New Heavens and a New Earth

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New Heavens and a New Earth

New Heavens and a New Earth?

The Nations are but a Drop in the BucketThe Old Testament prophet Isaiah once contrasted God’s accomplishments with all that mankind has ever achieved.

It was not a flattering comparison for he said that, compared with Almighty God, all nations are like the small dust on the scales (Isaiah 40:15) – like a bit of flour left on the scales after you’ve made a cake!

The apostle Paul looked at God’s immense power and drew a more comforting conclusion. His point was that when you think about God’s power you realise that nothing can withstand it and nobody can challenge it:

“I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38,39).

First things First

But before you can take advantage of the wonderful care that God takes of His children, you have to become a member of His family. And before you decide to live a day at a time, with no fear about what tomorrow might bring, you have to do what Jesus told his followers to do. It’s a matter of putting first things first or, as Jesus said:

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

Once you’ve done that, there is nothing else to worry about. Leave the rest to God, who will sort everything out in His time.

Will the world ever end?

The chances are that if you plucked up the courage to ask your colleague about the protest march he was on – as I never did about the animal-rights activities – you would find out that he had religious views of one sort or another. In my time I have walked up and down roads with a placard that said much the same thing, so that people could do something about it – come to a talk, an exhibition, or read some literature, like this article. It’s the sort of thing you do if you feel that people need to think seriously about the way the world is going, and you know what the eventual end will be.

Not that the world itself is due to end, whatever scientists may predict. There is a set of data that far surpasses human calculation or human prediction. The God of the Universe has revealed His purpose and, as Maker and Creator, He should know if anyone does. So what does He say?

Here is a selection of encouraging passages that tell us about a better future for the earth and for all those inhabitants of the earth who make it through the difficult days we are now experiencing. They are part of a prophetic vision from just one Old Testament prophet – Isaiah – but you can find similar word pictures in many of the prophetic writings:

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain (Jerusalem), for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9);

The ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away (Isaiah 35:10);

Thus says the LORD, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who has established it, who did not create it in vain, who formed it to be inhabited: ‘I am the LORD, and there is no other’ (Isaiah 45:18);

‘Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people; the voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying … The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain (Jerusalem),’ says the LORD (Isaiah 65:17- 25).

God intends to transform society by making the world a place where people know God and worship Him. It follows that the earth will then be at peace – with God and between men and women. Those whom God has ransomed (or redeemed) will inhabit a world of “everlasting joy” (do you fancy that?).

“Joy and gladness” will be the order of the day – every day.

The earth will be inhabited by people who obey God because they want to, not because they are forced to. Old habits and bad experiences will be forgotten and a new order of things will exist. Mankind will live in harmony with the created earth: they will neither exploit it nor savage it and even animals will then be at peace with one another.

That would have pleased my pink-haired work colleague, if I had told her about it.

New Heavens and Earth

Did you notice that the prophet Isaiah described that new society as: “new heavens and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17), which indicates that the present arrangement of things will come to an end. A great thing about the Bible is that one inspired writer throws light on the teachings of another, because the Bible has only one originating author.

The Bible is the Word of God and He has inspired the various contributors, so it’s His message to mankind, not their own thoughts, however worthy.

Much later on in time, writing in the New Testament, the apostle Peter picks up Isaiah’s prophecy and adds some important details. He explains that God views human society in this way:

  1. The world that existed before Noah’s flood;
  2. The state of affairs that now exists; and
  3. The new society – which he also calls a “new heavens and earth” – which will be established when God’s kingdom arrives.

This explains, if there was any doubt about it, that the expression we’re investigating does not mean a new planet, or a new universe. For whilst the flood in Noah’s day destroyed the society then existing, and changed the look of things in a radical way, it was the same planet that Noah and his family members eventually started to cultivate and repopulate.

God’s Rescue Plan

God has a long-term purpose with this earth and has made promises about it and its occupants which He can never break, for God never breaks His Word. You might remember that Jesus referred to that Bible teaching when teaching his disciples for, he said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

The additional information the apostle Peter provides is that God is deliberately biding His time before intervening to bring our muddled and messed-up human society to an end. He is giving us all time to think things through and prepare ourselves, so that we can be part of that new opportunity, because not everybody will be privileged to share in the new world.

This is what Peter says, as God’s spokesman:

“This they (unbelievers) wilfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same word, reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:5-9).

Lessons from the Past

God has been waiting, says the apostle, to give us all a chance to think about what is happening and to repent of our faults and failures. He doesn’t want us to miss out: He wants us to accept the offer of salvation that is contained in the Bible. But notice the warning that is implicit in this offer. We must repent and turn to God if we want to be saved. If we don’t we could perish – a word which in the Bible means ‘to cease to exist’. But will there be a big take-up of this offer, or will it be largely ignored?

The apostle’s prediction is that most people will deliberately choose to ignore the lessons of history and take no notice of what happened at the time of Noah. So they will not repent nor prepare for the coming change: “the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men”.

Sadly that is what is indeed happening. Nowadays very few people accept that Noah’s flood was an actual event. And if they do think there might have been severe flooding in the past, they fail to see its relWaiting for a Trainevance today, now that London has the Thames Barrier and other major cities have their flood defences!

Henry Ford once said that “History is more or less bunk … We want to live in the present”.

But President Dwight D. Eisenhower made a more perceptive comment when he said: “Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him”.

Like Noah’s Day

The apostle Peter said that what happened long ago gives us a template for what will happen again and this was not the first time such a point had been made. No less a teacher than Jesus had made that comparison; but in making it he added an important ingredient. For Jesus explained what had gone wrong with the society that existed before the flood – the one that God destroyed. We know, from the contemporary Scriptural account, that it was extremely violent and wholly godless (you can read all about it in Genesis chapter 6).

But Jesus identified some key characteristics and then added a powerful comparison:

“As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37-39).

Did you notice the key point here in the critical observation made by Jesus? He knew the Scriptural account like no other, for he was remarkably well informed. He could have said that it was a time of utter violence: a time when people were extremely godless and wholly self-serving.

That’s what the Genesis account records:

“the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

What Jesus focuses on, however, is that everything was carrying on as usual, regardless of the preaching of Noah, and his extensive preparations. His contemporaries didn’t want to know, despite his best attempts to inform them and persuade them. They “did not know” because they didn’t want to know; nothing was to disturb their routine existence – eating and drinking, and their marriage celebrations – until it was too late. We are told that Noah was a preacher. Who wouldn’t be, if you knew for sure that everything was about to end and that there was only one way out?

We don’t know if he walked around with a placard saying “The End of the World is Near”, but we do know that nobody paid him any meaningful attention. For when the rain came and the floods rose, only Noah and seven members of his family survived the destruction – just eight in all. They were the survivors who started the next civilisation. But do you notice the powerful comparison Jesus makes with our day? He makes it twice:

“As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be … so also will the coming of the Son of Man be (Matthew 24:37,39).

Jesus says that history is due to repeat itself. When his Second Coming is about to happen, very few people will pay it any attention. Most people will not want to know.

How do you respond to that challenge?

To learn more about God’s Plan and Purpose with this World click here:

The Kingdom of God