New Heaven and New Earth

 

Integrative Dispensationalism understands that this universe will not be annihilated but purged of all sin and the effects of a curse. What are the biblical basis that points out for that view? What the term “new,” in the expression “New Haven and New Earth,” means? Does not the Bible clearly say that the present universe will pass away, destroyed by fire? That are some frequent questions and we will address them right now.

 

1 – The Annihilation View of Revelation 21.1

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.” (Rev. 21:1)

As we have seen in the previous article, some important Dispensationalists understood this verse as expressing a total annihilation. They point out to the following facts in the text. First, they interpret the expression “for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” as total annihilation. For example, Dr. Charles Ryrie relates this passing away with the judgment described by Peter:

“The present creation will be destroyed so that it may be cleansed from all the effects of sin (2 Peter 3:7, 10, 12). No more sea because climatic and human conditions will be completely different.”

Second, in that view, the word “new” means something totally new and not just a renovation, as explains Dr. Robert L. Thomas:

“It is a making of all things new, not a remaking of the old which has fallen under the curse of sin. This does not mark a failure of God’s purpose for the first creation, but a process that He intended from the beginning in allowing evil to have its day in the first creation before being purged.”[2]

Now let us address this biblical verse and understand why a renovation view makes sense.

 

2 – The Renovation View of Revelation 21.1

 

A) The Meaning of the Term “New”

In the book of The Bible and the Future, Anthony Hoekema has argued that the term new means a new in quality and not a new in quantity:

“The word neos means new in time or origin, whereas the word kainos means new in nature or in quality. [Paul looks forward to] not the emergence of a cosmos totally other than the present one, but the creation of a universe which, though it has been gloriously renewed, stands in continuity with the present one”[3]

The Complete Word Study Dictionary provides the following information about this expression:

“New heavens and a new earth” (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1; Sept.: Is. 65:17; 66:22) refers to heaven and earth which have been renewed, and, therefore, made superior, more splendid; as also the “new Jerusalem” (Rev. 3:12; 21:2); “I make all things new” or nobler (Rev. 21:5). Metaphorically speaking of Christians who are renewed and changed from evil to good by the Spirit of God (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; Eph. 4:24); a new heart, a transformed, saved heart (Sept.: Ezek. 18:31; 36:26).[4]

The Theological Dictionary of The New Testament distinguishes between the Greek words neos and kainos:

“νέος is new in time or origin, i.e., young, with a suggestion of immaturity or lack of respect for the old (→ νέος for examples). καινός is what is new in nature, different from the usual, impressive, better than the old, superior in value or attraction.”[5]

G. K. Beale, in The Book of Revelation, states:

“…καινός (“new”), as we have seen, refers predominantly to a change in quality or essence rather than something new that has never previously been in existence.”[6]

In the book ‘A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments’, we read:

“…not recent, but changed from the old (Greek, “kaina,” not “nea”). An earnest of this regeneration and transfiguration of nature is given already in the regenerate soul.”[7]

William Milligan, in The Expositor’s Bible, says:

“The Seer beholds “a new heaven and a new earth.” Two words in the New Testament are translated “new,” but there is a difference between them. The one contemplates the object spoken of under the aspect of something that has been recently brought into existence, the other under a fresh aspect given to what had previously existed, but been outworn. The latter word is employed here…The fact, therefore, that the heavens and the earth here spoken of are “new,” does not imply that they are now first brought into being. They may be the old heavens and the old earth, but they have a new aspect, a new character, adapted to a new end.”[8]

Alva McClain said:

“This does not necessarily mean the annihilation of our present world of matter; for the Greeks, kainos may mean new in character rather than in substance. The same term is used of the regenerated believer: he becomes a “new creation (II Cor. 5:17, ASV) in a crisis which does not annihilate the personal entity but transforms it. So in the final change of the physical universe, it does not lose its identity but will pass away to its ‘outward and recognizable form’ and be renewed in a ‘fresh and more glorious one’.”[9]

The above quotes show us that many theologians understand that the use of kainos instead of neos implies the renewal view and not an annihilation view. Some annihilationists authors object to this claim, stating that the use of kainos word is not convincing enough. Therefore, they point out that the “new covenant” is called both neos (Heb. 12:24), as well as kainos (Heb. 9:15).

