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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:God promises a new heaven and a new earth
Text:Revelation 21:1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2013-03-05
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


The new Heaven and the new Earth           

Ps. 16: 1, 3, 5

Ps. 17: 2, 3

Hymn 55: 2, 3, 4

Ps. 102: 5, 10, 11

Ps. 48: 3, 4

 

Scripture reading:       Rev. 20: 7 – 22: 5

Text:                              Rev. 21: 1 

 

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

The history of this world comes to an end.   The final judgement is held.  The old heaven and earth fled away (20:11).   A new heaven and a new earth appears.   The eternal glory of God’s people is announced.  

 

Babylon is destroyed.   The Antichrist and the false prophet and the devil and all the ungodly have been cast into the lake of fire.   Their eternal abode is hell.  

And now our text turns to the everlasting and glorious kingdom of God.   Verses 1 – 4 describe the final and glorious fulfilment of all God’s covenant promises.   

We read of the new heaven and earth, the New Jerusalem, and of God making His tabernacle with men.  

These things are the fulfilment of prophecy.   It is the fulfilment of God’s covenant promises.

 

This morning we will focus only on verse 1: the new heaven and the new earth.

 

I proclaim God’s Word to you with the theme:

God promised a new heaven and a new earth

 

We will note…

1.      The oldness of the new heaven and earth

2.      The newness of the new heaven and earth

3.      The exclusiveness of the new heaven and earth

In the first place we note…

The oldness of the new heaven and earth

 

The new heavens and the new earth is a restoration of the first heaven and the first earth.

 

Yes, it is also more than just a restoration.  

When we compare the book of Genesis with the book of Revelation then we also note progress.  

In Genesis we find a garden with one man and his wife; in Revelation we find a city, the New Jerusalem, filled with a great multitude.  

In Genesis we read of God walking in the garden in the cool of the day; here in Revelation 21 God makes His tabernacle with men.  

 

In Genesis we read that there is gold in the garden, but it still has to be dug up; here in Revelation the streets are paved with gold.

In Genesis Adam and his wife, Eve, was naked; here in Revelation the redeemed are clothed with white garments.

 

In Genesis we read that man in the Garden of Eden was able to fall and did fell; in Revelation we find that those whose names are written in the Book of Life will remain in the holy presence of God forever.

In Genesis there is God and man; but here in Revelation God has become one with us.

In Genesis we have the marriage of Adam and Eve; in Revelation we have the eternal marriage feast of the Lamb with His holy bride.

 

There is not only restoration, but also progress.    And the glory of the latter is greater than the glory of the beginning.

 

And yet we may speak of restoration, for the new heaven and the new earth will not be created out of nothing; it will be the restoration and glorification of the first creation.

In Genesis 1 God created all things out of nothing, but the new heavens and the new earth will be a restoration and renewal of the first heaven and earth.  

 

The apostle Peter preaches at the temple and says:

 

“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” – Acts 3: 19 – 21.

 

He says that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been proclaimed by all the prophets of God since the world began; and he says that this gospel, from the very start, included the promise that there will come a time when God will restore all things.

 

This restoration of all things is also called “the regeneration” when Christ will appear in glory – Mt. 19: 28.   It will be the regeneration of heaven and earth.  

 

These words – restoration and regeneration – imply continuity.   When God will make all things new (Rev. 21: 1, 5) He will not destroy His old creation, but deliver it from sin and corruption.  

 

That is also the way in which the apostle Paul speaks when he says that this present creation eagerly waits for the day when this creation “will be delivered from the bondage of corruption…” – Rom. 8: 21.

At present all of creation is subjected to futility, subjected to corruption, and labours with birth pangs, waiting for deliverance – Rom. 8: 20 – 22.

 

It is this very same creation that will be delivered on the day of Christ’s coming.  

 

The same is true of ourselves.   In Christ we are a new creation, as the apostle Paul says:

 

“…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” – 2 Cor. 5: 17

 

In Christ we are and will be a new creation, and yet this does not wipe out our identity.   After our regeneration we are a new man and our old man is dead, yet there is continuity.   Our regeneration does not mean that we stop to exist, and that a total different man is created out of nothing.

