God's Forever City | Isaiah 65:17-25 (Mville)
Topic: Stand Alone Passage: Isaiah 65:17–65:25
Good Morning! We are taking a brief break from the Book of Matthew. This week and next we will be in the book of Isaiah. Next week will be God’s Glory in Isaiah 6 and this week we are looking at God’s City in chapter 65. Before we can see God’s forever city we need an understanding where we’ve come from and where are now. Gen 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. God made everything, and the end of chapter 1 it says God made it “very good”. God dwelled with humanity in a garden where He ruled and man was called to steward and be fruitful and multiply. He give man a very simple yet significant command to refrain from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Very quickly things fall apart as man rebels from God’s reign an chooses to believe a lie from the enemy, in the form of a serpent, that God does not want what is best for man and that God will not punish or give consequences for disobedience. Sin and brokenness enter God’s good world. Man is separated from God, exiled from the garden and source of eternal life with God. While God promises salvation will come, human history is now defined by cycles of man wondering literally and figuratively through dessert and wildness separated from God, turning back to God, only to rebel again and again. While never detached from or ceasing to guide/direct His creation, God directly intervenes and enters into history 2,000 years ago in person of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, savoir of His people and King of Heaven. He lives the perfect life Adam and all of us have failed to live, dies the death we all justly deserve on the cross, buying His people back from the wrath of sin, rising again 3 days later proving His power over the enemy, sin and death, ascended into Heaven promising to return to final judge the world, ushering in a new heavens and earth, free from sin, brokenness, and death; where God and His people dwell forever in a grand city. This is the story of scripture, Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration. Man’s journey starts in a Garden, goes though exile in the dessert/wilderness, and by Jesus work on the Cross, is called back into a glorious city.
REV 21 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.”
Heaven is grand, so God gives a picture in Rev 21 and 22 of this great city. It a high level picture from 20k feet giving an overview of the culture that will define the “new heaven and new earth”. God also gives several other snapshots and visions of Heaven. 2 Cor 12, Paul talks about being taken up to the third heaven and because of the greatness of what was seen and what was heard could not even begin to tell. Jesus tells his people he is preparing a place for them in John 14. Several parts of Isaiah 60, 65, 66 give pictures of what is to come. The accounts are diverse; but not contradictory. We are talking about the perfect expansive dwelling place of God with people. In our broken world there are aspects simply beyond our comprehension, there are other aspects beyond what God has revealed to us. Rather than dwelling on speculation on what hasn’t been revealed we should focus on the magnificence of what God has chosen to reveal to us. We need to accuratly understand what has been reveal about what is to come. Heaven is not a state of mind, it is a place. It is we will have resurrected physical bodies. We don’t need a movie or book about a boy dying and coming back to know “Heaven is for Real” we have the faithful promises of God and pictures revealed through his prophets and through His son Jesus.
Theologian Richard Mouw – My own hunch is that God has provided us with rich storehouse of diverse images of the afterlife, all of them hints in the direction of something that is beyond our present comprehension, so that we can be free to draw on one or another of them as a particular situation in our life may require.
The point of seeing pictures of heaven isn’t just to give anticipation of what is to come and loathing of what is now, but to give us hope in the here and now. Where Rev 21 is “high level” Isaiah fills in more details.
Isaiah 65:17-23 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. 20 No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. 21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them.
65:17 |Forgetting the Former
We need a new heavens and new earth because this one is broken and stained with sin. We all should have a holy discontentment with the world we are currently in. While there is much beauty to enjoy, much pleasure to experience, deep relationship to be had with individuals and our communities, we need to rightly recognize we are not in a perfect world and yearn for more. We also need to recognize in order for a new heavens and new earth to be truly new with no crying, pain, or mourning there are things in this world and in our lives that need to pass away, be forgotten, never to come back into our consciousness. Former things are not remembered or come to mind. Not white washed over, but erased for our joy.
