“Creating New Heavens and a New Earth”
NO MAN or group of men called governments can create the promised “new heavens and a new earth.” Who, then, can create a new world of righteousness? The One who has promised to do so, the One of whom an angel from heaven said: “With God no declaration will be an impossibility.” We can have complete confidence in Jehovah God’s declaration: “For here I am creating new heavens and a new earth.” What is the “new heavens”? What is the “new earth”? When does the creating of these take place?—Luke 1:37; Isa. 65:17.
A world, according to the Scriptures, is made up of “heavens” and an “earth.” The “heavens,” that part of a world invisible to human eyes, stands for or represents the spiritual ruling powers. The present “heavens” of this old world are wicked and are doomed to pass away. Why? Because Satan the Devil and his demons are “the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places,” the “heavens” of this evil world.—Eph. 6:12.
The “earth” of this wicked world is the human society over which Satan tries to rule as the “ruler of the authority of the air.” No wonder God has promised that “the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men”! After telling of the destruction of the wicked “heavens” and “earth,” the apostle Peter went on to say: “But there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” How thrilling to know that the creating of the “new heavens and a new earth” is already under way!—Eph. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:7, 13.
Since the true Christians in Peter’s day were still “awaiting” the promised new world, the promised “new heavens and a new earth” had not been established in the apostle’s day. God had already taken certain preliminary steps, however, toward creating the “new heavens.”
THE “NEW HEAVENS”
What are the “new heavens”? They are the new spiritual governing powers that God has ordained to rule the righteous new world. They are a heavenly government. The “new heavens,” then, stand for what Jesus Christ called the “kingdom of the heavens,” and for which he taught his followers to pray in these words: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will come to pass, as in heaven, also upon earth.” So God’s purpose in creating the “new heavens” or the “kingdom of the heavens” is that his divine will may be done on earth as well as in heaven.—Matt. 13:31; 6:9, 10.
Well, then, what preparatory steps had God taken in the first century of the Christian era toward the creating of the “new heavens”? The first took place at the Jordan River A.D. 29; this was when God begot his dedicated, baptized Son Jesus with his holy spirit, thus anointing him to become King in the heavens of the new world. Ah, no wonder “righteousness is to dwell” in the new world! The new world’s King is none other than the tried and tested Jesus Christ, the One who proved his love for righteousness by keeping integrity toward his Father’s universal sovereignty, though it meant death on the torture stake at Calvary. Of this King of kings it is written: “God is your throne forever, and the scepter of your kingdom is the scepter of straight principles. You loved righteousness and hated lawlessness.”—Heb. 1:8, 9.
Who besides the King Jesus Christ constitute the “new heavens”? The angels in heaven? No, God has purposed that the “new heavens” or Kingdom government would be made up of the King together with a limited number of “a new creation.” The small number of those who would make up the “new creation” are taken from among mankind. The number of those who will be joint heirs with Christ in the heavenly kingdom is small in comparison with the billions of mankind that will eventually gain everlasting life on this earth. So Jesus Christ said to the anointed Christians: “Have no fear, little flock, because your Father has approved of giving you the kingdom.” In the book of Revelation the number of this “little flock” is given as “the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been purchased from the earth. . . . These were purchased from among mankind as a firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” Thus the “new heavens” will be made up of Jesus Christ and his 144,000, the “joint heirs with Christ.”—2 Cor. 5:17; Luke 12:32; Rev. 14:3, 4; Rom. 8:17.
God took another preparatory step toward creating the “new heavens” A.D. 33. This was when Jehovah himself directly resurrected his Son from the dead. After a period of forty days Jesus ascended to heaven, there to sit at the right hand of God until the time came for the planting of the “new heavens”: “He sat down on the right hand of the majesty in lofty places. But with reference to which one of the angels has he ever said: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a stool for your feet’?”—Heb. 1:3, 13.
Can it be said, then, that the foundation of the new world was laid A.D. 33, when Jesus ascended to heaven to present the merit of his perfect human life to his Father and to sit “on the right hand of the majesty in lofty places”? Yes, but only in a first-stage way. The complete laying of the new world’s foundation could take place only when the “new heavens” begin to operate. This would be when God’s promise at Isaiah 51:16 regarding the “new heavens” would be fulfilled: “I shall put my words in your mouth, and with the shadow of my hand I shall certainly cover you, in order to plant the heavens and lay the foundation of the earth and say to Zion: ‘You are my people.’” So only by the planting of the “new heavens” could the new world’s foundation be laid in a complete or final way.
PLANTING AND ENLARGING THE “NEW HEAVENS”
Has this promised planting of the “new heavens” taken place? Indeed it has! It was A.D. 1914, as this journal has often explained, when Jehovah empowered his Son to rule as King, giving him “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” (Dan. 7:14, AS) The book of Revelation, in symbolic language, describes God’s woman Zion or his heavenly universal organization giving birth to the Kingdom: “She gave birth to a son, a male, who is destined to shepherd all the nations with an iron rod. And her child was caught away to God and to his throne.”—Rev. 12:5.
The male-child Kingdom is “caught away to God and to his throne.” This shows that Jehovah himself is the one installing the “new heavens.” The date A.D. 1914 thus marks (1) the creating of the “new heavens” and (2) the preliminary to a full-scale laying of the new world’s foundation.
But the “new heavens” are not made up of the King Jesus Christ alone. The time soon came for Jehovah to enlarge the “new heavens.” How? By raising to heavenly life Jesus’ faithful anointed followers who had been sleeping in death and by admitting them to his royal Son’s presence at God’s spiritual temple or palace.
