THE ETERNAL ORDER
In Isaiah 65:17 we have the following language: "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind." In Isaiah 66:22-24 appears the quotation: "For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith Jehovah, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith Jehovah. And they shall go forth, and look upon the dead bodies of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh." In II Peter 3:13 this prediction occurs: "But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." Finally, in Revelation 21:1, appears the last verse dealing with a new order and promising a new heaven and a new earth: "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." The question immediately arising when we read these passages is this: Do all of these verses refer to the same event? Scholars of a certain school tell us that they do. Others assert that the first three refer to the millennial order. Both positions cannot be correct. We must look earnestly at all the facts in the case to determine the truth about the matter. As we investigate the data, let us not allow our preconceptions or prejudices to bias us in our study.
In these four prophecies the expression the "new heavens and new earth" occurs. The fact that the same words appear in all four passages is no proof that the writers were speaking of the same thing. One author might be talking about a black horse in a certain connection of a book; another in the same volume might mention a black horse. Before we could safely conclude that only one horse was mentioned, we would have to get all the facts in each context to determine whether the data would permit the identification of the animals. So it is in the Scriptures. All the facts must be studied before we arrive at any conclusion.
I. THE NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH FORETOLD BY ISAIAH
"For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind" (Isa. 65:17). This verse begins with the conjunction for, which ties it up with that which has preceded. When we study the entire chapter, we see that verses 1-7 deal with the Christian Dispensation, during which the Jews, on account of their unbelief, are set aside, whereas the Gentiles who are seeking God are found of Him. In verses 8 and 9 we see in God's promise to Israel that, although she would be set aside during the present dispensation, He would preserve her and not allow her to be blotted from the face of the globe. The reason for His protecting His people is that He intends to bring out of them the remnant which shall inherit His mountains--Palestine (vss. 9 and 10). In verses 12-16, the prophet foretold the great Tribulation which immediately follows the Christian Dispensation. During this time of judgment God destroys all the wicked from Israel. In verses 13 and 14, Isaiah contrasted the condition of the ungodly in Israel with the faithful remnant of that people. The Lord takes care of and protects His own, supplying all their needs. Out of Israel He will bring forth this remnant that shall enjoy the blessings of the Kingdom Age (vss. 15,16). Then the one who blesses himself shall do so in the God of truth. The one who swears in the earth shall swear by the God of truth.
The reason for this new social, ethical, and spiritual society is this: "Because the former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hid from mine eyes" (vs. 16). Everything that will be suggestive of the present sinful era will have been removed from the earth. Our present civilization will have been eliminated and everything in connection with it will be covered and hidden, declares the Lord, from His eyes. Of course He is speaking in an anthropomorphic manner--as if He were a human being. The reason that every vestige of the present age will be removed from sight is expressed in verse 17: "For, behold, I [Jehovah ] create a new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind." Thus at the end of the Tribulation the Lord will create new heavens and a new earth. The terrific and far reaching judgments of the Tribulation will be so very destructive that there could otherwise be no Millennial Age; but, in order that there might be such an era, the Lord will create new material in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. Under these conditions this earth together with its solar system will have every appearance of an entirely new order.
Following this prediction, the Lord through Isaiah exhorted the Jewish people to rejoice in the hope of this new creation; for said He, "behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people; and there shall be heard in her no more the voice of weeping and the voice of crying" (Isa. 65:18,19). According to this passage there is a wonderful future awaiting the Jew. The Lord promises that He will create Jerusalem a rejoicing and the Jewish people a joy. That the word, Jerusalem here refers to Jerusalem in Palestine is evident from verse 19, which promises that there shall never more be heard in it the voice of crying and of weeping. This statement shows that the voice of weeping and crying has been heard in that city, but that, after it is created anew, such mourning will never again be heard. This fact identifies the Jerusalem which is to be created anew with the ancient city of Jerusalem in Palestine that has undergone many sieges and passed through many crises in the past.
In verses 20-25 we know that the prophet was speaking of the Millennial Age. About this position there can be no question to the one who reads them with an open mind. Since the facts presented by the preceding context relate to the situation upon this earth prior to and during the Tribulation, and since those that follow it are describing the earth after that period of judgment, there can be but one conclusion: the new heavens and the new earth mentioned in verse 17 can be none other than the millennial heavens and earth. From this conclusion there can be no logical escape.
