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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Building ( up ) in the 'New Heavens and New Earth'

There has been much talk recently, especially among those who subscribe to the preterist paradigm; that we inhabit the new heavens and new earth. I used to say this quite alot and taught it, as well; maybe to my own detriment! I say 'to my own detriment', because it didn't matter who I said it to, even so-called preterists ( partial-preterists is what they are generally called ): when I would bring up the subject of our living in the new heavens and new earth; 'red flags' ( and walls, in most cases ) went up, and questions would fly!

If Christ has come, and we are in the new heavens and new earth; then why is the curse still evident, why is there still evil happening, like pornography, murder, child abuse, etc, etc..............? Why are natural disasters, such as tsunamis, the recent earthquake in China, cyclones in Myanmar, and even more recently; very destructive ( though thank God, only two fatalities ) tornadoes down just south of where I live, in North-east Colorado? If God is ruling on the earth, and we are in the new heavens and new earth; then why did He allow such evil to happen in the attacks on 'innocent' civilians in New York City on September 11th, 2001? Why is there no lasting peace in the Middle-east? Why do we still have to die?

I could try to answer all of these questions, but even if I did ( and I've tried ); there would be many who would disagree with most, if not all, of my conclusions. I am therefore simply going to try to build up my readers through this little study in the Scriptures, and hope that God will use my weaknesses to edify you, as I strive to spread the fulfilled gospel of Jesus Christ, in this 'new heavens and new earth'!

Before we actually 'delve' into Scripture, to see what It has to say about these 'new heavens and new earth'; I want to look at the phrase itself: why is it 'the new heavens (plural ) and new earth ( singular )' ? Well, actually; if you want to be precise about it, you'll probably see that the Hebrew and Greek usages are both singular; but what are the 'heavens'?? Both the Hebrew and Greek words translated as 'heaven' in our English Bibles, mean simply, 'sky', and that's why It reads 'new heavens', because, in even our day and age; we use the phrase 'the heavens' to describe the air around us, especially the upper reaches, where the stars can be seen.

To the Scriptures then!

The most commonly read Scriptures regarding 'the new heavens and new earth' are Isaiah 65: 17-25 and II Peter 3: 5-7 & 10-13, and last but not least, in Revelation 21 and 22, in which the 'new heavens and new earth' are described in greater, if not more mystifying detail.

Firstly:

Isaiah 65:17-25;

17 “ For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing,
And her people a joy.
19 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.
20 “ No more shall an infant from there live but a few days,
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days;
For the child shall die one hundred years old,
But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
They shall not plant and another eat;
For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people,
And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labor in vain,
Nor bring forth children for trouble;
For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD,
And their offspring with them.
24 “ It shall come to pass
That before they call, I will answer;
And while they are still speaking, I will hear.
25 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,”
Says the LORD.

The first clue, within this passage, to understanding correctly this passage is found in the first and second verses of this passage. In verse 17; God tells us to behold His new creation, called the 'new heavens and new earth', then in the next verse, tells us that He is 'merely' creating Jerusalem a rejoicing and her people a joy. In the next verse, and in the ones following; we can see that these 'new heavens and new earth' are 'merely' a re-creation, or even transformation of His original creation, re-formed, or 'changed', back into His image. In verse 20; we read that 'no more shall an infant from there live but a few days.......', further enforcing the fact that this whole passage is speaking of His people, and His holy city, Jerusalem. In verse 22; He speaks of His elect ones, and in verse 23, of the fact that 'They shall not labor in vain..........., bringing to remembrance the passage in Genesis, where God tells Adam that, because he was disobedient; 'Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.', and the passage in Deuteronomy 28, where God tells them, in verse 33, 'A nation whom you have not known shall eat the fruit of your land and the produce of your labor...........', thus speaking , in the new, or re-creation of the 'heavens and new earth', of a reversal of the curse, or curses for disobedience that God had levied upon His Old Covenant people of Israel. Verses 24 & 25 continue with this theme by reminding them, in other words, that they will again 'walk' with God in His Paradise! In Matthew 6, Jesus reminded His disciples that ' your Father knows what you have need of before you ask Him'. In a certain passage in John 16, speaking of the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus tells His disciples again, implying strongly that there will then be no more need of an intercessor, that in that day ( the Holy Spirit ) we will 'ask in His name' and that He would not 'pray the Father for us; for the Father Himself loves us.............'. In the last verse; He not only speaks of the abundance of true peace that the 'inhabitants' of this 'new creation' would experience, but takes us back to Genesis, where, in His original Paradise, He pronounced the curse on the serpent: 'on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life'. The phrase 'My holy mountain', of course, should immediately bring to mind that passage in Hebrews 12, wherein the Author tells His readers that 'you have not come to the mountain that may be touched..................................but you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God..........' ( and I must here emphasize the fact that these words were spoken in the present tense ).