This is amazing news for sinners. Even now 11 years of walking with the Lord occasionally lightning bolts of my old life will strike into my consciousness and shake the foundation of what God has been building in my life. I will hear a lie that I am not truly changed and that who I was, apart from the work of Christ, is my true identity and that I am defined by my sin rather than my Savior. Those are painful moments as I realize the enemy and my own flesh seek to bind me back in the chains of sin. I praise God this is not an eternal state of being. Our sin will not be remembered any longer. Our guilt will no longer limit our joy.
This is also good news for those who have been sinned against. Those who have suffered abuse at the hands of anther, who struggle to trust, who constantly face “triggers” in this life reminding them of what they experienced, will have real lasting freedom from the stains of sins committed against them. Former things not coming to mind gives us the ability to fully experience truly safe relationship with others completely vulnerable because we don’t have to worry about memories of abusive experiences coming to the surface. They are not buried, they are washed clean. We cannot have true hope if the stains of sins now will still be part of us in the life to come. There is no lasting hope in a future where pain’s shadow is still cast over our lives, our identities, and our relationships with others in this new city.
There is Good News for those who have experienced first-hand the brokenness of this world serving on the front lines of death, destruction, humanities hatred of one another played out in large and small scales. For many soldiers, nurses, EMTs, police officers, other first responders, they have images/scenes they have witnessed seared into their memories. They “come into mind” during quite moments, when left alone with their thoughts, they can haunt them in their dreams. This can leave them detached in the here and now. Not in what is to come, those images will be powerless to haunt as they are not able to be remembered. There will be no sense of loss (or hole) they merely will not come to mind, they will be gone.
65:18-19 | Built for Joy
It is not enough for us to merely forget the sins of this world, having them in the rear view mirror or rather not remembered at all. We will be pressing into a new reality. Rather than mourning the distant past, weeping over fresh hurts, or fearing and crying out for deliverance from present or future distress, God says “But be glad and rejoice forever!” God isn’t making a new heavens and new earth that is dull and defined merely by the absence of suffering. We see many images in scripture of a grand wedding feast, powerful worship services, rivers, trees, food, gardens, godly activities on the scale of the greatest city every conceived. God is the creator of joy, pleasure, and life. He is a creative creator and all that has been given us to enjoy in this world is but an incomplete sampling of what is in store for us in the new city.
This new heavens/earth is great because God creates it! It is good news to know that we are not the ones directly responsible for creating this new city. We have proven time and time again our inability to create anything of lasting success or true peace. This is not some man made utopian ideal designed with either “good” or “bad” intentions that even when starting promising always falls to corruption.
God creates this new future for a purpose, and that purpose is joy, both ours and His! Our joy because we will finaly live in a place where infinitely good God of the Universe perfectly displays His prescience rule and reign complete devoid of any corruption from man’s sin. Because there is no sin there, God fully rejoices in His people without grief over their sin or the need for just wrath for their sin. God creates “Jerusalem” a holy perfect place of God dwelling with His people and the result is pure Joy!
65:20 | Justice and the End of Senselessness
Joy is only possible in this new city because true justice has been served and tragedy is not in the realm of possibility. There is something jarring about suffering and death that appears senseless or premature. Life there won’t be senseless and meaningless. Let’s be clear, there is NO death in the new heavens and new earth. (Rev 21:4) The concept here is the fullness of life with no unfulfilled potential, no sudden end.
But there will be justice. Either Justice is poured out on the cross through Jesus or poured out in eternal torment in Hell. Sinners debt of wrath will be paid. Ecclesiastes reflects the reality of this world where the “righteous” suffer and the “wicked” are able to prosper. There are universal injustices we see and experience and we are told these will be no more. Sinners will be punished, regardless of if they live long and prosper in this world. There will be full, robust life for those in Christ that will not be cut short but will live forever! Those who reject Jesus will be given their desire and will experience eternity apart from God.
