New Heaven and New Earth

Today we are intending to discuss an apocalyptic incident.
This will happen after the rapture of saints, the Millennium rule of Jesus on this earth and just after the Great White Throne Judgment.
All these incidents are spoken of in the gospels, epistles of the apostles and are seen in a vision by Apostle John.
He has recorded it in the book of Revelation.

Here in this study, I am not giving any fresh or new interpretations to the scripture, but we are only explaining the scripture as we have received it.
This is my usual method of teaching the scripture.
I am not concerned with the traditional understanding of the scripture and is not after any new interpretations.
I believe what is written in the scripture and I always aim to explain the scripture for lay men.

This study may cover up mainly three questions:

1.      What is the new heaven and new earth?
2.      What is the nature of the new heaven and earth
3.      Who are permitted to live there?

To begin the discussion let us read the passage from the book of Revelation.

Revelation 21:1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.  (NKJV)

The verse conveys to us three important information:

1.      The first heaven and the first earth had passed away
2.      There is a new heaven and a new earth
3.      There is no more sea in the new earth

Revelation 20:11 speaks of the great White Throne and Jesus Christ seated in it to judge and punish all human souls who are not with him already.
The verse says that as the King sat on the throne of judgment, “the earth and the heaven fled away”.
From this we may assume that earth and heaven fled away, because they could not stand in the glory of Christ.
But the verse also says us that, “And there was found no place for them”.
That means, the earth and heaven was not removed to a distant place, for a short time, but they ceased to exist; they were no more. 
And this happened not at His command, not by power, but by the bare presence of his Majesty.

What is heaven and earth?

Before we move further into the study, it will be good to understand the terms earth and heaven as used in the above verse.
The Bible speaks of three heavens.

1.   The first is the atmosphere around the earth.
2.   The second is sphere of the sun moon and stars
3.   The third heaven is the dwelling place of God.

However all three of them will not pass away.
The Scripture makes it clear that sin entered only into the first and second heaven, not into the realm of God. God's realm was untouched by sin and remains perfect.
The physical universe, however, is corrupt with sin and has to be renewed.
Therefore it is the first and second heaven that will be changed. 

In Matthew 5:34, 6:10 and 6:20, Jesus used the term ‘heaven’ as the dwelling place and throne of God.
There are more passages where the word ‘heaven’ is used to denote the dwelling place of God.
At the same time the word ‘heaven’ and ‘heavens’ were used by the Hebrew people to refer to the skies and outer space also.
Thus Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:2 speaks of “the third heaven”.
The Old Testament has no term that directly translates as "universe".
Isaiah 65:17 speaks of new heavens to mean the universe that we are living or about the visible sky and outer space above us.
That means, the phrase "heavens and earth" was the Hebrew way of referring to the universe they knew and to refer the dwelling place of God.
So we have to understand the term by its context.

In Revelation 20 and 21 and in 2 Peter 3: 7 &13, the words ‘heavens’ and heaven is used to denote the space of the sky and stars above us.
They are said to be dissolved and renewed by the end time, these words in the context is not referring to the dwelling place of God. It is about the outer world we see above us.

Hebrews 12: 26, 27
26   whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven."
 27 Now this, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.  (NKJV)

These verses denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things.
And that those things which cannot be shaken may remain the same.
Heaven, God’s abode remain eternal and cannot be shaken.

The earth that passes away is the earth that we live now.
Our earth was created originally for angels and they dwelled here.
But because they rebelled under the leadership of Lucifer, they were chased out of it and God covered the earth with darkness and water.
We do not know how long it remained thus.
Then God decided to renew or recreate the earth and Holy Spirit brooded over it for a long time.
Then by His Word, God created this earth.
The Bible starts its narration with the recreation or renewal of the earth.
There is no clear and direct explanation to the history before the creation story narrated in the book of Genesis.
We are assuming by joining pieces of references and hints available in the scripture to create the history of this earth before Genesis.
And even after the Genesis story of creation, the earth was once again destroyed by water during the time of Noah.
The earth that emerged out of that water was a different one in many aspects.
Thus we now live in a post flood earth, on an earth that was renewed by water and through water.
Revelation tells us that this earth has an end and it will pass away.

How shall the earth end?