But one asks, May this not be a prophecy which will find its partial fulfillment in the creative activity making possible the Millennium and its complete fulfillment in the purging of the earth at the conclusion of the Kingdom Age? I recognize the validity of the law of double reference. There are many instances which illustrate this principle, but we are never to claim that a passage has a double or manifold fulfillment unless the facts of the context point clearly in that direction, or unless the facts of a passage parallel to the one under consideration unmistakably point in the same direction. When one studies Isaiah, chapter 65, carefully one will look in vain for evidence that points beyond the creative activity which the Lord will put forth at the end of the Tribulation and which will introduce the Millennial Age. There is therefore no justification for our saying that verse 17 will have a partial fulfillment at the beginning of the Millennium and a complete one at its close.
A study of Isaiah, chapter 66, which concludes with a similar prediction concerning the new heavens and the new earth, shows that this prophecy refers to the creation of the heavens and the earth at the beginning of the Millennial Age. This fact becomes evident to one who notices that verse 22 is introduced by the conjunction for and is explanatory of what has preceded. An examination of verses 10-21 shows that the prophet was speaking of the Millennial Age. This passage therefore is also a reference to the Kingdom Age. An examination of the facts of this context does not lead us to believe that it has a double reference. We shall do well therefore to take it at its primary face value.
In II Peter, chapter 3, is another promise of the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. To what does this passage refer? Was Peter speaking of the millennial heavens and earth? The way to determine this question is to examine the facts of the context. In the first four verses of the chapter the apostle foretold the coming of mockers who would ridicule the doctrine of the second coming of Christ. The basis of their objection to this glorious hope is stated in their own words: "Where is the promise of his coming? for, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (II Pet. 3:4). Those making this objection hold to the uniformity of nature. They claim that there have been no changes that have taken place in the physical world since the days of the Apostles as there have never been any changes in the world since the beginning. One can see from this objection that these people will be imbued with the so-called scientific spirit which rejects all possibility of intervention on the part of the Almighty in the sphere of human activity, or in the material world. They deny that there have been any occasions when God stepped forward and seemingly interrupted the usual course of nature. In answer to them, the apostle informed us that these people are willfully ignorant of the destruction which came upon the earth in the days of Noah, when the land which was compacted out of water and amidst water by the word of God was overflowed by the waters of the flood and was destroyed (vss. 5,6). Today there are people who do not believe that there was, as is recorded in the Book of Genesis, a universal flood. Notwithstanding modern, rationalistic unbelief scientific discoveries at Ur of the Chaldees and at Kish have unearthed a layer of clay from eight to eleven feet in thickness, that was laid down by fresh water. Both above and below it artifacts of various kinds have been unearthed--but none in it. The late Dr. Langdon of Oxford University declares that the evidence proves a universal flood, since such a deposit could never have been laid down by a local inundation. Thus, scientific, archaeological discoveries confirm the biblical account. Notwithstanding this fact the apostle informed us that mockers will reject the evidence, claiming that there have been no changes in the earth since the beginning. To the scientifically trained mind that is seeking for truth, the evidence of a universal deluge is overwhelming.
The Apostle Peter said that God will carry out His predictions regarding the great convulsion of nature and the stupendous changes that will take place in the physical realm before the appearance of the Lord, as is outlined in both the Old and New Testament Scriptures. He told us that God has everything prepared to fulfill these predictions regarding this great world-catastrophe. The heavens and earth that now are, declared Peter, are stored up in fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and the destruction of ungodly men (vs. 7). All things being ready, the Lord will accomplish His work with a terrific speed--when the time arrives.
