or plants get on with life, or not, as the case may be. Just look at our world every spring, when new plant growth spurts out everywhere. And the miracle of a new baby. Even under the curse of sin, our natural world is designed to be able to renew itself. We also have the miracle – yes, that is what it is – of spiritual birth. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” Jesus told Nicodemus in that famous conversation recorded in John’s Gospel, that rebirth is essential for entry into God’s Kingdom. We read His words in John 3:3, “Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”” Sadly, being “born again” has acquired negative connotations, bing ridiculed by many, even other Christians. But it’s another example of God’s design for His creation.

The old earth and heaven needed to be replaced. Sin and wickedness had trashed it. But not a problem to God, and He started with the new Holy City, the New Jerusalem. John gets a glimpse of it coming down from God’s home in Heaven, and it looks wonderful, made “like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband”. In his vision, John gets to view a “spoiler” of what it is like. Just a foretaste of the most wonderful place ever seen.

But back to our spiritual rebirth. Are we pilgrims “born again”? If we’re not sure, a question to God will soon clarify our positions. Being birthed into God’s amazing Kingdom, while we get the chance here on Planet Earth, is an introduction to our new life with God in eternity. We have the opportunity to live in His kingdom, as well as being part of our world’s kingdom, right now. There is a stark contrast. But one day the old kingdom will disappear, and we will fully enjoy being part of the new. Wonderful!

Dear God. There are exciting times ahead for those who have been birthed into your Kingdom. we praise and worship You today. Amen.

For This Reason

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”
Ephesians 3:14-15 NIVUK

“Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’”
John 3:5-7 NLT

For this reason … what reason? Perhaps Paul considered the Ephesian church, that body of believers, as his “baby”, an infant birthed from his diligence in preaching the Gospel in a city dominated by its own particular deity, Artemis. A fellowship of baby Christians who he desperately wanted to be with, personally nurturing them with the love and grace of God. But they were having to stand firm on their own, dependent on God and His Spirit for all they spiritually needed. He couldn’t be with them, but he could pray. And there in that prison cell, Paul fell to his knees, to pray for the folks back in Ephesus. 

Paul knelt before his Heavenly Father. Humbly and fervently praying. And he went on in his prayers to think about the huge family God has. Every person in every family who call upon His name. All those who claim the surname of God. All those who have a “born again” birth certificate. And there in his attitude of prayer, Paul felt a glow of encouragement about how many there were in this wonderful family. There may have even been a faint sense of pride, quickly extinguished, as he went through the names of all the friends he had made, remembering the times when he introduced them into the Kingdom of God, right into God’s family. 

Nicodemus came for a cosy chat with Jesus, but right at the start, Jesus pointed out to him that we go through two birth experiences. A natural birth from our parents, a man and a woman. And a spiritual birth through the Holy Spirit. Jesus was quite explicit. He said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again“. We have no choice in being born naturally. But we do have a choice, sadly rejected by most people, of being born again of the Spirit. Something amazing happens, beyond natural, worldly comprehension, when someone is “born again“. But when it happens, through faith we are immediately adopted as a new member of God’s family. We read before about how we came to be members of God’s family. In Ephesians 1:5 Paul wrote, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure” So there you have it – through Jesus and His sacrifice for us sinners, we have, through faith in Him, been adopted into God’s family. The entry on our earthly kingdom birth certificate might be something like “John Smith”. But on our spiritual Kingdom birth certificate it might be “John God-son”. We have a dual nationality. One will end when we leave this world. The other is eternal; we will be in God’s family for ever. When we look at it in that way, perhaps we should be more attentive to the responsibilities of being a part of God’s eternal family. Hmmm…

There may be readers of my blog today who haven’t yet taken that step of being “born again”. If that is you, please get in touch. I would love to help you fill out your application for a new birth certificate.

