10 Clues to Understanding the New Heaven and New Earth

The “new heaven and new earth” of the Bible is popularly thought by Christians to be a future world of utopia—either on earth or in heaven. In the new heaven and new earth there will LITERALLY be “no more tears, pain, or death” (Revelation 21:4). It would be a time when “the wolf will lie down with the lamb” (Isaiah 11:6; 65:25). But watch out on this! We are given clues in the Bible that the popular view may be flawed.

The primary texts about the New Heaven and New Earth are Isaiah 65/66, Matthew 5:17-18; 2 Peter 3, and Revelation 21. Christians hold at least four different views about the New Heaven and New Earth. These include the following (or combinations of these views):

1. Heaven itself. True bliss implied in the New Heaven and New Earth is found only in heaven.

2. A renewed future earth perhaps like the Garden of Eden. Or, it is sometimes said that “heaven and earth come together as one.” This concept is expressed in somewhat vague terms―is this heaven on earth?

3. A literal 1,000-year period (the “millennium”) in which Jesus has returned bodily to earth and rules the world from a literal throne in Jerusalem. His iron-fisted rule creates a near-perfect utopia on earth, in which there will be literally “no more tears, pain, or death.” The millennium is only found in Revelation 20, but this view considers Revelation chapters 20-22 as a unit.

4. The New Heaven and New Earth refers to the new covenant world in which Jesus is ruling forever from heaven.

Thesis: Some uses of the nouns “earth” or “heavens” refer to physical realities in the cosmos (Genesis 1:1; etc.), especially when referred to in the present or past tense. However, below are ten reasons why the best biblical fit for “New Heaven and New Earth” is option #4. Eschatological expressions in the Bible are often symbolic or metaphoric―especially in Revelation and especially about prophetic utterances future to the writers―rather than strictly literal. It shouldn’t be surprising that the use of heaven and earth language could be idiomatic since we do so even today―”I’ll move heaven and earth for you.” Hebraic apocalyptic language, as used as expressions of God’s judgments in cosmological language, was also used by the biblical writers to express spiritual or covenantal things in physical terms. To help determine what is to be understood literally vs. metaphorically, a knowledge of the Old Testament language, context, and common sense should be considered. Accordingly, the New Heaven and New Earth can be understood as a Hebraic metaphor for the New Covenant in Christ.

CLUE #1: If the new earth is to be understood literally, we would logically have to understand the new heaven literally also. But, if God lives in heaven, why do we need a new heaven? Hmmm.

CLUE #2: In Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus ties the passing of heaven and earth with the passing of the Law. So, if the Law has already passed away and we are now under Grace, we must be in the new heaven and new earth now! (Read this passage and think about it.)

CLUE #3: In Matthew 24:34-35, Jesus puts the passing away of heaven and earth in his generation, coincident with the destruction of the temple (Matthew 24:2).

CLUE #4: In the Old Testament, “heaven and earth” is described in terms of covenants―for example Isaiah 51:16 (“You are my people.”). But the foundation passage for the New Heaven and New Earth is Isaiah 65/66 (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22). In these chapters we see that God’s enemies are destroyed, but regular human history continues. Houses and vineyards will be built in the new heaven and new earth. We also see that children are born in the new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 65:23). There is SIN in the new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 65:20). And, indeed, people still DIE in the new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 65:20; 66:24)! So, the new heaven and new earth cannot be the eternal state—heaven itself.

CLUE #5: In Isaiah 66:19f, we also see that regular human history continues after the “final judgment.” Thus, the final judgment here cannot be the end of the physical world, but rather the final judgment against Old Covenant Israel in AD 70 (Matthew 3:7; 21:33-45; 22:1-14; 23:29-4:2; Luke 21:22; etc.). The survivors of Armageddon evangelize those who never heard of God (66:19). Get that? So, this calls into question the view that the New Heaven and New Earth is a utopian paradise on earth in the millennium.

CLUE #6: A casual reading of 2 Peter 3 in some Bible translations would leave one to believe that the earth will be literally burned up and a new earth (and heaven) re-created. But in other places, Scripture specifically says that the earth “will abide forever,” or implies the same with statements about Christ reigning “forever” (Daniel 4:3, 34; 7:14, 18, 27; Ecclesiastes 1:4; Psalm 78:69; 104:5; 110:4; 145:13; Luke 1:33; Ephesians 3:21; Hebrews 13:20; Revelation 14:6). Remember that God promised never to strike down every living creature as He did at the flood (Genesis 8:21). Must God destroy all life in order to end death? (How much sense does that make?)

The key to understanding Peter in this passage is the word in 2 Peter 3:10 that is usually translated “elements.” These “elements” were to be destroyed or judged, depending on the translation. The Greek word for “elements” is stoicheion. Everywhere else in the New Testament that this word is used it is about the “elements” of the OLD COVENANT, not physical universe things (Galatians 4:3, 9; Colossians 2:8-9, 20-22; Hebrews 5:12-13).

