Ancient Israel's Heavens and Earth
From Isaiah 51:15-16, we learn where the Lord, by His Spirit and through the mouth of His prophet, called to Israel's attention, an event of great moment which took place some 750 years earlier at Mount Sinai. He brings to their remembrance, a very special historic occasion, when He chose the children of Israel above all the other nations of the earth, to be His very own [Deuteronomy 7:6]. Not only did He take them for His own, but He also created for them a World of their own. Yes, He created for them, their very own, "heavens and earth," bringing to them order out of chaos and confusion! Listen to this prophecy now, and see just how The Lord said He accomplished this:
"But I am the Lord thy God that divided the sea, whose waves roared: The Lord of hosts is His name. And I have put My words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of Mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art My people" [Isaiah 51:15-16].
I don't know how you understand this passage. It may be that you understand it as I once did. Years ago I would have considered the words, "heavens and earth," as used here, to have reference to the Genesis account of God's creation of the universe, and all that is therein. However, after many more years in the study of our Father's word, especially the Old Covenant Scriptures, I have come to understand the passage quite differently.
The reason I understand it differently now, is because I have also become more aware of the importance of "audience relevance" when reading the Scriptures. In other words, I now see the need to give careful consideration, not only to who is speaking, but also to whom a statement is being spoken. As we can clearly see in this passage, God is addressing His covenant people - the Old Covenant Israelites. Now with that said, please let us take careful notice of three things this passage teaches that God did for the Israelites upon taking them as His own. Consider these things in their context and see if you also understand God to be speaking of the time when He created Israel's heavens and earth:
(1) "I am the Lord thy God who divided the sea, whose waves roared." Here we see that by Yahweh's powerful hand, He opened the waters of the Red Sea, allowing the children of Israel to walk safely through on dry land, and delivering them from 400 years of Egyptian bondage. Conversely, when the Egyptians pursued them, God caused the roaring waves of the sea to return the waters to their place, swallowing up all of Pharaoh's armies [Exodus 14].
(2) "I have put My words in thy mouth."
Through Moses at Mt. Sinai, He gave to them His law, to teach and guide them in their conduct toward God, and toward their fellow man. At the center of His Law were "the ten commandments," engraved upon two tablets of stone. His law was given to them to serve as their tutor, until the Messiah should come, so that they might be justified by faith [Galatians 3:24]. So, God established His covenant with them, and promised them bountiful blessings if they obeyed His voice and kept His commandments. Moreover, He had the tabernacle constructed for a place wherein He would commune with them through the High Priest, Aaron, with Moses as their leader.
(3) He covered them, "in the shadow of His hand."
Yes, like a giant umbrella, He spread His loving watch-care over them, by way of miracles (manna from heaven, quail, and water) and His protective, providential care during their 40 years of wilderness wanderings. Moreover, He fought all their battles for them! However, even after all this, they tried the Lord repeatedly, establishing a pattern of disobedience and unfaithfulness, which followed them throughout their history. Finally, it should also be noted that God, clearly and specifically declares in the passage, that His accomplishment of all these things for Israel, constituted His, "planting the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth" of Israel's World; "declaring to Zion, "You are my people." In light of all these marvelous things, I just don't see any possibility of this prophecy having anything whatsoever to do with God's Genesis creation! However, what I do see in these things is the creation of Israel's World or "heavens and earth," the beginning of the Old Covenant or Mosaic age at Sinai. With these things in mind, please see what the Lord spoke to Moses about His making His covenant with Israel. He spoke these very gracious words of kindness and assurance with this reason,
"Behold, I am going to make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced in all the earth, nor among any of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the Lord, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform with you."
The importance of God's first covenant with ancient Israel, also known as the "Mosaic" covenant, will become increasingly apparent to us as we deepen our study; especially as we draw nearer and nearer to the point at which we discuss God's creation of a "New" Heavens and Earth. Over the centuries that followed, the Israelites exhibited gross unfaithfulness to Yahweh's covenant with them. However, because an exhaustive, detailed account of this unfaithfulness falls outside the scope of this particular study, we will briefly touch on just a few instances of their unfaithfulness, such as:
(1) The Division of the Kingdom
This division of the kingdom into two kingdoms would transpire during the reign of Rehoboam. The two kingdoms would be: the kingdom of Israel (the 10 northern Tribes), and the kingdom of Judah (the two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin).
(2) God's Giving the House of Israel a Writ of Divorce
This divorce came about because of the "house of Israel" playing the harlot; worshiping the gods of the nations (Gentiles) around them. This divorce culminated in His sending her into Assyrian captivity in 721 B.C., at which point the "kingdom" of Israel ceased to be, and with the "house" of Israel being dispersed among the nations (Gentiles) [2 Kings 17:6-23; Hosea 8:8, and Jeremiah 3:6-8].
(3) Judah Even More Treacherous Than Israel
In 2 Kings 17:19 and Jeremiah 3:8-11, we learn that even as wicked and faithless as the house of Israel was, God says that she actually proved herself to be more righteous than her sister Judah. Please read the above passages for those accounts.
For sure, all of the above things are of great import to us! However, for the purposes of this study, I would like to focus only on the matter of ancient Israel's (the twelve tribes') Old Covenant heavens and earth; the one about which Isaiah spoke in the Isaiah 51:15-16 passage. Then I would like to follow with how it would later be replaced by the marvelous and glorious New Covenant heavens and earth prophesied in Isaiah 65:17ff and 2 Peter 3.
God's use of Heavens and Earth, when employed in prophetic, apocalyptic language, such as in the Isaiah 51:15-16 passage, really sheds much light then on other passages where similar language is used. I find it to be highly conducive to a better understanding of those similar passages. For example:
With a good understanding now of what God meant by the term, "heavens and earth," as it applied to Israel, I can then get a better understanding of what He meant when He addressed His people in Isaiah 1:2 where He said, "Listen, O heaven and hear, O earth…"
Also, when He warned them of the terrible consequences should they disobey Him, He said, "And I will also break down your pride of power; I will also make your sky like iron and your earth like bronze. And your strength shall be spent uselessly; for your land shall not yield its produce and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit" [Leviticus 26:19-20].
Then there was the time when God said, "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So, choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants" [Deuteronomy 30:19].
He said this to Moses: "Assemble to Me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, that I may speak these words in their hearing and call the heavens and earth to witness against them" [Deuteronomy 31:28].
Finally, He declared to Israel: "Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak; And let the earth hear the words of my mouth" [Deuteronomy 32:1].
In my view, such examples as these of our Father's use of the phrase, "heavens and earth." are more than adequate to persuade me of their great significance; reason, and that they have a specific reference to the World God created for His people, Israel!
If you are anything like myself, you thoroughly enjoy reading Josephus' historical account of those days. Even though he was not an Inspired man, being a Jewish historian (and even a priest at one point in his life), contemporary with the times and events of the First Century, he was quite familiar with the construction of the temple. I believe that his description of the inside of the temple/tabernacle would give us additional insight into why our Lord used that particular term "heavens and earth" in the above passages, as well as in Matthew 5:18. Yes, the temple/tabernacle was at the very center of Israel's "heavens and earth!" The following excerpts are some of the things Josephus recorded regarding the temple/tabernacle. This is truly amazing and of great significance:
Antiquities of the Jews: Book III, Chapter 6, Section 4
"Now the room within those pillars was the most holy place; but the rest of the room was the tabernacle, which was open for the priests. However, this proportion of the measures of the tabernacle proved to be an imitation of the system of the world; for that third part thereof which was within the four pillars, to which the priests were not admitted, is, as it were, a heaven, peculiar to God."
Of the veil at the holy of holies, Josephus says, "This veil was very
ornamental, and embroidered with all sorts of flowers which the earth
produces; and there were interwoven into it all sorts of variety that might be an
ornament excepting the forms of animals…………………………...
Antiquities of the Jews: Book III, Chapter 7, Section 7
Of the fabric of the Tabernacle, Josephus says, "...they were, every one made in way of imitation and representation of the universe. When Moses distinguished the tabernacle into three parts, and allowed two of them to the priests, as a place accessible and common, he denoted the land and sea, these being of general access to all; but he set apart the third division for God, because heaven is inaccessible to men. And when he ordered twelve loaves to be set on the table, he denoted the year, as distinguished into so many months. By branching out the candlestick into seventy parts, he secretly intimated the Decani, or seventy divisions of the planets; and as to the seven lamps upon the candlesticks, they referred to the course of the planets, of which that is the number. The veils, too, which were composed of four things, they declared the four elements; for the fine linen was proper to signify the earth, because the flax grows out of the earth, the purple signified the sea, because that color is dyed by the blood of a sea shell-fish; the blue is fit to signify the air; and the scarlet will naturally be an indication of fire. Now the vestment of the high priest being made of linen, signified the earth; the blue denoted the sky, being like lightning in its pomegranates, and in the noise of the bells resembling thunder. And for the ephod, it showed that God had made the universe of four elements; and as for the gold interwoven, I suppose it related to the splendor by which all things are enlightened. He also appointed the breastplate to be placed in the middle of the ephod, to resemble the earth, for that has the very middle place of the world. And the girdle which encompassed the high priest round, signified the ocean, for that goes round about and includes the universe. Each of the sardonyxes declares to us the sun and the moon...And as for the mitre, which was of a blue color, it seems to me to mean heaven."
Even though the preceding were not the words of an Inspired man, still the fact that Josephus was a Jewish Historian, contemporary with the times of the Temple and its destruction, I believe, places him in a unique position for information and insight into the Hebrew thought and mind of those days! It seems by his language, that the inside arrangement of the temple/tabernacle was a sort of microcosm of the "universe (heavens and earth)." I don't know about you, but I find this most interesting in the context of this study!
The Promise of Better Things
In light of the things we learned in Isaiah 51:15-16, it is very interesting to me, that just a few chapters later, the voice of prophecy began to take on a brighter, sparkling hue as Yahweh's eternal purpose began to unfold as He said this of His people: "You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name" [Isaiah 62:2].
Then, once again, Yahweh speaks regarding the "heavens and earth": "For behold, I create a New Heavens and Earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem (New Spiritual Jerusalem-jg) as a rejoicing, and her people a joy" [Isaiah 65:17-18]. See also Hebrews 11:10, 16; Galatians 4:24-25; Revelation 21:1-2.