II Peter 3:5-7 & 10-13

5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.[a] 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Footnotes:

  1. 2 Peter 3:10 NU-Text reads laid bare (literally found).
This passage is fairly self-explanatory, I would think; but too often has been mis-translated. I think that, especially if you are wont to look at these Scriptures from a covenantal viewpoint, this passage should be easily understood as speaking of God's 'creation' of His special, covenant people, and subsequent destruction of those unfaithful covenant-breakers. Peter reminds his readers that as the 'world', or heavens and earth which then existed 'perished', even so 'the heavens and earth which are now' were slated to be destroyed in much the same way, except this time by fire, rather than water. I think that the point to be understood here, is that Peter is speaking, not of the destruction of the physical universe, or heavens and earth; but rather, of the final judgment of those who had broken God's covenant, His so-called Old Covenant people, the nation of Israel. I've written previously of verses that show up in the midst of certain passages, that almost make you think 'what is that doing there?'; and I think that verse 11 is such a verse: it's the 'kicker', you might say, or the crux of the whole passage! Peter admonishes his readers, in verse 11, to be careful that they remain holy and godly in their conduct, because of the coming 'cataclysm', or destruction, of the present 'heavens and earth', lest they be destroyed along with that 'world'. He then comforts them by saying that 'we', meaning he and his fellow first-century disciples, looked forward to a 'new' heavens and earth, 'where righteousness dwells'.

Revelation 21

1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John,[a] saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me,[b] “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
6 And He said to me, “It is done![c] I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things,[d] and I will be his God and he shall be My son. 8 But the cowardly, unbelieving,[e] abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me[f] and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”[g] 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy[h] Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. 12 Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13 three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.
14 Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names[i] of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15 And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. 17 Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. 18 The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
22 But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it,[j] for the glory[k] of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. 24 And the nations of those who are saved[l] shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.[m] 25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). 26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.[n] 27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes[o] an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

  1. Revelation 21:2 NU-Text and M-Text omit John.
  2. Revelation 21:5 NU-Text and M-Text omit to me.
  3. Revelation 21:6 M-Text omits It is done.
  4. Revelation 21:7 M-Text reads overcomes, I shall give him these things.
  5. Revelation 21:8 M-Text adds and sinners.
  6. Revelation 21:9 NU-Text and M-Text omit to me.
  7. Revelation 21:9 M-Text reads I will show you the woman, the Lamb’s bride.
  8. Revelation 21:10 NU-Text and M-Text omit the great and read the holy city, Jerusalem.
  9. Revelation 21:14 NU-Text and M-Text read twelve names.
  10. Revelation 21:23 NU-Text and M-Text omit in it.
  11. Revelation 21:23 M-Text reads the very glory.
  12. Revelation 21:24 NU-Text and M-Text omit of those who are saved.
  13. Revelation 21:24 M-Text reads the glory and honor of the nations to Him.
  14. Revelation 21:26 M-Text adds that they may enter in.
  15. Revelation 21:27 NU-Text and M-Text read anything profane, nor one who causes.
Right off, I think; the first several verses should give us a clue ( as in many cases ) as to John's meaning here. In the very first verse of this passage; John says simply that he saw 'a new heaven and a new earth', for as Peter, and before him, Jesus, had prophesied; 'the first heaven and the first earth had passed away': and then elaborates his prior statement by saying that 'I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, adorned as bride prepared for her husband'. John continues, in the passage following, by relating how God took us back to His Paradise, in that He now dwells with us, in His tabernacle. He then brings it to a point by quoting from Isaiah 65, which I've already quoted above, and 'echoing' Paul's words in II Corinthians 5, by saying 'Behold I make all things new!'. Before he actually begins to describe, in very hyperbolic, and typological ( not to mention-straight out of the Old Testament prophets ), language: he records God as saying, in similar speech to Christ's on the cross, 'It is done!',and then ends this section by reiterating Paul's words in I Corinthians 6, which again, are naturally parallel to words in the next chapter. Beginning in verse 9, then, and into verse 12, John describes his 'vision' of 'the Bride, the Lamb's wife'. Imagine his disappointment when all that he is shown is 'the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God'.

