By Paul Koch –
“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”
Those words are incredible! They are the words spoken by our crucified and risen Lord, words that speak to the result of his work. The result of his being born in that little town of Bethlehem. The result of driving out demons and healing the sick. The result of living faithfully under the Law of God, the result of cleansing the temple and teaching without hesitation. The result of the whipping and beating, the humiliation and the death on the cross. The result of the rest in the tomb and the resurrection on the third day. The result of his ascension to the right hand of the Father and the promise of his glorious return. “Behold I am making all things new.”
The question for us today about this incredible statement is: do you believe it? Do you believe that your Lord is making all things new? This is a challenging confession for us, because our whole world, our whole lives, are filled with a constant declaration that things are not being made new. Suffering, tears, sorrow, and heartache are part of our lives. And often the way we speak about them causes doubt with regard to trusting that things are really being made new in Christ. The words we tend to hear at funerals highlights this disconnect. The preacher may say, “Today Sally has received the crown of righteousness and heard the Lord say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’” Or something along the lines of, “George has gone to his eternal home. He is with the Lord now, forever.” Or perhaps the well-meaning line, “Today is not a funeral but a victory celebration!”
Now all of these sayings, whether you like them or don’t like them, they aren’t about anything that is actually new. They are about a continuation of the old, sort of the next step in the evolution of the believer. You live your life of faith, and when you die you move on to the next level. You get your crown of righteousness, or enter your eternal home, or have a celebration, or whatever. The impression is that things just keep moving toward this conclusion, nothing is actually being made new. We speak about death the way we speak about retirement. It’s looming out there, everything is leading up to it, and truth be told we’re a bit nervous and bit scared about it. Some have gone before us and we’re pretty sure they’re in a better place, but we don’t really know about ourselves. We work hard and plan and try to do the right things to makes sure we’ll be ok, but we won’t really know until the time comes for each and every one of us.
But perhaps we say, “Well sure, we don’t really talk about making all things new when someone we know and love dies. But at least we know that things in are new in our lives. We who are the baptized, who have been washed in those living waters and declared to be the children of God, we know what it is to be a new thing.” After all we confess, and rightly so, that we are born sinful and unclean. We confess that by nature we are not the friends of our Lord but strangers and even enemies. The law of God, that salutary doctrine for life and salvation, that clear path to holy and upright living, is a measure we cannot hold to. Left to ourselves, to the old way, we would never obtain salvation. So thanks be to God we are not left to ourselves. We have been washed in the blessings of Christ. We have been given his mercy and forgiveness. We are a new thing in him, and so we live a new life in such faith.
So finally, we stand together as a testimony of our Lord’s words, “Behold, I am making all things new!” Well, at least we do so for a while.
You see, for all our love of the latest technology, the desire to have the newest creations of mankind, we have a habit of always returning to the old. We do the same things with our politics. Every four years we get excited about the new, about a change, about something better and different. Each time we end up settling for more of the same old same old. The old is what we know. The old is the way the world works. It is the way that makes sense. It is the way that seems safe.
And so, though we have been set free and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, not by our work, not by our strength or wisdom, we still look over our shoulders to our previous ways of doing things. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone, and yet we make a habit of taking up that old law again and again to try and use it as a measure of our faithfulness. We begin by using the law as a guide and that makes sense. But when our friends and neighbors are not performing as they ought, why then we use the law to do more than guide. It is used to condemn, to highlight failure, to show weakness and unfaithfulness. The law is like a wolf we try to walk on a leash. Oh it works out for a while, it looks pretty cool to others passing by, it can frighten and intimidate almost anyone. But then when we are least expecting it, that wolf turns and begin to bite and attack the hand holding the leash.
We end up spending our time trying to tame and control the wolf. Trying to satisfy its hunger. And it doesn’t take long before we have abandoned the new and become consumed win the old.
But in the Revelation to St. John, we hear our Lord declare to us, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And we find that he isn’t speaking figuratively. He isn’t just talking about a new hope or a new way of doing things. Everything is being made new in him. The context of this powerful word is with the appearance of the new heaven and the new earth. The old has passed away. It is not evolved transformed; it is done away with for there is a new thing. A new creation where the dwelling place of God is with man. “He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away 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.”
See, it is not just a continuation of the old. It is not like entering into retirement. This is life beyond the grave! Our eternal home is not where the body is laid to rest in the ground and the spirit is with Christ. Our eternal home is on the new earth with a resurrected and perfect body. Our celebration of victory is not when we die but when Christ makes all things new, when death and mourning and tears and pain will be no more.
The thing is, though this victory will not be fully realized until the resurrection of all the dead, it has already begun for us. When you were baptized and clothed in the righteous garments of Christ, the old self was drowned so that you might put on a new one. You died so that you might put on Christ himself: the one who is truly a new thing, the one who has suffered, died and rose again dwells within each and every one of you. In Christ you are a new creation. He speaks then his new words into your ears declaring that you are forgiven, saved by his pure blood and mercy alone. He feeds you with new food, body and blood for your life and salvation.
“Behold, I am making all things new,” he says. That is his promise to you. All things. Suffering, tears and pain will cease. Death and destruction will be no more. Sin, shame and failure will come to an end. Hear his Word’s my friends. Trust in his mercy alone. Listen to him as he says, “Write this down, for these words and trustworthy and true. It is done! I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”