Many Disciples today understand these words to be indicative of a new physical creation of planet Earth. We will indeed address this idea later, but for now, please let us remember one crucial fact: The creation of a "New Heavens and Earth" was among those great and precious promises Yahweh made to Israel! Regarding these promises, it should be noted what the Apostle Paul said in his Epistle to the ekklesia at Rome:"For I say, that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision (Israelites-jg) on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers (Israelite fathers-jg)" [Romans 15:8].
In the closing chapters of Isaiah's prophecy [chapters 60-66], we learn that in addition to the creation of a New Heavens and Earth, God further promised to bring redemption (or salvation) to His people. However, the Scriptures declare that this salvation or redemption would also be brought through judgment. Only a remnant would be saved. For example:
"Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap…Then I will draw near to you for judgment, and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien, and do not fear Me, says the Lord of hosts" [Malachi 3:1-2, 5].
"For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch…Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet (John the baptist-jg) before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord, And he will restore the heart of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse" [Malachi 4:1, 5-6].
"Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished, and half the city exiled, but the rest of the people (the elect remnant-jg - Matthew 24:22, 31) will not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from the east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. And you (elect remnant-jg) will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. The Lord, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him (Matthew16:27-28; 24:31)! And it will come about in that day that there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle (rulers among the Jews-jg). For it will be a unique day which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light. And it will come about in that day that living waters (the gospel-jg) will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter. And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only One, and His name the only one" [Zechariah 14:1-9. Read also Isaiah, chapters 24-27].
The Promise to Remove the Old Heavens and Earth
Several centuries later, in approximately A.D. 65-66 , near the end of the Apostle Peter's life, he wrote words of exhortation to his fellow Disciples of the First Century. Since they were looking and waiting for the coming of that wonderful and marvelous blessing, he urged them to:"…be diligent to be found by Him (Christ-jg) in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation…" [2 Peter 3:14-15].
I'm confident that we would all agree with the premise of God's bringing in a "New" Heavens and Earth; that it would, of necessity, require first the removal of the "old" one which still stood at the time Peter wrote those words. In fact, Peter's words say exactly that! Please hear just what he says about it:
"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works, will be burned up" [verse 10].
Moreover, in verse 12, we learn that those First Century Disciples were looking for and hastening that great and monumental day of God! Yes, please notice that Peter said (they) were "eagerly awaiting" the day of God, when the "heavens and earth" would be destroyed. Yes, (they) were "eagerly awaiting" its destruction! I don't pretend to speak for anyone other than myself, but in my view, I just have to say that these words are truly remarkable! Now just why would these First Century Disciples be eager for the heavens and earth to be destroyed? Well, I believe there would be a very good reason why they would have been eager for its destruction. It was because they understood the promise from Yahweh, that He was about to create for them, a "New" Heavens and Earth; one in which, "righteousness dwells" [verse 13]! Once again please read that promise by God through His prophet in Isaiah 65:17-18.
So, we see then that there was only one thing that stood in the way of the creation of that "New" Heavens and Earth"; and that was the removal of the "old." This, we will cover a little later in our study.
Peter Stresses the Urgency of His Epistle
To preserve continuity in this study, I believe it is crucial that we keep the things of 2 Peter 3 in their proper context as well as in their historical setting. In this Epistle, Peter was writing for the second time to these Disciples [vs. 1], among whom many would have been Israelites from both the house of Judah and descendants from the house of Israel. He had said these Disciples, "resided as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia," as mentioned in his First Epistle [1 Peter 1:1].
We can know with certainty, that these are the same Disciples as those in his First Epistle, because he tells them it is his second letter to them [2 Peter 3:1]. We also learned from verse 1 that he was writing this second letter as a "reminder"; a reminder - to them - not to us in the 21st Century! It should also be noted that since Peter spoke of this Epistle as a reminder, it tells us that they already knew about the things he's about to say. Surely, we don't "remind" someone of something that they don't already know, do we? Moreover, it is also true, that inherent in a reminder, is the idea of "urgency!" Truly, such was indeed the case with these things Peter was about to write! Perhaps the greatest reason for treating these words of Peter with great urgency would be because they were things which were spoken first by the prophets, then by the Lord Jesus, and finally by all of the Apostles [verse 2].
In light of all these facts, I believe that I can say with all certainty, that had I been among those First Century recipients of such an admonition from an Inspired Apostle, I certainly would not have taken these words of Peter lightly! No! No! I believe I would have placed upon them the seal of highest priority! I feel sure you would have as well! Surely, we would not have reasoned, "Oh well, we don't really need to be all that concerned about these things; after all, they won't come to pass for at least another twenty centuries!" No, I honestly do not believe we would have reasoned in such a manner. Nor do I believe those First Century Disciples reasoned that way either. After all, these words had to do with the Parousia (Coming, or Presence) of their Master [verse 4]! And I ask you, what could possibly be more important than that?
Peter Prophesies the Arrival of Mockers
In verse 3 of this chapter, Peter prophesies the arrival of certain men he calls, "mockers." We will have much more to say about these men a little later. Peter even gives the time-frame of their arrival. He says in vs. 3,
"Know this first of all, that 'in the last days,' mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming (Gr. parousia-jg). For ever since the fathers (Israelite fathers-jg) fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.'"
I must tell you, I certainly see no difficulty in our understanding the time-frame in which Peter declares these mockers would come, for he declares, quite definitively, that the things he is about to reveal regarding these mockers, would be fulfilled in "the last days." But what does Peter mean by "the last days?"
Many Disciples believe, just as I once did, that Peter was speaking of the last days of the "Christian age." However, if we are to believe the Apostle Paul, there will be no end to the Christian age, and thus no "last days" thereof. He said:
"Unto Him (God-jg), be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end" [Ephesians 3:21].
Also, Luke records the words of the angel Gabriel: "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end" [Luke 1:32-33].
The prophet Daniel prophesied this of Jesus' kingdom: "I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven, One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed" [Daniel 7:13-14].
By reason of all this testimony from Heaven, I am persuaded that the Christian age does not have a period of "last days." Therefore, it is my conviction that Peter's "last days" reference for the coming of the mockers, has to be the "last days" period of the Old Covenant age; the age in which Peter was presently living.
I no longer understand the Old Covenant age to have fully ended at the cross as I once did, nor on the day of Pentecost. If you would please be so kind, I would like to explain from the Scriptures why I believe Peter is speaking of the last days of the Old Covenant or Mosaic age. Joel, in his prophecy, clearly predicted both"the coming of Messiah and the gospel" and "the fall of Jerusalem" to come to pass in the same time-frame. Here's Joel's most glaring prophecy:
"And it will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions, and even on the male and female servants, I will pour out My Spirit in those days. And I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire, and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood (same as in Matthew 24:28-jg), before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape (elect Jews of Matthew 24:16, 22-jg), as the Lord has said, even among the survivors (elect Jews of Matthew 24:16, 22-jg) whom the Lord calls" [Joel 2:28-32].
Do you see how Joel includes both events in the same time-frame? And not only did Joel do that, but on the Day of Pentecost, when Peter stood up with the other Apostles, he declared to the mass of Jews who were assembled before them, "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel," and then proceeded to quote that very prophecy. And then, clearly and definitively, assigned the term,"the last days," to the fulfillment of both of those monumental events [Acts 2:17]. For certain, that's what Peter understood about Joel's prophecy; and that's exactly why he urged those Jews on Pentecost to, "…be saved from this perverse generation" [Acts 2:40]. In this context, Peter has reference to the wicked generation of Jews of that present day, and especially the wicked Jewish leaders of his day. So Peter knew quite well, what was to befall that wicked generation only about 40 years down the way! But please, don't take my word for these things; please read these Inspired accounts for yourselves.
Next we have the words of the author of the Hebrews Epistle, which also help to pin-point the time-frame of these two events as being in the "last days of the Mosaic age." This Writer also penned his Epistle in approximately A.D. 64-66, and says in Hebrews 1:1-2, "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world."
Please note carefully here, the Writer's use of the term, "these last days." What is of great significance in his words here, is that he included two things within that same "last days" time-frame, even though these two things were separated by some 35 years. Those two things were: (1) the day on which he was writing his Epistle in A.D. 64-66 and, (2) the days of the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus in A.D. 30. The Writer says that after the prophets, God began speaking through His Son "in these (those) last days [verse 2]." It just seems to me that there can be no doubt that those were the last days of the age that was about to disappear; in fact, that is exactly what the Writer said was about to happen very shortly! Please take note of the words of this same Writer, where he, just seven chapters later, wrote of the glorious New Covenant, which was on the cusp of being fully consummated. He wrote in Hebrews 8:13, "When He said, 'A New Covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear."
Careful consideration should be given here to the "present" tense of the language in this statement viz, "becoming - growing - ready." To me, this begs the question: If the Old Covenant completely came to an end at the cross or at Pentecost, then just why would the Writer, in A.D. 65, speak of it as "becoming obsolete, growing old, and ready to disappear?"
This same Writer further said: "…but now once at the consummation of the ages, He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" [Hebrews 9:26].
There is a most interesting little nuance in this verse. Please take note of the Writer's use of the adverb, "now." As one can readily see, his use of this "present tense" adverb places both the time of his writing the Epistle, and the time of Jesus' sacrifice, within the same time-frame, namely, in "the consummation of the ages." Yes, at the time of his writing this letter (A.D. 64-66), the Old Covenant age was about to "disappear," and of course, as we demonstrated earlier, there's no mention of there even being an end to the New Covenant age."
Therefore, from these several passages that we have closely examined, I believe we have clearly established that Peter's "last days" reference, regarding the coming of "the mockers," is in fact, the "last days" period of the Old Covenant age," and not the perceived end of the Christian age as I once believed!
Peter Meets the Mockers' Challenge
Now, from the perspective of the "last days of the Mosaic age" being the time-frame for the coming of the mockers, it becomes crystal clear, in my view, why Peter speaks with such urgency to his First Century readers regarding their (the mockers') coming [2 Peter 3:1-3]! We can see that it was because of this great urgency, that he wrote this second letter as a means of, "stirring up their sincere minds by way of reminder." With those things in mind, let us now proceed with verse 4. From this verse, I understand these mockers to be the unbelieving Jews of Peter's day. These are the same people who hounded Peter, and especially Paul, on his journeys all throughout the Book of Acts [See Acts 4:1-4; 4:5-19; 5:17-29; 6:9-15: 9:23-25; 13:44-46; 14:19-20; 15:1-2; 17:5-9; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15 ]. I get this sense because the mockers used the expression, "for since the days of the fathers." Obviously, "the fathers," has reference to the fathers of ancient Israel, for only Israelites would speak in this fashion.
