A restoration of the earth, in connection with the first resurrection, is in accordance with the testimony of scripture, and was the opinion of the ancients. We read in Isaiah: "Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind," Isa.65:17.
"As for my opinion," saith R. Menasse, a Jewish Rabbi, "I think that after six thousand years, the world shall be destroyed, upon one certain day, or in one hour; that the arches of heaven shall make a stand as immovable; that there will be no more generation or corruption; and that all things by the resurrection shall be renovated, and return to a better condition." He also assures us that "this, without doubt, is the opinion of the most learned Aben Ezra," who looked for it in the new earth of Isa.65:17.
"Man shall be restored in that time, namely, in the days of the Messiah, to that state in which he was before the first man sinned." -- R. Moses Nachmanides in Duet. § 45.
"Although all things were created perfect, yet when the first man sinned, they were corrupted, and will not again return to their congruous state till PHEREZ (i.e., the MESSIAH) comes." "There are six things which shall be restored to their primitive state, viz.: the splendor of man, his life, the height of his stature, the fruits of the earth, the fruits of the trees, and the luminaries, (the sun, moon, and stars.)" -- R. Berakyah, in the name of R. Samuel -- Bereshith Rabba, Fol.11, Col.3.
"In that time (i.e., of the Messiah) the whole work of creation shall be changed for the better, and shall return into its perfect and pure state, as it was in the time of the first man, before he had sinned." -- R. Becai, in Shilcan Orba, Fol.9, Col.4, p.360.
"Theopompus, who flourished three hundred and forty years B. C., relates that the Persian Magi taught that the present state of things would continue 6000 years; after which hades, or death, would be destroyed, and men would live happy," &c. "The opinion of the ancient Jews, on this head, may be gathered from the statement of one of their Rabbins, who said, 'The world endures 6000 years, and in the thousand, or millennium that follows, the enemies of God would be destroyed.' It was in like manner a tradition of the house of Elias, a holy man, who lived about B. C.200, that the world was to endure 6000 years, and that the righteous, whom God should raise up, would not be turned again into dust. That, by this resurrection, he meant a resurrection prior to the millennium, is manifest from what follows.... It is worthy of remark, that the two ancient authors, whose words have just been quoted, speak of the seventh millennium as 'that day' -- the day in which God will renew the world, and in which he alone shall be exalted." -- Dis. on Mill. by Bishop Russell, Prof. Eccl. Hist. in the Scottish Epis. Ch.
"The Divine institution of a sabbatical, or seventh year's solemnity among the Jews, has a plain typical reference to the seventh chiliad, or millenary of the world, according to the well known tradition among the Jewish doctors, adopted by many in every age of the Christian Church, that this world will attain to its limit at the end of 6000 years." -- Mede.
"The observance of the Sabbath is essential to the faith; for such only as observe the Sabbath confess that the earth will be renewed: because He who created it out of nothing will renew it." -- David Kimchi, on Isa.55:5, quoted by Mede.
"In as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years it is perfected; for if the day of the Lord be as it were a 1000 years, and in six days those things that are made were finished, it is manifest that the perfecting of those things is in the 6000th year, when anti-Christ, reigning 1260 years, shall have wasted all things in the world, ... then shall the Lord come from heaven in the clouds, with the glory of his Father." Irenaeus, Bish. of Lyons, A. D.178.
"In six thousand years, the Lord will bring all things to an end, ... when iniquity shall be no more, all things being renewed by the Lord." -- Epst. of Barnabas, sec.14, 15.
"Let philosophers know, who number thousands of years, ages since the beginning of the world, that the 6000th year is not yet concluded or ended. But that number being fulfilled, of necessity there must be an end, and the state of human things must be transformed into that which is better." -- Lactantius, B. of Divine Inst., A. D.310.
Thomas Burnet (Theory of Earth, Lon.1697) states "that it was the received opinion of the primitive church from the days of the apostles to the council of Nice, that this earth would continue 6000 years, when the resurrection of the just, and conflagration of the earth, would usher in the millennium and reign of Christ on earth."
"God's blessing the Sabbath day, and resting on it from all his works, was a type of that glorious rest that the saints shall have when the six days of this world are fully ended.... He will finish the toil and travail of his saints, with the burden of the beasts and the curse of the ground, and bring all into rest for a thousand years.... None ever saw this world as it was in its first creation but Adam and his wife, neither will any see it until the manifestation of the children of God; i.e., until the redemption or resurrection of the saints." -- John Bunyan's Works, vol.6, pp.301, 329.
"I expect with Paul a reparation of all the evils caused by sin, for which he represents the creatures as groaning and travailing." -- John Calvin, in his "Institutes."
The reformation of the earth "never was, nor yet shall be, till the righteous King and Judge appear for the restoration of all things." -- John Knox.
"The groans of nature in this nether world,
The above are only a few of many extracts which might be made, showing the faith of the church in past ages; but which are of no weight, only as they are in accordance with the harmony of scriptural testimony.
When man sinned, this earth was cursed for his sake. The Lord said to him, "Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return," Gen.3:17-19.
Such was the curse to which the whole creation was subjected because man sinned. "For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope," Rom.8:20. And this hope is for a removal of the curse thus inflicted, and a restoration of all things to their original condition.
As the earth was subjected to the curse at the time when man was made subject to death, the removal of the former would naturally be expected at the epoch of the fulfillment of the promise to the just: "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death I will be thy plagues; O grave I will be thy destruction," Hos.13:14. And thus Paul testifies: "For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God, ... Because the creature itself, also, shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body," Rom.8:19, 21-23.
The removal of the curse removes also its consequences. Thus it is promised: "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle tree," Isa.55:13. "The inhabitant shall not say I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity," Isa.33:24. "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people will he take away from off all the earth; for the Lord hath spoken it," Isa.25:8. "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth," Isa.65:17. "And there shall be no more curse," Rev.22:3. "For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody," Isa.51:3.
The removal of the curse is called "the regeneration" (Matt.19:28), "the times of refreshing," and of "restitution;" which Peter places at the advent of Christ: "whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution(10) of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began," Acts 3:21. He also places it at "the perdition of ungodly men," which must synchronize with the epoch when the beast "goeth into perdition" (17:11), and "the remnant" are "slain with the sword," (19:21); "when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ," 2 Thess.1:7, 8. Says Peter: "The heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word ['whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished' v.6] are kept in store, reserved unto fire, against the day of judgment, and perdition of ungodly men.... But the day of the Lord will come, as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also; and the works that are therein shall be burned up.... Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness," i.e., "righteous persons" -- Horsely, 2 Pet.3:7-13. This harmonizes with the day that "cometh that shall burn as an oven," when "all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly" shall be burned up, and become "ashes under the soles" of those on whom "shall the Sun of righteousness arise," (Mal.4:1-3); which must be the time intervening between the resurrection of the righteous and that of the wicked. This also harmonizes with the testimony of our Saviour, that when, "in the end of this world," He "shall send forth his angels and gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; ... then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father," Matt.13:40-43.
The earth being cleansed, and all things made new, it will have been prepared for the "dwelling" of "righteous persons" (2 Pet.3:13), who, -- having "put on incorruption" (1 Cor.15:53), and been "caught up ... in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thess.4:17), where, constituting "the bride," "the Lamb's wife," they were "called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb" (19:7-9), -- will descend from heaven to take possession. Thus John writes, that one of the angels said to him: "Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and he showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God," 21:9, 10.
"Lo, what a glorious sight appears
From the third heaven where God resides,
Attending angels shout for joy,