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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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 reubenbredenhof.com
 
Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:The New Beginning at the End
Text:Isaiah 65:17-19 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The Second Coming
 
Preached:2022
Added:2022-11-13
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 147:1,4                                                                                 

Ps 123:1

Reading – Isaiah 65:1-25; Revelation 21:1-8

Ps 98:1,2

Sermon – Isaiah 65:17-19

Hy 73:1,2,3

Hy 16:1,4,5

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


Beloved in Christ, Isaiah is unlike any other Old Testament book. In a remarkable way, it covers the whole story of our redemption. It tells about God’s stunning creation at the beginning of time. It spells out the vicious impacts of the fall into sin. Somehow, Isaiah also gives an incredibly detailed portrait of the Christ—seven hundred years before He came to earth! Isaiah speaks of the coming of the Holy Spirit, the building of the church, and the saving of the Gentiles. The book of Isaiah has been called “the Bible in miniature,” because so many of Scripture’s key themes are found within its 66 chapters.

Today we get to see Isaiah’s vision of The End. For even the final moments of human history are recounted in Isaiah when he tells us about the creation of the new heavens and new earth. Long before the apostle John wrote the book of Revelation, Isaiah gave him the language and imagery of this new beginning at the end.

And it’s an amazing picture of eternal life—it’s actually less of a picture, and more of a song. For there is great joy here: God’s joy, our joy, everlasting joy. And this joy stands in contrast to the sadness and sorrow that mark our lives in the present time.

How deep does sin go? How far does the brokenness extend? Sin goes much further than our personal failures to keep God’s law. And further too, than sin’s damage to our relationships and to church life and to wider society. Romans 8 says that “the whole creation groans and labours” (8:22). That means God has a lot to put right. And that is what He’ll do…           

God will create new heavens and a new earth. It will be:

             1) the joy of the LORD’s people

             2) the joy of the LORD

 

1) it will be the joy of the LORD’s people: The people of Judah were looking ahead, craning their necks to see the blessings that were coming. And for good reason. If they hadn’t been excited for the future, you’d question if they were paying attention at all! Isaiah has been telling them all about the LORD’s saving plan. Like God said back in 42:9, “See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” New things: for there was a lot to look forward to.

A big part of God’s long-term plan involved the city of Jerusalem. Earlier in Isaiah, we hear of God’s decision to topple Zion’s walls and send her people into exile. Yet God also said He’d preserve some for himself. And so there was a comforting message about rebuilt walls and gates, a restored temple and worship. Isaiah spoke about a people delivered from their sins, even about a righteous king to sit on the throne once more.

Judah would’ve rejoiced at the thought of a fresh start, yet they must’ve known that it wouldn’t be perfect. And it wasn’t. After exile, an entire city needed to be rebuilt, one heavy stone at a time—and it was hard. We know the story that when the foundation for the new temple was finally laid, people cried because it hardly compared to what had been there before. God said that He’d build a smooth highway back to Zion, but it turned out to be a rough road.

That’s probably a lot like our experience of this life. We experience many good things, but they’re never perfect; there’s a touch of sadness in almost every joy. There are moments we look forward to, but always with the reality that they will end. Yet God’s vision reaches far beyond ours. God sees beyond the stuff of this life—even the good, worthwhile and God-pleasing things—and He sees where it’s all going.

As we said, God has been pointing ahead throughout Isaiah. For instance, earlier in this chapter (verses 9-10), He spoke in very earthly terms about how He was going to help his people. They’d possess the mountains of Judah again, and the plain of Sharon would again become good pastureland, and the Valley of Achor be filled with herds. God’s future blessing was connected to these recognizable features of the landscape.

But in our text, God’s future blessing suddenly goes to the next level. He abandons the familiar and everyday, and He says, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth” (v 17). It’s like a flash of lightning, unannounced and spectacular. Judah was thinking small, like we so often do: a new temple would be nice, and new city walls, maybe better irrigation in the fields. But God says He’ll make everything new.

New heavens and a new earth: that means everything, the totality of created things. Recall how Genesis 1:1 describes the dawn of human history, the world-producing work of God: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Now we hear the same phrase, because the LORD is going to create like He did before: out of the darkness, light; out of all the ugliness and brokenness, something beautiful. And Isaiah says it’s going to be new, “a new heavens and earth.”

Does that mean God plans to make something entirely new, as in, radically different from what we know here on earth? Will God throw out his old sketchbooks, start from a blank page, as it were? Will He create a world where the earth has six moons, and grass is purple, and humans have a pair of wings so that we can fly?

We don’t know for sure, but the Bible gives plenty of indications that God’s “new” creation will have a lot in common with the old—there is continuity. There will still be a sun in the sky, and well-known animals (lambs and lions and snakes), and of course, the people—you and I will be there, with bodies and spirits, but bodies made imperishable and spirits glorified.

Totally new and fully perfect, yet somehow familiar. We can’t grasp it, so God explains in a way we can understand: “The former shall not be remembered or come to mind…the sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more” (vv 17, 19). The new creation will be known for what is absent from it. Call it a negative perspective, but as sinners and mortals, it’s failure, weakness and tears that we know best. And these will be no more.

