4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens— 5 and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, 6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground— 7 the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” 
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” 
As consumers of media, I wonder how much any of us pay attention to the advertising phrase “new and improved”? Slightly changing formulas of anything from medications to laundry soaps allows corporations to retain exclusive property rights to their products, and it suggests to consumers that the product is somehow better. Never mind that you might get less laundry detergent for a higher price and notice no change in its stain-fighting power. That’s okay because it’s “new and improved.” Newer is always better. The old detergent is SO 15 minutes ago.
So, when God the Father speaks for the last time in Revelation in this passage to promise he is making everything new it’s easy for us to pass over that promise. We hear it blaring out of speakers all around us all the time. What does it mean for all things to become new? Will there be more changes throughout eternity to make things even newer? Will God keep changing the formula for life, the universe, and everything just to keep his consumers satisfied?
In chapter 21, John describes the New World Order Jesus’ brings about using four images: a bride; a city; a temple; and a garden. We looked at the bride, the temple, and the city last week. Next week we’ll revisit those images in greater detail. Then, in chapter 22, we will see the eternal garden of God. Our text this morning teaches us that the four images of the consummated kingdom are given to illustrate for discouraged believers that God alone is the source of truth and life. He blesses the overcomers, providing for their every need, and he banishes the make believers.
Verse 5 begins, “And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” God directs a message to his people several times in this great letter (v. 3; 1:8; 16:1, 17), but this is the last time that he speaks directly. He sums up his nature, his work of redemption, and his work of judgment. These four verses show us God as he is and as we will see him at the end of the age: The God of truth, the God of life, and the God of justice. For believers oppressed by the world, the flesh, and the devil, God’s speech is intended to be the meat of comfort sandwiched between dramatic new-earth imagery drawn from Old Testament themes.
The history of human civilization is a record of one failed human scheme after another to make a new and improved world. The great Joni Mitchell wrote in her 1969 classic, Woodstock:
We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden.
Ever since Adam and Eve replaced God’s law with their self-interest, humans have futilely sought to recover that which they innately know has been lost. We have a hardwired sense of perfection without the ability to accomplish that for which we long. The Preacher wrote in Eccl. 3:11 God “has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” Man seeks to get himself back to the garden, to create his own utopia through education, legislation, adjudication, pacification, and every kind of engineered environment imaginable. All attempts eventually fail because sin is a congenital condition that only God in Christ Jesus can wipe out. What man proposes as “new and improved” cannot fill human longing for perfection. The solution cannot be found among mankind. It comes from outside of us.
God announces, “I am making all things new.” This is the glorious redemptive plan Christ fulfills. One scholar says this is, “one of the most important verses in Revelation.” Chapter 21 uses quite a few colors borrowed from the prophet Isaiah’s palate. Verse 5 alludes to Isa. 43:19 and 66:22. Isa. 43:19 reads:
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. 
In Isa. 66:22 God promises:
“As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure.” 
Isa. 65:17 reads:
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.”
In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul sees Isaiah’s new creation prophecies being fulfilled in the earthly Church by Messiah’s death and resurrection. Paul isn’t simply saying that all believers themselves become separate new creations, but together they are becoming THE new creation – God’s redeemed people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Here, in Revelation, is the consummation of the entire new creation: the church triumphant and the renewed heaven and renewed earth. In our present time, the Church Militant (the church on earth) is becoming a new creation. But at the end of this present age, absolutely everything will be made new by God – not “new and improved,” but completely different in kind – perfect and in need of no future upgrades. All things new is God’s final purpose of creation.
WORDS OF TRUTH
YHWH commands John, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” The truth of Christ’s message in Revelation was crucial for the believers of Roman Asia in John’s day as they were shunned by neighbors and excluded from making a living. Some would have to sacrifice their lives rather than submit to worship of the Roman emperor and Rome’s demon gods. John himself was banished from his congregation, exiled on Patmos. How could they know what they suffered for is true? This is God’s answer to his people: his words are faithful [valid] and true. God swears by himself, for there is no one greater by whom to swear. St Author of Hebrews explained:
Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.
