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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC Watchnight service, 2004-12-31

Text: Revelation 21:1-5; 2 Corinthians 5:17

I. A New Year

As we all look forward now to the year that will begin in about an hour's time, many of us may perhaps be wondering what kind of year 2005 will be. It is supposed to be a 'new' year. To some people, that may mean that it will not be the same as the old one. Perhaps many of us here are also hoping that the New Year will be a much better one - a really 'new' year without all the old problems and trials that we or the world have faced in 2004, a year that will be filled abundantly with much more goodness, peace, happiness and prosperity for all of us. And so, tonight people everywhere are wishing one another 'Happy New Year' or 'May you have a very prosperous New Year.' That same wishful sentiment is regularly expressed by everyone on every New Year's Eve � that the word 'new' in it bears the thought of better things than what we had before.

Unfortunately not every 'new' year in the past has fulfilled all our expectations. As the years come and go, each of them has brought its share of blessings, but each of them without any exception, has also brought its share of burdens! And we can easily extrapolate or predict that for the years that are to come as well - each New Year that comes will present us with an interesting mixture of blessings and burdens. The sober truth we have no choice but to accept is that as long as sin and its effects continue to exist and thrive in this world, there will be nothing new under the sun. King Solomon made this stark observation in Ecclesiastes 1:9 'The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.'

This applies to 2005. In fact, there are already indications that things will not be completely rosy in 2005. The World Health Organisation has already warned that a great flu pandemic will break out and claim many lives, and recently that there will be a great outbreak of cholera because of all the unburied decaying bodies left by the tsunami waves. Economists predict that there may be a global recession. And 10 days ago our Minister Mentor mentioned that if two important events turn sour next year it could spell the worst of times for the world - the elections in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With such a grim outlook 2005 may not be different from 2004.

So if every year that goes by is generally the same and with nothing really new under the sun, why should we bother to celebrate the beginning of each New Year? I would like to suggest that we who are in Christ have good reason to look forward to every new year - because each year only brings us one year closer to the time when Christ will return from heaven to earth, to the time when He will reign on earth for a thousand years, and to the time when all things will finally be made new!

Dearly beloved, we ought to joyfully welcome the coming New Year because it will bring us one step nearer to the full realization of all these things. As the clock strikes 12 tonight, we can greet one another, 'Blessed New Year,' and add to that the reason why it is so blessed, in the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 13:11, 'For now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.' (Practise with congregation) Doesn't that add a whole new dimension to your new year celebration? Doesn't it remove the humdrum futility of going through the same routine at this time every year? Doesn't it lift you now above all the cares and burdens that you anticipate even in this coming year?

Yes dear Friends, although there is nothing new under the sun, we are approaching nearer to that glorious future, that will begin only when Jesus Christ returns, a most glorious, most wonderful future when all things will be made new! 

II. A New Heaven and a New Earth 

But how do we know for sure that all things will really be new? We know it because God has already revealed it to us in His Word. Let us turn back to our text in Revelation 21 and read v.1 'And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.' The first thing that we want to note is the things that have passed away from the scene.

The first heaven and the first earth here refer to the present existing one we are in. This was the heaven and earth that God created in Genesis chapter one and which was declared to be very good by the end of the sixth day of creation. Unfortunately within a short time, this heaven and earth came under the curse of sin because of man, and since then it has been wearing away and decaying. One writer describes the present earth like a gigantic clock that is running down. Sin has contaminated not only the earth with bloodshed and violence, but has also contaminated the skies (atmospheric heaven) with warplanes and missiles. This present heaven and earth has become so polluted with the sinfulness of man that it cannot be inhabited by the coming new society of sinless perfection. Hence, it must pass away.

The question is 'How will the heaven and earth pass away?' We think of the massive size of the earth and all the things in it. How will it be destroyed? Well, last Sunday we saw how tsunami waves reduced seaside resorts and towns to rubble. Just a few years ago we witnessed on television how two huge towers 110 storeys high were demolised within a short time when two hijacked planes crashed into them. There were great flames of fire, and billowing smoke and then the awesome collapse of the building within a few seconds! Buildings that took years to build, to furnish and to fill with thriving banks and businesses all came to nought within just an hour or two.

