Passing Away of Heaven and Earth Pt.1

peanuts-theologyIn my quest to show what the Bible tells us in different contexts and places in the Bible, it has been almost impossible for me to avoid some theological terms and interpretation. Some people think I might have been too theological and the translations from Greek / Latin a bit hard to catch etc. I admit it myself, theology and translations of some Greek, Latin and Hebrew words have been used, but it is not easy to avoid it if one like to make explanations of words, images and contexts elsewhere in the Bible.

For those who might think I am trained in both latin and / or greek, or have some theological education, I can tell you right away that I have none of this and I am probably not any better than you in this things. What I can tell you that I do, is reading, not only the Bible but also some books, articles, blogs and notes, some have theological content and maybe that’s why it is so with my blog too. But please, excuse me while I’ll try to make it easier for you to read the blog … yes, with reservation to when I need to elaborate on things more :), otherwise it will just be the plain text from the Bible that you can read yourself in the Bible.

In my previous posts, I promised to explain more on Revelation 20:11 and 21:1, when it respectively clearly says that “earth and heaven fled from his presence,” and that a “new heaven and a new earth” will appear. Uups!…  I’m back to be theologically again, and to translate some Greek words to explain what its meant in these passages.

Would you still hang on with me? even if it gets theological here too? If you like and want to go a bit deeper in these passages and also wish to experience what theology and interpretation in relation to what the author think, and in the imagery elsewhere in the Bible, can do for you, I encourage you to take time for this here and have the Bible verses opened in front of you … have entire Bible there ready to use.

Back to Revelation 20:11 and 21:1. It may seem natural to think straight forward, like it seem on the surface it looks like it says: that the earth that we live on today and the heaven above us will disappear and be replaced by a new clean earth that we can live on and a new heaven that we can gaze over us. But let us ask a few other questions too. Do these two paragraphs of “Heaven and Earth” cary the same identity? Do this two section refers to the same event?

The question may sound trivial but has a great importance. As said, these pictures can seems to be the same on the surface in both cases. In this way it’s easy to draw a connection between them, also about identity. If this were to be the case that these images, in both cases, is the same, then the other contextual / coherent events in both passages must carry on similar conditions, if not the same conditions. This is where the big problem opens:

Let me give you a example. In Revelation 20:11, the “Great White Throne” judgment opens and in Revelation 21:1 is about the “new heaven and new earth” which is the “New Jerusalem.” Then we add that I personally believe that Revelation 21 was the beginning in the first century – year 70 AD and describes an idealized perspective of the church.

Personal I also believe that the old Jerusalem went away and the New Jerusalem has come, but this involves a large potential problem: If “flee” of “heaven and earth” in these two sections are the same, and “passed away” of heaven and earth in Revelation 21:1 occurred in AD 70, as I also believe, then the “Great White Throne” judgment must also have occurred in AD 70. But in spite of this I believe that the final judgment (the “Great White Throne” judgment) is still in the future. The argument then is that either I have wrong in this belief or I am inconsistent in my interpretation.

The argument sounds ok, but I think its still weak. The argument assumes that heaven and earth literally passed away, disappeared and are no more. The meaning of “passing”  in these two paragraphs are not related in the same way as the argument presupposes, therefore, the argument is built on this assumption is greatly weakened.

I will now do a bit theological work and also translate words from Greek, but I hope it not will be too difficult, stay tuned for this is needed to be able to bring us into what really goes on in these images in Revelation. So let’s first take a look at the references to the word “fled away” (ESV/KJV).

References to “fled away” 

If  we ask whether there is a correlation between these two references to a “fled away” of “heaven and earth”, we can answer both, yes and no. Confusing? I guess so, but we will find the right connections. These sections have only a few similarities in the semantics (the study of meaning) and images.

The semantic relationship is both directly and indirectly. Both sections refer directly to “heaven” and “earth”, and both represented as a pair. Both sections also mentions a form of “fly away” of heaven and earth. Revelation 20:11 speaks of heaven and earth “flee”, Revelation 21:1 refers to them to have “gone away.” These details are presented in both sections an have indirectly semantic similarity.

Likewise is it in the imagery relationship. It both takes part of the same image from the biblical creation. “Heaven and Earth” is obviously taken, both as a subject and as a reality from Genesis 1. In short, God is the creator and heaven and earth are His creation. Creation is subject to the Creator and His will. Creation is also totally separated from Him in nature.

creation001We can see that God resumes the imagery of “creation” quite often throughout Scripture to describe to us various events. For example, the restoration of his people from captivity (Isa. 51:15-16). This usage throughout the Scripture is much broader than just this, but for the most part, this applies of the epic work that God is doing for His covenant people. When we look at these cases, to “do” something new, restore, or “do” something more glorified than before, be linked with the basic miracles from God’s original creation out of nothing. It is the same “tools”, the same effect and the same trend in all of them. Deliverance and glorification are always new creations of God and are never work of men’s hands.

