In Revelation 21: 1-8, John writes about a coming New World. Dr. Diana Butler Bass writes about this passage in her book Grounded. She argues that “the book of Revelation is not a heavenly escape story. Instead, it tells the opposite tale. We do not go to heaven. Heaven comes to us. The end of history is not destruction; rather, its end is sacred restoration.” It is not a story about the end, but it is a story about the beginning and the newness that comes with it. The Asbury Commentary on this particular passage states that this “section throbs with the theme of newness…John envisions a new heaven, a new earth, and a New Jerusalem. God announces a new existence free from tears, death, mourning, crying, and pain because the old order of things has passed away.”
For John, God makes everything new. John draws his inspiration here from the prophet Isaiah. In fact, Isaiah speaks for God in 43:19, where God says to the People Israel, “See, I am doing a new thing!” In fact, according to the commentators in The Asbury Commentary “John draws upon Isa 40-66 at least five times in these verses. As Isaiah promised a new creation and restoration of Israel after the judgment of the Babylonian exile, John speaks of a new creation for the church after the final judgment.”
The New Year is a time to think about new things. God calls us to consider ways of breaking out of our traditional boxes to explore new ways of understanding and communicating with God. Just as God announced in Isaiah about “doing a new thing,” we need to consider ways of breaking old, worn out habits and doing something new. This process can be challenging for us because old habits can be comforting, but comfort is not necessarily what God wants us to pursue.
Shortly after Isaiah speaks to Israel about comfort in Chapter 40, he reminds the people that “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”
Our comfort is not the overarching purpose of these passages. Rather, God is calling us to recognize that our time is short and new visions often come that must be acted out. These new visions will come in the appointed time. They will come from God. They will refresh us with their power and newness. But they also may be uncomfortable and may challenge us to step out of our comfort zones.
As the prophet Habakkuk reminds us, “…the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.”