An Examination of
Revelation 21:1-27 and 22:1-6
1 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.
Again I ask, how are we to “spiritually discern” the words “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”? Are we to take these words as literal, meaning exactly what they say, and consider “a new heaven and a new earth” to be a re-creation of “the first heaven and the first earth” found in Genesis creation? OR, are we to take them as metaphorical language and give them a spiritualized definition, such as the New Covenant? It is not my purpose to labor on this verse anymore than necessary, but it does seem to me that HOW we understand these words, “a new heaven and a new earth” will help us understand the “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband”.
IF there is any chronological or time sequence to the things that John had revealed unto him, then it seems it would make a big difference in our understanding. IF “the first heaven and the first earth” that is passed away in verse one is “the heaven and the earth” of the Genesis creation, and they are replaced by “a new heaven and a new earth” then it seems to me that “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” would have to follow in sequence, just as it does in the vision John saw. THEREFORE, I would ask, do the scriptures teach that “the heaven and the earth” of the Genesis creation will “pass away”? If so, when will they pass away?
In Matthew 24 Jesus foretold of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the desolation to come upon the natural nation of the Jews, according to Daniel’s “70 week” prophecy. Everyone except the Futurist realize that Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled in 70 AD when the Roman General Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. However, there are things spoken in Matthew 24 that were not fulfilled in 70 AD, and are yet to be fulfilled. This is why I am a Partial Preterist and not a Full Preterist. As Jesus began to foretell of the destruction of the Temple, the disciples said to him “Tell us, when shall these things be? AND what shall be the sign of thy coming, AND of the end of the world?” (caps mine - Matt 24:3). Some see these three questions as ONE – and ALL related to the events of 70 AD.
Others, including myself, see these as THREE questions, one of which is related to 70 AD and the other two as related to end of time here on this earth at the final coming of Christ for his saints, at the resurrection of the just and the unjust, according to many other Scriptures. Since man is subject to error, one should take the advice of Jesus as he said to his disciples, “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Matt 24:4). Matthew 24 is not my text and I do not wish to get sidetracked, so I will be brief. But a study of that chapter would be beneficial. When talking about the events leading up to the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matt 24:34). In the very next verse He said “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." This is also recorded in Mark 13:31 and Luke 21:33. The Full Preterist have tried to make this “heaven and earth” to be the Old Covenant which they say “passed away” in 70 AD and was replaced with the New Covenant or “a new heaven and a new earth." In my opinion, if you believe this you will be deceived indeed.
When Jesus said “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” it appears to me that he is talking about the “heaven and earth” of the Genesis creation. The Greek word translated “heaven” is translated “heaven” 268 times and means (1) the vaulted expanse of the sky with all things visible in it, (1a) the universe, the world, (1b) the aerial heavens or sky, the region where the clouds and the tempests gather, and where thunder and lightning are produced, (1c) the sidereal or starry heavens and (2) the region above the sidereal heavens, the seat of order of things eternal and consummately perfect where God dwells and other heavenly beings. I cannot find where this word is ever used to speak of a “covenant” in the New Testament. The Greek word translated “earth” in Matthew 24:4 means (1) the ground, the earth as a standing place, (2) the main land as opposed to the sea or water, (3) the earth as a whole, (3a) the earth as opposed to the heavens, (3b) the inhabited earth, the abode of men and animals. I cannot find where this word is never used to speak of a “covenant."
If we believe the words of Jesus we will understand that this present “heaven and earth” did not pass away in 70 AD. Jesus said in Matthew 24:36 “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." We can know of the signs leading up to this time for Jesus said, “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt 24:37-39). Everyone who studies Jewish history knows about 70 AD. Furthermore the event was predicted in scripture, and the wars leading up to the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem were in progress for six years before 70 AD. Besides these disregarded facts, IF the final coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in 1 Thess 4:13-19 took place in 70 AD, we are all in big trouble and have no hope.
In 2nd Peter 3 we read something about “the heavens and the earth, which are now” passing away. Peter reminds us that “there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." The Full Preterist are in effect “scoffers” denying the promise of the final coming of Christ. Peter says, “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished." In other words Peter reminds of the flood which destroyed all life on this earth, and then he tells us, “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." Peter is not comparing any “covenant” when he said “the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, PERISHED." Peter is not speaking of any “covenant” when he says, “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." The words “heavens” and “earth” in this passage are the same as those used when Jesus said ““Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."
Peter goes on to say, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." IF this is speaking of the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 AD, will someone please tell me how an event broadcast by six years of war preceding it, can be “as a thief in the night."
Peter continued, “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." Granted the word “elements” can mean and is used to speak of the basic principles of The Law, one of the primary meanings of the word is “the elements from which all things have come, the material causes of the universe."
Besides these things, “Eternal Life” and “Righteousness” is IN Christ himself, not in the “new covenant” of which he is the Mediator. Let me explain what I mean. ALL of God’s elect people, according to His everlasting or eternal covenant with Christ, even those living under the “old covenant” (which term is not in the Scriptures) referring to The Law, of which Moses was the mediator, were saved by the GRACE of God and made the Righteousness of God and accepted IN Christ the beloved. ALL whom God foreknew He predestinated, called, justified and glorified IN Christ before the foundation of the world. ALL of God’s elect people are children of the promise of eternal life. God’s elect did not have to wait until 70 AD for this to become the will and purpose of God.
Just as Abraham, who was not under the old law covenant, “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” so do we “look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." If I understand it correctly this is that which God promised in Isaiah 65, “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying." I ask, IS THIS NOT THE NEW JERUSALEM that John saw? For he said, “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."