Judgment, Recreation and the Third World
Now that we’ve reframed Jesus’ church inside the context of the Bible narrative, let's again zoom out to Scripture's big picture.
Scripture speaks of three "worlds." Not in the sense of different planets, but rather systems of order—the way life works/ed on earth at different times.
The first world existed between creation and the flood. During this world's existence, Satan rebelled and introduced sin to GOD's heavenly creation, then tempted and deceived Eve into bringing sin to the earthly creation.
Subsequently, certain angels lusted after human women, left their domain, married those women and bore half-angel, half-human sons (see Gen. 6). These "demigods" were apparently instrumental in the rampant spreading of evil which brought about the flood in judgment.
Regarding this first world, the apostle Peter wrote:
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others;
5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.
(2 Pet. 2:4-5; 3:5-6 NIV)
After the flood, the second world order was established at Babel when GOD scattered the nations.
GOD assigned angels over each nation, to protect, guide and rule them—all but Israel.
7 “Remember the days of old,
Consider the years of many generations.
Ask your father, and he will tell you;
Your elders, and they will tell you:
8 When the Most High divided the nations,
When He scattered the sons of Adam,
He set the boundaries of the nations
By the number of God's angels.
9 For the Lord's portion became the people of Jacob;
The allotment of His inheritance is Israel.
(Deut. 32:5-9 OSB)
Yet again, these angelic rulers also rebelled.
Rather than ruling faithfully and pointing their subjects to GOD, these angels enticed the Gentile nations into idolatrous worship of themselves. They led their human subjects to perform all manner of evils, even human sacrifice. (This is the origination of paganism.)
The Septuagint informs us that these wicked angels are the demons (which answers the huge question of where demons come from).
5 For all the gods of the nations are demons,
But the Lord made the heavens;
(Psalm 95 :5 OSB)
GOD was (understandably) angered by all of this rebellion. Just as GOD revealed to the Prophets that He was going to judge wicked Israel, so also He would judge these rebellious angels (and the Gentile nations).
Here is one such prophecy:
1 A psalm for Asaph.
God stood in the assembly of gods;
He judges in the midst of gods, saying,
2 “How long will you judge unjustly,
And favor the persons of sinners?” (Pause)
3 Judge an orphan and a poor man;
Justify a humble and poor man;
4 Rescue a poor and needy man;
Deliver them from a sinner's hand.
5 They do not know nor understand;
They carry on in darkness;
All the foundations of the earth shall be shaken.
6 I said, “You are gods,
And you are all sons of the Most High.
7 But you die like men,
And like one of the rulers, you fall.”
8 Arise, O God; judge the earth,
For You shall inherit all the Gentiles.
(Psalm 81 :1-8 OSB)
In this psalm, GOD is seen standing in the presence of His spiritual creatures ("the assembly of gods"), including the angels. And GOD is angry with them because they were ruling unjustly, so He told them they would die just like men.
Over time, GOD revealed that these various judgments would happen at the same timeframe. The Prophets often referred to this judgment day as "the day of the LORD."
Now that we are aware that GOD's heavenly creatures were referred to by multiple descriptions (ex: "sun, moon and stars," "heavenly hosts," "sons of God," "gods"), we can better understand these judgment prophecies.
Here's one example:
9 Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, a day that cannot be averted, a day of anger and wrath, to make all the inhabited world a desert, and to destroy the sinners from it. 10 For the stars of heaven and Orion and all the ornament of heaven will not give their light. It will be dark when the sun goes forth, and the moon will not give its light. 11 “I will command evils for all the inhabited world and the ungodly because of their sins, and I will destroy the insolence of the lawless and humble the haughtiness of the arrogant.
(Isa. 13:9-11 OSB)
When a prophet wrote about stars going out or darkness in the heavens, these are references to GOD's judgment upon specific wicked angels who ruled over the nations. But we'd never understand this without the realization of what "the heavens" means in Scripture.
When we put all of this together, we see that "the day of the Lord" was a day when everyone would be judged and rewarded accordingly—the righteous and wicked, human and angel, Jew and Gentile.
GOD gave the Prophets signs to watch for which would reveal that the LORD's day (of judgment) was near.
For example, Joel wrote:
3 “After this it shall come to pass that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; your sons and 4 daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. 2 And in those days I shall pour out My Spirit on My servants and on My handmaids. 3 And I shall give wonders in the heavens and upon the earth, blood and fire and vapor of smoke. 4 The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes to pass. 5 And it shall be that whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved, for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord Himself said, and there shall be proclamation of the good news to those whom the Lord Himself called.