One other very important thing that becomes evident from this verse is, that the Disciples of Peter's day also believed in an Imminent Parousia (Coming, or Presence) of Christ. Just look at what the mocking was all about: Peter says the mockers, who were coming soon, would taunt both the Master Himself, and the Disciples, saying, "Where is the promise of His coming?" If these First Century Disciples of Jesus were not expecting an imminent return of their Master, then why would those men mock after this fashion? For Peter to speak to these Disciples in language of such urgency, and yet have in mind something that would not come to pass for at lease twenty centuries in the future would be but to taunt and deceive these Disciples! And we know Peter would not do such a thing! Personally, I don't see any explanation that could possibly fit, other than the fact that they were expecting their Master, soon, i.e., in their generation!
I also find it quite interesting that shortly after Peter wrote this second letter, Jude also wrote; and he confirmed that these mockers had indeed arrived [Jude 18]. When I read that little one-chapter Book of Jude, I can almost hear Jude crying out something like this: "Brethren, do you remember those mockers, about whom Peter and the other Apostles warned us; saying that they were coming in the last days or last time? Well, they're here! They have arrived!" Don't you just find that remarkable?
Some might ask where these Disciples would have gotten the idea of an imminent, i.e., First Century coming of Jesus? Well, for certain, one source would have been from things about which this very same Apostle (Peter) had warned them in his first letter; especially since this second letter is a reminder of those things. So then, let us look at some of the things that Peter had written to them in his first letter.
(1) First, he said in 1 Peter 1:4-6, that being "in Christ," they were about to: "obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith, for a (salvation) ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials."
Personally, I find it quite interesting that the trials and sufferings of those Disciples would only be for a little while, at the end of which Peter declared, they would then receive their promised inheritance. Isn't that interesting? Do you see the imminency here? I am truly hard-pressed to see any way that language such as this allows for a time-gap of some 20 centuries or more before Jesus' coming!
(2) Another thing in Peter's first letter that would have intimated an imminent coming of their Master is found in 1 Peter 4:5. Speaking of those who were then rejecting the Messiah and living wickedly, he said, "But they shall give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead." In light of these words, I would ask this: "If Jesus was not going to come for another 2,000 years or more, then why would Peter say He was "ready to judge the living and the dead?" Would that not have been terribly misleading to those First Century Disciples to whom he was writing? And exactly who were "the living" of whom Peter speaks? Well obviously, they were those who had accepted the gospel and were "alive in Jesus Christ." And who were "the dead?" They would have been those who were "spiritually dead," and especially those Jews who rejected the Messiah and were depending on "the law" for justification, and thus dead in sin; slain by the law.
(3) Verse 7 of that same chapter, shows us why Jesus, at that present time, would have been, "ready to judge the living and the dead." He was "ready," because as Peter said, "The end of all things is (was) at hand" at the time he wrote this letter. This, of course, comports perfectly with the words of the Hebrews Writer in Hebrews 10:37, "For yet in a very little while, He who is coming (Jesus-jg), will come, and will not delay."
(4) Also, I believe Jesus would have been, "ready to judge" because Peter said again in verse 17 that, "… the time is come for (the) judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first (the Israelites-jg), what will be the outcome of those who do not obey the gospel of God?"
(5) Another reason those Disciples would have had an expectancy of an imminent coming of their Lord, is that they had either heard or read of Jesus' words to His Disciples when He had declared, that at His coming, some of the ones to whom he was personally speaking, would still be living [Matthew 16:27-28]. Here's what He said:
"For the Son of Man is going to (Gr. mello - about to-jg) come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."
In my view, surely these words would have caused an expectation of an imminent return of Jesus! But please, you judge for yourself, whether or not you see cause for an expectation of an imminent, First Century return of our Master.
(6) Finally, not very long after Peter wrote his Epistles, the Apostle John addressed the problem of the arising of many antichrists during this time of the First Century. In doing so, he declared in 1 John 2:18 that it was then evident, that they (First Century Disciples-jg) were living in, not only the "last days," but even in the "last hour" of those last days!
Peter Makes His Case Against the Mockers
Could we please return now to the "mocking" of 2 Peter 3. It is in verse 5, where Peter began his scathing rebuke of the mockers' wicked arrogance! As we would say in our 21st Century parlance, "Peter is about to show these men that they are only showing their ignorance, but yea, even 'willing' ignorance!" Peter said these men knew very well what happened in the days of Noah; how the Lord promised that He would bring the great flood and destroy the world of that day [Genesis 6:7, 13].
Moreover, they knew quite well that God kept His promise and destroyed that world (heavens and earth) with water. But they "willingly" cast aside that knowledge and ignored it, as they made mockery of Jesus' promise to come and destroy the, then present, "heavens and earth (the Old Covenant World and what Judaism had made of it-jg)," which was "reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment of ungodly men" [verse 7]. This brings us to verse 8, which has been seized upon by many well-intentioned Bible students, in an effort to establish a formula for reckoning how God calculated time in the fulfillment of His prophecies. The verse reads thusly: "But, do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord, one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."
Based on this particular verse, some Disciples actually believe that in prophetic speech, one day does in fact, equal a thousand years. I feel that it is truly unfortunate that such a method of interpretation has been applied to this verse. It seems to me that if we would simply apply the principle of allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture, we will be well served in determining what Peter meant by those words. I'm reminded of a passage in the Psalms that is very similar in construction to the above. The Psalmist said: "Before the mountains were born, or Thou didst give birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God. Thou dost turn man back into dust, and dost say, 'Return, O children of men.' For a thousand years in Thy sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night" [Psalms 90:2-4].
In light of such passages as these, it surely does seem to me, that the lesson we are to learn is: That the passing of time, whether days, weeks, months, years, or millennia, in no way affects God's keeping of His promises. We must understand that God is in no way bound by the dimensions of "time or space." He is the creator of both, but is bound within the confines of neither! The "past, present, and future," are all laid out before Him like an open book; Surely He sees all; even the end before the beginning!
Now, regarding these mockers, there had been a passing of perhaps 30 years" since Jesus first made His promise of an imminent return [Matthew 10:23; 16:27-28]. And this, of course, was the basis for their argument. I would suppose they perhaps reasoned like this: "Jesus has made the claim that He was coming back, and coming back soon [See Hebrews 10:37], even in that generation [See Luke 21:25-32]! But just look, more than 30 years have now passed, and He still has not come; all things are still the same as they were at the beginning,, therefore, He is not coming!"
Therefore, Peter sternly admonished these brethren, not to fall prey to the words and claims of these evil men, because their Master was indeed coming; and coming soon! They could count on it! The only reason He had not already come is quite clearly stated in verse 9 where Peter says, "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward YOU; not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."
I think we can clearly see now why Jesus had not already come. It was because of His patience. He wanted to bring as many as possible to repentance, and turn them to Him as their Messiah and Savior, bringing them redemption [Luke 21:28; Hebrews 9:28]!
Dissolution of the Old Heavens and Earth
This now brings us to the portion of 2 Peter 3 that seems to be the area in which there is the most controversy. This, of course, would be that to which we alluded earlier; the removal or dissolution of the old heavens and earth, which was to be replaced by the New Heavens and Earth [verses 10-13]. Those Disciples who approach the Scripture from a Futurist perspective, as I once did, see this as the literal end of the physical universe. Those of us who approach the Scriptures from the perspective of fulfilled prophecy, see it as the time when God brought to complete fulfillment, His Old Covenant with Israel, which He made with them at Mt. Sinai. This would be the end of the age about which Jesus' Apostles asked Him in Matthew 24:3. As I stated earlier, this would open the way for the New "Spiritual" Heavens and Earth - the fully consummated, perfected, and glorious Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, "wherein dwells righteousness" [2 Peter 3:13].
Yes, the time had now come for that Old Temporal World and Covenant which the Lord had created for ancient Israel, to finally and completely disappear [Hebrews 8:13]! In the verses immediately preceding this verse [verses 8-12], the Writer quoted the prophet Jeremiah who said,
"'..Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in My covenant, and I did not care for them, says the Lord, 'For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people, And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, "know the Lord," for all will know Me, from the least to the greatest of them. 'For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.'"
Here the Writer clearly declares that the "New" Covenant would not be like the Covenant Yahweh had made with their fathers at Sinai. We understand this to be a Covenant of the heart, and of the very Spirit of God! In other words, a "Spiritual" Covenant, which through grace and mercy, provided forgiveness of sins freely through faith in God's Son and His precious blood. We will have more to say on this later.
How the "Old" Would Be Removed
We said at the beginning of this article that before the New Heavens and Earth could become a reality, the old one had to be removed first. And thus Peter says in vss. 10-13:
"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.  Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, ( looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!  But according to His promise, we are looking for New Heavens and a New Earth, in which righteousness dwells."
While viewing the above passage from my former "Futurist" perspective, I was convinced that the horrific, catastrophic language above was indeed descriptive of a time in our future when there would be the destruction and dissolution of the universe in which we live. In my mind, I envisioned this horrific picture of a total disintegration of the very material fabric of our planet and the universe!
Destruction of the Elements
Having had two years of chemistry in my early school days, I can understand why some Disciples, as they read Peter's two references to the word, "elements" in this passage, envision a total destruction of the chemical elements that make up our universe. That was once my view as well. For those unfamiliar with the world of chemistry, the word "elements" is used in this science when speaking of the things which comprise the physical makeup of everything on our planet, including its atmosphere and its seas. There are perhaps 107 or more known chemical elements at this present time.
All of these elements are named. Some of the most familiar names among the elements are things such as: iron, gold, silver, magnesium, aluminum, lead, copper, which exist in their natural state as a "solid." Then there are elements such as: hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and helium, which exist in their natural state as a "gas." And finally, such elements as: mercury and bromine, exist in their natural state as a "liquid." Each element is assigned its own atomic number, and is orderly arranged on what is called The Atomic or, Periodic Table according to its atomic number and atomic weight.
