Click HERE for an audio version of this message.
Please turn your attention to our first lesson for today as God, through Isaiah, pictures for us what it is like to live with him forever.
Watch this! That’s what a child might say as they are about to show you that they have learned to do a summersault. That’s cute. But as the commercial from a while back showed – If a group of husbands shout, “Watch this!” their wives start dialing 911. They know someone is about to do something they shouldn’t be doing and will probably get hurt.
Watch this! God says. When God says, “Watch this!” It means he is about to do something special, something amazing, something more wonderful than we could ever imagine. And, since he is almighty, he is able to do what he says he is going to do perfectly, without even breaking a sweat.
What is it that God wants us to watch? I am about to create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered. They will not come to mind.
There are lots of things about the old heavens and the old earth, the one we currently inhabit, that we would like to forget. Israel had experienced many such things. There were infants who died shortly after birth. There were godly people who seemed to die before their time. There were times when they built houses, but because of war, or business failure, they didn’t get to live in them. There were times when they planted crops, but they were confiscated to feed soldiers, so they didn’t get to eat what they had planted. There were times when they wept because of the hardships they faced; when they cried out to the Lord for help and he didn’t seem to hear or answer. There were lots of things they would be happy to forget.
God makes it clear through Isaiah that the cause of many of their problems was that, when he spoke to them through his prophets they did not listen, when he called to them they did not answer. Some of the prophets God sent them were even beaten, imprisoned, or executed because the people didn’t want to hear God’s call to repentance. The cause for many of their problems was, God says, you did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me. Because of this he had allowed their enemies to defeat them, to take over their homes and eat their crops. He did this as a way of bringing them to realize that they had forsaken the only one who could save them; as a way of calling them to repentance. He wanted them to be saved.
When bad things happen in our lives, it’s not always because we have done something sinful or turned away from the Lord. When bad things happen in our lives we should examine ourselves and take a long look in the mirror because even though what we are experiencing may not be a direct result of some sin we have committed, we will be reminded that whatever it is we are experiencing, we deserve much worse because of our sinfulness. We will be reminded that we can’t save ourselves and how much we need God to save us. Many times, the reason bad things happen is simply because we live on the old earth, a place that is under the curse of sin. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned God’s first creation and everything in it has been subject to decay. Everyone is born subject to sickness and disease, even a days-old infant. Storms and earthquakes, volcanos and tsunamis are all constant reminders to those who are paying attention that this first earth and everything in it is destined for destruction.
No matter how good your life on earth is, there are many things you would be happy to forget – the pain of a broken bone, the sickness caused by Chemotherapy, the betrayal of a friend or a spouse, the death of a loved one. God says that in the new heaven and the new earth those things will not be remembered. They won’t even come to mind. There will never be a reason for weeping or crying. As it says in John’s Revelation, the old order of things, the order of things where everything is subject to ruin and decay and death, the old order of things will be gone.
What’s the new order? What will it be like in the new heaven and the new earth? Watch this! God says again. I am about to create Jerusalem to be a source of gladness, and her people will be a source of joy. I also will be glad because of Jerusalem, and I will rejoice over my people. Quite the opposite of what we read about in the Old Testament history of Israel. God was not often glad because of his people just as he is not often glad about us because of our sins.
Revelation says that the New Jerusalem will come down from heaven with Jesus. It will be like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. The perfect harmony that existed between God and man before Adam and Eve sinned will be restored. Our every need will be graciously met by God. In fact, he says even before they call, I will answer. While they are still speaking, I will hear.
In the new heavens and the new earth, we will see his face and his name will be on our foreheads. The one true God will be our God and we will be his people. He will dwell with us, not hidden in human flesh and blood as it was when Jesus walked the old earth, but in blazing glory. In fact, there will no longer be any night or any need for lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever. We will live in the mansions he has prepared for us. No doors or gates will ever have to be locked for the new heavens and the new earth will be the home of righteousness. Nothing evil will be allowed to enter. The wolf will be like a lamb, the lion will be like cattle, not even the snake will be a danger to us. They will not harm or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain, says the Lord.
In the Gospel lesson we heard Sadducees ask Jesus a question because they didn’t believe any of these things. They were like many today who think that when you die, that’s it. There is no afterlife, there is no resurrection, there is no heaven and no hell. They thought they had come up with a way of making the belief in a resurrection of the body look completely foolish. “If a woman is married seven times over her life, and she and her seven husbands are raised from the dead, whose wife will she be?” But Jesus pointed out that they had made a wrong assumption. They had assumed that the resurrection would be the way the Pharisees pictured it, that everything would be just as it is now, only with evil removed. Jesus corrected them. Yes, there will be a bodily resurrection and a new heaven and a new earth, but there will also be a new order. “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy to experience that age and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. In fact, they cannot die any more, for they are like the angels. They are sons of God, because they are sons of the resurrection.”
Seminary professor Richard Gurgel warned in a devotion this week that we need to be careful about saying too much about what it’s like for those who are in heaven, or what it will be like in the new heaven and the new earth. Sometimes we talk as if marriage continues in heaven, but Jesus makes it clear that it does not. Sometimes we talk about departed loved ones smiling down on us, or even working to influence events on earth to our benefit. The Bible clearly states that neither of those things are true.
We want to avoid the brazen denial of those like the Sadducees, but we also want to avoid the false ideas like they pictured the Pharisees presenting. Instead, we want to focus on what Scripture says. Our loved ones who have died trusting in Jesus as their savior aren’t dead. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob aren’t dead. Jesus said, God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all are alive to him. John saw the souls of people who had died gathered around the throne of God, joining the angels in giving him praise. Jesus says that he will bring them with him when he returns in glory. Their souls will be united with their resurrected bodies. Believers who are still alive on the old earth will be transformed and given a glorious body that is like his resurrected body, no longer subject to sin, sickness, death or pain. They will be able to live in God’s presence and see his face. They are blessed by the Lord, and their descendants will be with them. In fact, however much you loved them, that love won’t compare to the love that you will have for them in the new heavens and the new earth, and not just for them, but for everyone who is there—for Moses and Elijah, Isaiah and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Apostles John and Peter and Paul, and millions of others you have never met. Everyone will be one happy, perfect family, serving God and each other in perfect love. In the new heavens and the new earth, we will be part of an everlasting perfect family.
God says, Watch This! And what he does is amazing, wonderful, better than we can imagine. He creates a new heaven and a new earth where everything and everyone is perfect. And, most wonderful of all, he says you get to be a part of it because Jesus lived and died for you, and rose again.