When, then, will all things finally be made new? When Jesus Christ returns to judge the living and the dead.
Have you ever seen Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ”? There’s a scene in the movie where Mary, seeing her precious Son fall under the weight of the Cross, rushes over to Him, hoping to scoop Him up in her arms and comfort Him as she did when He was a child. “I am here,” she calls out to Him. Then Jesus – face bloodied and swollen – gently touches her face, looks into her eyes, and says, “See, Mother. I make all things new.”
We are accustomed to pointing to Christ’s Passion and death as the moment when He saves the world—that is, “makes all things new.” And we should — it is true, in a very real sense. However, it doesn’t tell us the whole story. From the Incarnation, to the Passion, to the Resurrection, to the Ascension, to Pentecost, to the Second Coming of Christ, each of the great mysteries of Christ plays a part in His work of “making all things new.” In this article, we will briefly examine the meaning of each of these events, before explaining how the final (often-forgotten) mystery, the Second Coming of Jesus, should help to strengthen our Christian discipleship and make us better evangelists.
The Transformation of Human Nature in the Incarnation, Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ
In becoming man, Jesus Christ took on our human nature, in such a way as to become “like us in all ways except sin.” He lived a life like any of us. He was born of a mother, and lived his life through the stages of infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. He worked, he prayed, he engaged in leisure. He experienced both joy and hardship. He did this so He could restore our nature to the fullness of life that it had lost through sin. And in doing so, He established a certain bond with each human person, and so accomplished the beginnings of that restoration.
Then, as a man, He suffered and died. By the Cross He took upon His own shoulders the weight of sin and conquered it by the power of His divine sacrificial love. After having conquered sin, He was glorified by the Resurrection, communicating His immortal life to our human nature. Then, by His Ascension to God’s right hand, He exalted it to its earlier state of co-reigning with God.
The Renewal of Human Beings by the Gift of the Holy Spirit
So far, so good. But what’s missing? In all this, so far the renewal of humanity remains primarily in the human nature of Jesus Himself, and has not been communicated to ours. To understand how we ourselves are renewed, we have to go all the way back to the beginning, to the opening chapters of Genesis when God created man. Jesus “makes all things new” by inaugurating a new creation. In Chapter 2 of Genesis, “God formed man of dust from the ground,” but it was not until he “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” that man “became a living being.” The Hebrew word for “breath” in this passage is ruah, which also means “spirit.” By this we know that when God breathed into man to make him a “living being,” it was his own Spirit that he put into him.
We cannot be restored to new life until Christ breathes on us with the “breath” of His Spirit.
We cannot be restored to new life until Christ breathes on us with the “breath” of His Spirit (See Jn 20:22; also CCC, sec. 705). Jesus’ great masterwork is not completed with His Incarnation, Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension. After these comes Pentecost, when the Lord pours out the gift of the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the victory He accomplished in our flesh. The moment when Christ pours out His Spirit is the moment when the breath of divine life restores us to grace and brings us to life once more. By it, we are renewed by the grace of God, and become members of the Body of Christ and Temples of the Holy Spirit.
Growth Toward Perfection in the Church
But we’re not done yet. Christ’s work of building a new creation remains incomplete. The stage has been set, but we, the Church, have not yet experienced the fullness of salvation. We’ve received the “first installment” of our redemption, but not yet the whole thing. We walk by faith, not by sight. We still have to allow the Lord to complete our transformation and give us eternal life (see Romans 6:22). We still have to become worthy instruments of God for the salvation of others; so that by our holiness, prayer, and witness, we might bring more of the human race into the ambit of the Church so that they, too, can receive the Holy Spirit, be transformed, and find eternal life.
In other words, the gift of the Spirit admits of growth. We receive the Spirit through faith and the sacraments, and must walk the Way of Jesus in this world, and let the Lord continue to “make all things new” in us, including that we become instruments of Him for the redemption of others, and build up the Church.
The Second Coming of Christ
When, then, will all things finally be made new? When Jesus Christ returns to judge the living and the dead. Then, when He has judged the world, brought into being the “new heavens and new earth,” and inaugurated the eternal Kingdom — then, and only then, will His work be complete. In fact, we get that phrase “make all things new” from Revelation chapter 21 verse 5, where the context is the Last Judgment and the New Creation that follows it.