Therefore, when viewing the term, "elements" from strictly a "scientific" perspective (as I once did), one understandably visualizes Peter's words, "the elements melting with intense heat," as a literal destruction of all these elements, along with nearly a hundred more that make up the material fabric of our planet! But the question is: Is this really what Peter had reference to in his use of the term, "elements?" Is he actually describing such a literal, physical destruction of our universe?
Peter's Use of the Word, "Elements"
In Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, under his #4747, he defines this word, "elements" as it is found in the Greek text. It is from the Greek word, "stoicheion," which Mr. Strong renders: "lit. elemental principle, rudiment." With the use of a simple Bible concordance, one learns that this Greek word,"stoicheion," is used twice here in 2 Peter 3, and then only five other times in the New Covenant Scriptures. If I may, I would like to suggest that we examine the other five examples of its usage. I believe if we can learn exactly how the word "stoicheion" is used in those other five passages, then that in turn would explain its meaning here in 2 Peter 3:10, would it not?
 Hebrews 5:12 "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles (stoicheion) of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food."
I believe we would all agree that the Writer here tells us quite definitively exactly what "stoicheion" means in this passage. It clearly has reference to the "elementary principles" of the word of God.
Before continuing on to the second passage where it is used, if I may, I would like to expand a little on the matter of the "oracles of God" as that term is used here. It is my understanding that the "oracles of God" in this verse has specific reference to the Old Covenant oracles, and not the New Covenant oracles, as I once thought. The reason I believe this is because the New Covenant oracles were still incomplete at this point in time; they were still in their revelatory state.
Therefore, I understand this verse to be a rebuke of some of the Hebrew Disciples for their lack of spiritual development. In other words, their spiritual development was not commensurate with the length of time they had been Disciples. And this problem was precipitated by their lack of knowledge of and familiarity with the Old Covenant oracles. Please let me explain: The Old Covenant oracles were filled with "types and shadows" of "spiritual realities" that were to have their fulfillment in the New Covenant [See Hebrews 8:5; 9:8, 9, 23, 24; 10:1; Galatians 4:21-31; Colossians 2:16-17], Yes, all the physical things in the Old Covenant oracles, such as the tabernacle, its furniture, the fleshly priests and their many sacrifices and rituals, sabbaths, festivals, new moons etc, all served as types and shadows of things far greater than themselves! And so if these Disciples had been adequately learned in those "elementary principles" (stoicheion) of the Old Covenant oracles, then certainly, for the length of time they had now been Christians, they should now have been able to teach others about the marvelous "spiritual realities" that were veiled in those types and shadows of the Old Covenant oracles! However, as he says; they, themselves, were like newborn babes in need of milk and not solid food; they needed to be taught all over again, the "elementary principles (stoicheion)" of the Old Covenant oracles. Hence, the Writer's criticism and admonition!
 Galatians 4:3 "So, also while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things (stoicheion) of the world"
 Galatians 4:9-10 "But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things (stoicheion), to which you desire to be enslaved all over again. You observe days and months and seasons and years."
Here, in Paul's letter to the Disciples in the province of Galatia, he especially addresses the Israelite Disciples among them. How can we know that? I believe the answer is found in verse 10. Look at that verse in light of the, "weak and worthless beggarly elements (stoicheion)" that Paul speaks of in verse 9, and then ask yourself: In what world or system did the keeping of certain days, months, years, and seasons play an integral part? Of course, it was the Old Covenant World of the sons of Jacob/Israel.
And so, here Paul addresses those Israelite Christians in Galatia. They were constantly being badgered and enticed by the unbelieving Jews (and apparently with some degree of success), to abandon God's gracious gift of salvation by grace through faith in His Son, and go back under the slavery and curse (condemnation) of "the Old Covenant law" with its "elementary principles (stoicheion)," i.e., with its ordinances and ceremonial rituals. Of course, the law was designed for the purpose of magnifying their sin in their own eyes. Therefore, the Law's ultimate purpose was to cause them to recognize their need of a Savior, which in turn would lead (drive) them to Christ, that they might be justified by faith! Yes, the central purpose of the law, as Paul said was, "to make sin appear exceedingly sinful" [Romans 7:13].
 Colossians 2:8, 16-17 "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles (stoicheion) of the world, rather than according to Christ.…Therefore, let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival of a new moon or a Sabbath day - things which are a mere shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ."
 Colossians 2:20-21 "If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles (stoicheion) of the world (Old Covenant World-jg), why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees such as, 'Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch.'"
Here once again, we see in these two passages, exactly the same things involved as in the Galatians and Hebrews passages, only here, they are even more conspicuous! Again, I ask this: What World would it be, in which the keeping of Sabbath days, or new moon festivals or, don't drink this or, don't eat that, were all integral elements? Of course, to ask the question is also to answer it! It was the same World of the Mosaic economy, was it not? As we can see, the Inspired Apostle Paul used this Greek word "stoicheion" to convey a message of the "elementary or rudimentary principles" of the Old Covenant World and Law!
I honestly do believe we have clearly demonstrated, that the word, "stoicheion," that Peter used, was also used by Paul in all of these other five examples in Galatians 4, Colossians 2, and Hebrews 5. I believe we can clearly see that in every case, without exception, the meaning of "elements" (stoicheion) really has nothing whatsoever to do with the chemical elements that make up the material fabric of our planet, its atmosphere, and seas. And for this reason, would it not seem unwise to force an interpretation that runs counter to these truths? I sincerely believe that a correct understanding of this term, "stoicheion," is imperative if we are going to understand the message our Father intended by Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:10!
With these thoughts in mind, let us now turn back to 2 Peter 3, where Peter used this word, "stoicheion" or "elements." In verses 14-16, do you see what I see? Peter, speaking of the great Apostle Paul on this very matter of "elements" or "stoicheion," said this:
"Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, and spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as also our beloved brother, Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand…"
Peter says very clearly in this passage that "these things" about which he is writing to the Disciples in 2 Peter 3, Paul also had written them to these same Disciples. I am persuaded that when Peter says Paul had also written to them about "these things," he has reference to the same letters in which we just now examined Paul's use of the term, stoicheion! Please look again at verse 16 and see what you think! One thing that is an indisputable fact is that Peter and Paul are in total agreement regarding "the elements," as well they should be, for they are both speaking by inspiration of the Holy Spirit!
Another question here: "If Paul's use of the term, "elements" (stoicheion), is clear now, and Peter and Paul are in total agreement about the term, shouldn't this explain for us what Peter meant by his use of it?" Paul obviously used the term in a "spiritual" sense. Therefore, when we read what Peter had to say about it, shouldn't we also make the same "spiritual" application of it that Paul made, and not change it by substituting a literal, "physical" application for the spiritual? It is my conviction, that when Peter used the term, "elements," we should understand it in the same way as Paul used it. One of the cardinal rules of proper Bible hermeneutics in a case such as this is, that the clear passage should always explain the obscure passage, and not the other way around! Thank you so very much for staying with me.
What Was Really Destroyed in Noah's Day?
There are many Disciples today, who suggest that a "physical" destruction of our universe is in view here in verses 10-13. Moreover, they suggest that Peter is saying this destruction was going to be just like the former destruction in the days of Noah's flood, which he references in verses 5 and 6. In their view, the only difference is that this destruction of heaven and earth would be by fire as opposed to water [verse 7]. Certainly at first blush, this argument sounds quite plausible. However, if you would be so kind, please consider something with me regarding Noah's flood, that perhaps we may not have considered before. First, Peter's words are very clear that God, by a flood, did destroy the world in the days of Noah [verse 6]. There is certainly no disagreement about that! It is also true that Peter speaks of that old world of Noah's day as a "heavens and earth," and he contrasts it with the "heavens and earth" of his own day [See verses 5-7].
So then, in light of the above facts, just what would have been, "the world," that God destroyed in Noah's day? Would we say that God, in bringing the great deluge, destroyed the physical makeup or fabric of the universe in Noah's day? Well, obviously not because it is still with us even today! Instead, wouldn't we have to say, that when Peter said God destroyed the world with the flood in Noah's day, that he was speaking of "its inhabitants and civil order," and not the physical world or "literal" heavens and earth?
With this understanding of Peter's use of "heavens and earth" in the Noaic event in verses 5-6, it would seem to me that this provides great insight for the reader toward identifying the heavens and earth of which Peter speaks in verse 7, which were in place at the time Peter wrote this Epistle. And it should also help one understand Peter's description of the destruction thereof. And based on his language here, I understand the destruction of the "heavens and earth" of Peter's day also to be; not the destruction of the material fabric of the universe, but rather the removal of the Old Covenant World (heavens and earth) of Israel, created at Sinai. I believe this came with the A.D. 70 destruction and fiery judgment that was prophesied to come upon the city of Jerusalem, the unbelieving Jews (who were the murders of the prophets, and their Messiah), the temple with its "typical" holy of holies, and its fleshly priesthood with animal sacrifices.
Would you please consider with me now, the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:17-18, and just notice the harmony between the explanation of Peter's words we have just given, and those of our Lord? In this passage our Master said: "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished."
I believe that you and I are both confident that Jesus and Peter were not speaking of two different "heavens and earth!" I am fully persuaded that the heavens and earth of which our Master speaks here, are in fact the same heavens and earth of which Peter says was about to be destroyed! And in light of what our Master says in this passage, if "heaven and earth" have not yet "passed away," then the Old Covenant (the Law of Moses), would of necessity, still hold sway over folks today, would it not? Personally, I don't see any other possible way to understand this passage without creating a contradiction! Therefore, if we take the position that the Law of Moses has indeed been fulfilled (and of course, we all do), then it seems to me that it would naturally follow that the "heavens and earth," of which both Jesus and Peter speak have also "passed away." Of course, I will let you judge for yourself if this is indeed the case!
I believe that it is quite evident, that the time had now come (in Peter's day), when our Father was going to remove Israel's "Old" Covenant heavens and earth, and create the "New" Heavens and Earth, in which Peter said, "righteousness would dwell" [verse 13]; the same New Heavens and Earth Yahweh had promised in Isaiah 65:17ff, and on which He was about to deliver [See also Revelation 21:1-3, 10]. Yes, I believe it would come to pass in just four or five years after Peter wrote this letter. It would be removed at the promised "Coming" (Parousia) of the Lord Jesus Christ, when, as He said, He would "make all things new" [Revelation 21:5]. And it would indeed be a coming with "fire" just like Peter declares. It would be that same "coming," as when Jesus, through His instrument of judgment, Rome, would destroy and burn the city of Jerusalem and the temple with its typical "holy of holies." Yes, they would all be burned and razed to the ground!