Who is right? Would the use of the word kainos a sufficient proof in favor of the renovation view? When we want to know the meaning of a word in a given text, we must look at the context. Therefore, the view of renewal is not based only on the meaning of the word kainos that appears in dictionaries, but, as we shall now see, the very context indicates a new in quality.

 

B) The Context of the Expression “New Heaven and New Earth”

First, let us analyze the canonical context. That is crucial because this expression is not something new in the Bible, but an expression derived from Isaiah:

“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” (Isa. 65:17)

John used an expression of the OT. In Isaiah, the “New Heaven and the New Earth” is not a creation ex nihilo, after the destruction of this universe. That is because this very expression is used to describe a certain renewal and transformation that Earth will go through in the Millennium period. Dr. Michael J. Svigel, a professor of Dallas Theological Seminary, made important observations about this fact:

“Nothing in the “new heavens and new earth” prophecy of Isaiah suggests an annihilation and new creation ex nihilo. In fact, the fiery judgment described in 66:15–16 anticipates survivors and a continuation of the world after the fire (vv. 17, 19–20).”[10]

Shed of its context, this verse could be interpreted as creation ex nihilo following an annihilation of the universe, but the following explanatory passage emphasizes a new quality of the world, not a new world per se.”[11]

According to the classic interpretation, Isaiah’s imagery of the new heavens and new earth as the renewed condition of this world after a purifying conflagration stands as the background of later canonical development. Therefore, whenever the phrase “new heavens and new earth” appears in the canon, these subsequent references find their inspiration and point of departure from the original use in Isaiah 65:17–25. [12] 

I agree with Dr. Svigel that John wrote in the light of this canonical context, having Isaiah text as a background.

More than that, the canonical context also helps us to determine the meaning of the word kainos which used be John, because Paul used a similar language when he wrote:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor. 5:17)

Dr. Svigel observes that:

“Here believers have not ceased to exist only to be re-created ex nihilo. Neither have their old ways entirely vanished. Rather, the salvation of a sinner is a regeneration, renewal, and redemption of the old and a transformation into something qualitatively new (Titus 3:5). [13]

Having looked at the canonical context, we must look now at the immediate context. When we do so, a question is raised: what, in John’s view, will pass way? The answer to this question will also help us to determine the meaning of the new used by John.

 

C) What is “Passing Away” in John’s View?

The term translated “to pass away” do not mean “to be annihilated.” Dr. Svigel explains that this term is neutral, referring simply to “going away,” or “departing.” He also observes:

“One of these terms, parevrcomai, refers to the old things of the believer’s life that have “passed away” (2 Cor. 5:17), drawing similarly on new creation imagery and implying a remolding of a person’s life and character, not an annihilation of the old and replacement by the new.”[14]

Our question is what will pass away? It is worth noting that a similar issue occurred in the text of Isaiah 65:17, which says, “former things will not be remembered.” What things will not be remembered? Will our memory be deleted? Will all memory of this present universe be erased of our minds? I think that the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament is right in saying that Isaias context defines what are the things will not be remembered, in previous verse (Isaiah 65.16) [15]:

“…For the past troubles will be forgotten  and hidden from my eyes.” (Isa. 65:16)

The same occurs in the book of Revelation. We will find in the very context of Revelation what will pass away. Dr. Svigel observed it very well:

Revelation 21:4 interprets the symbols of the vision that heaven and earth “passed away”—“the first things have passed away.” What things are these? Not elements, atoms, or molecules, but the evil order of things: death, wickedness, grief, suffering, pain, degeneration, and deterioration that had long held all of these physical and spiritual elements in bondage. Those are the first things that had “passed away.””[16]

Therefore, in the verse 4, we see what will pass way:

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev. 21:4)

John said that the “old order of things” will pass way. This old order of things refer to the whole state of affairs contrary to the will and purpose of God for his creation. [21] These things are the result and the product of the fall and the curse. For Gale Z. Heide, John’s view of a new heaven and earth does not refer to a totally new creation, but this view points out that all the consequences of original sin will be overcome.[24] So the world we live in today will continue to exist, but in a transformed state, after God set him free from the bonds of curse. (Rm 8:19-22).[25]

