Big Idea: New creation will feature a rejuvenated world, changed humanity, and access to God himself, so take courage!
When I was studying to be a pastor, I was invited to speak to a primary school class at a Christian school. The topic was heaven. I had to stand in front of a bunch of kids and tell them what heaven is like.
It was awful. I knew heaven would be good, but I had no idea how to describe it. The thing about kids is that you can’t fake it in front of kids. They know if you don’t know what you’re talking about.
And so I bombed that day. I couldn’t paint an accurate picture of what heaven is like. I couldn’t answer any of their questions, at least accurately. I left feeling devastated, because I knew that I should know better than what I did.
We need to understand what eternity will be like. We are alive for only a short time here on earth. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are meant to think a lot about the future. It’s supposed to get help get you through this life, which can be very hard.
But here’s the problem: It’s hard to hope for something we don’t know very much about. So what I want to do is to give you a picture of eternity today, one that I hope will be exciting enough to give you hope no matter what you’re going through today.
I wish that I had turned to Isaiah 35 back then. But we can turn to Isaiah 35 today. Isaiah 35 gives us a picture of what we can look forward to experiencing one day. Isaiah 35 is meant to point us to the hope that we can cling to in times of trouble.
Why look at Isaiah 35 today? Two reasons:
First, it’s Advent. Advent is, as Trevin Wax writes:
…a time of preparation for the Messiah’s coming. We put ourselves in the place of the faithful Jews of the first century, awaiting with eager expectation for God to act decisively to forgive sins, to end their exile, to restore the world. And yet, we also await the Messiah’s return — Jesus’ Second Coming.
One of the passages that’s often read in Advent is the one that we’re looking at today, Isaiah 35, a passage that looks forward to the future promised to God’s people. It’s a future that started with the first coming of Jesus, but will be fully realized at his second coming.
But there’s another reason we’re looking at Isaiah 35.
We were made to long for the new creation. You were mad with longings, longings which can’t be fulfilled in this world. No matter how good life gets, it’s not good enough. God made you for more.
We go camping in the summer. I love it. I love the campfires, the lake, the beach. But there has never been a time that I’ve been camping that I haven’t been thrilled to go home, because home is so much better than camping. It has things like running water and doors and a roof.
Paul Tripp observes, "I am persuaded that the whole purpose of camping is to make a person long for home." And then he continues, "Our world isn't a very good amusement park. No, it's a broken place groaning for redemption. Here is meant to make us long for forever. Here is meant to prepare us for eternity."
This world will never satisfy. You were made to long for your ultimate home.
What’s New Creation Like?
So what will our ultimate home be? That’s what Isaiah 35 describes for us.
In Isaiah 34, God announced that he would turn the nations — including the lush areas of Edom — into a wilderness. In chapter 34, God undoes creation in judgment. Isaiah 34 is about God’s judgment. God will rid the world of evil.
But then, in chapter 35, you have what will take place after judgment. God describes our future in poetry.
You may be wondering, "What’s Isaiah talking about in this chapter?" This is poetry, and it’s open-ended. Is he talking about the return from exile? The coming of Jesus? Eternity? I am going to argue that he’s talking about all of these. God gives us a glimpse of his ultimate plan. Some things in this passage will only be true in eternity. But he’s given us foretastes. Israel’s return from exile was one of them, and so was Jesus’ ministry. But some things in this chapter will only be true in a world that doesn’t exist yet, at least in this current state. This will be what God’s people will experience as a result of trusting in him.
So what will it be like? There’s so much here, but I want to highlight three of the of the best features of this new creation. This is what we long for in advent:
First: a rejuvenated world (vv. 1-2)
God created this world, and he pronounced that it is good. The problem is that sin entered the world, and one of the consequences of sin is that God’s good creation has been cursed.
…cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
ill you return to the ground…
That’s why Paul writes that “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” (Romans 8:22). The world isn’t what it should be. We live in a fallen, fragile world, and it’s because of sin. And we sense that the world isn’t what it’s meant to be.
There’s something about our life that ought to mean more than spawning more life. There’s something about sickness that ought to be cured. There’s something about calamity that ought to be prevented. There’s something about injustice that ought to be brought to justice. There’s something about death that ought not to be our ultimate end. (Jon Bloom)
We long for this to be fixed.
The problem is that a lot of us don’t have hope that the world will be renewed. We picture eternity as being some immaterial world.
But that’s not what Isaiah prophesies. Isaiah pictures a renewed and rejuvenating world that’s exploding with joy.
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.
