This post concludes Steve’s 3-part series on the Biblical heavens and earth, exploring comparisons between Genesis 1, Jeremiah 4:23-27, and Matthew 24:35. Part 1 can be seen here, and part 2 (which explores Jeremiah 4:23-27) can be seen here.
I would like to thank Adam Maarschalk for allowing me this opportunity to share with his readers even though we do not see eye to eye on many things. Studying the Word of God is a great joy and privilege, and I hope this study will benefit your own Bible studies.
In part two of this study, we saw that the old heavens & earth was synonymous with Jerusalem and the Holy Land (Jer. 4:23-26; Matt. 23:34-38 & 24:29-35). In the final post in this series, we will see that New Jerusalem is synonymous with the new heavens & earth, and that it arrived in 70 AD. (Based upon this, I have been at times accused of being a hyperpreterist, but I am not, since I still believe in the future Second Coming and the resurrection of our bodies, which hyperpreterists deny.) Just as the heavens & earth represented the kingdom of Israel, the new heavens & earth represents the kingdom of the Israel of God here on the earth. The Israel of God was established here on the earth when the old Israel was cast out of “Abraham’s camp” (Gal. 4:21-31). To better understand what the new heavens & earth is and isn’t, it will help to look at the biblical timeline.
The timing of New Jerusalem’s arrival and the new heavens & earth
In the book of Revelation, the bride of Christ is identified as New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2, 9-10). This New Jerusalem is synonymous with the new heavens & earth (Rev. 21:1-2). The bride arrives back in Rev. 19:7-9. The bride’s wedding supper consists of scavenging birds feasting on the flesh of the dead, when Jesus comes in judgment against the beast and the false prophet (Rev. 19:7-21). Likewise, the bride arrives as the people of God are rejoicing over the death of the great harlot Babylon, which is the great city (Rev. 19:1-6, also see Rev. chapters 17 & 18). So when the great city is destroyed, and the two persecutors of the Church are judged (the beast from the sea & the beast from the land/false prophet), New Jerusalem comes down to the earth. So who is the great city Babylon?
Since there is a great deal of material easily available here on this blog to prove this point, I will only provide a few proofs that Babylon is the city of Jerusalem. In Rev. 11:8, the great city is identified as where “their Lord was crucified,” which can only be Jerusalem. This verse also gives Babylon two other symbolic names: “Sodom and Egypt.” In the case of Babylon, Sodom, and Egypt, God poured out His wrath on them even as He brought His people out of those places. The same is true for the Babylon of Revelation (Rev. 18:4-8). Where else do we read in the NT where Christians are warned to flee a city because its judgment has come? “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:20-22)
The biblical pattern for New Jerusalem’s arrival
So we see that when Jerusalem is destroyed, the spiritual New Jerusalem arrives to take its place. This fits the pattern seen throughout the Bible: first the natural, then the spiritual. Cain was the first born, and murdered the spiritual Abel. Ishmael was the natural son of Abraham born by the power of the flesh, but Isaac was the spiritual son, born by the power and promise of the Holy Spirit. The first Adam is earthy, the second Adam is heavenly (1 Cor. 15:47). First is the natural body, then comes the spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:42-49).
When Moses brought the Hebrews out of Egypt, there was the Jewish people and Law, but they would not receive the Jewish land for forty years, in order to kill off the unbelieving Jews. Likewise, when the Church was established in 30 AD, there was a Christian people and Law (the New Covenant – the law of faith in Christ), but the Christians would not receive their land (the new heavens & earth) until forty years had gone by to kill off the unbelieving Jews. This is why the Christians received the new heavens & earth in 70 AD.
As we have seen earlier in this study, Adam foreshadows the Jewish nation. Both are created to the west of the Holy Land, and then are planted in the Land and given a Law to keep. Both break the Law they were given and are driven out of the Land to the east (to Babylon). This is where the Genesis narrative leaves Adam, with the people of God expelled from the Land in exile to the east, cut off from the tree of life, and with the Land under a curse. However, in Revelation, the people of God are brought out of Babylon, out of the east, and are brought back to the Holy Land, back to (New) Jerusalem. Having been brought back, access to the tree of life is restored and the curse is no more (Rev. 22:2-3).
The nature of the curse of creation
In order to understand why there is no curse in the new heavens & earth, we first need to understand the curse in Gen. 3:14-19. As we have seen in previous posts, since the Genesis creation account isn’t about the universe, the curse isn’t about the universe, either. If the whole planet was pleasant and nice, why the need for a garden at all? But the planting of the garden indicates the rest of the world wasn’t so pleasant or ideal.
For Adam’s sin, he was driven from the Garden. Since the man was no longer there to tend the Garden, the Garden would become overrun with “thorns and thistles” (Gen. 3:17-18). This is the same thing that is taught in Isa. 5:3-7, Jer. 12:10-13, and Hos. 10:3-8.
