And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful (Rev. 21:1-5).
The questioner who submitted this text asked, "In the light of Scripture, what are we to understand by the term ‘a new heaven and a new earth?’ "Revelation 21 contains the vision granted to John the apostle on the island of Patmos of the final perfection of all things and the eternal blessedness of the church after the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Part of the final perfection of all things is a new heaven and a new earth. This is clearly taught in the passage cited above. I suspect the question arises out of the use of the word "new" to describe heaven and earth after Christ’s coming: How are both these parts of God’s creation new?
It ought not surprise us that both heaven and earth will be renewed for both have, since creation, undergone some profound changes. A brief look at these changes will help us understand how a final change could take place at the coming of our Lord.
During the six days of the creation week, God created heaven and earth (Gen. 1:1). We are not told much about the creation of heaven, and the little we do know must be gleaned from other parts of Scripture. But we can be sure that heaven is a specific place, that the rational-moral creatures who live in heaven are angels, that the entire number of angels was created immediately and not as the entire human race which comes from two original parents, that the heavenly creation is not material as is this earthly creation but is spiritual in substance, and that heaven has a history as well as the earth.
The first event of significance in heaven was the rebellion and fall of Satan, the head of the angelic world, and an enormous number of angels who rebelled and fell with him. Sin began in heaven. What consequences the fall of Satan had on the heavenly creation are difficult to know, for Scripture is very reticent to speak of this subject. But when Satan persuaded Adam and Eve to join forces with him in rebellion against God, both readily agreed and also fell into sin and depravity. But the consequences of the fall of our first parents were not only the total depravity of the entire human race that came forth from Adam and Eve, but the curse that came upon the creation.
The curse upon the creation was very severe and made great changes in everything. These changes are so great that we are unable even to form an adequate picture of what the original creation was like. After all, the curse means that death came on the creation —upon man, beasts and birds, and trees, bushes and flowers. We cannot imagine a creation in which was no death, not even in the plant world. But so it was.
We might want to notice in this connection that evolutionism denies death as God’s punishment for sin. Evolutionism teaches a very old earth in which death was present from the beginning of the creation’s history. But Scripture denies this and tells us that death came with the curse.
The curse made life on earth very difficult. This is why Lamech called his son Noah (Rest or Comfort) because, he said, "This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed" (Gen. 5:29).
In some sense heaven was also affected by the fall, for the angelic world was left without a head. And, during the entire OT period Satan and his demons still could come into heaven. For example, in heaven they slandered Job (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7). They were once again in heaven to fight over the body of Moses (Jude 9) and had to be resisted by Michael and his angels. When God asked the question who would deceive Ahab to go to battle against the Syrians, a devil volunteered to do this (I Kings 22:19-22). At the time of the ascension of our Lord, Satan and his demons were thrown out of heaven, never to be permitted to enter again (Rev. 12:7-11).
Another drastic change came upon the earth at the time of the flood. This change was so great that it is no easier to imagine the pre-deluvian world than to imagine the world before the fall. For one thing, the curse was somewhat lessened as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Lamech and as is described by God in Genesis 8:21-22, where God speaks of the fact that from the time of the flood on there would be seasons and the successful growing of crops. For another thing, Peter contrasts the pre-deluvian world with the post-deluvian world by describing the former as a creation "standing out of the water and in the water," while the post-deluvian creation is said to be "kept in store, reserved unto fire" (II Peter 3:5-7). And finally, because the flood was a type of the final destruction of the world and the salvation of the church, the change from the pre-deluvian world to the post-deluvian world was typical of the change between our present world and the new heaven and the new earth (12-13).
One more element must be taken into account before I actually turn to the question of how heaven and earth are indeed "new." The Scriptures tell us that because sin came into both heaven and earth, the former directly through Satan’s rebellion and the latter through man’s disobedience to God, Christ died for the elect angels as well as His elect people; and that Christ died for the heavenly and the earthly creation. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son; the entire cosmos with the elect as the true human race is the object of God’s love. This is taught in many passages in Scripture. I suggest the interested reader look up Romans 8:19-23 and especially Colossians 1:15-20 which teaches that "all things ... whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven" are reconciled to God through the cross of Jesus Christ.
- Volume: 9
- Issue: 6
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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