What do you need to know about the new heaven and new Earth? In your mind, the answer is probably “everything!” The phrase, after all, has captured the imaginations of Christians for centuries. The idea of the new heaven and new Earth is only mentioned twice in the Bible, but that has not stopped the idea from taking hold in the minds of Christians all over the globe throughout the ages. What does the phrase mean? It is, after all, a cryptic remark that is never explained to a reader’s full satisfaction. What will the new heaven and new Earth look like? Many people who wonder about this are well aware that they are unlikely to live to see the creation of the new heaven and new Earth. The birth of the new heaven and new Earth, after all, will not happen until after the myriad catastrophes of Revelation have ravaged the current heaven and Earth and killed off a sizable portion of the human population. The length of time over which the disasters in the book of Revelation take place also make it clear that even the survivors of the different catastrophes may not be lucky enough to see the new heaven and new Earth appear. They will simply run out of time. So, for those of us who will never see it with our own eyes, here are seven things you should know about the new heaven and new Earth.
The idea come from verses in 2 Peter and Revelation.
Some ideas in Scripture are spread throughout the Bible. The vast majority of the Old Testament, for example, focuses heavily on the idea that the Israelites struggled to follow the commandments and laws that God gave to Moses when the Israelites were gathered at the base of Mount Sinai after they had left Egypt. There are entire books in the Bible that are devoted solely to explaining how the Israelites had failed. Multiple kings and prophets reverse the trend and bring Israel back into the fold only for them to stray again later. Other ideas that have become part of Christian thinking are only found in one or two places in the Bible. The traditional idea of a new heaven and new Earth is one of the latter ideas. Though Jesus makes many mentions of the Kingdom of God, only 2 Peter and Revelation ever use the phrase.
There are two main interpretations of the idea.
Few ideas or topics in Christianity are the subject of a unanimous consensus. Instead, almost everything has been debated and argued over at some point in the religion’s history. Sometimes the debate has centered around whether or not the most commonly used wording of a verse is the most accurate way of translating the original statement. Other times, the argument has centered around how a passage should be interpreted. The idea of the new heaven and new Earth falls into the latter category. Most people agree that the phrase was translated correctly, but Christians are far from unanimous on what exactly the phrase means for those living at the time that it is created. There is, unsurprisingly, a great deal of debate over the details of what a new heaven and new Earth will look like. There are, however, only two main interpretations of the verse underpinning the arguments about details.
The “Heavenly View…”
The first major interpretation of the meaning of the phrase “new heaven and new earth” is normally called the “heavenly view.” The heavenly view interpretation takes the stance that the “new heaven and new Earth” is not literal. It is not meant to be taken at face value or read in a completely literal manner. Instead, the phrase is largely metaphorical or symbolic. There will not be a new and perfect Earth that exists for people to live on after the end times are over. Instead, the Earth will be destroyed in the end times that are described throughout the book of Revelation. When this time of trial, terror and catastrophe has ended, the “new heaven and new Earth” will be created. Rather than living out their lives on a perfected earth, people will all end up in heaven. The Earth will essentially cease to exist and all life will exist in a perfectly saved state in heaven.
…and the “Premillennial View.”
The second major interpretation of what the phrase “new heaven and new Earth” means is commonly referred to as the “premillennial view.” In the premillennial view interpretation of “new heaven and new earth,” the verse is taken literally. The Scripture is taken as face value, and there are no deeper or further metaphorical or symbolic layers to be uncovered in the phrase. The premillennial view thus reads the verse literally to mean that when the end times are over there will be an entirely new heaven that is created, and it will exist alongside an entirely new Earth. The two will, essentially, become one in the same. As such, the premillennial view asserts that those who manage to survive the various disasters described in Revelation will live out their lives on a saved and purified Earth that has become almost indistinguishable from heaven.
“The Heavens and the Earth” was the ancient Hebrew way to say “universe.”
The Bible was not originally written in English, French, German, Chinese, Arabic or any of the languages in which it is most commonly read in the modern era. It was originally written in the languages that were spoken by those who actually wrote down Scripture. This would mean that the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. These languages then later had to be translated so that scholars could create Latin Bibles. These were then translated into the common languages of the modern era. Given that the Bible has gone through so many translations, it is no surprise that it is rare when verses happen to line up word for word with the original text. Frankly, when those verses do line up perfectly, they are difficult to understand. This is because the language has changed so much in the last several thousand years. The phrase “heaven and Earth” is a good example. Ancient Hebrew did not have a word for “universe” as we understand it today. The phrase “heaven and Earth,” however, referred to the same concept.
The elimination of the sea represents the elimination of chaos.
Beach lovers will be deeply disappointed to know that in the new heaven and new Earth there is no ocean. According to the book of Revelation, the sea will disappear after the end times. There will be no more surfing, no more sunbathing and no more fishing by the edge of the ocean. Where the rivers will go or what that means for the empty expanses the oceans once filled is never explained. The lack of sea, however, is likely meant to show that the new heaven and new Earth have been completely perfected. In many ancient Middle Eastern cultures, the sea is seen as the embodiment of chaos. This is especially clear in various creation myths. The writers of the Bible were not immune to this idea. The Bible also uses the ocean to represent danger, darkness and chaos. The lack of ocean in the new heaven and new Earth means that all will be in order according to God’s design.
The creation of the new Earth in Revelation mirrors the creation story in Genesis.
Creation has always captured humanity’s attention. We have loved to explore and imagine both the mythological aspects of creation as a verb and the physical reality we live in, that is creation as a noun. As such it is no surprise that the creation story at the beginning of the book of Genesis is one that people love to read, reread and discuss. Most people, however, have likely not paid too much attention to the creation of the new heaven and new Earth as described in Revelation. If they had, they might have noticed that the creation of the new world mirrors the creation of the old. Genesis begins with God hovering over the waters, creating the sun, moon, night and day. In Revelation, the sea is the first thing mentioned, then the sun and moon, then light and night. Next in both books comes discussions of fruit, crops and plants. Finally, they both end with descriptions of the Tree of Life and seeing God. In Genesis, the Tree of Life is forbidden, and Adam and Eve lose the ability to see and speak with God when they are thrown from Eden. In Revelation, this is reversed. The fruit of the Tree of Life “is filled with fruit and leaves for the healing of the nations,” and people once again see God regularly. The new Earth eclipses the old.
The idea of the new heaven and new Earth has captivated Christians for generations. They have always wondered what it would be like. How would it look? When would it comes? Would it look like this world or would it be something entirely new? Most of them realize that they will never live to see the new heaven and new Earth being created. Perhaps, however, that is part of why it remains so fascinating to so many. There is nothing that the human brain obsesses over more than a mystery that remains unsolved.