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A New Heavens and a New Earth
If there is need for the softening light of dawn in an area, it would seem this is a strong contender.
In our last Chapter, we noted this:
Accordingly, as we may see in Ch. 3 below, DV, there are some matters in various areas of scriptures, deliberately meaty, meant to require careful chewing, to elicit thought, to provoke pondering, and which like some puzzles for the adept or the challenged, are for stimulus. They do not deal with the plain elements of need; but with the greater recourses of thought, the more intimate and distant scenes, and the like.
In this case, the challenge is delicious; and it is evocative. We shall refer to such an area in terms of the arena of Revelation 21-22 on the one hand, and that of Isaiah 66, Micah 4, Isaiah 2 on the other, simply for distinguishing them; but then address the relationship between II Peter 3:11-13 and Revelation 22. Using the procedure, imagery is to show certain things to be carefully filtered from the periphery of imagination, and not to require others, which are that very periphery, as in parables in particular, we shall find the sure teaching. How much more may be implied is not for us to say. What is demonstrable is what needs to be understood. This helps to feed the soul.
Here the situation has a clarity and simplicity of the highest order. It is important to understand it, and the opportunity, even for the unstable, to misunderstand, is irrevocably dismissed. The inherent warping power of darkness is not dismissed, but anyone interested in the light is safe.
(1) Resurrection Bodies
Thus in I Corinthians 15, we find not that there is to be a body which is fusikos (1) and one which is pneumatikos (2) , but one which is yucikos (3) and one pneumatikos. Not the natural, but the nature of life as it is, it is which is to go. The yuch not the fusis is to become obsolete. Things do not lose the state of being created in a realm, an order with a nature donated to them, in order to become spiritual, as far as the body is concerned, we find therefore in I Cor. 15. Rather it is the natural man, which is paralleled in this chapter by such expressions 'in corruption' (I Cor. ), 'in dishonour' (I Cor. ), before we find our interest in v. 45, "It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body."
It is not therefore a natural order which is to be omitted (as in 1 above). It is not this term concerning 'nature', which is used in his exclusion. Rather, it is the term depicting a debased, dishonoured and potentially carnal body which is to be omitted. It is not a body of individuality and coherence, reality and distinguishing features which is to go; it is one which is inherently susceptible to decay, pain, mortality, corruption and death. Hence we read later (I Cor. ): "... corruption does not inherit incorruption."
'Flesh' is characteristically used in such contexts by Paul to mean the abased, spiritually diseased and inherently depraved, the sinfully lost, the adventurist-style divorcee from God, and its associates (as in Romans ,25, Galatians - where 'the flesh lusts against the spirit'). To be sure, this is sarx in these cases, but yuch, the soul, is its correlative, its parallel, the specialised expression of which sarx is the generic.
'Flesh' as such is something created, but the term tends to suggest especially in Paul, quite simply its fallen state, and what this implies in various contexts. 'Soul', being that which is to be saved, potentially at the first susceptible by donation to eternal life, but alienated from this and so settled in 'flesh', is not inherently at all evil. However, in this domain, dimension, historical situation, it is depleted of its proper vitality, dynamic and desire, and can with passion indeed, pursue what is far other, often with self-righteousness, to show the disease in intensively spiritual terms, where whoredom and the like does not so much appeal.
As Thayer points out in his Greek Lexicon (one which is distinguished by considerable flair for words, and far from wooden), Paul might have used fleshly (sarkikos) instead of yucikos (3 above), but appears to have used the correlative to 'fleshly', instead of that word itself, because quoting from Genesis 2. There, he had just used 'living soul' (Genesis 2:7 - 'living soul' employing yuch swma), and he continued in parallel without change.
Of course, it is not for us to guess why Paul used any given word, but the continuity of terminology, using what he quoted before as to vocabulary, in pursuing the theme, would normally be regarded as sound technique, lest confusion arise, and people begin to wonder whether he had changed or adjusted slightly the topic. In this way, no confusion is even possible. In that sense, Thayer's point is a just one.