Not only would the Garden of God be ruined because of man’s sin, but man’s work would become harder (Gen. 3:17-19). When there is less than ideal sunlight, rain, etc., raising useful plants becomes very difficult. In such circumstances, the only things that want to grow are those things which are useless to man – weeds. We see throughout the OT that God would punish Israel’s sin with droughts and poor crops, making it harder than it should be to raise a crop.
God cursed the woman by greatly multiplying her pain in bringing forth children (Gen. 3:16). Notice that God would increase her pain, which indicates pain was already in the workings of the world prior to Adam’s sin. I do not believe the pain refers to the physical pain of delivering a child, but to mothers mourning the loss of their children (as seen in Deut. 28:18 & 32; Jer. 4:31, 5:17, 9:20-22; Luke 23:28-29; in contrast with Isa. 65:23, 66:22).
Why there is no curse or death in the new heavens & earth
The reason why there is no curse in the new heavens & earth is because there are no wicked people in this “land” (Rev. 21:27, 22:14-15) that would bring about the wrath of God. Unlike “Babylon” (Jerusalem), God never has to abandon New Jerusalem and put it to the sword, because New Jerusalem’s people only consist of spiritual Israel, the Israel of God – those who are obedient to Christ. And since the city is never destroyed, the people remain in the land to tend the land and bear fruit for God, keeping it from being overrun by thorns and thistles.
This is why Rev. 21:4 says that in New Jerusalem, “there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” This is all in contrast to what just happened to “Babylon” (Jerusalem). God had just abandoned and destroyed it (Rev. 18). But God would never treat New Jerusalem in that fashion, because it will never become the home of wicked people. To enter this spiritual city, one must first repent and obey Christ (Rev. 22:14). If a Christian falls away, he is removed by Christ from His Church (Gal. 5:4), and is therefore no longer within the New Jerusalem.
When Rev. 21:4 says there is no more death, it is in the context of Isa. 65-66, especially Isa. 65:17-23. (There are numerous parallels between Isa. 65-66 and Rev. 21-22, too many to list here, but notice that Isa. 65-66 also links the arrival of the new heavens & earth with God punishing the culmination of generations of guilt: Isa. 65:7 and Matt. 23:29-36.) In summary of Isa. 65:17-23, God will not put New Jerusalem to the sword the way He did old Jerusalem. It is in that sense there is no more death. And even though Isa. 65:20-21 is speaking of lifespans in a figurative way, natural births and deaths still occur (which indicates this is not referring to the age of resurrection – Luke 20:34-36).
In fact, the presence of sexual reproduction and the marriage/one-flesh relationship prior to the sin of Adam indicates death was “baked” into creation, since resurrection and immortality means the end of marriage/sexual reproduction (Luke 20:34-36). This is because sexual reproduction has to do with the mortality of the flesh – once the flesh is made immortal, it no longer serves a purpose.
The key to understanding the new heavens & earth is realizing that it is not being contrasted with our universe, but with what would/did happen to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. During the age of New Jerusalem and the new heavens & earth, the nations of the world still exist (Rev. 21:24-27), but the nations of the world are abolished at the Second Coming (Matt. 25:31-33).
New Jerusalem and the new heavens & earth vs. the Second Coming
In Rev. 20, we are given a sequence of events that indicates the Second Coming takes place long after the arrival of New Jerusalem and the new heavens & earth. In Rev. 19, we see that the bride (New Jerusalem, see Rev. 21:9-10) arrives upon the destruction of Babylon (old Jerusalem). It is also at this time many people are put to death, and the beast and false prophet (Nero and the Jewish leaders) are punished (Rev. 19:17-21). But noticed who is not punished at this time –Satan. He will not be punished until “a thousand years” later (a symbol for a long, indefinite period of time).
Instead of punishing Satan at this time, God instead has Satan locked away for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3). This is because God is not done with Satan at 70 AD. The end of the thousand years is marked by the temporary release of Satan, so that he can attack New Jerusalem (Rev. 20:7-9). But notice the end of the millennium doesn’t come with the arrival of New Jerusalem – but with Satan’s attack on New Jerusalem. It is only then, a thousand years later, that the devil joins the beast and false prophet in punishment (Rev. 20:10).
New Jerusalem is already there when Satan is released, because New Jerusalem is the millennial reign of Christ. The destruction of Jerusalem, Nero, and the Jewish leaders ushers in the arrival of New Jerusalem, which is Jesus’ capital city. New Jerusalem is where Christ reigns along with His saints for the thousand years. It is only at the end of the thousand years, the end of the reign of Christ that the resurrection occurs and death is defeated (1 Cor. 15:23-28). So it is no surprise that the final judgment and resurrection of the dead happens once the thousand year reign is complete (Rev. 20:11-15).
