Advent: December 2

Isaiah 65:17-25

See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.

I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.

Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.

They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands.

They will not labour in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them.

Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.

The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,’ says the Lord.

The prophet sets out God’s promises for a bright future. This appears to be a fresh restart – former things will be forgotten as we take up residence in a new Jerusalem. I wonder what the people who studied these words or recited them to their Sabbath-day congregation really thought about them.

The comparisons of the timescales of life should not, I believe, be seen as literal, as it would appear that the length of life is greatly extended rather than infinitely extended. This is a new order, but people are still working, planting and growing, and generations still follow generations. The passage above is a teaser, though it is an incomplete picture of heaven.

What about the animals? Can a lamb feed safely together with a wolf? Can a leopard change his spots? Can a carnivorous creature survive on plants? The answer is yes. In our terms a little DNA engineering may be called for on God’s part, or is this simply a restoration of Eden?

Is Isaiah’s prophecy a true vision of heaven?

Will anything of our mortal lives (“the former things”) be remembered in heaven? What does that imply for earthly relationships?

Will the cuckoo still cruelly take over another bird’s nest?

Were there mosquitos in Eden?

Father God, the promise of words like this is comforting, but I ask that you will challenge me to be discomforted should I not strive to bring the people I know with me to heaven. Amen.