God the Father speaks in verse 5 for only the second time in Revelation. From the Throne he calls out ‘behold—I make all things new.’ I’d like to suggest that glossing over that little phrase has led to boredom, error, and hopelessness in many of our contemporary churches. Why? Simply because there is a vast difference between ‘making all things new’ and ‘making all new things.’
If, for example, we believe in a God who ‘makes all new things’ then—subconsciously or otherwise—we believe in a God who is content to start over whenever he pleases. Our beliefs about heaven and eternal life are thus affected: we think God is going to do away with everything we know and love and give us something better…only, how could it be better? Will I get a better wife? Better children? What if I want to keep these ones? Will God’s “newness” come at the expense of what God has already given? And, if so, what’s the point in doing anything good with what I’ve got now?
Hence hopelessness: whatever…it won’t last anyway.
And, since God is going to give us new ‘everythings’ anyway, our imagination suffers also. We don’t know what to do with the things we don’t know. We can’t dream about heaven (to say nothing of heaven-on-earth or, as Jesus put it, ‘on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven’ness) because heaven is the final residence of unfamiliarity. We’re afraid of getting our hopes up about the specifics of heaven, but we’ve got nothing for our imaginations to work with and so nothing upon which to anchor our expectations.
Hence boredom: I don’t know what it’ll be like, but I’m sure it’ll be neat.
Boredom and hopeless both stem from the same error: mistaking God for One who makes ‘all new things’ instead of ‘making all things new.’
‘Making all things new’ means that God takes what already exists and sweetens it, perfects it, and removes any strain or stain from it completely. Our relationships will be exonerated, our loves will be sanctified, our creative energies will be intensified and uninhibited by sickness or death or fatigue or ego. Pastor-poet Eugene Peterson said it best when he taught that ‘heaven will not give us anything other than what we already have…it will simply be more.’ More of what? More of what we know and love and cherish and trust. More of all we desire in God.
The life we’re promised for eternity is the life we’ve got now, only better.
without gluttony or stomach-ache,
humiliation or mockery,
country music or white-rap,
exhaustion or futility.
In the end, we’re treated to a life of remarkable continuity between what happens now and what will happen then, between what happens here and what will happen there, and between what happens in us and what happens with God. Which is a very long and roundabout way of saying that everything matters. Nothing will be scrapped or discarded. Everything will be restored. Nothing will be wasted. Everything will be made new.
Perhaps that is the fullest understanding of Christ as ‘Alpha and Omega.’ Those words don’t just mean ‘beginning and end.’ They mean ‘source’ and ‘goal.’ What God began in the garden, he will complete in the garden-city. He made us, and he will complete us. His plan is to finish us, not finish us off.
So don’t get let your mind or spirit rest with fruitless dreams of harp-playing and millennial worship services. Live the life of heaven now, in anticipation of that which is to come, trusting that God will take our imperfect version of life and make it new.