It is, then, the dishonourable, the corruptible, indeed the corrupted which is to have no part in the kingdom of heaven, and this is what is declared in I Cor. , explicitly in the context of terms used. The addition of 'blood' in this verse, is merely a metonymy, the extension of the nature of things fallible, corruptible and mortal, and in this case defiled and degraded, into its human format more fully. THIS, the apostle instructs us, is to be replaced by what is a body immortal, incorruptible, honourable, free from defilement or its opportunities, its scope or its doom, its degrees or its character entirely.
In fact Paul is at enormous pains to exclude two things: any thought of impurity continuing in any degree whatsoever into the eternal state, and any conception of evaporation of nature, so that it ceases. There are, he declares, asseverates, pronounces with depth and continuity, DIFFERENT SORTS of bodies. He proceeds through a sort of litany of physical components of nature. This is used as a ground for the differentiation of types of body applicable to man. It is not that the natural is gone; it is that the corruptible is annulled. It is not at all that there is cessation of distinctive natural character, but there is a DIFFERENT one. It is one comparable to the current realm of nature in one point, that it is of a diverse but analogical sort.
Indeed, 'foolish one' he expostulates of the would-be confused person, unable or unwilling to realise the point (I Cor. 15:36ff.). To what does this constitute a part of the reply ? It is to a putative question:
It is apparent therefore that the apostle exceedingly degrades any concept of NO body, or some odd sort of body which is really not a body at all. It is the precise opposite which he pounds, expostulating extensively, crisply and dramatically against any such misconception. It is the same SORT of thing in this, that there is a decisive, individual and distinctive relationship between the one and the other. The difference is NOT a loss of information, form or reality, but a specific and highly specialised increment of excellence, indeed a replacement of the inglorious trend and type with the glorious type, both as intimately related as bodies, however, as are seed and grain. This is his message.
The evil susceptible is EXCLUDED from heaven (I Cor. ). It is not even relevant. There has to be a profound and total change of the nature of the being for it to be clothed with this species of immortality body. THAT is why it is called for; its destiny would not admit anything less. The difference is categorical, not in the realm or domain of the body, as body: THAT is the thing which is invariant in CATEGORY. The change, however, within that conceived category, it is absolute, from the downward to the upward, from the degraded to the restored, the ordinary to the extraordinary, the ugly to the beautiful, the vulnerable to the invulnerable, the judged to the acceptable, the bordering on dysfunction, to the endlessly functional.
Its difference, divergence, diversity, it is in an entirely and far more delightful direction, then, than mere alteration; but still in the style and form of BODY. It is still the species within the category which is at point; but the celestial species is above; the terrestrial is fallen below and sinks yet more to judgment.
The celestial: It is a glorious species of body for a glorious realm to be inhabited ONLY by people whose 'flesh and blood' defilement type bodily and spiritual domains are replaced by a spiritual body type involvement, parallel to the personal change made.
Thus the LORD (15:48-49) imparts in this way a body to those who are 'heavenly', adapted, regenerated and called, justified and to be gloried (Romans 8:29ff.). As Paul declares, it is "eternal in the heavens" (II Cor. 5:1ff.).As people are predestinated, so their bodies also are to be are secure, like their destiny itself (I Peter 1:4-5), neither fading away, not defiled, incorruptible and reserved in heaven for those who, being His, are kept by the power of God to salvation to be revealed in its consummate artistry and completion in heaven, though now already so sure on earth (Romans 5:10-11, John 10:9,27-28, Romans 8:23, I Thess. 5:9-10, I John 5:12ff.).
