All Things New – Revelation 21
In less than two days, we’ll turn the calendar on yet another year. A year that started full of promise and expectation, but slowly, as its pages turned, a year that seemed to grow tired and worn by the week-in, week-out work of moving toward its end. And suddenly, before any of us realized it, we were done. 12 months. 52 weeks. 365 days under out belt. During this last week, there is a natural packing up and putting away, a shelving of all that has happened and a desire for the freshness of the coming year.
I’ve never known anyone to resist this process. I’ve never met anyone who wants to hold onto the past year even if it was a good one. Instead, every year, we experience a bit of a thrill as December turns to January. It’s an odd sense of liberation as that final page of the calendar comes off and a new one goes up. So that even if, like me, you’re not one to make resolutions, there’s something unmistakably exhilarating about a fresh slate. We’re drawn by the sheer possibilities; we’re drawn to the fresh and new.
This desire for “newness” extends beyond the pages of the calendar. Pop culture trends are trends, not so much because of what they actually are, but because they are fresh, cutting edge, the latest, the newest. Controversy is welcomed because it appeals to our “itching ears” and our need to for some fresh bit of gossip. Because of this, it’s easy for us to dismiss the desire for the new as a kind of immaturity, the mark of people who are easily bored and always needing to be entertained. But I wonder if something deeper isn’t at play.
Is it possible that we are excited by new things—whether it is a new year or a new song or a new culture war—because we are made to be excited by new things? What if we come by it honestly? After all, our God, the God in whose image we’ve been made, is an essentially forward-moving God. A God of possibility and hope. A God who hides our past and offers us a bright, spotless future. He is the God of
the new song
the new heart
the new covenant
the new commandment
the new creation
the new man
the new name
the new heavens and
the new earth.
So when we come to Revelation 21, it isn’t surprising that this same God is busy making all things new. As New Jerusalem descends from heaven, a voice declares,
“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… the former things have passed away… behold, I am making all things new.” (vs. 3-5)
But just like the turning of the calendar teaches us, new things only come when old things pass away.
In the Old Testament, the Jews observed the New Year after a time of putting away the sins of the past year. It began with Rosh Hashanah (or the Feast of the Trumpets) that called the people to ten days of private reflection and repentance and eventually culminated in Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement. This was the one day a year that the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to make sacrifice for the people; it was also the day that a scapegoat was driven from the camp to symbolize the removal of their sins and failings. Only after these observances could the people walk freely into the New Year knowing that their sin was forgiven. Only when the old was removed could the new come.
The coming year offers us an opportunity to celebrate God as the God of the new. As we relish future opportunities and the joy of a fresh start, we can remember that this signals to us a greater coming day—a day that Revelation 21 describes when God will make all things new. But even as we wait for that day, even as we groan with the rest of creation waiting for redemption, we have a chance to experience a foretaste of it. As we repent of the past, as we rest in His Atonement, as we look forward in hope and expectation, we can begin to live in that future reality—through Him, we can be made new.
image by permission – Kelli Campbell
Hannah Anderson lives with her husband, Nathan, and their three young children in the haunting Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. As a pastor’s wife in a rural setting, no two days are ever the same which suits her short-attention span perfectly. Hannah is passionate about helping women discover their God-given identity as His image bearers and is the author of Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image (Moody, 2014). She also contributes to a variety of Christian publications, and you can find her on her blog, SometimesALight.com, and on Twitter @sometimesalight.