Laying the Foundations for God’s New Order
1. What were those to whom 2 Peter 3:13 was addressed expecting to become, but why does a real question arise on that account?
WHEN the apostle Peter wrote to the fellow Christians of his day, “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise,” they themselves were expecting to become a part of those “new heavens” at the conclusion of this system of things. (2 Pet. 3:13; Matt. 24:3; 28:20) They expected to be associated with their God-given Leader and Head, Jesus Christ, in those “new heavens” over mankind. They rejoiced in the hope of replacing the wicked demonic “heavens” that are now casting the pall of death and destruction over all mankind. But how can they and the other fellow disciples of Jesus Christ, all of them being mere humans, become part of the “new heavens”?
2. As a key to unlocking this mystery, what did Peter write at the beginning of his first letter?
2 The apostle Peter points to the key that unlocks this mystery, when he writes to fellow believers in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for according to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you, who are being safeguarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last period of time.”—1 Pet. 1:3-5.
3. Was mankind meant to go to heaven, and what must faithful dead Christians, in order to get to heaven, experience?
3 Notice that expression ‘a new birth to an inheritance reserved in the heavens for you.’ Also, the words, “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Mankind was not created and has not been born to go to heaven where God’s residence is. For any humans to get to heaven, it would require a new birth, a spiritual birth, that no human father can give but only God the heavenly Father can give. Furthermore, we note that all faithful disciples of Jesus Christ have died as humans till now. Certainly, then, for such dead Christians to get to heaven they need to have a resurrection.
4. In order for the man Jesus Christ to go to heaven, what was it necessary to have take place, as explained by Peter?
4 Even Jesus Christ, in order to get back to heaven from which he came, needed to die and be resurrected from the dead by the almighty power of his God and Father, Jehovah. Concerning this dying as a human and being resurrected as a spirit person, the apostle Peter makes this statement: “Even Christ died once for all time concerning sins, a righteous person for unrighteous ones, that he might lead you to God, he being put to death in the flesh, but being made alive in the spirit. In this state also he went his way and preached to the spirits in prison, . . . through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is at God’s right hand, for he went his way to heaven; and angels and authorities and powers were made subject to him.”—1 Pet. 3:18, 19, 21, 22; see also The New English Bible.
5. What does Peter say as to the reason why Christ died?
5 His death as a perfect human and his resurrection as a perfect spirit person was the way for his gaining entrance back into heaven. Let us note what the apostle Peter says as to the reason why Jesus Christ died. Peter says: “Christ died once for all time concerning sins, a righteous person for unrighteous ones, that he might lead you to God.”—1 Pet. 3:18.
6. (a) Who are the “unrighteous ones” there mentioned, as in contrast with the “righteous person”? (b) For what sins could that “righteous person” die, and how so and with what effect?
6 Jesus Christ is the “righteous person” there mentioned. Who, though, are the “unrighteous ones”? We, all of us who got our life from the sinner Adam, we are those “unrighteous ones.” In dying “once for all time concerning sins,” Jesus Christ was not dying for his own sins; had he done so, then his death would have been of no benefit to us dying humans. The sins concerning which he “died once for all time” are our sins, the sins of all mankind who inherited sinfulness, imperfection and death from Adam, who had been sentenced to death by Jehovah God. Because Jesus was born perfect on earth and remained “righteous” till his “being put to death,” his death had a sacrificial value. It could gain something for those for whom his life was sacrificed.
7, 8. (a) What else, besides a “new heavens,” is required for a righteous new order? (b) What has mankind been experiencing according to their just deserts, and how could Jesus take upon himself what others fully deserved?
7 Ah, then, this unlocks to us another secret, and that is another thing that is required for a new order to be founded by Jehovah God. Not only are “new heavens” needed for it, but a “new earth” in the which there are no sin and imperfection and hence no condemnation to death. But how could such a righteous “new earth” be founded?