With these basic concepts about heaven and earth, let us move forward to the study.
In Revelation 20 and 21, John says that the present earth and heaven will pass away and their place cannot be traced after that.
But John does not tell us how this would happen.
Isaiah 65:17 also speaks of “new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.”
Here, the writer does not say what will happen to the present earth or how the present earth and heaven will end.
In Matthew 24:35, Jesus also tells us that the "Heaven and earth will pass away”. But He does not say how it will happen.
But the scripture is not leaving us in total darkness about. We have a wonderful revelation about it in the epistle of Peter.
Peter says that this heaven and earth is doomed for fire.

2 Peter 3:7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.  (NKJV)

2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.  (NKJV)

Let us sum up the whole argument presented by Peter.
The present heavens and earth in which we live now is doomed by God for fire.
On that day heavens and earth will pass away with a great noise, and the elements of earth and heavens will melt with fervent heat.
Peter very clearly tells here that the very elements of earth and the works are in it will be burned up.
That means, not only the outer crust of earth, but every elements of earth, every works in it will be burned up.
Again in verse 12, Peter tells us that the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire and the elements will melt with fervent heat.
And according to Peter, new heavens and new earth will appear where righteousness dwells.

Though Peter is not sure how a new heaven and earth will be created, he is precisely clear about the end of this earth and the outer space above us.
It will be burned up by fire, dissolved and disappear.
And Apostle John says that it will happen as soon as Christ sits on the White throne of Judgment.

The new heaven and new earth

When Revelation 21:1 refers to the new heavens, it is likely indicating that the entire universe will be recreated or renewed as a new earth, new skies and a new outer space.
As we said already, the present heaven and earth will give way to the new heaven and earth.
There is difference of opinion among theologians as to when this renewal will happen.
There are those who believe the universal restoration will occur when Christ returns and sets up His Millennial kingdom, the thousand year reign on the earth.
But Revelation 20:11 fixes the time of the dissolution of the earth and heaven.

Revelation 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. (NKJV)

This will come after the Millennium. 
John repeats the story of the dissolution of heaven and earth in chapter 21 and there he adds a new information about the appearance of the new heaven and earth.

Since this is a Bible study, let us pause here for a while to discuss about the continuity of the old and the new earth.
Some apocalyptic writers had thought that the present earth would merely be transformed.
There are some others who think that the present heaven and earth will pass away and in its place a new heaven and earth will be created.
John does not describe the process of destruction and recreation.
Peter spoke about the process of destruction, but he is silent about the process of creation of the new earth.
And Hebrews 12:27 also speaks about “the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.”
Here also the removal of the old is mentioned, but not the process of removal and reacreation.
In fact, the process of recreation of the new heaven and earth remains a mystery.
May be it is a mystery that human mind cannot understand.
One thing is certain, the “new” cannot be not the as the old.

Renovated or Replaced?

The manner in which the new heavens and earth come into existence is a matter of debate among Biblical scholars.
The question is whether this present earth will continue as the new earth.
To put it in other way, will this present heaven and earth will be renewed as new earth or it will be totally destroyed and removed and a new heaven earth will be created out of nothing.

John wrote the book of Revelation in the fashion and style of prophetic apocalyptic literature.
"Apocalypse" is a Greek word meaning "revelation", "an unveiling or unfolding of things not previously known and which could not be known apart from the unveiling".
It is a genre of prophetical writing that developed in post-Exilic Jewish culture.
Most of them were written during the years 200 bc- 100 ad 
They contains visions or revelations about the end of the present evil age and the final advent of God’s kingdom, as revealed by an angel or other heavenly messenger.
This kind of writings were popular in Judaism and Christianity from the centuries following the Babylonian exile down to the close of the Middle Ages.

Judaism and Christianity considered the apocalyptic writings as supernaturally inspired which foretells the end of the present world and emergence of a new world.
It is narrative in character and employs pseudonymous, esoteric language, expressing a pessimistic view of the present and treats the final events of the world as imminent.

Some parts of the writings of the OT prophets like Joel, Amos, Zechariah, and Daniel, some portion of the gospel and epistles and the book of Revelation are considered to be apocalyptic writings,

Apostle John’s vision was not a mere dream of a weary prisoner who lay unconscious in an island.
His vision was a real spiritual experience. He saw the dwelling place of God and heard the voice of God.
And it was not possible for him to record whatever he saw and heard in any human language.
So he chose the apocalyptic style for writing down whatever he saw and heard.
Apocalyptic style of writing could contain the mystery of God’s revelations concerning the cosmos.
The Revelation is no exception, so there is a lot of symbolism to wade through to get to the meaning.

