Seward United Methodist Church
Thursday, August 16, 2018
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He Makes All Things New

Revelation 21:1-7

 It is New Year’s Day.  It’s a holiday; a cause for celebration. 

 Though to be perfectly honest, I’ve never quite figured out why.  For starters, why does the new year begin on January 1?  Why not December 1?  Or June 15th?  The only thing that ever made sense to me is that the new year should begin on one of the dates that have some kind of astronomical significance.  The winter solstice would be a good choice, December 21st or 22nd.  Of course, who wants to start a new year in the dead of winter?  How about the Spring Equinox, March 20 or 21?  Wouldn’t that be nicer, to start a new year on the first day of spring?  

 But here we are.  It’s January 1st, New Year’s Day.  Why?  Just because we have attached significance to this date on the calendar.  It’s not a special day.  It’s just the day on the calendar we call New Year’s.

 But it can serve a special purpose.  What do we do on New Year’s?  We make New Year’s resolutions!  How about it?  What are your resolutions for this year?  How long are you planning to keep them?

 Well, as you can probably tell, I’ve never really thought New Year’s to be a big deal, but here we find a point of contact with our Scripture lesson for today.  New Year’s resolutions are, essentially, attempts on our behalf to renew ourselves, to become new and better people in a new year.  And our Scripture for today is about God renewing creation.  Let’s have a look at it:

 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth.”  In the Greek language, there were two words for new.  One of them meant new in terms of time.  That word was NEOS.  For example, a neophyte is a beginner, someone who has just started something.  If you take up the harmonica, at least for a while, you will be a neophyte harmonica player.  The other word for new was KAINE.  KAINE meant new in terms of quality.  That’s the word used here in Revelation.  The new heaven and new earth is not just a new world like the old one, it’s new in the sense of better, superior.  

 “For the old heaven and old earth had disappeared.”  The world as we know it is temporary, and it will one day pass away and we will live in a new creation.  

 “Heaven” is not some distant paradise, but a renewal of the creation we know.  God created this world to be our home.  God created it as a place of perfection, but the

perfection of the world God created was destroyed when sin entered into creation, and with sin came evil, pain, suffering, and death.  But at the end, it will be renewed into the goodness that God originally intended.  

 “And the sea was gone.”  That might seem strange to us, to think that the new creation won’t have an ocean, but there’s a cultural reason for it.  In the minds of people in the first century world, the sea was often used as a symbol of death.  It’s water; but you can’t drink it.  Many, many people who go out onto the sea never come back.  And in the book of Revelation, the sea was also seen as a source of great evil because the antichrist is said to come out of the sea.  So the sea represents evil and death, and hence, it doesn’t exist in the new creation.  Only life-giving fresh water exists.  So, yes, there will be canoeing in heaven.  It wouldn’t be heaven otherwise.

 “And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from God, out of heaven, like a bride dressed for her husband.”  

 There is a city in the new creation.  A city implies activity and commerce and the business of life.  In other words, “heaven” will not be sitting on a cloud all day, playing a harp, but a new creation in which life continues, relationships continue, activity continues, but now perfected life and relationships.  And of course, the city is not just the place, but also the people, who are the Church, the Bride of Christ.

 And God said, “God’s home is with his people now!  He will live with them, and they will be his people.”  This is the essence of “heaven:” God is with his people.  God lives in an intimate fellowship with us for all eternity.  It doesn’t matter where heaven is; it is heaven if God is with us in an intimate way that we can’t fully understand now.

 And he will wipe away every vestige of the “old” order:  death, sorrow, pain, mourning.  All these things will be gone forever.

 “I am making everything new!  It is finished!”  In the Greek language that Revelation was first written in, the word finished is TELEIOS, and it can also mean completed or perfected.  This is completion of God’s work of salvation.  This is the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God:  Eternal life with God in a perfected creation.  There is nothing more to look forward to.  Until that day comes, the story isn’t finished yet.

 “And he said, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.’”  To all who thirst for God, he will give the water of life.  To all who are victorious, who by their

faith in Christ overcome the struggles of this life, he will give this inheritance of eternal life in his presence forevermore.  

 God can and will make all things new.  And we, as his children by faith, are called to be renewed as well.  God does not want us to stay as we were when Christ first claimed us as his own.  He wants us to become his children in every way, to become like him in every way.

 The new creation is not just some distant reality out there waiting for us.  The potential for new creation exists in all of us by the power of the Holy Spirit.  And I would say that New Year’s Day and especially these New Year’s resolutions can serve as a reminder to us to seek renewal.  Not just today, but every day, we should seek to be renewed by God’s grace so that we might be made fit to take our place in a new creation. 

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