Making All Things New—As Foretold
“The One seated on the throne said: ‘Look! I am making all things new.’ Also, he says: . . . ‘These words are faithful and true.’”—REVELATION 21:5.
1, 2. Why are many people rightly hesitant to consider what the future holds?
HAVE you said or thought, ‘Who knows what tomorrow will bring?’ You can understand why people hesitate to guess what the future will bring or to trust in those who might brashly claim to foretell what lies ahead. Humans simply do not have the ability to predict accurately what will occur in the months or years to come.
2 The magazine Forbes ASAP devoted an issue to time. In it, TV documentary host Robert Cringely wrote: “Time eventually humiliates us all, but no one suffers at the hands of time more than prognosticators. Trying to guess the future is a game we nearly always lose. . . . Still, the so-called experts continue to make predictions.”
3, 4. (a) Some have what optimism about the new millennium? (b) What realistic expectation do others have about the future?
3 You may have observed that with so much attention being paid to the new millennium, it may seem that more people are thinking about the future. At the beginning of last year, Maclean’s magazine said: “The year 2000 may be just another year on the calendar for most Canadians, but it could happen to coincide with a truly new beginning.” Professor Chris Dewdney of York University gave this reason for optimism: “The millennium means that we can wash our hands of a really terrible century.”
4 Does that sound like mere wishful thinking? In Canada only 22 percent of those who responded to one poll “believe that 2000 will usher in a new beginning for the world.” In fact, almost half “expect another world conflict”—world war—within 50 years. Clearly, most sense that a new millennium cannot banish our problems, making all things new. Sir Michael Atiyah, former president of Britain’s Royal Society, wrote: “The rapid pace of change . . . means that the twenty-first century will bring crucial challenges to our whole civilization. The problems of population growth, resource limitation, environmental pollution, and widespread poverty are already upon us and have to be grappled with as a matter of urgency.”
5. Where can we find reliable information about what lies ahead?
5 You may wonder, ‘Since men cannot foretell what our future holds, should we not just ignore the future?’ The answer is no! Granted, men cannot accurately foretell what lies ahead, but we should not think that no one can. Well, who can, and why should we be optimistic about the future? You can find satisfying answers in four specific predictions. They are recorded in the most widely owned and read book, which is also widely misunderstood and ignored—the Bible. Whatever you think of the Bible, and no matter how well acquainted with it you may be, you owe it to yourself to consider these four fundamental texts. They actually foretell a future that is very bright. Moreover, these four key prophecies outline what your future and that of your loved ones can be.
6, 7. When did Isaiah prophesy, and how did his predictions have an amazing fulfillment?
6 The first is found in Isaiah chapter 65. Before reading it, fix in mind the setting—when this material was written and what situation it dealt with. God’s prophet Isaiah, who penned these words, lived over a century before the kingdom of Judah ended. The end came when Jehovah withdrew protection from the unfaithful Jews, letting the Babylonians devastate Jerusalem and take its people into exile. That occurred more than a hundred years after Isaiah predicted it.—2 Chronicles 36:15-21.
7 As to historical background of the fulfillment, recall that with God’s guidance Isaiah foretold the name of the yet unborn Persian, Cyrus, who finally overthrew Babylon. (Isaiah 45:1) Cyrus set the stage for the Jews’ return to their homeland in 537 B.C.E. Amazingly, Isaiah foretold that restoration, as we read in Isa chapter 65. He focused on the situation that the Israelites could enjoy back in their homeland.
8. Isaiah foretold what happy future, and what expression is of particular interest?
8 We read at Isaiah 65:17-19: “Here I am creating new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart. But exult, you people, and be joyful forever in what I am creating. For here I am creating Jerusalem a cause for joyfulness and her people a cause for exultation. And I will be joyful in Jerusalem and exult in my people; and no more will there be heard in her the sound of weeping or the sound of a plaintive cry.” Certainly, Isaiah described conditions that were far better than those the Jews had lived under in Babylon. He foretold joyfulness and rejoicing. Now look at the expression “new heavens and a new earth.” This is the first of four occurrences of that phrase in the Bible, and these four passages can have a direct bearing on our future, even foretelling it.
9. How were the ancient Jews involved in a fulfillment of Isaiah 65:17-19?
9 The initial fulfillment of Isaiah 65:17-19 involved the ancient Jews who, as Isaiah accurately predicted, did return to their homeland, where they reestablished pure worship. (Ezra 1:1-4; 3:1-4) You realize, of course, that they returned to a homeland on the same planet, not somewhere else in the universe. That realization can help us to see what Isaiah meant by new heavens and a new earth. We do not have to speculate, as some do, about vague prophecies of Nostradamus or other human prognosticators. The Bible itself clarifies what Isaiah meant.
