61. A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW LAND. I make everything new

I make everything new

1. Man´s  definitive future, “eternal life” (Jn 6, 40), is a mystery. It is usually called  heaven or glory. What is it? Only the heaven or the earth too? It is, of course, something that overcomes any philosophy. We cannot imagine it. Nevertheless, in the present experience of faith, we can already live now the signals of the Kingdom of God that creates a new world transfigured, different. The end comes from the beginning, like the grain from the dowel. About year 95, John, exiled in the island of Patmos because God´s word (Rev 1,9), saw “a new heaven and a new earth” (21,1). Do we see it too? The experience of the Gospel makes it possible.
2. Jesus sows “the word of the kingdom” (Mt 13, 19) in a world that does not know it (Jn 1, 10), but the disciples had been granted to know “the mysteries of the kingdom of God” (Lk 8, 10). God establishes his kingdom as of a small group, meaningless before the human eyes, the community of disciples who share Jesus´ mission: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12, 32). God´s word shall convert that small group in an immense crowd, gathered from all the peoples of the earth.
3.- There are the signals! answers Jesus to John messengers: “The blind see again, the lame walk, lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the poor are given good news (Lk 7,22). The kingdom of God has commenced where it seemed impossible: merriness is made possible among suffering, freedom among slavery, strength among weakness, hope in strange land, life among the death. “When the Lord took in his hands our destiny, we seemed to dream” (Ps 126).
4.- It is the accomplishment of Prophets announcement: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unsealed. Then will the lame leap as a hart and the tongue of the dumb sing and shout… For the ransomed of Yahweh will return: with everlasting joy upon their heads they will come into Zion singing, gladness and joy marching with them, while sorrow and sighing flee away (Is 35,1-10; 11,6-9; Ez 36,1-15; Am 9,13-15). The return from the exile is a new creation: “I now create new heavens and new earth, and the former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind again. Be glad forever and rejoice in what I create; for I create Jerusalem… the sound of distress and the voice of weeping will not be heard in it any more (Is 65,17-19).
5.- Death is the worst of the exiles. When our world sinks, we need like never before a new heaven and a new earth. It is then accomplished Jesus´ word: “the dead resurrect”, “they are like angels”, God is a God of those alive, not of those dead, “for him everybody is alive” (Lk 20, 36-38). Saint Paul says: “If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ  been raised” But no! Christ has been raised and the dead are raised (1Co 15, 16-22). That who meets him is a new man: “That who is with Christ is a new creation: the old went away, everything is new” (2 Co 5, 17). Christ is our hope in the world (Eph 2, 12), “everything has its consistency in him” (Col 1, 17)
6. Christ is alive, he is the Lord: “I was dead and now I am alive for ever and ever; and mine are the keys of death”. (Rev 1,18). We contemplate his glory: “And I saw next to the throne… a lamb standing, although it had been slain. I saw him with seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out to all the earth. And he approached and he took the book from the right hand of that who is sat in the Throne” (5, 6-7; see 4, 6-7; 1 Cr 24, 7, 19). Jesus, the “lamb taken to the slaughter house” (Is 53, 7), he is “standing”, resurrected, and he is “in the middle of the throne”, he is the Lord. All power has been given to him, he has the plenitude of God´s spirit, he comes to judge. “You are worthy to take the book and open its seals, for you were slain and by your blood you purchased for God people of every race, language and nation; and you made them a kingdom and priests for our God and they shall reign over the land” (Rev 5, 9-13). God´s kingdom is made present in Jesus´ person: “The reign of our Lord and his Christ has arrived” (Rev 11, 15)

