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. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 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. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21
What is heaven going to be like? The older you get, the more you think about it. Will there be plants? Birds? Fish? Animals? What about a beach? There is no Deep, but will there be a beach? When people ask me, “Will my pet dog or cat be in heaven,” my answer to them is, “Behold, I make all things new.” All things. If it fits into the category of “all things,” Christ makes it new.
I think we should stop talking about “going to heaven,” as though we were going someplace else, like Ft. Lauderdale. Where Christ is, there heaven is. And where Christ is, there is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come. But the new has a connection with the old. This isn’t reincarnation or rennovation but resurrection. A raising up from the dead. God doesn’t fix things by rehabilitation or recycling, He kills and makes alive again. He brings down and raises up. Death and resurrection is His mode of operation.
A new heaven and a new earth. Notice that there is only one “heaven” this time instead of the two heavens in the Genesis creation. What does this mean? I have no idea. There is no Sea. The chaotic, threatening Deep is gone. No beach? Not so quick. What this tells me is that the new creation is the old creation made new, the same and yet not the same. It’s the old creation kicked up a notch to another level, a higher dimension. We believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, in that order. But those resurrected bodies of ours will be new, spiritual bodies, and yet still bear the mark of the old or you wouldn’t be you. It kind of Creation 2.0 or You 2.0. It still looks and runs like version 1.0 but better with more features and no Sin. No more crying, no more dying, no more tears and pain and sorrow and shootings. “Behold, I am making all things new.”
There is a trajectory in the Bible from beginning to end, from the alpha to the omega. The Bible begins with two people naked in a Garden, but it ends with a great multitude no one can number clothed in white robes in a great city. Not man’s city, that’s Babylon. God’s city. The city that comes down from above. New Jerusalem. Zion. From Garden to City, from naked to clothed, from two people to a multitude. Do you know what that means? God is doing something in history. He’s making something good and beautiful out of all this chaos and disorder. He’s making something wonderful out of your history too. Nothing is wasted, nothing left on the cutting room floor.
This is an old preacher’s illustration, but I’m an old preacher so I have license to use it. Think about Grandma making a pulled rug, like a tapestry. And you’re a little kid sitting at Grandma’s feet looking up from below at all these dangling threads and knots and it’s ugly as anything. You’re wondering, “Why does Grandma spend all her time on that ugly thing? Has she lost her mind?” You just can’t see anything good. And then one day Grandma turns it over to reveal the beauty of her work. And all those ugly dangling loose ends and clumsy knots become a beautiful tapestry when viewed from above. We look at our lives “from below,” but God sees things “from above.” That’s where faith looks. And God is taking all the good things, the bad things, the ugly things and making something good and beautiful out of them. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see it.
Do any of you have scars? I have this big one on my forehead. It’s two, actually. One from high school when I ran into a concrete light pole playing touch football. The other from a few years ago when I fainted after getting out of bed, which happens to old guys more often than you think. The wounds have healed, but the scars are there. They kind of make me look tough, like a fighter or a hockey player. I’m not really tough, I’m actually clumsy. I hope those scars are still on my face in the resurrection. I kind of like them. They are part of me. I don’t want to relive the pain or the incident that caused them, but I kind of like them. I wouldn’t be fully me without them.
Scars are trophies of past injuries. You likely have a few yourself. Scars from athletic injuries or plain old clumsiness. And you have scars we can’t see. Scars of bad choices, poor decisions, sins that have had lasting consequences. Scars of wounds that others have inflicted on you, and of wounds you have inflicted on yourself.
Jesus has scars too, the trophies of His unjust yet saving death. He showed those scars to His disciples on the night of His resurrection and said “Peace be with you.” The peace is in those scars. Thomas wanted to see the scars, because that’s how you know the real Jesus. Even in the glory of His resurrection, He bears the marks of His injuries. And they are beautiful. He shows them to the Father and says, “Father, forgiven them. Here is why.” “Rich wounds yet visible above in beauty glorified.” God has made good out of those ugly wounds and in those wounds your wounds woven into a tapestry of your salvation.
We live in the now and the not yet. Now by faith, not yet by sight. Now new creations in Christ living in the old creation in Adam. “Simul” as Luther put it. Simulaneously in Adam and in Christ. Old and new. Sinner and saint. “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, behold the old has gone, the new has come.” You are becoming what you already are. You are heading toward where you’ve already arrived. Now you have the whole lot, and soon, there is a whole lot more.
Astronomer Robert Jastrow (1925-2008) once wrote: “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
Living by faith is like that. You’re like a bunch of kids at the beach wearing bathing suits in the middle of winter having a beach party. And the world thinks you’re crazy. But you know something they don’t. Summer is near, just around the corner, and you’re celebrating early. The Christian life is that kind of now/not yet thing. A beach party in winter. Joy in the midst of sorrow. Hope in despair. Life in death. You know how this story ends, not in Good Friday darkness but in Resurrection light. New creation light.
It ends with Christ the Lamb who was slain but lives, whose blood has redeemed a world from sin, whose death has reconciled the world to God, who has taken up the old creation into His own flesh and made something new. And who says to each of us here today: “Behold, I make all things new.”
You too. New.