Actually; I was being a bit facetious there, because it's pretty obvious to me, along with the passages that we've just seen, that this 'new' or 'holy Jerusalem', this 'great city' of God, was none other than the Bride herself, or God's covenant people! I hesitate to use the moniker 'new'; because I believe that the covenant people of God have always been under the same covenant. ( For more on this, just ask. )
Without going into a great exegesis on the rest of chapter 21; let me just say, as I said earlier, that John's description of this 'holy city' is very typological, and comes straight from the Prophets ( both Old and New Testament )! John uses some very 'colorful' language to describe what he 'sees', for instance: In verse 11, in describing the glory and majesty of this city; John borrows language from Ezekiel, in verse 15 & 16, from another passage in Ezekiel, in verse 18 through 21, he again takes us back to the Garden of God, then describes the glory of this city, that had no need of any sun, 'because the Lamb is it's light', yet again emphasizing the fact that John is speaking, not of a physical object or place; but of the covenant people of God! Before that; John tells us that this 'city' has no temple, 'for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are it's temple: Paul says, in I Corinthians 6:19, that our bodies are 'Temples' of the Holy Spirit, and Peter tells his readers that 'you also......... are being built up a spiritual house.......to offer spiritual sacrifices.........': Paul tells us even further, why we are being built into a house, or 'dwelling' in Ephesians 2.

John ends chapter 21 by using language similar to Paul's, in I Corinthians 6, thus seemingly equating the Kingdom of God/heaven with this 'city' or 'holy Jerusalem'.

Revelation 22

1 And he showed me a pure[a] river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. 4 They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. 5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.
6 Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true.” And the Lord God of the holy[b] prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.
7 “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
8 Now I, John, saw and heard[c] these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.
9 Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For[d] I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” 10 And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. 11 He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous[e] still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.”
12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”[f]
14 Blessed are those who do His commandments,[g] that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. 15 But[h] outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.
16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”
17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.
18 For[i] I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add[j] to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away[k] his part from the Book[l] of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.[m] Amen.

Footnotes:

  1. Revelation 22:1 NU-Text and M-Text omit pure.
  2. Revelation 22:6 NU-Text and M-Text read spirits of the prophets.
  3. Revelation 22:8 NU-Text and M-Text read am the one who heard and saw.
  4. Revelation 22:9 NU-Text and M-Text omit For.
  5. Revelation 22:11 NU-Text and M-Text read do right.
  6. Revelation 22:13 NU-Text and M-Text read the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
  7. Revelation 22:14 NU-Text reads wash their robes.
  8. Revelation 22:15 NU-Text and M-Text omit But.
  9. Revelation 22:18 NU-Text and M-Text omit For.
  10. Revelation 22:18 M-Text reads may God add.
  11. Revelation 22:19 M-Text reads may God take away.
  12. Revelation 22:19 NU-Text and M-Text read tree of life.
  13. Revelation 22:21 NU-Text reads with all; M-Text reads with all the saints.
Chapter 22 opens with John relating more about the beauty and majesty of this 'city': he begins by telling us, again, in language straight from Genesis, that a river flowed out from under the Throne of God, or rather from it, because John seems to equate this river with the Tree of Life, or God in Christ, Himself! At the end of verse 2; John tells us the purpose of this 'tree', or 'river': it is for the 'healing of the nations', by the 'leaves' of said tree. I believe that these 'leaves' that John 'saw' in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, are one and the same as the 'branches' in Jesus' 'Vine and branches' speech, in John 15. We, God's covenant people, are the 'tools' that God is using to bring healing to the nations!

I've recently read N.T. Wright's 'Surprised by Hope; Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church': I would like to simply quote a few short passages from his book;

'God builds God's Kingdom. But God ordered His world in such a way that His own work within that world takes place not least, through one of His creatures; in particular, namely, the human beings who reflect His image. That, I believe, is central to the notion of being made in God's image.God intends His wise, creative, and loving presence and power to be reflected-imaged, if you like-into His world through His human creatures. He has enlisted us to act as His stewards in the project of creation.' ( emphasis mine)


Now; whether you agree or not with Wright's first statement here ( I think that I would tend to agree wholeheartedly with it! ); I think that you must admit that he's made some very interesting statements here! Wright is saying here, in other words, that covenant ( even non-covenant ) human beings are the tools through which He exercises His rule over our 'world'! I think that I would re-word a bit of his last statement in the first quote ( I don't think that he would disagree, either ) by putting it this way: 'He has enlisted us to act as stewards in this project of ( new ) creation', though I doubt that Wright would agree with my assertion that this 'new' creation is an accomplished fact, the 'new creation' being the work that Christ has done in us, His 'covenant creation'.