8 The “unrighteous ones,” all mankind that descended from unrighteous Adam, were dying and have been dying according to their just deserts. God’s law is: “The wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23) But the perfectly born Jesus stayed “righteous” all the time in spite of being in the midst of a sinful world. Concerning him the apostle Peter says in the same letter to Christians: “He committed no sin, nor was deception found in his mouth. He himself bore our sins in his own body upon the stake, in order that we might be done with sins.” (1 Pet. 2:22, 24) So, being perfectly “righteous,” Jesus did not deserve to die. He died in order to take upon himself what others fully deserved.
9. Why were the sacrifices made by unselfish humans of limited benefit to those for whom they sacrificed their lives?
9 In the course of human history many unselfish persons have sacrificed their lives for others, but those others for whom such a sacrifice was made have died thereafter and are still dead. Such other ones have not gained eternal life from such human sacrifices. It was imperfect, dying humans that died for them, and they themselves were imperfect and sinful and remained under condemnation to death. Their human lives were prolonged only a little while longer, and the sacrificial deaths made in their behalf did not guarantee for them a resurrection from the dead back to life on earth. Moreover, who of those self-sacrificing ones could die for the whole world of mankind, past and present, to keep alive the whole world? Not all the world’s armies of soldier boys dying on the battlefield could do so.
10. Why cannot any one of us give a ransom for someone else to live forever?
10 Sinful human creatures, who are condemned to eternal death for their own sins, can gain no eternal life on earth for other sinful human creatures. Just as Psalm 49:7, 9 says: “Not one of them can by any means redeem even a brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; that he should still live forever and not see the pit.”
11 On the contrary, concerning Jesus Christ it is written: “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.” (1 Tim. 2:5, 6) How could this be? It was because, when Adam sinned and was sentenced to death for his willful sin, all his future offspring died in him. It was just as the apostle Paul writes:
12 “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, . . . through one trespass the result to men of all sorts was condemnation, . . . through the disobedience of the one man many were constituted sinners.”—Rom. 5:12, 18, 19.
13. (a) When Adam violated his own innocence in Eden, what did he bring upon his future offspring, and upon how many of them? (b) In order to ransom all of them, what had to be paid?
13 As God’s activity is perfect, Adam was perfect when he was created. His wife Eve, who was taken from him by being built up from one of his ribs, was likewise perfect. She was, as Adam said, “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” (Gen. 2:21-23) When Adam sinned, he lost his human perfection and was sentenced to death. From him, the one man, all mankind thereafter inherited sin and death. Accordingly, for all dying mankind to be ransomed it required someone who corresponded with Adam in his human perfection. It required another perfect man to undertake to suffer death innocently in order to lift the death that Adam by his own disobedience has brought upon all his offspring. Spoken otherwise, it required a “corresponding ransom.” How, though, was such a “corresponding ransom” to be provided? It could not be done by any of Adam’s sinful, imperfect, condemned offspring.
14. Why was God not obliged to provide such a ransom, but by doing so what could he also accomplish?
14 Manifestly, only Almighty God, Jehovah, could provide it in a miraculous way. He was not obligated to do so. By all the rules of justice he could not be required to do so. But was he willing to do so? He was indeed willing, because “God is love.” (1 John 4:8, 16) His love could find a way to act in perfect harmony with justice and thereby provide the means by which to redeem his human creation by means of a corresponding ransom. In that way, also, he could undo the wicked works of Satan the Devil and vindicate himself as Creator and Theocratic Ruler.—1 John 3:8.
15. To whom did Jehovah offer the opportunity to be the woman’s Seed of Genesis 3:15, and what did this entail upon that one?
15 Away back in the Garden of Eden, at the time when God was pronouncing judgment upon the various ones tied in with man’s rebellion, God said to the Serpent that instigated this rebellion: “I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.” (Gen. 3:15) In heaven God offered the opportunity to become that Seed of the woman to his only-begotten Son, and his Son accepted the offer. He did so voluntarily, although this meant that he must be bruised in the heel by the Serpent.