I really do believe we make a big mistake when we conclude that the, "coming with fire," of which Peter speaks, is something that would not come for over 20 centuries after his declaration. I understand this burning to be the same burning of which the prophet Malachi spoke in Malachi 3:1, 2, 5; 4:1-6. I see it as the same burning of which John the baptist spoke in Matthew 3:10-12. And, it's the same burning, of which our Master spoke in His parable of the wedding feast for the King's son in Matthew 22:1-14; depicting the King burning the city of those wicked men who mistreated and even killed His slaves [verse 7]. It's the same burning, of which He spoke in His parable of the "burning of the tares" at the end-of-the-age harvest [Matthew 13:24-30; Matthew 13:36-43]. And finally, I believe it's that same burning, of which Paul spoke in 2 Thessalonians 1:5-9, which would be brought to bear upon those wicked, unbelieving Jews who were persecuting the Thessalonian Disciples so severely [1 Thessalonians 2:14-16]. Yes, just as Paul had so clearly declared to the Corinthian Disciples of his own generation: "…for the form of this world is pass(ing) away" [1 Corinthians 7:31].
The destruction of those things was the physical evidence of which Christ Promised, which means "Presence, Coming or, Arrival." The Master made that promise to His Apostles, when they asked Him questions in Matthew 24:3, regarding His coming in destruction of the temple, which He had prophesied in verse 2. Their response was:
"Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming, and the end of the age" [verse 3b].
Later in the chapter, He told them, that all those things would come to pass "in that present generation" [verse 34].
God Creates the "New Heavens and Earth:
Now that we have studied in some detail, God's destruction or removal of the Old "heavens and earth," let us now direct our focus to that for which we began this study; and that is, God's marvelous creation of the New "Heavens and Earth." In our study text [2 Peter 3], this is the very next point Peter addresses. He said in 2 Peter 3:12-15,
"Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat. But according to His promise (we) are looking for New Heavens and a New Earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you (First Century Disciples) look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation…" Let us not overlook all the marvelous gems of truth scattered throughout these four verses! First of all, Peter's language makes it ever so clear, that when God would create this New Heavens and Earth, it would not only be because He had destroyed the old one; but because it was His Divine plan all along. Peter says here that it was, "according to His promise" [verse 13]! Isn't that remarkable? And there's something else we must not overlook; and that is the "imminency" of this new creation. Peter's use of the personal pronoun "we" in verse 13, indicates that he understood and expected that promise to come to fruition "during that present, First Century generation"; the generation of him and his First Century reading audience. This fact just cannot be over-emphasized! Just as he had stated in verse 12, (they) were not only looking for the New Heavens and Earth, but (they) were eager for the Lord to hasten the coming of the day of His judgment. Yes, (they) were eager, for the simple reason that they understood it would precipitate that marvelous new creation promised!
Another beautiful gem of truth expressed here, is that Peter, as he had done in verse 9, reminds them once again of the patience and long-suffering of God. Yes, while there was still time, God wanted as many of His Old Covenant people as would, to come to repentance, so that the salvation of which Peter had spoken earlier in his First Epistle, could also be theirs as well [1 Peter 1:5, 9, 13 - cf. John 1:12].
Let us take a brief look at what Peter had expressed in his first letter. He said to those who had already repented, received their Messiah, and obeyed the gospel, that they (First Century Disciples-jg) were,
"…protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" [1 Peter 1:5]. "…obtaining as the outcome of your (their-jg) faith, the salvation of (your) souls…" [1 Peter 1:9].
"Therefore, gird (your) minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix (your) hope completely on the grace to be brought to (you) at the revelation of Jesus Christ" [1 Peter 1:13].
In light of all this testimony, I am just no longer able to conceive of a colossal time-frame of two thousand years and counting, before this new creation would come to pass; especially, when Peter declares in the same Epistle just three chapters later, "the end of all things is at hand…" [1 Peter 4:7]!
We noted earlier that the "creation of the New Heavens and Earth" was a "promise of God." We first read of that promise in the prophecy made by Isaiah in Isaiah 65:17ff. When comparing that prophecy with these words of Peter, I think one thing becomes crystal clear; the New Heavens and Earth of which Isaiah prophesied, and the New Heavens and Earth that the First Century Disciples were awaiting, were one and the same. I sincerely believe that when one makes that connection, then much of the confusion surrounding this subject suddenly disappears. Here's what I mean by that: Many Disciples today perceive (as I once did), that Peter's words of 2 Peter 3:10-13, describe a yet future destruction of the "physical universe," with the attendant resurrection of the dead, and the judgment. Many Disciples further posit that the "New Heavens and Earth" will then be created as the heavenly home for the believer. But I must confess to you, that there are some things found in God's original prophecy of the "New Heavens and Earth" [Isaiah 65:17ff], which now give me pause when viewing this as describing "Heaven." If you would please be so kind, may I offer some things for your consideration?
 In verse 20 of Isaiah 65, God says, regarding the New Heavens and Earth, "No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days…"
I believe it's obvious here that the prophet could not be speaking of "life in heaven" for the believer, since there will be no death in heaven.
 In verse 21 God said, "And they shall build houses and inhabit them; They shall also plant vineyards and eat their fruit."
Same reasoning here! There will be no need for the building of houses in heaven. Nor will a spiritual body in heaven have need of the physical nourishment by the eating of fruits! Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:50 that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God."
 In verse 22, God said, "For as the lifetime of a tree, so shall be the days of my people."
Again, we know that in heaven, life will not come to an end. All of those here on earth who hear Jesus, and believe in the One who sent Him, "have eternal life," and have it, presently [John 5:24; 1 John 5:13].
 In verse 23, our Father said, "They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for trouble…."
It is well known, that in Heaven one will have rested from one's labors, as did the martyrs of Revelation 14:13. Moreover, there is no bearing of children in Heaven since Heaven is totally void of "flesh and blood."
 In verses 24-25 God further said, "It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall graze together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain, says the Lord."
Oh, what a marvelous and beautiful promise by our Heavenly Father! But do we really get the intended message here? It seems that many of God's people, just as they understand the previous four examples, understand these as being literal, physical occurrences and/or conditions of "heaven." Consequently, they believe that at that time we will also literally see a lion grazing on straw like the ox, as well as wolves and sheep grazing together. May I please offer what I personally understand the message is being conveyed here in this passage? Then you can decide for yourself, whether or not it is consistent with our Father's Word!
The first thing I see in the passage is that there are images of extreme contrast here. I believe you would agree with me that to picture a wolf eating grass in the field is beyond our comprehension. Then add to that, the wolf sharing a meal with a lamb, which would normally be his (the wolf's) meal! It is my personal understanding here, that our Father's purpose of this imagery, was to show the "spiritual nature" of the "New Heavens and Earth." I see this "New Heavens and Earth" to be the fully consummated and perfected Kingdom of our Master, which would be a refuge of "peace and tranquility." It would be one, as Peter says, "in which righteousness dwells" [2 Peter 3:13]. You will notice in verse 25 of this prophecy, that God also said, "His holy mountain" is there! That, of course, is "the New Jerusalem or Mt. Zion." Remember what He said in Isaiah 2:2ff,
"Now it will come about in the last days, the mountain of the house of the Lord, will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths,' For the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."
I understand this passage to speak of that period of time in which the gospel of Christ would go out from Jerusalem during "the last days" of the Old Covenant age, as the Glorious Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ was reaching its perfected state of consummation. I do not understand it as a description of the heavenly state of the Kingdom (Heaven itself), but rather the "earthly state" of the Glorious Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I see this period also as that same period of which Ezekiel prophesied regarding the joining of the "two sticks" together and their becoming one! In this prophecy, the stick of Joseph is symbolic of the "house of Israel," and the stick of Judah was symbolic of the "house of Judah," which are being viewed in the prophecy as the bringing back together of "the remnants" of the "house of Israel" and the "house of Judah" as one, under one King and one Shepherd - God's servant, David, i.e., the Lord Jesuss Christ, son of David [Ezekiel 37:16-28]. Notice in verses 26-28:
"And I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. My dwelling place also will be with them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. And the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever" [See also Revelation 21:1-3].
Oh, what a truly wise God we serve! Yes, I understand this Covenant to be the same "Everlasting Covenant" of which the Hebrews Writer spoke earlier in Hebrews 8:8-13, as it was ready to replace the old [verse 13]! He said: "Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah."
This is that same Covenant the Writer said would be replacing the one that was "becoming obsolete, and growing old, and was ready to disappear" [verse 13]. I believe those verses teach none other than the coming of the "fully" consummated "New Covenant of the Lord Jesus Christ," which He established in the First Century, with the remnants of both the house of Israel and the house of Judah, under the gospel of the Kingdom of the Messiah, just as God had promised! This Covenant would be comprised of, not only the spiritual sons of Jacob (Israelites from both houses), but all of the "spiritual" children of Abraham, which, of course, would include Gentiles from every nation on earth, who through faith in Jesus Christ, were made to share in their (Israel's) blessings and promises [See Romans 9:6-8; Ephesians 2:11-16; Ephesians 3:4-6; Genesis 12:3]! The Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ is not a physical Kingdom, but a Spiritual Kingdom, also known as "the Israel of God," which consists of spiritual children from all nations [Galatians 6:16].
Now back to 2 Peter 3. In light of all of the above, and in light of the truth that Peter and the First Century Disciples were, "looking for and hastening" that "coming of the day of God," would you not agree with me that the "creation of the New Heavens and Earth," must be indicative of something other than a new physical planet earth and physical heavens (universe) above?
The "New Heavens and Earth" in the Apocalypse
The next and last place where we find the "New Heavens and Earth" mentioned in the Scriptures is found in the Epistle that is avoided by so many of God's people - "The Apocalypse" or "Book of Revelation." I must confess to you, that in past years I, too, spent very little time there. The reason for that is because, from the perspective which I then approached the book, there was much confusion and thus it made comprehension of it a very difficult thing for me. Even though I'm not so foolish as to claim any scholarship on this book today, or any other book for that matter, I do feel that I have begun to learn.
