Summary: When Lions Eat Straw 1) We shall see a new heaven and a new earth 2) We shall never cry again 3) We shall live in everlasting harmony
The American author John Steinbeck was once told by his English professor that he would become a published author “when pigs fly.” As far as that professor was concerned, Steinbeck’s chances of writing a decent book were as good as the chances of a pig somehow sprouting wings and taking flight. But as it turned out Steinbeck did write popular books like Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden. On all the books that he published he included the Latin phrase: ad astra per alia porci (to the stars on the wings of a pig).
Flying pigs would indeed be a strange sight. In fact if you saw such a phenomenon, you would believe anything possible. Although our text doesn’t talk about flying pigs, it does speak about a time when lions will no longer devour zebras and wildebeests but eat straw like an ox. When this strange phenomenon happens Christians shall see a new heaven and a new earth, we shall never cry again, and we shall live in everlasting harmony. It sounds too good to be true but it isn’t.
Our text was written by the prophet Isaiah who lived about 700 years before Christ. He witnessed to an Israelite nation who had, by in large, rejected God. The Lord said through Isaiah: “I will destine you for the sword and you will all bend down for the slaughter; for I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen. You did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me” (Isaiah 65:12). God was fed up with the Israelites and was going to punish them. Still he had kept a small group of Israelites faithful to him. To these believers God spoke words of comfort. Though they were surrounded by the wicked and their land was about to be run over by the Assyrians and then later the Babylonians, God had something wonderful planned for them. He said: “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17a).
God was looking far into the future, to a time when his Son returns to judge the world. After the believers have been separated from the unbelievers, Jesus will make a new heaven and a new earth. No, after Judgment Day, heaven will not be in the heavens anymore. “Heaven,” the place where glorified believers will live forever with God, will be a new earth with a new sky. Contrary to the pictures you’ve seen, you probably won’t be sitting around on a cloud playing a harp in eternity; you’re more likely to be walking on grass like Adam and Eve did in the original paradise, the Garden of Eden.
But since God hasn’t given us many details of what this new world will be like it’s best not to speculate. What God does tell us is that in the new world, “The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17b).Veterans who now carry with them the horrific images of war will no longer wake in the middle of the night because bomb blasts invaded their dreams again. All the dumb comments we’ve made, all the shameful and foolish things we did in our youth, none of those failings will come to mind ever again. What’s even better is that God won’t remember them! That’s why we don’t have to be afraid of Judgment Day. On that day God is not going to recount all the sins we’ve committed while everyone else listens. That file will be sealed and destroyed. In fact right now God constantly tosses the record of our sins into a vat of Jesus’ blood, as it were, where they dissolve like grains of salt in water.
But what about loved ones that don’t end up on this new earth with us? Won’t we be sad when we think about them? Listen to what God said in our text: “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” (Isaiah 65:19). I don’t know how God is going to take away the sting of a loved one not being there on that new earth with us, but he will do that because there will be no sorrow on the new earth. Perhaps God will selectively erase our memory and it just won’t occur to us that a loved one is missing. Or, more probably, those memories won’t cause pain because our thoughts will be in total harmony with God’s thoughts. We will fully understand and rejoice at God’s righteous judgment as much as we’ll rejoice at his saving love. This may be too difficult for us to comprehend now but we have God’s word that nothing will make us sad in that wonderful place.