A questioner submitted a text (Rev. 21:1-5) and asked, "In the light of Scripture, what are we to understand by the term "a new heaven and a new earth?"
Last time, we described briefly the history that takes place in heaven and on earth since the time of the original creation. From that brief sketch it became apparent that enormous changes took place in God’s creation both through the fall and the flood.
When man fell into sin, God was not caught by surprise. We must not conceive of the fall as outside the purpose and plan of God. It was not the case that God determined to glorify Himself through the first Paradise and the first Adam. Nor is it possible that Adam, by his fall, spoiled the purpose of God so that God, watching the events which transpired at the time of Eve’s temptation stood by helplessly, and, when Adam and Eve succumbed to temptation, wrung His hands and tossed about for some way to salvage a bad situation—until He finally conceived of Christ as a means of restoration. Such reasoning obliterates the greatness of God in His sovereign works in the world.
Rather, from the very outset of the work of creation God determined to glorify Himself in the highest possible way through Jesus Christ, His own Son, by means of the salvation of all the creation in the blood of the cross. The original creation was the stage on which would be enacted the age-long drama of sin and grace, the fall and redemption through Christ. God’s purpose is fully realized in the salvation of the elect angels and men in Christ, and the redemption of the entire earthly and heavenly creation through the blood of the cross.
When Christ comes again at the end of time, Christ will purge this present world with fire (II Peter 3:10-13) and create a new heaven and a new earth that He will give to His elect people and angels as an everlasting inheritance.
The new earth will be new for the following reasons.
It will be new because from it will be forever banished sin, the curse and death. Because sin and the curse shall be forever removed, it will be filled with the glory of God and reflect God’s glory through Christ who redeemed it.
It will be a new earth because it will not be a mere restoration of the original Paradise, but it will be far more glorious than the original Paradise could possibly have been.
It will be a new earth because in it Adam will not be head, but our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the One of whom Adam was only a type.
It will be a new earth because it will be made one in glorious unity with heaven itself. Revelation 21:1-5 speaks of the new Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven. From the moment of creation to the second coming of Christ, heaven and earth were separated by the different structures of each: the earth was material and heaven spiritual. But heaven was always the reality, and the earth was the shadow of it. Now the barrier between the two is broken down through Christ’s cross and heaven and earth become one. The earthly is made heavenly; the material is made spiritual; the things here below become one with the things which are above by a transformation that lifts them to the highest level possible.
But God will, through Christ, create a new heaven also. How is heaven new? This is a little more difficult to describe partly because Scripture does not tell us much about heaven, and partly because we who are of the earth earthy cannot understand heavenly things. But some things we do know.
Heaven will be new because Christ becomes the head of the angelic world and the heavenly creation, as well as the head of His church and the earthly creation. Heaven has a new head, eternally ordained by God.
Heaven will be new because, although God’s people are now there, they are there without their bodies, which await the coming of Christ to be raised. Heaven will be more wonderful when the saints are there in souland body.
Heaven will be new because all God’s people will be there. When Abel came to heaven, he was alone—except for the angels. Gradually the number of those in heaven grew, but the church in heaven was not and is not complete. So much does this detract from the full blessedness of heaven that the saints under the altar cry out, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled" (Rev. 6:10-11).
Heaven will be new because it will take up into itself and be united with the glorified and redeemed earthly creation so that both parts of the creation are now one, forever and ever, world without end.
Then all things shall be accomplished as God determined them. The Lord Jesus Christ, crowned with glory and honor, shall be head over all in the name of the Triune God. With Him shall be His own elect bride, His beloved church washed in His blood and clothed in the white garments of His righteousness. They shall reign with Him in heavenly perfection. Under the elect shall be the angels who shall continue as the ministers of the elect (Heb.1:14). And to that elect bride of Christ shall be given the whole glorified and redeemed heaven and earth as their possession to enjoy and over which to rule with Christ to the glory of God. All shall be one in Christ, and God shall be all in all. A new heaven and a new earth! That is the object of our hope and longing.
Press on in the truth, weary pilgrim, for at the end of your wearisome journey lies the celestial city in which you shall dwell with Christ and God forever.
- Volume: 9
- Issue: 7
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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