The New Creation

The end of the story isn’t really the end of the story. Everything from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 is just a prologue, just setting the stage. When we burst out of our graves to a New Creation, that will be when the real story begins.

Anson Kroeker on April 7, 2019
The New Creation
April 7, 2019

The New Creation

Passage: Revelation 21:1-4, 22:1-5
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This morning we come to the very last topic in our “You Are Here” series. Next week will be our conclusion to the series, and then on Easter Sunday we’ll reflect further on some of the themes in light of the resurrection of Christ, but today is our last major stop in terms of topics.

And hopefully it’s not a surprise that today we’re considering how the biggest story every told ends.

And so today is going to be like one of those moments—I’m sure you’ve had one before—when you’re reading a book or watching a movie and things were so tense and so uncertain and so hard to watch that you just had to skip ahead to find out how it ends. I admit that I’ve done that a couple of times in my life. I had to make sure that things worked out okay, and then I could go back and actually enjoy the story.

And that’s true for you and I. Even though we’re still in the story, we get to read the back of the book and find out who wins. We get to know how it all works out. And as we’re going to see today, and again next week, this makes all the difference for how we live out our part of the story today.

The Trajectory of Redemption

Now hopefully, much of the material we cover today is review. We spent four sessions at family camp last June digging in to this topic, and many times throughout this series we’ve talked about the ending of the story. But it’s important for us to spend another morning focused on this, because we don’t want to assume to much. We want to make sure that we’re putting the pieces together in the proper order. And, I don’t think any of us can hear these truths too often.

So let’s begin by remembering God’s purpose in creation in the first place. The reason God made everything was for His own glory. He created this world as a theatre for His glory, and He created us to see His glory and respond in worship and love.

And that worship and love were not meant to be passive, mystical experiences. God made Adam and Eve to work. They were to participate with Him as covenant partners, ruling this world as His representatives, working and keeping the garden and filling and subduing the earth.

And they did all this in close relationship with God. The Garden of Eden really functioned as His temple, and He would walk with them there, communicating directly with them. They experienced close relationship with Him as they served Him and fulfilled their mission.

And then the fall happened and broke all of this. Their relationship with God was permanently damaged, and their work was made hard and painful and futile.

And so God put His plan of redemption into effect. And what I hope you’ve seen in the past months is that God’s plan of redemption always had the goal of bringing us back to His original intention for us. Bringing us back into covenant partnership with Him, back into worshipping and loving Him, back into walking with Him.

Just think of what God did with Israel. We saw that the tabernacle was like a mini-Garden of Eden, and that the Levites worked it and kept it just like Adam (Numbers 3:7–8, 8:26; 18:5–6). Through the tabernacle God once again walked among His people (Leviticus 26:11–12). And in the blessings of that covenant, God was dialling back the curse and bringing Israel back closer to paradise.

But because of sin, it didn’t work. Israel broke the covenant and ended up in exile, far away from God’s presence.

And so through the prophets, God promised to come fix things once and for all. He promised to remove sin and create a New Creation where the curse would be removed and the whole world would be turned back into a perfect paradise.

One of those promises came in Isaiah 11. Listen to what God said would happen when the Messiah came to reign: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6–9).

Animals aren’t eating each other, there’s no danger, and everything is restored to the way it was meant to be. Daniel adds to this picture the resurrection from the dead (Daniel 12:2-3), which gave people hope that even if they died before the Messiah came, they could still be a part of this New Creation.

And so this was the hope of God’s people. This is what they were expecting the Messiah to bring when he came. And so when Jesus did come, and people began to believe in Him as the Messiah, this is what they were expecting Him to bring.

And it’s very important for us to remember that Jesus did begin the New Creation. 1 Corinthians 15:20 says that when Jesus rose from the dead, He was the “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” The picture there is that the great end-times resurrection is like a harvest, and Jesus is the first bushel of wheat off of the field. The New Creation began when He walked out of His grave.

And so when we are united to Christ through faith, we become spiritually resurrected, born again, and our souls experience the reality of the New Creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

And yet we’re still waiting, aren’t we? Our inner self is being renewed, but our outer self is wasting away with the rest of this old creation (2 Corinthians 4:16). We’re still waiting. We’re still groaning. We’re still longing.

But we know that the day will come. The day when the gospel has been preached to all nations and the full measure of God’s chosen ones have come to faith in their saviour. The day when God’s purposes for this season of history will be fulfilled. The day when Jesus will return like He promised.

And then the day when all of God’s enemies will be finally destroyed, all wickedness utterly judged, and all of God’s promises totally fulfilled. The day when creation itself will be restored and made new, and all of God’s people from all of time will rise with new bodies to a new life on a new earth.

And there, finally, at last, we will experience the life that we were made for.

Paradise Restored

I know we’ve read Revelation 21:1-4 already, but we can’t hear these words too often: “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’” (Revelation 21:1–4).

