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.

God’s Home

“How lovely is your dwelling place, 
     O Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 
I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord. 
With my whole being, body and soul, 
     I will shout joyfully to the living God. 
Even the sparrow finds a home, 
     and the swallow builds her nest and 
     raises her young at a place near your altar, 
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God! 
     What joy for those who can live in your house, 
     always singing your praises.”
Psalms‬ ‭84:1-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In a sinful and war-torn world, there is something reassuring about being in God’s presence. The mayhem of the last Psalm, Psalm 83, is displaced by a totally different world, where the presence of God fills all space. Because where God has His home, we will find rest and peace, love and acceptance. And the wonderful thing is that the doors to His house are wide open. Anyone can enter through the blood of Jesus into His presence and find Him there. In His home we will find a place of protection, a place of spiritual wholeness, a place of singing, a place of joy, a place of love, a place where we can relax and just enjoy Him. The birds of the air, without even thinking about it, camp there, going about their lives without fretting over the cares of life. And so must we. I’m writing this piece on a Sunday morning, with thoughts of anticipation about what God is going to do through His people, through His presence, in the lives of His people, as we go to church, as we come into His place. Yes, I know it’s just a building. There may of may not be an altar there. But God is everywhere through His presence, and wherever we are, we can enjoy Him. We might be heading for an ornate building filled with pews and stained glass windows, or just simply kneeling down beside a prison bed. We might be sitting in a chair, unable to move far anymore because of illness or infirmity. We might be walking across the Scottish Highlands, listening to the wind and the occasional bird call. Wherever we are though, we can be transported into God’s home. Finding the door into His heart wide open.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism starts by asking the question about what the chief end of man is. And the answer is to enjoy Him forever. What an invitation – that we in our frail human state, can come into the presence of God and enjoy Him forever. Let’s reach out this morning to each other as we run into His presence, holding hands of love and fellowship, enjoying His presence.