The Lord made the earthly,
whose domain became earthy through sin; and He makes the heavenly by salvation,
whose domain is celestial by appointment. Thus: "... as is the heavenly Man, so
also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of
dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly
It is precisely then that he tells us a mystery, in which there is to be a twinkling of an eye change, and it is one rather a parallel to the Genesis 1 revelation of the creation by the word of God, as reflected by Paul in II Cor. 4:6, where he wrote:
further declaring of the Christians who are so indeed,
modes of knowing ANYTHING are replaced by a universe of discourse, of vitality,
of spirituality in which, like children taken for the first time into an
airplane ride, the contours of actuality come with staggering impact on the
(2) Sheer Splendour of Spiritual Focus, Face to Face
Now we move from this part of the situation has been reviewed, following as it does, Christ's expostulatory declaration recorded in Luke 24:39, that "a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see Me to have", and invitation, "handle Me and see", with the additional laboratory style call, "Look at My hands and feet, that it is I Myself!" (cf. Stepping Out for Christ Ch. 5, Acme, Alpha and Omega Ch. 11, Biblical Blessings Ch. 15). We are clear that He could eat (Luke 24:43), and had yet to be glorified (John , Acts , I John 3:1-3), , in which form He communicated further to John for the provision of that last book of the inspired scripture, Revelation. We realise to the full that His coming again is in a way similar to that of His going (Acts 1:7), a fact used by the angel to make them realise that it was pointless to keep looking to the place to which He had gone, at the disappearing into the heavens of His form, since it would not re-appear until He should return as He said (Matthew 24:30ff., cf. Rev. I:7, Cor. 11:26, I Thess. 4). WHEN that occurred, it would be in a way analogous to that of His going. They would be twin actions. Further, it was to be and indeed will be, intensively glorious (Matthew 24:30, 26:64).
Thus with Christ the Lord in flesh format, prototype and Saviour from death (I John 3), defeat and disaster, a glory was added to His resurrection form which would not impede, but rather the more express His reality and purpose (as in Revelation 19, II Thessalonians 1, Zechariah 14, Daniel 7:13-14, Matthew 16:27, 25:31, 19:28ff.). With Him, it remains individual, practical, to be expressed as these references show, on earth as in heaven, first when He comes to the earth, and then when the earth departs (as in Matthew 24:35, Revelation 20:11), in that glorious dismissal as of a stage.
How foolish therefore is the misconception or rebellion or both of those who imagine that the stage is so important! What is the good of owning even ALL of it, if it is a stage only (as in Isaiah 51:6, one which grows old, goes like a cloud, like an old garment, and as in II Peter 3, with a glorious dismissal, glorious that is, in its mode of despatch, not in its end!). What is it like ? It is like a morbid child, possessed and even obsessed by the desire to look at his fingers and toes, when he is seven, unable to dissociate himself from his equipment, as if this were all. Behold, is it not but a means, and is not the spirit and the mind of man the point at issue!
FORM is not irrelevant. FACT is vital; but the form of this present world is passing away, and its end is approaching for the impact of the return of the Judge, Jesus Christ the righteous, the Prince of life. It is time to realise your destiny not in the drabs and dungarees of work clothes of the present soiled, debased and increasingly, degenerative domain, but in the realities of the spirit which is in you, in terms of which you can even begin to think, the mind which can cogitate, and the realities you use constantly - for many, often without either acknowledgment or delight.
When, this world dismissed like an insubordinate servant or a coffin of corruption (II Peter 3:10-13), for "both the earth and the works that are in it will be burnt up", then where is this inordinate grasping, this co-ordinate blindness, this unthankful disregard, this possession of the unpossessable, this glorying in what is not, which takes wings, this addiction to the drug of the preparatory school, of the pilgrimage site, this wilful ignorance of its purpose and portent, its aim and its end: where is this to be! (Cf. Repent or Perish Ch. 7., SMR pp. 601ff., 570ff.)
It is in fact not least the wonder of this world, though soiled by evil works, and maimed by judgments, its peculiar wonders and splendours not yet engulfed, that it still attests with durable robustness its Maker's magnificence. It first stirs, like the other wonders, the soul created and the mind endued, and invites or impels the heart to explore the realities of the Creator, as He enables. To meet its Maker face to face is the consummation of a long enquiry, of a vast journey from infancy. In itself, it has its own setting of the feet. It is at a peculiar, a special time that this pilgrimage of heart first occurs when, by whatever procedures and advance, the Lord opens one's eyes to Himself and His salvation, by which alone He may be known (John 3), so that all things become new as Paul declares (II Cor. 5:17ff.).