In the eighth verse the apostle forewarned his readers not to be discouraged and not to come to the conclusion that the Lord will not fulfill His promise, even though much time might elapse before that event. In fact, he assumed that there will be a long period before God will pour out His wrath upon the earth; for he declared: "But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." By this language the apostle undoubtedly meant us to understand that the Lord will fulfill a promise which He makes as faithfully and as accurately a thousand years after he has given it as He would on the day when He uttered it. In other words, time does not erase from His mind the obligation to fulfill His promises. Men, after a lapse of time, frequently seem to feel that they are released from the necessity of meeting their obligations. Not so with the Lord. He is not slack concerning His promise--the promise of the second coming which Peter was discussing in this connection. On the contrary, He is long-suffering. His delay we should therefore interpret as proof that He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come unto repentance. In verse 10 Peter declared that this time of judgment will come. It is the time called by the prophets "the day of the Lord" --the Tribulation Period. At that time the heavens and the earth, which are already stored up in fire, will burst forth in a mighty conflagration and with terrific upheavals and explosions. The heavens and the earth will then be on fire. Great changes will take place upon the earth. These will occur as we learn from such passages as Isaiah, chapter 24, in the latter part of the great Tribulation.
The apostle admonished his readers, in view of the stupendous and mighty changes which will take place, as children of God to live holy, godly lives,¹ looking forward and earnestly desiring the coming of this day of the Lord when the elements shall be melted with fervent heat. Although these mighty judgments will fall upon the earth, the people of God are urged to look beyond that time to the fulfillment of the promise which the Lord made through Isaiah--the one which we have just been studying--when God will create new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.
In view of the trend of thought which is developed in II Peter, chapter 3, it is abundantly evident that the new heavens and the new earth mentioned by him are none other than the new heavens and the new earth foretold by Isaiah, which, as we have seen, will be brought into existence at the beginning of the Millennial Age. Thus Peter interprets and, at the same time, locates the promise made by Isaiah.
In view of these and many other facts that might be mentioned, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the new heavens and the new earth mentioned by Isaiah and by Peter in his second epistle are the millennial heavens and the millennial earth.
Everyone who is familiar with the messages of the prophets which foretell the terrific destruction of the heavens above and the earth beneath realizes that God will have to do much creative work in order that there may be a literal reign of Christ upon earth. He has promised that He will do this work of re-creation. We who believe the Scriptures are confident that it shall be just as has been spoken. Our Lord promised the Apostles that, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of His glory, they also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Obviously, the Lord Jesus spoke of the Millennial Age as the regeneration--the period of new birth of all things upon earth. This implies what is specifically stated in the scriptures which we have already discussed.
II. THE NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH OF REVELATION,
CHAPTERS 21 AND 22
What are the new heavens and the new earth described in the last two chapters of the Bible? Are these the millennial heavens and earth? Or are they entirely different? Here, as in all other instances, one must examine the facts of the context.
In Revelation 20:1-6, we see the glorious millennial reign of our Lord which follows His return to the earth. At the conclusion of this era, Satan will be loosed for a little season, during which time he will deceive the nations that are upon the earth. Then from the four corners of the globe² many will go up to Jerusalem to try to intimidate Christ. At that time fire will fall from heaven and consume these rebels. Then Satan will be incarcerated in the lake of fire where the beast and the false prophet (Rev. 19:20,21) will have been during the Millennium. In Revelation 20:11-15 is a description of the judgment of the great white throne before which the lost of the earth will appear and hear their doom. Then they will be cast into the lake of fire where they will be forever and ever.
At the establishment of the judgment of the great white throne the millennial heavens and earth will pass away and there will be found no place for them. This language means that they will pass out of existence. After they pass away, John declared, "… and there was found no place for them." This language can mean nothing but the complete passing away of the heavens and earth that are now, that will be re-created at the beginning of the Millennium, and that will continue throughout the thousand years.
This teaching is in perfect agreement with the prediction found in Psalm 102 and quoted in Hebrews, chapter 1. An examination of verses 23-28 of this psalm shows that there is a contrast made between God and the material universe. He created it. It passes away, but He remains forever and ever. Obviously our Lord's language in Matthew 24:35 is an echo of this ancient prediction: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Both the psalmist and our Lord foretold the passing away of the present material order, but they did not tell when their prediction would be fulfilled. In Revelation 20:11 John gives us the desired information. We may be absolutely certain that the present order, renovated and repaired at the beginning of the Millennium, passes away at the end of that age--at the judgment of the great white throne.
