Rev Gareth Burke, Stranmillis Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Belfast
If you have ever visited Belfast City Hall and taken one of the excellent conducted tours that are on offer (free of charge) you will have seen the two chairs upon which King George V and Queen Mary sat on June 22, 1921, when they were opening Northern Ireland’s newly constituted parliament.
I’ve got to confess that, the last time I saw them, they were looking a little shabby, but it appears that they have recently been restored.
When the refurbishment was being carried out, a deep blue silk lining was found within them and experts were able to identify this silk as being of Portuguese origin.
In fact, bizarrely, it was established that these two chairs had belonged to King Manuel II of Portugal. (King Manuel eventually had to flee to England when Portugal became a Republic.)
A strange tale of Portuguese royal chairs that ended up being used by British royalty in Belfast.
I’m keen to see the refurbished chairs. I imagine that they will look similar, yet different, to the way I remember them.
Similar, but different. The Bible tells us that, when Jesus returns, He will create “the new Heavens and the new Earth’ (2 Peter 3 and Rev 21).
Similar, but different. The Greek word translated as "new” ("kainos”) in our English versions is an interesting one. It doesn’t necessarily mean brand new, but is more akin to our word “refurbished”.
The truth that is being set before us is that the "new Heavens and new Earth”, which Jesus will create on His return, will be new in the sense that it will be free from all the effects of the Fall (Genesis 3) and of sin. There will be no pain, no tears, no sorrow, no sin.
But yet it will be similar. Similar in the sense that it will be a physical creation akin to the original pre-Fall world of which we read in Genesis 1 and 2.
Similar, also, in the sense that we who love the Lord will be there in our perfected and recognisable bodies. But different in that we will no longer be struggling against the world, the flesh and the devil.
All will be glorious. Sin will be absent. We, who are trusting in Jesus, will be eternally rejoicing in our Saviour and never growing weary of being in His presence.