Sunday, May 1, 2016

THE NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH - PART 2

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain, the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:6 NAS) 

It is Finished / It is Done

In John’s vision, he saw ahead to the time when the first things had passed away. When Jesus talks about the first things, he is talking about what are what we experience now. We are living during the time of the first things. It in this period and in this place where we must go through times of mourning. We are in the place of crying and of pain. But in the New Heavens and the New Earth, these things will no longer exist.

“He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new…Write, for these words are faithful and true…It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.’” (Revelation 21:5-6a NAS).

“It is done.” This is a statement of completion, of something that has reached a conclusion.

Do you remember the very last thing that Jesus said, as he hung dying on the cross? Just before his head sunk to his chest and he gave up his spirit, Jesus uttered these words: “It is finished” (John 19:30).

These are two statements that Jesus made that indicate completion: “It is finished,” and “It is done.” Although both statements indicate completion, there is a subtle difference in the two Greek words in the New Testament. (Click READ MORE to continue) 
 

When Jesus was about to die, he said “It is finished.” The word is teleō. It means to complete something that one is doing, or to fulfill it. In saying what he did on the cross, Jesus said that he had completed that which he needed to do. He fulfilled his purpose for which he came to earth. That purpose was to provide a path for fallen men and women be redeemed. This purpose was fulfilled by Jesus with the payment of his blood. It is a deep subject and one which we will not explore right now, but that was the payment necessary to redeem us.

Now, in Revelation with the passing away of the old things and the revealing of the New Heavens and the New Earth, Jesus said, “It is done.” This word for completion is ginomai. This word suggests something that has been brought to its final state or has reached maturity. The word has the sense where it describes something awaited that has just come into being. 

The First Finished Work

When Jesus uttered the words, “It is finished” on the cross of Calvary, he was indicating that, with his death, he completed everything that needed to be done to bring to maturity what he had begun. This work of Jesus did not merely begin for him when he was born in the stable in Bethlehem. It did not even begin for him when Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden of Eden and he saw the need to provide a path for the salvation of man. It began long before that.

I asked a question concerning the New Heavens and the New Earth in the sermon last week; If God was happy with this first creation, why then would he see the necessity to create new heaven and a new earth? We read in the Genesis account of creation that when God created this present heaven (speaking of the heavens of the physical universe) and this present earth, he looked at all that he had done and saw that it was “very good.” God was happy with what he had made.

Why then a new heaven and earth? It was not because God made some mistake in the first creation and it became ruined on account of man’s sin. God has not decided to do everything over and fix the errors that he had made with the first one. That is not the reason.

The reason for the new heaven and earth is because in everything that God has created, he has allowed for the free will of man. He has made us so that our choices have real meaning.

All that has happened on our earth since its very inception is not a surprise to God. He did not look at his creation after the fact and saw that he could have done some things better. He is not like you or me, when we make something with any amount of complexity. We might be pretty happy with our project, but we are not completely satisfied with every aspect. I might be happy with the bookcase that I made, but there are a few of the joints between the pieces of wood in it that are not very tight. I might have done a better job.

It was not like that for God. After the initial creation, he not only declared it “Good,” he declared it “Very good!” He was completely satisfied.

One of the reasons that it was very good was that God put into his creation beings that in some regards, were like him. He made us in his image (Genesis 1:27). Part of what this means is that he created men and women who have free choice. We can choose to follow God, or not. We can choose recognize God as the Lord and Creator of the universe, or not. We can choose to serve God, or we can choose to serve some thing or some one else, or even choose to serve ourselves (this is the choice most people seem to have made). God has allowed us to have the power over our own lives to decide what we want to do. 

The Second Created Work is Done

It was necessary for God to grant to us this power to choose for ourselves in order for him to bring about in his creation what was his goal from the very beginning. His ultimate goal has never been the “old things.” His goal was never the First Heavens and the First Earth. From the very beginning, God looked beyond those old things to the time when he would usher in the New Heavens and the New Earth.



When Jesus died on the cross and made the pronouncement, “it is finished,” he did not mean that he had, at that point, brought everything to perfection. It is abundantly obvious to us that everything is not perfect within the creation now. What Jesus meant by this was that at that point, when he died to redeem those who would choose to follow him, he had done all that was necessary to bring everything to perfection. There was no further action needed.



There are actually no artist representations of the
New Creation I am comfortable with. I am sure that
it is beyond anything that we can envision or imagine
This perfection will be realized, we will see it, in the New Heavens and the New Earth. In the book of Revelation, John is given a vision of this New Heaven and Earth, and he hears Jesus pronounce its arrival. The goal to which God has been working for centuries and millennia and eons, the goal which began even before the foundation of the earth (Ephesians 1:4) has now been brought to completion. It has been brought to maturity. At that future time, when we see all that God has intended for those who love him, all of this that we must live through in these present days will suddenly make sense. At that time, we will see that God has always had our best interests in his mind.

As I said, it is not like that today. Today we see a world that is constantly in chaos, like the chaos of the deep that we read about in the creation account, the darkness and the chaos into which God brought light and made the dry land appear. In the day that John saw in the Revelation, the chaos of the deep has been totally vanquished.

“It is done,” the one who sits on the throne will say in that day. 

A Rest Born of Satisfaction

When God was finished with his creative work in the beginning, he looked at all that he had made, he pronounced it “very good.” Then he rested. It was what I call a “creative rest.” This is a rest that does not come from fatigue, but it is when someone steps back from his or her work, or perhaps taking what he has made in his hands, and admires the finished product.

