The End of All Endings
Isaiah 65:17-25; 66:1-24
Our kids are big Star Wars fans. Anyone else? How can you not enjoy it? The iconic bad buy in Darth Vader. Awesome sound effects. A legit storyline. Loveable creatures like Ewoks. It’s got something for everyone. Right.?
But let me also confess something to you, I’ve lost interest over the years for one reason. Somewhere around episode 52 when Luke Skywalker’s great great great grandson defeats the latest evil emperor and the darkside, you just can’t help but sit there wondering how long this victory is going to last. How much time does this buy us? The last victory lasted about five minutes. There is no definitive end. There is no definitive end in sight. There is no true savior or true saving.
Star Wars reflects the New Age religion that says we are God, we need to awaken the spirit or force inside of us, and if we are good enough we might come back again reincarnated to a better life, but which also says there is no true and definitive end.
The ending of the book of Isaiah points to something much different. It points to an end time in which God acts decisively. It’s in agreement with other passages of the Bible that present a new heaven and new earth for the faithful and also a judgment for the wicked. It is an ending that brings finality, but also true hope and joy, and also an accountability for how we live now.
- New Heavens
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. 20 No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. 21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD, and their descendants with them. 24 Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the LORD. (Isaiah 65:17-25 ESV)
God is creating a new order. A new pattern. It is forever. It is not new as in never seen before but it is new in quality. A new car is still a car. It’s new without the problems of the old but is still recognizable as a car. So God is creating a new heaven and new earth, not a new category but a quality. It is no longer fallen nor will it have the ability to fall. This one is eternal.
This is evidence from the lion and the wolf, who are both there, but their natures have been changed. No longer to the terrorize and destroy. The fear of them is also lost as the young lamb grazes with them.
Former things not remembered: I don’t think this means we will not remember this life. I had an aunt one time talking about when they first got married and she would literally go out and check how much the electric meter turned that day because they were so pressed on money. Years later she could remember this, but her circumstances had changed so much she didn’t remember it with the same concern and frequency.
Place of joy and gladness: All the sadness and hurt will be gone. We have seen this in previous chapters. God cares for his people. It may seem like we have long periods of grieving. But consider what a short time our span of life is when compared to eternity.
Eternal Life: This passage alludes to what the book of Revelation makes clear. This points out long life. Revelation says there will be no more death. No more dying. We are truly spiritual beings with souls that are eternal.
[21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labor in vain
I used to think of heaven as baby angels with wings and diapers sitting on a cloud. That would no doubt come from Renaissance painters like Michaelangelo and the Madonna standing on clouds. But that’s a bit too cultured for me so I think it may have come from a looney tune episode.
But that idea of heaven where it is very ethereal, purposeless, and workless is detached from the biblical understanding of heaven. Heaven is a worship service, but Isaiah also says work is included. The difference is there is no more pain in work. We will plant and will eat of it. We shall long enjoy the work. We will not labor in vain. Think about work without all the brokenness. Without anger and sinful people. Without all the fear and worry. I remember living in Maryland and being outside chopping wood on a cool fall afternoon. Sun is out. Wind blows by. I’m getting stuff done. Chopping wood that is going to keep our house at 90 degrees during the winter. Loved it. Sense of satisfaction. Get done and sit on the porch.
It is for “my people.” God once again calls them his people. It is not to all those of the nation of his people. But to those who turned to him, followed him, loved him.
No more threats. No dangers. No more lyme disease.
This is something we long for but none of us have ever experienced. We never truly feel these longings satisfied. Only in the next life will they be.
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing… I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same. (Ortlund, Isaiah, 445)
Many of our deepest longings are realized then. It will not be in this life, but the life to come, and it will only come through a relationship with God.
~This is one reality in the age to come. But there is also another reality and another destiny. That is the place of judgment. there is another side of this that is sobering. There is also a place of judgment. Throughout the book of Isaiah and the Bible a theme of judgment runs through it.
Let me just say this is not my favorite thing to talk about. But it is in the Bible and I’m going to teach what God’s word says regardless of what people’s preference is. If this is new to you, I hope you will hear me through to the end.
