I want you to take a moment, and imagine with me a perfect day. Imagine it’s 73 degrees and sunny, with just a few occasional clouds to set off the beauty of a brilliant blue sky; the humidity is low and periodically a slight and refreshing breeze. Now, forget that this is Michigan – it won’t change during the day, but you can count on enjoying whatever you’re doing for the whole day! And now picture yourself doing your favorite thing; maybe it’s a nature hike, or gardening, or fishing, or sailing on a beautiful lake, or a not-frustrating round of golf, or a bicycle ride (or even better, a motorcycle ride!). And now imagine doing these things in the company of people you really enjoy: a best friend or two, or three, your family (and everybody’s getting along…). And imagine the joy and laughter and the wonder of what would be a perfect day.
And suppose I told you that, however vivid your imagination, even that ‘perfect’ day pales by comparison to the experience that awaits us when we arrive in that far country we call ‘Heaven’ or ‘The World-to-Come’ or ‘The Kingdom of God’.
One of the aspects of the Holiday of Sukkot that most intrigues me is the fact that it lasts 7 days, 7 being the biblical number that symbolizes perfection, completion, fullness; but that there is one more day – known as Shemini Atzeret – an eighth day of holding back… extending the joy just a little bit more. And you have heard us say it many times: if 7 is the number symbolizing fullness and completion, then the number 8 symbolizes a new beginning!
You know, I love those old commercials we used to see on TV, where toward the end the guy says, “But wait, there’s more! If you act now, as an added bonus, we’ll double your order! We’ll throw in, at no additional cost, a second set of Ginsu knives!” We like added bonuses don’t we!
Sukkot has long been my favorite of the holidays, for all its joy and festivity. And that’s because it is a holiday that looks ahead to the better things to come, and even the perfect things to come. That eighth day, and the idea of a new beginning is fantastic! Let’s take just a few minutes and contemplate what God has promised to those who love Him and are loyal to His Son, Messiah Yeshua. Revelation 21:1-5. We’ll read it as a whole, and then again in sections.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new!” And he said, “Write: for these words are faithful and true!”
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.
Creation, as we know it, will pass away. We should not take the word ‘heaven’ here to mean the ‘third heaven’ – the eternal abode of God, but rather to mean that what is passing away is the earth, its oceans, and the sky above us. If we take other passages into consideration, such as Isaiah 34:4 and Psalm 102:25-26, it is possible (though less certain) that even the ‘second heaven’ the stars and galaxies will pass away. Remember, even time and space are part of the physical Creation. But let’s not get distracted over-analyzing what’s passing away; what matters is the NEW!
What will the new heaven and new earth be like? The rest of chapter 21 and part of chapter 22 describe it in much more detail, but suffice to say it will be all the best and most beautiful of what we experience on this earth, but without the mosquitos, fleas and ticks… spiders, centipedes, cockroaches, and whatever else annoys. And if you’re wondering if your beloved fluffy or fido will be there to greet you, I have no idea, but this I know, we will not feel the lack of anything. Remember, we, too, will be changed. We will be new!
And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
There’s nothing like a wedding. I will never forget how, on the day of my daughter Ana’s wedding, when she first emerged in her wedding dress, makeup and hair meticulously done, it actually took my breath away. My already-beautiful daughter was dazzling in appearance. So will be the appearing of the New Jerusalem. It will take our collective breath away for its unimaginable beauty. And that’s our home!
And notice that the holy city retains the name ‘Jerusalem’. Those who have any ambivalence about the Jewish roots of our Faith had better make that attitude adjustment on this side of eternity. But at last, ‘The City of Peace’ will finally reflect the meaning of its name. Won’t you be… my neighbor?
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,
Not just any voice, but a resounding voice, coming from God’s throne, declaring that God will build His sukkah in our midst, and dwell among us, and call us His own, and we will enjoy His presence forever!
It’s hard for us to envision such a thing, because there’s nothing in our limited, brief experience within these mortal bodies, and in this beautiful but broken world, to which we might compare it. But just because you can barely imagine it, don’t for one minute doubt the authenticity of this promise. Remember who’s making it.
And just because you aren’t given all the details of what you will be doing, don’t for one minute doubt that you and I will be occupied in joyous and meaningful activities. Eternal life in the presence of God will be anything but boring. It will be amazing and surprising and fulfilling! In fact, any earthly analogy I might use will fall miserably short, which is why I’m reluctant to speculate very much on what those activities will entail. But I remember the words of Rabbi Paul: No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived of the things God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9).
and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes;
Yeshua said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” He meant more than grieving the passing of a friend or loved one. It is the grief we experience when we consider the brokenness of this world, the violence and dishonesty and hatred that fills it. Those who love the Lord, and long to see goodness and righteousness and shalom prevail, naturally mourn the world such as it is today.
But here is a promise that God will comfort us. I have a little pet theory, that this isn’t merely symbolic or a metaphor, but that God will touch each person, wipe the tears from our eyes, and in that moment of His touch all the painful memories of our earthly experience will likewise pass away. And, there will never again be any cause for grief. Let’s continue…
and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
“Breaking News: Death has passed away!” I can’t tell you how much I look forward to never again having to perform a funeral; never again having to visit a friend in the hospital; never again weeping in sadness. For that matter, I’ll never again even have to take Motrin or visit a chiropractor. Think about it: there will never again be a need for doctors or hospitals, police officers or prisons, lawyers or courtrooms, and definitely no more need for morticians!
What is passing away is everything related to the Fall – man’s rebellion against God and the generations of worldwide misery it has caused. The first things (the broken and corrupted and disastrous things) have passed away. And good riddance! Something infinitely better is coming!
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new!” And he said, “Write: for these words are faithful and true!”
John uses a reverential way to refer to God; not directly, but by writing He who sits on the throne… God Himself has uttered these words; the One who created, merely by speaking a word, all things in the first place. Adonai reigns over the universe by fiat – His word; just that spoken word brings into existence what never before existed. And the Holy One declares that He is making all things new.
It is curious that He didn’t say, “I will make all things new.” He is making all things new. From our temporal perspective, it hasn’t happened yet. From God’s eternal perspective, it is already happening, and has happened. And the promise is as certain as the faithfulness of the One who made it. You don’t have to ‘hope’ for these things; they are a guarantee to those who are loyal to Yeshua, the Messiah, the Son of the Most High God.
Forecasting the future from the Sukkah, I’d say we’re in for joy and blessing the likes of which we can’t even begin to imagine! And it will endure to all eternity… and beyond. Adonai will build His sukkah, make His tabernacle, among us, and He will make all things new – which is why I believe that eighth day of Sukkot is so meaningful.
So make sure you spend some time in the sukkah this week. Remember God’s faithfulness to a thousand generations past. Reflect about what your priorities are in light of the reality of His having saved and redeemed you. And rejoice – if you have put your trust in Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah, your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and God will make His everlasting sukkah with you!