Our Glorious Hope!
Do you ever get tired of…the terrorist threat? September 11 is just past and we have remembered what happened a year ago. Although we have again settled into a routine of life, we know full well that it could happen again. This week, George Bush outlined his reasons for war against Iraq. When we hear that we know that peace is not going to come any time soon. Do you ever get tired of these threats?
Do you ever get tired of…the cloud of death? I never had a grandfather, my children have only had a step grandfather for a few years because both our fathers died before we were married. I wish I could promise my children that their children will have a grandfather, but I can’t make that promise. I wish it wasn’t like that.
Do you ever get tired of…impending difficulty? As a city boy, I have spent the last 20 some years among farmers. At first, I thought farmers would be content and prosper with occasional struggles. I have found out that it is a constant struggle. If it isn’t the low prices, it is the high input costs and if it isn’t that, it is the lousy weather or the new diseases resulting in low yields and if not that, something else. What happens in farming is like life for many people - there always seems to be some difficulty around the corner.
Do you ever get tired of…fleeting prosperity? It has happened to me so many times in the past. I have a little bit of money saved up and think that I am getting slightly beyond a “pay check to pay check” existence and then something breaks on the car or in the house, the kids have more cavities than I thought, someone needs new glasses or something like that. You never seem to get very far ahead.
Do you ever get tired of…the silence of God? God is not silent and the evidence of his loving presence is all around us in creation, salvation and so many experiences in life. But we can’t see God and we can’t hear God and it seems that when we really want an answer, it isn’t always obvious to us. I just wish I could hear God’s voice more clearly.
Romans 8:22 says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” When we get tired of the things I mentioned, we are a part of the “whole creation groaning.” The violence, instability, environmental problems, violent weather, daily troubles, our own sin and the evil actions of others are all part of the whole creation groaning under the burden of a world that has been broken by sin and is suffering under its consequences.
Long ago the people of Israel, were people who were tired of a hard life. They had built houses which had been destroyed by the Babylonians. They had cultivated a vineyard and just as it was beginning to really produce, it was ripped from the ground. They had children but watched as they were killed before their eyes. They had cried out to God, but he wasn’t listening at this time because they had ignored him for so long.
To a people tired of trouble, God gave a promise that it would not always be like that. Today as we conclude our study of Isaiah we will look at the glorious hope God promised in Isaiah 65:17-25.
Although being a Christian is about eternal life that is abundant and begins now, we also need to be reminded about what is yet to come and this passage is a glorious word of hope, not only to Israel, but to us as well.
I. An Act of God Creates It. 17
After God created the world He pronounced it good. Today that same creation is not good. The groaning of the world we live in came about when we let sin come into the world. But in Isaiah 65, God has promised a new thing. How will it come about?
Some have suggested that it will come about as people begin to follow the Christian way. As more people become Christians, they will begin to live in the way that God has intended - they will care for each other, they will not fight anymore, they will discover many new cures to diseases, they will pass laws that will make life more and more improved. People will create a new world which is much better. As they submit to God, gradually they will make it happen.
The words of Isaiah 65 suggest a different answer. The certainty and power of this promise is not based on human effort, but is something created by God.
It is interesting to note that the language of this verse is very similar to Genesis 1:1. The words “create,” “heavens” and “earth” are the exact same words found in the first verse of the Bible. That tells us that just as God created the first world, so it is God who will create this new world. The promise of something new is based not on the hope that people and conditions will somehow get better and better, but is based on the power and promise of the one who created the world in the first place.
The promise is given here in Isaiah 65:17. It is repeated in the New Testament in II Peter 3:13, “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” It is also affirmed in Revelation 21:1, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away...”
We are looking forward to a great renewal. We can count on it because God, the creator will bring it about!
II. Conditions In It.
Bill Hybels tells of a Christian music instructor who was trying to get some junior high guys to behave in a music class. She finally said in exasperation, "You'd better start singing like I'm telling you to sing in this choir, because if you have any plans for going to heaven, that's all we're going to do there!" Well for the junior high kids, spending five or ten billion years in choir robes wasn't their idea of a good time! What will the new heaven and earth be like?
A. New 17
All of us can recall things that are part of our memory bank that are not pleasant. We think about things that happened to us or things that we did that were embarrassing or hurtful to others. Each time we think about them, we cringe and wish that we could forget these things. Memories can be healed, but they are still there, we just learn to deal with them, but there is a much greater promise given in Isaiah 65:17. The prophet says, "...The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind."
