We’re thinking about how the coming of the Lord Jesus into the world brought about the fulfilment of God’s promises in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, we read about the covenant which God made with his people in the days of Moses. But because of their sin and rebellion, the people broke the covenant. And so, in the prophets, God promised that he would one day establish a new and better covenant with his people. And in the New Testament we read how, on the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took the cup and said that the cup was the new covenant in his blood, which is poured out for many. By his death on the cross, when his blood was shed for sinners, he established God’s new and better covenant with his people.
In the Old Testament, God gave his people kings to rule over them, beginning with David and Solomon. And even though David and Solomon were good kings, they were not perfect kings, because David took Uriah’s wife and Uriah’s life and Solomon foolishly married foreign wives who led him astray from worshipping the true God. And many of the kings who came after David and Solomon were wicked kings who did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord. And so, in the prophets, God promised to send his people a new and better king to save them from their enemies and to rule over them with righteousness and justice. And in the New Testament we read how the angel announced to Mary that she would conceive a child by the Holy Spirit and her child would be given the throne of David. In other words, her child was God’s promised king.
In the Old Testament, we read about the temple which was the meeting place between God and his people. And by offering sacrifices to God in the temple, the people were able to live in the presence of God, even though they deserved to die for their sins. However, during the exile, when God’s people were sent out of the land because of their persistent sin and rebellion, the temple was destroyed. Nevertheless, in the prophets, God promised his people that one day he would build a new and better temple. And in the New Testament, we discover that the Lord Jesus is the new temple, because he is now the meeting place between God and his people. And the Lord Jesus died on the cross in our place in order to bring us to God. And all who are united with Christ by faith are temples, because God dwells in us by his Spirit. And the church is the temple of God, because when we meet for worship, God is among us. And in the glory of the life to come, God will live among us for ever.
And so, that’s what we’ve been thinking about this Christmastime. This evening we’re thinking about the creation. And the outline for this evening’s sermon is simple. When God made the world in the beginning, it was very good. But the world has been spoiled by our sin. However, in the prophets, God promised a new and better world to come. And whoever believes in Christ the Saviour becomes part of it.
Creation in the Beginning
In Genesis 1 we read how God made the heavens and the earth in the beginning. At first the earth was dark, but God changed that when he made the light. And at first the earth was formless, but God changed that when he separated light from darkness; and when he separated the sky above from the earth below; and when he separated the dry land from the sea. And at first the earth was empty, but God changed that when he filled the sky with lights and with birds; and he filled the waters with fish; and he filled the land with plants and animals and with humans. And God looked at all that he had made and he pronounced it very good. And after all that creative activity over six days in the beginning, God rested on the seventh day.
That’s Genesis 1. Psalm 104 is a psalm of praise to God for being our Creator and Sustainer. We studied that psalm together a few years ago at one of our Harvest Thanksgiving Services. And I said that some Bible scholars think Psalm 104 is a poetic version of Genesis 1 or it’s Genesis 1 set in verse and put to music. The psalmist praises God for creating all things. So, whereas the pagans praised the sun for creating the world, the psalmist makes clear that the sun is part of God’s creation and the Lord is the one who made all things. And the psalmist praised God for sustaining all things. He makes the springs pour forth to give water to the beasts of the field and he causes the birds to sing for joy. And he sends the sun and the rain to make the grass grow in order to provide food for cattle and plants for us to cultivate. Everything looks to God for food and he opens his hand and provides it. So, the psalmist praises God for making all things and for sustaining all things. And if we go back to Genesis, we see God’s care for Adam in Genesis 2, because he planted a garden for Adam which was filled with plants which were good for food and pleasing to the eye. And because it wasn’t good for Adam to be on his own, God made Eve to be his companion and helper. And so, God provided Adam with everything he needed; and Adam and Eve lived in this world which was very good. And everything around them spoke to them of God’s glory, because, as the psalmist tells us, the heavens declare the glory of God and the skies above proclaim the work of his hand. Day after day they pour forth speech and they say to us that God is great, because didn’t he make all of this and doesn’t he fill our lives with good things to enjoy? He is a mighty and a good God.
