The New Creation Has Come!
Text: Isaiah 65:17–25
Easter Sunday, C
Christ is Risen! He is risen Indeed! Alleluia! We are used to hearing the Easter Joy in the words of the Holy Gospels. We are comfortable in reflecting upon the meaning of our Lord’s resurrection, according to the words of the Epistles like 1 Corinthians we read from this blessed morning. But they are not the only writers to proclaim the Lord’s plan of salvation or to rejoice in the promise of new life His Messiah has won for mankind. From the very beginning of the world the Easter promise has been the joy of God’s people in every time and place. Like Isaiah, who wrote his treatise on everlasting life some 800 years before the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. And the summary of Isaiah’s Easter message? The New Creation Has Come!
17“Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. 18But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. 19I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. Like so many biblical prophecies, this one too, no doubt, operates on more than one level. It has political as well as spiritual implications. It speaks of both the soon – that which will be fulfilled during or shortly after Isaiah’s own time and the more remote, which we know was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus. But see this prophecy primarily, if not exclusively, is about the new heaven and new earth that God will create at the end of time, after the destruction of this world. And that New Creation comes because of the work of Jesus in that Holy week 2000 years ago.
As this passage begins, is God saying that He is creating “rejoicing” as a gift for “Jerusalem” and “joy” as a gift for “her people’? It would certainly fit with the unbridled Joy of that first Easter. But more likely, it seems that God is creating “Jerusalem” to be a “rejoicing,” and God is creating “her people” to be a “joy.” For in the next verse God admits that “Jerusalem” and “her people” are a source of delight for Him. How? In Christ. He is the center of this new creation. Jesus is the NEW Jerusalem and her temple, destroyed but rebuilt in three days. God’s people are His delight in Jesus who’s sacrifice paid for their sins. In His death and burial sin is paid for, once for all. It is removed, forgotten and left buried when Jesus rose to new life. And in that rising the sound of weeping and distress disappears from His disciples. Because He lives, we each now have Isaiah’s promise of the New Creation, an actual resurrection for each and every one of those who follow where Jesus lead – through death to life and the joys of heaven.
And what will those heavenly joys look like? 20No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. A difficult picture for many to suss out. It begins to make sense if you understand that the picture the prophet is painting is one where because of the actions of God on behalf of His people the usual circumstances of life and death in this world are cast aside. In the new creation life triumphs over death. It is a metaphor where reality is now stood on its head. The weak and the vulnerable are gifted with vigorous life, not a certain death. And as for the 100 years? It is symbolic of a very long time and basically means that for those in whom God now rejoices time will no longer have the same effect. Now removed from the curse of sin our life in the resurrected Christ is an eternal one – a timeless one.
In other words, Isaiah is talking about heaven in its ultimate and climactic form. Christians taste the joy of heaven before that time, to be sure. Eternal life begins for us even before the grave, when in Holy Baptism we die and rise with Jesus. He that has the Son has life already. Even after our death but before the resurrection of our body on Judgment Day, our soul experiences eternal bliss. But this text is focusing on our full possession of that Easter joy, after soul and body have been reunited. As the resurrection of Jesus Himself promises!
21They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them. 24Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.
In the Lord’s new creation we will completely forget the weeping and futility so characteristic of life in this fallen world. The hurts and harms? Gone! The abusers and antagonists? They don’t get to come along! What God has given will be ours forever more and no one and nothing will ever take it away! In there place shall be joy and gladness, fulfillment and satisfaction. Why? He tells us Himself ... we are His people, His chosen ones, those blessed by the Lord. He is already answering our prayers before we know what to ask. As a beloved Father cares for His dearest children. It is the Lord’s desire that His repentant people should no longer remember or be troubled by their former sins. Easter ensures that for us. Our place in the Lord’s new creation has been secured through faith in Jesus Christ. Through the saving work of His hands we have the joy of sins forgiven and the gladness of eternal life as His most precious children.
25The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord. What is literal and what is metaphorical in Isaiah’s description? The joy and beauty of heaven are probably beyond the capacity of human language to express, although God pulls out all linguistic stops in His inspired attempt to do so. Moreover, our experience with the Scriptures leads us to suspect that God’s truth is always more literal, more substantial, more hearable, seeable, tastable, and tangible than we anticipate. After all, if Jesus can come back from the dead, just as He said He would, what can’t God do in His eternal heavenly kingdom? And what is more, here in the Church of our resurrected Lord, in the Gospel and the Sacraments we already hear, see, and have a foretaste of heaven, and the New Creation that awaits us. In heaven itself, the distinction between literal and metaphorical will disappear as the New Creation Has Come ... For Christ is Risen! He is risen Indeed! Alleluia!