Revelation 21:1-7 (Fifth Sunday of Easter—Series C)
“All Things New”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
April 24, 2016
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Second Reading recorded in Revelation 21:
1And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth passed away and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God having been prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a great voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. 4And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither mourning nor crying nor pain anymore because the first things have passed away.” 5And the One sitting on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” 6And He said to me, “It has come into being. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I myself will give to the thirsty from the springs of living water without cost. 7The one who conquers will inherit these things and I will be his God and he will be my son.
Our lectionary reading from Revelation this week fast-forwards us almost to the end of the book. Last week in Revelation 7 we saw the Church entering and becoming the Church Triumphant as it will on the Last Day. Today John sees this Church Triumphant post-resurrection and the new heaven and new earth that God will make for His Church in glory. But before we get to a new heaven and earth we must live in this present creation. Before the glory we endure the suffering. Before the crown, we bear the cross.
Let’s go back to the beginning. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1 ESV). And after six days, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31 ESV). The Triune God’s creation was pristine. It was perfect. His crowning achievement, man and woman, were made in His image, knowing God as He wished to be known, holy, and in perfect communion with Him. Very good, indeed! And then it all comes undone.
“That ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan,” tempts the man and the woman (Rev. 12:9 ESV). They willingly eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; they disobey God’s commandment. They sinned. Their life with God is destroyed. Their unity and communion with God is turned into complete separation from God. They are driven out of the Garden, kept away from the fruit of the tree of life by the cherubim and a flaming sword the turned every way (Gen. 3:24). They forfeited life by their disobedience; they inherited temporal and eternal death. “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19c).
Tragically, the effects of the man and woman’s sin dominate God’s entire creation, not just humanity. Creation that was once “very good” is now under the curse—“cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you” (Gen. 3:17b-19a). God’s Word tells us plainly in Romans 8, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Rom. 8:20-22 ESV).
Under the judgment of God because of the sin of the human race, the earth was cursed and so suffered decay and ruin. All the things of this creation are so completely corrupted and twisted out of their original purpose. Nothing is as it was when God declared His creation “very good.” The earth suffers natural disasters in its state of corruption. Famines and floods abound. Plants, animals, and of course, people, are subject to disease. Our human sufferings take place within a creation that has been subjected to futility. “At times the creation’s corruption is the cause of human suffering; at other times, creation suffers due to the activity of fallen humanity” (Middendorf 670). And this corruption has everyone and everything on a one-way collision course with death.
Death is the wages of sin (Rom. 3:23). Death is the end result of creation’s corruption of which we are a part. Through the proclamation of God’s Word of Law, we become aware of sin and its consequences. We are convicted of our transgressions and come to painfully know our guilty standing and separation from God. There is a time when our tears for sin must flow even as there is a time when we weep for others and for ourselves in the face of suffering, troubles, and especially death.
But once again the message of Revelation reminds us with Gospel words of comfort that suffering and death are not our end. Jesus Christ is the victorious Lamb of God who suffered in our place. Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb of God who died on our behalf the death merited by our sins. Jesus went to the cross and shed His holy, precious blood, purchasing for us forgiveness of sins. Remember the words of Revelation 1: Jesus Christ “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 1:5-6 ESV). And last Sunday, the Good News from Revelation 7: “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14 ESV).
Jesus is the Risen and Victorious Lamb who shed His blood and conquered sin and death. By His victory He has made us to be a people for God. Because of Jesus’ victory, you, the saints of God, are also called victorious ones! “The one who conquers will inherit these things and I will be his God and he will be my son.” That’s you! You are heirs of God’s gift of eternal life in the new heaven and earth because of the victory of Jesus Christ given to you by grace through faith. Because of the victory of Jesus, God the Father shares with you and with “the whole people of God in Christ Jesus” all the blessings which He confers on His one-of-a-kind Son! The person who is in Christ, who has been clothed with Christ in Baptism, and believes in Him as the Savior becomes an heir of God. Through the righteousness of faith in Christ, you a sinner, are adopted as a “son of God” which means you are an inheritor of the things of God the Father.
The Good News promise of Revelation 21 is that when the time comes, God will dwell with all His people—His sons and heirs in Christ—in a new heaven and a new earth. “Behold, I make all things new!” the Father says from His throne. All the things that God had originally created will be recreated and restored to their original pristine state. He will transform the old into the new! And it is in that new heaven and earth where you, as God’s heirs of life and salvation, will live with Him forevermore.
Just think of what you, the saints of God who live now by faith in Jesus Christ, have to look forward to. Those tears that flow because of your sin and guilt, those tears that run down your cheeks in the face of tribulation, suffering, and death, will be wiped away. There’s no more crying or mourning or pain. Sin is done for. Abolished forever are also all the debilitating effects of sin. And death itself, the last enemy, is destroyed. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, the great “resurrection chapter,” mocks death to its face in the confidence of the resurrection victory of Jesus Christ: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:54-55 ESV). Death has no victory—Christ is risen! Death has no sting—Christ is risen! All the first things of this creation that you know so well, including death, will pass away. Gone! Because God will make all things new for you, His sons and daughters in Jesus Christ.
This is what you and I as Christians are looking forward to. Our Christian faith and victory in Jesus is so much more than simply dying and going to heaven. While that is for certain for those who believe in Jesus, “Today, you will be with Me in paradise,” there is also the resurrection of our bodies on the Last Day which we look forward to, and which we believe in and confess as we do in the Creed. There is the new heaven and the new earth which we rejoice to see after our resurrection from the dead. In this new creation, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, will live with us personally forever and ever. He will give to us waters of the river of life everlasting, without any cost to us—freely, by His gracious love alone. These are the things that, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, because of your Baptism into Christ, you inherit as God’s sons and daughters. And it’s an inheritance to look forward to! So we pray, “In mercy, Jesus, bring us, To that eternal rest With you and God the Father And Spirit, ever blest” (LSB 672:4) Amen.
Special thanks to the now sainted Rev. Dr. Lou Brighton, my seminary professor, who opened the text of Revelation to me in a pastoral, Christ-centered way, for the material used in this sermon.