That’s God’s creation in the beginning. We all know what happened after God made the world and how the serpent tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. And instead of listening to the word of God who made her, she listened to the word of the serpent, who was really the Devil in disguise. And so, Eve first, and then Adam, ate the forbidden fruit. For the first time, they disobeyed the Lord who made them.
Adam’s one act of disobedience had catastrophic consequences for the whole of God’s earthly creation, because it affected not just all of humanity, but it affected the whole of the non-human world as well. And so, in Genesis 3, the Lord pronounced a curse on the ground because of Adam’s sin. The ground beneath our feet, the soil in which we plant seeds to grow, was affected by Adam’s sin. And Paul tell us in Romans 8 that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth, right up to the present time. And when Paul says the whole creation has been groaning, he’s personifying the world, speaking of it as if it’s a person in pain. Just as we groan when we’re in pain, so the whole of creation is groaning because of all the things that go wrong in the world including all the natural disasters and the storms and the floods and the earthquakes and volcanoes and the disease and sickness and Covid-19. The whole of creation is groaning, because the whole of creation has been affected by Adam’s fall into sin.
And we can also think about all that has gone wrong with human society, because all of our relationships have been spoiled because of sin. We see this too in Genesis 3 where God said to the woman after the fall that he would increase her pains in childbearing and with pain she will give birth to children. And from that time on her desire will be for her husband. That is, her desire will be to rule over her husband. And he will rule over her. So, husbands and wives who are meant to love one another will fight and struggle with one another.
Think of the family now and how families are ruined because of adultery and divorce and because of abusive parents and disobedient children. And sometimes the government supports family life, but sometimes the government interferes with family life and makes it more difficult for parents and their children. The demands of work can have a harmful impact on family life as well so that children can be neglected because their parents have to work.
And think now of governments. Governments are good and necessary, but governments can be corrupt and dishonest and foolish and they can be wasteful and they can make poor decisions. And some governments become totalitarian and tyrannical.
And, of course, the world is now full of murder and theft and dishonesty and we cannot leave our homes without first locking all the doors and setting the alarm, because there’s always the risk that someone will break in to steal and to destroy. The whole of the world has been affected by sin. God’s good creation has been spoiled. His creation is still good. It’s important that we acknowledge that; and God still fills our lives with good things to enjoy. However, sin has been introduced into the world as an alien force which does not rightfully belong here, but it contaminates God’s good creation and affects everything. Just as Covid-19 seems to have affected everything we do, so sin now affects everything we do.
But then, through the Old Testament prophets, God promised his people a new and better world. We see it in Isaiah 11, for instance, where God promised that a shoot would come up from the stump of Jesse. In other words, a new king would come from the line of David, because Jesse was David’s father. And God went on to describe what this new king would be like. And, of course, he’s referring to the Lord Jesus, who came into the world as a descendant of David. But what we’re interested in now is not so much what he says about the Lord Jesus, but about what he says about creation and about how the whole of creation will be transformed. The wolf and the lamb will live together in peace. The leopard will lie down with the goat. And a little child will be able to lead a calf and a lion. A cow and bear will feed side by side and the lion will eat straw like an ox. And an infant will be able to play beside the nest of a cobra and he’ll be able to put his hand into the snake’s nest with nothing to fear. None of these things is possible now, but that’s the vision of a new and better world to come which God set before his people.
And then there’s Isaiah 65 which we read earlier where God announces:
Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered and they will not come to mind.
That is, the sorrow and suffering of this world — the trials and tribulations, the sadness and the pain — will be no more. None of those things will be part of the new and better creation that is coming. And so, rejoice and be glad because of the new world which God will create. The sound of weeping and crying will be heard no more. Can you imagine a world without someone crying? It’s impossible, because our life in this fallen world begins with tears and it ends with tears. But in the world to come, there will be no more tears.
In verse 20, he speaks of people living long lives. When he refers to someone dying at the age of 100 in the life to come, don’t misunderstand and think that people will still die in this new and better world to come. People will not die, because we’ll live for ever in the world to come. But he’s conveying in poetic form how the effects of Adam’s fall will be removed. So, in this present world, children often die in infancy. In this present world, people die before reaching old age. But that won’t happen in the world to come.