As I said before there are different opinions about the process of the dissolution of the present world and the recreation of the new earth.
Two main discussion is whether the new creation comes into existence by means of renewal, that is a renovation of the old or replacement that is totally new act of creation.
The first is called renovation theory and the second is called replacement theory.

The renewal or the renovation
Those who support the renewal or the renovation theory interprets 2 Peter 3:12 & 13 as a purging of the old heaven and earth by fire and forming it into the new.
The “new heavens and new earth” will be a literal earth, cleansed by fire.
The process is comparable to Noah's flood, which was only a purgation of the earth.
This provides a continuity and fulfillment of the purposes God began in the original creation and has now been brought to completion.
There is a continuity of the material and substance of the present heaven and earth, but now they are given new form and character.

Christ's resurrected body provides a model for the renewal process.
Even after the resurrection, Christ had a tangible body that was recognizable, that could speak and understand.
The resurrected Christ could eat and drink if He wished. (Luke 24:43)
Luke 24:39, says that the resurrected Christ was not a spirit, He had flesh and bones.
But the resurrected body was different from the mortal body of man.
Christ appeared and disappeared even in closed rooms. He was ascended into heaven through the clouds.

In Greek, there were two words that are translated as "new" in the English Bible; neos and kainos.
“Néos” is "new in time," kainós is "new and better in nature".
Both words suggest "unfamiliar," "unexpected," "wonderful," and the distinction fades with time.
John uses the “kainos” to speak of a new heaven and earth.
But, kainos should not be taken as something totally new.
It is the same, but the quality has been transformed.

In the same way, the biblical concept of the New Earth is one of renovation and restoration.
This earth, will be either cleansed or destroyed by fire for the purpose of restoration.

The replacement view also depends on 2 Peter 3:12 & 13 as the key text.
The heavens and earth will pass away with a great noise, the elements will dissolve with fervent heat, and the earth and its works shall be consumed.
According to Apostle John, the present world will flee away leaving no trace of it as soon as Christ sits on the judgment seat and after the Judgment there will be the “new heavens and new earth.”
Peter did not say that the earth would be refurbished to be an earthly paradise.
He did not say that the Lord would reign upon the earth.
He did not say that anyone would inhabit the present earth after the Second Coming.
Not only Peter and John, no biblical writer affirms any of these ideas.

The present heavens and earth was created by God from nothing.
Later God purified the earth twice, after the sin of Lucifer and during the time of Noah.
According to 2 Peter 3:7 the present heavens and the earth are reserved for fire until the Day of Judgment.

Supporters of this view also cites the Greek words “neos” and “kainos”.
As we said above, “neos” is "new in time," kainós is "new and better in nature".
Since John uses the word “kainos” to say “new” it must be a new heaven and earth created out of nothing.

We are not sure, what theory is correct and what is false.
Though the disappearance and dissolution of the heaven and earth is a truth, the process of creating a new heaven and earth remains a mystery.
Whether the earth is entirely consumed by this fire or the surface is melted and thereby purified, the end result will still be a planet that is “new”
The earth will be recreated or refashioned by God.
We see that it is still called the ‘heaven’ and “earth”, but they are called new.
And also whether God will replace existing stars and planets with new ones or transform those now existing into a new state or configuration that endures forever is something we will find out when the time comes.

What is the nature of the new heaven and earth?

Apostle John had a threefold vision about the end time.

1.      The present heaven and earth will pass away
2.      A new heaven and earth will be created into existence
3.      There shall be no more sea in the new earth.

The dwelling place of believers
After the events of the end times, the current heavens and earth will be done away with and replaced by the new heavens and new earth.
The eternal dwelling place of believers will be the new earth.
The new earth is the “heaven” on which we will spend eternity.
It is the new earth where the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city, will be located.
It is on the new earth that the pearly gates and streets of gold will be.

The new earth is a physical place where we will dwell with glorified physical bodies.
The concept that heaven is “in the clouds” and that we will be “spirits floating around in heaven” are unbiblical.
The heaven that believers will experience will be a new and perfect planet on which we will dwell.
The new earth will be free from sin, evil, sickness, suffering, and death.
It will likely be similar to our current earth, or perhaps even a re-creation of our current earth, but without the curse of sin.

This environment of the saved is simply heaven, though it is not the abode of God.
The earth that we now was originally created by God as an extended province of Heaven, the dwelling place of God.
Now the sinful earth is recreated or renewed as a new and better place
So John describes, in symbolic fashion, the place of the realm of the saved, where they shall reign “for ever and ever”, not merely 1000 years.