10. How are we to understand the new “earth” that Isaiah foretold?
10 In the Bible, “earth” does not always refer to our globe. For instance, Psalm 96:1 says literally: ‘Sing to Jehovah, all the earth.’ We know that our planet—the terra firma and the vast oceans—cannot sing. People sing. Yes, Psalm 96:1 is referring to the people on the earth.* But Isaiah 65:17 also mentions “new heavens.” If the “earth” represents a new society of people in the Jews’ homeland, what are the “new heavens”?
11. To what did the phrase “new heavens” point?
11 The Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, by M’Clintock and Strong, states: “Wherever the scene of a prophetic vision is laid, heaven signifies . . . the whole assembly of the ruling powers . . . being over and ruling the subjects, as the natural heaven stands over and rules the earth.” As to the combination phrase “heaven and earth,” the Cyclopædia explains that ‘in prophetic language the phrase signifies the political condition of persons of different ranks. The heaven is the sovereignty; the earth is the peasantry, men who are ruled by superiors.’
12. How did the ancient Jews experience “new heavens and a new earth”?
12 When the Jews returned to their homeland, they gained what might be called a new system of things. There was a new ruling body. Zerubbabel, a descendant of King David, was governor, and Joshua was high priest. (Haggai 1:1, 12; 2:21; Zechariah 6:11) These constituted “new heavens.” Over what? The “new heavens” were over “a new earth,” the cleansed society of people who were back in their land in order to rebuild Jerusalem and its temple for worshiping Jehovah. Hence, in this real sense, there were new heavens and a new earth in the fulfillment involving the Jews at that time.
13, 14. (a) What other instance of the phrase “new heavens and a new earth” should we consider? (b) Why is Peter’s prophecy of particular interest at this time?
13 Take care not to miss the point. This is neither an exercise in Biblical interpretation nor a mere glance at ancient history. You can see this by moving to another occurrence of the phrase “new heavens and a new earth.” In 2 Peter chapter 3, you will find this occurrence and see that our future is involved.
14 The apostle Peter wrote his letter over 500 years after the Jews returned to their homeland. As one of Jesus’ apostles, Peter was writing to the followers of Christ, “the Lord” mentioned at 2 Peter 3:2. In 2Pe 3 verse 4, Peter brings up Jesus’ “promised presence,” which makes the prophecy very pertinent today. Ample evidence shows that since World War I, Jesus has been present in the sense of having authority as Ruler in God’s heavenly Kingdom. (Revelation 6:1-8; 11:15, 18) This takes on special meaning in view of something else that Peter foretold in this chapter.
15. How is Peter’s prophecy about the “new heavens” finding fulfillment?
15 We read at 2 Peter 3:13: “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” You may already have learned that Jesus in heaven is the key Ruler in the “new heavens.” (Luke 1:32, 33) Yet, other Bible texts indicate that he does not rule alone. Jesus promised that the apostles and some others like them would have a place in heaven. In the book of Hebrews, the apostle Paul described such ones as “partakers of the heavenly calling.” And Jesus said that those of this group would sit on thrones in heaven with him. (Hebrews 3:1; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:28-30; John 14:2, 3) The point is that others reign with Jesus as part of the new heavens. Then what did Peter mean by the term “new earth”?
16. What “new earth” already exists?
16 As with the ancient fulfillment—the return of the Jews to their homeland—the current fulfillment of 2 Peter 3:13 involves people who submit to rulership by the new heavens. You can find millions today who are gladly submitting to such rulership. They are benefiting from its educational program and striving to follow its laws found in the Bible. (Isaiah 54:13) These make up the basis of “a new earth” in the sense that they form a global society of all nationalities, languages, and races, and they work together in submission to the reigning King, Jesus Christ. A significant fact is that you can be part of this!—Micah 4:1-4.
17, 18. Why do the words at 2 Peter 3:13 give us reason to look to the future?
17 Do not feel that this is the end of matters, that we do not have any detailed insight into the future. In fact, as you examine the context of 2 Peter chapter 3, you will find indications of a great change ahead. In 2Pe 3 verses 5 and 6, Peter writes about the Flood of Noah’s day, the Deluge that ended the wicked world back then. In 2Pe 3 verse 7, Peter mentions that “the heavens and the earth that are now,” both the rulerships and the masses of people, are reserved for “the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.” This confirms that the phrase “the heavens and the earth that are now” refers, not to the material universe, but to humans and their rulerships.
