Third Homily: Revelation 21:1-4
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.”
The Book of Revelation ends with many of the same themes as which the Bible begins. On Genesis 1:1 it says that “In the beginning God created the heavens and earth.” In Revelation 21:1 it says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth.”
Between these two events sin and death have entered into the world, and God has carried out his great plan of redemption trough Jesus Christ. Now all things are being made new. The curse upon the earth and upon mankind is being removed. God had promised death as a result of sin; now He has thrown death into the lake of fire. Death will be no more.
After Adam and Eve’s sin God brought judgment. This judgment impacted all of creation. It is this judgment that we call the curse. God cursed the serpent, mostly meaning the spiritual person animating the common beast. He cursed the women who would have great difficulty in childbearing. He cursed the relationship between man and the woman, and in a sense all relationships. He cursed the ground, meaning the whole created order. He cursed human work. Worst of all He cursed mankind with death itself. He also cast Adam and Eve out of the garden of Eden, the place of special blessing, the place where God walked freely amongst them, and talked with them, the place where they enjoyed unfettered fellowship with Him. Then he cast them into what would be for them a hostile world.
Tears of sorrow and pain and loss entered into human experience at so many levels. But nothing has caused more tears in human life than death and the piercing pain that the loss which that death creates. We are created for relationship. We are created for love and affection. A dear person is there, is part of our lives, and then is not there, and we are empty, devastated. It’s like we die a hundred deaths as we wait for our own death to die.
But praise be to God that that is not the end of the story. God has his own purposes, and acts for His own glory. But he also acts out of love for what and whom he has made. He created us in love that we might share in His love and glory. The raising of Jesus from the dead is not meant just to help us individually feel better about dying. It has to do with all of creation. The ultimate fruit of the resurrection is the removal of the curse. It is the death of death. When Jesus returns to establish his kingdom he will come with plans to renew the heavens and the earth. There will no more sin. There will be no more death. Fellowship with God will be fully restored as the covenant bond between God and man is finally realized to the full – “I will be their God and they will be my people.” There will no more pain, no more mourning, no more crying.
Like Jesus intervening out of compassion to raise the son of the woman at Nain, the Apostle John speaks of the New Heaven and New Earth through eyes of compassion for those who know life this side of the curse, for those who know tears and sorrow and pain. He wants us to know deep down that all those things are coming to an end. Hang in there. There will be no more death, for the old things have passed away.
Just because wordlings have stolen and co-opted the Christian message doesn’t mean we cannot proclaim it and live it and rejoice in it. We should. The Lord God almighty reigns, and He is ushering in a brand new day.