“Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).
What was the promise to which Peter refers?
Immediately, our minds might leap to the closing of Revelation:
“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.” Revelation 21:1
The restless masses, pictured by the sea (Isaiah 57:20), will no longer find any place by the close of the little season.
These words from Revelation beautifully harmonize and amplify on the new heavens and the new earth. However, the book of Revelation could not have been what Peter had in mind, because Revelation was not yet given to the Apostle John while Peter was alive.
ISAIAH 65, THE NEW HEAVENS AND NEW EARTH
We find this promise not once, but twice in the closing chapters of Isaiah:
“For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” (Isaiah 65:17)
“For 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.” (Isaiah 66:22)
To understand the context we need to start with Isaiah 65:8:
“Thus saith the LORD, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants’ sakes, that I may not destroy them all.”
“Wine” is a picture of joyful doctrine. In this case, the cluster has not even been cut from the vine, let alone subjected to the careful process that will transform it into wine. Take firm hold of that picture—the Lord sees the blessing in the cluster still on the vine. All of the hopes for a new heaven and new earth begin with the promise to Abraham long before the promise can become a reality.
“In blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.” (Genesis 22:17)
Isaiah’s allusion to a new heavens and a new earth corresponds to “the stars of heaven” and “the sands of the seashore.”
In Isaiah 65:8 there is a command not to destroy the grape cluster, picturing the joyful hopes of Israel. This threat of destruction may correspond to the troubles that befell Israel during the “Times of the Gentiles.”
At that time the typical monarchy through the line of David ceased, and the typical Jubilee system could no longer be observed. These ominous experiences could have marked the end of Israel’s hopes. And yet the experience with Gentile dominion did not extinguish Jewish religious hopes, represented in the grape clusters. “For my servants’ [Israel’s] sakes that I may not destroy them all [i.e. the clusters].” Israel’s hopes remained alive throughout the bitter experiences of the Diaspora.
Isaiah 65:9, “And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my mountains: and mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there.”
There were 70 weeks determined upon the people that would bring them to Messiah, the seed of promise. The specific reference to an “inheritor” is important.
This word “inheritor” is H3423 yaw-rash. It suggests someone who has driven out the previous occupants and now possesses something. This a picture of our Lord taking possession of this world.
“Out of Judah” must surely be a reference to the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5), who is our Lord. Additionally, there is a “mine elect” class, the church, as contrasted with “servants,” natural Israel. So now we are in the transition period between the Jewish age and the Gospel Age with the first advent of Jesus. Because of the reference to “servants” in verse 8, this promise must include natural Israel and the Ancient Worthies who shall dwell in these mountains—note the plural. These are the servants who will dwell in the earthly kingdom, the mountains of this world. The elect, who came into the covenant with Messiah, share in the inheritance. This is reminiscent of our Lord’s words when he said, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5).
WARNING OF JUDGMENT
The Lord promises a blessing. Isaiah 65:10, “Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for the herds to lie down in, for my people that have sought me.”
However, in Isaiah 65:11-15, there comes a warning of judgment. This is a reference to the condition of the Jewish people after their time of favor has ended. The servants are those who have been transferred from the house of servants to the house of sons. They are the Jews of the first Advent who came into Christ. This concludes with the promise that the Lord would call his servants by another name. And so it was that they left the house of Moses and entered the house of Christ. During the mishneh, the 1845 years of disfavor for the Jewish polity, have the Lord’s servants been called by the names of “Israel” and “Judah?” No, they have not. As promised they have been called by other names;
“Christians” (Acts 11:26), “the little flock,” “the church of the firstborn,” “the bride of Christ.”
“Curse” (H7631), or “something sworn,” seems such an inappropriate word and yet the text is rendered “curse” in both the Soncino and the Jewish Publication Society translations: “And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto Mine elect: ‘So may the Lord GOD slay thee;’ but He shall call His servants by another name.”
We have been called unto Peace, we have not been called to utter oaths, particularly strong oaths such as; “So may the Lord GOD slay thee.”
However, the reference here is not to those who are yet waiting for Messiah hampered by “blindness in part,” but to those in verse 11 “who have prepared a table for the troop.”
This phrase is difficult to understand because it refers to those who forsook the Lord and trusted to the fortune of the stars in their cultic worship of the Babylonian deity of good fortune called “Gad.” In verse 11 of our text the name “Gad” is translated “troop” and the
reference to Babylonian worship was not clear to the King James translators.
So for this unhappy class, their faith rested in other gods who would give them good fortune and serve as their defense. “Troop” does indeed deserve this severe judgment. It is the LORD who delivers the sentence.
