What Is New About The New Heaven And The New Earth? A Theology Of Creation From Revelation 21 And 2 Peter 3 -- By: Gale Z. Heide

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 40:1 (Mar 1997)
Article: What Is New About The New Heaven And The New Earth? A Theology Of Creation From Revelation 21 And 2 Peter 3
Author: Gale Z. Heide


What Is New About The New Heaven
And The New Earth? A Theology Of Creation
From Revelation 21 And 2 Peter 3

Gale Z. Heide*

The message of hope answering the many cries for help throughout the centuries since Christ’s ascension finds perhaps its fullest expression in the words of Revelation 21. John’s vision of the new heaven and the new earth provided an escape for those enduring persecution for their commitment to Jesus. Though their life may end, they could hold fast to the knowledge that a better life awaited them at the fulfillment of God’s plan for this world. Even today this vision exceeds the limits of our imagination as we anticipate the beauty and joy that will be revealed when the Lord makes his home on the new earth. The new Jerusalem is described in majestic terms. It stretches our capacity to visualize the colors, materials, and precision of the craftsmanship. We have been told explicitly of its likeness, but yet we fully expect the reality of it to take our breath away. Undoubtedly the same was true of John’s original audience. When they heard the description they had no memory of anything to which this vision might compare. It could only be imagined. The vision helped to inspire the ecstasy of hope, a hope that could bear the realities of broken dreams, burned homes and violent bloodshed. 1

Apocalyptic literature played a crucial role in the life of the early Church. It gave hope to those in the midst of trial. It gave strength to those weighed down by discouragement and fatigue. It provided security when it seemed as though the world was about to end. The careful symbolism that depicted the rise and fall of nations and kings pointed to the power of a provident God who controlled the course of history. Of course, deciphering these symbols has given commentators difficulty for centuries. The visions of Daniel and John still divide Biblical scholars worldwide. The debates rage as modern-day prophets attempt to read the signs of the times and predict the end of the world.

In the midst of these debates, and because so many people wish to distance themselves from them, I fear several essential elements of apocalyptic

* Gale Heide is professor of theology and Biblical languages at Montana Bible College, P.O. Box 6070, Bozeman, MT 59771.

literature have been forgotten or at least overlooked. Often interpreters seem to meld apocalyptic into simple prophetic, forgetting that images in the vision are sometimes meant to symbolize rather than represent the details of an event. 2 It is with ju...

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