"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be nor more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away'" (Revelation 21:1-4).
I remember a song from when I was a kid called "This Aint Dallas" by Hank Williams Jr. The song is written from the perspective of a husband coming down on his wife for wanting to live like the folks on TV shows like Dallas or Dynasty. The song was kind of funny back then, though I doubt I could stomach it today. But the song makes a good point. We have to live in reality, not in the TV world. (It's kind of ironic that folks would rather watch "reality" on TV now than the made up TV world, but that's a thought for another time and place.)
As I look at the real world all around me, I can't help but be brought to the brink of despair. There is so much evil in the world. There is so much evil in my own heart. There is so much evil in the hearts of my friends. In the course of living out our lives, we can't seem to help making messes. Some of the messes we make are small and easy to clean up. Maybe we get caught doing something we aren't supposed to. Maybe we neglect something we shouldn't have. A simple repentance and perhaps restitution, and the mess disappears. Other messes are huge and require a lot of time and effort to repair. Maybe we make a series of bad decisions that puts us in a tremendous hole. Climbing out may require drastic measures. Then there are those messes that seem like, or are irreparable in this life. Sometimes we do things that we will regret for the rest of our lives in some way. Maybe one night of fun results in a life-shortening disease, or a divorce.
Thinking about the messes of life can indeed be discouraging, especially if we're right in the middle of one. When we make a mess, our first instinct is usually to clean it up quickly and completely. It can be downright miserable to have to face a mess every day that we can't clean up no matter how hard we try. Who wants to live in their messes? But sometimes we're forced to.
That's when the text above comes into sharp focus. Hank Williams Jr. might say it like this, "This aint Heaven." This is the realm where we are still allowed to run rampant with our own sinfulness, sickness, foolishness, and enslavements. This is the realm where those sins, sicknesses, bad decisions and idols thrash the living daylight out of us. When King David sinned with Bathsheba, he made a mess that couldn't be cleaned up in this life. The man after God's own heart, writer of the most sublime words of worship, made a mess that would cost him his family, his peace, his health, and his reputation. But the one thing it wouldn't cost him was his eternity. His eternity was in the hands of God. David was forced to live with his mess here on earth, and suffer the consequences of his idolatry. But this aint Heaven.
There will come a day when David, along with all those who belong to Jesus Christ will see firsthand what John saw - the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. On that day God himself will wipe away tears and pain and death and mourning. Why? Because this former order of things, in which man is left to make his messes, will be completely redeemed and re-created. Heaven is the place where big messes are cleaned up alongside the small ones.
While we wait for that blessed day, let us rest on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, when we continue to make messes we find difficult to clean up. For God's good purposes, he has chosen to leave us here in the filth for a time, rather than take us immediately to Heaven. So we can strive all we can to live like we're there. But when we mess up, we must immediately realize "This aint Heaven."