(Joel 3:1-5 [2:28-32] OSB)
Joel's entire written prophecy concerned this judgment. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit, the visions and signs, as well as darkness of the sun and moon were all evidence that the day of the LORD was near.
Elsewhere, another sign of the judgment's nearness was the coming of the "messenger," the Elijah, who would prepare the way of the LORD before the judgment (see Mal. 1-4; Isa. 40). The Gospels affirm that this was John the Baptist.
Like GOD's original covenant with Israel, this second world was never intended to exist forever. It was merely a placeholder.
The Prophets prophesied that a King would come from Israel who would end this second world by conquering His enemies and replace it with an eternal rule—a third world.
1 Why do the nations rage,
And the people meditate on vain things?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers gather together
Against the Lord and against His anointed, saying,
3 “Let us break their bands,
And cast away their yokes from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens shall laugh at them;
The Lord shall mock them.
5 Then shall He speak to them in His wrath
And trouble them in His anger,
6 “But I was established as King by Him
Over His holy hill of Zion,
Declaring the Lord's decree.
7 The Lord said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You;
8 Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance
And the ends of the earth for Your possession.
9 You shall shepherd them with an iron staff;
You shall shatter them like a potter's vessel.’ ”
10 And now , O kings, understand;
Be instructed, all you judges of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
And rejoice in Him with trembling.
12 Lay hold of His instruction, lest the Lord be angry,
And you perish from the righteous way
When His fury shall be quickly kindled.
Blessed are all w ho trust in Him.
(Psalm 2:1-12 OSB)
27 Then the kingdom, the authority, and the greatness of the kingdoms under heaven shall be given to the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.”
(Dan. 7:27 OSB)
The angelic rule during this second world would be taken from them, at the judgment, and given to this eternal King, Jesus.
The nature of this second world seems to have been universally understood by Scripture's writers. But today it seems that nobody knows about the order of the second world (largely because we've used the wrong Old Testament which masks these truths).
Understanding the nature of the second world helps us much better appreciate the writer's argument in Hebrews 1-2. Here are the first few verses: (This is powerful!)
1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
(Heb. 1:1-4 NIV)
So, the Hebrew writer is saying, "Look, we all know the word of GOD used to be delivered by prophets and through angels (see Heb. 2:2), but now the very Son of GOD has spoken. He's infinitely greater than the angels!"
And then the writer points ahead to the third world:
5 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6 But there is a place where someone has testified:
“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
a son of man that you care for him?
7 You made them a little lower than the angels;
you crowned them with glory and honor
8 and put everything under their feet.”
In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. 9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
(Heb. 2:5-9 NIV)
The above verses become clearer still when we look up the OT passage being quoted, Psalm 8:
5 What is man that You remember him,
Or the son of man that You visit him?
6 You made him a little lower than the angels;
You crowned him with glory and honor.
7 You set him over the works of Your hands;
You subjected all things under his feet,
(Psalm 8:5-7 OSB)
In the Psalm, the pronouns are singular. The Hebrew writer was making the case that Psalm 8 was referring to Jesus (similar to Paul's discussion of Christ as the second Adam).
Yes, the then-awaited third world would be subject to Jesus, not to angels. Jesus rules the third world.
But what is this third world, exactly?
The Prophets called this third world "the new heavens and the new earth."
In this new heavens and new earth, we see all the themes we've discussed come together in a single beautiful vision.
1 “I was manifest to those who did not seek Me; I was found by those who did not ask for Me. I said, ‘Behold, I am here,’ to a nation that did not call on My name. 2 I stretched out My hands the whole day long to a people who disobeyed and contradicted Me, who did not walk in the true way, but after their sins. 3 This is a people who provoke Me continually to My face. They sacrifice in gardens and burn incense on bricks to the demons … 6 Behold, it is written before Me: I will not be silent,” says the Lord, “until I repay into their bosom their sins and the sins of their fathers, 7 who burned incense on the mountains and reproached Me on the hills. I will repay their works into their bosom.”
8 Thus says the Lord: “As the grape shall be found in a cluster, and they shall say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing from the Lord in it,’ so shall I do for the sake of him who serves Me. For his sake I will not destroy them all. 9 I will bring forth the seed of Jacob and the seed of Judah, and they shall inherit My holy mountain. My elect shall inherit it, and My servants shall dwell there. 10 There shall be in the forest a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor shall be for the resting place of herds for My people who sought Me. 11 But you are those who forsook Me, and forget My holy mountain, and prepare a table for the devil, and fill a drink-offering to Fortune. 12 I will deliver you to the sword, and all of you shall fall in the slaughter; because I called you, but you did not obey; I spoke, but you refused to listen. You did evil in My sight, and did not choose the things I willed.”