When did this enlarging of the “new heavens” take place? It was A.D. 1918. How do we know? A parallelism of events helps us know the date. Jesus Christ was anointed with God’s spirit to be King A.D. 29. Three and a half years later, or A.D. 33, Jesus proceeded to the temple at Jerusalem. He cleansed the temple of those who were making it a “cave of robbers.” Rejected as King by the Jewish leaders, Jesus was put to death a few days thereafter. At his death an earthquake rocked Jerusalem and the curtain of the temple sanctuary was rent down the middle, picturing that God’s wrath was against the killers of His Son.—Luke 19:46; Matt. 27:51.
In a time parallel, Jesus Christ was enthroned as King in heaven A.D. 1914. Three and a half years later, or in 1918, would be the time for him to come to God’s spiritual temple. Would Christendom’s rulers receive him or reject him as King? They rejected him and showed it by killing the work of Jehovah’s witnesses concerning the Kingdom. Just as the Jewish leaders’ rejection of Jesus could not prevent God’s raising of his Son from the dead, so Christendom’s rejection of the King could not prevent God from raising Jesus’ faithful followers from the dead. So in harmony with the picture of 1900 years ago, it was only a short time after the temple’s cleansing in 1918 that the heavenly resurrection of the anointed Christians sleeping in death took place, unseen to human eyes. The nations were then at war: “‘But the nations became wrathful, and your own wrath came, and the appointed time for the dead to be judged’ . . . And the temple sanctuary of God that is in heaven was opened.” (Rev. 11:18, 19) The spring of A.D. 1918 marked the opening of the temple to the King’s entrance and thereafter the resurrection of the anointed Christians who, along with Jesus, make up “the temple of the living God.”—2 Cor. 6:16.
What, then, is the relationship between the “new heavens” and God’s spiritual temple? This: God’s spiritual temple or palace, made up of Jesus Christ, the Foundation Cornerstone, and 144,000 “living stones,” will everlastingly be the “new heavens” of the new world!—Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:5.
FOUNDING THE “NEW EARTH”
We remember that Jehovah promised not only to plant the “new heavens” but also to “lay the foundation of the earth,” that is, the “new earth.” When Jesus came to God’s spiritual temple in 1918 for the purpose of judging men, Christendom was rejected. A remnant of Jesus’ anointed followers on earth passed that temple judgment and were cleansed and purified and sent forth as Jehovah’s witnesses, as visible representatives of the “new heavens.” During the high point of World War I the spiritual remnant were practically silent, and they were in captivity to symbolic Babylon, Satan’s world. But in 1919 Jehovah regathered his disorganized people, increased their numbers and organized them for Kingdom preaching. What does this have to do with founding the “new earth”? The restoring of the spiritual remnant from antitypical Babylon from 1919 forward is the founding of the “new earth.”
Jehovah’s dealings with the restored remnant in 1919 thus brought about the phenomena of a nation’s being “born at one stroke” and a land’s being brought forth “in one day.” Foretold God’s prophet: “Who has seen things like these? Will a land be brought forth with labor pains in one day? Or will a nation be born at one stroke?” (Isa. 66:8) The “land” brought forth in one day, the “day of Jehovah,” is the earthly position occupied by the restored remnant of God’s spiritual nation, that is, the remaining ones of the “little flock” on earth. So the first ones to inhabit the new earthly situation are the “nation” that is brought forth at once, the anointed followers of Jesus that are alive on earth at his coming to the temple and that serve as the “faithful and discreet slave” class. (Matt. 24:45-47) To this spiritual nation a great crowd of sheeplike persons have come, and upon the foundation of the newborn nation a new-world society has been built. Right now, before Armageddon, we thus behold the spectacle of a “new earth” crowd of inhabitants rapidly growing amidst a dying corrupt old world.
What is the hope of this “great crowd” of sheeplike persons that come “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” to associate with the New World society? Their hope is to live in the new world and to enjoy everlasting life on earth. They expect to survive Armageddon along with the remnant of God’s spiritual nation. They keenly look forward to the time when, after the old, wicked “earth” is destroyed, the remnant dedicate the “new earth” to Jehovah’s worship. The remnant, in Jehovah’s due time, will leave the post-Armageddon “new earth,” that they may be with the King Jesus Christ in the eternal “new heavens.” The “new earth,” then, will eventually be made up entirely of the “other sheep” for whom the Right Shepherd Jesus Christ died. (John 10:16) These “other sheep” will include not only the “great crowd” of Armageddon survivors and their offspring but also those who are brought back from the dead in the “resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.”—Rev. 7:9; Acts 24:15.
How thrilling that the creating of “new heavens and a new earth” is under way! Soon now the vision of the apostle John will be realized: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea is no more.” (Rev. 21:1) The “former heaven” is Satan and his demons; the “former earth” that passes away at Armageddon is the old-world society organized in support of Satan’s world. The “sea” is symbolic of the wicked element of mankind that will be “no more.” (Isa. 57:20) Wickedness will be gone, for of the “new heavens” and the “new earth” Peter wrote: “In these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Pet. 3:13) Now is the time to tell others of the best news in all the world: God’s creating of “new heavens and a new earth”!
“For just as the new heavens and the new earth that I am making are standing before me,” is the utterance of Jehovah, “so the offspring of you people and the name of you people will keep standing.”—Isa. 66:22.