New Heavens & New Earth

adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 13 Oct 2012


“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth  righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).

We have already touched on the Second Epistle of Peter when we began on this series of studies. The theme of this series was derived from 2 Peter 1:4, particularly the words “exceeding great and precious promises”. Since then, we have embarked on a journey to consider one promise from each book of the Bible, beginning from Genesis. In this instalment of the survey, we have come back to 2 Peter on our way to the finishing line.

When we come to 2 Peter, what promises come to mind? I believe that most of us who have any familiarity with the book will automatically think of 2 Peter 3. This is a chapter containing a complex of promises pertaining to the coming of the Lord (see v. 4).

Let’s look at one of the aspects of this complex, namely the promise of new heavens and new earth.

The apostle Peter says, verse 13—

Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

To understand and apply what Paul is say, let us ask three questions. First, we must ask: what will happen to the present heavens and earth? Secondly, what is the new heavens and new earth? Thirdly, how should we respond to this promise?

1. The Present Heavens
& Earth

The apostle speaks of the promise of “new heavens and a new earth,” and so it is necessary for us to think about what will happen to the present heavens and earth.

We should note that “the heavens” in the context does not refer to the spiritual realm where the angels dwell. It refers rather to the atmosphere, the sky and beyond. So ‘heavens and earth’ really refer to the physical world that we live in. I will not tarry to show that this is the case because I think it shall be clear as we proceed with our exposition.

But what will happen to the present world? Our text does not leave us to blind guessing. We are told that the present world has actually been renovated before. God had at the beginning created the world—the heavens and the earth, but man has corrupted it by wickedness. Therefore God destroyed it through a great deluge, verses 5-6—

“By the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.”

Notice how Peter refers to the heavens and the earth in verse 5 and then speaks of everything using the word ‘world’ in verse 6. The old world,—the heavens of old and the earth of old,—was renovated with water.

 

All creatures that had breath on earth except those which were in the ark perished in the global flood. The heavens too were renewed. The creatures that flew in the ancient heavens,—including the pterosaurs,—were also wiped out except those in the ark. And not only so, but it is very likely that there were physical changes in the atmosphere. Some creation scientists believe, for example, that there was a canopy of water enveloping the earth and shielding the earth from harmful cosmic rays. This canopy is now replaced by scattered clouds. Also, the old world could have been more oxygen rich than the new so that creatures could grow faster and bigger. But all that was changed in the global catastrophe.

The world has continued in this present state now for several millennia. But it will not remain so forever. The apostle reminds us in verse 7 that—

“The heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”

Just as God destroyed the first world by water, so He will destroy the second by fire. Just as God judged the wicked and renovated the first world by a great deluge; so He will do the same to the second by a great conflagration.

In this great conflagration, “the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat” (v. 12).

The great deluge was used by the Lord to renovate the world partially so as to provide a place for God’s covenant people to live and to thrive for a season until the birth of the Messiah and the full number of the elect be brought in. But the great conflagration will used by the Lord to renovate the world completely so as to provide a place for God’s elect to dwell in forever and ever.

It is this great contrast and compensation that gives meaning to the word ‘nevertheless’ at the beginning of our text. The next big thing that will happen in the history of the world will be a global or even cosmic catastrophe. This is a frightening prospect. Nevertheless, we as God’s people should not be overwhelmed with worry, for we can and should look forward to the new heavens and new earth.

2. The New Heavens
& Earth

The promise of the new heavens and new earth is not a novel one. It was actually first made known by the prophet Isaiah, more than seven hundred years before Peter.

God says through Isaiah:

·   Isa 65:17—Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.

·   Isa 66:22—As the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.

It is very possible God was, through Isaiah, alluding to the Gospel dispensation when His Spirit would be poured out and the church would be, as it were, re-created, with regenerate saints.

But Peter appears to be alluding to a future event.

How to reconcile the apparent difference? Well, it is actually not difficult. You, see God has already begun, as it were, to create new heavens and new earth. He has begun work in the heart of His children. The regenerate souls who will dwell in the new heavens and the new earth, we may say, are being created today. They will cross over into the new world as glorified saints when God has finished renovating it.

This new world will probably not be the same as the world we now live in. The apostle John says in Revelation 21:1—

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea” (Rev 21:1)

Whatever is meant by the phrase “there was no more sea;” one thing is clear, it will be a different world. It has to be so. For remember that the elect will be glorious. They will have a new resurrected and glorified body that is incorruptible and fitted for celestial dwelling. Paul calls it a “spiritual body” (1 Cor 15:44).

It appears that this body will not be bounded by the physical laws we know today. It appears that the divide between heaven as a spiritual realm and heaven and earth as a physical realm will be blurred or obliterated. Perhaps preachers like Dr Albert Barnes and Pastor Chris Coleborn are right that the saints will be able to travel across the galaxy and the universe to behold the wondrous creation of God throughout the universe.

But most importantly, the new heavens and earth is a world of righteousness. Peter speaks of it as the “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” The word katoikeô speaks of having a home (oikos). Righteousness will be at home in the new world. It is certainly not at home in the present world. It is not a home in the nations, in the society, in the families, in individuals and even in churches. Yes, righteousness is often ill at home even in churches. But there in the new heavens the new earth, righteousness will make its home—for the Righteous One will be there (Jer 23:5-7; 33:16; Dan 9:24).

The apostle John tells us concerning this new world that—

“And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev 21:27; cf. Rev 22:14-15)

What a contrast this will be compared to the present world where because of sin and wickedness everywhere, there is pain, sorrow, tears and separation.

3. Our Response

What should we do in the face of this great and precious promise of the new heavens and new earth? Well, the immediate application is given by the apostle himself:

“Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Pet 3:14).

In other words, if you have hope of entering the new heavens and new earth, then first of all, you must “be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace.”

That is: see to it that you know the Lord Jesus, and are reconciled by His blood and therefore have peace with God. Unless Christ dwells in your heart, you shall not dwell in the home that Christ will prepare for you in the new heavens and new earth. Therefore make your calling and election sure by seeking to know Him more by hearing Him, obeying Him and following Him.

And secondly, you must “be diligent that ye may be found …without spot and blameless.” Therefore, see to it that you flee from all appearance of evil and seek to be holy and blameless as Christ is holy and blameless.

Beloved brethren and children, no one who is at home with sin and remain so can ever enter into the home of righteousness. And remember that we are not talking about outward righteousness. We are talking about righteousness of Christ imputed by faith and a heart that is renewed by the Spirit of Christ.

Remember that it is out of the heart that all iniquities flow (Mt 15:19). Therefore watch your heart. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov 4:23). Take heed to what the Lord is saying to you through the word preached and in providence. Is there no peace and comfort in your life? Are there quarrels and discontentment in your life? Watch your heart. Ask the Lord to help you to deal with it.

Do not allow your heart to become a happy dwelling place for sin and worldiness, for remember that unless righteousness begin by the grace of God to dwell in your heart today, you will not dwell in the new heavens and the new earth tomorrow. Make sin and worldliness ill-at-home. Do not allow them to become a happy camper in your heart. Sin and righteousness hate to dwell together. Therefore, pursue righteousness so as to displace sin. Worldliness and the Kingdom of Christ hate to dwell together. Therefore pursue the kingdom of Christ so as to displace worldliness in your heart.

And remember “that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation” (v. 15). Therefore do not give up. Run the race patiently, knowing that what awaits us at our destination will be worth it all—for not only will we enjoy new heavens and new earth, but Christ will be there. Amen. W