13 Therefore, thus says the Lord: “Behold, My servants shall eat, but you shall hunger. Behold, My servants shall drink, but you shall thirst. Behold, My servants shall be glad, but you shall be ashamed. 14 Behold, My servants shall rejoice exceedingly in gladness, but you shall cry out because of the pain in your heart; and you shall wail from the crushing of your spirit. 15 For you shall leave your name as an example of excess to My elect, and the Lord shall destroy you. But those who serve Him shall be called by a new name, 16 which shall be blessed upon the earth. For they shall bless the true God, and those who swear upon the earth shall swear by the true God; for they shall forget their former tribulation, and it shall not come into their heart.
17 “For there shall be a new heaven and a new earth, and they shall not remember the former things, nor shall these things come into their heart. 18 But they shall find gladness and exceeding joy in her, for behold, I will make Jerusalem an exceeding joy, and My people gladness. 19 I will rejoice exceedingly in Jerusalem, and I will be glad in My people. There shall no longer be heard in her a voice of weeping, nor a voice of crying. 20 There shall not be the untimely death of a child there, nor shall there be an old man who does not fulfill his time. For a young man shall be a hundred years old, but a sinner who dies at a hundred years old shall be cursed. 21 They shall build houses and dwell in them; and they shall plant vineyards and eat their produce. 22 But they shall not build, and others inhabit; and they shall not plant, and others eat. For according to the days of the tree of life, so shall be the days of My people, and the works of their labors shall not grow old. 23 My elect shall not labor in vain, nor shall they bear children to be a curse; for they are a seed blessed by God; and their offspring shall be with them. 24 It shall be, before they cry out, I will listen to them; while they are still speaking, I will say, ‘What is it?’ 25 The wolves and lambs shall feed together, and the lion, like the ox, shall eat chaff; and the serpent, the ground as bread. They shall not injure, neither destroy in My holy mountain,” says the Lord.
(Isa. 65:1-25 OSB)
(For "bonus context," continue reading Isaiah 66 in the Septuagint. It's incredible!)
Many people get confused because they've been misinformed about this new heavens and new earth. I aim to help people understand more accurately, just as I too have been helped.
So let's break down this prophecy from Isa. 65...
- Those who didn't seek GOD but found Him in v1 are the Gentile Christians and the disobedient people of v2 were the rebellious Israelites (see Rom. 10:12-21). Paul's application of these statements in Rom. 10 informs us that the fulfillment of this prophecy was during the first century timeframe.
- GOD didn't destroy all of Israel because there were some righteous therein ("My servants"). The new name of those who serve GOD (v15) is, of course, Christians.
- The blessing of "the true God" (v16) is important because it contrasts how ancient Israel—and the Gentile nations—blessed the name of other gods (demons, per v3).
- Now look at the description of life under this new heaven and earth:
- People won't remember the former things. I believe "the former things" is a reference to how the second world worked, including the old covenant. This is certainly true; people don't remember any of that stuff these days.
- Jerusalem refers, not to the physical city, but to the New Jerusalem (which is new because it's a part of the new earth / land, that is, a spiritual or heavenly land, spiritual Israel).
- Weeping isn't heard inside New Jerusalem because no enemy or sin lives there (spiritual city, remember). In the new Jerusalem, Christians enjoy perfect harmony with GOD, no longer separated by walls of abstraction because Jesus' blood atones for us and allows us to live in the very presence of GOD.
- Physical death still exists in this life, but life goes on after physical death, because life is now eternal. Death has been destroyed.
- The citizens enjoy the fruits of their labors, no longer to be stripped away and raided. (Under the second world—and old covenant—a righteous child of GOD often still suffered punishment on behalf of the majority of the nation being wicked. Not so under the new covenant.)
- The elect, the seed blessed by GOD, are the children of Abraham (by faith, per Rom. 9-11).
- Creatures exist in perfect peace and harmony in the new earth. This doesn't refer to just physical peace, but that nobody looks to harm another within this new place. It's comprehensive peace between fellow citizens in this new kingdom.
- People won't remember the former things. I believe "the former things" is a reference to how the second world worked, including the old covenant. This is certainly true; people don't remember any of that stuff these days.