The life which is His, is newly created for and in Him, †is then intrigued, entranced and enquiring as it goes. It is constantly delighted in His vast amplitudes of magnificence, while likewise knowing God Himself (John 17:1-3, 14:9), stirred with whatever vision (Acts 2:17), and especially equipped with whatever understanding of His word (as in Ephesians 1:17-18, John 14:21-23), that ultimate definitive and final test of all doctrine, while imbued with that fellowship with Himself He graciously imparts.
The personal life of the disciple in Christ realises, however, that this is but part of that Almighty One's splendour. We are yet to know not in part but in whole, and to see not in vision but face to face (I Cor. 13:9ff., Revelation 21:4, 14ff., 22ff., 22:1-5), then being sated with the refreshing of His Spirit (Rev. 22:17) and enticed to know Him yet more fully in heaven, in the ETERNAL STATE (Rev. 22:5), even than now (John 4:14).
The beauty is without limit. Thus what is now given will not fade into obscurity (I Peter 1:24-25, Psalm 119:144,160,142,152,189), and while in the eternal state with Christ, it is to be fulfilled, and become what in word was, now in deed is; yet it is not then passť. It does not become other than what God has said, the word which endures for ever. Its early symbols indeed pass, being fulfilled (Matthew 5:17ff., I Peter 1:24ff.); but the fulfilment is not disjunction but conjunction. In eternity, in all things, there is consummation.
What is portended is now DONE. What is portrayed is performed. The torch has become the sun, but the light is of One. Thus it IS, and so it all continues unchanged from the mouth and mind of the unchanging God who declares that it is BECAUSE He does not change, that we are not consumed (Malachi 3:6).
Thus the Lamb is to be glorified with the Father for ever and ever (Rev. 5:10-12,13), and with Him His saints rule. Not a speck of His word will ever miss, misfire or be consumed (Matthew -19).
This having been said, nevertheless, let it be clearly realised that the consummation is the glory which surpasses, and the knowing in full in the ETERNAL STATE with the bodies fitting, the seeing of God face to face, the very wonder of seeking become finding in its uttermost point: this is to come. This glory grows like the light of dawning day. It is still day. It does not change. Yet it grows more intense and immense in revelation to the uttermost so that se know as we are known (I Cor. 13);† and like a Summer vacation, it is vast and refreshing; for they shall rest from their labours, there being no more pain, while continue in holy happiness in their service, who shall serve Him for ever and ever. This, it will be of surpassing joy, just as now it has its foretaste (I Peter 1:8, Rev. 14:13, 7:17, 21:4, 22:3-4, Psalm 17:15, 16:11).
The imagery and the statements of Rev. 21-22, for example, are certainly indicative of just such things. A question such as this: Are the streets of heaven made of gold ? is not so much an enquiry as a stunning. It is not even relevant. What is it like ? It is like asking the Lord when you have leprosy, and He is asking you what you want, to test whether it is healing or something else indirectly that you seek, for example, something like this:
What is the nature of the process by which the cancer cells are to be removed or rendered inoperative ?
Will you kill them, or evaporate them, annul them or restore
†will you ....
and on and on! It is meaningless in this, that it is beside the point at issue, and is using the FACT noted, healing, for a disquisition on what is not offered, the methodology.
It is not fitting to deny or to affirm in such a medical realm of pathology. It may be this or that; but certain it is, as in Isaiah 66:24, where the suggestion of visual contiguity, of inspectable corpses in their corruption, which reflect the spiritual doom of those rejecting salvation, and not receiving it, that it is clearly not meant to be taken in its thrust, except figuratively. In fact, hell as in Psalm 9, is not a visual proximation. It is not here and in this part of the earth (cf. Matthew 25:41). There is as Christ made moreover, abundantly clear, a separation of it by an unbreachable gulf (Luke 16). Indeed, the earth itself is to go, as we have seen. Lazarus in Christ's parable viewed it from heaven. This then is a SYMBOL expressed in earthly terms, for allegorical background or visionary representation, like a parable of impact, what is the point. It is done with dramatic impact because of this. It arrests, so doubtless fulfilling one major purpose of the presentation.
