“And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
- Revelation 21:5
Reading in Wright’s History and Eschatology this morning I found myself reflecting on this idea that Jesus “is” making all things new. It is easy to transport this passage entirely into a vision of the future where it reflects something that will some day happen.But this is not the view of the Biblical wrters. They understood that when Jesus died and rose again that something very real had taken place, not something that will happen someday in the future, but something that has happened and is happening in the here and now, in the unfolding of history. Jesus has in fact acended to the throne and the new creation project, this making all things new, has already begun. But, this feels like a difficult thing to believe and to feel in a world blanketed by a pandemic, the contined uncovering of rampant racism, abuse and genocide, and unending political, cultural and social divide, and so in some ways it is much easier simply to assign this vision completely to the future.
I remember encountering in 2020 this idea that the whole of scripture is basically composed as one big hyperlink to the first 6 chapters of Genesis, and since then I’ve made it a practice to revisit these chapters any time I am working through or reflecting on a passage of scripture. And it is striking how true this is. Through this lens scripture uncovers this ongoing movement between the old and the new, the struggling and the healed, the sinful and the forgiven, the broken and the restored. And yet it does so from within this consistent and often desperate need to make sense of this truth within an already-not yet reality. Perhaps one of the most powerful realizations of encountering this narrative vision in the pages of scripture is the simple recognition that I am not alone in wondering how it is that we make sense of this proclomation- I am making all things new- when things feel very much to the contrary. It perhaps points to the idea that we all need hope, and yet where we locate this hope can be one of the most difficult things to reconcile. It feels more like Genesis 6 where the ordered creation is continually crashing back in to chaos over and over again than the ordered vision of Genesis 1 and 2 that imagines rivers leading out from its life giving source to feed the world with a much needed promise of continued newness, love and hope.
Wright contends in his book that where Modernity has largely seperated the idea of Jesus from the idea of history, relocating Jesus within history remains one of the most important tasks of the Christian today. And also one of the most challenging precisely because it forces us to contend with this vision of the new creation being enacted and declared in the here and now, this notion of heaven and earth coming together rather than being pulled apart. Here I’m reminded of a song from Elie Holcomb’s new album called Paradox. In the first verse Holcomb sings,
This is as true when I parse through the local, national and global stories as it is when I contend with individual stories that express and live with deep pain and struggle every singe day. This resonates so powerfully in my spirit with another song from Holcomb’s album called Constellations, where she pleads to the heavens to “promise me I (we) are not alone” out here in the dark.
I have a lot of good friends for whom this paradox remains something that cannot be reconciled. And I get this. I am often asked by these friends why (or maybe how) I still hold to the Christian faith. And honestly, I don’t always know why, especially in times when we collectively need to find a way to reconcile the great abuses of the Church with the promise of this hopeful vision. I’m not sure there is a narrative that can address this paradox without carrying this tension and falling prey to the same scrutiny, particularly when it comes to those bigger questions of what makes this life worth living and how it is we collectively buy and sell ino this grand idea called hope with any degree of certainty and conviction.
What I do know though is the worth of knowing and hearing that we are not alone in this endeavor. There is an intimate connection in scripture between the promise of new creation and the equal proclamation that we are being swept up into this new creation work as transformed people, people who are in fact being made new within the very fabric of this working paradox. And how is this made true? Through the fruit of our willing participation in the new creation project. If Christ is true then Christ must be true within history, not as some grand and distant reality that exists out there. And within the Genesis vision of humankind bearing the very image of God, we know the truth of Christ only when we participate in the realm of history. This is where hope is made real, is when we are able to say to another, you are not alone. As Holcomb imagines, hope is made true when we enter into the low places where suffering and struggle persists. If we are to hear the voice of God telling us “we are not alone” in the darkness, we must look low before our gaze can be lifted upwards with Holcomb’s resonating chorus,
I am reminded of the clear Genesis hyperlink in Isaiah 43:18-19 where this hope filled vision resounds,
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
How hard it is to believe in the truth that God is in fact “doing a new thing”, and to say that “now it springs forth” in the way of the ordered creation where rivers flow not from a garden, the functioning image of a temple where God dwells in our midst, but from he wilderness and through the desert. The question, “do you not perceive it” carries a sense of familiar exasperation not because it is unexpected, but because this paradox is so very real. This becomes easier to believe when we see someone embodying the words and making them their own by entering into the low places with us. The question we ask then is, am “I” doing a new thing? Am I making a way for others where Christ has gone ahead of me?