“Making All Things New”
May 15, 2022
Revelation 21:1–6 “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, the 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, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’
And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.” ***
One day Jesus and Satan were discussing who was the better computer programmer. After some time, they weren’t getting anywhere in the conversation so they agreed to a contest. They also agreed that God would be the judge of the contest. The next day Jesus and Satan set themselves before their computers and began. They typed furiously for hours straight, with lines of code streaming up the screen. Just before the contest was to end, a bolt of lightning struck and knocked out the electricity. (God had nothing to do with the lightening). Moments later, the power came back on and God announced that the contest was over. God asked Satan, “What have you come up with?” Satan, visibly upset, cried, “I have nothing. I lost it all when the power went out.” “Very well, then,” said God, “let us see if Jesus fared any better.” Jesus entered a command, and the screen came to life in vivid display, the voices of an angel choir poured forth from the speakers. They astonished Satan. He stuttered, “B‑b‑but how?! I lost everything, yet Jesus’ program is intact! How did he do it?” God, chuckling by now answered, “Everybody knows…Jesus saves.”
This passage from Revelation 21 is a clear testimony to God’s saving love for us.
Recently I was on the highway driving home and I must have been bored with the radio, Sirius channels and podcasts, for I suddenly realized that an incredible array of signs surrounded me telling me various things. First, not more than three feet in front of my face there was an entire panel filled with dials and digital counters telling me all sorts of things. One dial had a pointer that rested on the number 65, (well maybe a little above 65) while another almost identical dial was registering 2500 rpms. Another dial was a close to the letter “E”. Then there were counters. One had counted up to 189 while the other was clear up near 36,000.
And there were all kinds of other signs, too. I doubt that I went a single mile without seeing several signs. Big white signs said 65 and 45, and others that said 55. There were green signs with numbers like 53 and 48. Then there were blue signs and orange signs.. Then there were brown signs announcing historic sites and park.
As I became aware of all this information displayed for me — and all of it in some coded form that I’ve become familiar with, I began to wonder — suppose a person from someone from a faraway country and unfamiliar with English were to be sitting where I was sitting. What would all of this mean to that person? I realized that some of the information wouldn’t be terribly difficult to figure out. But much of it — probably most it — would make no sense at all to an outsider — until someone already familiar with all of this took the time to explain it.
It wasn’t pure chance that I was thinking about signs and indications the other night. There were two things that brought me into this frame of mind. First was the fact that I had been noodling with the bible reading from Revelation.
If you’ve ever ventured into this final book of the Bible, you’ve probably been frustrated by the style of writing. Like nowhere else in the bible, Revelation gives you a big dose of apocalyptic literature. Apocalyptic writing involves extremely heavy use of symbolism and metaphor. The author’s meaning is intentionally shrouded in mystery, fully understandable only to those who are familiar with the history and background of symbolic meaning. Reading some of Revelation is very much like being plopped into the driver’s seat of a car. If you don’t have any background on the meaning of the dials or the signs along the road, you won’t know what they are telling you.
There’s a second reason this was all going through my head in the car that evening. I had recently received a newsletter in the mail. It’s called the “Tribulation Times.” It’s put out by a bunch of people who say that the rapture occurred on September 11, 2019, and the fact that people like me are reading this newsletter means that I wasn’t among those called to Heaven by the Lord. Then it asked the question: What’s wrong with you? Why weren’t you called?
Now normally when I get something like this, I just sigh a little and toss it in the same place as I toss those envelopes that say, “You may already be a winner.” But for some reason I decided to read — or try to read — this one; it was really incoherent. As I paged through the pages, I moved from mild amusement to dismay to outright disgust.
One article in this newsletter told how Iran is secretly preparing for a sneak attack on the United States. Another described one of the author’s visions of the “tribulation” — down to babies being boiled in oil and women being tortured in depraved fashion. Still another article seemed to have the theme, “Now that us good guys have been raptured and the rest of you miserable folks are left behind, here’s what you need to do.” The intent of the entire newsletter seemed to prey on every fear imaginable. The goal was to terrify people into get believing this stuff so they’ll immediately become Christian. I would guess such people then become paranoid Christians, or judgmental Christians, a fearful, self‑centered Christians.
And like I said, as I read Tribulation Times I got disgusted because it totally obscures the book of Revelation which tries to reveal a future in which God conquers evil. The intent is of Revelation is not to scare people into believing. Rather it reveals to us a God who has our best interest in mind. It’s present in those words: “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples.”
Here is a God who is determined to dwell with us and make us a home! And then Revelation says: “God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more;” Picture it — this is a God who gets so personal and close to us that God reaches out to wipe the tears from our cheeks. Can you picture a more loving and personal God? That’s what these words in Revelation tell us!
I guess to the editors of Tribulation Times it doesn’t really matter that all of their fearful writing comes by ignoring the history and symbolism of the book of Revelation. I find that Revelation contains some of the most hopeful, loving pictures of God available to us in Scripture.
I’ve had conversations with people who operate from a basis of fear. I know there are people who think it’s effective to scare people into believing. They also believe that God enjoys having people tremble and shake.
The cry of newsletters like Tribulation Times boils down to, “Hurry and get on board while there’s still time! Save your miserable soul before it’s too late!” And the methods are fear, horror, and panic. Unfortunately, we are fed those methods of manipulation every day in many realms of life. But when people claiming biblical authority do so, I think it is dangerous. The churches that I know and respect don’t use the bible to scare people with a cheap and fleeting guise to save imperiled souls. The churches I’m familiar with proclaim that salvation isn’t something you achieve, it is and always has been — a gift given to you by a loving and caring God.
“See I am making all things new,” God says in Revelation. The words from Revelation brim with hope for this troubled world in which we live. They remind us that one day, God will establish a new heaven and a new earth. One day, Christ will return. Maybe that will be in 1,000 years or perhaps it will be later today. The only way to be ready for that is to be doing what God calls you to do. And God does not call you to fear or fret and fuss about your own salvation — Christ has already taken care of that for you — if it were not so why would we have Good Friday and Easter?
God calls you to live in hope rather than fear; to walk in peace rather than anger, to speak in truth rather than hatred, to forgive as you have been forgiven, and to love as you are loved. This is the God who is bringing about a future for us where there will be no reason for fear — and no more pain, tears, dying and death. Nothing could be grander.