Let us then consider the imagery matter, and look at Isaiah. What then does doom as exhibited in Isaiah 66:24 teach in this use of contiguity, of the feeling of closeness as if the thing were viewable in Israel perhaps ? It shows that
So here in Revelation, when the heaven and the earth have fled, and we are looking at the New Jerusalem which comes down from heaven (Rev. 21:1-2), the question is not at all what is the nature of the gold, its purity rating and so on. It is rather this: what it is intended in a book which specialises in symbols and their obvious intent, in general, for us to learn from it in this field, in this depiction ? It is far from nothing. On the contrary, the message is decisive, incisive and precise. It is not carnal. It is spiritual, which is not another name, as we have just seen in Isaiah, for the vapid, the vaporous or the uncertain; for it indicates, here by revelation from God Himself, the presence of the ultimate nature of things, far removed from uncertainty, provided with knowledge.
Hell is certain and certainly endless (Isaiah 66, Mark 9). Its mode however, though deserving understanding, is not a specialty which one here pursues.
Heaven is magnificent and all the lessons of the symbols are vital and basic: eternity, specificity, individuality, glory, magnificence, intimate relationship to the realities of the pilgrimage on earth, close reliance on the salvation of the Lord, knowing God face to face, endless perfection without pain, glorious service in the delight in the Creator-Saviour without end and on and on ... The question of gold and its carat and so on, however, is merely to ignore the setting.
Thus in Revelation 21-22, the LORD is the light and the trees bear fruit every month. It is not lunar and solar; but it is light... and the trees speak in terms of our current earth. The implication is that the elements are not in this earth's meaning, but that some of its meanings are deployed to augment one's understanding. These things are trifles, but their message is not trifling. These points are spiritual, but their impact is not thereby less, but more. These things are to the heart and meaning of man from His Maker, and when that becomes clear, then all is clear.
As to eventual departure from the Lord: God's repudiation is after much longsuffering (II Peter 3:9), and is not to be carelessly understood, and we have often studied that topic in its place (see Index); while on the other hand, His presence in peace after salvation granted, pilgrimage ensues and comes to its consummation, this too has vast elements of specific and highly specified knowledge to the very end.
Bowing is not measured in inches, in spiritual things; but it is not the less real, but rather the more for that. Worship is not measured in decibels, nor is peace in metres; but their import is at the highest level of man's potential, when by grace granted salvation, he moves in the sphere of divine adoption as child of God.
When you know God, the
increase of that knowledge is comprehensible with facility. Without it, it is
like studying geography and thinking that the world is a cluster of symbols,
readable only on a map. Maps are fine; but when you know the territory,
their meaning is understood in reality. The one who does not know God is not a
Christian, and the word for that is Christ's (John 17:1-3 cf. John 5:39-40).
We have pondered the impartations in various places, on the eternal state. How precisely are the new heavens and the new earth, also depicted in the Bible, to relate to that eternal state, that ultimate blessedness to which may be made heir ?: that is the question. First howver let us remove an element which is not our current specialty.
Thus, as to the
here is a condition, an era, an epoch, with its sin not deleted entirely (as in
Isaiah 65:20), and indeed, it is one where evil has still to be reduced (as in
Zechariah 14:12-18). It will be so reduced, disciplined, enveloped and overcome
(Habakkuk 2:14, Psalm 73); but not without rule and governance (Psalm 2:10ff.).
We have dealt with various aspects of this in several places. These include SMR
Appendix A, Little Things 1; Galloping Events 8 esp. *1, The
During this millenium, let us shortly review, there is to be a cessation of the supernatural assist unit, the devil, one very able for the purposes of evil. His power will be put on hold in this era, the millenium. His glamorous delusions, deceptions, sinuous lies, fabrics of appeal, concoctions of mental anaesthesia, the Mickey Finns of spiritual blindness: these will at that time be missing. He will be incarcerated.
