When the day of God comes, the heavens and earth will be destroyed. “But,” the apostle Peter declares, “according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). Peter’s description of “new heavens and a new earth” is a rich Old Testament allusion. We understand it properly only by turning first to its use in Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22.
<h3> The Heavens and the Earth </h3> <p>Through the prophet Isaiah, God frequently described Himself in terms of stretching out the heavens and forming the earth (40:12, cf. 40:22, 42:5, 44:24, 45:12, 48:13, 51:13). What God does with the heavens and the earth makes a statement about His sovereignty, power, grace, and judgment. God uses the heavens and the earth to bless or curse people, depending on their actions toward Him.</p>
When it is arrogant and evil, the world needs to know God “shall make the heavens tremble, And the earth will be shaken from its place At the fury of the Lord of hosts In the day of His burning anger” (13:13). God may “make the rivers a wilderness ... [and] clothe the heavens with blackness” (50:3), if people disobey Him. Isaiah’s message is full of such warnings for stubborn, sinful people. But judgment is never God’s final word.
God wants to bless people, and He uses the heavens and earth as a source of blessing: “Drip down, O heavens, from above, And let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, And righteousness spring up with it. I, the Lord, have created it” (45:8). In particular, God used the heavens and earth to bless His people, Israel. Following exile God said, “And I have put My words in your mouth, and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people’” (51:16). For Israel to enjoy all God’s blessings, the people must be faithful to Him.
<h3> Making All Things New </h3> <p>Another way God described blessing His people was in making things new for them. God often depicted abundance for Israel in terms of new wine, grain, and oil. “New wine” was from the most recent harvest, representing yet another year of productivity from the hand of God.</p>
Similarly, when God described blessings He would bring to His people following judgment, the blessings are sometimes called “new” things: “Behold, the former things have come to pass, Now I declare new things” (42:9). God promised restoration for His people saying, “Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth ... I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert” (43:19, see also 62:2).
<h3> The Language of Blessing </h3> <p>God’s using the heavens and earth favorably and making things new is the language of blessing. The law God gave His people included blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience (Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28). The prophets were God’s covenant enforcers, bringing to bear the blessings and curses on God’s people. Isaiah’s preaching was a two-edged message of blessings and curses designed to turn Israel to God and keep them there.</p>
The blessings and curses Isaiah spelled out are drawn in stark, inflated language to strike fear and instill hope respectively. To those who set themselves as God’s enemies, “For behold, the Lord will come in fire And His chariots like the whirlwind, To render His anger with fury, And His rebuke with flames of fire” (66:15). Such intense words should open people’s eyes and turn their hearts to God.
To those who will repent and set themselves as God’s servants, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create” (65:17-18). These appealing thoughts should move people to return to the Lord from whom such blessings come.
<h3> New Heavens and New Earth </h3> <p>The terminology of “new heavens and a new earth” is the language of blessing for God’s people. This is God’s way of explaining that He would reconstitute the lives of His people in their land, as they turned to Him. The “new things” God declares (42:9) and will do (43:19) are extensive enough to encompass the heavens and the earth, but it is not so much the nature of the world God has in mind as it is the abundant blessings awaiting His servants.</p>
In the New Testament, Peter describes the final “day of the Lord” (2 Peter 3:10-13). The heavens and earth will not merely be shaken or blackened, but “the heavens will pass away with a roar ... and the earth and its works will be burned up.” Peter explains that this hard fact of judgment should affect how we live our lives _ “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness ....”
In the spirit of Isaiah, Peter explains that those characterized by holy conduct and godliness have the privilege of “looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (3:13). The apostle used Old Testament terminology to describe the dawning of eternity _ God’s greatest blessing for His own . We should not take Peter’s language to describe a rejuvenated world as we know it, but, as Peter himself clarifies, the establishing of righteousness. Peter’s description is not a statement about the location of the next world, but the enormous blessing of it for God’s faithful. I want this blessing, don’t you? Be faithful!