Saints Triumphant Sunday November 5, 2023
72:1-3, 604, 618, 72:4
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Sermon Audio: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/ministrybymail
Prayer of the Day: Almighty God and Savior, You have set the final day and hour when we shall be delivered from this world of sin and death. Keep us ever watchful for the coming of Your Son that we may sit with Him and all Your holy ones at the marriage feast in heaven; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed in Jesus Christ,
COMING SOON TO A THEATER NEAR YOU! What was the last movie you went to? While the theater may have said the movie was scheduled to start at 7:00, the actual movie you paid money to see doesn’t start at 7:00. Because from 7:00 to 7:20 there are previews of movies that will be released in the future. With these previews you never get to see the whole movie. In fact, sometimes the preview is even better than the movie itself. Hollywood’s purpose in providing previews of upcoming movies is to get you so excited about it that you’ll want to come back and give you more of their money.
Throughout Scripture God gives His saints a preview of what is to come, especially what is in store for us in heaven. Similar to a movie trailer, God does not tell us everything that is coming, but He tells us just enough. In our text for today we have a most blessed coming attraction to consider. The LORD God Himself tells us of what things are going to be like after Judgment Day. The LORD says this coming attraction will feature forgetting, rejoicing, and living. We hear of it in Isaiah 65, verses 17 through 25:
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.
But 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.
I 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.
No 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.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They 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.
They 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.
Before they call I will answer;
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The 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.
So far the Word of God.
It’s called having “a senior moment.” As we grow older, our memories tend to fail us more and more. It can get very frustrating when you lose your train of thought or can’t remember something simple. We all have memories we’d love to hold onto, such as births, weddings, and loved ones. On the other hand, throughout our lives there are things we would much rather never remember, such as pain, suffering, and sadness. As the LORD gives us a preview of this coming attraction, He says there will be forgetting, but in this case we’ll be glad we forgot.
Our text begins with the LORD telling us of something that is going to take place in the future. He says, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth.” “Behold,” God says, look at what I am going to do—I’m going to create a new heavens and a new earth. The Apostle Peter tells us that this new heavens and new earth will be created after the “day of the Lord” (2 Peter 3:10), after Jesus returns from heaven. After the dead will be raised and all will be judged, Jesus will invite those who believed in Him as their Savior, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34) Come inherit the new heavens and the new earth!
This new heavens and new earth will be so great, so incredibly amazing that the LORD says, “the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.” As we age, we like to talk about “the good old days,” forgetting that the old days were not always good. In the new heavens and the new earth, we won’t be thinking, “Man, I miss the way things used to be.” God’s new creation will be so great that we won’t even think about the “old days” for a moment.
As the LORD gives us a preview of what He is going to do, He says, “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create.” The new heaven and new earth that the LORD will create will be like it was before the fall into sin—no sin, no death, no curse. In fact, the LORD says in His new creation, “no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.” This reminds us of what was revealed to John in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) This is God’s new creation. Rejoice in the great things God has in store for us!
Furthermore, listen to what else the LORD says about rejoicing. The second half of verse 18 and 19: “for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people.” When the LORD speaks of Jerusalem here, we may think He is talking about Jerusalem the city over in Israel, some 7000 miles from here. But is there anything worth rejoicing over in that city? There seems to be nothing but war and strife in the current Jerusalem. The LORD is here speaking of a new Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem, a place where God dwells with His people. The LORD says He will rejoice in Jerusalem and joy in His people. This is you! God will rejoice in you!
But what is there in us that the LORD would want to rejoice over? In and of ourselves there is nothing. On our own, God looks on us and says, “There is none who does good, No, not one.” (Psalm 14:3) But Jesus came so that the LORD would rejoice over us. He paid for our sins and through faith in Him His righteousness becomes our own. It is only in Jesus that the LORD rejoices over us. Now, in Christ, the Father looks on you, sees His Son, and can say of you, “This is My beloved child in whom I am well pleased!” Imagine that, the LORD rejoicing in us! While we will be rejoicing that we are in heaven, God will be rejoicing over us that we are with Him in Paradise! Amazing! All this because of what Jesus, the Son of God, did for us! Let us rejoice in what the LORD has done for us, as the LORD rejoices in us through Jesus!
It seems that death surrounds us: a 34 year-old mother, 7 months pregnant dies in her sleep; a very active pastor is diagnosed with incurable cancer. Young and old alike, death affects us all. Death brings the greatest sorrow because of the separation it causes in this life. Jesus knew this pain personally as He Himself wept at the tomb of His friend Lazarus. But the LORD says that things in His new heavens and new earth are going to be very different. At the LORD’s coming attraction there will only be LIFE.
In verses 20 through 25 the LORD tries to help us understand the abundant life that will be ours in the new heavens and the new earth. Because this is prophetic language we do not take it literally, but more as God painting a picture for us to help us understand something that is far beyond our comprehension.
Listen to the abundant life that is to come: “No 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.” NO MORE, says the LORD, NO MORE! No more will there be such a thing as an infant mortality rate. At one hundred years, someone will still be considered a child. In the new creation there will be abundant life—eternal life! The LORD emphasizes this further in verse 22, “like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.” Like those mighty sequoias and redwood trees of California that can live for thousands of years, the LORD says that is what our lives are going to be like. Life, unlike anything we know and experience in this world, will be ours forever in God’s coming attraction.
But until that time, until the trumpet sounds, and we shall reign with Christ eternally, God strengthens us with His promises. He promises that He will hear us and He will protect us. “Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. The 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. As we run the race of our faith now in time and eagerly await the new heavens and new earth, the LORD says that He will hear our prayers. This, too, is because of Jesus. Because Jesus has cleared away the static noise of our sins through His death and resurrection, the LORD hears us clearly. Here He promises to hear us and protect us. Even the most ferocious of enemies shall not hurt nor destroy God’s people, in all His holy mountain. This is what Jesus promised us when He said that the gates of hell cannot prevail against us and when He said that no one is able to snatch us from His hand.
The LORD wants us to know of what awaits all believers in Christ. He will create new heavens and a new earth. This creation will be so splendid that we will forget all the former things of this old world of sin and death. This creation will be so amazing that we will rejoice that God has done all this for us as a gift of His grace. And because of Jesus God will rejoice over us, His people. This new creation will be filled with abundant life and no sorrow or suffering. All this is yours, freely, by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus has earned it for you! Therefore, let us rejoice even now because the LORD has said it and it shall be so! Rejoice, dear believer and keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of your faith, for this is what is coming soon for you! AMEN
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.