God will create a place where “the former [things] will not be remembered” (v 17). What are the “former things”? Compare it to the previous verse, where God says: “the former troubles are forgotten…hidden from my eyes” (v 16). Former troubles—there’s been plenty of that in Isaiah. Notice how even in this most hopeful chapter, God speaks of those among his people “who provoke me to anger continually…who sit among the graves…who eat the swine’s flesh” (vv 3,4). Imagine: God’s covenant people were hanging out in cemeteries, eating pork, sacrificing to idols—there was little about Judah that set her apart from the nations.

So God’s wrath is coming: “I will not keep silence but will repay—even repay into their bosom—your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together” (v 7). Sin is always judged. The holy God says there’s always a price to be paid.

All of which makes the LORD’s promise so amazing. Jesus Christ carried the cost of our sin, so now He gives a new start, a fresh beginning: “The former shall not be remembered or come to mind.” How liberating! For God’s people have long had to remember difficult things. The family struggles we had in the past, the bad things that were done to us, our own guilt and shame from the sins of years ago, regrets that linger because of the choices we made. The remembrance of the past is a burden. And time doesn’t always heal the former things. Some hurts we cannot forget. Some illnesses won’t be healed.

It’s actually impossible to imagine this life without sickness or struggle. Think of all that troubles you today. Maybe it’s worries over work, or concerns for your children, or anxiety over your health. The mind can quickly run down a dark alley, chasing some wandering worry or inventing some new concern.

But Isaiah says that the day is coming when all such things will not be remembered, nor even “come to mind” (v 17). In God’s new heavens and earth, not a drop of what troubles us today will be present. Think of not being able to give attention to any of your worries, or revisit any of your sins again, because God takes it all away: “The former shall not be remembered.”

And God adds another element to this picture. In his new creation, “The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard…nor the voice of crying” (v 19). Judah had certainly wept. As the siege of Jerusalem ended in a bloodbath, the streets rang with wailing and mourning. Later, by the rivers of Babylon God’s people sat and wept when they remembered Zion.

So it has always been. For God’s people on our pilgrimage to Zion, there are many tears. Think of the tears that fall when we feel the guilt of our sin, or tears because of the consequence of other people’s sin. There are tears at the grave of a loved one, and tears when a body is wracked with pain. There are the tears of painful earthly goodbyes, tears over relationships that have ended, tears of frustration and anger and loss. Some of us don’t cry that easily. But for all of us, the grieving is real and unavoidable. Even if no drops of salty water form in the corners of our eyes, our hearts can be bruised and broken and burdened.

But when God re-creates, there is no more grief. God said this back in 25:8, “The LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces.” No crying, moaning, complaining, sighing—because whatever has to do with this broken life will be ended.

“The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard,” because Christ silenced it. Jesus came to this earth as one of us so that He could deal with the weight of our sin. And it was a weight! Jesus himself cried with sorrow, He cried in pain, cried with longing. But for the joy that was set before him, He endured the cross and despised the shame. Through him we are a new creation, and our tears are wiped away. By his death and resurrection, He heals all that is broken.

And Christ is the Saviour not only of countless individual sinners. Through him, says Paul, God reconciles to himself “all things, whether things on earth or in heaven” (Col 1:19). Christ is the foundation of a new and perfect world without sin. The entire creation groaned in frustration when sin entered the world, yet Christ redeems it all, both the heavens and the earth.

The rest of chapter 65 tells us a little more. Life on the new earth will be long, even eternal: “No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days” (v 20). And instead of being stricken by drought or disease like it is today, the creation will be fruitful: “They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit” (v 21).

There will even be a new peace among all creatures: “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together” (v 25). Here are sworn enemies—one a hunter, the other the hunted. You just couldn’t imagine a lamb getting comfortable next to a wolf. But now they’re at peace, like they were in the beginning.

And not just among the animals, but among those who bear God’s image. Jesus Christ, “the Prince of Peace,” will bring an end to all the hostility and malice which fill the earth today. No more wars and refugees. No more arguing and protesting. No more divorce and division—but peace. This is the final undoing of Satan’s work.

Best of all, there will be perfect peace with God. Listen to what the Lord says, “Before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear” (v 24). For God will be so near. Revelation 21 says that for eternity, God will dwell with us, and we will be his people. He’ll be so close to us that ‘before we call, He will answer.’ Close enough to see our mouth beginning to open in prayer, and at once ready to grant our request.

It’s all so amazing that Isaiah tells us less about what heaven actually looks like, and says more about our emotional response to this reality: “Be glad and rejoice forever” (v 18). Celebrate God’s great redeeming works! And again, “I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy” (v 18). That’s what we need to know, that the rejoicing of God’s new creation will be uninhibited, pure, spotless, endless.

The good news is that all this rejoicing doesn’t have to be reserved for the future, saved for that distant day when all things will be well. We can have this joy in Christ today, because Christ is our Saviour today. So often our gladness is centered on the things of this life; it is dependent on the good gifts that God gives here and now. Yet let’s also rejoice in what lies ahead, and praise God for the future that is in store.