Do you hear what God is describing here? He’s describing the perfect fulfillment of everything He had always intended for this world. This is what His plan was from the beginning: a paradise where He would dwell with His people.

And as we read through this passage and the rest of chapter 21 & 22, the final two chapters of the Bible, we hear echo after echo of the first two chapters of the Bible. For example, did you notice the tree of life in 22:2? Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden so that they wouldn’t eat of this tree and live forever. And yet here it is, in the midst of the city, free for us to partake of.

Chapter 22 verse 3 tells us that there is nothing accursed here. The curse from Genesis chapter 3 is done. The creation has finally been set free from its futility and bondage to corruption (Romans 8:20-21).

And on that New Earth we will experience what we were made for in Eden. 22:5 says that God’s servants will reign forever and ever. God intended Adam and Eve to reign as His representatives here on earth, and in Christ, we’ll be restored to this glorious office, reigning with Him forever.

Better Than Eden

So in these ways, and so many others, the New Creation will be like Eden. And yet, if we compare these last chapters of the Bible with the first chapters of the Bible, we’ll discover that the New Creation will be even better than Eden. Way better. Our experiences will be richer and our reality will be more thrilling and our communion with God that much deeper.

For example, we won’t be just innocent like Adam and Eve, who only knew God as their Creator. We’ll know Him as our Redeemer, the one who loved us and pursued us and saved us. We’ll know Christ as our husband who laid down His life for us, and we’ll never run out of praise for the Lamb of God who was slain.

We read in Genesis 3 that God came and walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. But in the New Creation, He will actually dwell with us. Heaven won’t be a far-away place we go to. Heaven will be earth. This will be where God lives.

And do you know how wonderful that will be? Psalm 16 says that “in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). And that fullness of joy at the right hand of God will be ours to enjoy forever.

Like Revelation 22:4 says, we will “see His face.” Those are some of the most precious words in the Bible to me. We will get to finally see God. We won’t die, like we would if we were to see Him today (Exodus 33:20). We’ll have new bodies and new eyes and we will see what today we only believe. We will walk by sight and not by faith.

And we will finally be included into the greatest experience of all, the love of the Trinity. Like we saw back in September, our eternal destiny is to be caught up within the fellowship and love of the Trinity which had been going on forever before we were ever around. And there in the New Creation, we will finally be able to see Jesus’ glory and love Him with the very same love that the Father has for Him (John 17:24, 26).

The End is the Beginning

So here’s a way of summing this all up. Our experience on the New Earth will be the perfect realization of everything we were ever created for.

C.S. Lewis expressed this so perfectly in his book “The Last Battle,” which pictures a group of characters arriving in the New Creation, and one of them says “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now.”

Please hear this morning that our eternity is not going to be boring. It’s not going to be a castle floating in the clouds. It’s not going to be a church service or a family reunion that never ends. It’s going to be real life, life to the full (John 10:10), better that we could have ever dreamed.

Every truly good experience we have had in this life, every fleeting moment of genuine joy or real satisfaction—it’s all been just a glimpse, just a little taste, of the true reality waiting for us in the New Creation, the reality we’ve been looking for even if we’ve never known it.

And friends, we have no idea at the exciting adventures waiting for us. If we as sinful people who only live for eight or nine decades have been able to make the kinds of things we’ve been able to make—like computers and farm equipment and iPhones—and have been able to do the kinds of things we’ve been able to do—like land on the moon—think about what kinds of things we’ll be able to do with perfect bodies and perfect hearts and eternity to spare.

Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah says that “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7). It doesn’t just say that Jesus’ government won’t end. It says that of the increase of His government there will be no end. The empire of Jesus will never stop growing.

Now consider the fact that it’s not just a new earth that God will create, but a new heavens (Isaiah 65:17)—a word that often refers simply to the skies and stars above us. And this has caused some people to wonder if we will be confined to the new earth, or if we will get to explore the cosmos and rule over other planets and solar systems and galaxies. And I say, why not? If we are just a few years away from landing on Mars and we’ve been able to dream up Star Wars, why would the New Creation be more boring than that?

And so we should understand that the end of the story isn’t really the end of the story. Revelation 22 is not the end. It’s actually when the real story finally begins. Everything from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 is just a prologue, just setting the stage. When we burst out of our graves to a New Creation, that will be when the real story begins.

And once again C.S. Lewis helps us out. As the characters explore their version of the New Creation and finally meet Aslan, he tells them “‘The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.’” Lewis goes on to write, “And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

And that is what we have to look forward to. The biggest story ever told going on for age after age after age of eternal, unending joy.

Questions and Conclusions

Now at this point I want us to ask two questions to help work this truth into the fabric of our lives a little bit more. And the first one is this: everything we’ve talked about today sounds like it’s going to happen after the end, after the return of Jesus and the final judgement. And if that’s true, then what do we have to look forward to until then? What happens to us now when we die?