In context of Peter’s other writings, he taught that the “end of all things” was at hand when he was writing (1 Peter 4:7). And he taught that he and his contemporaries were living in the last days (Acts 2:14-21; 1 Peter 1:20). The Great Judgment was about to begin (1 Peter 4:17)! Elsewhere in the Bible, if a nation is conquered and destroyed, usually by God’s judgment, it is described as the destruction of heaven and earth (Jeremiah 4:23-26; Isaiah, 13:9-13; 34:4-5; Ezekiel 32:7-9). The Great Judgment coming soon upon those in the first century was God’s judgment against Old Covenant Israel in AD 70.

 In 2 Peter 3, he was warning the scoffers, who remembered that Jesus promised the culmination of last-days’ events would be in their generation (Luke 21:20-24, 32)—that God was not slow to keep his promises. And Peter emphasized the imminence by saying that those in the first century should themselves be looking for the new heavens and new earth and “the coming day of God” (a term of God’s judgment) which was hastening (2 Peter 3:11-13). This was certainly a warning about the impending destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70—and the final end to the old covenant order, thus the ushering in the new covenant to its fullest.[1]

I find it most curious that Christians seem to find hope in the destruction of the planet, thus eliminating unsaved friends and future progeny from knowing Jesus—and a shiny new earth in which even carnivorous animals take up vegetarianism.

CLUE #7: In Revelation 21:6 we find Jesus saying, “To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” Are we not drinking of the fountain of the water of life freely right now (John 4:14; 7:38)?

CLUE #8: In Revelation 22:2 we see that the nations are in continual need of healing. Indeed, SIN CONTINUES in the new heaven and new earth per Revelation 22:15.

CLUE #9: All through the book of Revelation we see that the events described “must shortly take place” and “the time was near.” We see these imminence statements some 30 times, including BEFORE and AFTER the advent of the new heaven and new earth! See Revelation 1:1-3; 22:6, 10. Unless God cannot tell time or would mislead us, the new heaven and new earth was ushered in soon after Revelation was written in the mid-60’s AD.[2]

CLUE #10: In the Jewish mind, “heaven and earth” came together in the temple (Josephus, ANTIQUITIES, Book 3, 3.6.4 and 3.7.7). But Jesus replaced the physical temple as the focus of our worship (John 2:19; Revelation 21:3, 22). So, Jesus’ ministry ushered in the new heaven and new earth.

So, what then, is the new heaven and new earth, really? The best biblical answer is that it is an idiomatic expression for the NEW COVENANT brought to its fullest by Jesus during the lifetimes of the biblical writers. The new covenant began with Christ’s first advent. But the old covenant was not fully dissolved until Christ’s coming “in judgment” in AD 70 to wash away the visible fabric of Judaism—temple sacrifices for sin, etc. The new heaven and new earth is where we are blessed, accepted, loved, and forgiven through the finished work of Christ.

But wait. What about the “conquering of death” and “no more tears” promises of Revelation 21? Well, Christ has already conquered death for believers (2 Timothy 1:10)! When believers die physically, we continue to live—in heaven in a new state. “No more tears” is a reference to Isaiah 25-27 in which God promises to wipe away the tears with his salvation, foreshadowing the Messiah’s completed work in the last days of the Old Covenant (Deuteronomy 28-32).[3] In the New Covenant there is no more overburdening consciousness of guilt, so no need to cry or sorrow in a theological, but also in a real sense.

We have to remember that the truths of the Bible are often communicated by way of symbols and Hebraic figures of speech. The new heaven and new earth reflects a “new created order” similar to how the Bible describes believers as NEW CREATIONS in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Because of Christ’s first century work we are in the new world order under Christ, so to speak.

Christians, don’t dismay. This is good news! We do not have to fear a coming Great Tribulation, Battle of Armageddon, or a burning of the planet. These things were fulfilled at the end of the age (Old Covenant age) when God sent the Roman army in AD 66-70 as his instrument of judgment against Old Covenant Israel for her sins, for her failure to accept Christ as Messiah (Matthew 23:29-4:2; 23:37; Luke 21:20-24), and for participation with the Roman authorities in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus (Matthew 27:25). Christ is victorious, even in the midst of our toil. He is our rock and our salvation—and lives with us now into eternity!

So where does our hope lie? Our hope is in heaven itself. The new covenant is but a shadow of the ultimate rest for believers in heaven. The new heaven and new earth is thus a foretaste of the feast to come. As the hymn says, “In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore.”



[1] There are 19 primary mentions of the “last days” or “end times” in the New Testament and the writers spoke with one voice that they were living in the last days. See https://www.faithfacts.org/world-religions-and-theology/the-biblical-last-days

See also my article. “Second Peter 3 and Planet Destruction”:
[2] See my article “Twenty Evidences Why Revelation Was Written before AD 70”:

[3] See my article “Revelation: Its Central Theme Illuminated:

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