“One slaughters an ox, one kills a man; one sacrifices a lamb, one breaks a dog’s neck; one offers a grain offering, one offers swine’s blood; one offers incense, one praises an idol– all these have chosen their ways and delight in their abominations. So I will choose their punishment, and I will bring on them what they dread, because I called and no one answered; I spoke and they didn’t hear; they did what is evil in My sight and chose what I didn’t delight in.” (Isa 66:3-4 CSB)
“For behold, the LORD will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. 16 For by fire will the LORD enter into judgment, and by his sword, with all flesh; and those slain by the LORD shall be many. (Isaiah 66:15-16 ESV)
“And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” (Isaiah 66:24 ESV)
If you wonder about the doctrine of eternal judgment, this is where it comes from. It is a key component of the Christian life.
Ever since the Garden, people have sought to minimize God’s punishment for sin. We must not believe others over God’s word.
There is a separation at the end time. This is the day of Judgment, the Day of the Lord. We see people do wrong and get away with it now, but it will not last. And the most important thing in life is not that we get a good job, are nice people, etc., but that we love and serve God.
- Jesus taught this also.
[But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! (Luke 12:5 ESV)
[those who have done good things, to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked things, to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:29)
- End of Revelation shows the same thing.
Satan and all his followers are thrown into the Lake of fire. So are all who didn’t follow Jesus.
Many people believe in heaven. If you believe in heaven and believe it is or at least should be better than this world, then you have to ask yourself where all the bad people went. Everyone can name someone that they think does not belong in heaven. Your judgment is arbitrary, but God’s judgment is certain.
It is a place of punishment. Fire and sword are used to describe punishment. Abandonment: But there is also a sense in which the punishment fits the crime. If you don’t want God in your life, then you get it for all eternity. God called but they did not answer. They ignored him.
[Isaiah began by confronting false worship. He ends with endless worship. He began invoking heaven and earth as witness to the evil of God’s people. He ends with heaven and earth as the only adequate venue for the endless dignity of God’s people.” Ortland. P455.
Dread: This imagery is from the garbage dump outside the city where unclean corpses were burned. The reference to worms is probably the larvae of flies, maggots. This is used to picture the anguish of judgment. Odious image that makes us recoil and turn from that path. God is warning us with strong words about consequences. We can’t call it unjust. We know.
Eternal. Just as heaven is eternal so too is this place of judgment. It says here “For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched”.
While there are things that may concern us we also need to see the other side:
God is just. He governs justly. Throughout Scripture he says what will happen if people disobey. When he brings that judgment you cannot say it was wrong. We are to follow him in exercising justice.
- Comfort in the justice of God. (Grudem points to comforts in his Systematic Theology).
If you have ever been wronged then there is a comfort here. All the things that go wrong in the world will one day be made right. It is interesting that in today’s age no one wants to hear about divine wrath. And everyone is out rebuking everyone else. Taking up causes and at times inflicting more damage. If you don’t believe in God’s judgment then you will be seeking to exact justice yourself. Jesus said to love our enemies. That is hard.
Isaiah’s Death. Isaiah, whose name means the Lord is salvation, knew what it was like to be unjustly persecuted. He was a prophet to the kings and spoke God’s word to royalty and lay people. He spoke comfort and encouragement to some and to some he told to turn from their wicked ways. But do you know what happened to this faithful man? It’s not in the Bible but history tells us that during the reign of King Manasseh, who was a very wicked king, Isaiah was threatened, and he fled for his life. While fleeing he found a tree to hide in, but he was discovered. His pursuers decided they knew exactly how to get him out. They sawed the tree down, killing the prophet. The book of Hebrews, Chapter 11, mentions this. It speaks of heroes of faith, faith…
[through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated– The world was not worthy of them. (Hebrews 11:33-38 ESV)
- Means you can forgive.
Are you leaving room for the wrath of God? If you have been hurt, it’s ok. God is going to take care of it. You can pray for your enemies because there will be a reckoning. But you have to ask yourself are you being faithful to him. Don’t let the wrongs of others cause you to wrong others. Been wronged in church. It happens. Sheep bite. But don’t neglect your duty. Been hurt by parents. Well, don’t let that cause you to neglect being a good son. Been wronged by those you are trying to reach out to. You are following in the footsteps of your savior. At no point did Jesus get frustrated with his people and decide to sit on the couch and do nothing. He was faithful. Live by faith.