 

The same is true of our resurrection.   When we die our bodies return to dust, and yet our very own bodies will be raised again, as we confess in LD 22.

Our bodies will then be new and will be glorified, and yet there will be continuity.   The resurrection of our bodies won’t be a creation out of nothing, but a restoration and glorification of the bodies that we now have.

 

The same is true of creation.  

The heavens and the earth which were created in Genesis 1 will continue, but it will undergo a complete restoration and be glorified.  

This earth which was once cursed by God because of man’s sin (Gen. 3: 17) will be freed from all curse.   Paradise will be restored.  

 

So then, the new heaven and the new earth will not be a destruction of the first heaven and earth, but a purification and restoration of that which God has created in the beginning.  

 

Yes, the heavens and the earth will indeed pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up with fire, but God who will raise the dead, will also raise this universe to a newness and a glory that is beyond our imagination.  

 

So then, the new heaven and earth has nothing to do with a revolution that breaks down the law and order of the old creation and destroys all that God has created.

God will not forsake the works of His hands, but will redeem and restore and glorify that which He created in the beginning.

 

Now, since there will be continuity, what then is the newness of the new heaven and earth?

 

We note that in the second place…

The newness of the new heaven and earth  

 

The apostle John saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth – in its corrupted state – had passed away.  

 

The newness of the new heaven and the new earth is first of all the absence of all that corrupted it.   There will be no more sin, no defilement, no corruption, and no curse anymore.  

The previous things – tears, death, sorrow, crying and pain – have passed away.

 

In the second place its newness will be caused by restoration.    It will be a purified and sanctified heaven and earth.

 

In the third place its newness will consist in its greater glory.   Cleansed from all sin and corruption it will filled with the glory of God’s most holy presence.   That is the newness and the glory of the new heaven and earth.  

 

God, having reconciled all things with Himself through Christ (Col. 1: 20), will make His dwelling on a sanctified earth where righteousness dwells.  

 

The newness of the new heaven and earth will not come by breaking down the law and order of the first creation, or by destroying its very existence, but the newness will come through the fulfilment of prophecy.   The newness will be the consummation of history, and not the disappearance of history.   The newness of the new heaven and earth will be the full realisation of God’s covenant promises which were from the beginning.

 

The first chapters of Genesis contain the seed from which all of history sprouts and grow.  Also the seed of the new heavens and the new earth were present in Genesis, but here in Revelation we find its full-grown fruit.

 

So then, we have to understand the newness of the new heaven and earth in terms of fulfilment and consummation.  

God’s kingdom has come, and is coming, but it has not yet come in its fullness.   That final coming of the kingdom, that day when all things will be restored and made new, will not come gradually; it will be a sudden event.   Christ will suddenly appear on the clouds of heaven and all things will be made new in one moment.

 

That final consummation will not be a newness that will slowly develop.   It will happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.   The course of this world, as we know it in its present state, will suddenly come to an end by a definite act of God at the appearing of Christ and of His kingdom.

 

Then the fulfilment of prophecy, the fullness and full realisation of all God’s promises, will be the splendour and the glory of the new heaven and earth.  

 

Do you want to know how the new heaven and earth will be?   Go back to the beginning and you will find its seed.   Listen carefully to the prophecies of old and you will see the new heaven and earth pictured before your eyes.   It is these promises of old that are further unfold here in our text.     

 

The powerful word by which God will restore all things is the gospel which has been preached to us.  

In Genesis 1 God spoke and it was; He commanded and it stood (Ps. 33: 9).   By the mouth of His prophets He spoke again.   He proclaimed the gospel; and the new heavens and the new earth will be the fulfilment of that word.   That which He has promised will soon be; it will soon be fully realised, for God has spoken.

 

God said to Abraham:

 

“…I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession…” – Gen. 17: 8

 

This promise is repeated many times over where Moses addresses the people of Israel, exhorting them to love the LORD and to keep His commandments in order that they may go in and possess the land and may live long in the land which the LORD their God has promised to their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 

This promise is also repeated in the firth commandment where the Lord said:

 

“Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” (Ex. 20: 12).

