This post was first published in 2015. But I'm still learning these lessons today. I hope it encourages you too.
New. What comes to mind when you think about that tiny but enlivening word? A home with freshly painted eggshell walls? A classroom full of wide-eyed kindergarteners? An unknown city bursting with possibilities—and anxieties?
When I think about new, I envision a clean white shirt, freshly pressed with a hint of starch mingled with my husband's scent. I love fresh, new things. But I crave the familiar too. Do you?
Flip through the book of Revelation, and you won't find much that's new—at least at the beginning. Images of destruction, fear, and horror stain the pages—until you reach the end. Then everything changes.
In Revelation 21, the author paints a bright, stunning portrait of the new heaven and earth. God declares, "Behold, I am making all things new" (verse 5). What makes this newness so stunning and—new?
The absence of suffering.Read through the first five verses of Revelation 21, and everything is new. Heaven and earth are new. Creation is untainted with the dingy remnants of sin and suffering. The sea—often a biblical image of fear and uncertainty—is gone. So are the tears, funerals, aches, pains, and regrets.
So often when we study this passage, we jump to this part. We look forward to the day when God wipes away our tears and takes away our hurts. But when we jump ahead to these tangible expressions, we miss the best part. He is the one wiping, healing, transforming. And the removal of these things ultimately points us back to him.
The presence of God.Amidst the beauty and bounty of heaven, a voice declares, ““Behold, the dwelling placeof God is with man” (verse 3). Immediately we’re pointed to the source of all the goodness surrounding us.
This isn’t just God’s gentle presence or even the small tug or whisper we sometimes feel. Instead God dwells—he tabernacles or takes us residence—with his people.
The picture harkens back to the Old Testament when God's physical presence was seen among Israel—in a cloud, fire, or smoke-filled tabernacle. It revisits John's New Testament imagery of Jesus entering our world and walking among us amidst the dusty roads and daily to-dos. And it reminds of the indwelling Spirit who seals and directs us.
In heaven our triune God will be with us in the fullest sense. Not only is he there physically, but relationally too as our interactions with him will be uncorrupted and unhindered.
For now there's a part of us that’s still limited by sin and sight. We resist God's rule in certain areas of our life. We question his care when life devastates our plans. And we struggle to communicate our needs in prayer. But one day, we'll be his completely—no holding back private corners or struggling to understand—and he will be our God, assuming his rightful place.
It’s from this position that he wipes away our tears. Instead we now see all of it from God's perspective. He was making something beautiful all along.
Sometimes God remakes things, wholly and entirely brand new. But other times he redeems them, picking up our brokenness and making it into something better than before. Both are beautiful. And both leave us feeling brand new.
As you look across your own life, where is God remaking you? Where do you sense him redeeming, making your marriage, career, or finances better than they were before?
Let’s dream about what new looks like. And as we look and long, may it lead us to the One who makes all things new.