God’s will was the rule in Heaven as well as the earth.
But His plan was thwarted first by Lucifer and then again by humans by the influence of Lucifer.
So where God’s reign exists, that is heaven. Thus the new earth is heaven.

Revelation 21:2, 3
2    Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
 3   And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.  (NKJV)

Where God is, that is heaven
That is what Paul means in Philippians 3:20 that our citizenship is in heaven.
The apostle also said that we have one hope, and that our hope is in heaven. (Eph. 4:4; Col. 1:5).

In every respect, heaven will be characterized by newness.
It is a place never before inhabited by Christians.
It is the first time the saved, in a glorified state, will be in the very presence of God — face to face
This new state, where sin and death are no more.
This will be the eternal abode of the saved when the Lord returns, and the living are caught up with the redeemed of all ages to be with the Lord forever.

There was no more sea
In Revelation 21, John sees no more sea in the new earth.
This is a striking difference from our earth.
The sea is used in apocalyptic literature as a symbol of chaos and may symbolize evil.
In Revelation 13:1, we see a beast coming from sea; in 17:1 we read about “the great harlot who sits on many waters”.
We have already said above how God punished the present twice with water.
So the absence of the sea in the restored universe symbolizes the deliverance for which the creation has been groaning. (Romans 8:22)
The world God originally created suffered the catastrophe of sin and all of its consequences but the future new world will be a perfect world in which the effects of sin are no longer present.

Everything new
The concept of new things is a major motif in redemptive history, especially in eschatological passages.
The new heavens and earth is the consummation of many new things.
The crescendo of redemptive history is stated in Revelation 21:5, " Behold, I make all things new ".
It is a new Garden where there is a pure river of water of life, the tree of life, all kinds of precious stone and many more.
There is no sea, no sun, no moon, no night, no curse and no marriage.
“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
God will make all things new. 

The present order of creation will be replaced.
In this new order, the only people who exist will be God's people.
They will live in the closest of relationships. 

Who are permitted to live there?

Revelation 21 introduces the final state of perfection where, "cosmic time will be turned into eternity."
In symbolic and visual language, God allows John to see the glory and beauty of the inheritance of His people.
If Heaven that is God’s current abode, is the eternal dwelling place of the righteous, then there is no need to create a new heaven and new earth.
The purpose for a new earth is spoken of by Christ: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
Jesus was speaking about inheriting a pure, fresh and beautiful new earth recreated by God.
God does it again for humans.

Just after the appearance of the new heaven and new earth, John saw, “the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2).
That means, upon the recreated earth will descend a dazzling, enormous city that extends some 1,500 miles in each direction!
Hebrews 11:10 says that Abraham, the “father of all those who believe” (Romans 4:11), “waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God”.



Verse 16 again says that, “But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”

When Christ returns in the near future, He will reign the whole earth for 1000 years from the present Jerusalem, making it the capital of the earth.
But when New Jerusalem is on earth, it will become the capital of the entire universe!
It will even become the new residence of God the Father Himself.

Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.  (NKJV)

Verse 22 adds: “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”

So the new heaven and new earth is for humans and they shall dwell in it eternally.
But those who have not trusted God's promises will not take part. 
So let us see a list of people who will not inherit the new earth.

Revelation 21:8, 27
8     "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

27   But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. (NKJV)


The future we have to look forward to in the new earth and new heavens is truly beyond our ability to comprehend.
The answer to the question who shall inherit the new earth is given in the verse below:

Revelation 21:7 "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. (NKJV)

Conclusion

Let me conclude this message.
From the passages that speak of the renewal of the heaven and the earth, it is not clear what relationship the new will have with the old.
Will the old heaven and earth be merely renewed, or will it be entirely replaced.
There are passages that seem to teach both.
In fact, this is far beyond our human understanding.
We know few things for sure that new universe will be without sin and corruption.
Although it is new, it will have some connection with the old.
As is the case with the resurrected body of the believer, there is some mystery in this process.
What is clear is that the present heaven and earth will pass away in the form that they are presently in and God will make something new for believers to enjoy with Him. 

When Adam and Eve sinned the earth became cursed.
God promised to destroy the old earth and make something new.
The future home of the believer will be in the new heavens and new earth.
God is going to make everything new. God is going to dwell with humans.

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