16. In due time, how did God make it possible for his only-begotten Son to become the exact equal of Adam in his Edenic innocence?
16 In due time, by means of his holy spirit, Jehovah God transferred the life of his heavenly Son to the womb of the virgin Mary at Nazareth in Galilee. In this way God’s only-begotten Son became related to Adam and to Adam’s descendants through this human mother Mary, but his life came, not from Adam, but from God. Despite his human birth, he remained the Son of God, and according to his heavenly Father’s instructions to Mary he was called Jesus, a name that means “Jehovah Is Salvation.” Because his perfect life was originally from God and was transferred from heaven to the egg cell in Mary’s womb, Jesus was born as a perfect and sinless Son, free from God’s condemnation to death. (Luke 1:31-35; 3:23-38) From then on, by resisting sin and the temptations of Satan the Great Serpent, Jesus could grow up to become a perfect man with reproductive powers, thus being the exact equal of Adam when in his innocence in the Garden of Eden.
17. How did this Son Jesus come to be Christ?
17 In order to symbolize his presenting of himself to act as the Seed of God’s “woman,” Jesus got baptized in water. Then God anointed him with holy spirit and so Jesus became the Christ or anointed one. Hence he was called Jesus Christ.—Luke 3:21-23.
THE RANSOMER THE CHIEF ONE IN THE NEW HEAVENS
18. Why was it necessary for the man Christ Jesus to die, doing this in what personal state?
18 Jesus knew that he had to die as a man. Otherwise, he could not become a ransom sacrifice for all mankind. To his twelve apostles he said: “The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28) To this end he must die innocent, the righteous for the unrighteous. He must sacrifice his human life forever and let its value go in behalf of all mankind. He died without children, and nobody on earth can claim natural descent from Jesus Christ. He sacrificed his perfect human life and parenthood as a corresponding ransom for all mankind.
19. To be the woman’s Seed of Genesis 3:15, what must be done to him, and for doing what did Jesus apparently, but really, die?
19 Moreover, as the Seed of God’s “woman,” he must be bruised in the heel by Satan the Great Serpent, and this meant a violent death for Jesus Christ. In view of this, Jesus Christ yielded himself to his enemies and false accusers to be put to death on an execution stake as if he were a blasphemous criminal. That occurred on Passover day at Jerusalem in the year 33 C.E. However, Jesus really died for preaching the kingdom of God, the Messianic kingdom that will serve as the “new heavens” in God’s new order for mankind.—John 18:36.
20. Why did the matter of reward come into this arrangement, and what was that reward?
20 Jesus Christ did all this of his own free will. Jehovah God his heavenly Father did not force him to do this; he merely presented to his faithful Son the privilege of doing this in support of his Father’s universal sovereignty and in vindication of his Father’s name. But the Father could not arrange for his Son to carry out all this service and go through all this suffering unjustly without giving the Son a reward. And so God set a glorious reward before his Son, that of being the Messianic King in the “new heavens.” As such he would bruise the Serpent, Satan the Devil, in the head, and also wipe out all the seed of the Serpent, the demon angels, and thus destroy the old heavens of this present order of things.
21. What did this require God to do respecting the dead Jesus Christ, and looking to the presenting of what value to God?
21 All this required first that Almighty God must raise his righteous, innocent Son from the dead, not as a human creature again but as a spirit person. This is what God did on the third day of his Son’s death. In proof of this, the resurrected Jesus Christ made appearances to his disciples on his resurrection day and thereafter. On the fortieth day he ascended back to heaven to present to God the value of his human sacrifice.