“God blessed the seventh day…because in it he rested from all his work which he had done” (Genesis 2:3).

In the New Testament, we read that after Jesus uttered his words on the cross, “it is finished,” and after he offered the one sacrifice for all sins for all time, he then sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:12). Sitting down indicates one is resting from their labor. When Jesus said, it is finished,” he also rested. Everything had then been done to bring the perfection into creation that he had planned from the beginning. 

A New Administration

The Apostle Paul, in the letter that he wrote to the Ephesians, said something that I find very interesting concerning the New Kingdom. In a statement proclaiming the blessings of God, Paul takes in the entire scope of history, from “before the foundation of the world,” to the very end of the ages. In his statement, we see the goal to which God has been working up to now, and which will be completed in the final state.

That final state will be a kingdom that is not ravaged by wars, by famine and natural disasters. There will no longer be any crying or pain or sickness. We will no longer face the death of those we love. All mourning will be over. All dark places of chaos will be gone. At that time, we will live under a new administration.

Paul calls it, “An administration suitable to the fullness of the times.”

The word administration is an interesting word. The Greek word is oikonomia. It literally means “household management,” or “the rules of the house.” It applies to individual homes, meaning that you have rules for your own home, such as “leave your muddy boots by the door and don’t go tromping around the house.”

The word also applies to nations and to kingdoms, reflected in how the country is run. In our country we speak of the way that the way the country is run under the current president, we refer to it as “the current administration.” Oikonomia is the Greek word for administration, and it is also the word from which we also get our word, economy. The two even sound somewhat the same.

What is the administration that could be suitable for the New Heavens and the New Earth? What could possibly be the “economy?”

Here is what Paul says: The administration and the economy will be “the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth” (Ephesians 1:10). We will be under the administration of Christ.

The one who sits on the throne said to John, “Write, for these words are faithful and true. It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.” 

Citizenship in the New Kingdom

As we consider the perfected Kingdom, this New Heaven and New earth, we now ask who is it that God will have be part of this work, which has been in his mind since he even began the creation? Who will be its inhabitants? Certainly, in a perfect environment, there can be no evil. Jesus speaks to that now in the next verse of Revelation.

“He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My [child]” (Revelation 21:7).

What does it mean to overcome, and just what is it that are we to overcome? Does the term “overcome” bring to your mind an epic battle in which you overpower a foe by using your almost superhuman strength? That is not the way John considered it. Here is what he wrote about this topic of overcoming in one of his letters:

“Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:3-4 NAS).

We can learn at least a couple things from this verse in John’s letter. First of all, we learn that the foe to be overcome is none other than the antichrist. In the book of Revelation we learn about the actual person of the antichrist, but as we can see in these words of John, the spirit of the antichrist is already present among us. It is this spirit of deception that we are called to overcome.

 Secondly, we learn by what method or by what strength we overcome. It is not by our own strength. Indeed, John calls us “little children.” Little children do not fight a mighty foe. Little children run and hide behind the protection of their father. If we are overcomers, that is what we do. We recognize that in ourselves, we have no power over the evil one of this world. But we do have a mighty Father. “Greater is He that is in you than he who is in the world.”

This may seem to you to be the cowardly way – hiding behind our Father. We might think that the brave way, the manly way, would be to stand and fight this foe. If we think that, we are wrong. By attempting this on our own strength, we cannot overcome and we shall not overcome.

And it is those who do not overcome who Jesus calls “cowardly.” Contrary to what we may think about our own manliness (or I suppose being a strong woman), we are really acting as cowards, and it is not the cowardly who will inhabit the New Heavens and the New Earth.

“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8) 

Cowards on the Sea

Interestingly, there is only one other place in the New Testament where Jesus calls someone cowardly. This he did in that same occasion of the storm on the Sea of Galilee that I referred to last week. That is when the disciples, in their fear, woke Jesus as he lay sleeping in the boat and cried to him, “Save us Lord! We are perishing!”

Jesus responded “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26) In our English translation, the translators used the word “afraid.” However, in the original Greek version (sorry about all the Greek words), the word Jesus used is “cowardly.” (Cowardly, fearful - deilos) It is the only other place in the Bible where this word is used.

“Why are you cowardly, you men of little faith?”

Do you notice that being cowardly is opposed to having faith? This is why Jesus says in Revelation that the cowardly cannot be in the eternal Kingdom of God. It is only those who have believed by faith. 

Lesson Learned

It seems as though John learned the lesson of faith on the Sea of Galilee that day. He later wrote in one of his letters, “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. (1 John 5:4).

 That which overcomes cowardliness is not a courage in ourselves and in our own abilities. That which overcomes is instead is the courage which come from our confidence in God. 

Confident to Face Current Difficulties

Do you see how our confidence in the fact that God is working to bring about the New Heavens and the New Earth changes everything? Having a more complete picture of what God is doing with his creation is something that can give us courage in the face of the chaos of this world. If we know the final goal of all that God put in place even before he began the creation of the world, if we know the outcome, then the difficulties that we presently face take on a different perspective. We look at our present circumstances differently because we know that in the end, God has prepared only good things for us.

This is the faith that gives courage. We can be confident today, because we have the assurance about tomorrow.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain, the first things have passed away.”

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