7.- As son of man (Dan 7,13), Christ comes “over the clouds” (Rev 1,7), it is to say, with divine attributes. He comes to judge: “a sharp double-edged sword coming out of his mouth” (Rev 1,16). The servant announces the judgement to the nations: “He made my mouth like a sharpened sword” (Is 49,2; 42,1), “you still must prophesize against many peoples, nations, languages and kingdoms” (Rev 10, 10), “write down in a book all you see” (1,11), “the hour of the judgement has arrived” (14,7), “now I will show you the judgement of the sovereign prostitute” (17,1), Rome, history’s  prostitute. The judgement is the answer to the believers´ prayers, persecuted because of his testimony: How long will it be, Lord? (Rev 6, 10; Ps 79). The servant judges also the bishops of the churches: Ephesus (2, 5), Smyrna (2, 10), Pergamum (2, 14), Thyatira (2, 20), Sardis (3, 1), Philadelphia (3, 8), Laodicea (3, 16)
8. The servant has the function of rejoining the new people of God: ““It is not enough  that you be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob,  to bring back the remnant of Israel. I will make you the light of the nations, that my salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.” (Is 49,6). They come from every people and nation”. The small group with which God´s kingdom begin grows immensely: “ I then looked and there was an immense crowd that nobody could count, from every nation, races, peoples and languages” (Rev 7,9)
9. God reigns by means of those who give testimony: “You are my witnesses” (Is 43, 12; 44, 8), It is necessary to be attentive: “Whatever was before has already arrived and I announce new things” (42, 9). Jesus promises the reward to those who get the victory. The victory is the testimony given on his behalf: “To the victor I will give the hidden manna. And I will also give a white stone with a new name written on it which no one knows except the one who receives it.” (Rev 2, 17). The winner is fed with a “hidden manna” and he receives a beautiful price, a “small white stone” with a “new name”, a new identity
10. John already sees now a new world. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, because the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and no longer was there any sea (Rev 21,1), The old world, deformed, passes by. The sea (from where the Beast comes out) does not exist any more: “There shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the world that was has passed away. And the One seated on the throne said: I make all things new” (21, 4-5). As the Council says, “the plenitude of the times has arrived”, “and in a certain way it is really anticipated to this century” (LG 48). The new world finds itself in a paschal trance, it is born with anguish (Jn 16, 21), with “ pains of childbirth” (Mt 24, 8): “We know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pangs of birth. Not creation alone, but even ourselves, although the Spirit was given to us as a foretaste of what we are to receive, we groan in our innermost being”.
11. It is a world in which God has his home, and the new covenant is accomplished: “And I saw the holly city, the new Jerusalem, the holy city coming down from God, out of heaven, adorned as a bride prepared for her husband. A loud voice came from the throne: Here is the dwelling of God among men” (21,2-3; Ez 36,26-28). The kingdom of God has its holly city, the new Jerusalem. The wall protecting it, has twelve gates and there are twelve names engraved on them, those of the “twelve tribes” It is the new people of God. The wall is settled on twelve stones, that take the names of “the twelve apostles” (Rev 21, 12-14)
12. It is a new world where God reigns, where his will is accomplished in earth as in heaven: “so that God is all in all” (1 Co 15,28), so that “there will be no difference between heaven and earth” (Saint John Chrisostomus, Homily over Mathew, 19,5). As the Council says, God “prepares for us a new dwelling and a new earth where the justice lives, and whose beatitude is able to satisfy the peace desires that come out of the human heart” (GS 39)
13. The new creation is a garden, a human world: “To the victor I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in God´s Paradise” (Rev 2,7). It is the liberation from all pain, fatigue and weeping, the correction from the original mistake of man (Gn 3,16-19). As Saint Cyril of Jerusalem says, “heaven could also be those who carry the image of the celestial world in whom God dwells and walks” (mistagogical Catechesis, 5,11). Being on the cross, the good thief tells Jesus: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom”. Jesus replied: “Truly, you will be with me today in paradise” (Lk 23,43). The new world is not a bestial one, but a humanized, divinised world, a different world, created according to the original project of God.
14. It is a world that definitely lives the happiness of the Gospel: “Fortunate are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Fortunate are those who mourn, they shall be comforted. Fortunate are the gentle, they shall possess the land. Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Fortunate are the merciful, for they shall find mercy. Fortunate are those with a pure heart, for they shall see God. Fortunate are those who work for peace, they shall be called children of God. Fortunate are those who are persecuted for the cause of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are my followers. Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God” (Mt 5, 1 – 12)
15. The dead resurrect, but, how?. Saint Paul says: “When buried it is a natural body, but it will be raised as a spiritual body.” (1 Co 15, 44). There is a difference, a change that we cannot imagine between the “natural body” and the “spiritual body”: “Neither the eye saw nor the ear heard what God prepares for those who love him” (1 Co 2, 5). The raised body is liberated of the conditionings of space and time, but related with the world and with the history. As far as the pass is concerned, “his works accompany him” (Rev 14, 13).
16. The idea of similarity of those resurrected with the angels appear in the Jewish apocalyptic flow: “Everybody will become angels of heavens” (1 Henoch 51, 5), “the just persons will become an angelical brightness”, “they will inhabit in the peaks of this world, will look like angels, they will take any appearance on their pleasure, going from the beauty to the brightness, from the light to the brightness of the glory” (Baruc Revelation 51, 5. 10). Similar terms appear in the passage of Jesus transfiguration: “He transfigured in front of them and his face shined like the sun” (17, 2). The resurrected changes his condition, he transfigured: “Then he just persons will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father” (Mt 13, 43)
17. “God will be all in all”, says Saint Paul: “The last enemy reduced to nothing is the Death; since He has placed everything under his feet… And when everything is subdued to him, then the Son himself will submit to the one who subdued Him, so that is God in everything” (1 Co 15, 26-28). The eager desire of the new creation appears in this testimony of the primitive Church: “Let the grace come and let this world pass, Hosanna to the God of David. Let that one who is saint to come near. The one who is not, let him to convert. Maranatha. Amen.” (Apostles´s Doctrine) . With this same desire ends the Revelation: “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22, 20-21)
18. The old poem of the four nights evocates those moments in which our destiny is in God´s hands: the creation, the alliance, the exodus, the future. When we make ourselves conscious of it, “it was like dreaming” (Ps 126), we discover that “God is love” (Ps 103), that is in just the origin of the being (Ps 139), that manifests itself in the life’s events (Gn 15, 5-18), that he is with us (Ex 3, 15) also in the difficult days or when it is night, that opens a way where there is none: in the dessert, at sea, in the exile, in the death. On his behalf, we raise the cup of salvation (Ps 116).
19. World and history culminate in Christ´s experience. In the loneliness of the jail Paul contemplates the Lord’s plan. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has elected us in him before the creation of the world” (Eph 1, 3-4).. In his design we occupy a place previous and greater to the world’s creation. He created the world for us.
20. Like in other time, God´s people was liberated, now we live a new exodus by means of Christ, “letting us to know the mystery of his will” (1, 7-8), to capture everything in Christ: “to do that everything have Christ like head” (    1, 10) Paul proclaims, astonished, the sense, the secret, the deepest gravitation of the world and the history
21. Like in other time God´s people received a land in legacy, now we receive a new land. The new creation is being born. The world is in a paschal trance. The faith experience seals us, marks us, supports us: “as promised, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit,  the first pledge of what we shall receive” (1, 13-14)