Wright makes this interesting statement concerning, not so much ( in his mind, anyway. I think ) the 'new heavens and new earth'; but concerning the resurrection, especially in I Corinthians 15!

'The whole chapter echoes and alludes to Genesis 1-3. It is a theology of new creation, not of the abandonment of creation.' ( emphasis mine )

WOW!!!!!!! Just let that sink in awhile!

If the resurrection passage found in I Corinthians 15, is merely an allusion to, or an echo of, the original creation account; think of the implications of that view, as opposed to the traditional view of the creation account. If the whole of I Corinthians concerns the re-creation of God's original creation, found in Genesis 1-3; then Genesis 1-3, by logical extension, is about the creation, not of the physical universe, but about the creation, or bringing to life, of the original creation that was 'formed' in the image of God: covenant man! Nowhere in I Corinthians 15 does Paul speak, even by implication, of the re-creation of the physical universe!

It may or may not be clear by now; that when the Scriptures speak of a 'new heavens and new earth', they are speaking, not of a re-creation of the physical universe, but of a re-creation, or re-affirmation, of God's covenant with man, a re-forming of man, back into His image.
In Jeremiah 31; God speaks in terms that parallel the 'new heavens and new earth' passage in Isaiah:


31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them,[a] says the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
35 Thus says the LORD,
Who gives the sun for a light by day,
The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night,
Who disturbs the sea,
And its waves roar
(The LORD of hosts is His name):
36 “ If those ordinances depart
From before Me, says the LORD,
Then the seed of Israel shall also cease
From being a nation before Me forever.”

37 Thus says the LORD:


“ If heaven above can be measured,
And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath,
I will also cast off all the seed of Israel
For all that they have done, says the LORD.

Granted; some may find it a bit difficult to see the parallels in this passage. If you read the whole chapter, though; it may become a bit clearer: note the parallels between Isaiah 65:19, Jeremiah 31:9-16, and Revelation 21:4, look at the parallels between verse 35, above, and Genesis 1, and between verse 5 of Jeremiah 31, and Isaiah 65:21&22. I think that it's abundantly clear that 'the new heavens and new earth' that Isaiah and Peter speak of,'the new covenant' that Jeremiah, Jesus, and the apostle Paul spoke of, and the 'new', 'holy', or 'heavenly' Jerusalem that the writer to the Hebrews, and the apostle John speak of, are speaking of the same thing, or maybe more to the point, of the same blessed condition of the believer, in Christ!

The writer to the Hebrews also has much to say about this 'new' covenant, and the superiority of this covenant over the 'old'. I want to make clear, once again, that it is the opinion of this writer ( along with some others, I think ) that these 'old' and 'new' covenants are better viewed as 'covenants within a covenant', or 'parts of a whole', a progression withe the eternal, everlasting covenant! Having said that, though: I also want to make it very clear, too; that the Scriptures very clearly differentiate between the two, making a clear progression from 'old' to new'.

Speaking of the Christ, God says, in Isaiah 42:

6 “ I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness,
And will hold Your hand;
I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the Gentiles,

Again, in Isaiah 49;

8 Thus says the LORD:


“ In an acceptable time I have heard You,
And in the day of salvation I have helped You;
I will preserve You and give You
As a covenant to the people,
To restore the earth,
To cause them to inherit the desolate heritages;

From these two passages; it should be fairly easy to see that Christ embodies the 'covenant' that God 'renewed' with us, and in this last passage, that He is given to 'restore the earth'!

As I mentioned before; the writer to the Hebrews has much to say concerning this 'new' and better covenant in Christ, particularly in chapters 8 & 9.

7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 8 Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD. ( emphasis mine )

In verses 7 through 9 of chapter 8, which I've quoted above: we can see that it was not so much the 'old' covenant ( for Paul says that it was good, speaking of the Mosaic Law, or covenant ), but the people ( children of Israel ) with whom He made the covenant, that He found fault with! The author of this letter then continues by quoting Jeremiah 31:31, which I've quoted above; explaining why He found fault with His people: 'because they did not continue in my covenant'!