22. When thereafter, and how, did Christ’s faithful disciples begin to experience the “new birth”?
22 Ten days later, on the Jewish festival day of Pentecost of the year 33 C.E., God began pouring out his holy spirit upon the faithful disciples of his Son Jesus. In this way the true, dedicated, baptized disciples of Christ began to experience the “new birth” to an incorruptible heavenly inheritance. (Acts 1:1 to 2:36) From that day onward God has been giving the “new birth” to those faithful disciples whom He chooses to make up the “new heavens” with his Son Jesus Christ.
23. In view of 1 Corinthians 15:50, what did these disciples know had to take place with them?
23 They know what the apostle Paul wrote: “This I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom, neither does corruption inherit incorruption.” (1 Cor. 15:50) So they know that they must die and leave behind forever the corruptible flesh. They must prove “faithful even to death,” that they may receive the “crown of life” in the “new heavens.” In the resurrection after God’s kingdom is established they are raised as immortal spirit creatures. In their case what is written becomes true: “It is sown a physical body, it is raised up a spiritual body.”—Rev. 2:10; 1 Cor. 15:44.
THE “NEW EARTH”
24. (a) What do these things show must come first with regard to the new order? (b) What does the setting up of the “new heavens,” and then of the “new earth,” call for as respects the old ones?
24 From these marvelous things we can discern how necessary it was for God to provide first the “new heavens,” for the new order that he has promised. But what is this “new earth” that he creates? Well, just as the “new heavens” does not mean new planets and stars in the skies above us, so the “new earth” does not mean a new and different earthly planet beneath our feet. The establishing of “new heavens” calls for the removal of Satan and his demon angels out of their heavenly position of power over mankind. The establishment of a “new earth” calls for the removal of the present wicked human society that is opposed to God’s kingdom and that is therefore serving Satan the Devil as the unseen ruler of this world, the “god of this system of things.” In its place God will produce a new and righteous human society on this same earth but under His “new heavens,” namely, Jesus Christ and his disciples who get the spiritual resurrection.
25. How is the founding of the “new earth” under way, and what is to happen to the old “earth”?
25 The formation of the “new earth” is already under way! Those who are making up this formative group of dedicated, baptized Christians are separating themselves from those who choose to remain a part of the wicked human society alienated from God, an ‘ungodly world’ of mankind. The removal of this old figurative “earth” will mean its destruction in a “great tribulation” just ahead, a tribulation that Jesus Christ foretold and said would be a global catastrophe without equal in world history.
26. Only by what drastic acts of God will there be deliverance for mankind into His new order?
26 So widespread and devastating will that tribulation be that, unless God shortened the days of it, no human flesh would be saved. (Matt. 24:21, 22; Mark 13:19, 20) That tribulation will spell the utter destruction of this present system of things, but not the destruction of our earth and the starry sky above us. After that the old demonic “heavens” will be removed and Satan and his demons will be put under restraint, under confinement as in an abyss. (Rev. 19:11 to 20:3) Only by these drastic acts of God will there be any deliverance for people on earth into God’s new order.
27. If we really desire that new order, among whom will we want to be found as forevisioned in the Revelation?
27 Do we want that deliverance into God’s new order of “new heavens and a new earth” in which “righteousness is to dwell”? Are we preparing ourselves and striving to prove worthy of such a glorious deliverance? If we long for righteous living in perfect health and happiness in a delightful gardenized earth under righteous governmental heavens, then we will desire to be among the survivors of that coming “great tribulation.” The last book of the Bible, with its revelation of things that “must shortly take place,” points us to a “great crowd” of persons from all nations, tribes, peoples and languages who will survive that global “great tribulation,” coming out of it under God’s protection and favor.
28, 29. According to the Revelation description of these survivors of the tribulation, whom do they worship and what provision for salvation do they accept?
28 From the description that is given us of this crowd of survivors, we note that they are worshipers of the one true God, who is seated on the throne of the universe as Universal Sovereign. Another thing to note is that they accept the ransom sacrifice provided by God’s Son, who was offered up like an unblemished, innocent lamb for the “sin of the world.” Take note of this as we read:
29 “And they keep on crying with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ . . . ‘These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. That is why they are before the throne of God; and they are rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple.”’—Rev. 7:9-15; John 1:29, 36.