 

When the apostle Paul repeats this same promise to the Ephesians, he changes the word land to earth: “…that you may live long on the earth” – Eph. 6: 3.   These Ephesians were not Jews and did not live in the land Canaan, and yet the same promise also applied to them.   The Promised Land includes the whole earth.   The whole earth will be the eternal inheritance of those who belong to Christ.

 

And therefore the apostle Peter says:

 

“…we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” – 2 Peter 3: 13.

 

Yes, the promise has been made to Abraham and to his seed.  

All who belong to Christ are the seed of Abraham and heirs according to the promise – Gal. 3: 29.

 

Now, when the apostle Peter reminds us of the promise of new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, he is actually referring to the prophecy of Isaiah, where we read:

            “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth…” – Isaiah 65: 17.

 

Now, Isaiah clearly links this new heaven and earth to the coming of the Messiah.   The Messiah will restore righteousness and peace.   The restoration of the land will be caused by the righteousness of the coming Messiah.  

When he describing the Messiah as being clothed with righteousness, he also says:

 

“The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.   My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places…” – Isaiah 32: 17, 18.

 

The new dwelling of God’s people will be established and secured by righteousness. 

Righteousness and holiness will be its beauty.  

When the Messiah comes, righteousness will be the beauty and the glory of the new heaven and earth which God will create.  

The restoration is a restoration from sin unto righteousness.

And so the apostle Peter sums it all up by saying that, according to God’s promise, the glory the new heavens and earth will be righteousness.

 

That is then what the apostle John sees: a new heaven and a new earth which is characterised by righteousness.   The first heaven and earth, which was characterised by sin and corruption, had passed away.

 

We have to note that this restoration will be universal.   Through Christ God has reconciled all things – all things on the earth and all things in heaven – Col. 2: 20.

The restoration has an universal scope.    It is not only the Garden of Eden that will be restored, and not only the earth, but all things.   Heaven and earth refers to all of creation, the whole universe.   The new heaven and the new earth include all of creation.  

All things will be made new. 

 

This universal restoration of all things will, however, not be universal salvation.   The new creation will only benefit those who are in Christ.   The ungodly will be cast out, cast away in the outer darkness.  

Only those who are in Christ, they are a new creation (2 Cor. 5: 17).   Only that which is sanctified and united in Christ will be made new and glorious.

The new creation is in Christ and through Christ.   In Him, through Him, and unto Him all things will be – united, restored and glorified.

 

Outside of Christ there is no hope, no restoration, no glory, but utter destruction forever.

 

God will fulfil His covenant promises to His covenant people.   The covenant-breakers,

however, and all the ungodly, will be cast out.  

 

We note that in the third place…

The exclusiveness of the new heaven and earth

 

The apostle John also adds:

 

            “…there was no more sea” – verse 1.

 

The sea is part of God’s good creation, and there is no reason why the sea should disappear from a righteous earth.   As the rest of creation also the sea will be delivered and renewed.   It makes no sense to try and give a literal interpretation of the sea in this verse and to point to the dangers of the sea, and that it should therefore not have a place on the new earth.   Even the dangerous cobra will have its place on the new earth.

 

“…the lion shall eat straw like the ox.   The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child put his hand in the viper’s den.   They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters covers the sea.” – Isaiah 11: 7 – 9.

 

If everything that is dangerous on this earth has to be removed from the new earth, nothing will remain.   But, instead, what is now dangerous and untamed will then be peaceful and harmless.    The commentaries that elaborate on the dangers of the sea in order to find a reason to exclude it from the new earth, do so without understanding.

 

Moreover, we have to note the context.   These verses in front of us, Rev. 21: 1 – 4, summarises the consummation of all things, and gives us in a few words a summary of the glorious fulfilment of all God’s promises.  

Every word is loaded.  There is no room in this powerful summary for some minor details.

 

If we indeed have to think of a literal sea, here in verse 1, then we also have to conclude that the absence of the sea is a major covenant promise.

Of course it isn’t!   There is no covenant promise in which we are promised the absence of the sea!

