It is difficult not to think about “newness” when we enter a new year. No doubt it’s human nature to look for opportunities to “turn over a new leaf.”
In Revelation 21:5, God declares, “Behold, I am making all things new.”*
Obviously, He wasn’t speaking about your waistline or your biceps. Instead, the verse addresses things vastly more important than that.
The Book of Revelation is fluid – it is filled with symbols, visions, and aspects of spiritual reality represented by shifting images. Here in Chapter 21, we have truth revealed about the future but shown to John as if it has already happened. There is a new heaven and a new earth; the curse had ended; all enemies of God and His people have been judged and punished, and we who love Him and the Lamb of God are all safe and filled with joy.
But then the viewpoint shifts back to the present, and we are given exhortations and encouragement for how we should live now. In the verses that follow we see promises to the overcomer and warnings to the wicked – intended for those who are alive on this side of the Day of Judgment.
We are now presented with a problem of interpretation. In Verse 5, we hear God’s voice say: “Behold, I am making all things new.” This is a promise of the renewal of all things. Is this promise given for this side of Judgment or the future side of it – or perhaps both?
(1) The promise is for now. In this case, we would view these words of God as an encouragement to Christians who are alive on earth, enduring the spiritual warfare of which the Book of Revelation speaks. God restores things, not only at the end of time but within history.
This would be an exhortation to Christians engaged in battles small and large; whether we are fighting to free a friend from an addiction or fighting to end sex trafficking, we believe God is working with us. There are revivals and times of refreshing within history (Acts 3:19) when men may experience newness.
(2) The promise is for the future. Biblically speaking, of course, only God can finally and irrevocably make all things new, and that will come at the end of human history, not within it.
This would see the promise as only future. We would understand this as God saying “I am making all things new” as a future fact, when there is a new heaven and a new earth.
There are problems with this view, however, not the least of which is that the statement is made after all things have already been made new. After all, it is a present tense statement: “I am [i.e., right now] making all things new.” How can God be making renovations to something that is already new?
(3) The promise is for now and the future. I think the answer is the third option – God is both renewing things now and will one day make the renewal permanent (Acts 3:21). After all, when a ruined house is being renovated, there is an ongoing process and also an end to the project. There is a day when the architect and builder say, “The job is done.”
This is simply to say that, right now, God is involved in the resurrection business. God brings life out of death – and death’s “tributaries,” such as bondage, despair, sickness, etc.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Does that sound familiar? It is the very same sentiment – and very nearly the very same words – that are in Revelation 21:5.
What does that mean? We are raised from death to walk in newness of life. We are no longer dead in our trespasses before God but walk before Him as new creatures. We once were enemies of God but now are His children.
But what does the life of a redeemed person – a new creation – look like? Wouldn’t it be a life lived in increasing biblical wisdom? Wouldn’t marriages be stronger, families more stable, children increasingly better behaved and growing in their giftedness by education and opportunity? By all means – yes! The consequences spread outward from a changed heart to a changed life to a changed marriage and a changed family life.
Note what comes next in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21: The ministry of reconciliation. That which is happening within us is then spread outward.
It doesn’t – or shouldn’t – stop inside the home. Wouldn’t changed hearts and lives also result in the flourishing of biblical justice – or social righteousness? Wouldn’t an increasingly righteous culture lead to increased prosperity for all – even those who themselves were not Christians?
Moreover, wouldn’t all this both manifest God’s image on earth and glorify God who created us?
If we combine Revelation 21:5 and 2 Corinthians 5:17, we have this principle: What God will do to creation at the end of the age, He is currently doing to us and in us – and to those around us.
Seeing the culture in which we live in this way – this new way – is as good a leaf to turn over as any.
*Unless otherwise specified, Scriptures quoted above are from the New American Standard Bible.