The Twenty Seventh Sunday after Trinity
November 24, 2019
“A New Heavens and a New Earth”
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
No more shall an infant from there live but a few days,
It shall come to pass
We confess in the Creed that Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead. That day will come without warning, like a thief in the night. Many so called Christians will not be ready to meet Jesus as their Savior who will take them home to heaven. They will watch as the door to heaven is closed in their face. They will hear Jesus say, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.” The foolish virgins who had lamps without oil are fake Christians who despise God’s word. They look good on the outside, but on the inside they are spiritually dead. They have no oil. They’ve abandoned God’s word. They have no faith. They are spiritually dead.
Those who repent of their sins and believe the gospel of the forgiveness of sins are spiritually alive. They are clothed in the garments of salvation. They are ready for the coming of the Lord Jesus. What a wonderful day that will be! God speaks through the prophet, Isaiah:
Behold! Listen up! Pay attention! Who creates? God creates! Only God creates. This word for create is never used in the Old Testament to refer to what a human being makes or does. It refers only to God. Moses begins the first book of the Bible with the words, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” He who created the heavens and the earth at the beginning of time will create new heavens and a new earth at the end of time. He will do it.
It will be a place where no sin will ever enter. God will rejoice in his people. They will be pure joy to him. All sin in them will be purged away forever. No sin can enter into the new heavens and new earth that God will create. None of the results of sin will enter either. Isaiah beautifully describes heaven by contrasting it to what we presently have here on earth. There will be no weeping, no crying, and no mourning, because there will be no death. Little babies won’t die. Young men won’t die. Death will be gone and forgotten. Sin yields death. Sin will be gone. Death will be gone with it.
Nobody will rip anybody off. There will be perfect justice. It won’t be like here and now. God said, “And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.” This new heavens and new earth is not like the Communist Utopia described in the popular song of the incredibly rich pop star, John Lennon, in the words,
Here is how God describes the new heavens and the new earth he will create for his children:
The communist dreamers are wrong. Private property is not the cause of greed and hunger. Sin is. Get rid of the sin and you get rid of sin’s bitter fruit. The way of this world is one person taking advantage of another. That won’t be the way of the world God is going to create for us. Things in this life often appear to be useless and vain. As the preacher lamented, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” Not in heaven. Nobody will labor in vain. Nobody will have any cause to complain.
God will hear and God will answer his children. He hears us now and he answers us now but we don’t always get to see it. We must go by faith. God tells us to wait patiently. We must often wait with sadness while we endure pain and suffering. Not in heaven. Not in the new heavens and new earth that God will make. Before the prayer reaches our lips, God will answer it.
There will be no violence. Here on earth wolves eat lambs. Not in heaven. God gave Adam and Eve dominion over the earth. They lost it as soon as they sinned against God. Their lordship under the LORD God will be reestablished. All of creation will serve us. In the beginning we were made in God’s image and were the crown of God’s creation. In the new heavens and new earth we will not only be the crown of God’s creation, but all of creation will act like it. What we trusted and hoped for under the cover of weakness will be revealed to all our senses. God will rejoice in his creation and his creation will rejoice in him.
Behold! Listen up! Pay attention! God is talking. He’s talking to you. He says, “I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.” We Christians need to understand that the flesh cannot do it. Human effort cannot do it. Human ingenuity cannot do it. Humanly devised political systems cannot do it. There is only one way to get rid of the former things that are corrupted by sin and cursed by death. That is to remove sin and abolish death. It is to destroy the serpent’s power utterly. Only God can do it.
But there’s always somebody out there promising us that it can be done here and now by the intelligence and ingenuity of men. They issue warnings about cataclysmic events that will surely come upon us unless we empower human governments around the world to prevent them. Politicians, religious leaders, singers, and poets devote themselves to a humanistic religion. They look to human beings to solve human problems. If we are the source of a problem, they reason, we are also the solution to the problem.
That’s not what the Bible says. When Jesus describes the signs of the end of the world, he teaches us the very opposite. He says, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars . . . nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom . . . many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:6-7, 11-12) This does not describe people capable of solving their own problems.
We are not the solution to our troubles. Those who say we are are deceived. Being deceived, they deceive others. They promise heaven on earth. They promise heaven but deliver hell: deception, lies, violence, suffering, betrayal, lawlessness, and love growing cold. What does this tell us about the condition of the human race?
But behold! Listen up! Pay attention! What is the first thing God mentions about the new heavens and new earth he will create? Isaiah writes:
People have dreamt, sung, and waxed eloquent over the years about a place without the troubles of this world, a place of justice, of peace, of kindness, and joy. We Christians confess that we believe in such a place when we say: “I believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”
First comes the forgiveness of sins. Only then can the body be raised from the dead. Only then can we live forever in the beautiful place God describes here in the words of Isaiah the prophet. The beginning of heaven is here on earth. The beginning of heaven is the forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness did not descend from heaven. Forgiveness was obtained right here where we live. Jesus didn’t gain his kingdom in heaven. He gained it here on earth. Here is where he labored, humbly, obediently, in pure and holy love. He labored to do what was required of us. He did it. Here is where he suffered, patiently, vicariously, bearing in full measure the divine anger and punishment of our sin, removing that anger and punishment from us.
Here is our little heaven on earth. Here we come, Sunday after Sunday, burdened by our sins. We look inside ourselves. We examine our lives. We do so and think to ourselves that there is no way that God can rejoice in us, have joy in us, and regard us as saints when we are so obviously sinners!
Then we hear the announcement of God’s grace, grounded in the obedience and suffering of Jesus. We sing of him who died and rose. We eat and drink his body and blood by which he has made full satisfaction for all our sins. Here God presses into our hearts the assurance that he forgives and forgets all our sins – especially those that burden our conscience and make us afraid – and will create for us a new heaven and a new earth where no sin will ever enter. Where this gospel reaches our ears, our souls are transported to heaven.
The mountain is here in the kingdom of grace. It is hidden under great weakness, discerned only through faith. The mountain is there in the kingdom of glory. The new heavens and new earth will be the home of Christians forever and ever. God will rejoice in his people. They will rejoice in him. Nobody will hurt or destroy anyone ever again.
Rolf D. Preus