The writer goes on, in chapter 9 & 10, to further explain how this 'new' covenant in Christ, but Christ in particular, as the mediator of this 'new' covenant is so much 'better', or superior to the 'old' and it's mediator, or mediators.


23 Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another— 26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.

In verses 23 through 28, the writer explains why the 'new' is better than the 'old', because it was simply a 'shadow' or picture; foretaste, if you will, of the 'new' covenant in Christ. When Paul says that 'the commandment was to ( bring ) life', he is speaking of the perfectness that only came, and comes only through Christ: life would never come as a result of obedience to the 'law' given under the 'old' covenant; that 'law' was simply 'our tutor, (to bring us ) to Christ'. In verses 1 through 4 of chapter 10: he explains further that the 'law' ( Mosaic ) served only as a shadow, a harbinger, if you will, of the perfection that would come through Christ alone, 'under' the new covenant, explaining that 'the blood of bulls and goats ( animal sacrifices commanded 'under' the old )' would never take away sins, and would never cleanse ( from sin ) those who offered them.

My hope is that I have sufficiently explained in these lines ( though not comprehensively, I think ) that the promises of the 'new' covenant in Christ, and the 'new heavens and new earth' were not only only fulfilled in Christ; but are a present reality in His followers.

For one final look at why I believe that the 'heavens and earth' language, particularly of the 'prophetic' Scriptures, is speaking not of the physical universe, but of God's special, covenant people; look at this passage in Isaiah 51:

"I have covered you with the shadow of My hand,
That I may plant the heavens,
Lay the foundations of the earth,
And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’”

In context, I believe that God is speaking here of His coming salvation, even more specifically maybe, of His 'new', or renewed covenant with His people.

Now as to the questions that I promised that I would try to answer, at the beginning of this article; 'why is the curse still evident, why is there still evil happening, like pornography, murder, child abuse, etc, etc..............?': I would point the questioner to passages that speak of the evil within man's own heart, such as James 1:13-15, wherein he says;

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

I think that man has no one but himself to blame for these things! We can reason that if we are in Christ; we won't have those kinds of desires, or even that if we are in Christ we would never succumb to those desires, but the simple, disappointing truth is, that even though Christ has given us a new nature, we still 'battle' with the old, something which we must do every day, indeed, every moment. I think that we all, if we're honest with ourselves, must admit this!

When the kinds of natural disasters such a I described above, happen: I think that we must ascribe these to just that; 'natural' causes! Think of this passage in the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 11:

3 If the clouds are full of rain,
They empty themselves upon the earth;
And if a tree falls to the south or the north,
In the place where the tree falls, there it shall lie.

And earlier, in chapter 9:

2 All things come alike to all:
One event happens to the righteous and the wicked;
To the good,[a] the clean, and the unclean;
To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice.
As is the good, so is the sinner;
He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath.

Footnotes:

  1. Ecclesiastes 9:2 Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate read good and bad.
Think also of the implications of this passage in Matthew 5, in particular, the last phrase:

44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[a] 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Footnotes:

  1. Matthew 5:44 NU-Text omits three clauses from this verse, leaving, "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
In this last passage; we come to the point of what I am saying here; how we are to, and how we should be 'building' in these 'new heavens and new earth'. Christ said that we should love those who hate ( us ), and that we should pray for those who persecute us for the cause of Christ. Isn't that what Christ did for us: loving us when we were 'enemies'?

In his first epistle; John has much to say about God's love for us and our love for one another: in chapter 3, he says,

14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother[a] abides in death.

Footnotes:

  1. 1 John 3:14 NU-Text omits his brother.
Paul, in his epistle to the Ephesians, chapter 4; has this to say:

29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

Earlier, in his first letter to the Corinthian church, chapter 11; he says,

33 Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.

In the 12th chapter of his letter to the Romans, Paul has much to say concerning 'building up';

9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”[a] says the Lord. 20 Therefore



“ If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”[b]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Footnotes:

  1. Romans 12:19 Deuteronomy 32:35
Several chapters over, in the 14th chapter; Paul has this to say about the subject:


1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.

And again;

10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.[c] 11 For it is written:


“ As I live, says the LORD,
Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God.”[d]

12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.