The beginning of the millennium vs. the end of the millennium
The triggering event for the beginning of the millennium is the destruction of Jerusalem. God rallies the nations of the world (the Roman Empire) against Jerusalem, and the city of Jerusalem is afflicted with demons (Rev. 9:1-11). The nations of the world destroy and loot Jerusalem, carrying off all of her treasures.
Contrast this with the event that triggers the end of the millennium. Satan rallies the nations of the world against New Jerusalem (Rev. 20:7-9). New Jerusalem is filled with “treasure” because it has “looted” the nations (Rev. 21:24-27, referring to the righteous who have been brought out of this world into the kingdom of Christ), but far from being looted, the city cannot even be harmed (Rev. 20:9). The city is not looted or harmed because unlike old Jerusalem, this city is filled with the righteous. God does not withdraw His protection as He did with old Jerusalem, because God protects His own people (Matt. 23:37). The attack on old Jerusalem brought about the judgment of one nation in one generation, but the failed attack at New Jerusalem brings about the judgment of all nations and all generations.
The resurrection vs. 70 AD
Some of those who correctly believe the new heavens & earth is a present reality mistakenly believe the resurrection happened, or at least began, in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. One problem with this view is that Scripture routinely treats the Second Coming and the resurrection as being distinct from 70 AD.
Take the Bible’s primary teaching on resurrection: 1 Cor. 15. This passage provides the most comprehensive teaching on the subject of the resurrection, and yet there is nothing there about the destruction of Jerusalem or the Temple.
Take another example, the Gospel of John. The Gospel of John is all about the resurrection, much more so than the synoptic Gospels. Even the first sign John records, the apparently trivial miracle of turning water into wine, is really about the resurrection. Common water is placed into stone waterpots (“buried in the earth”), where Jesus miraculously changes it, and when it is “raised out of the earth,” Jesus turns it into something far superior: an excellent wine (John 2:6-10). In fact, the turning point in John’s Gospel is when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11:45-53). And yet there is nothing taught about the destruction of Jerusalem or the Temple anywhere in his Gospel, at least not explicitly. The one Gospel that focuses on the resurrection is also the one Gospel that doesn’t focus on the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. If the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple are an integral part of the day of resurrection, how can John spend his entire Gospel talking about the resurrection and yet never mention 70 AD?
The only passage that appears to tie the new heavens & earth with the resurrection is Rom. 8:18-25. The redemption of creation (which refers to the death of the old heavens & earth, and the arrival of the new heavens & earth in 70 AD) is compared to the redemption of our bodies (at the resurrection). But notice Paul does not say these events happen together. Instead, Paul merely compares the two: just as the creation will be set free from its corruption, so we will be set free from the corruption within ourselves. The creation is set free when it is resurrected/transformed from a natural land to a spiritual land, just as we will be set free of this body of death (Rom. 7:24, 8:10) when our natural bodies are resurrected/transformed from a natural body to a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44).
In 70 AD, the wicked are killed (Rev. 19:17-21) and sent down into Hades (Matt. 11:23). But at the final judgment, the wicked are resurrected out of Hades (Rev. 20:12-15). It is at this time death and Hades are abolished (Rev. 20:14, 1 Cor. 15:26). The resurrection brings about the permanent end of physical death and Hades (the spirit realm of the physically dead) because at the resurrection, everyone is made alive and immortal (1 Cor. 15:52-54). So how can the 70 AD judgment, which sent people to Hades, also be the day of resurrection which empties and abolishes Hades?
When the new heavens & earth arrived in 70 AD, New Jerusalem came down to the earth (Rev. 21:2, 10). New Jerusalem isn’t Heaven, it is a kind of “heaven on earth.” But at the Second Coming, we do not remain down here, but we are taken up there forever (John 14:3, 1 Thes. 4:17).
The physicality of the resurrection body
The ultimate argument against 70 AD being the day of resurrection is the physicality of the resurrection body. The resurrection involves the raising and transforming of our flesh bodies, which obviously hasn’t yet happened. The resurrection passages do not focus on a city or a temple, but on the bodies of believers. Passages such as Philip. 3:21 and 1 John 3:2-3 make this clear.
Jesus, Paul, and the Pharisees all used a grain of wheat to illustrate their teaching on the resurrection (John 12:24, 1 Cor. 15:37, Sanh. 90b). They used the same illustration because, as Paul repeatedly pointed out while on trial for his faith, they believed the same thing (Acts 24:15, 26:6-8).
