The New Heaven and the New Earth

The New Heaven and the New Earth

Written by Thomas R. Schreiner |
Friday, December 16, 2022

All that is evil and defiling in this world will vanish. There will be discontinuity and continuity with the world we live in now. We will still reside in a physical universe, but it will be a world cleansed and purified from all sin. Some have interpreted 2 Peter 3:10–13 as teaching that the present world will be annihilated and burned up and then God will create a new universe out of nothing. This interpretation is certainly possible, but it is more likely that we should understand the burning to denote purification instead of annihilation so that the present world is purified and cleansed and renovated.

What will our heavenly existence be like? Some have envisioned believers as having an ethereal disembodied existence in which we float on clouds and strum on harps, but this picture does not fit with the biblical witness. The Scriptures teach that believers will be raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15:12–19; 1 Thess. 4:13–18) and that we will have physical bodies forever. Resurrected bodies can’t exist without a place, however, and thus there must be a new world that we will inhabit. We are not surprised, then, to discover the promise that there will be a new creation (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; Rev. 21:1), a new world that is free from sin. “The first heaven and the first earth” will pass away, and “the sea [will be] no more” (Rev. 21:1), and then the new creation will come.

The removal of the sea doesn’t mean that there won’t be waters or seas in the new creation. The sea stands symbolically for chaos, for evil, for all that deforms and defaces the present world. The cleansing of the world from evil accords with Romans 8:18–25, where we find that in the present time the created world groans and is full of futility. We see such futility and groaning with tornadoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and other natural evils. The world that God created is good (Gen. 1:1–31), but Romans 8:18–25 teaches that when Adam sinned, both the human race and the created world were marred by sin. Of course, creation itself didn’t sin, but the sin of Adam was not restricted to him. It also affected the world that he had been commissioned to care for and steward. When Adam fell, the world fell with him, and thorns and thistles sprang up (Gen. 3:18).

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