18 Peter explains thereafter that the coming day of Jehovah will bring about a great cleansing, making way for the new heavens and new earth mentioned in 2Pe 3 verse 13. Note the end of that verse—“in these righteousness is to dwell.” Does that not suggest that some major changes for the better must occur? Does it not raise the prospect of really new things, a time when humans will find greater enjoyment in living than they do today? If you can see that, then you have gained insight into what the Bible foretells, insight that relatively few have.
19. In what setting does the book of Revelation point to “new heavens and a new earth” yet to come?
19 But let us go further. We have looked at the occurrence of the phrase “new heavens and a new earth” in Isaiah chapter 65 and another instance in 2 Peter chapter 3. Now turn to Revelation chapter 21, which contains one other occurrence of this expression in the Bible. Again, understanding the setting will help. Two chapters before, in Revelation chapter 19, we find described in vivid symbolism a war—but not a war between hostile nations. On one side is “The Word of God.” You likely recognize that as a title of Jesus Christ. (John 1:1, 14) He is in heaven, and this vision depicts him with his heavenly armies. Battling against whom? The chapter mentions “kings,” “military commanders,” and people of various ranks, both “small ones and great.” This battle involves the coming day of Jehovah, the destruction of wickedness. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10) Moving on, Revelation chapter 20 opens by describing the removal of “the original serpent, who is the Devil and Satan.” This sets the stage for considering Revelation chapter 21.
20. Revelation 21:1 indicates that what significant change lies ahead?
20 The apostle John begins with the thrilling words: “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.” Based on what we have seen in Isaiah chapter 65 and 2 Peter chapter 3, we can be sure that this does not mean replacing the literal heavens and our planet, with its watery deep. As the preceding chapters showed, wicked people and their rulerships, including the invisible ruler Satan, will be removed. Yes, the promise here is of a new system of things involving people on earth.
21, 22. Of what blessings does John assure us, and what does the wiping out of tears mean?
21 We are assured of this as we move into this wonderful prophecy. The end of Re 21 verse 3 speaks of the time when God will be with mankind, turning his beneficent attention toward people doing his will. (Ezekiel 43:7) John continues in Re 21 verses 4, 5: “He [Jehovah] will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away. And the One seated on the throne said: ‘Look! I am making all things new.’ Also, he says: ‘Write, because these words are faithful and true.’” What an uplifting prophecy!
22 Pause to savor what the Bible is foretelling. ‘God will wipe out every tear from their eyes.’ That cannot refer to normal tears that wash our sensitive eyes, nor can it refer to tears of joy. No, the tears that God will wipe out are tears caused by suffering, grief, disappointment, hurt, and agony. How can we be sure? Well, this remarkable promise of God links wiping out tears with ‘death, mourning, outcry, and pain being no more.’—John 11:35.
23. The end of what conditions is guaranteed by John’s prophecy?
23 Does this not prove that cancer, strokes, heart attacks, and even death will have been eliminated? Who of us has not lost a loved one to some disease, accident, or disaster? God here promises that death will be no more, which suggests that the children who might be born then will not have to face the prospect of growing up and then getting old—ending in death. This prophecy also means no more Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, fibroid tumors, glaucoma, or even cataracts—so common in old age.
24. How will the ‘new heaven and new earth’ prove to be a blessing, and what will we yet consider?
24 You would no doubt agree that mourning and outcry would decrease with the removal of death, old age, and disease. Yet, what about grinding poverty, child abuse, and oppressive discrimination based on background or skin color? Were such things—common today—to continue, we would not be rid of mourning and outcry. Thus, life under “a new heaven and a new earth” will not be marred by these present causes of sorrow. What a change! We have, though, considered so far only three of the four occurrences in the Bible of the phrase “new heavens and a new earth.” There is one more that ties in with what we have examined and that underscores why we have reason to look forward to when and how God will fulfill his promise to ‘make all things new.’ The following article deals with that prophecy and what it can mean for our happiness.
The New English Bible renders Psalm 96:1: “Sing to the LORD, all men on earth.” The Contemporary English Version reads: “Everyone on this earth, sing praises to the LORD.” This accords with the understanding that by “new earth” Isaiah was referring to God’s people in their land.
What Do You Recall?
• What are three instances where the Bible foretells “new heavens and a new earth”?
• How were the ancient Jews involved in a fulfillment of “new heavens and a new earth”?
• What fulfillments are understood for “new heavens and a new earth” as mentioned by Peter?
• How does Revelation chapter 21 point us toward a bright future?
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Just as Jehovah had foretold, Cyrus set the stage for the Jews’ return to their homeland in 537 B.C.E.