Because God declares it, it is absolutely certain to happen; he does not, cannot lie. He makes no mistakes, needs no backup plan, and is never shocked by any event because he has already decreed absolutely everything. The events foretold in the Apocalypse are already fully established. “6 And he said to me, ‘It is done!’”  Literally, God says, “They have become reality.” The term doesn’t come from the verb to do but from the verb to become. In 16:7, it was spoken when the seven angels poured out plagues of judgment to promise the certainty of God’s judgment upon all rejecting him. Now it is spoken again to demonstrate the equal certainty of blessing.
God the Father can declare the reality of his plan because God the Son cried out on Calvary’s cross, “It has been finished!” (Jn. 19:30) when, as the Lamb of God, he shed his blood as complete and perfect payment for the sins of his people. Those who reject Christ’s free offer exist in the sure and certain reality of God’s judgment. Those who trust into the perfect life and sacrificial death of the resurrected Messiah exist in the sure and certain reality of his blessing despite present appearances. God’s purposes in redemption and judgment are as certain as if they have already been completely fulfilled. “God is standing at the end of history, speaking to John in the midst of history to declare a future that is already certain.”
FREE DRINKS (FAMILY ONLY)
God’s faithfulness and truth are so because, he says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” We have seen this, and similar titles, claimed by both God the Father and God the Son in 1:8 and 1:17 (see: Isa. 41:4; 44:6; and 48:12). Both Father and Son, being of the same essence and divine nature, possess the same absolute sovereignty. You might recall that “Alpha” and “Omega” are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. You might also recall that this kind of phrase is called a mirism – a poetic way of expressing not only the polar opposites, but everything in between. These titles express God’s decree of all things that have happened and shall happen in the universe – all things in your life and mine; all things from the most minute movement of sub-atomic particles to global politics to imploding stars in the most distant galaxy.
What would God’s title of Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end have meant to struggling Christians in 1st-century Roman Asia? What should it mean to you and me? It means that nothing, including our suffering is outside of his perfect plan. Nothing is an accident. It means that when the Lord thwarts MY plans, and MY goals, and MY demands, HE is blessing me. It means, more often than I realize, that getting MY way can function as his discipline since my flesh is pumped with “I-know-what’s-best-for-me” self-confidence. Those who truly believe God is the Alpha and the Omega, SHOULD be those most content, least-contentious, least-complaining, least-frustrated, least-angry people in the world.
The persecuted believers of John’s day had no choice to but trust God. Those not facing such refining fires in their communities (like those in lukewarm Laodicea, or those corrupted in Thyatira) are far more drawn to self-dependence and idolatry. So, here’s your pastoral question today: Is God your Alpha and the Omega right here, right now? Are you resting in him? Are you Jesus-dependent or self-dependent? How about this test? If you are angry, frustrated, mad, or bitter over anything in your life right now you are worshipping an idol and not the Beginning and the End, the sovereign Lord your God.
What God promises to his people is SO much better than us getting our own way or having all our felt needs fulfilled. He promises, “To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” The bible says because of our inherited condition of Adam’s sin, we can NEVER get ourselves back to the garden. We can never cure our fundamental illness. We cannot quench our hard-wired thirst for the perfect. The prophet Jeremiah pictured man’s condition like this:
For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.
As in the Garden of Eden where God made a river so abundant it separated into four great rivers, flowing water is a picture of eternal, perfect life with God. The great tragedy of the world is that men and women reject God’s offer of living water and avoid him as much as possible. They actively flee from the great free offer of life. “To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” It is a free drink from the spring of his own eternal vitality and being. Every other attempt to satisfy that sense of eternity and that longing for the perfect that gnaws inside you and parches your soul is futile. Your attempts to earn what God freely offers will leave you unsatisfied, unrestored, uncomfortable, and aggrieved.
But Jesus calls:
If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.