- Motivates us to faithfulness.
But judgment also puts the fear of God in you. It means you won’t get away with anything. All of your ways are in full view of God. He knows everything. There is nothing hidden. God knows all they do and he knows their hearts, too. He knows where every penny comes from. He knows every careless word and everything said in haste. He knows every lie, every racist comment.
What are you living for? Biggest concern before covid is the listlessness of the church in America. Criticize. Most people can take it or leave it. Church is not a building. Church is not watching an online production. Church is a gathering of Jesus followers who are seeking to make him known.
Don’t get lulled to sleep. Feeding dogs too much at Thanksgiving. Part pitbull, part shepherd, and full- blooded mean. Disobedience is the worst thing that can happen to me.
If we ever doubt the seriousness of sin then we only need look at the cross. Why would Jesus go through such pains to save us if we were not in that big of trouble.
- One Who Overcomes
[Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? 2 All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.
Trembles at my word. Quaking, trembling, fear, care. Primarily describes human trembling before some strange or fearsome event. Trembles in fear. Filling out your taxes, want to make sure you get it right.
Humble. There is a responsiveness. I think the most important part of our service doesn’t happen here. It happens when you go home. Do you do anything with it? Do you talk through it with your spouse or your friends? Do you eagerly take it to heart and learn and apply. Are you trying to stoke that desire in your friends and family. Can’t mandate that. You can model it. Show them your eagerness.
Proud people don’t listen to others. They don’t listen to God. I hear what you are saying but I’ve got a better idea.
Take these words to heart and change. Obey. This is one of the things we have tried to incorporate- response to God’s word. People who know the word, quote it, know theology and Hebrew and all the other things but their knowledge is about the things of God rather than God. Keller: “There is an infinite distance between knowing about God and knowing God.” They don’t know what it means to follow God.
He called but no one listened.
How do you treat people who don’t listen to you. I was calling for you, I was at the door with two arms full of groceries and no one came. Jesus died for our ignoring God. Let’s not continue in it.
Do we take seriously the commands of Jesus? Are we eager to know him? Are we eager to live out his commands? Are we desirous that others pray for us and pray for where we do not tremble? Pack our schedules so full we hardly have time for God or others.
We are a community of believers. I believe the greatest thing the church can give to the community is a sense of the awesomeness observed by the church’s eagerness to follow what he says.
The church, our church and church in general, has kind of floundered for a couple years now. Covid destabilized everything. Time where everyone was hypersensitive to their own needs. Tuning others out. We need to see the different destinies and act. How can we see this and not be filled with compassion. How can we see this and not seek to help others change.
Christians need to regroup, reevaluate their life, recommit. Will we do the things God calls us to do? Commit to love others. Commit to meet together. Look for needs. Commit to share our faith.
I want to see God do a work in and through our church. I want to see people come to know who God is and what he has done for them. I want to see people who have never read the Bible start reading it and understanding who God is. Committing to God’s ways.
We need help pulling off our Sunday meetings. If you are a maybe for Sunday then we cannot depend on you. We need people who are committed to this community. Who care about others, asking others how they are doing, praying for God to work in their lives.
We are a body and we are not here just to care for ourselves. We are to care for others. Help others. It’s human nature to think of ourselves. Covid heightened that. We need to follow our Lord. We are laying down our lives that others might know Jesus better. Many people struggle with church because they are more aware of the problems others create than they are the opportunities to serve and make a difference.
Eternity is in the balance. God has told us how the story will end, but it is up to us to decide on which side we will be.
- What does this passage tell you about the life to come?
- What do you most like about heaven?
- What does it say about hell? How does it show us God’s justice? How does it encourage us?
- How do we overcome? How can you be humble and obedient to God’s word?
What is heaven like? The prophet Isaiah says God is making a new heaven and new earth… and we will work there! The difference is there will be no more hardship
22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.