Sunday, September 1, 2013

Heaven on Earth

Part 4 of the series Heavenly-Minded

You can listen to this sermon here.



Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:11-13). 


Temporary Treasures

“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved…” (v. 11a).

“…because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!” (v. 12b).

It’s been said that our age is “the age of envy.” The poor envy the rich, and the rich envy the richer. Immanuel Kant declared, “Give a man everything he wants and at that moment, every-thing will not be everything.”

One day, everything in this world will be “dissolved.” (Actually, our stuff usually doesn’t last that long anyway. Most of it ends up either in the landfill or a yard sale.)

[When I preached this sermon, I showed some things that I wanted badly in the past, but now no longer use: Rubik’s Cube, Nintendo Entertainment System, mp3 player.] 

An eternal perspective helps us see that the world’s treasures are not worth living for. 

The world’s treasures are not capable of satisfying us. (Have you noticed how kids today are often bored even though they have more toys and games than any other generation?)

C. S. Lewis once said that “creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exist. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world” (Mere Christianity, pp. 136-37).  

God has made us for another world. In the future, he will make a new earth, which will really be heaven on earth.

[Read 2 Peter 3:1-10 to understand the context of vv. 11-13.] 


Paradise Regained 

“But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (v. 13).

In the Bible, there are three phases of earth’s history: (1) the original earth (Gen. 1-2), (2) the fallen earth (Gen. 3-Rev. 20), and (3) the new earth (Rev. 21-22; cf. Isa. 65:17; 66:22). According to the ESV Study Bible, “‘New’ could mean ‘newly created’ but probably means ‘renewed, made new'” (p. 2423). “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5).

“Heaven” is sometimes called “paradise” (see Luke 23:34; 2 Cor. 12:3; Rev. 2:7). Paradise has been lost, but it will be regained.

1. The new earth will be a unification of heaven and earth. 

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (Rev. 21:1-2; Ga. 4:26; Heb. 12:22-24).

2. The new earth will be free from sin's curse. 

Creation and humanity have been adversely affected because of sin (cf. Gen. 3:16-19). This is called “the curse.” “We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:22-23; cf. vv. 18-21).

“No longer will there be anything accursed” (Rev. 22:3). “[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

The hymn “Joy to the World” is theologically correct: “No more let sins and sorrows grow nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.” God will lift the curse, not only morally (in terms of sins) and psychologically (in terms of sorrows), but also physically (in terms of thorns infesting the ground; cf. Gen. 3:18).

3. The new earth will be a place of great joy and beauty. 

The “new Jerusalem” is compared to “a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2).

4. The new earth will be filled with righteousness. 

Randy Alcorn writes, “We are homesick for Eden. We’re nostalgic for what is implanted in our hearts. It’s built into us, perhaps even at a genetic level. We long for what the first man and woman once enjoyed—a perfect and beautiful Earth with free and untainted relationships with God, each other, animals, and our environment. Every attempt at human progress has been an attempt to overcome what was lost in the Fall” (Heaven, p. 77).  


Holy and Godly People 

“…what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (vv. 11b-12a).

An eternal perspective helps us pursue holiness and godliness. 

Is it really possible for us to hasten the day Christ’s return by living holy and godly lives? Jesus said, “Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matt. 24:36; cf. Acts 17:31). God has set a day for Christ’s return, but he also took our actions into account.

Living a holy and godly life simply means separating ourselves from what is sinful and doing what pleases God. The promise of Christ’s return and a new earth should be a motivation to live a holy and godly life. “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6; cf. 7-10).