As for knowledge of this marvelous Epistle, surely, we all stand in need of much enlightenment. And you know, I know of no one in a better position to do that, than the one who penned it - the beloved Apostle John. Therefore, very shortly, we will allow John to take the lead, and we will just see if he can help us get a better understanding of not only the nature of the message therein, but also the time-frame of the "New Heavens and Earth," of which both Isaiah and Peter spoke. After all, God did afford John the unique privilege of looking into the future; and thus was able to speak of its fulfillment.
When the Apocalypse Was Written
Before getting into the text of Revelation, I believe it would be good for us to first try to get some idea of just when John may have penned the book. I truly believe there's understanding to be gained by establishing the time-frame in which John wrote it.
I once thought, as do many other believers, that it was written in about A.D. 92-96. However, in recent years, my view of that has changed. Presently, I believe it was written prior to the A.D. 70 Destruction of Jerusalem - perhaps A.D. 65-67. I have also seen where many well-known scholars (such as Phillip Schaff), also changed their view to a pre-A.D. 70 date.
So let us begin this search by first considering the "external evidence" (i.e., evidence outside the Scriptures) of just when the book may have been written. Those who support the "late" date of its writing (A.D. 92-96) seem to base their belief on a statement made by Irenaeus, who lived from A.D. 125-202. The late Foy E. Wallace Jr. (who supported the "early" date of its writing), in his book titled, "The Book of Revelation," quotes that statement by Irenaeus. It reads as follows: "If it were necessary to have his name distinctly announced at the present time it would doubtless have been announced by him who saw the Apocalypse; for it was not a great while ago that (it or he-emphasis by FEW) was seen, but almost in our own generation, toward the end of Domitian's reign," (quoted in, The Book of Revelation, Foy E. Wallace Jr., p. 25).
D. Ragan Ewing writes
"The difficulty arises in Irenaeus' statement, as translated, "… that was seen …" The Greek text simply reads ????????. The subject of the statement is simply subsumed in the verb, and there is therefore no grammatical indicator as to the referent; it could be the Apocalypse, or it could be John himself. In other words, the English could just as easily be, "… he was seen …"
Ewing further writes
"Nevertheless, there remains another problem with the Irenaean witness. To what extent are we to take as trustworthy Irenaeus' historical claims… In one place he portrays James the Apostle as the same person as the brother of the Lord, and in another, he astonishingly informs us that Jesus lived to be between forty and fifty years old! Lapses like these have understandably led to assessments such as Guthrie's caution that Irenaeus' historical method is "uncritical," as well as Moffatt's comment, "Irenaeus, of course, is no great authority by himself on matters chronological." Such being the case, should we really place the great confidence in this testimony that many scholars have?"
Kenneth Gentry quoting Irenaeus
Irenaeus said of the age of Jesus, "but the age of 30 years is the first of a young man's mind, and that it reaches even to the fortieth year, everyone will allow: but after the fortieth and fiftieth year, it begins to verge towards elder age: which our Lord was when He taught, as the Gospel and all the Elders witness…" (Quoted in Before Jerusalem Fell, Kenneth L. Gentry, p. 63) Can we trust the testimony of a man that says Jesus taught for 15 years and was fifty years old when he died? Yet, it is largely his testimony alone, for the latter date!
Burton Coffman writes
"His (Eusebius') quotation (of Irenaeus' statement) does not even mention "the writing" of Revelation, but refers solely to the time when certain unnamed persons are alleged to have seen either the apostle or the prophecy, nobody knows which. This proves nothing. Besides that: If he meant the Apocalypse was seen, and if it had been originally composed in quotation, could have reference to the Greek translation, if indeed it referred to the Revelation at all. There goes the whole case for the latter date," (Commentary on Revelation, Burton Coffman, p. 4).
William Bell writes
"Concerning the above statement (Irenaeus' statement), scholars have long recognized that it is not possible to determine whether Irenaeus meant to say John was seen by Irenaeus' tutor, Polycarp, or that "the Apocalypse" was seen toward the end of Domitian's reign. Such ambiguity destroys this argument as evidence. Even Eusebius, who recorded this statement, doubted that John, the apostle, even wrote the Book of Revelation. The point here is this, if the statement was not strong enough to convince Eusebius that John even wrote Revelation, why do so many think today that it is strong enough to convince one that the apostle saw it (the Apocalypse) during Domitian's reign (A.D. 95)? It is weak to say the least."
Finally, in support of the "early" day of the Apocalypse, are the words of Robert Young, author of "Young's Analytical concordance of the New Testament," and "Young's Literal Translation of the Holy Bible." In his remarks, you will see that he contends that a mistake has been made on the part of other early writers who quote Irenaeus' statement. As you will see, it is his belief that the other early writers actually (mis)quote Irenaeus as to the name of the Roman Emperor who was ruling at the time of his statement, and succeeding writer simply followed their lead!
Robert Young (late 1800s) writes
"It was written in Patmos about A.D. 68, whither John had been banished by Domitius Nero, as stated in the title of the Syriac version of the Book; and with this concurs the express statement of Irenaeus ( A.D. 175), who says it happened in the reign of Domitianou, ie., Domitius (Nero). Sulpicius Severus, Orosius, &c., stupidly mistaking Domitianou for Domitianikos, supposed Irenaeus to refer to Domitian, A.D. 95, and most succeeding writers have fallen into the same blunder. The internal testimony is wholly in favor of the earlier date." (Concise Critical Comments on the Holy Bible, by Robert Young. Published by Pickering and Inglis, London and Glasgow, (no date), Page 179 of the "New Covenant" section. See also: Young's Concise Critical Bible Commmentary, Baker Book House, March 1977, ISBN: 0-8010-9914-5, p. 178.)
Now that we have looked at the "external" (outside the Scriptures) evidence for the "late date" of the book (A.D. 92-96), I would now like to offer what I understand as "internal" (inside the Inspired Scriptures) evidence for why I believe the "early date" (A.D. 65-67) to be the more accurate date for its writing.
Many scholars now believe Revelation to have been written just prior to "the fall of Jerusalem," perhaps A.D. 65-67. One bit of internal evidence is found in Revelation 11:1-2. Here, John was instructed by the angel to "measure the temple of God." However, if the time in which John wrote was the later date (A.D. 92-96), then the temple would not have still been standing! Not only that, but the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation would all have been destroyed! Please consider this with me: If John wrote the Epistle in A.D. 92-96, which would have been after the fall of Jerusalem, the temple, and the Jewish nation, how could it possibly be, that there would be absolutely no mention whatsoever in the Apocalypse of these things? In my view, this is just simply inconceivable! I would even go one step farther and say: If "any" one of the Epistles, or the Gospels, or the Book of Acts, had been written after A.D. 70, can you imagine the odds that not even one word being written by at least one of those Inspired Writers, about the Destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, or the nation? But as you know, there is not one single word! Please let us not forget that the destruction and burning of the temple and the city of Jerusalem, the slaughter of more than a million Jews, and the enslavement of almost another million; why, this was one of the most monumental and historic events in the history of the world! Our Master prophesied of the things of the A.D. 70 Judgment in great detail in Matthew 23, 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 17, 19, 21; and He said that it would all take place in that same generation [Matthew 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32]. And personally, I just simply cannot fathom the likelihood of the fulfillment of these things never being mentioned anywhere in all of the New Covenant Scriptures, if any one of them was written after A.D. 70! Am I making sense here? Moreover, it is my understanding that the period of The Spirit's revelatory work, (i.e., His inspiring of men to write Scripture) also ended with the fall of Jerusalem, the temple, and the Jewish nation [See Zechariah 13:1-3; 1 Corinthians 13:8-13].
When The Things Shown to John Were Fulfilled
Other internal evidence of the earlier date for the writing of the Apocalypse, would be the words of both John and the angel that was sent to him by the Lord. And please, let us not forget; these things that John wrote had to mean something, first and foremost, to the First Century Disciples; the ones to whom the Epistle was written! I believe this is critical to a proper understanding of the message being conveyed therein! For example:
 In Revelation 1:1, John makes it very clear that the things the Lord showed him were, "things which must shortly take place."
 In Revelation 1:3, John further spoke of the blessings to come to those First Century Disciples to whom he prophesied. They (First Century Disciples) were to, "keep those things which were written" in that prophecy because, as he said, "for the time is near."
 In Revelation 1:9, John declared to those First Century Disciples, that he was their brother and companion, "in the tribulation…"
So, it should be noted here that these words were written to John's brethren who were presently, "in the tribulation." Certainly, it is not "we 21st Century Disciples" that he is talking about! According to history, the most severe days of that "great tribulation" began in the spring of A.D. 67, and of course culminated with the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the temple in the fall of A.D. 70; a period of 3 ½ years - a time, times, and half a time - 42 months - 1,260 days [See Daniel 12:7].
 In Revelation 2:25, Jesus told the Church at Theodora, "…hold fast until I come." The Church at Theodora has been extinct for 2,000 years now. Therefore they cannot still be, "holding fast." So, did Jesus keep His promise to come to them? I sincerely believe that He did!
 In Revelation 22:7, Jesus said "Behold, I am coming quickly."
 In Revelation 22:10 John was told by the angel, "Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand."
 In Revelation 22:12, Jesus further told these Disciples of the First Century: "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work" [See also Matthew 16:27-28].
 In Revelation 22:20, again, Jesus says to them, "…Surely, I come quickly."
I wish to kindly ask for your consideration of Revelation 22:10 under Item No. 6 above. There is something I find very interesting about this verse as it relates to the time-frame of the fulfillment of "all the things" Jesus and the angels have shown John throughout this marvelous Epistle. I believe a comparison of this prophecy to a prophecy found in Daniel 8:23-26, would be helpful in establishing the time-frame for the fulfillment of all the prophecies in the Apocalypse, including our Lord's Promised Coming (Parousia). Here is that comparison:
The Fulfillment of the Prophecy of Daniel 8:23-26
[Daniel 8:26 - KJV-King James Version] "…shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days.".
Daniel 8:26 - NASB-New American Standard Bible] "…But keep the vision secret, for it pertains to many days in the future."
The Fulfillment for All the Prophecies in Revelation - Revelation 22:10
[Revelation 22:10 - KJV]" Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand."
