From All Things New
Jesus Christ gave his life to give each of us a hope above and beyond all former hopes. Every action and teaching of his brilliant life were very intentionally directed at unveiling this hope to us. Late in the Gospel of Matthew he described it with breathtaking clarity:
Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. (19:28-29)
At the renewal of all things?! God’s intention for us is the renewal of all things? This is what the Son of God said; that is how he plainly described it. I can hardly speak. Really?
The Greek word used here for “renewal” is palingenesia, which is derived from two root words: paling, meaning “again,” and genesia, meaning “beginning,” which of course hearkens back to Genesis. Genesis again. Eden restored. Could it possibly be? Sometimes comparing the work of various translators gets us even closer to the meaning of a passage; let’s look at two more:
Jesus replied, “Yes, you have followed me. In the recreation of the world, when the Son of Man will rule gloriously, you who have followed me will also rule, starting with the twelve tribes of Israel. And not only you, but anyone who sacrifices home, family, fields – whatever – because of me will get it all back a hundred times over, not to mention the considerable bonus of eternal life.” (The Message)
Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.” (NLT)
The recreation of the world. When the world is made new. A promise so breathtaking, so shocking and heartbreakingly beautiful I’m stunned that so many have missed it. Oh yes, we’ve heard quite a bit about “Heaven.” But Jesus is clearly not talking about Heaven here – he is talking about the recreation of all things, including the Earth we love.
If you back up from this point, you can make better sense of the “gospel” of Jesus. First off, the message he proclaimed was the gospel of a coming kingdom:
“The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” (Mark 1:14-15 NLT)
Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the kingdom. (Matthew 4:23 NLT)
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. (Matthew 9:25)
“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32 NLT)
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)
Jesus announced the coming Kingdom of God. He then demonstrated what that promise means – the crippled walk, blind see, deaf hear, the dead are raised to life. His miracles are illustrations for his message, and unforgettable demonstrations they are. No one who saw them could miss the point – the Kingdom of God means a Great Restoration. He then announced the renewal of all things right before the Romans seized him, and as if to make sure everyone got the point, he walked out of the grave scot-free three days later – the most dramatic illustration of restoration you could ask for.
We have been looking for the Renewal all our lives. It has been calling to us through every precious memory and every moment of beauty and goodness. It is the promise whispered in every sunrise. Every flower. Every wonderful day of vacation; every pregnancy; the recovery of your health. It calls to us even through our fetishes and fantasies, as C. S. Lewis observed:
Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of – something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clap-clap of water against the boat’s side? Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it – tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest – if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself – you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say, “Here at last is the thing I was made for.”
The thing you are made for is the renewal of all things. God has given you a heart for his kingdom – not the wispy vagaries of a cloudy Heaven, but the sharp reality of the world made new. This is one of the most important things you can know about yourself. Did you know this about yourself? When was the last time you told yourself, as you looked in the mirror in the morning, Good morning; you have a heart for the kingdom. This explains so much; it will be such an enormous help to you. It explains your anger and all of your addictions. It explains your cry for justice, and it also explains the growing hopelessness, resignation, cynicism, and defeat.
If we will listen with kindness and compassion to our own souls, we will hear the echoes of a hope so precious we can barely put words to it, a wild hope we can hardly bear to embrace. God put it there. He also breathed the corresponding promise into the Earth; it is the whisper that keeps coming to us in moments of golden goodness. But of course. “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart,” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT). The secret to your unhappiness and the answer to the agony of the Earth are one and the same – we are longing for the Kingdom of God. We are aching for the restoration of all things.
That is the only hope strong enough, brilliant enough, glorious enough to overcome the heartache of this world.
One morning you will wake, and sunlight will be coming in through the curtains. You will hear the sound of birds singing in the garden; delicious scents of summer will waft in on the breeze. As you open your eyes you will realize how young and whole your body feels. No tormenting thoughts will rush in to assault you; you will realize that your soul feels young and whole too. As you sit up to look around the bedroom filled with light, you will hear the sounds of laughter and running water outside and you will know – it is going to be a wonderful day. Only this hope can serve as the anchor for our souls:
We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline. (Hebrews 6:19, The Message)
So let us chase it now with all of our being.
I had a dream about the Kingdom of God earlier this year, though at the time I didn’t know what was being shown to me.
The setting was nighttime; I was standing on a grassy slope under the stars. It must have been summer because the turf under my feet was lush and thick; the air was warm and sweet. I could see water before me – dark, smooth, glassy water, calm as a lake or tropical bay after sunset. Moonlight was reflecting on the water like you’d expect on a summer night, but so were lanterns, shimmering their warm and happy glow.
Across the water I could hear the sounds of a dinner party not far away. Glasses were clinking, silverware on fine china, but the most alluring of the sounds was the laughter and conversation. It was a lavish yet intimate celebration, filled with joy – like what we long for in the best wedding receptions, or perhaps in a gathering of intimate allies at the estate of a wealthy friend.
The beauty of the scene was quietly enchanting, but what pierced me was the ease of the happiness before me – as if it were the most natural thing in the world, not the fragile happiness we know in our experience.
I was filled with longing when I woke.