22. It is a God´s present. That God light up the eyes of our heart so that we know which is the hope to which he is calling us, which is the richness of glory that he gives in inheritance to the saints and which is the extraordinary greatness of his power with us, according to the efficacy of his powerful strength that he displayed in Christ: “put all things under the feet of Christ and set him above all things, as head of the Church 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (1, 22-23)

23. The tradition, such as it reaches us, is gathered by the Catechism of the Catholic Church as follows: “Those who die in grace and friendship with God and who are perfectly purified, live with Christ for ever. They are similar to God, because they see him such as he is (1 Jn 3, 2), face to face (1 Co 13, 12; Rev 22, 4)”, “they see the divine essence with an intuitive vision and face to face, without any mediation of any creature” (Benedictus XII, + 1342; num. 1023). It is the “beatific vision” (num 1045). “This perfect life with the Holy Trinity, this communion of life and love with her, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed, is named `heaven´. The heaven is the last aim and the fulfilment of the deepest aspiration of man, the supreme and definitive status of happiness” (num 1024). Once again, it is necessary to revise the tradition in the light of the Scriptures.

* Dialogue: The man’s  definitive future, eternal life, is it only the heaven or the earth too? Do we perceive already signals of the new heaven and the new land? Is it necessary to revise the tradition in the light of the Scriptures?

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