"a new heaven and a new earth"

This is the second post in a series, Heaven: Out of this World?

So, as I explored in my previous post, beliefs about heaven are fueled by cultural assumptions that skew our understanding of what the bible actually teaches about heaven.

I closed my post with a question: Is God’s “good” creation - “heavens and earth” - really describing two realities, one of which we’ll finally escape from?

The phrase “a new heaven and a new earth” (Is. 65:17, Rev. 21:1) helps us answer this question.

In Hebrew and Greek, the words translated “new” in English also carry with them a meaning of renewal or restoration. In Isaiah 65, then, it’s not surprising that the rest of the passage is loaded with images of a prosperous earthly kingdom (houses, vineyards, good health, and long life). For Isaiah’s audience, heaven was a this-worldly vision. But lest we think this is just Old Testament ignorance - the New Testament people had progressed in their metaphysical beliefs - Revelation 21 extends the Isaiah vision. Heaven is seen as the “New Jerusalem” not up in the clouds but as a physical reality that is “coming down” to us (Rev. 21:2).

This image of “a new heaven and a new earth” reveals to us a hope not in some sort of vague, intangible, ethereal, hyper-spiritualistic reality separate from God’s creation. We must remember, God didn’t create with different levels of importance (heaven up there, and now for fun, let’s create this earth place to keep things interesting for a little while). God created the heavens and the earth, and all of it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Isaiah and Revelation remind us that God’s plan continues – heaven and earth in full unity, “a fusion” as N.T. Wright puts it.

“A new heaven and a new earth” – shalom – life as God intended it – this is our vision of the future, and should be our hope for today.

But you might be wondering, what about Jesus’ words, “My kingdom is not of this world...my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36)?

Stay tuned as my next post will explore that very question.

This series is adapted from a sermon I preached at Killarney Park MB Church, Vancouver BC.


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