He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelation 21:5

 

During my years in Texas, I was amazed by the power of rain to renew the land. We might go for weeks or even months with very little precipitation. The grass would turn brown. The bushes would be covered with dust. The trees would droop with thirst. The air would feel heavy and sad. Then, a series of thunderstorms would blow through the Texas Hill Country and everything would change. New, green grass would sprout up. Bushes and trees were clean and vigorous. The air was fresh and filled with the scent of a world reborn.

A woman smiling in front of a wall of graffiti flowers.In Revelation 21, God plays the role of renewing rain, but so much more profoundly. In the fifth verse, God, who is seated on his heavenly throne, speaks, “I am making everything new!” What an astounding and inspiring affirmation! “I am making everything new!”

I am struck by two details of this statement. First, notice that God says “I am making everything new,” not “I made everything new.” The Greek present tense of “to make” could be rendered “I make all things new,” as in the classic King James Version. But almost all modern translations prefer the present progressive, “am making,” which emphasizes the ongoing process of renewal. Yes, the new heaven and new earth are present in John’s vision, but the renewal of all things isn’t finished. We wonder if, even as we participated in the completion of God’s first creation, we might have a role in the renewal that is to come.

Second, I am struck by the word “everything.” God is making “everything” new, everything. The Greek word behind this translation is panta, which can also be translated as “all things” (so the ESV, CEB, etc.). Notice, in particular, that God is not just renewing what we might call “spiritual things.” Nor is God simply making human beings new and leaving the world in its old, broken state. No, the God who created all things good will, in his good time, make all things new.

I am struck once again by the implicit value placed on things in this verse. This stands in contrast to what I was once taught about God’s relationship to the world. Where it says in John 3:16 that God loves the world, I was told that this means God loves only the people of the world, not the world itself. Yet, without denying God’s extraordinary love for human beings, the biblical story that begins in Genesis and ends in Revelation strongly suggests that God does indeed care deeply about the world, the “things” of the world in addition to its human creatures. No doubt, his love for human beings is unique. But this does not mean God ignores the value of his whole creation.

For those of us who work with the “things” of this world each day, the fact that God cares about these “things” can renew our sense of our work’s purpose and value. We realize that what we do each day truly matters to God. We wonder how we can do our work in a way that gives pleasure to God and contributes to his purposes. Though we live in a world that has yet to be renewed by God, we can live in light of the renewal that is coming.

Something to Think About:

When you hear God say, “I am making all things new,” how do you respond? What are your thoughts? Feelings?

When you think about the world, where do you feel strongly the need for divine renewal?

How about in your own life? Where do you need God to renew you today?

Prayer:

Gracious God, thank you for the fact that you are making everything new. Thank you for caring about us and this world. Thank you for not leaving us in our brokenness but seeking to make us whole through Christ.

Help me, Lord, to live each day in light of the future. May I value the things of this world as you value them. May I love the people of this world as you love them. Help me to do so today, in all I do. Amen.

This post was originally published on April 15, 2016.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Jesus’ Hand in All Things (John 3:1-36)