One of the most precious promises of the Bible is the promise of the new heaven and the new earth. In the face of suffering and the apparent delay of God's coming to help, Scripture directs us to look to the future and the fulfillment of God's saving work, when Jesus will make all things new (Rev. 21:5). As Peter reminded early Christians in their discouragement, "Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).
The prophet Isaiah was the first in the Bible to make reference to a new heaven and a new earth. As Isaiah had looked ahead to the defeat and exile of God's people, so he looked even further into the future to the culmination of blessing from God. God promised “… the former troubles are forgotten, and ... they are hidden from My eyes. For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy" (Isa. 65:16b-18).
The re-creation that will produce a new heaven and a new earth will be very much like the original creation. First, God will do it. It will be His work: '"For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me,' says the LORD, ‘So shall your descendants and your name remain'" (Isa. 66:22). God who does this work glorifies Himself in it: "' … the work of My hands, that I may be glorified'" (Isa. 60:21b). We cannot create that new world; only God can.
Second, the new creation will restore the order disastrously disturbed by sin. God will accomplish this by judging the wicked, and by renewing the creation and making it even better than it was in the beginning. Sin brought corruption and misery, but it will be eliminated in the new world. The apostle John saw this in his Revelation: '''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''' (Rev. 21:4).
God not only will re-create and restore the order of His world, but, third, He will make it good. The goodness of the new heaven and earth will be the loving presence of God with His people: "' ... as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you" (Isa. 62:5b). Or, as John put it, “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'" (Rev. 21:3).
As we meditate on the promises of God to make all things new, we must be encouraged and filled with hope, no matter how difficult things are for us. These promises are given to build up faith and cause us to look up knowing that our redemption draws nigh.
First published in Tabletalk, December 1999.
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