In Revelation 21:1 the Apostle John declared that he 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." This language is to be taken literally. There is nothing in the context to indicate otherwise. This verse becomes confirmatory evidence to the position which has just been taken, and which is based upon Revelation 20:11. In view of the facts thus far discovered, no one can be justified in identifying the new heavens and the new earth of Revelation, chapters 21 and 22, with those that are foretold by Isaiah and Peter. To identify them in any way is to introduce confusion into the understanding of the prophetic word. Isaiah and Peter spoke of the Millennial Era and the new order of that age. John, in Revelation, chapters 21 and 22, foretold the eternal order--the eternal heavens and the eternal earth--which will follow the Millennial Era, and which will last throughout the ages of the ages.
Having learned the facts regarding these four great predictions, we shall now look at Revelation, chapters 21 and 22, to ascertain if possible what information the Lord has given regarding this eternal order.
A. The Eternal Order Not Made Of Things Which Now Exist
The eternal order will not be made of the things which now exist, for we are told that the Lord makes "all things new" (Rev. 21:5). None of the material of the present system will be used in the creation of the eternal order. We cannot avoid this conclusion if we are willing to take the language at what it says. The present universe has been contaminated by Satan and sin. No trace or taint of this will be seen in the new order. B. The Eternal Jerusalem
John was asked by the angel if he desired to see the bride, the wife of the Lamb. Naturally he wished to do so. The angel then took him to a high mountain, and he saw in vision "the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God" and resting upon the earth. Let us remember that this is not the millennial Jerusalem; for, as we have already seen, at the close of the Millennial Age the Jerusalem of that era passes out of existence. John wished to see the bride of the Lamb. The angel showed him the mansion which she is to occupy during the eternal ages. With prophetic insight he saw the bride in this new Jerusalem. C. The Inhabitants Of The Eternal Earth
Surrounding this city was a great high wall. On each of the four sides there were three gates. Over each entrance was written one of the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Under this wall were twelve foundations of the most precious stones and upon each was written one of the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. This city was foursquare, length, breadth, and height each being fifteen hundred miles. It is quite likely that this city will be a perfect cube. Of course it is impossible for us with the scanty data given to determine with any definiteness the exact facts in the case. It is quite likely, however, that there will be different levels, analogous to the floors in a building of the skyscraper type. There will be ample room for every redeemed one from this earth without one's being hampered whatsoever. (A full description of this marvelous city, the home of the redeemed, is found in Revelation 21:9-27. The passage in question presents a picture wonderful beyond description. Each one should read it for himself.)
As stated above, this city will be fifteen hundred miles in every direction. Since God is a being of order, having the sense of proper perspective, we must conclude that the right proportion will exist between this eternal Jerusalem and the eternal earth upon which it will rest. We can therefore conclude that the earth will be an enormous one, of a vastness far beyond our powers of imagination to conceive. In this eternal Jerusalem the saved from this earth will be forever and ever with God.
As just stated, the saved from this earth will be in the new Jerusalem with God forever and ever, but in Revelation 21:24 we find this language: "And the nations shall walk amidst the light thereof: and the kings of the earth bring their glory into it [the new Jerusalem]." Who are the nations dwelling upon the eternal earth and who will bring their glory into its capital, Jerusalem? The Common Version adds a clause to this verse which is not in the best and oldest manuscripts. This interpolation changes the meaning of the passage, but the original written by John did not have any such limiting qualification. The clause to which I refer is this: "of them that are saved." Since this is not a part of the original text I am passing it by without further consideration. D. The River Of Life
There are two classes of people who will be upon the eternal earth: The saved from this earth who will be in the new Jerusalem; and those who will live upon the earth and whose kings will create a new race of people who will inhabit that earth. Nevertheless, because of the scanty data which we have, I shall refrain from being dogmatic upon this point.