Albert Barnes  wrote:

“Such a heaven and earth that they might properly be called new; such transformations, and such changes in their appearance, that they seemed to be just created. He does not say that they were created now, or anew; that the old heavens and earth were annihilated;— all he is saying is that there were such changes that they seemed to be new. If the earth is to be renovated by fire, such a renovation will give an appearance to the globe as if it were created anew, and might be attended with such an apparent change in the heavens that they might be said to be new.”[17]

Matthew Henry, stated that “this world is not newly created, but newly opened, and filled with all those who were the heirs of it.”[18] Irinaeus also defended this view with the following words:

“Neither is the substance nor the essence of the creation annihilated (for faithful and true is He who has established it), but “the fashion of the world passes away;” [1 Cor. 7:31]. . . . But when this present fashion of things passes away, and man has been renewed, and flourishes in an incorruptible state, so as to preclude the possibility of becoming old, then there shall be the new heaven and the new earth, in which the new man shall remain continually, always holding fresh converse with God.”[19]

Augustine of Hippo, wrote in the fifth century:

“For when the judgment is finished, this heaven and earth shall cease to be, and there will be a new heaven and a new earth. For this world shall pass away by transmutation, not by absolute destruction. And therefore the apostle says, “For the figure of this world passeth away. I would have you be without anxiety.” The figure, therefore, passes away, not the nature. . . . And by this universal conflagration, the qualities of the corruptible elements which suited our corruptible bodies shall utterly perish, and our substance shall receive such qualities as shall, by a wonderful transmutation, harmonize with our immortal bodies, so that, as the world itself is renewed to some better thing, it is fitly accommodated to men, themselves renewed in their flesh to some better thing.” [20]

Wayne Grudem exposes his view as follows:

“…it is difficult to think that God would entirely annihilate his original creation, thereby seeming to give the devil the last word and scrapping the creation that was originally “very good” (Gen. 1:31). The passages above that speak of shaking and removing the earth and of the first earth passing away may simply refer to its existence in its present form, not its very existence itself, and even 2 Peter 3:10, which speaks of the elements dissolving and the earth and the works on it being burned up, may not be speaking of the earth as a planet but rather the surface things on the earth (that is, much of the ground and the things on the ground).”[26]

C. S. Lewis wrote:

“That is the picture—not of unmaking but of remaking. The old field of space, time, matter, and the senses is to be weeded, dug, and sown for a new crop. We may be tired of that old field: God is not.”.[27]

I think that Christopher A. Davis is totally right when he states:

“The consummation of the kingdom does not mark the end of God’s creation, but the transformation of creation so that it conforms to his sovereign will. God created the universe and pronounced it “good” (Gen 1:31). He loves his creation and does not want to destroy it. Instead, he wants to redeem it by removing the “cancer” of evil and restoring it to health.”[28]

Nancy Pearcey, in Total Truth, wrote:

“The new heavens and new earth will be a continuation of the creation we know now—purified by fire, but recognizably the same, just as Jesus was recognizable in His resurrection body.”[29]

Jack Cottrell observed very well:

“The final glory that will be revealed to God’s children will include not just new and glorified bodies, but also a completely renewed universe to serve as our eternal home. “Creation itself must be redeemed in order that redeemed man may have a fitting environment” (Dunn, I:471). Thus the second coming of Christ will be the time of “the renewal of all things” (Matt 19:28), or the “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21, NASB). Out of the cleansing cosmic fire will come new heavens and a new earth, completely purged of sin’s effects and fully indwelt by righteousness (2 Pet 3:10–13; see Isa 65:17; 66:22; Rev 21:1). In that day the meek will inherit the new earth, in which there will no longer be any curse (Matt 5:5; Rev 22:3).” Jack Cottrell[30]

 

Conclusion

The Bible says that Christ came down from heaven, not to destroy the earth, but the works of Satan. The person who wants to destroy the earth is Satan, not Christ. Christ wants to restore it and thus destroy the works of Satan. John Piper says that God did not create matter to throw it away.[31]

