Relevant Verses: Isaia 65:17-18; 66:22-23; Rev. 21:1-5
Leading Question: Our title suggests a clean slate. But is that actually possible? Can we actually understand salvation if we have no memory of what we have been saved from.
Comment: Many things about the transition from old to new we cannot understand. What stands outmost vividly in the OT view is the continuance of death. There will still be death – but no premature death. And we should note that the new heaven and new earth is viewed as something that happens on earth. Three passages are particularly important, two from the OT (Isaiah 65:17-25, Isaiah 66: 22, 23) and Revelation 21:1-5 from the NT:
Isa. 65:17-25 (NRSV): 17 For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating, for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy and its people as a delight. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it or the cry of distress. 20 No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days or an old person who does not live out a lifetime, for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. 21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat, for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord— and their descendants as well. 24 Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.
Isa. 66:22, 23 (NRSV): For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your descendants and your name remain. 23 From new moon to new moon and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, says the Lord.
Rev. 21:1-5 (NRSV): “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and be their God; 4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
Not only differences between OT and NT, but between differing passages in the NT
For those who have a hard time imagining the worship of God without a place, Revelation 7:9-15 is for them. But those of a more abstract bent can point to Revelation 21:22 where John speaks of seeing “no temple.”
Rev. 7:9-15 (NRSV): After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne and to the Lamb!”
11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 singing,
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one who knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 For this reason they are before the throne of God
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
Rev. 21:22-27 (NRSV): I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Seeing God Without Fear or Guilt
At least two passages in Scripture indicate that sinful humans cannot see God:
1 Tim. 6:16 (NRSV): “It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”
Exod. 33:18-23 (NRSV): “Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord,’ and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one shall see me and live.” 21 And the Lord continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; 23 then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”
But at least three other passages indicate that men have seen God – but at the same time are haunted by guilt and fear:
Genesis 32:22-32 (NRSV) The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24 Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then the man said, You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, yet my life is preserved.”
Exodus 24:9-11 (NRSV): “Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11 God did not lay his hand on the chief men of the Israelites; they beheld God, and they ate and drank.
Judges 13:21-23 (NIV): 21 When the angel of the Lord did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord.
22 “We are doomed to die!” he said to his wife. “We have seen God!”
23 But his wife answered, “If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this.”
A New World without Death or Tears
Even the OT affirms a world without death:
Isaiah 25:8 (NRSV): He will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
His Name on Our Foreheads
The fact that we belong to God is attested by the promise that his name will be in our foreheads:
Revelation 22:3-5 (NRSV): Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4 they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
Finally, Two Favorite New Earth Passages
C. S. Lewis and Ellen White have each contributed a favorite quotation focusing on the
C. S. Lewis
Letters to Malcolm (pp. 121, 124)
What the soul cries out for is the resurrection of the senses” (p. 121).
Then the new earth and sky, the same yet not the same as these, will rise in us as we have risen in Christ. And once again, after who knows what aeons of the silence and the dark, the birds will sing and the waters flow, and light and shadows move across the hills, and the faces of our friends laugh upon us with amazed recognition.
Guesses, of course, only guesses. If they are not true, something better will be. For ‘we know that we shall be made like Him, for we shall see Him as He is’ [1 Jn. 3:2] (p. 124).
The Great Controversy, 677-678
There the redeemed shall know, even as also they are known. The loves and sympathies which God Himself has planted in the soul shall there find truest and sweetest exercise. The pure communion with holy beings, the harmonious social life with the blessed angels and with the faithful ones of all ages who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, the sacred ties that bind together “the whole family in heaven and earth” (Ephesians 3:15) – these help to constitute the happiness of the redeemed. – GC 677
There, immortal minds will contemplate with never-failing delight the wonders of creative power, the mysteries of redeeming love. There will be no cruel, deceiving foe to tempt to forgetfulness of God. Every faculty will be developed, every capacity increased. The acquirement of knowledge will not weary the mind or exhaust the energies. There the grandest enterprises may be carried forward, the loftiest aspirations reached, the highest ambitions realized; and still there will arise new heights to surmount, new wonders to admire, new truths to comprehend, fresh objects to call forth the powers of mind and soul and body. – GC 677
All the treasures of the universe will be open to the study of God’s redeemed. Unfettered by mortality, they wing their tireless flight to worlds afar – worlds that thrilled with sorrow at the spectacle of human woe and rang with songs of gladness at the tidings of a ransomed soul. With unutterable delight the children of earth enter into the joy and the wisdom of unfallen beings. They share the treasures of knowledge and understanding gained through ages upon ages in contemplation of God’s handiwork. With undimmed vision they gaze upon the glory of creation – suns and stars and systems, all in their appointed order circling the throne [677/678] of Deity. Upon all things, from the least to the greatest, the Creator’s name is written, and in all are the riches of His power displayed. – GC 677/678
And the years of eternity, as they roll, will bring richer and still more glorious revelations of God and of Christ. As knowledge is progressive, so will love, reverence, and happiness increase. The more men learn of God, the greater will be their admiration of His character. As Jesus opens before them the riches of redemption and the amazing achievements in the great controversy with Satan, the hearts of the ransomed thrill with more fervent devotion, and with more rapturous joy they sweep the harps of gold; and ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of voices unite to swell the mighty chorus of praise. – GC 678
And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”– Rev. 5:13. – GC 678
The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their perfect joy, declare that God is love. – GC 678.3