Heritage

“Remember me, Lord, when You show favour to Your people;
    come near and rescue me.
Let me share in the prosperity of Your chosen ones.
    Let me rejoice in the joy of Your people;
    let me praise You with those who are Your heritage.”

Psalm 106:4-5 NLT

The Psalmist, in these two verses, seems to have adopted a position of observing the benefits of being a member of God’s “chosen ones“, without being one of them. He recognises God’s people as being prosperous and full of joy. He thinks that God every so often favours and rescues them. And the Psalmist wants to join them. He wants to be part of that sharing, praising and rejoicing people. Part of God’s heritage.

Heritage. That’s an interesting word. It’s usually used in connection with possessions such as valued artefacts or buildings. But in this context it is used as referring to God’s people. His valued possessions. If I floated the idea that we are someone’s “valued possession” the thoughts of slavery and a loss of freedom start to emerge. But if that idea was associated with being a member of an exclusive club with many benefits we might think differently. We would weigh the apparent loss of liberty with the benefits of being a “possession”. But all this is a worldly perspective. 

Taking the two verses today, the Psalmist seems to long to join God’s people but without the knowledge of how to do that. He asks God to “remember him” when His favour is dispensed. But as Christians we have the knowledge of how to become one of God’s people, because we have already transitioned from the kingdom of the devil to the Kingdom of God. How did we do that? There are many Scriptures in the Bible that show the way. Here are two verses from John 1. “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” Because we believe in Jesus and all that he did for us at Calvary, we have the opportunity to become part of God’s heritage. We are born again into His Kingdom. I’m sure that the Psalmist would have fallen over himself to change his heritage, had he been able to read, understand, and apply these verses.

Do we know anyone today, who is longingly looking over the fence into God’s Kingdom? We have the Gospel message ready and waiting to help them. Let us polish up our stories of God’s grace and mercy – we never know when we might get an opportunity to help someone to climb over the fence.

Helicopters

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. John 3:8 NIV

Behind the trees this morning I heard the sound of a helicopter. First in the distance a popping noise and then, as it got closer, a swishing sound . It then appeared through a gap in the trees. So I looked it up on the “Flightradar24” App (if you are interested in flying then this is a great app to get and it’s free!) and was told that it was an “Airbus Helicopters AS355” but no information about where it had come from or where it was going was available. Of course, it must have started somewhere, and there will be a time when it has to land, if only to refuel. But the relevant data about its origin and destination was missing. 

The helicopter could be seen and heard but I couldn’t tell where it had come from or where it was going. In today’s Scripture, Jesus uses the analogy of wind. It can be heard but we don’t know where it came from or where it is going. It’s the same with our natural lives, we don’t plan either our origin or destination. That is, of course, unless we embrace the teaching of Jesus in John 3. But it is “sad but true” (to quote the title of the Metallica song) that most people seem unconcerned about their destination in life. They obviously cannot do much about their origins, but they can take steps to ensure the right destination.

In His discussion with Nicodemus, the Jewish leader who crept into Jesus’ presence after dark, Jesus explained the need for a spiritual birth. He said, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:5-7). So by being born again, we can determine our spiritual origins, and this starts us on the right journey through life. But how can we be sure that we are on our way to the right destination? We have a choice. We can either spend eternity with the devil and his demons in hell, or we can spend eternity with God and His angels in Heaven. A wrong choice and a right choice. A wrong destination and a right destination. And we can make the right choice by believing in Jesus, God’s only Son, to forgive us for our sins. On a cross at a place called Calvary He took upon Himself all our sins and gave us in exchange His righteousness. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21. And by being righteous in God’s sight we are assured of a future with Him in eternity.

So as Christians, we have an origin and a destination, and the spiritual App equivalent of Flightradar24 will record our journey between them. Not more “N/A” against the points of origin and destination. We have been born again through the Spirit of God, and assured a future in Heaven through our salvation. Our flight plan has been recorded in God’s Book of Life.

If you are unsure of where you are going and want to know more, please message me. It could be the most important decision you have ever made.