It is not that FLESH will not proceed in its own way; but it will be chastened and limited, unable to luxuriate in the furore and force of the prince of this world (John ), as heretofore. Hence there will be a time of manifestation of righteousness, in which liberty does not have the diabolical power assist for its more delusive dreams, for so long its wont. That, incidentally, is a wont which times innumerable, has been so because man has NOT said, Won't!
All this is clear and dwelt on sufficiently, being brought to light here again merely for its place in the schema.
In Micah 4*1, one might add, it is apparent because of Isaiah 65:13-15 and 66:1-3 with it, that in this millenium, there can certainly be no recrudescence of Old Testament rites (Hebrews 8 and esp. 8:13 with 10:1, 10:29, 12:22ff. making this superabundantly apparent). THOSE things are gone with the breach of the covenant. By this time, the Israel component hs long come in spiritual things, to be in a disgrace so total, a severance so extreme that the Lord CONTRASTS the joy of His servants with the anguish (while still unbelieving) of Israel.
This is the now case, the
predicted (and now duly fulfilled) victories for
BECAUSE there is a new sacrifice to replace the old, a new covenant likewise, and this for those who receive the Messiah, as in Isaiah 53, 66 and 65:13ff., Jeremiah 31:31ff., Ezekiel 11:10ff.), it is clear that this reference in Zech. 14 to sacrifices is a startlement by anachronism, or if you like, an investment by key and code. Zechariah is one of the most evangelical prophets, with enormous, incisive and precise presentation of the Messiah and His work (as in 3:9, 9:6-7, 4:11ff., 11 (multiple), 12:10, 13:1 and so on). Even if his work were alone, the meaning of the old sacrifices would per se, conflict with the message of the new covenant; but in the whole gamut of the word of God, there is utterly pellucid depiction.
This is the meaning in the terms of the day, to be interpreted by the keys provided AT THAT DAY in the prophets. Zechariah in this one of the chief, and the symbolism is not for sleepy students (cf. Barbs, Arrows and Balms 13, Biblical Blessings Appendix 1,
). One can readily do this sort of thing, as does a teacher. Here one may purposely be evoking startlement or concern at some point, in the way it is expressed, in order to refresh the minds or focus them. The desire is that they should probe, and be probed, so that past mere words of hearing, they should thus be helped to gain an understanding in and of the heart!
" 'Why do
you reason because you have no bread ? Do you not yet perceive nor understand ?
Is your heart still hardened ? Having eyes, do you not see ? And having ears,
do you not
hear ? And do you not remember ? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up ?'
All these things, however, concerning the millenium are NOT perfect in this, that God still in this epoch ACTS to suppress evil, expose it, deliver the saints, discipline and so on. Thus the millenium not least represents an abeyance of wonderful dimensions, but not a cessation of evil. The main spring is missing, but the spirit of it remains. This is precisely as in Isaiah 26:10:
The millenium comes and it goes, and the earth does perceive the majesty of the Lord, as far as any blind in heart may do so, the Lord is glorified, vindicated, His ways are exhibited, made manifest, the evil force is in abeyance and the beauty of His ways is demonstrated most amply in the sensitivity and splendour of His rule (as in Psalm 73).
It is as we have earlier noted, then, not the millenium, except to see it in perspective in the broader canvas, which here concerns us. It is rather the distinctiveness of what is not the millenium: the eternal state, and its relationship to the New Heavens and the New Earth which are depicted most forcibly in both Testaments, the Old and the new.
Now what do we learn from the NEW HEAVENS AND NEW EARTH, firstly from II Peter 3! It includes this , that there is to be removal by BURNING UP of this earth, but not only of this earth, but this earth as seen in a bundle with the EVIL WORKS which are apt for incineration. It is a purgation by incineration, as householders of our current dimension themselves frequently practise, though of course this burning up of the world and its works is ultimately for spirits, that essential focus and function of man; and as such, its dimensions are more horror filled, being both just and endued with contempt (Daniel 12).