God will effect a complete healing of all painful things in our life so that we will not remember them. The promise is even bigger than the healing of memories. The promise seems to me to tell us that all the sad, hurtful, violent, destructive, evil things that have happened and are happening in the world will be completely removed so that they will never be remembered any more.
When Jesus came to earth, he began to bring about this removal of the former things. One of the evidences of that is that the law is no longer a curse hanging over us. We have forgotten what it means to live under the law because the law has been removed and we have no memory of that former thing. But this promise is not yet completely fulfilled, either. Revelation 21:4,5 promises, "...the old order of things has passed away. "He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"
How wonderful it will be when all the old things, all the things that destroy and hurt and cause us pain will be gone and everything will be new.
B. Joy 18-19
Do you ever have days which are so good that you think, I will never have reason to be sad again? It has happened to me. I feel so good and everything is going so well, that I forget that the next day may be quite different. But then the day of sadness comes again and I am reminded that sadness and weeping are a part of life. I once saw a tee shirt which said, "You are born, you pay taxes and you die." If that sums up life, there is not really much to live for is there. Life isn't that bad, but there are many days filled with sorrow and sadness.
The promise we are given in Isaiah 65: 18, 19 is that this condition of frequent sorrow or at best a guarded joy will be removed. The promise is that "...the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.” When people experience deep sorrow, they get to the place where their tears are all dried up. They don't cry any more, but not because they are not sad. But that is not the case here. There are no more tears because joy and rejoicing will be the order of the day, every day forever. The words “joy,” “delight” and “rejoice” are mentioned 6 times in these verses.
Another part of the rejoicing is the knowledge of what God says in verse 19: “I will…take delight in my people.” Not only will we rejoice to be in heaven and to have all tears removed. Joy will permeate heaven so much that God will rejoice in us. How wonderful to know that God will rejoice in us being there. Sounds like perpetual party to me! I can hardly wait for this great and glorious day!
Jesus demonstrated His power to remove those things that cause sorrow when he did things like raising Lazarus from the dead. But we also realize that we still live in times of sorrow. Revelation 21:4 gives the same promise, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
C. Life vs.20
As we read the promise in verse 20, it puzzles us because it seems that death is still present. This verse is difficult to interpret.
Some have suggested that this refers to what it will be like in the Millennium. The millennium is the 1000 year reign of God referred to in Revelation 20. It seems to be a time on earth before the final taking up into heaven when God reigns and everything is great. This interpretation is possible, but it doesn’t fit well with the opening verse which says that this is about “a new heaven and a new earth.”
Others interpret this to refer to a picture of heaven which is described in language that is earthly. It is always difficult to speak of heaven when all we know is what is on earth. Perhaps this is about heaven using the best of earth images so that we understand just how wonderful heaven will be. So when it speaks about life, all we know about on earth is life that ends. The best possible way we know on earth is in terms of life that is long. It is picture language to refer to the best realities we can grasp from this earth bound perspective. This interpretation doesn’t feel quite right either.
In Genesis, the early chapters talk about people living to be 700 and even 900 years old. Over the years as sin has corrupted the world, our life span has decreased. In Genesis 6:3 it says, "Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal ; his days will be a hundred and twenty years."" Later, we read about a normal life span being, 70 years. Psalm 90:10 says, "The length of our days is seventy years-- or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away."
The good news of Isaiah 65:20 is that this reduction of life span will be reversed. Once again, as God’s reign comes to earth, long life will be normal. The extent to which this will finally come to be is promised in Isaiah 25:8 where it says, “he will swallow up death forever.” As New Testament believers, we have a fuller perspective on this hope. Because of the resurrection of Christ, we have a hope of eternal life. Revelation 21:4 says, "There will be no more death ..." Living forever is one of the great promises whose fulfillment Jesus came to bring and whose complete fulfillment we look forward to when he returns again.
D. Stability and Blessing 21-23
Insecurity is mentally draining, and yet many of us live with it at various levels. When we were in Vancouver in the summer of 1996, we lived in a house that had a security system. What the security system did was make us feel insecure. We did not like it because it told us that we were under constant threat of attack and that someone could come into the house and do damage. Although this type of insecurity is not a problem where we live, there are other things that keep us off balance. We live with insecurity.
When God made his covenant with Israel, he had warned them that if they disobeyed him, disaster would come. In Deuteronomy 28:30-33 he said, “You will be engaged to a young woman—but someone else will marry her. You will build a house—but never live in it. You will plant a vineyard—but never eat its grapes...” Because of their sin, Israel was living with this.