The same way is the case when God intervenes in judgment. Then he uses often a language of destruction or “de-creation” to describe this. He regrets His creation, lets the star fall, the sun and moon darkened, gardens and paradises turned to deserts and wilderness areas, rivers dry up or flood flooding the dry land as it had previously been separated from. This type of symbolism is quite common in Scripture, such as in Isa. 13:9-10, Jer. 4:23-6, Ezek. 32:7-8, Ezek. 34:4-5, Matt. 24: 29, just to name a few.

We see that these ideas of creation and “de-creation”, comes into play in different ways in both of this Revelation sections, both taking part in the same language of creation and imagery that many times it’s used in Scripture to denote God’s grand acts.

However, the differences must also be noted and now we will also translate some Greek words and interpret them.

To begin with, the language is not at all the same in terms of an actual flee. Revelation 20:11 says «the earth and the heaven “fled away”». The verb here is ephugen (from pheugo).

[Pheugo] is a fairly common word and its been used about 279 times throughout the New Testament and the Old Testament (LXX). Almost always have the typical meaning of [Pheugo] been to “run away” or “retreat” or “escape” in the sense of getting away from an imminent threat. The English word “fugitive” we got from pheugo.

For example, the word in Genesis 39:12, 13, and 15 (LXX) is used to describe Joseph fleeing from Potiphar’s wife. The Exodus is also described with the same word (Ex. 14:5). David fled from Saul who wanted to kill him (1. Sam. 19:18), Ahaziah fled from Jehu (2 Ki. 9:27), God’s enemies in general fled (Ps. 68:1; Ecc. 28:1 ), Jonah fled from the presence of God (Jon. 1:3) and the family of Jesus fled from Herod (Matt. 2:13). The persecuted disciples left the city (Matt. 10:23, 24:16) and fearful disciples was spread after Jesus’ crucifixion (Matt. 26:56). The list is long but the word is still consistent in meaning.

Revelation 21:1 on the other side says: “the first earth were passed away”. The verb here is [apelthan]. This word is used 346 times but is nowhere near its consequence. The word usually means “pass” or “pass away” but have different shades of opinions such as “pass” (at the moment), “going out” or “leave” (from one place to another place or on the road), or pass away for good and then never return. (In Rev. 10:9 it refers also to John when he “went to the angel” rather than depart from or pass).

In Revelation 21:1, the emphasis is on the importance of pass away for good, never to come back. How can we say that? We see it clearly in the same use of the word apelthan and the new heaven and the new earth symbolism in the following verse 4: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither will mourning nor crying or pain be anymore, for the former things are passed away – [apelthan].

I have touch the understanding that things have pass away in a comments in earlier post. But in that comment it was about whether we have the “no need of sun or moon to shine on it (the city), for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:23). As saved and born again, I do not need, neither sun nor moon to be light in my life, but the Lamb. Likewise God “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4)

Death? That is the sting Jesus triumphed over for us (1. Cor. 15:56-57) and those who believe in Him, “has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (Joh. 5:24). We “may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1. Th. 4:13), which he promised in the beatitude by saying, ““Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”(Mat. 5:4). These are things that have pass away at salvation and the passing from death to life. I guess this song says a much about it.

Happiness is to know the Savior,
Living a life within His favor
Having a change in my behavior,
Happiness is the Lord

Happiness is a new creation,
Jesus and me in close relation
Having a part in His salvation,
Happiness is the Lord

Real joy is mine,
 no matter if teardrops start
I’ve found the secret
It’s Jesus in my heart
Happiness is to be forgiven,
 Living a life that’s worth the livin’
Taking a trip that leads to heaven,
Happiness is the Lord.

You can hear the song here

But the inequality in the verses we are working with, does not in itself mean that they are talking about two different things, but I feel to bring it out as many like to say – without qualification – that both cases is to “pass away” or they use the term without notice the actual words in Revelation 20:11 (“fled”) while they suppose it is the same. I think it is still appropriate to note this apparent difference and explain it, and then move on. I have not yet seen this form dispensationalist been done.

Personally I don’t think the difference is only a multitude of synonyms, but I think the various words ([pheugo] and [apelthan]) is used because the references to “heaven and earth” here is used for different purposes. The different words carry different emphases, different terms and are supported by the different purposes. But what are these purposes?

I think I have to divide this into few more posts so this not get too long, and we can take a breath. I let you wait for the next post for the answer.

But what do you think so far?

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