The bottom line: The new heavens and earth is not a synonym for heaven or life after death (to the exclusion of life before physical death, that is). Rather, this new heavens and new earth describes how life works within the kingdom of GOD under the reign of its eternal King, Jesus—both on earth and in heaven.
The Gospel and Coming of the Kingdom
By the arrival of the first century, the second world had existed for thousands of years. Millenia of abuse had the creation groaning for renewal.
As the apostle Paul expressed it:
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
(Rom. 8:18-25 NIV)
Isaiah prophesied 800 years earlier that this would happen:
6 Lift up your eyes to heaven, and look to the earth below, for heaven is solid as smoke, and the earth will grow old like a garment; and the inhabitants of the earth shall die, as do these things.
(Isa. 51:6 OSB; also quoted in Heb. 1:11)
And it is onto this world stage that John the Baptist was thrust.
Anticipation for the long-prophesied judgment and renewal of Israel was great. The faithful remnant of Israel watched carefully for the signs.
Suddenly, the lull was broken like a glass pitcher smashing upon the ground in the middle of the night.
Out of nowhere, the priest Zechariah was visited by an angel and told that his barren wife would bear a son, his name would be John, and this boy would be the Elijah who would prepare the way for the Messiah!
16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
(Luke 1:16-17 NIV)
The angel alluded to Malachi's prophecy. Look deeply at what Malachi said about this Elijah:
1 “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come into His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, whom you desire. Behold, He is coming,” says the Lord Almighty. 2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can withstand His appearance? For He enters like a refiner's fire and as soap in one's wash. 3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver and gold. He will purify the sons of Levi and pour them out as purified gold and silver, and they will bring an offering to the Lord in righteousness. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord, as in the days of old, as in former years.
5 “And I will draw near to you in judgment, a swift witness against sorcerers, adulterers, those who swear falsely by My name, those who exploit wage-earners, those who oppress widows and afflict orphans, those who pervert the justice due foreigners, and those who do not fear Me,” says the Lord Almighty.
(Mal. 3:1-5 OSB)
John the Baptist's mission was to prepare Israel for the judgment of Jesus—the second coming of the Messiah (not the first)!
This is why the first recorded words of John's mouth were:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
(Matt. 3:2b NIV)
Mark began his gospel account by writing:
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in the Prophets:
“Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.”
3 “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.’ ”
(Mark 1:1-3 NKJV)
Everybody talks about "the gospel" but nobody seems to understand what "the gospel" really meant—what the good news was (for those to whom it first came!).
Why did John call for Israel to repent?
Because the kingdom of heaven was at hand (near; at the door).
The coming of the kingdom is totally misunderstood.
Some Scriptures point towards a (then-)future coming of the kingdom. Here's one example from Jesus:
1 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
(Mark 9:1 NIV)
But other passages clearly state that the kingdom was already in existence:
11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.
(Matt. 11:11-13 NIV)
If the kingdom already existed prior to the cross, what then does Scripture mean when it speaks of the coming of the kingdom?
The answer: The coming of the kingdom of heaven referred to the judgment (and elimination) of the second world—wicked physical Israel, the wicked Gentile nations and the evil angels who ruled.
The coming of the kingdom represented the establishment of Jesus' rule (in place of those wicked angels) over the Gentile nations and Israel—spiritual Israel, that is, Jesus' church.
Thus, the gospel (good news) was that it was time for the second world to end! The Messiah was here and He would soon reign over the new, third world order! And His reign would be eternal.
So, when John the Baptist was called to prepare the way of the LORD, look at what Isaiah had prophesied:
1 “Comfort, yes, comfort My people,” says God. 2 “O priests, speak to the heart of Jerusalem, comfort her, for her humiliation is ended, her sin is pardoned; for she received from the Lord's hand double for her sins.” 3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight the paths of our God. 4 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill humbled; the crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough places into plains. 5 The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God; for the Lord has spoken.”
(Isa. 40:1-5 OSB)
In that prophecy, Isaiah spoke from a futuristic perspective (as he did in Isa. 53 regarding Jesus' crucifixion), as though he were looking back on what had happened. As Malachi prophesied, John was the last hope for Israel to repent before those terrible things recorded in the Song of Moses would come to pass!
The path for the Messiah (in judgment) would be smooth because GOD would have exhausted every means possible of converting Israel from its wickedness.
When John was imprisoned, Jesus picked up where John left off, preaching the same message.
14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
(Mark 1:14-15 NKJV)
After Jesus ascended, the gospel of the kingdom became the apostles' message, as well. The historical account of Acts ends with these words:
30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!