From the midst of the throne of God which will be in this new Jerusalem there will flow "a river of water of life" out upon the eternal earth. As to how far it will flow, we cannot say since no intimation is given in the text. Nor is the purpose of it disclosed; yet from the very name one may conclude that it will have something to do with life. But we cannot attempt to speak of the real relationship between it and those in the eternal city or out upon the earth. We can only believe that it will be this way but cannot explain anything in regard to it. E. The Tree Of Life
On either side of this river will be seen the tree of life which will be planted on both sides of the stream. Its leaves will be for the health of the nations. Our translation says "for the healing of the nations." But since there will be no sickness, and since the word can signify either "healing" or "health," the facts indicate that health is the proper rendition here. F. The Employment Of The Saved from This Earth
In Genesis, chapters 2 and 3, we saw the tree of life, of the fruit of which Adam and Eve partook. As long as they were in their state of innocency, they were permitted to eat of it. When they partook of the forbidden fruit, they were driven away from the tree of life. Possibly this tree will have something to do with the continued life of those who will live upon the earth.
According to Revelation 22:5 those who are saved from this earth will reign with Christ forever and ever. There will be useful employment for all. We have every reason to believe that there will be continual progress and development of all the saved throughout all eternity and that there will be delightful service for everyone. It is here spoken of as our reigning forever and ever with our Lord. Great and glorious things await us in the future. G. The Condition Of The Unsaved
In Revelation 22:11 John declared regarding the unrighteous, "... let him do unrighteousness still: and he that is filthy, let him be made filthy still." Men who do not accept the Lord Jesus Christ and are not regenerated and saved will pass out of this life and will remain in their unregenerated state forever and ever. Just as the righteous will advance and go forward in righteousness and holiness and in the development of their powers, so will those who are lost go on in the direction in which they are headed; that is, being unrighteous they will continue to be unrighteous and will grow worse and worse. H. The Great Invitation
"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And he that heareth, let him say, Come. And he that is athirst, let him come: he that will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17). God sends out the loving invitation to one and all to come and drink the water of life freely. Now is the time for men to accept the Lord. "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment" (Heb. 9:27). I. Warning Against Adding To Or Taking from the Book of Revelation
According to Revelation 22:18,19, one dare not add one iota to what is written in this last book of the Bible nor subtract there from. A special warning is issued against those who do either. From the context it is clear that the apostle was speaking of this specific book. Of course men must not add to any of the other books of the Bible. God wants it left intact so that those who desire the truth and who will read this book may have it and act accordingly. J. The Coming Of The Lord For His Saints
In Revelation 22:20 we find this language: "He who testifieth these things saith, Yea: I come quickly." The Lord Jesus is the one who testifies to the things found in this book and He is the one who is coming quickly.
When the time arrives, the Lord will come swiftly, suddenly. In this connection, however, let us differentiate clearly between the coming of the Lord for His saints, which event occurs before the Tribulation, and the coming of the Lord with His saints, which second event occurs at the end of the Tribulation. As to which of these occurrences is meant by the verse quoted above, I cannot assert dogmatically. I should think however that Christ was speaking of the rapture, for that is the event toward which we are looking with great expectations. The Lord, as far as we know, may come for His saints at any time. The promise of His descent from heaven to the air and His catching us away so that we shall not have to die is found in I Thessalonians 4:13ff and I Corinthians 15:50ff.
Let no one set a date for the coming of the Lord. We know from the signs of the times that His coming is drawing near. (For a full discussion of the events of the end-time, see my volume Future Events Revealed.)
¹ The Lord Jesus promised the disciples that He would come again and receive them unto Himself (John 14:1-4) Paul foretold the same in I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and I Corinthians 15:50-58. John declared that "every one that hath this hope set on him purifieth himself, even as he is pure" (I John 3:3). The catching up of the saints out of this present evil world may occur at any moment. Since we do not know the day nor the hour, we should be ready always.
² I am inclined to believe that those who will go up to Jerusalem against Christ at this time will constitute what might properly be called a "youth movement." During the Millennium those who are born will be given opportunities to accept Christ, all moral suasion being brought to bear upon them. Some will not receive Him. These will be allowed to live to be a hundred years old (Isa. 65:20). If during this time they do not accept Christ, the judgment of God will fall upon them. During the last century of the Millennium there will be great hosts of people born. At the close of it, many of them will still be holding out against Christ. Satan will be loosed at that time. He will go forth and deceive these unregenerated youths who will rise up in rebellion against the Lord Messiah.
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