And in verses 21 and 22 he’s painting an idyllic scene for us, describing how people will build homes for themselves and they’ll live in them and they’ll tend their vineyards and eat their fruit. No one is going to come along and take away their homes. No one is going to come along and evict them or steal their property or make them work as slaves for someone else. They’ll be able to live in peace and safety.
In this world, work is frustrating and difficult and often it seems pointless. But in the world to come, no-one will toil in vain. And their children will not be doomed to destruction. In this present world children face all kinds of trouble, because they can die because of illness or they can die because of an accident or they can be mistreated and abused. But none of those things will affect children in the world to come. All of the curses of the fall will be removed in the world to come and all of God’s people will be blessed by God. When they call to God, he will answer them. And so, we’ll live in harmony with the Lord. In this present world, we ask God for the wrong things and he has to say ‘no’ to us. But in the world to come, our requests to God will be entirely in keeping with his will for us. And the wolf and the lamb will feed together and the lion will eat straw like an ox. In this present world, the wolf kills and eats the lamb. In this present world, the lion attacks and eats the ox. But in the world to come, they will live side by side in peace. Dust will be the serpent’s food. Mentioning the serpent recalls Genesis 3 and God’s curse on the serpent, when he said the serpent will crawl on his belly and eat dust. That image conveys the idea that the serpent, or the Devil, has been beaten. And he will remain beaten in the life to come. So, he will not be allowed to rise up against the Lord or lead us astray again, but he will remain under the power and authority of the Lord God.
And there will be nothing to harm or to destroy on God’s holy mountain. So, we’re to imagine a new heaven and earth, where everything will be perfect and peaceful. And there’s a mountain there. It’s God’s holy mountain where God meets with his people, just as he met with them on Mount Moriah in the days of Abraham and on Mount Sinai in the days of Moses and on Mount Zion in the days of David. In fact, it’s likely that the Garden of Eden was on a mountain too. And so, in the life to come, God’s people will once again meet with him on his holy mountain and they will live with him there and enjoy perfect peace and rest.
And so, through the prophets — and there are other passages we could have studied — the Lord promised a new and better world to come. And what do we find when we move into the New Testament? At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord pronounced several blessings on his people. Some of the blessings are for the present and some of them are for the future. One of the future blessing is that they will inherit the earth. So, when Christ comes again, his people will possess the earth. However, the earth they will possess when he comes again will not be the same as it is right now. How do we know that? We know it because in Matthew 19 the Lord Jesus refers to the renewal of all things. The word he uses can be translated ‘regeneration’. Believers are regenerated by God’s Spirit when he comes into our lives and makes us new. And all things, including the earth, will be regenerated and made new when Christ comes again.
We’ve already seen in Romans 8 that Paul wrote about the groaning of the whole creation. But he also writes in Romans 8 about the creation which waits in eager expectation. So, he’s again speaking of the creation as if it’s a person. And he imagines the world as a person, standing on the tips of its toes, craning its neck in order to see something in the distance. And what is the creation waiting for? It’s waiting for the time when the whole of creation will be liberated from its bondage to decay. It’s waiting for the day, when it will be transformed and the effects of Adam’s fall will be removed from it.
That’s Paul in the book of Romans. In Hebrews 2, the writer refers to the world to come. So, there’s this world and there’s another world to come. And in 2 Peter 3, Peter writes about the destruction of the present heavens and earth. And he goes on to say that, according to God’s promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth.
And then, of course, there’s John’s vision which he records for us in Revelation 21 and which begins with the words:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth has passed away.
At the end of the previous chapter, John wrote about the great judgment day when all who have ever lived will stand before the Lord to be judged by him for what they have done. And those whose names are not written in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire to be punished forever for all that they have done wrong. They will be punished for ever, whereas those whose names are written in the book of life and who belong to Christ the Saviour will go in to live in the new heavens and earth.
