Lesson Thirteen – New Heaven and New Earth

New Heaven and New Earth

Lesson Text:  II Pet. 3:7-18.

Introduction

This is the last lesson in our study of Peter’s letters.  Our previous studies were about why Peter wrote these letters and how he prepared the original recipients to meet the onslaught of the devil’s false teachers and scoffers about Jesus’ revealing Himself again.   Christians everywhere have had to be prepared because to this day the devil has skillfully used greedy false teachers and scoffers to devour what could have been God’s church (I Pet. 5:8).  In the text for this lesson Peter presented them, and us, a view of the end of time and the destruction of the “present heavens and earth.”  The original recipients may have already understood this eschatological view (II Pet. 1:12-15).  We need a clear view of the “end game” because we cannot have faith in what we cannot discern.

The text for this lesson gives us an “already, but not yet” view of what is to be uncovered when Jesus arrives.  Christians are admonished to live each day as if, “the end of all things is near.”  I Pet. 4:7.  Tomorrow may not be.  “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.  The heavens will disappear with a roar. The elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare (Greek word katakio – to consume wholly).” NIV.  II Pet. 3:10.  KJV translated katakaio as “burned up.”  Since the focus of our faith must be on a “new heaven and a new earth,” we need a practical view for our hope element of faith in this new abode.

We can be sure people have formed many different perceptions about the “new heavens and earth.”  Just type the phrase into “Google Search” to read many serious seekers’ views, as well as the scoffers.  Most people go directly to the Apostle John’s beautiful vision in Revelation 21:1-7.  But Christians do not depend on the comments of people on earth.  We are privy to John’s message he received via an angel from Jesus Christ.  Jesus assures us; “Behold, I am coming soon!  My reward is with Me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.”  Revelation 22:12.

This lesson will be confined to the context of Peter’s letters.  For a broader eschatological study please see my book entitled “Kingdom of God,” Part VI, Lessons 1-8.  It is posted on my website,  www.kingdomofchrist.info.  The Greek word eschatos, an adjective, has been translated “last” in the New Testament.  Eschatology is a belief concerning death, the end of the world, or the ultimate destiny of mankind.

Lesson 

Peter introduced the title of this lesson in the context of preparing the church for being “scoffed at” about their faith in Jesus’ assurance He is coming with our rewards (II Pet. 3:3-7).  He made this declaration near the end of his letters in context with his appeal; “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.”  II Pet. 3:11, 12.  Since Christians’ new address will be the “home of righteousness,” we must be holy in our character and personality.  The righteous use of our bodies is the results of our “selves” being holy.  This is what the new heaven and earth means to Christians who are now being effective and productive in our calling (II Pet. 1:8-11; Eph. 4:1).  Peter captured the substance of our faith in these words:

Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with inexpressible and glorious joy, you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.   I Pet. 1:8, 9

We will follow Peter’s train of thought through his letters to attain a practical understanding of his usage of “a new heaven and a new earth.”  He has stated several interesting facts about the things that will happen when Jesus is revealed.  We will only consider the scriptures relating to what will happen when Jesus Christ is revealed in the sky (Luke 21:33-36).  The other content in his letters was for the recipients’ preparedness and our spiritual growth.

Christians’ inheritance was introduced in the very first thought of the body of the first letter.  “An inheritance (Gr. kleronomia, heirship, i. e., possession) that never can perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of salvation (soteria, rescue, safety) that is ready to be revealed (apokalupto) in the last (eschatos) time.”  I Pet. 1:4.  Apokalupto is the Greek word translated “to be revealed” in I Pet. 1:5; 5:1-4.  It is made up from two words, apo – from, kalupto, to cover.  It signifies to uncover, unveil.  What Christians now hope for will be uncovered.  These are our rightful things because this is from whence our spirits came (Luke 16:10-12; Eccl. 12:7).  God’s call to Christians is “come home.”

