08 Apr Words of Grace – John Stott “Our Living Hope”
“In his great mercy God has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3
The Christian hope focuses not only on our individual future (the resurrection of the body) but also on our cosmic future (the renewal of the universe). On the whole, however, we Christians tend to think and talk too much of an ethereal heaven and too little about the new heaven and the new earth. Yet the whole of Scripture is shot through with this wider and more material expectation. Scripture begins with the original creation of the universe and ends in its last chapters with the creation of a new universe. And in between, the perspective is overshadowed by this Alpha and Omega, this Beginning and End.
The first outspoken expression of this is God’s word in Isaiah 65: “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth” (v. 17). Then Jesus himself spoke of the palingenesia, literally “the new birth,” but translated by the NIV “the renewal of all things” (Matt. 19:28). In the rest of the New Testament the three major apostolic authors (Paul, Peter, and John) all allude to the same theme. Paul writes that the whole creation will one day be liberated from its bondage to pain and decay (Rom. 8:18-25). Peter prophesies that the present heavens will be replaced by a new heaven and earth, which will be the home of righteousness and peace (2 Pet. 3:7-13).
Next, John writes that he saw the same replacement, together with the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God (Rev. 21:1-2). And in the same chapter John writes that the kings of the earth and the nations will bring their glory into the city, though “nothing impure will ever enter into it” (Rev. 21:27). We need to be cautious in our interpretation of these verses, but they seem to mean that human culture will not all be destroyed but, once purged of every taint of evil, will be preserved to beautify the New Jerusalem.
To sum up, just as in the resurrection of the body, so in the renewal of the universe, the old will not all be destroyed but will be transformed. This is our living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Pet. 1:3).
For further reading: Romans 8:18-25
John Stott, Through the Bible, Through the Year: Daily Reflections from Genesis to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), p. 285.