God offers through Messiah Jesus everything the parched soul needs to have eternal life with God in the eternal, new garden he himself will bring to his people. Imagine owning the rights to the only refreshing spring in a desert for hundreds of miles around. The person who owned such a spring could make a fortune selling water rights. But God, in his unfathomable love for people who would rather reject him and be parched, offers the waters of life freely because of the one-way love of his generous heart.
What kinds of people does God welcome to his spring of living water? Must they embark on some holy quest? Are there are certain number of good deeds or rituals to perform? Is there some minimum suggested donation to make? No. We come to God not with our feet or hands, but with our aching thirst and our honest desire for him to quench it. Our trust into him receives the gift of his one-way love in Christ. We receive the free gift of Christ’s life lived perfectly. His perfection is deposited into our spiritual bank account. And we receive the free gift of Jesus’ shed blood. His death paid the price of sin. God’s spring of living water offers free drinks for everyone who will but come and ask.
But God is not simply the God of free drinks for everybody. He is also a God of perfect justice. Those who refuse his offer to pay for their many acts of rebellion in thoughts, words, and deeds cannot and will not enter into his garden-temple. For them, there is only God present in all his wrath against sin. Only those who trust into the perfect life and sacrificial death of Jesus can and will overcome this sojourn through this parched and weary land of sin. So, verse 8, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” 
Now, you might hear that list and think it simply describes all those “other people” – those “bad people” who don’t come to church. Remember, this letter is written TO CHURCHES in Roman Asia. It’s for people inside the church. All eight all eight classes of people mentioned in these verses refer to professing, church-going people who chose to represent themselves as worshippers of Caesar and the demon-gods of the Roman pantheon so they wouldn’t subject themselves to rejection in their businesses, or have their neighbors shun them, or face official government persecution.  That’s why the first class of sinner on this list is the cowardly, who “fear danger and flee the consequences of confessing the name of Jesus. They are the people whom John describes as leaving us but not belonging to us (1 John 2:19).” The faithless are those who allow the pressure to conform to the life of the world, the flesh, and the devil to draw them into agnosticism and skepticism. They simply aren’t sure if God’s words are faithful and true as God promised in verse 5.
The vile or detestable “are those who have joined in the detestable and unholy ritual of emperor worship. They are successors to the idolatrous Israelites who ‘consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved’ (Hos 9:10; cf. Exod. 5:21; Titus 1:16; Rev 17:4ff.)” Also on the list are sorcerers. “The Greek term pharmakoi is where we get our English word pharmacy (22:15; and related words in 9:21; 18:23). The word here means the use of drugs to cast spells for practicing witchcraft and deceiving the people (Exod. 22:18; Lev. 20:6, 27). Drugs or no, any attempt to manipulate spirits or people to achieve your own wants and demands is sorcery or witchcraft. God must and shall punish all who reject his free offer of living water in favor of their own attempts to achieve their best life now. Pouring your life into pursuing your own version of happiness is idolatry. Denying God’s free offer of citizenship in his perfect eternal kingdom is being a liar, exchanging God’s truth of salvation in Christ Jesus for the lie of self-sufficiency.
At the end of this present age, all will see God sitting enthroned. Every human being will face him as the arbiter of their final destiny. God calls every person to be reconciled to him by trusting into his free offer of the water of life in and through Christ Jesus. There is not one of us who cannot be found among those people doing bad stuff in verse 8. But those trusting into Christ for his perfect righteousness and perfect payment for sin, will enter into God’s great garden oasis to live with him face-to-face as his beloved children because their verse-8 list of sins has been paid for by Messiah Jesus. But for those who reject Christ’s payment, “their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” 
This morning, God’s people, his church, and God the Holy Spirit by and through is Word preached, call to you with God’s offer of free drinks for everyone:
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. 
 Kistemaker and Hendriksen, 558.
 Phillips, 619.
 Joanie Mitchell, Woodstock. © 1969; Siquomb Publishing Company.
 Kistemaker and Hendriksen, op. cit.
 Kistemaker and Hendriksen, 559.
 Phillips, 620.
 Phillips, 624.
 Mounce, 386.
 Kistemaker and Hendriksen, 561.
 Mounce, 386–387.