(Acts 28:30-31 NIV)
|More info: Re-Thinking the Kingdom of Heaven|
Recreation of All Things
So, in the beginning, GOD created the heavens and the earth. That is, GOD created heavenly (spiritual) beings and fleshly earthly beings (humans).
In the beginning, GOD delegated specific authority (rule and freedom of choice) to both races, heavenly and human. And both chose rebellion, rejecting GOD's blessings in the dissatisfied quest for something perceived to be greater than what GOD had given.
In their rebellion, both the rebellious angels and humans became sinful. They corrupted GOD's creation.
Upon angels, who stood in the very presence of GOD, GOD did not extend mercy (see Heb. 2:16). But to humans, GOD chose to be merciful, in part because of our weakness.
Before time, in His eternal plan, GOD foreknew these rebellions. And He chose to become a human in order to save humans.
GOD looked forward in time and He saw individuals who would choose to love and follow Him. And He predestined these people—those who would choose Him—to adoption as sonship. Paul wrote:
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
(Rom. 8:28-30 NKJV)
Now, look closer at what this means, friends. Knowing what we now know about the delegated authority, angels as "the sons of God," and the second world, look at exactly what Scripture says that GOD did:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.
6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
(Eph. 1:3-10; 2:6-7 NKJV)
What GOD did—what GOD continues to do with the called in each generation—is He elevates us from our lowly physical dust-clod human state up to being an adopted son of GOD!
And, from earlier, what were "the sons of GOD" in the Old Testament? Angels! GOD's heavenly creation.
Instead, in the Lord Jesus, GOD elevates His chosen up to having every blessing of the heavenly places. GOD elevates us, by His own work and power, to the stature that Eve attempted to grasp when she took the fruit—to become like an elohim (a god; a heavenly creature)!
The apostle John, in his latter years, marveled in pen over this great gift:
1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
(1 John 3:1a NIV)
- In the first century, when the New Testament Scriptures were written, the second world was wearing out like a garment. The new heavens and the new earth, under the reign of Jesus, were at the doorstep.
- The renewal of Israel, with its new covenant, were unlike the first covenant and first nation. Under the new covenant (and reign of Jesus), an Israelite was one who had the faith of Abraham (see Rom. 9:6-8).
- But the new earth (that is, the new land of Israel, the literal promised land given to Abraham and His descendants), with its capital city of New Jerusalem, is not a physical earthly land. It is a heavenly land.
How then, does a physical human go from being a sinner to a citizen of this new heavenly Israel?
In short, they die.
Paul taught most elegantly about this transition. He called it "the new man."
The fleshly human body is ruled by sin because we are weak and give in to temptation and the path of least resistance (see Rom. 6:6). For this reason, a rebirth is necessary in order to transition from a body ruled by sin to a body ruled by Jesus.
The transition from old man to new man, sinner to saint, is the biblical purpose of Christian baptism.
By faith, the believer goes into the water ruled by sin. Immersed under the water, there the believer contacts the cleansing blood of Jesus and is washed clean. Raised, the believer is now a new creature, a citizen of spiritual Israel.
From that point forward, the new faithful Christian lives eternally in the new land of Israel, in its capital, New Jerusalem.
Therefore, by faith, water baptism is the bridge by which the believer crosses the border into the kingdom of Jesus as a citizen, an heir.
By faith, baptism transfers the human from being merely a dead, physical man into a new, living spiritual man, recreated in the image of Jesus.
Oh that leaders within the visible church would understand, practice and teach biblical baptism! Instead, they ascribe a shallow, meaningless purpose to it and leave people mistakenly standing on the border of the kingdom without ever entering. Sad!
Recreated, the new man has different priorities and behaviors.
… you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
(Eph. 4:17b-23 NKJV)
5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.
12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
(Col. 3:5-13 NASB)
The mission of the apostles was to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom and to make disciples everywhere, leading them to Jesus whereby He, through faith and baptism, would recreate them, citizens of the new kingdom.
But the kingdom had not yet come in judgment. Not yet.
The Arrival of the Third World
At the dawn of the first century, every Jew, it seems, was interested in the coming of the kingdom of heaven. Unfortunately, most misunderstood it then just as they do now.
One time, Jesus was asked about the coming of the kingdom:
20 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
22 Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. 23 People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. 24 For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
26 “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.
28 “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29 But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.
30 “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.
(Luke 17:20-30 NIV)
The apostles and New Testament writers understood from the signs and Jesus' teaching that they were living in "the last days."