 

We have to realise that every word in our text is the fulfilment of prophecy.   Moreover, it is not only the fulfilment of prophecy, but a short and powerful summary of the complete fulfilment of all God’s promises.

 

In this context, then, there is no room to make a side-remark about the presence or absence of the sea, as if it will be a great comfort to us all to know that finally there will be no sea anymore.

 

No, the apostle is indeed proclaiming a most wonderful gospel, and summarises the fulfilment of all God’s promises under three headings:

1.      A new heaven and earth

2.      A new Jerusalem

3.      A new tabernacle

Within this context and framework we are forced to interpret the absence of the sea as the absence of the rebellious nations who rose up against God.  

How then do we come to this conclusion?

In the first place Scripture often uses the sea as a symbol for the rebellious nations that rise up against God.

 

“Woe to the multitude of many people who make a noise like the roar of the seas, and to the rushing of nations that make a rushing like the rushing of many waters!   The nations will rush like the rushing of many waters; but God will rebuke them and they will flee far away…” – Isaiah 17: 12, 13.

 

“…the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” – Isaiah 57: 20.

 

David compares the restless nations with a restless sea.   He prays to the Lord and says:

 

“You who still the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the peoples.” – Ps. 65: 8

 

When the Lord silences the uproar of His enemies, it is said:

 

“You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, You still them.   You have broken Rahab in pieces, as one who is slain; you have scattered Your enemies with Your mighty arm” – Ps. 89: 9, 10.

 

Again, when He conquers and subdues His enemies, it is said that they, who are like the raging sea, is silenced by Him.  

 

But then, to come closer to our text, the Lord used this image of the sea specifically with regard to Babylon.   The prophet Jeremiah says:

 

“…the LORD will destroy Babylon and will silence her loud voice, though her waves roar like great waters…” – Jer. 51: 55.

 

Her great waters is her population.   When the citizens of Babylon rages against the Lord and against His church, her waves roar like great waters.

 

“…Come, I will show you the judgement of the great harlot who sits on many waters…” – Rev. 17: 1

 

The great harlot is Babylon, and the great waters over which she rules are the nations.  

 

When we now turn to the immediate context of our text, we read about the fall and destruction of Babylon in the previous chapters – chapters 18 and 19.   And then we read of the final judgment, chapter 20.   All God’s enemies and the enemies of His church who gathered together for battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea and who covered the breath of the earth as they surrounded the holy city of God, are all devoured by fire.   Their destruction is complete and eternal.   There is no place for them in the new heaven and the new earth; their place is in the like of fire and brimstone where they will be tortured forever.   That is what precedes our text.

 

And then it also follows here in chapter 21: 8:

 

“But the cowardly, unfaithful, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death”

 

They will not inherit the new heaven and the new earth.

 

And again, when the holy city is described we read:

 

“But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” – 21: 27.

 

In the new heavens and the new earth John doesn’t see any harlot, but only a holy bride.   Babylon is no more.   The only city and gathering of nations is the New Jerusalem.  

This holy city which is found in the new heaven and earth shall be exclusive.   Only those who belong to Christ will inherit it.

The rebellious nations gathered in war and rebellion against God will have no place in it.

The mighty roar of the waters of Babylon will be no more.

 

Here in chapter 21: 1 the apostle summarises this in only a few words: there was no more sea.   The raging nations were gone.

 

It is indeed the language of the prophets.   These words are the fulfilment of prophecy.

 

David once prayed to the Lord and said:

 

“May sinners be consumed from the earth, and the wicked be no more” – Ps. 104: 35.

 

And thus it shall be: a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness dwells.

 

When the apostle John sees the new heaven and the new earth, that is what he sees.  

 

Dear congregation, what then does this vision mean to us?  

According to God’s promise we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.   We who belong to Christ have become heirs of this inheritance!

Let us then not become weary or disheartened.   God spoke and it was; He commanded and it stood.   By the mouth of His prophets He spoke again.   The new heaven and the new earth shall soon be.  

 

In the midst of all our sufferings and trials, let us take courage, for yet a little while and we shall not only see the new heaven and earth, but enjoy the perfect holiness and happiness of that new creation.   For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

 

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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