Revelation 21:1-5. 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. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, 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. 4 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.”
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
The new year is fast approaching and with it comes renewed hopes for a better year than the last (which doesn’t seem like too high a bar to set this year). Don’t we all look forward with great anticipation to this time? A clean slate. A fresh start. A sort of second chance. When the calendar roles over from December to January everything will somehow become new. Right? Isn’t that how it works?
Or is January 1st just another day like the one before? And for that matter is there ever really anything new under the sun? Or are we just trapped in a repeating cycle of entropy until the world explodes?
In the first century a school of Greek philosophy called Stoicism taught that every so often the whole universe experienced a palingenesia. A new beginning. A re-boot of creation. Everything is made like new again. Restored to “factory settings.”
Jesus once called our future with him THE Palingenesia (Matt. 19:28). And a palingenesia seems to be what Revelation 21 is describing too. A new heaven and new earth with the old ones having passed away. Everything starts over. Everything is re-booted. All things are made new. Just like Jesus after his resurrection – the same Jesus, but new, the same body, but better – so too will all things be. The same, but better. Eternal. Incorruptible.
But why? Why is this re-birth needed? Even for Jesus? Paul explains that the corruptible must become incorruptible so that it can experience the presence of God in all his glory (1 Cor. 15).
This is exactly what Revelation is describing – the dwelling place of God is with man. Is this even possible? Can we dwell in the presence of God, and not die? Does God finally get the one thing he’s always wanted, while we finally get the one thing we’ve always needed – a relationship with God as our God and we as his people?
Yes! All of redemptive history has brought us to this place. Every page of scripture has told this story. God pitching his tent next to ours. God choosing to make us the neighbors that he loves as himself. God fathering us. God our courageous and tender bridegroom, ending all our pain, and wiping away all our tears.
This is our glorious hope – not that we “go to heaven,” but that Heaven comes to us. Not that we become gods, but that God is our God. And that in his presence we have been transformed into his people. That his very presence will do what no New Year’s resolution could ever do – make US new.
And this too is our future hope, that his descending to us will be the final palingenesia. Finally, no more chaos (the sea), or sin, or sorrow, or death. Finally, all oppression shall cease. Finally, everything wrong will be made right. Finally, everything sad is made untrue. Finally, everything broken is fixed. Finally, everything is NEW!
But this glorious palingenesia is not just someday. No. It is done. And it has already begun in us, in Christ. Look at the second time the word palingenesia is used in scripture:
Titus 3:5. [God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration (palingenesia) and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
Christian, you and I are experiencing the palingenesia, this regeneration, this re-boot, this “return to factory settings,” right now! This moment. Our future with God in his presence is happening inside of us by the indwelling Spirit of Christ. We are the future NEW creation today.
Yes, we still mourn, and cry, and feel pain, and die. No, the former things have not all passed away. Not yet. But the new thing has come. The Spirit of Christ is the new thing. The new heart. The new mind. The new hope. The new love. The new life.
You see, January 1 will just be another day. Nothing new under that sun. But in THE SON all things are already new in our hearts. Don’t place your hope in the new year. Place your hope in the new creation, the new birth. Our new reality that is found in Christ and his unfailing covenant presence. And we don’t need a calendar change for that. No resolutions necessary. Just faith in “to live is Christ.”
What “new thing” are you hoping for this new year?
You in Christ
Can you see that in Christ you are already new?
Christ in you
How might you live aware that you are in the presence of God this new year?
Playlist: All Things New