Rejoice, looking beyond the good gifts of today, and gazing past the difficult things, the hard moments, past the pleasures and the tears. Rejoice in the new home that God is going to create for us and for himself. Whenever we suffer in this life, going through some God-given trial or adversity, the Lord comes to us and says, “It’s going to get better.” And whenever we enjoy this life, and receive God’s many gifts and blessings, the Lord also comes to us and says, “The best is yet to come.”

Beloved, this gives a great purpose for as long as we live. When we’re old, and when we’re young, we know that we’re going places. This life isn’t just about the empty pursuit of more earthly things and more intense pleasures. This life isn’t even simply about the good things like church and family and faith. Because these imperfect things are a part of something much bigger: God’s great plan to restore his creation perfectly through the Son.

So preparing for Christ to come back isn’t just an activity for end-of-life. It’s for all of life, from the time of our youth, through middle-age, and into our twilight years. Don’t live like tomorrow doesn’t really matter. Don’t act like this world is all we’re going to get. Instead, keep eternity in view so that you’re ready to receive it. That’s the call we hear throughout Scripture: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” God will create a new heavens and earth, the joy of the LORD’s people, and…

 

2) it will be the joy of the LORD: With our tears wiped away, the former things not remembered, and sin banished, God’s people will rejoice. But even God himself will rejoice over his works. Listen to what He says, “I will rejoice in Jerusalem and joy in my people” (v 19).

Once again, Isaiah is reminding us of the beginning, when God saw all that He had made and “it was very good.” All the works of his hands were perfect, from the stars in the sky to the starfish in the sea. God rejoiced in what He had made. And of all his works, He delighted most in those who bore his image, man and woman

It didn’t take long, and God had many reasons for sorrow. For the happy communion was broken by sin, the beautiful future shattered by the devil’s works. We can understand why God was angry with this rebellion, but perhaps we don’t think very much of how it also disappointed him, how this disaster robbed God of delight. Yet here was his wonderful creation, marred by the works of puny humans. The Lord God grieved his ruined masterpiece, He mourned the plan that had fallen to pieces.

Certainly God could’ve started over, and made a new and perfectly obedient human beings. But in his unsearchable wisdom, God decided to keep this people, to redeem this people, and one day to restore his people to a place where He could live with them again. On that day, God will again be glad in the works of his hands.

Notice how in the same breath that God speaks of the new heavens and earth, He speaks about Jerusalem. For centuries Jerusalem was where God showed his presence on earth; it was where He sat in the throne room of the temple. There God showed that He lived with his people, that He was their God.

But the LORD now tells of a new Jerusalem, a city that would never again be besieged or divided or conquered. He tells of a Jerusalem that would never give him cause for grief by their unfaithfulness: “I will rejoice in Jerusalem and joy in my people” (v 19).

This is Jerusalem, not the city of smelly gutters, cracked walls and sinful people, but the New Jerusalem, the city and the dwelling place of God forever. Revelation tells us that right at the centre of God’s recreated world is the New Jerusalem, the city where there is no temple, because the LORD and the Lamb are its temple (Rev 21:22).

In that day, all creation becomes one vast sanctuary. The entire new heavens and new earth become the place where God can dwell again with us. It will not be a partial fellowship with God, or a communion from a distance. God will unite heaven and earth, so that we may live with him and that He may delight in us.

So God rejoices. The Hebrew word for “rejoice” in our text is often used to describe the joy of wedding festivities. It is the joy that celebrates a close relationship, a fellowship of love, a bond that nothing on earth can break.

God rejoices over his bride, the apple of his eye. He sings of his rekindled love through Christ. He sings of his newfound delight in his covenant people. He sings about his people, sinners who are forgiven and renewed and devoted to him. This is how God always meant things to be, so now God sings a love song for his beloved, his church, “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev 21:2).

This is our great hope. We look to the marriage feast of the Lamb, when the purified bride shall be joined to Christ our groom. Together we will dwell with Christ in love, in perfection, without concern for tomorrow, without regrets from the past, completely freed from the burden of sin. No tears, though maybe only tears of joy. Bound together, living together forever, God will rejoice over us.

So who enters this new reality? Who is allowed to enter Jerusalem? Revelation tells us that the person “who overcomes” shall inherit all things (21:7). The one who overcomes: that is, the one who is faithful to Christ, the one who perseveres, the one who does not give his loyalty to the world or to the devil and his lies. God rejoices in those who do his will.

And that’s not everyone. For outside the gates of Jerusalem are the cowardly, the unbelieving, the murderers and sexually immoral, the idolaters and liars (21:8). They are shut out, and shut out forever. Which is a warning for us beloved, a warning given in love: to repent, to flee from sin, and to be an overcomer in the power and Spirit of Christ!

For eternity, God will take great delight in those who fear him—those who loved him today, and who served him today. He’ll take great delight in those who are washed in the blood of the Lamb. So as God rejoices, let us rejoice! For He makes all things new, even us.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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