Pastor’s Note: Hope Against Hope

[Read Revelation 21:1-8]

The New Order of Things

In the symbolic wilderness we call life on earth (Revelation 12:14), we remember that God is doing a new thing (Isaiah 43:19-10).  The old order (this age of death) will “pass away” to usher in the “New Heavens and New earth” (Revelation 21:1; Isaiah 65:17; 66:22).   As Richard Bauckham (in Hope against Hope) has observed, the “new” is a qualitative “new” rather than in the sense of another version of the same thing.  What God is doing and will do is an entirely different order.  God is not doing renovations or a “refresh” to an old house. He is building an entirely different house.  A place where “God Himself will dwell with us” (Revelation 21:3).  In the hopelessness of a seemingly interminable pandemic, the constant reality of physical and emotional pain, the loneliness of social isolation, etc., the vision of this new order of things is meant to fill us with hope.  But this hope is not anchored in the here-and-now but truly in the hereafter.

So, does this mean we sit back and wait for the End to come?  Martin Luther has the answer for us: “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”  This sort of Spirit-filled hope for the New Order of things (Romans 15:13) is precisely what gives us the courage to go about doing the right things today in the old order of things. For Martin Luther, he knew planting that tree was a statement of his faith in the blessed hope of Christ’s Return (Titus 2:11-14). He was putting a stake in the ground now for a better future yet to come.

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Questions for discussion in your family, friends, neighbors and Life Groups:

Are you clinging to the old order of things to muster up a sense of hope in the face of the continued barrage of adversities (what we call life on earth)?  OR do you set your eyes above, by faith, in the Hope of the New Order of things?

What sort of apple tree do you need to plant today, by faith, knowing that this act of faith is your own declaration that you are putting your hope in a city “not built with human hands” (Hebrews 11:8-10)?

The last question is a bit more direct: Have you placed your faith in Jesus for a life spent with God in eternity?  This text doesn’t hold back the reality of the consequences of rejecting God’s gracious offer of salvation in Christ.  To be “faithless” and to be “cowardly” (Revelation 21:8 same word as in 2 Timothy 1:7) is not meant here in the sense of wavering and having doubts in our lives (we all do!).  Instead, the warning is against a continued and deliberate conviction to reject God and His fellowship.  Just as the Lord Jesus has been issuing warnings through every cycle of “sevens” , here in Revelation 21:6, the Lord still is inviting hardened hearts to Himself to receive the free gift (=”without payment” Romans 3:24; Revelation 21: 6) of forgiveness and an eternal inheritance.  Let’s not put it off any longer. Why would you not want to spend eternity with the One who Himself is Love, who will wipe away our tears and remove the sting of death forever?