Revelation 22:10 - NASB]"...Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near."
When juxtaposing these two prophecies, there emerges a most conspicuous and salient point when comparing the time-span covered by each of the two prophecies. First, most scholars agree that the prophecy of Daniel 8:23-26 is a prophecy of the Scilicet King, Anticus Epiphanies, who reigned from 175-164 B.C.
In vs. 26 of this prophecy, Daniel is told by the angel to, "seal up the vision." As we can see, the reason for this was because, "it would be for many days in the future" [vs. 26]. What's so interesting here is that the time period for this vision, that is, from the time the angel showed it to Daniel till its fulfillment, covered a time-span of approximately 386 years. This fact is very important as we shall see shortly! Now, please let us contrast this with the fact that the angel in Revelation 22:10 instructed John, "Do not seal up the vision." The angel then gives John the reason for this command. It was because, "the time is(was) at hand" at the time John penned the Apocalypse! There was a time in my past when I understood the fulfillment of all the things in Revelation to be yet in our future. This was in spite of the fact that more than 2,000 years have passed, and in spite of the fact that the angel told John, "Do not seal up the vision, for the time is(was) at hand." However, I now believe that my former reasoning was flawed and inconsistent with our Father's word! For example, how could it be possible for 386 years in the Daniel 8:23-26 prophecy to be considered, "many days in the future," from the time it was prophesied; and yet the 2,000+ years (and counting) in the Revelation 22:10 prophecy considered as, "the time is at hand?" I'm sure you can see my point! This is the reason that I believe the Apocalypse and the things written therein, came to pass in the First Century, by A.D. 70. And I further believe that God's Judgment on Jerusalem and the unbelieving Jews is at the center of the message in the book, and not the judgment on the Roman Empire, as I once believed.
I would like to close this particular study with this little illustration similar to one I heard many years ago. Let's just imagine ourselves back about 2,000 years in the past. Here we are living in the days of the Apostle John. As a matter of fact, we know the beloved Apostle very well, having both seen and heard him speak on a number of occasions. You see, we are among those seven churches of Asia. So not only do we know John quite well, but we have read all of his other four books!
And so there we are on a Sunday morning in one of our little assemblies, singing, praying, and studying our Father's word. Let's just suppose that while we are standing and singing, the front door suddenly opens, and in comes an elderly figure. We can see now that it's the beloved Apostle! Obviously, we're all both excited as well as shocked at what we see! And so, while we are singing, John slowly makes his way down the aisle to one of the front pews. He continues to stand there and sings along with us until the song is finished. But after the song, instead of sitting down, John remains standing and turns around to face the audience, and immediately begins to address us Disciples.
As he begins to speak, he unrolls a big roll of parchment and begins to read to us many truly marvelous things the Lord has shown him. John informs us that these are things from the Master Himself, and that Jesus had instructed him to pass this information on to us. As you can imagine, John really has our undivided attention by this time! We are all just excited beyond belief! And now, as every eye in the building is riveted on John, he says to us that Jesus had His angel to communicate to him, that these things he has written to us are things, "which must shortly come to pass." And the angel said that we were to "read those things and take heed to them, because the time for all the things he is relating to us, to come to pass, "is near; yes, it's at hand!"
John continues to read and speak to us for the next couple of hours or so, showing us the things in the great scroll. Finally, he reaches the end of his letter and begins to roll up the scroll, leaves it on the table up front and then begins to make his way up the aisle and out the door. However, before any one of us can say anything, the door suddenly opens once again. And once again, it's John. He sticks his head through the door jamb and says in a very stern but loving voice and says, "Now don't you folks forget that these are things that must shortly take place. And don't you forget that Jesus said, 'Behold, I am coming quickly!' And I want you to know that you are not to seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because as the Lord has already said, 'the time is at hand. It's near!"
I said all of that simply to ask this: If you and I had really been there, and these things had happened in our presence, do you believe for one minute that we would have reasoned: "Oh well, there's really nothing that we should be all that concerned about. After all, the things John just showed us, well, they're not going to happen in our lifetimes anyway. In fact, they won't happen for at least another 20 centuries or more!" What do you think? Do you think that anything like that would have crossed our minds? Why, of course not! Never in a million years would we have reasoned in such a fashion! If you're anything like myself you would have been trembling! Why, there would have been no question that we would have understood that John was speaking of things that were going to happen soon; in our own lifetime; in our First Century generation! Would you not agree? This I believe, begs the question: If we don't believe, that had we lived back then, and received this letter from John, that we would have been so foolish as to reason in that manner, then why should we not recognize the fact that those First Century Disciples would have been no different? They certainly knew that the Epistle was written to them! One more question: If John wanted the Disciples to understand that their Master was indeed coming in their generation (that First Century generation), and that all the things he was shown by the Lord were also going to come to pass in that generation, just what would you suppose John could have said to convey such a message? Please don't think I'm trying to be cute here, but wouldn't he most probably say something like, "the time is near, or the time is at hand, or Yes, I am coming quickly, or these are things that must shortly come to pass!" I'm sure you can see my point! And so, yes, I am fully persuaded that all the things written in this marvelous Epistle, were fulfilled in the First Century!
Before we leave the matter of just when the book was penned and when the things therein had their fulfillment, I would like to proffer just one more little illustration, which I believe further supports my conviction that the Apocalypse was in fact written during the early date (A.D. 65-67). In other words, it was prior to the A.D. 70. "Judgment (destruction) brought on Jerusalem, the temple, fleshly priesthood, Judaism, and the Jewish nation." Moreover, it is my understanding that the Judgments mentioned above, were central to the message in the Apocalypse.
Now, would you please consider that illustration with me? Let us now use our sanctified imaginations and once again project ourselves back into the First Century. Only this time, we find ourselves in the year A.D. 94. I'm using 94 because that would be midway of that later date of A.D. 92-96, when many Disciples think the book was written. As I'm sure you have already surmised, this date would have been "after" the Destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, Judaism, the fleshly priesthood, and the Jewish nation. Yes, all of those things are now "no more"; they're "gone!
Now let's just say that John goes through the same procedure we used in the first illustration. He thoroughly explains to us just what the Lord and the angel had shown him (the results of which would be no different from sending out the Epistle). And let's just say that after spending that long two hours explaining these things to us so that we can clearly understand the message, he says goodbye, and departs. Totally setting aside all of the things that John explained to us that were written in the book, here is the big question I have: For those who do insist that the book was written in A.D. 92-96, just what do you suppose the odds would be, that John would have spent all that time teaching us on "whatever," and yet not once mention anything whatsoever about the holy city, Jerusalem, the temple, or the Jewish nation having all been destroyed?
I really believe that to ask that question is also to answer it! I hope you can truly see now, why I believe the book was written in the early date (A.D. 65-67). We previously examined eight passages from the last chapter of the Book of Revelation, in which every one of them indicated an Imminent Coming (Parousia) of Jesus. Moreover, we should be reminded again that these warnings were spoken to First Century Disciples and not to us in the 21st Century. However, this really should not come as a surprise to us, for He had forewarned of such during His personal ministry. He had spoken to His Apostles in Matthew 16:27-28 saying,
"For the Son of Man is going to (Gr. mello - "about to" -jg) come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to His deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here, who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."
He had also told His Apostles, "But whenever they persecute you in this city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you (Apostles-jg), you shall not finish going through the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man comes" [Matthew 10:23].
John Sees the New Heavens and Earth and New Jerusalem Coming Down
With all these bits of internal evidence that we have explored, I am fully persuaded that the prophecies in this marvelous Epistle were not only penned before A.D. 67, but also had their fulfillment in the fall of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70. And that it was at that time that the Old Covenant world, with the temple at its epicenter, the earthly, fleshly priesthood, and the old physical, typical holy of holies were all destroyed and removed. And because of this, it was then time for the creation of the "New Heavens and Earth." However, I would not want you to take my word for it. Let us see if the Apostle John agrees with it. In Revelation 21:1-5, John saw a most beautiful and marvelous sight:
 "And I saw a New Heaven and a New Earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away. Also there is no longer any sea.  And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people and God Himself shall be among them,  and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.'  And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' And He said, 'Write, for these things are faithful and true.'"
We can only imagine just how ecstatic and overwhelmed John must have been when he was afforded the blessed privilege of seeing that of which the prophet Isaiah and the Apostle Peter could only speak! You may recall Peter's words of 2 Peter 3, where he spoke of the soon-to-come "day of the Lord" [verse 10] or, "day of God" [verse 12], when the old heavens and earth would be destroyed and removed, and the New Heavens and Earth were created. Well, according to John's words in Revelation 1:10, he was allowed to actually see that marvelous transformation, for he said he was "in the spirit, on the Lord's day."
I once understood John to be ascribing, "the Lord's day," here to the first day of the week. But, upon careful consideration of the context, that interpretation, to me, no longer seems to be the correct one.
What I believe John was telling his First Century believing readers, was that God had allowed him, in the spirit, to see that great "day of the Lord," where he was an eye-witness to all of the marvelous things that were about to come to pass. And so, here, near the end of all the many visions he was shown, he finally sees the old heavens and earth being removed, and the advent of the New Heavens and Earth created by our Father.
There are several observations that need mentioning here. First, John saw the capital city of the New Heavens and Earth, and he said in verse 2, that it was "New Jerusalem." Please take careful notice of the source of this New Jerusalem. He said with unmistakable clarity, that he saw it "coming down (out of Heaven) from God." I understand this to be of great significance! For if John saw the New Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven from God, to occupy its rightful place in the New Heavens and Earth, then I would also understand him to be telling us about the location of the "New Heavens and Earth"…it came down to planet Earth!
Someone may object, saying, "Yes, but John also said in that passage, that there was no longer any sea." Yes, I know, and I believe there's a good explanation for that. In the Old Covenant Scriptures, there are many examples of the Lord's use of the term "sea" to describe "the nations, or Gentiles." For example, in Isaiah 60:1-5, God prophesied concerning the conversion of the Gentiles under the gospel and kingdom of the Messiah. And in verse 5, He said, "Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee; the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee" (KJV).