Faithful Christians’ inheritance is the status and condition of our “selves” as God’s holy children of promise in His eternal kingdom (Gal. 3:16-29).  We will inherit the “divine nature” we are now growing up into – the life God possesses (Jas. 1:12; I Pet. 2:2; II Pet. 1:4).  See Acts 20:32; Eph. 1:14; Col. 3:24; Heb. 9:15; Jas. 2:5.  Christians have been transferred to the “kingdom of the Son He loves” during our new birth processes; however, we cannot inherit the eternal aspect of God’s kingdom until we put off our physical bodies (I Cor. 15:50; Col. 1:10-14).  Faithful Christians and little children will receive a rich welcome.  Please review our last study about the “high standing” of Christians who will be welcomed into the “new heaven and a new earth, the home of the righteous.”

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.  For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  II Pet. 1:10, 11

Christians’ faith will result in “praise, honor and glory when Jesus is revealed.”  We have faith God will satisfy the innate needs of our inner-man.  We have sought praise, honor and glory for as long as we can remember.  Since all physical things will be destroyed, we cannot put our complete hope in them to attain satisfaction for the higher needs of our “selves.”  Our present “self” is our spirit that came from God.  Our hope is in our inheritance of the new heaven and earth.  Please note, we are reviewing the scriptures Peter used with eschatological content to understand what he understood would happen when Jesus is revealed.  He used the phrase “new heavens and earth” because we can relate to these words.

People cannot perceive of non-physical entities without the help of literary tools such as similes, metaphors, epigrams, etc.  The Apostle Paul said; “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.”  I Cor. 2:13.  Sometime the divine writers of the Bible use concepts that can be understood by the profane, or secular, to distinguish the divine, or spiritual.  Jesus did this type of teaching with His parables.  Peter may have had this in mind when he spoke of the “new heavens and new earth.”

The last thing we want to do is to perceive of another heaven and earth something like the one in which we now live.  Please see Paul’s view in Romans 8:17- 25 of the present heavens and earth as they relate to why God created mankind.  Unless we can understand the things that will happen to, and for us when Jesus returns, we will not have a faith view we will need when we are being tested.  How we understand “what will happen” must offer satisfaction for our innate needs for praise, honor and glory.   We must have a practical view of the new heaven and earth.  We can see the spiritual picture by studying what Peter taught would happen before he used this phraseology at the close of his letters.

The goal of Christians’ faith is the salvation (soteria, see above) of our souls (I Pet. 1:9).  Our salvation must give us satisfaction for all the innate needs of our spirits after we leave our bodies.  “Food for the stomach and stomach for food, but God will destroy them both.”  I Cor. 6:13.  Now we have an innate urge for food.  We will not be happy if we believe it will not be available at the next appointed mealtime – or very soon thereafter.  “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”  I Cor. 6:13.  People with maturing bodies have a God-given need for sexual relationships.  “But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”  I Cor. 7:9.  Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage.  But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage.”  Luke 20:34, 35.  We must assume we will not have sexual urges in our new bodies in the new heaven and earth (I John 3:2).  This will disappoint certain people who have a wrong view of the new heavens and earth.  All people have an innate need for food.  All normal maturing people have an innate need for a sexual relationship with the opposite sex.  These are not learned needs, we have inherited them.  We do need to learn from Jesus how to attain satisfaction without thwarting one of our higher needs of our inner-man for glory, honor and peace (Matt. 6:25; Rom. 2:6-10; I Cor. 4:16-18).

The salvation of all the souls born of natural descent has been the theme of God’s story about His relationship with mankind in the Bible.  Our salvation was why He gave us a “new birth into a living hope” though Jesus (John 1:12-14; I Pet. 1:3).  It was why the prophets who “searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find the time and circumstance to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.”  I Pet. 1:10, 11.  His suffering was for our sins and the glories that have followed are for our “growing up into our salvation.”