65:21-22 | Work for Joy
As difficult a concept as justice might be to swallow the concept of a good, perfect, joyful eternity that includes work might be even more difficult for us to wrap our heads around. In our world we know work is often experienced as painful toil, is can seem mundane, unrewarding, on the edge of failure.
Gen 2:15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
This is before the Fall! God has always from the beginning put work as a purpose in our lives. Heaven is not a vacation or a retirement from this world, it is a world where our work is never toil, or cursed. In the new earth we get to enjoy the fruit for our labors. We’re all going to be self-employed in this new city. It is even more amazing that while God is the creator of new heavens and new earth, of the holy city, His means of creation includes us participating in the building of the city, of the planting of our own food. We are all going to have immense ownership in the kingdom. Our labor is for our own benefit. This may sound selfish but there is no greed and no poverty in this new world. There is something great about getting to enjoy work you’ve produced. We’ll get to have the journey of planting and building. Sometimes the Joy is not just in the finished product but in the enjoyment of the journey. Earlier in Isaiah 9:6-7 we see the Prince of Peace (King Jesus) will have a government that will never cease to increase. This means the new Jerusalem will be a city that will continue to grow and grow meaning it’s a constant work in progress, yet progressing from perfect to perfect, and we get to participate in its growth! This is amazing!
Our labor will not be in vain, our work will not be undone. What we do will not be taken by governments, our labor will not be used to increase shareholder’s wealth. When we work we know it will be something that will succeed and something that will last. How hard would you work at something, and how much Joy would you take if you knew what you were doing was going to be successful and it was going to last.
Even in the church now, we pour into our kids, our young leaders, and other churches and ministries get the fruit. That is both right and beautiful. But there will be no set up or labor for parties we don’t get to attend. All our work will lead to greater enjoyment of the new city we dwell in.
65:23-24 | Forever Family
We will be in God’s family, adopted as sons and daughters. We will have brothers and sisters we deeply care about. We will have relatives, ancestors, and decedents, connected in one heavenly family. We’ll cover this more in our GRACE Series. We will have God as not only our king but our loving Father. Despite is great size despite how many people are there we see what type of personal individual relationship God the Father with his infinite capacity to love and engage with his people. He will answers our questions and petitions before we even before we ask them yet he will still listen to us as we talk with and too him. . He anticipates our needs we even before we know what they are, and fulfills them perfectly in ways we would never imagine; acting more graciously then we would ever dare consider asking for.
65:25 | Jesus Crushes the Serpent
We see this anticipation and provision most clearly with how God deals with our sin, our rebellion, and how he plots a path through our wilderness exile into this glorious new heavens and new earth though the work of His Son Jesus on the Cross as the perfect sacrifice for our sin. It wasn’t God’s back up plan, He promised sin would be dealt with and the enemy would be destroyed in the Protoevangelium (first gospel)
Gen 3:14-15 14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (NIV)
It was on the Cross that the offspring of a women was bruised, but it was in the resurrection where Jesus emerges from the tomb in victory over satan, sin, and death. The head of the serpent is crushed. In the new heavens and new earth the lions do not prowl they do not roar. Lions and wolves don’t stalk prey they sit down and eat with them. Their fangs are removed their power is peaceful not for destruction. Because Jesus preforms work for others benefit, because Jesus builds a place for us to dwell. We get the benefit of his work. Jesus did not labor in vain; his work on the cross secures victory for his people and new future. Because Jesus was hurt and destroyed on a holy mountain, on the cross we can be promised a future free from distress, calamity, tragedy, weeping, and death. This is only possible because of the cross. So while we wait for this new heavens and new earth we can know Jesus is preparing a place for many. We take hope in the here and now that God’s promises are being worked out by Jesus and he will lead us there.
John 14:1-6 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
There is a way to this new heaven and new earth and it’s by following Jesus alone. Trust Jesus!
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