(Reprinted from Thy Kingdom Come: Studies in Daniel and Revelation [Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2001 printing], 213-216).
According to Hebrews 12:22-29, “We ARE come…unto…the heavenly Jerusalem.” The New Jerusalem is a present reality as well as a future realization. M. S. Terry summarized the matter aptly, writing in 1890:
The New Jerusalem, then, is the apocalyptic portraiture of the New Testament Church and Kingdom of God. Its symbolism exhibits the heavenly nature of the communion and fellowship of God and his people, which is entered here by faith, but which opens into unspeakable fullness of glory through the ages.1
A New Heaven and a New Earth
The creation of a new heaven and a new earth began with the resurrection, with Christ the first-fruits of the new humanity and the new creation. The new creation involves the “shaking” and recreating of the old world. The first “shaking” of the earth took place at Sinai, when the holiness of God in His law was death to the world’s sin and rebellion. The second and last shaking began with the resurrection: “Yet once more, I shake not the earth only, but also heaven” (Heb. 12:26). The Puritan expositor, John Owen, writing on Hebrews 12:25-27, said:
It is therefore the heavens of Mosaical worship, and the Judaical church-state, with the earth of their political state belonging thereunto, that are here intended.2
Again, Roderick Campbell has pointed out clearly:
The making of all things new has reference to moral and spiritual regeneration, to redemption in time, to “the resurrection of all things,” to “the time of reformation,” to the formation of the “new creation,” to the making and completion of “new heavens and a new earth,” in other words to the restitution rendered necessary by the entrance of sin and the fall of man (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 1:20).
Note carefully the phrase “all things” which is repeated no less than six times in Col. 1:15-20. Note particularly verses 19-20, “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell and having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself: by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” It should also be noted that the “all things” of 2 Cor. 5:17 has reference mainly, if not exclusively, to objective reality — to things outside the believer, as they now appear to him. In both passages the transformation of the “all things” relates to external fact rather than to subjective experience.3
Campbell further states:
The New Earth is the lower or manward side of the new universe which came into being as a result of the redemptive work accomplished by Christ when on the Cross. He said, “It is finished,” and then expired (John 19:30). The New Earth means the redemptive effects on earth which are spoken of in the New Testament as “the regeneration,” the “time of reformation,” and “the restitution of all things.” In contrast with and in opposition to this New Earth stands the world which still lies in the evil one (Gal. 1:4; cf. John 5:4).
The word “heaven” in Scripture (as, for example, “the heavens do rule”) does not necessarily mean the physical or astral heavens, but rather the Divine government of the world and man. “Earth” does not necessarily mean the material planet on which we live or any part of it such as cities or fields. The New Earth does not mean (as some think) our present physical planet purified from its moral and spiritual evil. It does not mean that this present physical world will be purified so as to be a fit plane in which the saints will dwell when Christ returns, or after the last trumpet sounds. The New Earth means something wholly new — something which came into being with the inauguration of the age in which we now live. It means something which can be seen only by faith.4
Calvin’s comment on Hebrews 2:5 helps clarify this point:
To make the thing clearer, let us suppose two worlds, — the first the old, corrupted by Adam’s sin; the other, later in time, as renewed by Christ….It hence now appears that here the world to come is not that which we hope for after the resurrection, but that which began at the beginning of Christ’s kingdom, but it will no doubt have its full accomplishment in our final redemption.5
This makes the issue clear-cut: there is no kingdom for us, if we are not in the kingdom now; there is no new creation we can look forward to in eternity, if we are outside the new creation now. The kingdom is and is to come; the new heavens and new earth are and are to come. The fullness is at the end of time, but it is here today in reality. This means that Christians are neglecting their inheritance and failing to make use of their power in Christ: they live in terms of victory tomorrow instead of victory today, in terms of joy tomorrow instead of joy today. How can we enjoy heaven if we cannot enjoy earth? How can we rejoice in the eternal order beyond time, when we cannot rejoice in the new creation today? Revelation was written to suffering and troubled Christians, and also to smug and self-satisfied Christians, who alike waited for the kingdom to come and felt that the world’s problems presented a hindrance to Christ and His kingdom. But Revelation makes clear that the kingdom is now, and that, not by evading conflict, responsibility, and suffering, but by assuming it, do Christians and the church gain their inheritance. Both compromise with the world and flight from it assume that Christ is impotent and that His kingdom is in the future and has no power today.
The good news is announced: “no more sea.” The sea is the world, the apostate and unbelieving world. The nations establish themselves as the true kingdom, as man’s true commonwealth, in opposition to the kingdom of God. They claim dominion, control, and power. But God declares, “no more sea.” The nations, He told Isaiah, are as nothing before Him (Is. 40:15ff.). Now, the new creation having been established and Christ’s atoning work openly set forth, the Lord moves against the nations. There shall be no more sea, and the good news is announced in advance. The kingdom of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ. The apostate nations shall be broken, and the way prepared for the servants of the Lord.
In verses 1-8, we have the new heavens and the new earth portrayed in their eternal splendor and present reality, and contrasted with the eternal death of the world of Babylon. In verse 1, as we have noted, we have the great declaration, “and there was no more sea.” The turbulent and raging sea, from whence came the beast, and which typifies the nations which establish themselves as the true kingdom, man’s true commonwealth, in opposition to the kingdom of God, is no more, from the perspective of the eternal order. Through Isaiah, God declared emphatically that His judgment was upon the nations. Moreover, by the coming of Immanuel, the virgin-born Son of God, the sovereignty of the nations was revealed to be less than nothing, totally nonexistent, and the sovereignty of the Lord was fully revealed. The Christian today, as in John’s day, too often is overwhelmed by the raging of the sea, and feels that God is remote, but the Lord declares through John, “there is no more sea.” “The heathen rage” (Ps. 2), but all their plotting against the Lord’s dominion is set at naught by the coming of Jesus Christ, who proceeds to “break them with a rod of iron” (Ps. 2:9). What we are witnessing is not the triumph of the nations but their shattering, and we must “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Ps. 2:11) as we see these things.
The tabernacling presence of God is portrayed both in its fullness, as the glory of the eternal order, and as the reality of the true church’s life. Death and the sorrow of life is abolished by the resurrection of Christ, and we enter into that victory here and now, and into its fullness at the resurrection of the dead. Not by compromise, nor by sitting on the sidelines in separation from the conflict, but by overcoming and by thirsting do we receive our inheritance and drink of the water of life (Rev. 21:6-7). And the Lord is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega, of all things, including our Christian life, our hunger and thirst, our struggling, and our overcoming. Therefore, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (Ps. 2:12).
The word “new” is repeatedly used to describe this creation. Two different Greek words are translated “new” in our English text, neos, which relates to time, and kainos, which relates to quality.6 The word kainos is used to describe the tomb of Jesus (Mt. 27:60; Jn. 19:41), and also the “wine-skins” or “bottles” for new wine, indicating in both instances not that the tomb or the wine-skins were newly made, but rather unused or fresh for the tomb, and fresh and elastic for the wine-skins. This same work, kainos, is used here and throughout the Book of Revelation.
1. Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics (New York: Eaton & Mains, 1890), 382.
2. John Owen, An Exposition of Hebrews, vol. IV (Evansville, IN: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 1960), 366.
3. Roderick Campbell, Israel and the New Covenant (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1954) 108.
4. Ibid., 113f.
5. John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle to the Hebrews, John Owen translation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949), 58.
6. W. Boyd Carpenter, in Ellicott, Commentary, op. cit.,VIII, 627.