My views on the new heavens and new earth are not usually shared by other Pre-Millennialists. I view the new heavens and new earth as occurring at the beginning of Messiah’s millennial reign. This new heavens and new earth will be like those that Noah inherited after the flood. It will be the same heavens and earth, but renovated because of the destruction that occurred during God’s wrath. My views on the New Jerusalem also seem to be in the minority. I believe the New Jerusalem will descend to earth at the beginning of the Messiah’s millennial reign. This bride of Messiah is where believers will dwell during the 1000 year period. Let’s start with Isaiah 65-66, then turn to II Peter 3, and finish up in Revelation 21-22. These are the key texts for understanding the new heavens and the new earth. Open your Bibles, and…. begin!
At the time of the other cataclysmic events of Isaiah, the new heavens and new earth will be created (65:17) along with a new Jerusalem (65:18). Death will be restricted but not eliminated as people will live longer but still die. Sinners will have their lives cut short (65:20). Those who belong to the people of God will have their lives like the life of a tree, long enjoying the work of their hands (65:22). Animals will live at peace with each other (65:25 which parallels 11:6-9) taking us back to Eden like conditions.
In the midst of this description of the new heavens and new earth, God reminds His people that they really cannot build Him a resting place (66:1-2). With heaven for a throne and the earth for a footstool, what more could He want from us? What the LORD really desires is for someone to be humble, contrite, and to tremble at His word.
The people of the earth are called to rejoice with (alongside) this new Jerusalem (66:10). She will have a glorious abundance from which many may drink deeply from (66:11). The LORD will extend peace to Jerusalem like a river as she functions like a mother to the nations of the earth (66:12-13). There is a cause and effect in 66:14-16. Effect: Rejoicing and flourishing because the hand of the LORD will be known to His servants. Cause: The LORD will show His indignation against His enemies with fire, fury, and the sword. So, because the LORD will pour out His fury, this flourishing of the kingdom will come after that. Individual Israelites scattered throughout the Gentile nations will be brought to the holy mountain as a type of living sacrifice to the LORD (66:20). Of these the LORD will take many for priests (66:21).
The new heavens and new earth which the LORD will create will remain before Him, just like the offspring of Israel will remain before Him (66:22). It seems like the offspring of Israel regathered at this time are living under the new heavens and on the new earth since they are set forth in the same context. New moons and sabbaths are observed within the nation of Israel as the entire world comes to worship before the LORD (66:23). There has been a judgement which has some type of lasting effect whereby people can view the burning carcasses (66:24).
Summarily, the new heavens and new earth, based on an examination of Isaiah 65-66, will be fulfilled in the Messianic Kingdom. It seems like the Messianic Kingdom, the new heavens, the new earth, and this new Jerusalem will begin as the LORD comes in judgement. This will be the beginning of God’s plan for Israel to become a blessing to all nations, Isaiah 2:2-4. This will not be the entire fulfillment, but one step toward the ultimate goal. This will also be a step in redeeming earth as a whole according to the Seed Promise (Gen. 3:15) in light of the creation mandate (Gen. 1:28).
II Peter 3 concerns the coming of the LORD. They ask (II Peter 3:4), "Where is the promise of His coming?" Peter explains that in the days of Noah there was a wicked generation who thought the same thing (II Peter 3:5). That wicked generation was ignorant that the earth they were standing on and the heavens they lived under were slated for judgement by flood (II Peter 3:6). Noah was faithful, moved with fear, condemned the old earth, and inherited the new earth (Heb. 11:7). The same earth that we stand on is also slated for judgement by fire at the coming of the LORD (II Peter 3:7).
The Day of the LORD will come as a thief in the night in conjunction with the coming of the LORD, the judgement by fire, and the destruction of the present heavens and earth (II Peter 3:10). Because of this, we should have a holy conduct since we know that this fiery judgement will come in such a fashion (II Peter 3:11). We look for this judgement to occur during the Day of the LORD (Day of God) when the heavens will be on fire and the elements of the earth will melt with such fervent heat (II Peter 3:12). We look according to His promise [contained in Isaiah 65-66] for that new heavens and new earth where righteousness will dwell (II Peter 3:13). It seems to me that Paul uses the phrase “His promise” to denote something written in the scriptures which would be a clear reference to Isaiah 65-66.
Laying the two prophecies over each other we see that the new heavens and new earth of II Peter 3 are the same new heavens and new earth of Isaiah 65-66. They are said to begin with the coming of the LORD, with the Day of the LORD, and when a fiery judgement is enacted upon the current citizens of this present earth. Those in the church will live in the new heavens and new earth which will be a place of righteousness.
Now for Revelation. Revelation 20 briefly glimpses ahead to the period in time following the Millennium and following the little season to explain the devil’s ultimate doom. Then in Revelation 21:1 the emphasis shifts back to the glory of the LORD Jesus at His coming, only this time the focus is on the glory of the bride who comes with the LORD Jesus. The New Jerusalem is the bride of Messiah having the identity of the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles both engraved within her. It will be Israel and the church in one holy union. At this time God will personally be with His people in an ongoing way, Rev. 21:3, John 14:1-3, Ezekiel 37:27, 36:28, Jeremiah 31:33, Hosea 2:23.
From Revelation 21:9 through 22:5 is a description of the New Jerusalem which descends just as the new heavens and new earth are seen by John (Rev. 21:1-2). The New Jerusalem will be a city here on the earth. This description is not a description of heaven. It is not a description of the new heavens and new earth. It is a description of one city in relationship to the other nations which will exist here on earth at that time. I know we’ve all heard about the streets of gold in heaven, but that’s not what the Bible says. The streets of gold are in the New Jerusalem which descends from heaven to earth.
Revelation 21:24 speaks of certain nations which are saved and walk in the light of the New Jerusalem. The kings of these saved nations will bring their glory and honor to the New Jerusalem (21:26). Its gates will never be shut by day allowing the kings of the earth to come (21:25). While some nations may send envoys to the New Jerusalem, the prohibition is that nothing sinful may ever enter into the city (21:27). The leaves of the tree of life are for the purpose that some nations may receive healing (22:2). Within this city there will be no night since God’s light shines continually (22:5). For those living outside the city, they may be allowed at some point to enter the city and partake of the tree of life, but only if they obey (22:14). Outside the city there will still be many sinful people (22:15).
This language that the prophet John uses to describe the New Jerusalem reminds us of so many prophecies from the OT scriptures. Joel 3:17 states that the LORD will dwell in Zion which would be holy and no foreigners would pass through her again. Isaiah 60:3 speaks of kings coming to the light of Zion. The gates will never be shut so that kings may come, Isaiah 60:11. Psalm 102:15-16 foretells that nations will fear the name of the LORD as He appears gloriously in Zion. Micah 4:1-5 envisions the Word of the LORD going forth from Zion as all nations flow unto the holy mountain. The similarity in language cannot be overlooked by the serious student of the Word.
Conclusion: when we read about the New Jerusalem, we are reading about a city here on earth from which Messiah rules, in which the church lives with God, from which Israel is governed, and from which the nations of the earth receive their light.
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