New Heavens and New Earth

Posted: October 2, 2008 by npulpit in Scriptural Question
Tags: , ,

I was reading in Isaiah 66.22-24 and ran across a brief discussion about the new heavens and new earth. This is not a new theme in Isaiah (see Isa 65.17) nor is it foreign to the rest of Scripture (2 Peter 3.13; Revelation 21.1, cf. Hebrews 12.22 and the heavenly Jerusalem). However, in Isaiah 66 we also have, in verse 24, the mention of the worm that does not die and the fire is not quenched. In Mark 9, Jesus grabs this from Isaiah and applies it to hell (Mark 9.48, and in the KJV and NKJV v.44, 46). So I am wondering, all you scholars and bible students out there, is the reference in Isaiah a reference to hell also? And if it is, does that mean that the new heavens and the new earth are a reference to heaven? Be sure to cite sources and Scriputures used.

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Comments
  1. cthoward says:

    First…
    Isaiah, in 66:22, is referencing the prophecy he just gave in 65:17ff. So, we can gather some evidence from chapter 65. The first thing that pops out to me is that in this new heaven and earth there is still death. Notice 65:20. It doesn’t say there will be no more death, but that people will live to ripe old ages. If this is heaven, why are people still dying? Of course, this is probably symbolism for peace and health…which is more symbolism for the blessings of God, since He promised Israel He would bless them if they were faithful to Him (Deut 28-30).

    Then, in 65:25, Isaiah says at the end of the verse, “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.” This is a repeat of 11:9…which is wonderful because chapter 11 provides a time-frame. Notice the repeat in 11:9, and then the time-frame in 11:10. This prophecy of peace will be fulfilled, according to Isaiah, in the days of the “root of Jesse.” Of course, Paul takes this very verse (v10) and applies it to Christ and His salvation for the Gentiles (see Rom 15:12). So, Paul said that Isa 11:10 was fulfilled in his day…Isaiah says that is the same day for the fulfillment of the peace prophecy (“they shall not hurt or destroy…”)…that same prophecy is repeated in Isa 65:25 and applied to the new heaven and earth…therefore the new heaven and earth must have come in the first century. (By the way, the imagery of the animals dwelling peacefully is also used in Isa 11, and is part of the context that is said to be fulfilled when Christ comes).

    And…
    Hebrews 12 is important to look at in considering Isa 65:25. Isaiah mentions the Lord’s “holy mountain.” This must be Mt. Zion, the hill Jerusalem was built on. Isa 10:32 clarifies this for us, mentioning “the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem.” Also, Isa 66:20 mentions God’s “holy mountain Jerusalem.” Hebrews 12:22 says that we, as God’s people, have already come to Mt. Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem. The Zion prophecies of the OT have been fulfilled in the establishment of Christ’s kingdom in the first century. (see also Heb 12:28; 1Pt 2:9; Rev 1:6)

    How about some more…
    Revelation 21 picks up the new heaven and earth concept of Isaiah. We may again be tempted to think Rev 21 is talking about heaven, but notice the reference to a “new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven” (v2). That sounds like the heavenly Jerusalem that Heb 12:22 says we have already come to. And, this city is not heaven…it is coming down out of heaven. Also, the city is said to be prepared like a bride. In Ephesians 5:22f, Paul says that the relationship between Christ and the church is like marriage…or, more correctly, that marriage is a reflection, a symbol, of Christ’s relationship with the church. In the imagery, Christ is represented by the husband, and the church by the wife, or bride. It seems that the best understanding of the heavenly Jerusalem of Rev 21 is that this a reference to God’s kingdom on earth, the church. This is especially evident when we look at Rev 21:3, the very next verse. This verse quotes Lev 26:11, saying God’s dwelling place will be with His people. He shall be their God and they shall be His people. This phrase is repeated in Jeremiah 31:33, which Hebrews 8 quotes and applies to the people of the new covenant, a covenant that Hebrews 9:15f declares came into effect when Jesus died. All of this is evidence that the concept of Isaiah of a new heaven and earth is taken up in Revelation 21 and applied to first century events. So, the new heaven and earth of Isaiah is already here.

    Now, the Isaiah 66:24 reference to the worm and fire that do not die can refer to hell (as Jesus indicates in Mark 9:48) without necessitating that the new heaven and earth refer to heaven. The Isaiah text says merely that those who are offspring of God will look on the dead bodies of those who have rebelled…and that those who have rebelled will have an unending judgment. This is like saying that we can observe a person who lives in rebellion to God, and that we can understand that that rebellion will lead to eternal condemnation. We don’t have to be in heaven to know rebellion when we see it. If we were alive when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, we could go out and look at the bodies of men who had been judged by God, and are facing eternal fire. This is Isaiah’s (God’s) point…when those who are rebellious are judged, they are a sign to the faithful that they must stay faithful.

    Besides, if Isa 66 is talking about heaven, then why are there dead bodies of the rebellious lying about? If they are supposed to be in hell, then why are there bodies in heaven? Didn’t Jesus speak of a resurrection of the wicked, a raising of their bodies (since that is what resurrection means) to judgment? (John 5:29) Then how do there souls end up in hell (presumably), but their bodies end up in heaven?

    Well, the problems really come in when we try to analyze Isaiah 66 in a literal manner. Surely there is much symbolism there. Surely the point is that there will be a remnant of God’s people dwelling securely in a new heaven and earth, a new (restored) kingdom, and the rest who are rebellious will be judged, and will be made into a warning for the faithful to stay faithful.

    So….here’s my answer, Nick.

    Clint

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