In one of the places where we lived, we had an apple tree in our yard which had been planted by the previous owner. He had cared for it, but it had not yet born fruit for him. We lived in that place for 12 years and in all those years we had only one year when it bore fruit in abundance. Every other year there were a few or no apples on it and after we had had it about 10 years, it died. This is an illustration of the many times we labor for something, only to be robbed of the opportunity to enjoy it. We live with fruitlessness after much toil and experience this frustration which seems to be meaningless activity.
To Israel and to us the words of Isaiah 65:22-23 are a blessing which we look forward to, "No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands. They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them."
These verses give a wonderful promise of security, fruitfulness and meaningful work. Jesus came to give us such a hope. Which events out of the life of Jesus indicate that he could fulfill this promise? the feeding of the 5000? the fruitful preaching mission of the 70? Jesus came to bring these conditions, but once again, we realize that for the most part, this is still something we are looking forward to in the future. Revelation 22:1,2 gives us the promise as it pertains to us, "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations."
E. Answered Prayer 24
One of our greatest frustrations as believers is the feeling of God's absence. We believe in Him and we see His work, but we can’t see or audibly hear God and so we often we wonder, where is God? We desire not only want to see Him, but to have his help immediately available to us in all our needs.
The promise of what is coming, given in Isaiah 65:24 is, "Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear."
Jesus came to give us direct access to the Father. We see the evidence of the beginning of fulfillment in Acts 4:31 where Peter and John were set free and God showed himself in power; in Acts 10:30-32 where God heard the prayer of Cornelius and the Gentiles began to be saved and in many other places. We rejoice that we have such access and have Jesus as our intercessor. We rejoice that by His Spirit, God is now present with us. And yet, the promise is not complete. There is a greater hope still to come. The promise is expanded in Revelation 21:3,4, "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." "No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads."
F. Peace 25
Have you ever seen the video's which show animals killing and eating other animals. These video's are interesting, but also very violent. The violence of animals is said to be natural, but what a contrast with the picture presented here. The promise is that in the new heaven and earth, the lion and the lamb will feed together. The serpent will eat dust and not be at enmity with us any more.
Although we probably can take the picture literally, it is primarily intended as an image of the peaceful relationships that will exist between all people. It is a picture of Shalom, when all things will be peaceful, perfect and exactly as they should be. All hurtful things will cease.
It is a situation in which the know that the influence of Satan will be removed. The line “but dust will be the serpent’s food” reminds us of what happened in the garden of Eden. It is picture language to remind us that Since sin entered the world, Satan has been devouring people, but then, he will not be a force any more. His influence will be gone.
Jesus brought this peace as illustrated by Paul’s promise in Ephesians 2:14, "For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,"
Yet, the world we live in is still filled with violence, and we still look forward to the promise of peace to come. Rev. 21:24 gives us a picture of peace when it says, “The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it." Instead of being at war, nations will come into the presence of God in peace. Gates to keep out enemies will no longer be there, because there will be peace.
South Korea is called the Land of the Morning Calm. Political unrest in that country has made the name ironical. For many, life seldom seems calm and is often filled with anxiety and stress. We look forward to Heaven, not as a land of morning calm but as a land of eternal calm.
What is the value of being able to live in a glorious hope? It is important in many respects.
The blessed hope that is ours encourages us to watch and make sure that we are ready. Jesus warned that those who were not ready missed it. Do you want to miss such a party? Are you ready? Jesus has promised that he will come back at any time. Will you inherit this blessed hope, this new heaven and earth? The Bible tells us that we can all receive it by faith in Jesus Christ. If you acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth to die for your sins and who rose to give life to all, then you can know that you will be part of this blessed reversal, this glorious restoration.
It also is a great help in times of trouble because it encourages us to wait for that which is so much better. Romans 8:18 says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” When life gets tough, we sometimes want to give up on God because he seems so distant, but the hope that is coming, the promise of the glorious conditions we will experience, encourages us to wait in hope.
In I Corinthians 15:57, Paul celebrates the coming resurrection and the glorious hope that is ours. He says, “thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
What are the implications of this glorious hope? Paul says in verse 58, “Therefore…Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Some have accused Christians of being “so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” The Bible speaks otherwise and encourages us that precisely because we have something to live for, we ought to do all our work in hope of the kingdom to which we are going.
Richard Baxter who was a preacher who lived from 1615-1691 wrote the following poem:
Come, Lord, when grace has made me meet
Thy blessed face to see;
For if thy work on earth be sweet
What will thy glory be!
My knowledge of that life is small
The eye of faith is dim;
But 'tis enough that Christ knows all
And I shall be with him.