Adam and Eve had salvation in the Garden of Eden.  All of their innate needs were satisfied because of the arrangements God set up for them.  They had an innate need to achieve; that is, to have the honor of achieving something.  God let Adam name each living creature.  Eve became an over-achiever and led Adam to break the covenant God had made for them (Gen. 2:19; 3:4-7; 17).  The rest of the story in the Bible is about salvation of souls.  Their sin of breaking the covenant gave the capability of awareness of good and evil to all mature people (Gen. 3:22; Acts 17:26).  This caused all to sin.  Our own sins brought spiritual death to each of us (Rom. 5:12).

Still, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  II Pet 3:9.  However, salvation from sin and death in our new birth does not change how and why God created us.  Neither does it remove our capacity for perceiving good and evil.  Redemption via our new birth does not offer satisfaction for our innate needs.  It does give us peace with God (Rom. 4:25 – 5:1; I Pet. 1:18-21; 2:21-25).  His purpose in creation will be attained in those who develop divine nature and thereby, become effective and productive members of the human race.  Christians glorify God and call others for His purpose in creation (I Pet. 2:11, 12).

All mature people have an innate need to have this quality of life.  We have a need to be a glorious son of God, but we must grow up into this aspect of our salvation (I Pet. 2:2).  Faith in Jesus’ death provides us peace with God (I Pet. 2:24, 25).  Faith in Jesus as the law and light of our lives gives us satisfaction for our soul needs while we are in our Adam bodies.  People who have satisfaction for our lower needs can develop the characteristics of personality and character that will make it possible to have satisfaction for the higher needs of our “selves.”  See II Pet. 1:5-7.   The higher needs are mental security, social acceptance in our achievements and glory.  After the revealing of Jesus Christ we will have praise from God and eternal glory and honor.

Faithful Christians and children will be happy when Jesus is revealed.   But what will happen to the vast mass of people who have lived on earth and the billions who live today?  Peter identified the antagonist in God’s story: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I Pet. 5:8.  Satan has sold a large portion of the population on his program to satisfy their inherent needs.  He is a lying salesman (John 8:44).  His present goal is to devour faithful Christians.  This was Peter’s reason for writing his letters.

Children who are reared by people who are not faithful Christians may be quickly devoured by God’s antagonist in their adolescent stage of life.  Because of passive learning, they are, so to speak, “reared in the box” of their parents and other peoples’ value system.  We pray a faithful Christian will have an opportunity to share our hopes with these youth.  Perhaps they may find the pearl of great price through a personal Bible study (Matt. 13:44, 45).  They need to find a way to rise above the “wisdom of men” about why and how they were created.  The gospel of the kingdom Jesus taught is the wisdom of God to enlighten all people about divine nature (I Cor. 3:18-20).  All peoples’ spirits have come from God.  Our spirits are in the likeness of God by design; therefore, all people have the potential to develop divine nature.  Jesus may have been referring to Christians’ potential when He quoted Psalms 82:6-8:  “Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’?”

Peter was specific about the judgment of greedy false teachers:  “Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.”  II Pet. 2:3.  “They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done.”  II Pet. 2:13.

Christians who are again entangled in the corruption of the world must repent or “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then turned their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.”  II Pet. 2:21.

Scoffers who deliberately forget what they know or could have learned will meet and bow before Jesus (Rom. 14:11).  “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the Day of Judgment and the destruction of ungodly men.”  II Pet. 3:7.  It is the earnest prayers of God’s elect, that all the people in the foregoing situations will have opportunity to carefully consider God’s salvation program for them through the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It will then be up to them.  We, as Christians, assure them the following is a blessing for all believers who have faith.  Jesus Christ is:

As a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.

II Pet. 1:19

Questions for Discussion

  1. The title of this lesson suggests this is an eschatological study. What does this mean?
  2. What does the phrase “home of righteousness” tell Christians about our getting ready to be accepted in this eternal habitat?
  3. Why is it very important for Christians to form a Bible centered hypothesis about what will happen when Jesus appears again?
  4. What has been the value of literary tools such as metaphors for peoples’ understanding of terms like “a new heaven and a new earth?”
  5. How does God feel about the multitudes of people who have not accepted the truth and grace He has offered them through Jesus Christ?
  6. How should Christians feel about these same people?

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