30. This vision shows that the “great crowd” are in favor of what feature of the new order and that they are on the way to what?
30 Those prophetic words make it certain that this dedicated, baptized “great crowd” are in favor of God’s “new heavens,” made up of the Lamb Jesus Christ and his 144,000 faithful disciples who have been given the “new birth” to that heavenly inheritance. (Rev. 7:1-8; also Re 21:1-14) They get their death-dealing sins washed away through washing their robes in the “blood of the Lamb.” This puts them on the way to everlasting life in an Edenic garden with which the “new heavens” will beautify the whole earthly globe.
31. This “great crowd” of tribulation survivors will form the foundation of what feature of the new order?
31 In fact, this “great crowd” of tribulation survivors will serve as the foundation of the “new earth” of God’s creation. They are even now, before the tribulation, separating themselves from the doomed old “earth,” the worldly human society of today that holds onto the devil-controlled, man-made system of things of today. So, after the great tribulation removes this old “earth,” these survivors will be the basis for a society organized under new heavens. Thus the human family will be given a new start in a new order.
32. After the tribulation and Satan’s binding, how will the “new earth” grow and spread?
32 This “new earth” will grow and spread, doubtless by some human births after the great tribulation is over and Satan the Devil and his demon angels have been imprisoned in their abyss, but not altogether in this way. No, for the Lamb Jesus Christ did not die for just these tribulation survivors and their natural offspring. He is the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” of mankind; he “gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.” His human equality with the perfect Adam made him fit to “taste death for every man.” (1 Tim. 2:5, 6; Heb. 2:9) The overwhelming majority of the human family for whom the Lamb died nineteen centuries ago have already died. How will they really enter into the benefits of the ransoming value of Christ’s death? By a marvelous miracle: by a resurrection from the dead during the thousand-year-long reign of Jesus Christ and his glorified congregation, the “new heavens.”
33, 34. (a) How will the resurrections performed by Jesus Christ as King differ from those that he performed during his earthly life? (b) What will the “great crowd” of tribulation survivors have the opportunity to do toward the resurrected ones?
33 Jesus Christ, when on earth as a perfect man of God, performed a number of resurrections. But those resurrected persons died later on in their generation. But when Jesus Christ the King resurrects ransomed mankind during his millennial rule, he will do so that they might live forever in a global paradise of Eden. It all depends upon the resurrected ones. Will they let themselves be incorporated into that righteous “new earth,” or will they return to their former bad ways that they pursued during this present system of things? Those who do so will be judged and condemned as unworthy of the gift of eternal life in human perfection and godliness.
34 That is why Jesus Christ, when speaking on the subject of judgment, said: “The hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:27-29) Those of the “great crowd” who will start off the “new earth” will be able to help these resurrected ones in order that their resurrection will not result finally in a condemnation.
35. When predicting the things that have been happening since the year 1914 C.E., what right attitude did Jesus Christ tell his disciples to take?
35 Unusually wonderful is the day in which we are now living! Remarkable but highly significant things have been occurring since the year 1914 C.E. and its first world war. Jesus Christ foretold these things as marking the conclusion of this old system of things. Telling us the right attitude that all of his true disciples should have at this time, he said: “As these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.”—Luke 21:28.
36. In view of that, we want to prove worthy of what privilege, and what are we determined to do?
36 This deliverance into God’s new order is now much nearer than when many of us first saw these predicted things “start to occur.” Certainly there is no time to delay for proving ourselves worthy to experience this much-desired deliverance. The unrepeatable opportunity is ours now! We are determined to seize it, and also to declare to all other lovers of righteousness, mankind’s approaching deliverance into God’s new order of “new heavens and a new earth.”