What does “the Law and… the Prophets” say about “the promise made by God to our fathers”? King David wrote Psalm 16:9-10, which is quoted both by Peter and Paul in Acts (2:25-31, 13:35-37). We do not have to wonder what David meant, because Peter provides us with the inspired interpretation: David foresaw the resurrection of Christ, and seeing it gave hope to his flesh (Acts 2:25-31). Seeing the resurrection of Christ gave David hope for his aging, dying body because he understood the same thing Paul understood, that the resurrection of Christ is proof for our own future resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12-23). Just as Christ was raised in His flesh and bone body never to die again, so our mortal bodies will be made immortal, too (Luke 24:39; Rom. 6:5-9, 8:9-11; 1 Cor. 15:52-54).
The Apostle Peter makes a very simple argument for proving Jesus has been resurrected, and that David has not:
Empty tomb = resurrected
Body still in tomb = not resurrected
Peter makes a simple argument that was easily understood by his audience. We know Jesus has been resurrected because His tomb is empty. Likewise, we know David has not been resurrected because his body is still in the tomb. If that argument was sound in 30 AD, then it remains sound today, because the Christian doctrine of resurrection hasn’t changed. Since the ancients are still in the tomb, how can some claim David and the rest of the OT saints were resurrected in 70 AD?
A spirit body resurrection?
Some who reject a physical resurrection believe in the resurrection of a “spirit body.” (Notice the Bible doesn’t teach a spirit body, but a spiritual body – compare 1 Cor. 15:44 with 2:14-16.) A “spirit body” is like a “square circle,” it is nonsensical because it is a contradiction in terms. By definition, a spirit is not a body, and a body is not a spirit. When Paul looks forward to the resurrection, Paul looks forward to being “set free from the body of this death” (Rom. 7:24). The solution was not to be set free from the body, which happens at death, for Paul did not wish to be “unclothed” (2 Cor. 5:2-4). Nor can the resurrection be said to be merely spiritual life, because the Christian already had that prior to both 70 AD and the resurrection (Rom. 8:9-11). The solution is not found in death, but in life evermore.
Baptism for the dead
When Paul speaks of Christians “who are baptized for the dead” (1 Cor. 15:29), what is Paul talking about? The answer can be found in the context. Paul gives no indication that this baptismal practice is strange or wrong; in fact, he uses the practice to reinforce his point, which suggests his agreement with the practice. But what is it? Although ambiguous in the English translation, the “dead” in the original Greek language is definitely plural.
Paul is pointing to the fact that when Christians are baptized into Christ, they are baptized for their own dead bodies. Read 1 Cor. 15:29-35, and everywhere you read the word “dead,” read it as “dead bodies” and you will see that this not only make sense, it becomes explicit by v. 35 and throughout the rest of the chapter. In Rom. 7:24, he refers to his own living body as “the body of this death,” and in Rom. 8:10, even though the bodies Paul refers to were still physically alive, he nevertheless refers to them as being “dead.” Paul links Christian baptism with the body, death, and resurrection in Rom. 6:2-9 and Col. 2:11-13.
If the body was still alive, then in what sense was it “dead”? Since the body is of the earth, and is made for life on the earth, it is earthy (Gen. 2:7, 3:19; 1 Cor. 15:44-49) and so has earthly, fleshly appetites. So in a sense, the body has a mind of its own, and its appetites are geared toward the things of this world, which is the mindset of death (Rom. 8:12-13). This means the body is weak towards carrying out the will of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 7:14-23, 8:3-8; also see Matt. 26:41). Since the flesh is in a sense morally dead because of our sin, it was a body of death, and therefore, mortal. The body is dead because sin is living in it (Rom. 7:14-21, 8:10).
Jesus became a life-giving spirit
When Paul writes that Jesus “became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45), some believe this proves a spirit-only resurrection. But we do not become “life-giving” spirits like Christ, for we have no life in ourselves. Rather, we receive life from the Spirit of Christ. How so? We do not have to wonder, because Paul tells us in Rom. 8:9-11. In v. 9, Paul refers to “the Spirit of Christ,” and relates it to our resurrection by giving “life to your mortal bodies.”
The resurrection is not only about making our mortal bodies immortal, but about making our bodies into spiritual bodies – bodies that are strong to carry out the desires of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 15:42-54). Just as Jesus supplied the missing ingredients to transform the water buried in the earth into excellent wine at the end of the wedding (John 2:6-10), so Jesus will one day return from Heaven to supply the missing ingredients to transform our earthly tent into a heavenly building (2 Cor. 5:1-10) on the last day (John 6:54, 11:24). At that time, our transformation into the likeness of Christ (Eph. 4:13) will finally be complete!
New Jerusalem and the new heavens & earth represents Christ’s spiritual kingdom here on the earth right now. It is Christ reigning through His Church, and on behalf of His Church. One day He will return, bring an end to death and sin through the power of His resurrection, punish the wicked, and take us into Heaven where the glory of God will “be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). There we will be with God and each other in a state of perpetual spiritual bliss. “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thes. 4:18).