Eternity, Judgment, Heaven and Hell

NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH

The first mention of "new heavens and a new earth" is found in Isaiah 65:17 and is repeated and its discussion climaxed in Chapter 66:22-24. This seems to be figurative language referring primarily to a new order that is not other-worldly, with reference to Jerusalem and Israel after the exile and into the Messianic age. But part of its; language is employed in 2 Peter 3:1-13 and given a higher and seemingly literal application, "according to promise," to "new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness" after the destruction of the present physical earth and its surrounding elements by fire, just as the world of mankind perished by the waters of the flood in Noah’s day.

Then, however, it was mostly the surface of the earth and its inhabitants that were affected rather than the earth itself being removed, whereas the future destruction Peter was foretelling will be much more extensive and pervasive. "The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall [be] burned up" – and, the heavens being on fire, shall be dissolved and the elements shall melt with fervent heat."

NOTE" Some have thought "the elements" of the preceding verses (10 and 12) refer to the "heavenly bodies," so that the margin of the American Standard Version gives that as an alternate reading. But this is disputed, and actually is not crucial. Reference may simply be to the elements of our earthly atmosphere, but, more probably, to the elements of the entire cosmos – the earth and the aerial and siderial heavens visible from it – not the third heaven. (Cf. Hebrews 1:10-12; Revelation 20:13.)

In Revelation 20:11, reference is made to "the earth and the heavens" fleeing away from the face of him sitting upon the "great white throne," before which the dead stand to be judged at the end of history on the present earth. And, in Chapter 21:1-5, the writer (John) further states: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, "‘Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall dwell with them, and be their God: and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more. And he that sitteth on the throne said, behold, I make all things new. And he saith, Write: for these words are faithful and true.’"

  Also, in Revelation 22:1-5 John climaxes by saying, "And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the midst of the street thereof. And on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no curse any more: and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein: and his servants shall serve him; and they shall see his face; and his name shall be on their foreheads. And there shall be night no more; and they need no light of lamp, neither light of sun; for the Lord God shall give them light; and they shall reign for ever and ever."

  The Pulpit Commentary has the following comment on 2 Peter 3:13, with which we conclude: "St. John, like St. Peter, speaks of a new earth, and tells us that the new earth will be the dwelling place of the blessed. He saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven; the throne of God and of the Lamb (he tells us) shall be in it. ‘The tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them.’ The holy city, Jerusalem, which is above, is in heaven (Phil.111,20). But heaven will come down to earth; the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be there; there his servants shall serve him. The distinction between heaven and earth shall be abolished: for where God is, there is heaven."

ADDENDUM

(Cognates of ouranos, "heaven")

1. Ouranious, heavenly, that is:

    a. Dwelling in heaven (Matthew 5:48; 6:14.26.32; 15:13; 15:35; 23:9; Luke 2:13);

    b. Coming from heaven (Acts 26:19).

2. Epouranious, in or above heaven, heavenly:

    a. Adjective; Existing on heaven:

(1) God (Matthew 18:35);

(2) angels (Philippians 2:10);

(3) kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18);

(4) country (Hebrews 11:16);

(5) calling (Hebrews 3:1);

(6) things (John 3:12);

    b. Plural adjective used as a noun:

(1) heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3,20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12);

(2) heavenly things (Hebrews 8:5; 9:23);

(3) bodies (1 Corinthians 15:40) and persons (1 Corinthians 15:48-49) of heavenly origin or nature.

3. Ouranothen, a verb, "from heaven" (Acts 14:17; 26:13).

Cecil N. Wright