THE GOD OF AMEN
Now the favor returns.
“So that he who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth; and he that sweareth in the earth shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hid from mine eyes.” (Isaiah 65:16)
ALL mankind will come into these promises made to father Abraham and be blessed indeed. It would appear that this verse especially applies to Gentiles, for they are not using the name “Jehovah” which has special promise for natural Israel.
In the entire Bible, this phrase, “the God of Truth” is only used here. Some commentaries suggest that leaving it untranslated might give us a better sense, “the God of Amen.” Strong’s defines “amen” as “sure; abstractly faithfulness; adverbially truly.” These definitions convey the sense that He is a God whose promises will surely come to pass, a God who is faithful.
We finally reach the text that the Apostle Peter quotes. “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.” (Isaiah 65:17-18)
This is a special promise of restoration for natural Israel, the seed of Abraham after the flesh.
“And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.” (Isaiah 65:19-20)
We are assured that in the New Heavens and the New Earth, we will not see children perishing in infancy, nor even a sinner perishing who has not had an extended and fair trial to reform and set his feet on the “Highway to Holiness” spoken of in Isaiah 35, “And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isaiah 35:10)
HIGHWAY NOT A NARROW WAY
Because God cares, He did not abandon the world of mankind in a hopeless condition. He did not allow death to be the final condition of suffering man. He provided a “ransom,” the basis of the only true hope for a world in despair. “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.” (Hosea 13:14)
But there is an apparent contradiction respecting the Highway of Holiness in Isaiah 35, for how can someone “return” who was never originally “in” Zion?
Isaiah 35:10 cannot be referring to the church of the firstborn, for they are not on this Highway of Holiness although they are intimately associated with it. This is a Highway, it is not a Narrow way. This Highway is for the “weak” (Isaiah 35:3), it is for the “feeble” (Isaiah 35:5), and it is even for the “foolish” (Isaiah 35:8). In spite of all these failings the travelers will not remain “unclean.” Isaiah 35 must refer to a consecration to righteousness for mankind in the kingdom.
We would like to think that the pouring out of the holy Spirit on all flesh would eliminate these problems of weakness, enfeeblement, and foolishness, but in reality that is not the case. How can we say this? It is because the New Creation has the first-fruits of the spirit even now and they have to work with all these problems.
The use of the word “return” becomes clearer when we recognize that sin and alienation from God are an unnatural state. Harmony and At-one-ment with God is the natural state. It is the state that our first parents enjoyed in Eden. This return from the lost and perishing condition is to Zion, the holy city where our Heavenly Father eagerly awaits. The travelers come with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads. It is this portion that God has elected to give to the human race, and what a glorious portion!
CREATION TO BE DELIVERED
Our Lord’s shed blood, spilled upon the earth, bought all the lower creation as well as the church and the World of Mankind. In the following passage from Romans, we will consistently use “creation” for the Greek ktisis (G2937).
“The earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creation was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption,to wit, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:19-23)
We call to mind that the earth was “made to be inhabited.” The Edenic paradise shall be restored—surely this is part of the “return” mentioned by Isaiah. The Strong’s definition includes the thought of “returning to the starting point.” So, mankind will return to where our race first began — human perfection in a paradise home. “The desert shall blossom as the rose;” and both the plant and animal creation will be restored to their proper balance; nature with all its pleasing variety will call to man from every direction to seek and know the glory and power and love of God; and mind and heart will rejoice in Him.
Though Isaiah 35 promises the New Earth a Highway, walking on this road will still take effort. There will be cheer and encouragement along the route from the New Heavens, for the church has shared mankind’s sorrow. As the goal, Zion, is reached, there will singing and shouts of praise. The Hebrew word for “songs” (H7440) actually suggests that the voices will be a little shrill with a joy that naturally spills over into song. They will have “everlasting joy upon their heads.”
Not only does this suggest joy in the heart but this is a different sort of joy.
This joy is built upon a foundation of UNDERSTANDING. It is a joy that blends with song and with GRATITUDE to God for all His leadings.
PROMISES TO THE NEW EARTH
In this “new earth” Isaiah 65:21-25 promises that resurrected mankind will not only enjoy the soul-satisfying labor of their hands, but a restored fellowship with God.
“It shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD. For 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 will take an eternity to know our Heavenly Father, but the unassailable principle which the Bible enunciates with clear and definite voice is that life goes on; life is endless.
Source content used from Feb. 2016 issue of “The Beauties of the Truth,” http://www.beautiesofthetruth.org