“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” – Revelation 21:1
The ‘new heaven’ and ‘new earth’ may be phrases that we casually skim over as we read the scriptures. But have you ever considered what they mean? Interestingly, there are four mentions in the bible of the new heaven and the new earth (2 Peter 3:13; Isaiah 67:17; 66:22; & Rev. 21:1). Let’s consider together these scriptures in order to understand what the Lord is relaying to us. First, I have to say that if we simply understand heaven and earth from a purely literal sense then these verses become problematic and at times contradictory. The doctrines of the traditional church system have taught us from an early age that heaven is a place somewhere in an unknown location where believers go when they die. But Paul states in Ephesians 2:6 that God has “raised us up and made us sit together in heavenly places.” Again the writer of the Hebrew states: “you HAVE COME to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” (Heb. 12:22). In these verses, heaven is relayed to us as a present reality, that which we experience now. May God enlighten our understanding and challenge our religious notions of heaven.
An obvious question follows: if there is a physical or astral heaven, which is perfect, why the need then for a new heaven? And why does God say He will destroy the heavens? Numerous times, the bible declares that God will do away with the heavens and the earth (See: 2 Peter 3:7 & 10, Heb. 1:10-12, Isa. 13:13, Isa. 34:4). In Rev. 21:1, it states: “for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” Jesus said: “heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matt. 24:35). Isaiah 51:6 reads: “for the heavens will vanish away like smoke.” What are we to understand from these scriptures?
In the reading of these scriptures, we need to compare spiritual things with spiritual, for this is how the Holy Spirit teaches (1 Cornth. 2:13). The Amplified rendering states: “combining and interpreting spiritual truths with spiritual language.” The words Jesus spoke were spirit and truth and yes, the flesh profits nothing. I lay this foundation for the reader of these lines so that we can turn away from human wisdom and natural understanding to allow the Holy Spirit to teach us concerning spiritual truths about heaven and earth.
You see heaven is the realm of the Spirit where God is. We can’t separate God and heaven. If God is Spirit then heaven is a spiritual reality. So, if God is omnipresent and can’t be bound geographically, neither can heaven. Heaven is a level of God consciousness and the more you touch God, the more you touch heaven. The more you are in God, the more you are in heaven. The more you live and walk in God, the more you live and walk in heaven. The more you experience God, the more you are experiencing heaven. The more God is revealed to you, the more heaven is revealed to you. That’s why it states that “you HAVE COME to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” (Heb. 12:22). Heaven is a spiritual reality. Only in the Spirit can we experience heaven. In the same way, only in the Spirit can we commune and relate with God. For those whose notion of heaven is diminished because they hear that the gold streets are not real or literal have a natural understanding of a spiritual reality.
First heaven & earth
Therefore, scriptures’ mention of the new and old heaven is not in reference to a natural heaven. Moreover, the new and old earth is not referring to an old and new physical earth. An important spiritual truth we need to grasp is that heaven and earth are within you, they are within every man. The shaking, vanishing, and dissolving of this old heaven and earth is therefore the bringing to death of our old nature: our carnal mind and flesh. In each of us, God by His Spirit is removing our old heaven so that our carnal mind will be no more. He is removing our old earth so that the lusts of the eyes, the lusts of the flesh and the pride of life will be no more. Notice, it is our old heaven and earth that are shaken. Hebrews 12:26-27 states: “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.’ Now this, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.” The first heaven and earth in us are shaken by the voice of God in order to bring about their removal and the establishment of the new heaven and new earth.
The dissolving, vanishing and removal of the first heavens and earth indicate that they are undesirable to God. You see in the old heaven and earth, man is exalted including all man’s ways, man’s systems, and man’s knowledge. Therefore, the old heavens signify the carnal mind. On the other hand, the old earth is the outward or tangible manifestations of the carnal mind in the flesh or natural body. Therefore, the first heaven refers to our carnal mind and the first earth relates to our natural body. Together the carnal mind and the flesh denote our old nature or Adamic conciousness.
Notice that throughout the bible, the terms ‘heaven’ and ‘earth’ are often used together, in fact, over 100 times. This indicates that they are inseparable and should be considered together. All outward issues of the flesh emanate from the carnal mind. Paul states: “for those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh” (Rom. 8:5). That is why both (not just one) the old heaven and earth have to be removed (i.e. both the carnal mind and the flesh).
