The Ultimate Declaration of God’s Grace – Greg Albrecht
Americans are used to hearing the President of the United States make critically important announcements either from the Oval Office, simply speaking to television cameras, or to a combined, televised session of Congress. And, as they begin their term of office, Presidents give an inaugural address, during which many of them attempt to rally the nation behind their clear vision.
In 1865, during the final days of the Civil War, addressing a nation tired of bloodshed, Abraham Lincoln, who would be assassinated only 41 days after this address, said, in part:
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan….”
In the midst of the Great Depression, in 1933 Franklin Delano Roosevelt rallied the nation behind these words:
“Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
And in 1961 John F. Kennedy challenged:
“And so my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
I mention these examples of soaring rhetoric of an American President making a great announcement as but trivial physical illustrations of the scene being depicted here in the 21st chapter of Revelation. On our physical level, the famous words of former Presidents give us an extremely limited sense of the heavenly scene being described in Revelation 21:5-6. From his throne in heaven God is making an announcement that he will create a new order of things.
Here in Revelation 21 God announces a cosmic, universal, all-encompassing equivalent of the miraculous transformation God performs within individuals. Here’s how Paul describes the individual transformation, which the dramatic and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ enabled:
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for us all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old is gone, the new is here!—2 Corinthians 5:14-17
In this passage in 2 Corinthians 5 Paul lists two life-changing consequences of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in terms of the personal and individual transformation it begins in the lives of those who accept him and surrender to him:
1) Paul ceased to make superficial judgments about others—as he says in verse 16, from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view…
2) Paul clearly articulates spiritual transformation as an act of creation on God’s part, so that individuals become something they never were before. We are, as he says in verse 17, new creations—the old has gone, the new is here!
This individual act of creation that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 5 and the act of creation on a cosmic scale that Revelation 21 announces are based on the twin pillars of authentic Christian faith—the cross of Christ on Good Friday and the empty tomb of Easter Sunday.
The trip from Good Friday to Easter Sunday is a short span of human time—but it crosses over the bridge from death to life. It is a bridge to God’s dimension of eternity. The trip from Good Friday to Easter Sunday takes us from the life we know, in the here and now, what we can see, touch, taste, smell, feel and hear, what we can measure and quantify, to an otherwise unknown universe—unknown apart from God’s grace.