“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’” (Revelation 21:1-5)
At times when I read a book I like to read the ending to get a good understanding of where the author is going in his or her conclusion. What is so amazing about the Bible is that it ends where it began. There are two marriages, two trees, two gardens, etc. and God is in the midst of it all. In the beginning God created oneness for us in relationship with Him and each other. In John 17:20-26 Jesus prayed for our oneness to be restored. In Revelation 21-22 Jesus’ prayers are answered and we are back to where we began but in the fullest sense of oneness. Throughout the entire Bible God keeps repeating that He will be our God and we will be His people. It is this covenant theme that is a thread of truth that expresses God’s eternal purpose for us all in this glorious relationship.
My heart is so overjoyed to ponder this future reality. However, it is not just a hope, it’s a true expectation of what is more real than even our current life experience. Of this I remember kneeling in the hospital by a man who had just come back from the dead. He had said that “everything in the Bible is true, I saw it.” And again he asserted that he had heard Jesus’ voice saying, “save the children. The children are suffering.” I don’t know what all that is about, but I do know of the veracity of the fullness of God’s promises being fulfilled. And again I’m reminded that God promises the best for the life that now is and of that which is to come (1. Timothy 4:8).
This week I happened to read the book by Billy Graham, Nearing Home. What a dear saint Billy is as he is in his 90’s and is close to experiencing Revelation 21 up close and personal. He is such a gracious man, and he offers great insights and encouragements for us to establish a faithful course within our eternal accountability. Ecclesiastes 11-12 describes a beautiful portrayal of the aging process. The physical and temporal slowly fades but potentially one’s ultimate purpose is apprehended. The peril of so many is that they put aside God’s priorities waiting for a more convenient time. However, this heart only reveals the complacency of the soul. But God patiently waits and waits and waits for His beloved to finally grasp a life of significance over the choices of mere existence. And in His grace the Lord will occasionally resort to allowing various crises and difficulties to come into our lives to gently move us closer to His fruitful design. For sure the aging process alone will move people to either embrace His grace or to reject Him altogether. As Billy Graham testifies, there is little gold in the Golden Years as the challenge of aging diminishes many of the frivolities of youth. As we all progress along this fateful path, we should embrace the transition with great expectancy to taste of the sweetness of the divine pleasures of faith, hope and love much more than the delicacies of youthful turpitude.
I am reminded of a great quote from over a century past. It’s an encouragement to evaluate each of life’s challenges as a prescription for navigating towards the eternal destination. In 1895, pastor and author, Andrew Murray, was in England suffering from a terribly painful back, the result of an injury he had incurred years before. One morning while he was eating breakfast in his room, his hostess told him of a woman downstairs who was in great trouble and wanted to know if he had any advice for her. Andrew Murray handed her a paper he had been writing on and said, “Give her this advice, I’m writing down for myself. It may be that she’ll find it helpful.” This is what was written: “In time of trouble, say, ‘First, He brought me here. It is by His will I am in this strait place, in that I will rest.’ Next, ‘He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.’ Then say, ‘He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.’ And last, say, ‘In His good time He can bring me out again. How and when, He knows.’ Therefore, say ‘I am here (1) by God’s appointment, (2) in His keeping, (3) under His training, (4) for His time.’”