Eternity won’t be immaterial. God will rejuvenate creation. We won’t go to heaven, at least permanently. Heaven will come to earth. The thing that makes the world so lush, according to Isaiah, is the glory and majesty of God. God’s glory will make everything come alive.
Randy Alcorn explains:
All our lives we've been dreaming of the New Earth. Whenever we see beauty in water, wind, flower, deer, man, woman, or child, we catch a glimpse of Heaven. Just like the Garden of Eden, the New Earth will be a place of sensory delight, breathtaking beauty, satisfying relationships, and personal joy.
We will not live in a sterile environment or float about among endless clouds with nothing to do. We will live on an all-new earth—just like this one, except free from storms, earthquakes, drought, floods, or any other disasters. Things will grow easily, and weeds and thorns will not exist. Animals will not harm us but rather look to us benevolently as their leaders and benefactors.
God will rejuvenate the world. The curse that creation is experiencing will be over. But it gets even better:
Second: a changed humanity (vv. 5-6).
Not only will God rejuvenate creation, but we will be changed. Look at verses 5-6:
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
What good would a rejuvenated creation be if we were still the same? It doesn’t matter how lush creation might be if we’re still stuck with rehab hospitals and cancer wards.
But God promises to heal those with physical disabilities. Jesus gave us a preview of this in his ministry. We read:
And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. (Matthew 15:30-31)
Why did Jesus heal them? Tim Keller said:
We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order. The Bible tells us that God did not originally make the world to have disease, hunger, and death in it. Jesus has come to redeem where it is wrong and heal the world where it is broken. His miracles are not just proofs that he has power but also wonderful foretastes of what he is going to do with that power. Jesus’ miracles are not just a challenge to our minds, but a promise to our hearts, that the world we all want is coming.
Jesus gave us a preview of what is to come.
Some of you have had family members die. There will be no need for funeral homes that day. Some of you have ailing bodies. You won’t when Jesus comes again. No matter what your experience of sin and death, you have reason for hope. This isn’t forever.
But here’s where it gets even better. God will do more than heal us from what’s wrong physically. He will heal us spiritually as well. Isaiah uses physical disabilities as a metaphor for our spiritual condition (Isaiah 29:18). The good news is that God won’t just heal us physically, but spiritually. We will be changed. We will be glorified. We will be conformed to the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29-30). God’s people will be presented “to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Ephesians 5:27).
Joni Eareckson Tada has spent 55 years as a paraplegic. You would think the thing that she hopes for most in the resurrection is that she will walk again. That is going to be amazing, but what’s even more amazing is what else will happen.
Don’t be thinking that for me in Heaven, the big deal after I get to see Jesus, is to get my new body, no, no, no I want a glorified heart! I want a glorified heart that no longer twists the truth, resists God, looks for an escape, gets defeated by pain, becomes anxious or worrisome, manipulates my husband with precisely timed phrases…
That’s our future. God will rejuvenate the world, and we will be changed both inside and out. But that’s not even the best part. Here’s the best part:
Best of all: access to God himself (vv. 8-10).
What makes the new earth so great? God. Better than pearly gates or streets of gold or no more sickness and death, better than anything you can imagine, is the presence of God himself. We will have a direct road, an express route, to God himself, and nothing — no wild animal, no obstacle, nothing — will be able to block our direct access to God. Verses 8 to 10 say:
And a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
That’s what we have to look forward to experiencing. The return from exile was a preview. The ministry of Jesus was a preview. But this is our ultimate hope: that we will live changed, in a rejuvenated world, with direct access to God.
How Shall We Live?
In light of this, how shall we live today? Verses 3-4:
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
In light of this glorious future, here’s what we should do.
Take courage. We’re still waiting. While you wait, while you’re confronted with dangers that look bigger than you can handle, take courage. Your waiting is temporary. Look to what’s awaiting, because he will come and save you.
As one commentator says, we’re not talking grim determination here. We’re talking believing determination. We’re taking seriously what God says is true and believing that it’s true even though we can’t see It yet. We can help each other believe this.
All our lives we’ve just wanted to be happy. But all our lives something has always spoiled it. God is saying, “Trust me enough to follow me, and I will bring you home with singing. I will overwhelm you with a joy unbroken and unbreakable, and your sorrow and sighing will run for it!” (Ray Ortlund)
Trust this God. Trust the One who sent his Son to save us. Trust the One who, with his Son, acted to make full payment for our sins. Trust this God who will make all things new.
New creation will feature a rejuvenated world, changed humanity, and access to God himself, so take courage! Long for Jesus to come. Come, thou long expected Jesus!