Peter mentioned this when he began his sermon on Pentecost after Jesus' ascension:
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
(Acts 2:14-17a NIV)
Did you know: The phrase "the last days" is used throughout the Bible but it is never explicitly defined. The New Testament writers all assume that the reader knew what the phrase meant. Throughout the centuries, most Christians have believed and taught that "the last days" referred to the time before the universe would be destroyed.
This is not the case, however.
The last days, in Scripture, referred to the period of time before the second world would be destroyed and its inhabitants, both human and heavenly, would be judged at the great Day of the LORD.
All of the apostles and New Testament writers knew this. There are so many New Testament references to Jesus' second coming, the great judgment, resurrection and the establishment of the new heavens and earth (the third world) being imminent.
Here are a few examples:
8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
(Jam. 5:8-9 NIV)
23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Thess. 5:23 NIV)
4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
5 All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
(2 Thess. 1:4-10 NIV)
Based on the internal evidence, I am convinced that all of the Scriptures were written under the second world order. Even the latest New Testament writings point forward to the third world as a future arrival, albeit one that was imminent.
Revelation, the final book in our Bible's arrangement and one of the last Scriptural texts to be written, is the vision given to John of the fulfillment of all then-yet-to-be-fulfilled prophecies. The number of allusions and references to, as well as direct quotations of Old Testament prophecies is in the hundreds. In other words, this vision is directly related to those past Scriptures.
And how does John begin writing this vision?
To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
7 “Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
9 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet,
(Rev. 1:4-10 NIV)
For most of the past 2,000 years since Revelation was written, most Christians have believed that "the Lord's Day" was a reference to Sunday, the day Jesus arose. I emphatically disagree.
In Greek, the text correctly reads, "I became in spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard sound behind me a great, as a trumpet, …"
John was saying that the vision he was seeing was OF the Day of the LORD … you know, that long-prophesied day of judgment when GOD would end the second world order and judge the living and the dead, both human and heavenly.
In other words, that statement meant, "I am seeing what the Prophets foretold would happen on the Day of the LORD."
The internal evidence within Revelation clearly points to:
- Near-term fulfillment — note how often the text mentions "soon," including multiple statements by Jesus
- Judgment upon Jerusalem — consistent with the Song of Moses and the Old Testament prophecies referencing the end of physical Israel and the old covenant
- Jesus overthrowing the kingdoms of the (second) world and reigning over them Himself—remember: those kingdoms were ruled by demons, the rebellious angels who enticed their human subjects into idolatry and wickedness (see Rev. 11:15-18)
- The judgment and punishment of Satan in hell (see 20:7-10)
- The mass resurrection and judgment of the second world (see 20:11-15)
- The arrival of the new heavens and the new earth (see 21-22)
Shortly after Revelation was written, the second world was overthrown and judged. The dead were raised and judged and Death was destroyed and cast into hell (see Rev. 20:14).
The destruction of Death meant, not that humans would no longer experience physical death, but that, at their physical death, their spirit would no longer be separated from their body.
Rather, it seems that, under the third world order (which took effect soon after Revelation was written in the latter half of the first century), at death, the Christian would be immediately transformed into their new immortal body and rise to meet the Lord Jesus in the air, as Paul said in 1 Thess. 4:17.
When the new heavens and new earth is seen in John's vision (Rev. 21), note how it is described.
- The holy city
- Coming out of heaven (so it isn't heaven itself)
- As a beautifully-dressed bride ready for her wedding
- GOD's dwelling place
- Located upon a great and high mountain
- Shining with the glory of GOD, like precious jewels
You get the idea.
Each of these descriptions are referenced throughout Old Testament prophecy (especially Isa. 65-66).
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
(Rev. 21:22-27 NIV)
The Bible story concludes with GOD's replacement of the original delegated authority (to the sun, moon and stars) with the recreation of all things, which we now enjoy and will forever more, even after physical death.
With the arrival of the new heavens and new earth, the third world, the story of the Bible is complete. GOD's eternal plan has become reality. And now this new, recreated order will stand eternally. One hundred thousand years into the future, the third world will exist just as it is today.
What a tremendous blessing and privilege it is to be born a human under the reign of Jesus. Life here on earth continues to improve for everyone, which is a testament to the fact that Jesus reigns over all kingdoms of the earth.
That, my friends, is the story of the Bible, unlike anything you've heard before! Amen.
|More info: Re-thinking the Real Big Picture of Scripture|