The transition from the Old to New
We are well into explaining if the two references to “heaven and earth”, in Revelation. 20:11 and Revelation. 21:1 is the same, and we began deciphering the intentions of using different words as “fled” and “passing” in these passages.
Revelation 20:11., is not written to indicate the nature of the event itself alone, but more to express majesty and power of God that brought these things to escape. In opposite to Rev. 20:11, Rev. 21:1 have a total different and obvious reference to just a nature of a particular event.
God is obvious here in Rev. 21:1-5 too, where He is identified as the Enthroned One, God the creator. But the purpose of language “passed away” in the sentence, “… the first heaven and the first earth were passed away” (Rev. 21:1), is not written to make a identity to him, in the opposit to Rev. 20:1. In the section of Revelation. 21:1-5 we read:
«Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.» (Rev. 21:1-5 NASB).
Among other things, this section describes the results of a historical event. This historic event is the fact that the Old Covenant “heaven and earth” gives way for the new covenant “new heaven and new earth.” The old creation “heaven and earth” gives way to the arrival of the new creation “new heaven and new earth.” The complex of the new heaven and the new earth is also called “The New Jerusalem”, which is the bride – the city – God’s dwelling or “church” as we often say.
“Passed away” [apelthan] refers here to turn away from the Old Covenant Order. The old covenant order passes away for good, to never come back, and was replaced by the New Covenant Order. This shift began with the incarnation of Christ and end in His ascension and His seated at the right hand of God. The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD, was the term for the final demise of the old order/covenant.
If we look closer to the prophecy, or the predictions that Jesus gave about the destruction of the Temple, (and also Peters repetition of this prophecy), the link will become clearer to us. Jesus warned in Matthew 24:1-2 destruction as follows:
«Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.»
Jesus describe this event, that not one stone here will be left upon another. But He describes also the time and trials that led up to this special event, and then He adds: “Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words will never pass away. “(Matthew 24:34-5).
Jesus foretold thus the destruction of Jerusalem in the generation that belonged to his audience and the time they lived in, and the destruction as we know happened in AD 70. The expression He say, – “Heaven and earth shall pass away” – is in this case just only an hint, but I think it is still a very strong indicator of some of the sights in relation to Revelation 21:1-4. And more, He uses a very close Greek words, not” pheugo” as in Rev. 20:11, but a version of “parerchomai” which is a close relative of “aperchomai” in Revelation. 21:1 (cf. Mark 13:31;. Luk. 21:32-3).
Revelation 21 and parts of 22 gives us an idealized image of the heavenly pattern of the new covenant order and perfection that it holds for the believers.
We could better read verse 1 [Revelation 20:1] this way: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away.” You may ask if this is possible to change the translation this way? Yes, this is possible and many do it, because it’s within the normal meaning of [protos]. If we look at the following vers 4, have the English translations bring this usual translation of [protos] this way: “for the former [prota] things are passed away”. We now discover that this interpretation of [protos] fits very well.
Revelation. 21:1 introduce to us a new creation theme, too. This new creation theme is the new Jerusalem, and is another reference to the church. For Paul tells us in Galatians 4:26: “But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.” Contrast to this is the earthly Jerusalem, a Jerusalem who were in bondage to the old covenant, and that would soon be destroyed, or “thrown out”, according to Paul’s allegory (Gal 4:21-31).
«Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear; Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor; For more numerous are the children of the desolate than of the one who has A husband.” And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.” So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.» (Gal. 4:21-23).
Indeed, it is precisely this “Jerusalem above” we meet again in Revelation 21, for this “new Jerusalem” was above, but descended «down out of heaven from God.»
The image is been made sumptuous in Hebrews, where the writer is to end his positive Christian arguments against the old covenant system by telling the Saints;
«But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.» (Heb. 12:22-24).
Clearly, this new Jerusalem is indeed the New Covenant church. We have also recorded the justice who live in this new creation that houses “the righteous made perfect.”
The connection between the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21, and the body of Christ New Testament / new temple is also shown in the following texts:
«So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation [themelio] of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone» (Ef. 219-20).
«And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones [themelious], and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.» (Rev. 21:14).
We know, without arguments, that these foundation stones, or this foundation are the apostles, and who have only one superstructure erected on it. Therefor I think we also must assume that there is an important organic connection between the New Testament “Temple of the Lord. . . habitation of God” in Ephesians 2 and “The New Jerusalem. . . habitation of God” in Revelation 21.
In short, “passed away” of the former heaven and earth in Revelation 21:1 refer to a covenant judgment, foretold by Jesus in Matthew 24 and was expected of the future generation of Christians (2 Peter. 3:10, Hebrews 8: 13).
The sum is, the references of “passings” of heaven and earth, mentioned in Revelation. 20:11 and 21:1, are not referred to the same event.
As we’ve been through, they have a different semantic background and they perform different functions in different contexts in which they occur. While they obviously take part in the creation of the same image, they do so in significantly different purposes.
Of course, this doesn’t mean or are to hindrance that the events described in these two sections would have happened at the same time. But there had to be more evidence, more than just a similarity on the surface who refers to the passing of heaven and earth, if it was to have happened at the same time. The only evidence we can see is to the great white throne judgment, happened in 70 AD (who made the transition from the old to the new covenant).
To not be totally misunderstood, which happens quite often when I discuss this, is that I I’m sure there will be a final judgment day when all the dead will be resurrected to stand before the throne of our Creator, for Whose impressive judgment, all the fallen creation have to flee and seek refuge, and outside His grace, it will not be found any place.
This is the same final judgment described by Jesus in John 5:
«Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.» (Joh. 5:25-29).
And again in John 6:
«This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day… Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day… He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.» (Joh.6: 39-40, 43-44, 54).
These general judgments and resurrections take place on the last day (parallels to Revelation 20:11-15), and not by the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant (described in Revelation 21:1 ff.) For these two events are separated by a large time gap.
The summary is then, that the two “passings” of heaven and earth, described in Revelation 21:1 and 20:11, are different in nature, the purpose, identity and time.
Bible quotes is from NASB