Connections 11.06.2016: Brand New

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Revelation 21:1-8

Our first daughter, Samantha, turned twelve yesterday. Twelve years ago yesterday, at 8:37am, my husband John and I were overcome with awe at the sight of the eight-pound child who had spent thirty-eight weeks inside my body. I remember the difficulty of labor—the exhaustion, the pain, and the uncertainty—but what I remember most clearly is the immense feeling of excitement and joy when I first laid eyes on that red, screaming baby. The cliché is simply true: Samantha was the best gift we ever received. And so was her little sister Natalie.

We took our brand-new baby home and spent hours watching her sleep, breathe, grunt, cry, drink, see. We traced her fresh skin with our fingertips, smelled her soft, fuzzy head, and worried over her paper-thin nails. And then, as she grew with the passing months, we discovered our entire world all over again through her senses. From every leaf she tasted to every word she learned to speak, John and I understood again how marvelous it is to be alive on this beautiful earth!

Now, at age twelve, there are still things that are brand new for Samantha. She started middle school this year. She is adjusting to changes in her body. She is learning to play the flute and navigate algebra. She hears words and ideas from her peers that challenge her to figure out what she thinks and what kind of person she will be. It’s all brand new.

I recently celebrated a birthday too, turning thirty-nine on October 26. Another decade of my life is coming to a close, and yet I still feel brand new in so many ways! Every discovery my children make is mine as well. Every new trial or joy my husband and I face is a chance to learn more about each other and grow stronger. Every song someone sings, every book someone writes, and every show or movie someone makes is an opportunity to see life through another’s eyes. Every terrible event in the world today—and every triumphant one—brings with it the gift of challenge and perspective and growth. No matter how old we get, you and I are, ever and always, brand new.

We are this way because that is the nature of our God, whose home is among us, who dwells with us, and who, ever and always, makes “all things new” (Rev 21:3, 5).

Discussion

1. When did you last hold a brand-new baby? What was that experience like?
2. Have you ever gotten to experience the world through a child’s eyes—as if you’re seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling everything for the first time? If so, what was that like?
3. How old are you now? What parts of your life and your experiences are still brand new? How do they make you feel?
4. What does it mean to you that God dwells among mortals (Rev 21:3)? How can you be more aware of God’s presence?
5. What would your days be like if you woke up each morning remembering that God makes “all things new” (Rev 21:5)?

Reference Shelf

New Heaven and New Earth, 21:1-8
In a new vision (“Then I saw”), John sees “a new heaven and a new earth” (21:1). John has already stated that the earth and heaven had fled and “no place was found for them” (20:11). He reiterates their demise at the end of 21:1 and adds a new element—“the sea was no more.” This is the sea that was before the throne of God in heaven (4:6). The sea represents chaos and rebellion; it is the untamed part of creation. In ancient Israelite mythology, the sea was the place where the monstrous power of chaos lived, Leviathan or Rahab (see comments on 4:6). In the old order, the sea was still present, both on the earth and even in heaven. In the new heaven and earth, no place exists for the sea because chaos, rebellion, and evil have all been eliminated. To say that “the sea was no more” is to portray in different imagery the same thing John has proclaimed in saying that Satan, the beast, and the false prophet have been thrown into the lake of fire. In the new creation, God’s ultimate design for God’s people, evil has been defeated and removed.

The idea of a new heaven and new earth echoes the words of Isaiah 65:17-18 (cf. 66:22):

For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.

That which the postexilic prophet who penned these words could only hope for, John declares will be a reality in the new age that is to come (cf. 1 En. 91:16; 2 Pet 3:10-13).

The centerpiece of the new heaven and earth is the new Jerusalem that John sees descending from heaven. As in Isaiah 65, John links the new heaven and new earth with a new Jerusalem. Obviously John is not talking about the rebuilding of the earthly city of Jerusalem. This is a new Jerusalem that he sees. It is qualitatively different from the old Jerusalem. In the Hebrew Bible, Jerusalem is God’s special city, the place where God dwells with God’s people. In seeing a new Jerusalem, John envisions a new community, a new way in which God dwells among God’s people (cf. Ezek 37:26-27).

Mitchell G. Reddish, Revelation, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2001) 401-402.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum and book since 2001. She attends church and leads an adult Sunday school class in Macon, Georgia. She enjoys reading fiction, spending time with her two daughters, and watching television shows on Netflix.

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