All Things New
A Natural Struggle
Someone recently asked for an explanation of 2 Peter 3:13. It says “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” The question of course is asking what it means when he speaks of the new heavens and a new earth.
I think it’s important to keep in mind that because we are currently in the flesh it is natural for us to struggle with understanding eternal and spiritual concepts without thinking in earthly ways.
In Isaiah 65 the Lord prophesied through Isaiah that there would be judgment and salvation and also restoration. Isaiah 65:17-25 speak of the Lord creating new heavens and a new earth as well as a New Jerusalem. Trying to put aside what we know of prophecy and the fulfillment of it I can appreciate the perspective of the early Jews who read this, or heard it read, and naturally came to the conclusion that he was speaking of an earthly kingdom.
We know from the gospels and even from the epistles of the New Testament that those during the days of Christ struggled with understanding that He hadn’t come to establish and earthly kingdom but rather a spiritual and eternal one. Their lack of understanding and refusal to understand lead to them killing Jesus for what He claimed. Even during the New Testament era following the establishment of the church they still struggled with putting aside the physical law, the Law of Moses, and realize that it was but a shadow of things to come (Heb. 10:1).
It’s with that same natural tendency that we struggle to understand passages like 2 Peter 3:13 where Peter talks about new heavens and a new earth. When Jesus told His disciples, in John 14:1-7, that he was going to be leaving them soon and would be somewhere they would not be able to be yet, they couldn’t grasp what he was talking about. Even today there remain lively discussions among brethren over whether or not there will actually be “mansions” (John 14:2)
I’m not going to attempt to answer those questions of whether or not there will actually be a new earth or literal mansions. I’m not going to attempt to answer those questions because (1) I don’t have the affirmative answers to those things and (2) I’m not convinced that it is for us to actually know.
When I read the account of Jesus in John 14 I hear Jesus reassuring his disciples that even though He is going to be leaving them, they need not be anxious about the things to come and only trust that He and the Father have prepared a place for those who are faithful. When I read Peter’s words in 2 Peter 3 again I hear Peter, starting back in v.1, reassuring them that despite what people may say the Lord will return once again and the things that exist now will no longer be and what’s been prepared for us will be new and pure.
John would write of the vision he witnessed of the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21-22:5. You can’t read that and now sit in awe of how beautiful and awesome the place that has been prepared for the faithful will be. Are we meant to sit there and analyze whether or not the streets will actually be made of pure gold, will the gates actually be real pearls, and will his name literally be on our foreheads? The more time we spend trying figure out those things in literal terms the more I think we miss the real point. The place that has been prepared for us is more beautiful and awesome that you and I could ever dream of and that’s where we should want to be, because that is where God is, and that is where our God wants us to be.
I think the key in 2 Peter 3, as well as in other texts like these, is found in 3:14 when Peter concludes, “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.”
Where ever God is that is where we want to be and “what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the day of God…” (v.11)