The one leaves that the other may come. It does so. We look for it. The other is gone, with its rubbish. Rebellion is rubbish and belongs there (unless in its time, redeemed). Thus the new heavens and the new earth are decidedly NOT THE MILLENIUM. That is obvious. What however is their relationship to the ETERNAL STATE. That, it is here a fascinating question. Is the answer so obvious that one must lament one's obtuseness, or is it searching, so that one must seek extra donations of help, to embrace it justly ? One things is sure, that nothing is too hard for the Lord and His word is given for understanding (Proverbs 8).
Let us consider and meditate on this matter now. The CHIEF things so far noted about the new heavens and new earth include these: that they are CONTRARY to the present one, and that they follows the total ANNIHILATION of this present set, while themselves being FITTING for eternity. It is further apparent that they FOLLOW the time of repentance and are FINAL. Now is not the eternal state all of these things, itself final ? Are they then not correlatives, the eternal state and the new heavens with the new earth ?
However, to be formalistic about it for the moment, the enduement with even several quite basic features, in common to two entities, does not prove their identity. Similar, profoundly so ? Yes. The same ? Not, on these grounds alone, necessarily so.
What other grounds however, unique in kind if available, exist for the comparison ? When ALL this earth is gone, and ALL unrighteousness is gone, even that last flicker when the millenium of whatever duration (II Peter 3:9) is past therefore (Rev. 20:7ff.), when the saints finally all rest from their labours, what is the situation ? It is heaven, unfolded, revealed, exposed, eternal, unchangeable in summit and consummation, express in revelation, unsurpassable in kind, replete with destiny, beyond all trial, pain and suggestion of former things. Such have we found.
Are there then two heavens ? Is the Christian then to inhabit two dominions in two ways ? Emphatically not, for there is but one God and His one destiny is as stated in Revelation and in numerous other places, with Him, with unblinking delight, attired in light as a garment, the Lord the light, and living like the morning star within (II Peter 1, Revelation 22:16), while it is in its eternal beauty, further express as such, without, placed both inwardly and outwardly.
What then is the MEANING of the new heavens and new earth ? As in all depictions which lack definition in practical points, we are forced to consider the main thrust and ensure that we do not miss it, as if preoccupied, like a very 'slow in heart' student, too pre-occupied with the details, which exist only to provide the substance.
What then is the substance of this new heavens and new earth ? It cannot be less than the following: there is to be a concreteness about the location and the opportunities for the service of Christ which we know to be eternal, post-pilgrimage and associated with a rest that is consummate*2. Even now, there is strong substance in rest in Him, and its essential disturbance for the Christian becomes something properly as atypical and strange as a tornado. Sometimes visiting, such a disturbance is still a visitation far from normal! cf. II Cor. 1:3-7. Such a temporary unrest could on occasion happen even to the apostle Paul, for whom however the enormous inner tranquillity, not instead of labour, but with it, resumed (Phil. 4:4-6).
We find then that the concept of new heavens and new earth conducts us to REALITY, a NATURE (as in I Cor. 15 earlier), a state of things, a universe of action, a splendour that is particular, with individualities, a purity which is commensurate with the perfection of righteousness and the eternity of truth. It is the correlative, in other words, to the SPIRITUAL BODY, which is to be glorified on the prototype of Christ's resurrected body, so practical as to engage in eating, one then brought to the perfection of form which is His as glorified.
Reference to this newness also follows the work of evangelisation as noted in Isaiah 66:18ff. (cf. Little Things Ch. 1, SMR pp. 791ff.), which is this our Age's contribution in intense form. It is however also associated in Isaiah 66:22ff. with continuity, individuality, personality. In 66:24, in the forms written, there is found fitting the same sort of key control as in Zechariah 14. As there, we have already noted the applicability of meaning in terms of principles of interpretation given in the Bible; and just as we have seen this illustrated in Mark 8, so is the case here.