New heaven & earth
So, what are the new heaven and the new earth? Heb. 12:27 tells us that it “cannot be shaken for it remains”, it endures and cannot perish. The following verse in Hebrews 12 reveal to us that what is being brought forth through the removal of the old is the Kingdom of God. Hebrews 12:28 states: “since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken.” The new heaven and new earth is the Kingdom of God: the King’s dominion, Christ’s dominion. Thus, the establishment of the new heaven and the new earth is the establishment of Christ in every man. It is the establishment of the mind and nature of Christ in a people. The kingdom is, first, the King’s dominion within, for Jesus said: “the Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). So the new heaven refers to the mind of Christ and the new earth is the spiritual manifestation of the mind of Christ in the spiritual body.
Paul declares: “there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (1 Corinth. 15:44). Jesus Christ was an example of one who had a spiritual body for no sin was in Him. In fact, not only did He not commit the act of sin but He did not have the nature of the Adamic nature. He was a heavenly man, uncontaminated and unmixed. Paul states: “the first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven” (1 Corinth. 15:47). Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 5:1: “For we know that if our earthy house, this tent (our old earth), is destroyed, we have a house not made with hands (new earth), eternal in the heavens.” Paul speaks of the passing away of the old and the coming of the new as “it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Cornth. 15:44). Paul states again that “we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23).
The bible refers to this spiritual body as the New Jerusalem. Many think of the New Jerusalem as a city with gold streets, pearly gates and with great and high walls. This is again a literal and natural interpretation of this spiritual book. Let us consider the scriptures in Revelation. First, the New Jerusalem is not itself heaven for we read in Rev. 21:2 John’s account: “Then, I John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” And again in Rev. 21:10 John sees “the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” We should understand from this that the New Jerusalem is the spiritual body raised up and emerging out of heaven from God – the mind of Christ. Nothing falls into our earth except from heaven for “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights” (Jam. 1:17). Jesus taught His disciples to pray: “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). A genuine transformation is one where the mind of Christ has been so developed in us that it automatically dictates our thoughts and actions. It’s not mere outward conformity based on effort but a state of being.
Secondly, as you read Rev. 21:2 it is clear who the New Jerusalem is, for John refers to her as a bride: “Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Again we see in Rev. 21:9-10 John referring to the New Jerusalem as the bride: “then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God”. Individually, the New Jerusalem represents our spiritual body. However, corporately the New Jerusalem is the bride, the body of Christ. Christ is developed in us individually until we are in His image and likeness. But, there is also a corporate manifestation of the sons of God (Rom. 8:19) who are themselves a sign of the manifestation of Christ in every man. Jesus Christ is the Head of this corporate body, the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29).
The Day of the Lord & the new heaven and earth
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). The Day of the Lord is not a period of time that is to take place at the end of the age during the seven-year tribulation, as has been commonly understood. Those apprehended by God to be overcomers are called: “sons of the day” (1 Thess. 5:4). The Day of the Lord is a glorious spiritual reality which we partake of in the Spirit. John, while on the Isle of Patmos makes the wonderful statement: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10). Only in the Spirit can we be in this Day.
The coming of this Day by the Spirit is the destruction of the first heaven and earth and the beginning of the establishment of the new heaven and new earth. Notice, first, this Day burns the old havens and earth as we read in 2 Peters 3:10. In fact, the Day is often associated with doom and destruction throughout the scriptures. For our carnal mind and fleshly nature need to be removed so that the righteous nature of the mind of Christ may be established in us. Not only that, this mind of Christ must also be revealed outwardly in our bodies; in our walk, for the Kingdom must come on earth as it is in heaven. This is the establishment of the Kingdom of God.
Oh the mystery of it. It’s not just outward conformity or self-imposed will power or mere religious activity, it is a complete transformation of our very nature; a putting off of the old and a putting on of the new (Eph. 4:22-24). It is a state of being where we become the Day, we become in this world the very image and likeness of Christ. In this condition we can declare with boldness: “I no longer live but Christ” (Gal. 2:20). This is the regenerated man in the image and likeness of Christ which John saw in Rev. 21:1; the new heaven and the new earth.