The Study of Last Things
by James T. Bartsch
Learning about the Future to Live Better Today
"But according to His promise, we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells." 2 Peter 3:13
Isaiah 65:17. There are predictions in the OT that God will create New Heavens and a New Earth. These predictions are incorporated into predictions of the future Millennial Kingdom that will take place prior to the New Order. These predictions of Millennial blessing "bleed over" into the blessings of the Eternal State. For example Isaiah 65:1-7 predicts God's turning to the Gentiles (during the Church Age) and His punishment of Israel because of her sin. But Yahweh will leave a righteous remnant while destroying those in Israel who forsake Him. This will culminate in the Second Coming of Christ in great power and glory (Isa. 65:8-16). Christ will begin His Millennial Kingdom. His servants will eat, drink, rejoice, and shout joyfully with a glad heart (Is. 65:13-14). On the other hand, the Israeli rebels will be hungry, thirsty, put to shame, and cry out with a heavy heart and broken spirit (Isa. 65:13-14). The Lord GOD will put to death the wicked rebels in Israel (Isa. 65:15), but His chosen servants will be called by another name (Isa. 65:15). The former troubles will be forgotten, hidden from God's sight (Isa. 65:16).
This will be true because God will create new heavens and a new earth; the former things will not be remembered nor come to mind (Isa. 65:17). This New Creation will take place at the beginning of the Eternal State, after the Millennial Kingdom, after the Final Revolt of Satan, after the Destruction of the Universe, and after the Great White Throne Judgment.
The Prophet Isaiah predicts that Jerusalem will be a place for rejoicing, and her people will be filled with gladness (Isa. 65:18). God will rejoice in Jerusalem, and there will no longer be heard in her the voice of weeping (Isa. 65:19). This certainly sounds like conditions in the Eternal State (Rev. 21:4). Yet this passage seems, in a manner of speaking to straddle both the Millennial Kingdom and the Eternal State. Beginning in Isa. 65:20, the conditions begin to sound more like the Millennium than Eternity. Isaiah begins to discuss the longevity of Israelis in the Millennial Kingdom. An infant will not live merely a short time, and if someone does not reach the age of 100, he will be considered accursed. The prospect of children being born and any prospect of death at all leads us to understand the author has here reverted to talking about conditions in the Millennial Kingdom, not Eternity.
Isaiah 66:22. Yahweh affirms the reality of the New Heavens and New Earth which He will one day create. They will endure before Him forever (Isa. 66:22). Just so, Israel's offspring and name will endure forever. Both in the Millennium and, apparently, in Eternity, from New Moon to New Moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all mankind will come to bow down before Yahweh (Isa. 66:23).
But immediately after Christ's Second Coming and at the beginning of the Millennium people will go forth and look at the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Yahweh. (Isa. 63:1-6; Zech. 14:12-15; Matt. 24:27-28; Rev. 19:17-21). Their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched; they will be an abhorrence to all mankind (Isa. 66:24). This ghastly condition just after Christ returns looks ahead to the eternal suffering of unrepentant mankind in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:20; 20:14-15; 21:8; 22:15).
2 Peter 3:13. A literal rendering is as follows: "Moreover, new heavens and new earth, according to His promise, we are anticipating – in which righteousness resides" (JTB literal translation). I take this to be literally true. The old universe, cursed with man's sin, will be obliterated. The same will be true for the old earth. It, too, will explode into nothingness. In their places God will create a brand new universe, the framework in which all of physical creation will be housed throughout eternity future. And God will create a brand new earth. He will create both out of that with which He created the original heavens and earth (Gen. 1:1) – nothing!
According to this central passage on the New Creation, the new heavens and new earth will be perfect. They will be unsullied or stained with any human or angelic sin. Only righteous people will exist in this New Creation and only Righteousness will exist. What a relief that will be! We will experience all the incredible diversity of the angelic realm and the human realm and God Himself. But we will experience none of the sordid, tawdry, murderous, envious, hateful thoughts, words, and deeds so altogether common in the present world (Rev. 21:8, 25-27; 22:14-15). There will be no racist white people, no discrimination against Hispanics or Asians, no insistence that only Black Lives Matter, no chants of "Hey hey, ho ho, Western Civ has got to go!" There will be no Anti-Semitism, no police forces to defund, and no military to deploy or for which to budget. Universal peace and goodness will prevail (Isa. 2:1-4; 9:6-7; 11:1-9). We will enjoy the pleasure of getting to know incredibly varied and diverse people, but all of them will be nice! There will be no "dirty rotten attitudes" or perverted minds or vile speech to be found among the whole lot of them! What a relief! What a pleasure!
The application makes perfect sense. Peter concluded, "Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation ..." (2 Pet. 3:14-15a). He is unwilling for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).
Revelation 21:1. In the penultimate chapter of the Apocalypse, the Apostle John wrote, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea" (Rev. 21:1). The term "new heaven" refers, I believe, to the brand new Universe which God will create out of nothing. This will be similar to or perhaps will duplicate our present universe which houses all the celestial bodies and our present planet Earth. I suspect the New Heaven will be filled with stars and galaxies much the same way our present universe is filled with them. (Why would God create empty New Heaven with nothing in it?) Will the physics be identical? We have no way of knowing. We know that there will be no entropy or decay in that universe. Present galaxies rotate once every billion years regardless of their size. If future galaxies are the same, they will never slow down or lose their momentum.
Not only will there be a new Universe, there will also be a New Earth, the theological, if not the geophysical center of the New Universe. Will the New Earth have an atmosphere that possesses oxygen? We do not know. Since there are birds flying in the atmosphere of the present earth, and since they need atmosphere with which to propel themselves forward when they flap their wings, it would not surprise me at all if New Earth possesses an atmosphere. But there will be no aging, no decay, and no death connected with New Earth.
John specifically stated that there was no sea on New Earth. Does that mean there will be no large bodies of fresh water on earth? I do not believe that is what John meant. Let me explain. Today about 71% of the earth's surface is covered with ocean water. Moreover, 97% of the earth's water is to be found in the oceans. It is too salty for drinking, for growing crops, or for most industrial uses. I think that what John is saying is that there will be no Salt Sea. The salty oceans of today are byproducts of God's first great judgment on the earth, Noah's global flood. Since a salty sea is the product of God's judgment, there will be no salty sea upon New Earth. There will be no sin, and therefore no evidence of judgment of any kind. I think there will be plenty of fresh water. We know that there is an ever-flowing river of the water of life in the future New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:6; 22:1-2)! Why would there not be lakes and rivers on New Earth?
Will anyone live on New Earth? The answer is "Yes, of course!" Why would God create a New Earth to be uninhabited by any humans? There will be nations inhabiting New Earth (Rev. 21:24), and these nations will conduct their lives enlightened by the glory emanating from New Jerusalem! (We will discuss how that may well happen in the next installment.) These nations will have kings (no democracies or republics upon New Earth) (Rev. 21:24). The nations and the Kings of New Earth will bring their honor and glory into New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:24, 26). The nations of New Earth will have constant access to New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:25), and will have ready access to the River of the Water of Life and to the Tree of Life (Rev. 22:1-2). What a glorious existence that will be!
God created man to rule over the earth and over its animals (Gen. 1:26-28). Man has never fulfilled that mandate in a meaningful and benevolent way for any length of time. In the land of endless day, mankind as the servants of God will reign forever and ever in New Jerusalem and upon New Earth (Rev. 22:3-5)! What a pleasure that will be!