Revealing Revelation – New Heaven and Earth Introduced

06Jan11

The final two chapters will receive a limited exposition for several reasons. The first is that the vision is so symbolic and “otherworldly” that stating any view emphatically is dangerous. The second, and most important, is that the plethora of views makes determining the right interpretation very difficult. Finally, since the preterist tends to emphasize those events which are clearly past events in Revelation at this point guessing about the things of the future is conjecture at best.

But we will walk through the differing views is grace and understanding. There will be limited dogmatism as a result of the three points above. What will be emphasize are those points which the passage clearly makes while leaving conjecture to the prophetic prognosticators.

Rev. 21:1-3 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. [2] And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. [3] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

There is great debate as top whether this passage is a future or past event. Though modern prophetic ideology argues this is clearly a future event with the creation of a entirely new physical heaven and earth, many have argued that it is simply a picture of how the “New” Covenant differs relationally with the Old Covenant.

Where the Old Covenant placed blocks between God and man like the Temple, Priestly system and a law of sacrifices that could only cover sin, the New Covenant is one in which God dwells with and in man and where the outer system of laws and sacrifices are done away with and new form of relationship is created. This New Heaven and New earth then describe this relational shift which is best understood only after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the symbol of the Old Covenant, the Temple.

This, is is argued, is akin to Paul’s idea of a “New Creation” that the believer undergoes and takes part in.

2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Those taking a more literal view argue this must be the future “Eternal State” in which man and God live harmoniously in Heaven together for all eternity. This is argued because of the belief that this section must follow chronologically the previous section, which does deal with the final judgment and the end of the old earth.

As mentioned previously, though, when John starts a section with “Then I saw” it does not always mean that the vision must follow chronologically in a timeline, but rather it was the order in which witnessed the visions. He often retraced similar events as we see in the seven cycles of judgment, wrath and victory throughout the entire book.

Finally there is the symbolic View which argues that this vision is simply a symbolic view of Heaven in the present and eternal state. This view has had a large contingent of supporters throughout all of Church history.

But now we will list in a simple bullet format those ideas found in the rest of the Chapter that lead the expositors and supporters of a particular view to come to those conclusions.

LITERAL VIEW

This is primarily the view of Futurist and Dispensationalist and is seen exclusively as the Eternal State. The picture is one of a re-created Garden of Eden – complete with the Tree of Life – and the eternal resting place for all that belong to God. the emphasis, though, is that this is a future event with the reasons stated below.

  • Several phrases have “eternal” emphasis
  • No more death, morning, tears, pain, etc (v. 3)
  • All things new (v. 4)
  • It is done (v. 6)
  • New Jerusalem descending from heaven (v. 10)
  • No more son or moon (v. 23)
  • No longer will anything be accursed (22:3)
  • No more night (22:5)
  • They reign forever (22:5)

SYMBOLIC VIEW

This is primarily the view of some Amillennialist and Full Preterist. Though it has been primarily a Minority Position in Church history it has always had adherents. This is a present reality, but is symbolic for what is happening in heaven in relation to the Church. Reasons for this expectation below.

  • The imagery cannot be taken literally
  • This is the individual Eternal State for believers
  • Heaven – Eternal Spiritual State of the believer from the point of salvation
  • Emphasis is on the After-Life
  • Symbolist demand that these descriptions must still be a part of the original time qualifier – shortly come to pass. As a result this must be seen as a present reality.

SPIRITUAL VIEW

This is primarily the view of most Amillennialist nearly all Postmillennialist and Preterist and does share some similarities with the Symbolic view presented above, so some level of crossover should be expected. Reasons for adherence to this view are dealt with below.

  • The images (heaven, earth, city, river, New Jerusalem) are applied to the Church which is a present reality and, coupled with the idea of the New Heaven and Earth representing the New Covenant, those Old Testament images find their application in the Church
  • Current and future state of the Church for all eternity
  • Phrases interpreted Spiritually according to their usage both in the Old and New Testaments. We find New Testament writers applying Old Testament “New heaven” imagery to the present state of the Church (Temple, Priest, etc).
  • Old heaven and earth – the old covenant
  • New heaven and earth – new covenant
  • “Sea was no more” represents the end of the view of the separation of God’s people and the gentile nations. They are to be seen as part of  Spiritual Israel, which was a first century reality.
  • All things made new (2 Cor 5:17). Paul uses similar imagery to describe the believer.
  • God always being with man mirrors Jesus’ own words when He stated “Lo, I am with you always…” Again, this was a present reality in the first century and continues to today.
  • No Temple (v. 22). This important Covenantal factor should not be overlooked.
  • Old Testament usage of the term New heaven and earth (Isa 65)

It is with this usage of the term that we will next turn our attention. What is meant by New Heaven and New earth as it used in both Old and New Testament passages.

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5 Responses to “Revealing Revelation – New Heaven and Earth Introduced”

  1. 1 Yeshua is the Lord of Glory

    Hi David

    Since scripture interprets scripture.It sounds like a present realized spiritual truth,John 14:23.That will be fulfilled literally when Jesus (from heaven) has put down all kingdoms (earthly rules and authorities).

    At his coming Jesus resurrects all of the dead and sits upon the throne of his Glory.Matthew 25:31-46.The present heavens and earth (flee) or roll away like a scroll from his face (presence).The last enemy (death) has been destroyed at the general resurrection and judgment.Death and hell (Hades) is cast into the lake of fire…Then he delivers up his kingdom (church) to the Father 1 Corinthians 15:24-26.God will come down from Heaven and reign on the earth with men, forever and Christ will forever sit upon the throne of his glory in the midst of the children of the kingdom. Revelation 11:15 and 21:23-27.

    No future earthly thousand or 1000 year reign.

    • 2 low5point

      True. The question remains does Chapter 21 start a new discussion of something that began in the past or does it follow chronologically. That is where the crux of the disagreements comes. When we look at the next section of New Heaven and Earth as it is used in the OT we will find some interesting description one would normally not associate with what we would call the eternal state, so it is then argued that Chapter 21 goes back in time (like Rev 20:1-4) to discuss a present reality…

      We shall see

  2. 3 Yeshua is the Lord of Glory

    Hey David!

    I am looking forward to reading your next section.

  3. 4 John Maclean

    Hello

    Worth considering John Owen’s sermon on 2nd Peter, regarding his view on new Heaven and new Earth.

    Possibly the most consistent view that I have come across.

    Regards

    John

    • 5 low5point

      Would love to. By chance is there a link for both myself and the readers?

      Blessings

      David


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