Saints Triumphant Sunday
November 17, 2019
Isaiah’s Picture of Paradise
“Behold, 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 forever 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; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he 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 works of their hands. They will not toil in vain or 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, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD. (NIV1984)
Dear fellow saints of the living God,
“A picture is worth a thousand words.” Is there anyone here who has not heard that proverb? Is there anyone here who does not understand what it means? I have walked along the top of the Great Wall of China. I have stood inside some of its guard towers and looked out over the landscape. I could try and describe for you the majesty of the wall and the beauty of the mountains and the valleys, but I would fail. I could show you some of the pictures I took while I was there and you might begin to understand both the majesty and the beauty.
“A picture is worth a thousand words.” There is no better example of that truth, my friends, than the holy inspired Word of our God. The Bible is absolutely filled with pictures— pictures that help us both understand and remember the great truths of the Christian faith. Within the Old Testament Scriptures there is perhaps no better example of that truth than the book of the prophet Isaiah. Do you want to see a picture of the seriousness of sin? “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isaiah 64:6). Do you want to see a picture of God’s forgiveness? “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Do you want to see a picture of the true meaning of the ministry of the Lord’s Messiah— a ministry that would lead Him directly to the cross? “He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). Do you want to see a picture of the true meaning of the Messiah’s empty grave on Easter Sunday? “On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever” (Isaiah 25:7-8).
A picture is indeed worth a thousand words, my friends. As you and I gather together to celebrate this Saints Triumphant Sunday that proverb is proven right here in our text for today. This morning then let’s rejoice as we look at this portion of Scripture under the theme: Isaiah’s Picture of Paradise. Since we simply do not have enough time this morning to cover all the truths contained in Isaiah’s picture of paradise we are going to highlight just three. First, let’s see how Isaiah’s picture of paradise helps us to understand the new home that the Lord God will give to us, His saints. Then let’s see how Isaiah’s picture of paradise helps us to understand the new life that the Lord God will give to us, His saints. Finally, let’s see how Isaiah’s picture of paradise helps us to understand the new relationships that the Lord God will give to us, His saints.
I invite you to look at the opening verses. Isaiah writes, “Behold, I will create a new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever 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.”
Like the apostle Peter (See 2 Peter 3) Isaiah’s picture of paradise includes a new home for God’s saints. Personally, I am convinced that the “new heavens” and the “new earth” that our God will “create” for us, His saints, will in reality be this earth restored to the perfection of paradise— exactly the way it was when the Lord first created it! (See Genesis 1:31) Imagine that picture in your minds, my friends. Imagine what the Garden of Eden must have been like on the seventh day of Creation. Now multiply it a million times over! As the saints of God, as people who have been “washed clean” by the blood of Jesus Christ, we will be living on a restored earth, a perfect earth.
Included in this picture of paradise is the fact that our “new” home will be permeated by perfect joy and perfect delight! Think of all the things that make you sad. Think of all the things that keep you awake at night. Think of all the things that bring sorrow and disappointment into your heart. Think of all the things that cause the “sound of weeping and of crying” in your life. Those are the “former things” that “will not be remembered”! As saints of the living God you will be given a home where joy and delight are always the norm!
Now look at verses 20-23 of our text. As you scan through those verses look at how Isaiah’s picture of paradise helps you to understand the new life which God has in store for you, His saints. In verse 20 Isaiah gives us this picture: “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; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.”
Hardly a week goes by when someone does not say something along the lines of, “Pastor, don’t get old. It is no fun at all!” Many of us have learned from personal experience that the older we get the more difficulties we encounter as we journey through this world. Our physical bodies begin to wear out. Our minds are not as sharp as they once were. Why, my friends? What causes us to become old? What causes illness and disease to ravage our bodies? What causes our mind to become muddled? Ultimately, it is sin, isn’t it? Sin is the root cause of all our problems! In the paradise which our Savior God has in store for us, sin and all the effects of sin are gone— completely and forever! That’s why Isaiah’s picture of paradise includes a new life for God’s saints— a new life that no longer includes illness of any sort, a new life that no longer allows any kind of disease, a new life where death has been “swallowed up forever”!
Now look at verses 21-23. Have you ever failed at something? Have you ever disappointed someone or had someone disappoint you? Have you ever experienced hardship or heartache of any kind? If so, then you will appreciate how Isaiah’s picture of paradise includes a new life for God’s saints— a new life where all of the things I just mentioned no longer exist, a new life where you, God’s saints, will only and always be people who are “blessed by the LORD”— “blessed” in ways that you can not even begin to imagine right now!
The final point included in Isaiah’s picture of paradise is that you, God’s saints, will enjoy new relationships. First Isaiah focuses on our new relationship with the Lord. We know, of course, that even while we are here in this sinful world we have the right to approach God’s eternal throne of grace in prayer at any time and for any reason. We also know that our God has promised to hear and to answer all of our prayers in the way that He knows is best for us. Why? Because we are His dearly beloved children. We are His saints. But try to envision what it will be like in paradise, my friends. Actually we don’t have to try and envision what it will be like, do we! Isaiah reveals how close and how complete our new relationship with the Lord will be when the Lord says in verse 24 of our text, “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.”
That new relationship that you, God’s saints, will have with your Lord will also be perfectly reflected in your new relationship with everything else— including each other! Look at the closing verse of our text. Isaiah writes, “’The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,’ says the LORD.”
In the paradise on the new earth with the new life that the Lord will give to us, His saints, there will be no fear, no animosity and no conflict of any sort. We will live in perfect harmony with all of God’s creation. We will live in perfect harmony with all of God’s saints. Take a moment to savor what that will be like! No anger. No disagreements. No arguing. No bickering. No hurt feelings. No broken hearts. Ever! Peace, harmony, joy laughter, happiness— this will be the hallmark of our new relationship with all of God’s saints! How wondrous that will be!
As we gather together this morning in the Lord’s house to celebrate Saints Triumphant Sunday there are just two more things that I want to emphasize before I close. First of all, let Isaiah’s picture of paradise remind you of what the good Lord has already granted to your loved ones who have been called home to Heaven. The joy and the happiness, the glory and the perfection which they are experiencing right now helps to temper the sadness and the emptiness and the loneliness that you feel because your loved one is no longer by your side.
Secondly, I urge you to stay close to your Lord and Savior through regular use of His holy Word and Sacrament. This is the spiritual food that God Himself has freely given to you to insure that you will always remain one of His saints, one of His saved and forgiven children as you journey through this sinful world. Your status as a saint in the eyes of the one and only true God— the status that was secured for you on the cross of Calvary’s hill (Pointing to the cross) guarantees that both you and your sainted loved ones will inherit the paradise that Isaiah pictures for us here in our text for today, the paradise that our God will make a reality when He returns to this earth at the end of the age.
To God be the glory!