Looking Ahead to the Second Coming
As the last of a series of saving mysteries, which brings the New Creation to its completion, the Second Coming of Christ is obviously very important. We proclaim our faith in it in the Creed at Mass:
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end. … I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
But most of us neglect to think about it. Primarily, we are focused on this world. Sure, we think about our hope for heaven from time-to-time. But how often do we look ahead to the universe-shaking event where Christ Jesus will come on the clouds of heaven, raise all men bodily from the dead, separate the sheep from the goats, and create a “new heavens and new earth, in which justice reigns”?
Looking ahead to the Second Coming is essential to a healthy spiritual life, and it makes us better evangelists. How is this the case? Let’s look at the three main elements of this event: the last judgment, the resurrection of the body, and the new heavens and new earth.
The Last Judgment
On Judgment Day at the end of the world, Christ will come in glory to achieve the definitive triumph of good over evil which, like the wheat and the tares, have grown up together in the course of history.cCC 681
In “the particular judgment,” those of us who die before the return of the Lord will begin to experience our eternal reward even before the resurrection of the body. But when Jesus comes again in glory, the good and the wicked will be resurrected, and the truth of each man’s deeds and omissions will be laid bare before all. Likewise, the saving work of the Lord — His triumph over all evil — will be made clear, and acknowledged by all.
Looking ahead to this time has two basic purposes: (1) to call ourselves to deeper conversion lest we be found wanting at the judgment, and (2) to increase our hope that God and those who love Him will ultimately be vindicated before the world as evil is completely defeated. Both of these will strengthen us to persevere in the faith amid the distractions and hardships of this world.
The Resurrection of the Body
We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives for ever, so after death the righteous will live for ever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day. Our resurrection, like his own, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity.CCC 989
Though all, the just and the wicked, will be bodily raised at Christ’s second coming, that event will be glorious salvation only for the just. Looking forward to it with hope strengthens us to endure any difficulty for Christ — up to and including death — because we know that if we persevere in Christ, God will restore our bodies and make them spiritual and deathless.
New Heavens and New Earth
This mysterious renewal, … will transform humanity and the world … It will be the definitive realization of God’s plan to bring under a single head “all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth.” …
Those who are united with Christ will form the community of the redeemed, “the holy city” of God, “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” She will not be wounded any longer by sin, stains, self-love, that destroy or wound the earthly community. The beatific vision, in which God opens himself in an inexhaustible way to the elect, will be the ever-flowing well-spring of happiness, peace, and mutual communion.CCC 1043, 1045
Like the other aspects of Christ’s Second Coming, looking ahead to the “new heavens and new earth” gives us hope and strengthens us to live and persevere in the Faith until the end. In a particular way, anticipating the renewal of all creation in Christ gives us hope and strength in the face of the evils and sufferings of the world. Sin, death, and the devil will not have the last word, for “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21.4 DRA).
Likewise, in the new creation, unrepentant sinners will be excluded from entering the Holy City, and their lot shall be the lake of fire (Rev. 21.8, 27). In this, too, there is hope, because in excluding the wicked from salvation, those who refuse to be rid of the evil within them will no longer be allowed to oppress others and poison the world.
The Second Coming and Evangelization
In hoping in the Second Coming of Christ, we are having hope that God will bring about the fulfillment of all the faithful works of charity, intercession, and evangelization that we undertake in this world.
How does all this relate to our work of evangelization? Readers of this blog will already know that when our discipleship is strengthened, so is our fittingness as instruments of salvation for others. When we are more faithful, more persevering, with minds more fixed on things of heaven, then we will be more fruitful as a living witness to the things in which we hope. And in hoping in the Second Coming of Christ, we are having hope that God will bring about the fulfillment of all the faithful works of charity, intercession, and evangelization that we undertake in this world. But the stronger our belief in the fulfillment of our works, the more likely we will be to perform such works. Likewise, the dual outcome of the Last Judgment (heaven and hell) will motivate us to evangelize, that the doors of the heavenly Jerusalem might be open to more people, who will thereby be delivered from being cast into the lake of fire.
The next time you watch “The Passion of the Christ,” think about Our Lord’s words to His mother: “See, Mother. I make all things new.” Think about His work of renewing His creation, how it begins in His Incarnation; is fulfilled in His Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension; communicated to human beings in Pentecost and the Church; and finally completed in the Second Coming of Christ. Reflect upon the mysteries of our salvation, and then believe, adore, hope, and love the Lord; for His mercy endures forever.