The theme of creation and new creation is a significant one in Scripture, but sometimes we may forget where God has determined to begin that new work. The new birth is not merely a significant improvement of who we are. It is a new creation; it is heaven breaking into this world. And this is what makes the Christian Church tick. This is what makes Moscow tick. This is the center of who we are and what we’re about.
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create… I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; not more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress…” (Is. 65:17).
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband… He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:1-4)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17).
HEAVEN IS FOR REAL
Because of where I want to focus this message, it is important to nail a couple of things down first. None of what follows should be taken to downplay or lessen the physical return of Christ, the glory of heaven, or the new heavens and new earth in the slightest. For Christians to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord in heaven, and it is far better to be with the Lord than to be here (2 Cor. 5:8). At the resurrection, when we are clothed once more in new, immortal bodies, all things will be finally and completely made right (1 Cor. 15:15:53-55). The glory of heaven will be immense and completely perfect. We will see God face to face, and we will be like Him, without any sin or suffering (Rev. 22:3-5, 1 Jn. 3:2). This is our hope and joy.
HEAVEN ON EARTH
Nevertheless, Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We pray that heaven would come down to earth. And Scripture says that the new heavens and new earth are coming down out of heaven like a bride coming down the aisle to her husband, like a city full of light and jewels (Rev. 21:1-2ff). Furthermore, the Bible teaches that by the gift of the Spirit, God has come to dwell with us already: “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us His Spirit” (1 Jn. 4:13). Finally, we are able to behold the glory of the Lord even now, so that we are being transformed from one degree of glory to another, becoming more and more like Him in this life (2 Cor. 3:18). What is that like?
The temptation – growing up in a Christian family/church/school is to take this for granted, to underplay the radical nature of the new birth. The great blessing of living in a covenant community is the momentum and gravity generally pulling in the direction of holiness and faithfulness. But that is also the context in which it can become perilously easy to float, to go with the flow, which is not the same thing at all as being made new. The text says, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). To be “in Christ” is to be made completely new. The old has passed away, the new has come. Another way to make this point is to recognize that the language of “new creation” is the language of heaven.
What is heaven? It is the presence of Christ – God with us. It is the presence of His perfection, His holiness, His joy, such that we know Him and the power of His resurrection (cf. Phil. 3:10). Heaven is the full possession of unending, indestructible, abundant life. And what does Jesus say? “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die” (Jn. 11:25-26). Our text from Isaiah 65 goes on to describe life in this world, foretelling days in which people live extraordinarily long lives and children are born for blessing and not cursing (Is. 65:20-23). In other words, that new heavens and new earth begin here, in a Jerusalem of rejoicing, where there is no weeping or crying (Is. 65:18-19). For those who are new creations in Christ, the old is passed away. Christ is with us and everything is fine. He is wiping away every tear even now.
The same Creator God who commanded light to shine out of the darkness in the beginning is still in the business of creating new worlds in human hearts, through the knowledge of the glory of God in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). We have this treasure in the earthen vessels of fallen bodies and souls (2 Cor. 4:7). But this is the point: we have this treasure. The New Birth is a New Creation of a new and perfect world inside every believer.
Do not settle for a decent conservative Christian life. Do not settle for reasonable. Do no settle for mediocre. Christ does not make mutant mistakes. Christ died to make people new creations. Christ rose in order to give the treasure of everlasting life – heaven now. He came to give abundant life, to make us more than conquerors. We do live in a veil of tears, but if you are in Christ, you live in that veil of tears with Christ. Christ is with you and in you. And if Christ is in you, the fullness of heaven is already in you and your tears disappear almost as quickly as they appear. Do you have that treasure? Do you know that joy? It is impossible for you to get this for yourself, but it is something that God delights to do. Call on Him now. Turn to Him now.
This is what makes us tick: Jesus. 2000 years ago He was crucified on a Roman cross between two thieves. And when He was beaten, whipped, and nailed to that cross, our sins were laid upon Him. And now we bear them no more. The old is passed away, behold the new has come. Because Christ is here. He is with us. He is our heaven, and He holds us tight.