Dearly beloved, the passing away of the old heaven and the old earth will be like that, but on a much larger scale. The description of it is found in 2 Peter 3: 10 'the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.'

Let us learn an important lesson from this: There is no use investing so much of your time and effort in the things of this present heaven and earth. Why should you labour so hard to gain the things of this world, which will eventually be destroyed and totally forgotten? Let us labour rather for the things that will come after the old heaven and earth have passed away - and that is the new and glorious heaven and earth. It is interesting to note that long before the apostle John wrote about this, God had already revealed this through the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah 65:17 'For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.'

A. Their Absolute Freshness 

This verse states one important fact about this new heaven and new earth that is not mentioned in our text of Revelation 21, and that is how they will come into being. God says that He will create them. It will not be merely the same matter from the old heaven and old earth that is recycled and reformed into something different (like taking clay models and reshaping them into something else). 

It will be an entirely new creation, made out of nothing like the first one, but much better than the first one. And that means that everything in it will be absolutely new, fresh and unused. Now, another feature of this new heaven and new earth that we look forward to is:

B. Their Eternal Duration

How long will they last? The answer is found in Isaiah 66:22 'For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before Me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.' God Himself says that the new order of creation will remain before Him. This means that it will last forever.

It will be the ultimate, final state and there will be no further changes or other creations after it! Now, we who live in Singapore have seen our built environment changing drastically through the years. A new building that looks really nice comes up but after a few decades it is dwarfed by the surrounding buildings and then it is demolished and replaced with a new one. But this new building will in turn become an eyesore after some time and be replaced with another. There seems to be no end to it. No structure is permanent. Because if it is permanent, it would mean that it is perfect, and never needs to be replaced at all.

C. Their Unmatched Perfection

And this brings us to the next amazing feature of the new heaven and new earth - their eternal duration implies that they are perfect. They cannot be improved upon nor replaced with anything that is better, because they are already the best that can ever exist! They will fill up the sum of perfection, in every possible aspect. One aspect of perfection is moral perfection or righteousness. Let us look at 2 Peter 3:13 which tells us 'Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.'

This means that there will be nothing that is sinful, deceptive, misleading, enticing or tempting at all in the whole environment, unlike the present environment we live in today, so saturated with unwholesome images and sinful influences (and having a casino will only make it worse). All these things will be absent from the new heaven and the new earth because perfect righteousness dwells in it. 

But while that important feature makes the new heaven and the earth the most ideal place for us to dwell in, it also creates a great problem: Look at v.27 of Rev 21 'And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie' How can morally imperfect creatures like us dwell there? How can we who are sinners entertain even the slightest hope of living in such a perfect and sinless place? Dearly beloved, the only way to be a part in that future glorious age when God creates all things anew, is to be created anew!

III. A New Creature

And the good news is that this is already true of those who are in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 'Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.' I would like you to observe something quite interesting here: The striking resemblance between this verse and our text of Rev 21:1-5. In this verse there is a new creature; Rev 21:1 speaks of the new heaven and the new earth. In this verse 'old things are passed away'; Rev 21:4 mentions that 'the former things are passed away.' And in this verse we find the words 'behold, all things are become new' while in Rev 21:5 God says, 'Behold I make all things new.'

What does this interesting correspondence between 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Revelation 21:1-5 mean to us? It tells us that the only way you can ever rejoice to have a part in God�s new creation, is if you yourself have become a new creation. If you are not a new creation, you can have no part in the coming glorious new heaven and earth with their absolute freshness, eternal duration and unmatched perfection.

And so we come to the crux of tonight's message - And that is the need for you to be a new creation. How can you know if you are a new creature? The answer lies in the first part of the verse: 'Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature' Only those who are saved, those who are in Christ are new creatures, who can have a part in God�s new Creation. If you have truly believed in Jesus Christ to be your Saviour and Lord, you have become a new creature. 

