In Mel Gibson’s classic movie, The Passion of the Christ one of the most powerful scenes is towards the end of the film where Jesus is carrying his cross towards Golgotha.
His mother Mary is following with the other women and as Jesus falls down repeatedly, she remembers the times when he fell down and she picked him up as a child. Seeing him falling, she instinctively runs to him to try to come to his aid as she had so many times before. As he is lying there on the ground with the cross pinning him down he looks at her and says, “Woman, I make all things new.”
There is no record of Jesus saying that during his earthly life and ministry but he did speak those words at the end of the Revelation (Revelation 21:5). It is a statement that sums up the totality of the work of Christ and the Father’s purpose in sending him. He was sent by the Father to renew human beings who had been spoiled by sin as well as to give hope that one day the entire earth would be renewed. He came to renew all things so that they are restored; this includes both human beings and the planet to what God originally intended.
Notice that he did not say, “I am making all new things.” That’s how much of the Church world has viewed this statement. For example, Christian teachers have often focused on heaven as the eternal reward of the saints. Middle Age hymns have often portrayed the final state of the saints as disembodied spirits floating in the clouds strumming harps. After all, the earth (and our bodies for that matter) are too polluted to be redeemed in any way. And so, God’s ultimate plan is to take us out of this world and remove us from our bodies where we can be free from corruption and live in eternal bliss.
But that is not at all what Jesus is saying and is portrayed here in Revelation. The New Jerusalem, which John is shown here, is not a picture of heaven but a renewed earth. It is a restoration of the original Eden and the plan of God to make the whole earth a sanctuary. He is making all things new. He has already done that with those men and women that he calls to be partakers of Christ; they are new creations (II Corinthians 5:17) who must now “be renewed in the spirit of their minds” and “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:23-24). Christians still have the same bodies after conversion as well as the same capacities, but they are all renewed in Christ so that they now function in a brand-new way.
One day this process will be completed, our bodies will be resurrected and the earth will be restored to its pristine state prior to the Fall. Indeed, it will be given a greater glory than it had before the Fall as the entire earth will be made the sanctuary of God. In this new order, there will still be familiar things but they will all be made new. For example, we shall still have bodies but they will be glorified so they function without the weakness, disease, and imperfections (including aging) that characterize our bodies now. The earth will remain without any of the decaying effects such as we see now. Everything that we now know shall remain, but without the deadening and disorder that permeates them now. We will still live on earth, but it is a new earth wherein dwells righteousness (II Peter 3:13).