Isn't that just a marvelous declaration? But in the event someone should say, "Yes, but in John's vision, since he said that there was no longer any sea, wouldn't that preclude the Gentiles from any place in the New Heavens and Earth?" Why, absolutely not, for under the gospel of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, Paul said, "There is neither Jew nor Greek (Gentile-jg), there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" [Galatians 3:28]. In the New Heavens and Earth, Yahweh's people would not be known by their pedigree, socio-political status or gender, but rather by their spiritual standing of being "in Christ" [Galatians 3:26-27]. They would be known only by their "new name" [See Isaiah 62:2; 65:15].
Reader, there are some very interesting things regarding "the New Jerusalem" of which John speaks. And I believe that if we would look at some of the things other Inspired Writers had to say about it, this will give us additional insight into both the New Jerusalem and the New Heavens and Earth.
Paul's Allegorical Contrast Between the Old and New Jerusalems
In Galatians 4:21-31, the Apostle Paul argued against First Century Jewish Disciples who were being coerced and pressured by the unbelieving Jews, to give up the liberty they had under the gospel of grace, and to go back under the Old Covenant legal system of Moses. So, as you read this, please take careful notice of Paul's contrast of the "spiritual" with the "physical!" He said,
[vs. 21] "Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law?
[vs. 22] For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman.
[vs. 23] But the son of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise (promise by the Spirit-jg).
[vs. 24] This is allegorically speaking; for these women are two covenants, one proceeding from Mount Sinai (Old Covenant-jg) bearing children who are slaves (those Jews who were still looking to the Law for justification-jg); she is Hagar.
[vs. 25] Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem (then-present, First Century, physical Jerusalem under the Law-jg), for she is in slavery (under bondage to the Law-jg) with her children (First Century, unbelieving Jews depending on the Law for justification-jg).
[vs. 26] But the Jerusalem above (the New, Spiritual Jerusalem, See Revelation 21:2; Hebrews 11:10, 16) is free (by the gospel-jg); she is our (First Century believing Jews--the elect remnant of Matthew 24:22-jg) mother.
[vs. 27] For it is written, 'Rejoice, barren woman (Sarah-jg) who does not bear; Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor; For more are the children of the desolate than of the one who has a husband.'
[vs. 28] And you, brethren (First Century believing Jews-jg), like Isaac, are children of promise.
[vs. 29] But as at that time (during the time of Sarah & Isaac and Hagar & Ishmael-jg), he who was born according to the flesh (Ishmael), persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit (Isaac); so it is now (in that First Century generation-jg) also.
[vs. 30] But what does the Scripture say? 'Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.'
[vs. 31] So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman."
From this allegory of Paul, we glean a number of beautiful gems of truth. Here are some of the things we learn:
Hagar is cast as the bondwoman [vs. 22].
Sarah is cast as the free woman [vs. 22].
Sarah's son (Isaac) was born according to promise - through The Spirit [vss. 23, 28, 29].
Hagar is representative of the Old Covenant System of Law given at Mt. Sinai [vs. 24].
Sarah is representative of the New Covenant of grace under The Lord Jesus Christ [vs. 24].
Hagar also corresponds to present Jerusalem (meaning First Century, physical
Jerusalem-jg) [vs. 25].
Sarah corresponds to the Jerusalem above (the "New," Spiritual Jerusalem-jg) [vs. 26. See also Revelation 21:2; Hebrews 11:10, 16].
Hagar, as the then-present, (physical Jerusalem), is declared to be in slavery
with her children (First Century unbelieving Jews who rejected their Messiah
and the gospel, and were thus enslaved under the curse of The Law-jg) [vs.
25. See also Galatians 3:10].
Sarah, as the "Jerusalem above" (spiritual Jerusalem) is declared to be free, and is our mother (the mother of those Jews who accepted the Messiah, plus the Gentiles who would obey the gospel of Christ and thus would share in Israel's promises; all (both Jew and Gentile) thus being her "spiritual children [vss. 26, 27 See also Romans 15:27; Romans 11:18; Ephesians 2:13-16; Galatians 3:14].
Isaac, as the son born through the Spirit of promise [vs.23], is also declared to
be representative of all the "children of promise" [vs. 28].
Ishmael, as the "son born of the flesh" did, in the days of Abraham, persecute the son of promise (Isaac) [vs. 29].
Ishmael, through the "First Century unbelieving Jews," was still persecuting the children of promise (believing Jews) in Paul's day [vs. 29 See also Matthew 23:34-39; Matthew 24: Acts 7:51-52; 8:1; 13:49-50: 14:2; 14:19; 17:5, 13; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15 et. al.].
Hagar and Ishmael (the bondwoman and her son) would be "cast out," because the son of the bondwoman (Ishmael) would not be an heir with the son (Isaac) of the free woman [vs. 30]. Here, the unbelieving, apostate Jews would be "cast out" [Matthew 8:12], as the Kingdom is taken from them and given to a nation producing the fruit thereof [Luke 12:32; Matthew 21:42].
Please notice in vs. 30 the phrase, "so it is now also." The "now" obviously
refers to the time when Paul penned the letter! You and I must remember that
Paul did not write this allegory to you and me, but rather to the Disciples of the
churches in Galatia, and especially to those who were Hebrew Disciples of his
generation, some of whom, were seemingly about to abandon Christ and the
gospel, for re-entry into bondage under the Old Covenant Mosaic system of law.
The beautiful and happy moment of this allegory, however, was the fulfillment
of the prophetic utterance that the "children of the flesh" (unbelieving Jews)
would be cast out [Matthew 8:12], leaving only the "children of the promise"
(spiritual children - those Jews who accepted their Messiah-jg).
I must say, that in light of an allegory such as this one, it deeply saddens me to see so much emphasis being placed on the "physical" city of Jerusalem, when we can clearly see from Paul's allegory that it was that very city (physical Jerusalem) that was going to be removed, and replaced with the Jerusalem from above, the "New Jerusalem," the Jerusalem that John saw coming down out of Heaven from God [Revelation 21:2]. Please, just think about this for just a moment: If the "New Jerusalem" has not yet come down out of Heaven from God, then according to what Paul's allegory teaches in verses 25-26, this would mean that not even one single solitary First Century Hebrew disciple, was ever set free from the bondage and slavery of every jot and tittle of the Law of Moses!
It should be noted, with regard to the New Heavens and Earth, that there are two Greek words that are translated, "new" in the New Covenant Scriptures:
(1) "neos"- means: "the sense of never having been before."
(2) "kainos"- means: "new in form, nature and quality."
Are you aware that every passage in the New Covenant Scriptures in which "new" is used in reference to the "New" Heavens and Earth, that "kainos" is the Greek word used. I must say, this indicates to me that the "heavens and earth" under consideration are "new" in "nature and quality?" They are "new" in nature and quality for the simple reason, that the covenant upon which they are founded, is also new in nature and quality. And the covenant on which they are founded, is also better than the "old," because it's established upon better promises [Hebrews 8:6; 2 Corinthians 3:8-11]. Those things of the old "heavens and earth/Old Covenant World" were only types and shadows of which Christ was the substance and body [Hebrews 10:1-4; Colossians 1:19; 2:16-17].
As we bring this study to a close, I would like to do so with a prophecy concerning the time element that was mentioned by Isaiah. In Isaiah 11:10-12, God says,
[vs. 10] "Then it will come about in that day, that the Gentiles will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a signal for the peoples: And His resting place will be glorious. [vs. 11] Then it will happen on that day, that the Lord will again recover the second time with His hand, the remnant of His people who will remain; from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.
[vs. 12] And He will lift up a standard for the nations (the Gentiles-jg), and will assemble the banished ones of Israel (remnant from the descendants of the house of Israel-jg); And will gather the dispersed of Judah (remnant from those dispersed of the house of Judah-jg), from the four corners of the earth" [See also Ezekiel 37:21-28].
Just as the Lord gathered His people the first time from bondage in Egypt, He would also gather them a second time; this time He would gather the remnant from both the house of Israel and the house of Judah, along with the Gentiles, at His coming on the last day, at the end of the Old Covenant age. [Matthew 24:31; Matthew 13:36-43; Genesis 49:10].
It may be that the reader has never considered this approach to the subject we have just discussed. In any study from our Father's Word, I believe that Scriptural integrity is paramount if we are to be useful in our service to The Master. And for that reason, I have tried to the best of my ability to exercise extreme caution so as to remain faithful to the Inspired text, and to the context, with every passage of Scripture I have proffered in support of my conclusions regarding "the New Heavens and Earth." However, that is not to say that I feel I am mistake-free, being that I am void of inspiration!
But I do believe that I have demonstrated Scripturally, that the "heavens and earth," of which Peter speaks, which were to "pass away," along with "the melting of the elements," were not a future dissolution of planet Earth and our universe, but were prophetic, apocalyptic imagery used to express the removal of the World of Judaism and its Old Covenant system under the Law of Moses. We have shown where the things of that old system were mere types and shadows of the things which were to come under the marvelous, glorious, and perfected kingdom of the Messiah [Hebrews 10:1-2]. We saw Peter's testimony, that his First Century readers were, "looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God [2 Peter 3:12]." He bore witness that the First Century Disciples were looking for the, "New Heavens and Earth, in which righteousness dwells" [verse 13].
It is my conviction that this "New Heavens and Earth" did, in fact, come down out of heaven from God as promised in Revelation 21:1-3, only three or four years after Peter penned his Epistle. And that it is the "New Covenant World" of every single disciple on this planet who has found rest in Messiah Yeshua. Yes, dear reader, every person who belongs to Him, has come to,"Mt. Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, the general assembly and ekklesia of the first-born [Hebrews 12:22-23], and "the glorious Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ" [verse 28].
Thank you so very much for joining me in this most important study of the prophetic fulfillment of God's Everlasting Covenant recorded in Sacred Scripture.
Permission granted by the author, Jim Gunter, who may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Jim and his wife Gloria have been Full Preterist Believers since 2002. The Holy Spirit has inspired Jim to write numerous articles as a freelancer to God's Praise, Honor and Glory. Those wishing to be placed on Jim's mailing list, may subscribe via his e-mail. All Scripture texts - unless otherwise indicated - are quoted from the NEW AMERICAN
STANDARD BIBLE® (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The
Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. Inserted explanations by the author are indicated as (-jg). This article may be printed in its entirety for personal study and free distribution, but never to be sold as Jesus Christ said, "The Kingdom of Heaven [He Himself] is at hand ... freely ye have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:7-8).