A. Accomplished by Being in Christ

Before we were saved, we were controlled by our old nature, and we were all slaves to sin. Sin dominated our thoughts and actions like a hard and cruel taskmaster and we were helplessly under its control. 

We served sin and suffered all the unpleasant effects that came with it: hatred, bitterness, deceit, strife, jealousy, rebellion, pride and lust. But all that has changed for those who are in Christ. Through His power we are liberated and delivered from the power of sin. Although sin may still be present in our lives, its power over us is now broken.

Those who are not in Christ yet cannot enjoy such freedom from the power of sin. The old sinful nature is still very much alive in them and they cannot succeed to live the new life of Christian living, no matter how hard they may try, because they are still under the power of sin. Sometimes in a large church like this, it happens that there are some who come and participate in all activities: worship, fellowship and prayer. And it is just assumed by all that they are saved. 

But they seem to have an ongoing problem with sin in their life. They are just the same as before, falling back into the same old sins again and again. Perhaps there may even be some right here tonight who are like that. Please examine yourselves and ask this question: Do you still find yourself helplessly under the power of sin? Is your life still controlled by sin? If your answer to both of these questions is 'yes' then perhaps you are not a new creature yet, and with no part in the new heaven and new earth.

Another way to tell whether you are truly a new creature or not, is to see if there is a new quality in your life. Some would call this a transformed life. The apostle Paul called it 'newness of life' in Romans 6:3,4.

B. Exhibited by Newness of Life

'Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.'

To walk in newness of life, is to exhibit a new quality of life, one that is quite different and superior to the quality to your former life. When you walk in newness of life you will live for heavenly things and not for earthly things any more. Dearly beloved, do you have this new quality in your life? Do you still love the things that you loved before? If you are walking in newness of life, your values in life will be different. 

You will be more concerned with the things of God than the things of the world, and with things that are eternal, rather than with things that are temporal, and with things that are above, rather than with things that are on the earth.

Above all, if you are truly walking in newness of life, you will respond to the Word of God. You will listen to God when He speaks to you through His Word. You will be ready to do His bidding and take His Word seriously. Those who walk in newness of life will tremble at God's Word, and will be moved and convicted by it. And they respond to that Word with prayer, trust and obedience. They are not just hearers of the Word, but also doers of the Word. They are like the good ground in the parable of the sower of Matthew 13 who 'heareth the word and understandeth it and also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth some an hundredfold, some sixty and some thirty.'

This now helps you to know if you are walking in newness of life: Do you listen to God when He speaks to you through His Word? Do you respond to Him readily? Or are you more like a dead person who does not seem to listen or respond at all? We all know that things that are dead have no ability to hear and respond. You may shout at them, scream at them, pinch them, shake them and still not get the slightest response from them. 

If the Word of God that you have been receiving has made little or no impact on your life, and you find that you do not respond to it, this may indicate that you are not walking at all in newness of life. And if as we have seen before, you are still living in sin and you are under its power, then this may indicate that you are not saved. Then please do not delay any longer to come to Jesus Christ and ask Him to come into your life right now. 

It would be good to make sure of your salvation before this year ends. If you can see evidence that you are walking in newness of life, do not be satisfied with that, but do the following: Repent of whatever besetting sins that are still found in your life - leave them all behind and do not bring them into the New Year. Renew your love and commitment to the Lord tonight - so that you may trust in Him to lead you well in the New Year. And resolve to strive for the greater heights of Christian living and service that God wants you to attain - let Him accomplish more through your yielded life in the New Year.

Then you can really, really look forward earnestly to the day when the Lord will make all things new, to that great and wonderful day when you will dwell forever in the new heaven and the new earth. And so, as we enter into the New Year tonight, let us all set our hearts on the words that God has spoken to us in Revelation 21:5 'Behold, I make all things new!'

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25