Sermon for the 5th Sunday of Easter May 19, 2019
Text: Revelation 21:1-6 ILCW Series C 19:2132
Theme: This Is Heaven! Everything New!
Wow! What a promise. Listen to it again: “There will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.” That sounds great! Imagine what life would be like if there were no more pain, sorrow, or death. Watch the nightly news on television or read a newspaper and leave out everything about pain, sorrow, and death. There’s not much left. We spend a lot of time focusing on, worrying about, or working against pain, sorrow, and death.
But God promises that all grief will be gone when He raises up a new heaven and earth and the old passes completely away. That sounds beyond us in the present. Think of it this way.
Suppose you had a paper bag that was all messed up and had holes in the bottom. When you put your groceries in it, they fall out. If you used that sack to carry your goods back home, you would lose everything before you got there.
Now suppose that I promise, “That old sack will hold all your goods. You won’t lose a single thing.” Sound impossible? But there are ways God does the impossible. Take everything out of the messed up sack. Put the old sack inside a new sack, a fresh bag. Then put all your goods back inside the messed up sack. None of them will fall out. They won’t get lost. The promise is true.
And the promise that we will have no more pain, sorrow, or death is also true. God not only makes the promise, but He tells us how He will keep it. He says, “See! The former things have passed away. I am making everything new! Write this down for these words are trustworthy and true.” That’s God announcing, loudly proclaiming, “You can count on it. Take it to the bank. It’s real; it’s true!”
But how? Look at us now. We’re like that old sack, weak, full of holes. The holes in our lives are caused by sin. The result? We have times of suffering, pain, and sorrow while on this earth. Do you remember what God told Adam and Eve the reality of their disobedience would bring: “You will have pain in childbearing, your pain will increase in life. Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it. It will produce thorns and thistles…By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground…for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Sin brought us all manner of suffering, pain, and sorrow on earth;
and the time will come when we all will die. Even a newborn child will grow to only one day die. That’s the old sack.
But Christ is the new one. He lived without sin; so there are no holes in His life. He went through death and rose again without being destroyed. Now through faith He invites us to put our lives inside His and the old life disappears. The Apostle Paul encourages, “Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God…For (in Him) you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Co.3:1f). Christ’s new life becomes a part of us. Or perhaps I should say our old life disappears in Him when He returns for us.
But, until He returns either at the very end of time or when our bodies die, we will have pain and sorrow on earth. We watch as close friends and dear relatives die. And we all will die some day, too. But we have the Savior’s promise that all pain, sorrow, and death will then be gone. This Is Heaven! Everything New again. As John saw in his vision: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.” No longer any sea? What’s that about?
It’s a little hard to tell, since God does not reveal the meaning behind it. And people come up with various ideas. But perhaps it’s best to think of it this way.
In ancient times the sea was a mysterious and dangerous place to be. Shipwreck, sea creatures, and the unknown paralyzed people with fear. The Apostle Paul tells us he was shipwrecked on three different occasions. So there was a lot of uncertainty and fear attached to the sea.
You know, it’s not too much different today. People like to go to the beach. But once they get in the water there is always the danger of undertows that take them away or the fear of sharks lurking nearby to devour them. There are the jellyfish, the sea urchins, and other mysterious things hidden in the deep waters. So the sea often represents a place of uncertainty and terror.
Furthermore, earlier in the Book of Revelation out of the sea came one of Satan’s henchmen to wreak havoc upon the earth. His purpose was against Christ, to destroy our faith in the Savior. And John, who was exiled alone on the island of Patmos for preaching the Gospel, was separated by the sea from his parishioners whom he loved. But God promises that the fear, the danger, the separation will all be gone. We will be with Him, and even more, He will be with us. We will be renewed, refreshed, made radiant in His love like a bride feels on her wedding day.
This is Heaven! Everything New! Those who have gone before us know it even now. We, however, wait and go on with life in the imperfect world and must endure the “holes” of the here and now. It’s been that way for a long time. Like Paul, we Christians would much rather “depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Phlp.1:23). But for now we must “remain in the body.” Yet, we are always looking forward, homesick in a way.
Homesick – It was that way in days of old with Abraham, and later, his son Isaac, and still later with Jacob. For over 300 years, they lived in tents because they were homesick. They were not homesick for Ur in the Chaldees, the city they left behind when God called Abraham. No, they were homesick for the beautiful garden that they longed for, the place where God had once come to walk and talk with His people in the beginning – the place called Eden.
Maybe you wonder why they had to live in tents while they longed for heaven. They lived in tents because they had a message God wanted them to leave behind for those who came after them. They did not write the message down. They lived it. It was that tent which they moved from place to place, always wanderers, always homeless – the tent that was their sign that they had something better than anything earth could offer (Hb.11). It was their way of telling us that the one who has tasted in Christ the precious friendship of God will never be really happy until he or she comes at last to the city where God Himself comes to live with His people. It’s not just that we go to Him, but He comes to us and Everything is New again.
Moses longed for that city, too, so did David, Isaiah, and thousands of others – the vast majority whose name we do not even know. All died without seeing the Savior whom God had promised. For all those O.T. people the Savior was only a distant promise, almost like a dream. Yet, it was a dream certain to happen, because the word and promises of God declared it to be trustworthy and true.
You and I do not live in a tent; yet we, too, are only passing through, visitors on earth. We know far more about the Savior, than those people did, who lived before He was born. But what we know does not content us fully. It only increases our homesick longing for His return when “He will live with us. We will be His people and He Himself will be with us and be our God. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes…and will give us to drink freely from the spring of the water of life.” It’s His gift! It’s grace! And a gift of grace is never taken back. It’s the gift of a permanent home, free of all troubles – home with Him, or better yet, a home where He is with us.
You may not ever have thought about it, but home is not so much a place. Home is most of all a person. Home is where you can be with those whom you love the most. Even Jesus was homesick while He was here on earth, homesick to return to His Father whom He loved so dearly.
God has not told us a whole lot about our permanent home, the new heaven and the new earth, which He will bring with Him. He’s told us a few things that we see in the Book of Revelation, but there still is much mystery to it because God expects us, like Abraham, Isaac, Moses and the rest, to walk by faith, not by sight, trusting in His sure and certain promises.
He has not told us much, but He has promised that He will come to us and that we will see our Savior face to face. Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go, I will come back to get you, so that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn.14:2f).
In that beautiful garden that once stood on this earth God was present only part of the time. In the evening, in the cool of the day, He came to His friends there and walked and talked with Adam and Eve. That is not the way it will be in the place Jesus is even now preparing for us.
When the day arrives, God comes to live among His people. With His own hand He will wipe the tears from our eyes. And He will draw even closer to spread His tabernacle over us – to shelter. There we shall live in His presence. “And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thess.4:17).
This Is Heaven, where Everything is New again. God grant us its comfort, hope, and joy in faith as we sojourn here; for Jesus’ sake. Amen.