He ends this chapter by saying,


19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. 21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.[f] 22 Do you have faith?[g] Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.[h]

Footnotes:

  1. Romans 14:6 NU-Text omits the rest of this sentence.
  2. Romans 14:9 NU-Text omits and rose.
  3. Romans 14:10 NU-Text reads of God.
  4. Romans 14:11 Isaiah 45:23
  5. Romans 14:18 NU-Text reads this.
  6. Romans 14:21 NU-Text omits or is offended or is made weak.
  7. Romans 14:22 NU-Text reads The faith which you have—have.
  8. Romans 14:23 M-Text puts Romans 16:25–27 here.
One more instruction from the book of Romans: in chapter 15; Paul repeats, in other words, what he has been saying all along.

1 We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.”[a]

Footnotes:

  1. Romans 15:3 Psalm 69:9
Let us back up a little here, and look at what Jesus had to say, to the same effect, according to Matthew's gospel:


1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.

Too often, I think, we are apt to look at this passage and say, "Hey wait; you can't tell me what I'm doing wrong, much less rebuke me for it, because Jesus said that we're not to judge!" This statement is not the point of what Jesus and Paul are saying: the point is not refraining from judging our brother; but to restore our brother, by alerting him ( if he didn't already know ) to the fact that what he''s been doing is a sin, and restoring him in a spirit of love and forgiveness, in humility.

Jesus had this to say, in Luke 17:

1 “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. 3 Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you,[a] rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you,[b] saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”

Footnotes:

  1. Luke 17:3 NU-Text omits against you.
  2. Luke 17:4 M-Text omits to you.
Back in the gospel of Matthew; Jesus tells us how we are to deal with a brother who will not repent; but I think that Jesus and Paul were more concerned with the repentance and restoration of the errant brother, as we can see in the passages above.

Paul again speaks along these same lines, to the church in Galatia:

1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

And again, in the same letter;

9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Paul wrote this next passage to the church in Ephesus, and so I think these words carried more of a sense of urgency for it's original readers; but I think too, that these words ring true for us today:


15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,

In his letter to the Philippian church; Paul writes, in chapter 2,

4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.


Again, in chapter 4: he writes,


8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.


To the church in Thessalonica; Paul wrote:


9 But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; 11 that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, 12 that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.


Peter, in his second letter also has somewhat to say, concerning 'building' in these 'new heavens and new earth':


5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.



Back in Peter's first epistle, chapter 3 ; he quotes from the book of the Psalms:


8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;[a] 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For


“ He who would love life
And see good days,
Let him refrain his tongue from evil,
And his lips from speaking deceit.
11 Let him turn away from evil and do good;
Let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their prayers;
But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.”[b]


Footnotes:

  1. 1 Peter 3:8 NU-Text reads humble.
  2. 1 Peter 3:12 Psalm 34:12–16
I think that Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthian church, 'wraps' it up when he says,


19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law,[a] that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God,[b] but under law toward Christ[c]), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as[d] weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Corinthians 9:20 NU-Text adds though not being myself under the law.
  2. 1 Corinthians 9:21 NU-Text reads God’s law.
  3. 1 Corinthians 9:21 NU-Text reads Christ’s law.
  4. 1 Corinthians 9:22 NU-Text omits as.
I think that it could well be argued here, especially in the historical context, that Paul is speaking primarily of the un-believer ( or the blinded, as the case may be ); but I think that believers in 'fulfilled eschatology', in particular, may well find application for today, in this passage.

Jesus, in the 5th chapter of Matthew's gospel, also brings it to a point when He says,


13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

As with Paul's statement above; I think that Jesus' statement also, when read in historical context, had slightly more 'import' for it's original hearers; but as He says in verse 14, 'a city that is set ( up? ) on a hill cannot be hidden........'.

We are that city!

I hope that I have shown, with the help of the Holy Spirit of God, that we are that City, that we are the 'new heavens and new earth' that Scripture talks about, and how we are to work, together with His Spirit, to build ( up ) these 'new heavens and new earth'. I have talked elsewhere of the need for a 'fresh' look at the Scriptures, or rather the traditional interpretation of it, and I think that, though this may or may not be true: it is high time that we started walking our talk, rather than simply worrying about getting our talk ( doctrine ) 'down pat'. I acknowledge that I myself have just as much of a problem, maybe more, with 'walking' my 'talk'; but with God's help: I ( and we ) will begin to, or continue to, build ( up ) these 'new heavens and new earth', for which purpose God has made us a 'new creation'

May God bless us all with this study, and as always; I beg you to be a 'Berean' and 'search the Scriptures daily, to see if these things are so'!

In His service, and by His grace, a new creation',

Charles Shank

































































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