In other words, we are arrested, here as there, and our principles proceed to be prodded into operation, as we realise the gravity of the message, hell being brought near as by some telephoto lens, even seemingly to the very neighbourhood of events, though without participation, to shock both as to its calamity and its reality.
Beyond all this, in Isaiah 65-66, as in Rev. 21-22, it is clear for our topic that there is to be specificity of enterprise and realisation of the wonder of the whole scope of the divine enterprise (as in Ephesians 3:10), all heaven being instructed, and all the denizens of eternity being taught through the purity of the peace, the wonder of the divine dealings and in the acutely conscious presence of the glory of the Lord.
Here the 'all things are new' phenomenon which is the transient's privilege, on conversion to Christ on this earth (II Cor. 5:17ff.) becomes the all things new of the celestial environment, city and scope in entirety, and the former things are not brought to mind nor does their memory afflict (Isaiah 65:17). The rendering of 65:17, "and the former shall not be remembered or come upon the heart" is most expressive, and gives the sense. Thus is the scope extended, the fields of and for faith vast and enticing, intriguing and appealing as we live in the light of the Lord, Himself the temple.
ALL burdens are gone, but ALL wonder continues in the
originality and purity of the One who, having made the first design both of man
and his environment, and having cursed the same in notation of man's sin
(Romans 8:20 cf. Beyond the Curse, Ch. 7 of Biblical Blessings),
now blesses without stint or limitation, the creations of his joy, the
abundance of His heart towards the redeemed. It is not enough in His excellent
liberality and profound enduements, that the heart be changed as it is in our
present realm upon conversion to Christ Jesus, though this is the first and
most essential thing, so that the glory of God be seen and realised. Now in
heaven's just clime, in Him and with Him, unchanged with covenant unchanged*3 there is also now the
boon that the heartland being found, the infections terminated, the very
stage gone, the new things are given with splendid scope, their own licence and
their own light of the Lord, for ever.
On the current dimensions of such rest, see Rev. 14, and perceive its core also, as exhorted for the present time, in substance, in Hebrews 4. Indeed, the current lack of that profound rest of spirit which is a gift of the Lord, needs contermporary remedy - cf. SMR pp. 570ff.. For the Christian indeed, the final rest is consummation of the present one, and the understanding of the latter helps vastly in the discernment of the meaning of the former. The peace of God is certainly past understanding, not in logical disarray! but in that sort of engulfment and wonder which would appear to the mind of a young student asked the exact depth of the ocean and the volume of water in it.
Where to his young mind, there is something near to
irrelevant in the question, if he bathes in the ocean and delights in its
moods, modes and grandeur, yet with the Christian adult, it is realised that
there IS not any limit to the depth of the rest and the peace of God. If the
pit of destruction is imaged as bottomless, so the rest of God is incomparable
to any height, merely suggested by the mountains, aspiring in their majesty in
Canada, by the scores of miles, unceasing in their magnificence.
It is delightful to note that the twelve foundations of the city, the lamb the cornerstone, being apostolic, it is clear that what Ephesians 2:19 has told us, is verified. There the church was in the past tense, BUILT on the foundations of the Lamb and the apostles, the prophets. They were not something to come. They had made the structure of its covenantal type already. It could be expounded and applied; but it was not changeable at all (cf. Hebrews 7-10). It had been then built!
Like the everlasting Gospel of Rev. 14, so the
everlasting covenant is not alterable (Hebrews 9:12-14, 10:19-26 cf. Biblical
Blessings Ch. 9, Barbs, Arrows and Balms 17). Here in Revelation, this apostolic
fact is verified (cf. Revelation 5:13, Colossians 1:19ff., Galatians 1, Rev.
21:22-23, 22:3). While there is a new heavens and a new earth, there is nothing
at all new about the Lamb, His sacrifice, His salvation, His testimony of
truth. It is just that the consummation is exceeding in glory, because all is
revealed. There is prodigious scope for the wonderful grace and glory of God to