After an extensive analysis of the history of Christian thought on the subject, Michael Svigel concluded:

“A majority of writers from the patristic, medieval, and reformation eras advanced a view of the new heavens and new earth as cosmic renewal following purifying fire rather than cosmic recreation ex nihilo following an annihilating holocaust.“[32]

Therefore, we can conclude this article with the words of David L. Tuner, that expresses very well the Integrative Dispensationalist view of the New Heaven and New Earth:

“The new universe in Christ is none other than the old Adamic universe gloriously liberated from its cacophonous groan to a harmonious song of praise to the One who sits on the throne..”[33]


 

 

Author: Author

 


 

Notes: 

[1]Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Ryrie study Bible: New American Standard Bible, 1995 update, Includes indexes., Expanded ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), 2042.

[2] Thomas, R. L. (1995). Revelation 8-22: an exegetical commentary (p. 440). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the, 280

[4]Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament. G2537.

[5]Gerhard Friedrich. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol 3. Pg 447.

[6]G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation : A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 1040.

[7]Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, A. R. Fausset et al., A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, On Spine: Critical and Explanatory Commentary. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), Ap 21:5.

[8]William Milligan, “The Book of Revelation” In , in The Expositor’s Bible, Volume 6: Ephesians to Revelation, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll, Expositor’s Bible (Hartford, CT: S.S. Scranton Co., 1903), 918.

[9] Alva McClain. The Greatness of the Kingdom. Pg 510

[10] Michael J. Svigel. EXTREME MAKEOVER. BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 171 (October–December 2014): 162–77

[11] Michael J. Svigel. EXTREME MAKEOVER. BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 171 (October–December 2014): 162–77

[12] Michael J. Svigel. EXTREME MAKEOVER. BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 171 (October–December 2014): 162–77

[13] Michael J. Svigel. EXTREME MAKEOVER. BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 171 (October–December 2014): 162–77

[14] Michael J. Svigel. EXTREME MAKEOVER. BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 171 (October–December 2014): 162–77

[15]G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007), 1150.

[16] Michael J. Svigel. EXTREME MAKEOVER. BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 171 (October–December 2014): 162–77

[17]Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testaments: Revelation (London: Blackie & Son, 1884-1885), 443.

[18]Matthew Henry, E4’s Matthew Henry’s Complete 6 Volume Commentary, electronic ed. (:: , .), 274.

[19] Quoted By Michael J. Svigel. EXTREME MAKEOVER. BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 171 (October–December 2014): 162–77

[20] Quoted By Michael J. Svigel. EXTREME MAKEOVER. BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 171 (October–December 2014): 162–77

[21]J. Skinner, The Book of the Prophet Isaiah, Chapters XL.-LXVI. With Introduction and Notes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1898), 218.

[22]H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Isaiah, H. C. Leupold Commentary Collection (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1971), 2:366.

[23]Edward Young, The Book of Isaiah: Volume 3, Chapters 40-66 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1972), 514.

[24] Gale Z. Heide. What Is New About The New Heaven And The New Earth? A Theology Of Creation From Revelation 21 And 2 Peter 3 em Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society Volume 40. 1997. Pg  42.

[25] Gale Z. Heide. What Is New About The New Heaven And The New Earth? A Theology Of Creation From Revelation 21 And 2 Peter 3 em Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society Volume 40. 1997. Pg  48.

[26]Grudem, W. A. (1994). Systematic theology : An introduction to biblical doctrine (1160). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

[27] C. S. Lewis. Miracles. Pg 155

[28]Christopher A. Davis, Revelation, The College Press NIV commentary (Joplin, Mo.: College Press Pub., 2000), 375.

[29] Nancy Pearcey. Total Truth (Kindle Location 1134).

[30]Jack Cottrell, Romans : Volume 1, College Press NIV commentary. Rm 8:21.

[31] Randy Alcorn . Heaven (Kindle Location 2982).

[32] Michael J. Svigel. EXTREME MAKEOVER. BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 171 (October–December 2014): 162–77

[33] Bock, Darrell L.; Blaising, Craig A. Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church (Kindle Locations 4653-4654).