In the first four verses of this chapter, John tells us some things he saw and heard of the forever world, the accomplished world. There was the briefest introduction to the new heaven and the new earth. Jerusalem, that eternal world capital made its descent from heaven to earth emphasizing the new order of things: God-with-us. The important thing was not Jerusalem’s appearance, though, but its hallmark characteristics: newness, togetherness, and permanent comfort.
That was the lesson of last week. In the verses of this lesson, God turns his words away from the new order of things and back to the old order of things our order of things. While there is a richness of hope in verse 4 John the Apostle did not live in that place. Neither do we nor the billions of people who have walked the earth since John had this vision.
When God gave this vision, he knew his man-project would yet run for centuries, millennia even. To those who would live their decades in the stretch of these centuries, God the Father spoke some other things from the throne that day. John wrote them down, and that is what comprises the four verses of this lesson.
Who needs new?
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5–ESV)
Into the reverie of hope built up by verses 3 and 4, God snaps his fingers to focus his readers. See, we risk placing too much importance on the way of the new earth. We can miss value in the moments if we dwell in the future. To this God brings John back to his present and by extension to us.
We live here and now. The future is just that. We will get there, but we are not there. My teaching is an extension of my learning. Let me draw you to the place where I have struggled and use that as a background to this part of the lesson.
My reflex to life: Somehow God knowing how things work out in the end makes me view the path to it as irrelevant. If my team loses but I spend money, time and passion cheering for them to win something inside of me says, “All that was a waste.” Another something inside of me says, “No it is not a waste.” Thing is the part of me which says it is not a waste does not tell my mind, my intellect that. The reasoning part of me gets in a muddle trying to sort out the spaghetti of it all. My strong desire is to get to the finality of all things. I want to be at verses 3 and 4, now.
Thing is that is not how the now works. Reality is now so to this God speaks, and what does he say to that? It is here in verse 5: “I am making all things new.” He is okay with, all about even, the now. Look at the following table and see how the now works from God’s perspective.
|The now for me||The now for God|
|We all need new||God is about the process of new|
|I want the change to stop, the new to arrive and the forever to settle.||God has decided that the process is good.|
|I am eager for the process to be done||The eagerness is impatience|
|I discount the now in light of the next||The now is setting the stage for the next|
|I live, “The only thing that matters is the outcome.”||God says, “The process is important.”|
A self is always becoming
Back to spaghetti: I mentioned my mind getting in a muddle trying to sort out the spaghetti of it all. Hopefully you like spaghetti; I do. Spaghetti is a good meal and it is pleasant to eat it. When is the meal best? When the plate is empty and one’s stomach full? Well, probably not. The best time is when the cheese has just melted and you are right in the middle of the eating.
The metaphor here is not that our current-now will be better than the forever-now. Forever-now will still be the best for God is making all things new. The metaphor here is that God sees the current-now as a valuable-now. Will we fail and falter? Yes. Will things be troublesome here and there? Also, yes. Sometimes it will seem that things are troublesome everywhere. Into the middle of this, though, comes God’s word, God’s now-comfort. He is in the middle of something good.
As Madeleine L’Engle says in her book A Circle of Quiet “A self is always becoming.” Will I, will you, be satisfied with God’s way of making things new little by little rather than in a finishing frenzy?