The answer is that when we die, our souls will leave our bodies, and if we have been saved by Jesus, they will go to be in the presence of God in Heaven, in the place where God dwells and rules. Scriptures like 2 Corinthians 5:8 point us in this direction, which speak about death as being “away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

And having our souls be in the presence of God will be wonderful. It will be better than anything we experience today. Paul said that his desire was to “depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23). So heaven today, having our souls be in God’s presence, will be wonderful.

But it’s not our final stop. Our final destiny is when Heaven comes down to earth, and God dwells here with us, and we won’t just be a soul but will once again live in a resurrected body. That’s our ultimate hope.

Thank about it this way. Imagine you were homeless and lived in a tent. And one day a terrible storm came through and flattened your tent, destroying it. And someone sees you standing there, and they pay for you to stay in a really nice hotel while they take care of things for you. And at the end of a few weeks, you get to move in to a brand new house that they made for you.

Was the hotel better then the tent? Way better. But your own home is even better.

And the present heaven, the way it is today, is kind of like that hotel. It’s way better than what we experience here. But even better still will be the New Creation, where our souls will be reunited with new bodies and everything will be as it was meant to be from the beginning.

Now here’s the second question. And it might sound strange to you, but I’m going to as it. Why does this matter? Why is this important? I hope all of this sounds nice, but what difference does it make?

Here’s why it’s important: when we believe what God has told us about the New Creation, we will have the courage and the freedom to sacrifice for Jesus like He has asked us to.

Because Jesus does ask us to sacrifice for Him. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Like we saw last week, this means dying. When we come to Jesus, we come willing to do anything He would ask of us, up to and including our own death on a cross.

But Jesus doesn’t ask us to sacrifice just because. He asks us to sacrifice temporarily in view of eternity. Because what did He go on to say? “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).

If we refuse to take up our cross and try to hang on to our best life now, then we’ll end up losing it. But if we lose our life here and now for Jesus’ sake, we’ll actually gain it, in eternity. In the New Creation. And it’s the hope of the New Creation that frees us to give literally everything else up here and now.

What I’m saying is that the Christian life, with all of its sacrifice and self-denial, only makes sense, and is only possible, with a strong hope in the New Creation. This is what Paul was getting at when he wrote, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

Do you hear what he’s saying? If being a Christian was only about what we get out of it here and now, then it’s not worth it. If being a Christian were about this life only, that we’re worse off than the rest of people. We’re to be most pitied. Because all we would be doing is missing out, sacrificing, denying ourselves, and for nothing.

He goes on to say, “Why are we in danger every hour? I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’” (1 Corinthians 15:30–32).

If there’s no resurrection to look forward to, then forget about this missionary life. Let’s just settle in and get comfortable.

But if there is a resurrection, if there is a New Creation, then let’s get up and lose our lives for the sake of Christ. Because we are not actually sacrificing anything. “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

Choosing to suffer for the sake of Christ, choosing to not store up treasures on earth, choosing to lay down the priority of family relationships, choosing to embrace singleness, choosing to move across the world to an unreached people—none of that is even worth comparing to the surpassing glory waiting for us in the New Creation.

So if you find yourself struggling to obey, struggling to be willing to go like we talked about last week, if your present life feels too good and the life to come feels too foggy or distant, then soak yourself in Scripture, read what God has promised us, and beg God to open your eyes to it. Pray, like Ephesians 1 says, for the “eyes of your hearts” to be “enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you” (Ephesians 1:18). Because it’s that hope which will free you up to lose your life today.

“Until He Comes”

So how do we finish off a message like this? We finish it off together, that’s how. We’re going to finish proclaiming the truth together by celebrating the Lord’s Supper—communion. We’re doing this after the message today because of those crucial words we read in our call to worship. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

And that’s what we do today. We proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus until He comes. And in doing that, we proclaim that He is coming. We proclaim that what we see with our eyes is not all that there is. We proclaim that the New Creation is real, and it’s already begun, and that one day it will come to this whole world just like God promised.

And in this meal we also remember that there is only one way to experience this New Creation. It’s only through the death of Christ.

If you are here this morning and you don’t know that Jesus died for your sins, then this hope of the New Creation is not for you—yet. Apart from Jesus, eternity will be filled with God’s deserved judgement.

But Jesus suffered God’s judgement on the cross for everyone who would believe in Him. And so Jesus bought this hope for us with His own blood. And so I would beg you this morning to come to Christ. Trust that He paid for all of your sins on the cross, and rose from the dead as your king and Lord. Turn to Him this morning and receive His eternal mercy.

And if you believe that, if you are trusting in Jesus as your Saviour and following Him as your King, then I invite you to share this meal with us this morning and proclaim the hope that we have.

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