A Whole New World: The New Heaven and New Earth NOW!
Dr. Chuck Crisco
I can show you the world, shining, shimmering, splendid; Tell me, princess, now when did you last let your heart decide?
I can open your eyes take you wonder by wonder; Over, sideways and under on a magic carpet ride
A whole new world; A new fantastic point of view; No one to tell us no or where to go or say we're only dreaming
A whole new world a dazzling place I never knew; But when I'm way up here, it's crystal clear that now I'm in a whole new world with you… (Aladdin)
Like Aladdin, I want to invite you to discover a whole new world, from God’s point of view. It’s called the New Heavens and the New Earth and the Bible is crystal clear that it isn’t some place way off into the future at the end of the world. In fact, it’s here right now, right here.
If you have been raised in churches in America, you were probably taught that the New Heaven and New Earth only come when the world is burned crispy critter at the end of the world. We were taught that would be heaven on earth. But there are some real problems with that view.
What does the Bible actually say? David Curtis writes,
“If you read Isaiah 65 and 66, you will notice that, before God creates the new heavens and a new earth, God predicted that Israel would fill the measure of her sin (65:7); he would destroy them (65:8-15; 66:3-6,15-18,24); create a new people with a new name (65:15-16); then create a new heaven and earth with a new Jerusalem (65:17-19). When God created the new heavens and earth, notice that physical death will remain (Isa. 65:20, 66:24), home construction and agriculture will continue (Isa. 65:21-22), we will have descendants (Isa. 65:23, 66:22), the Lord will hear their prayers (Isa. 65:24), there will still be sin (Isa. 65:20, Mat.12:32, Rev.22:15 ), and it is depicted as a time of evangelism when the Jew and Gentile will be brought together under the banner of God (66:19). The new heavens and earth, therefore, cannot be referring to the eternal state; it must be referring to a period in man's history. This is the period of the Kingdom of God which Christ rules in the hearts of the believers. The Kingdom of God is made without hands (spiritual - Dan. 2:34, 44-45; c.f. Col. 2:10-11).”
For many, the very thought of living in the New Heavens and New Earth now is laughable. This is because we imagine it something different than what it really is. So, let me take you on a magic carpet ride to a whole new world, as we explore what this is all about.
Let’s begin with a definition and then unpack that in the notes ahead. The New Heaven’s and New Earth is biblical language to describe how God forever interacts covenantally with people in the New Covenant kingdom. It’s that simple.
• It is where and how heaven and earth connect so to speak.
• It is a wonderful world in which God made his tabernacle with man.
• It is how he relates to us through the gift of righteousness in the New Covenant.
• It is where he has reconciled us to himself, not counting our sins against us, and issuing the call for us to be reconciled to him.
• It is where he convicts us of the root problem of unbelief and is merciful to the sins that are resulting from that unbelief.
• It is where we are transformed not into the image of the Law, but into the image of Christ as we acknowledge our identity in Him.
• It is where we are blessed, accepted, loved, and forgiven through the finished work of Christ.
• It is where God overcomes evil with good, he blesses those who curse him, he loves his enemies until they can’t take it anymore, and his justice is redemptive instead of punitive.
• It is the realm in which there is no curse and no wrath.
There is a lot of debate over Grace and Law today and much of it is because of a fundamental misunderstanding of what to do with some seemingly difficult passages of scripture. Some seem to indicate radical grace. Others seem to demand some form of Christian law and punishment before God. Both were present in the NT simply because there was a 40 year transition period where the Law was fading away and the New Covenant Kingdom had not fully been established yet.
The author of Hebrews makes this plain: Hebrews 8:13, “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”
Just like there was a 40 year transition period between the giving of the Law and them entering into Promised Land. In the New as well, there was a 40 year transition period. Jesus said multiple times that “all these things” (culminating in the destruction of the temple) would happen in “this” generation. “This” is called a “near demonstrative” in grammar. It is not “that” generation 2000 years later. It is the one that was alive when he was speaking. In fact, Jesus died in 30AD and the complete destruction of the Law and its attendant pieces (priesthood, sacrifices, temple, etc) happened in 70AD. That is exactly 40 years, one generation.
What does all this have to do with the New Heavens and Earth?
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled." (Matthew 5:17-18).
Did you catch that? The Law and Prophets (the entirety of the Old Covenant) must remain until all of it is fulfilled, and heaven and earth pass away. Jesus did not fulfill the Law and the Prophets at the cross. Yes I know we were taught that, but the Bible doesn’t actually teach it. Instead Jesus told them in Luke 21:
20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. 22 For these are the days of vengeance, that ALL things which are written may be FULFILLED.
In fact, when you read Deuteronomy 32, (the Law), you discover many scriptures that the writers of the NC quote as being fulfilled in their life and ministry. By 70AD ALL of them were fulfilled. Otherwise, the Law is still in operation today.
Part 2 coming soon