After Paul and Barnabas had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch. They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in faith, saying, "It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God." They appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith.
Then they traveled to Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now accomplished. And when they arrived, they called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.(P) The word of the Lord.
The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all his works. (R)
Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord, and let your faithful ones bless you. Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might. (R)
Let them make known your might to the children of Adam, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is a kingdom for all ages, and your dominion endures through all generations. (R)
Then, I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away."
The One who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new."(P) The word of the Lord.
When Judas had left them, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
Since the Second Sunday of Easter we began reading some key passages from the Book of Revelation. We shall recall briefly what we have learned so far. John, one of the apostles of Jesus, was probably close to the end of his life, when banished by the Roman emperor Domitian to a Greek island of Patmos, for preaching the gospel, between the years 92 and 95 AD. While John was on the island, on "the Lord's day", which is considered Sunday or the Day of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, he heard a loud voice which ordered him to write down all that would be revealed to him, Revelation (1:10).
John turned around and saw a vision. In the first part of the vision, John saw someone like the Son of Man. Jesus often referred to Himself as "the Son of Man" because He was born of man. When John prostrated before Jesus, Jesus touched and comforted him whilst saying not to fear. And then He assured John that He was the beginning and the end; once He was dead, and now He is alive and will live forever.
On the third Sunday, we read the second part of John's vision which appears to make reference to his ascent to heaven. There, John is described as seeing the Throne Room of Heaven and God the Father sitting on His heavenly throne, with 24 elders, countless angels, living creatures and all the creatures surrounding the throne and singing praises to both God and the Lamb, Jesus Christ. In particular, they sang that Jesus alone, because of His sacrifice on the cross for the sin of mankind, is worthy to receive the seven gifts, "power and riches, wisdom and strength, honour and glory and blessing".
Last week, we read another scene of John's vision, which revealed what heaven is like. In heaven, John saw a great crowd of people from all nations, races and languages standing before God's throne and the Lamb, clothed with white robes and palm branches in their hands. The scene was similar to that of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem a week before His crucifixion, when a cheering crowd greeted Jesus while waving palm leaves and singing songs.
At this point, an elder told John that unlike the crowd which had welcomed Jesus into the city of Jerusalem and later deserted Him, these people were survivors of the great tribulation. In other words, these were the people who kept the commandments of God and held fast to their faith in Jesus till the end. For that reason, the same elder further said that they are given the privilege of serving God who, in turn, provides both physical and spiritual rest to them; they would no longer experience hunger or thirst, or scorching heat, but only rest at the springs of life-giving water.
In today's text, John speaks of a new heaven and a new earth that he saw in his vision and then of God saying that He is making all things new. In fact, long before John's vision, the prophet Isaiah recorded God promising of a new heaven and a new earth, Isaiah (65:17). Here, "heaven and earth" does not only mean the sky and the ground but "everything". The entire universe or the whole creation will be made new. Jesus also spoke of the time when all things would be renewed, Matthew (19:28).
Getting back to John's vision, he describes seeing a new heaven and a new earth appear and at the same time, "the former heaven" and the "former earth" disappear and along with it "no more the sea". What does it mean "no more the sea"? There are many interpretations of the statement. Some people suggest that "the sea" here is a reference to the Mediterranean Sea. As John sat working on his writings on the island of Patmos and peering into the future, he saw that the Mediterranean Sea was gone.
Some take this verse literally to mean there will no longer be any oceans and seas in the new creation, Revelation (21:6; 22:1-2). As evidence, they point out to Jesus' own words in Matthew about there being no marriage in heaven, Matthew (22:30). Others think that it implies the absence of all physical water (H2O) anywhere, in any form. It means that we will no longer need water to live, that our glorified bodies and all that grows in the new earth will be based on a completely different life principle; we will live by the "pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb", which is known as the heavenly water, Revelation (22:1, 17).
Others maintain that it is a figurative reference to there being no more divisions among human beings. That is, in the new earth, there will be no separation of the human race by means of the sea. Still, others think that it refers to the absence of anything dangerous or unpredictable. In the Old Testament, the sea is considered the source of threat, rebellion, restless evil and destruction, Isaiah (27:1); Daniel (7:3). This has led some to interpret, "no longer any sea" to mean that the source of evil in the world is gone. There will no longer be any opportunity for rebellion in God's creation. After the time of great trouble or tribulation - the final rebellion, and just as Christ prophesied, the whole creation will be renewed, duly transformed in a significant way, such that the present order of things will dramatically change, Matthew (24:15-21); Luke (21:25).
John further relates seeing "the holy city a new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" and at the same time, hearing a voice from the throne which said, "God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away", Revelation (21:3-4).
There are a few things to note here:
Finally, as John was engrossed in the vision, the One who occupied the throne called his attention to another declaration, "Behold, I am making all things new", Revelation (21:5). What does it mean? In the Book of Genesis, we read that God, at the completion of His creation, was pleased with it, Genesis (1:31). Yet, the moment Adam and Eve sinned, God Himself placed the curse of death, decay, sin on the whole of creation, Genesis (3:17-18). At the same time, God did not abandon it altogether.
He also began His providence of restoration of all creation. In fact, immediately after the Fall, God promised to restore it to its former glory through a redeemer, born of a woman chosen by Himself, and He graciously continued to remind through His prophets of His ultimate promise to send His messiah, Genesis (3:15). Paul points out in Galatians that it was through Jesus Christ, whereby God intended to fulfil the promise, Galatians (3:16). In John's vision, the occupant of the Throne, that is God Himself, reiterated just that.
What is the message for us?
Knowing that the present heaven, and the present earth will pass away gives us perspective in life. Our present world is only a temporary home. The new heaven and the new earth, a place where we will spend eternity with God, is our ultimate home. It will be a perfect place where we are meant to live. In contrast to this present world, the new one will be a place of righteousness, peace and joy. As God's children, we all can share the blessings and beauties of the new heaven and the new earth.
If we indeed long for such a place, we must make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him, just as Peter instructs us, 2 Peter (3:14). We need to recognize the priorities that Jesus wants in our life. He wants us to be free from anxiety, seek His Kingdom, and store up treasure in heaven and not on earth, Matthew (6:19-34). May John's vision of the new heaven and the new earth provide heavenly comfort to us in our difficult times and also encouragement to keep our sights on the world to come.
God Bless You!