New Heavens and New Earth
In 2 Peter 3:10 it seems to be saying that the earth is going to be destroyed and replaced with a new earth. Am I reading this correctly?
2 Peter 3:10 - 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.
Peter goes on to quote the Old Testament to support his claim:
2 Peter 3:13 - Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
Most Bibles will have a cross-reference to either Isaiah 65:17 or Isaiah 66:22 (sometimes both). Let's look at what they say:
Isaiah 65:17 - For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.
Isaiah 66:22 - For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.
Now, with no context to these passages they seem to support the interpretation of a destroyed heaven and earth. What happens when we add context?
Isaiah 65:17-25 - 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. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.
The "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" is portrayed here in Isaiah as a time on the earth when Jerusalem will be a rejoicing and the nature of the animals changed. The prophecy requires the continued existence of the earth. The "heavens" and "earth" (of Peter) are figurative for a constitution or order of things on the earth. This is also proven by Peter's quotation from Isaiah 65:17. Since the new heavens and earth are the creation of "Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy" in which "they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain", the heavens and earth which are destroyed must be prior constitutions or orders on the earth which are removed for the establishment of the new.
What does Peter mean by the burning up of the heavens and earth? As mentioned in the paragraph above the heavens and earth which are destroyed must be prior constitution or order of things on the earth which are removed for the establishment of the new constitution or order of things. The burning of the earth is an Old Testament expression that relates to the destruction of a wicked order of things, not the destruction of the globe.
Zephaniah 3:8 - Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.
As we continue in the context of the prophecy of Zephaniah we find that the earth still exists:
Zephaniah 3:9-10 - For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering.
Another example of this is found in Micah:
Micah 1:4 - And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place.
It seems to be destruction of the earth, yet three chapters later we read:
Micah 4:1-4 - But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.
Rather than being destroyed in great fires, the earth is to become filled with the glory of the LORD:
Numbers 14:21 - But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.
Habakkuk 2:14 - For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah 45:18 - For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.
Rather than being destroyed, we are told that the earth is to "abide forever":
Ecclesiastes 1:4 - One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
Psalm 104:1, 5 - Bless the LORD ... Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.
Psalm 93:1 - The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.
Psalm 96:10 - Say among the heathen that the LORD reigneth: the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved: he shall judge the people righteously.
The terms of the phrase "new heavens and new earth" are couched in language that refers to the type of governing that will happen. So in other words, Peter is teaching that Christ will come and rule this world and change it in such a way that it can be said that the whole environment (political and otherwise) can be said to be a "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness". An earth "wherein dwelleth righteousness" is a new world, unlike anything we've ever seen. It doesn't require a creation of a new planet.
Here is the picture that is drawn for us in Scripture. The righteous will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5; Psalm 37). The earth will be at peace and productive (Isaiah 66:25; 55:12-13; Ezekiel 34:27). The only things we know about the end of the first thousand years of the kingdom of God is that Jesus will have conquered death completely (1 Corinthians 15:26) and he will have turned the kingdom over to God and will be subject to him (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). At this point God will be manifested in all who have been granted immortality (1 Corinthians 15:28) and they will see God's face (Revelation 22:4) and they will reign forever with the Father and with Jesus (Revelation 22:5).
Written by Matthew Smith
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