And though John sees the new heavens and earth, he doesn’t tell us much about them. And, of course, he doesn’t have to, because God has already revealed to us in the Old Testament prophecies what the new heavens and earth will be like. But he does make clear that the new Jerusalem will be there. And the new Jerusalem, as I said this morning, is not really a city, but it’s the church in glory. So, it’s all those whose names are written in the book of life. They will be there, in the new heavens and earth. And God will be there, because he will dwell with his people for ever and he will be our God. And he will wipe every tear from our eyes and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, because the former things, the things of this broken world, will pass away. And so, John’s brief description of the new heavens and earth matches what we read in Isaiah, because the things of this creation will be no more. All the suffering and sorrow of this life will be gone. Tears will be gone for good.
And in the rest of Revelation 21 and in Revelation 22, John describes the new Jerusalem, the church in glory, and how God’s people will live in perfect peace and rest in the presence of the Lord. And God’s presence will fill the church. And no longer will there be any curse. So, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, the Lord cursed the earth. And so, everything was affected by Adam’s sin. But the new creation will not be cursed. Instead it will be blessed by God. And instead of being ruled over by sin and Satan, as we are now, we will reign with Christ our Saviour. And the Tree of Life will be there and the water of life. And God’s people will live for ever.
Christ and the New Creation
Through the prophets, God spoke of a new and better world to come. And through the writers of the New Testament, God speaks to us of a new and better world to come. However, let me turn to one final passage which shows us the connection between the Lord Jesus Christ and the new creation. After all, I’ve been saying that the coming of the Lord Jesus fulfils God’s promises in the Old Testament. So, what’s the connection between Christ and the new creation?
Let me turn you attention to 2 Corinthians 5. Paul is writing about how Christ’s love compels him to preach the good news of the gospel which is the message that one died for all. That is, Christ died for all. He died in the place of all. He died as the substitute for all. All were meant to die for their sins, but Christ died in their place, taking the blame for what they have done wrong. When he says he died for ‘all’, Paul means he died for all his people. And then he adds that he died for all his people so that they would no longer live for themselves but for Christ who died for them and was raised. So, he took the blame for us when he died in our place; and now we’re to live a new kind of life, a life which is devoted to God and his glory. And then Paul adds — and this is the important bit for us now — if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. In other words — and this is staggering — whoever is united with Christ through faith already belongs to and is part of the new creation to come.
The new heavens and earth are still to come. We have to wait for Christ to come again before we enter the new heavens and earth. When he comes, unbelievers will be sent away to be punished; and believers will be brought in to the new heavens and earth. That’s in the future. It’s yet to happen. We’re waiting for that day to come. This fallen, broken world will pass away and there will be new heavens and and a new earth, a new creation, the home of God’s people.
However, remarkably, staggeringly, whoever believes in the Lord Jesus Christ in this life is already part of the new creation to come. So, the new creation has already begun in those who believe in the Lord Jesus. And that’s because the Lord Jesus, who died for us and who was raised, has received from the Father the Holy Spirit. And the Lord Jesus sends the Holy Spirit into the lives of his people to make us new. To renew us. To regenerate us. Though outwardly we’re wasting away, just like everything else in this fallen, broken world, nevertheless we have already been made new by the Holy Spirit whom Christ has given to us. And the Spirit continues to work in us to renew us more and more into God’s likeness. And he will continue to do so until Christ comes again and we’re glorified in the presence of God in the new heavens and earth.
If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, then you have already been made new. You have already become a new creation; and you belong, not to this world, but to the world to come. This present world — which is destined to perish — is not your home, because you belong in the new heavens and earth and you belong in the presence of God with Christ your Saviour. And so, instead of being conformed to the ways of this fallen world, and living as those who live only for this world, you should rely on the help of the Holy Spirit to transform you by the renewing of your mind; and you should rely on the help of the Holy Spirit to live a life which reflects the glory of the new heavens and earth, which is where you really belong and it’s where you will one day come. In the new heavens and earth, there will be no sin. And we who belong to the new heavens and earth, should turn from our sins and we should live self-controlled and upright and godly lives which we wait for the glorious appearing of our Saviour.