Monday 22 March 2010

Word for the Week: Whole Life, Whole Bible (49/50) – A World Remade

‘Word for the Week: Whole Life, Whole Bible’, from London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, is a series of fifty emails designed to look at the main milestones of the biblical story, seeking to show how whole-life discipleship is woven through Scripture as a whole, from beginning to end. Here is the forty-ninth of the fifty emails, this one written by Margaret Killingray.

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. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals.’
Revelation 21:1-3

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I am creating: for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy and its people as a delight.
Isaiah 65:17-18

A new creation, redeemed, renewed – not just heaven, ‘above the bright blue sky’, but heaven and earth combined, fused, the two dimensions of reality brought together in a final triumphant rebirth, a new creation that began with the resurrection. The very physicality of Jesus’ resurrection points us to the physicality of the new creation – because we believe in his resurrection, we also believe that we too will know ‘the resurrection of the body’ in the new heaven and the new earth. An earth purged of all evil, put right, glorified as Jesus was glorified at the transfiguration, washed clean of dirt and pollution, where God ‘will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more’ (Revelation 21:4). ‘No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime’ (Isaiah 65:20).

All that is beautiful and good will survive the purging fire of judgment – leaving a place we will know and people we will recognise, just as the disciples recognised Jesus, not always straightaway, but always in a burst of delight.

As sleep that follows fever,
As gold instead of grey,
As freedom after bondage,
As sunrise to the day;
As home to the traveller
And all he longs to see,
So is my Lord,
My living Lord,
So is my Lord to me.

Timothy Dudley-Smith wrote these words as a love song to the Lord that we can sing today. But they could equally well describe how it will be, when we are there with him in his new, fresh creation at the end of time. This is the sure and certain hope that is motivating us to bring the love, justice and joy of his kingdom into our world today.

Margaret Killingray

For further reflection and action:

1. After a long hard winter in northern parts of the world, the signs of spring delight the heart – the songs of busy birds, the flowering of early bulbs, and the growing warmth of the sun. Rejoice in it all, and know that the Lord, who filled this damaged and troubled world with such beauty and joy in creation, will recreate a new world both reassuringly familiar and astonishingly different.

2. The Song of Songs is, for many people, a surprising book to find in the Bible – a lyrical song in praise of human love, very physical, very sexual, with its love analogies drawn from the natural world around them, wine and perfume, gold and silver, springtime and blossom, leaping gazelles. Here again the Bible is giving us pointers, in our experience of human love and longing, to the redeemed and perfect creation God has prepared for those who love him. Read it and praise him.

3. This world will be purged in the fires of judgment. The Bible speaks of this from Genesis to Revelation. The vision of a new heaven and a new earth should bring us to our knees before the cross, the terrible cost of full redemption.

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