“A time is coming and has now come.” — Jesus speaking to the Samaritan Woman in John 4:23.
When Jesus was speaking to the Samaritan woman as recorded by John, He was referring to a prophecy written by Jeremiah; a dream from God that Jeremiah had. In Jeremiah 31, Jeremiah mentioned three promises from God. Each promise beginning with, “the days are coming” (Jeremiah 31:27, 31, 38). Each promise leading to the next, cumulating into one grand covenantal promise God is preparing for His people. These three promises are as follows:
- God will watch over them, plant them, and build them up (Jeremiah 31:28),
- God will put His law in the minds of His people; writing them in their hearts. God will be their God and they will be their people. All people will know God and there is no longer the need to teach one’s neighbour about the Lord. God will forgive everyone’s wickedness and remember their sins no more (Jeremiah 31:33-34), and
- God will rebuild the city of Jerusalem. Even the whole valley where dead bodies and ashes were thrown, and all the terraces out to the Kidron valley will be Holy to Him. This new city will never again be uprooted or demolished (Jeremiah 31:38-40).
From the surface, it appears that these promises are only for the people of Israel. After all, God did mention to Jeremiah in the earlier part of the chapter about how much He loved His beloved firstborn son, Ephraim (Jeremiah 31:9), and His daughter Israel (Jeremiah 31:22). However, when we read Jeremiah 31 along with John 4, we will realise that Jeremiah 31 isn’t all about Israel or Ephraim. Jesus tells us that, “a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (John 4:23). Worship, therefore, will no longer be “on this mountain nor in Jerusalem” (John 4:21). Rather, worship will be done in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24).
Such a revelation changes the entire paradigm of the covenant in Jeremiah 31. On the surface, we see God watching over the geographical location of Jerusalem and sanctifying even the most unclean places of the city (the graveyards). But when we superimpose the revelation of Spirit and Truth of John 4 into the context of Jeremiah 31, we see that “Jerusalem” now take on a whole new spiritual connotation. “Jerusalem” now no longer refer the geographical location, but the collective hearts of the worshipper. When we read the text as such, we realise that the covenant of Jeremiah 31 is an ongoing covenant of sanctification, sanctifying every hearts of the believers; even the most sinful corners of our hearts where the “dead bodies and ashes were thrown” will be made “Holy to Him”.
I am unsure about the part where God tells Jeremiah that there will be no longer the need to teach one’s neighbour about the Lord because everyone will know Him (Jeremiah 31:34). Does that mean that there is no longer the need to evangelise? Does that refer to the opening of everyone’s spiritual eyes and hence, the eradications of all forms of idol worship? I don’t think so. John tells us in Revelations 22:11 that even when Eden was restored, “the one who does wrong [will] continue to do wrong and the vile person [will] continue to be vile”. In this context, it appears that all of humanity would have seen Christ in all His glory. The only difference between the groups of people are their decision to do good or to do bad. Coming back to the context of Jeremiah 31:34, it appears that Jeremiah might be referring to this period of Biblical history where Christ has shown Himself to everyone, dead and alive.
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” — Revelations 21:1-4, NIV.
The New Covenant that God commanded Jeremiah to write down mirrors the vision John saw on the Island of Patmos. In John’s vision, the “new Jerusalem” is the “new heaven and new earth”. It is the “bride” who was “beautifully dressed for her husband”. This parallels the Old Covenant that Israel broke with the Lord; the covenant where God “was a husband to them” (Jeremiah 31:32). In this “new heaven and new earth”, God will dwell personally with His bride. At this time, “the former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17), because the darkest corners of the human heart would have been completely sanctified; cleansed and made Holy.
In both the narrative of Revelations 21-22 and Isaiah 65, we see the “new heaven and new earth” as a physical location; a physical entity that comes down out of heaven. But in John 4, John also reminded us that “the time is coming and has now come”. In other words, this “new heaven and new earth” is now amongst us; on earth — the old earth.
In the discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus, we were introduced to the “kingdom of God”. Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again (or born from above)” (John 3:3, NIV). Jesus added, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5, NIV). Can this “kingdom of God” be the “new heaven and new earth” that has descended from heaven? Can this glorious “new Jerusalem” that spans 2200KM in length, breadth, and height, be truly among us now? Are there truly “no more death or mourning or crying or pain” in this invisible kingdom that can only be seen by those who are born again? How do we explain all the heartbreaks, all the hurt, all the sufferings, that God’s people are enduring despite being baptised in the Name of Christ and are “born again”?
Is the “kingdom of God” truly among us? Is the time truly here? Or is the prophecy reserved for a time that has not yet come?
Now, the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and God will always speak the truth. So let us arm ourselves with the eyes of the Spirit to observe this Kingdom of God in the world we live in.Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay
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