2 Peter 3:13-14
Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness.…
There was but one word between chaos and creation — there need be but one between the sustentation and the dissolution of the universal frame. And we are looking for these things! To this promise we hope to come! It is the goal of consummated bliss!
I. LET US ENDEAVOUR FROM THIS DESCRIPTION TO SUGGEST TO OUR MINDS THE TRUE NATURE OF THAT PERFECT FELICITY AND SATISFACTION WHICH ARE RESERVED FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
1. The scene we occupy was evidently intended for a great system of life. There is scarcely spot or element in which it may not be found. It is a great contrivance for all the forms and kinds of existence. It would be unmeaning, running to waste, but for this intention. Air, land, water are crowded with their several tribes. The happiness of every one is consulted, function and habitude agree most perfectly with the province and support provided for them, and none who survey and reason out the final causes of things can doubt the will of the great Master and Lord of all. Still he who was made the last of all earthly creatures is the greatest: to him they are all tributary and ministering, and God has given him dominion over them. Then, assuredly, when there shall be new heavens and a new earth, man, the capital figure of the present system, shall still be more prominently raised. He shall there need for help no inferior creatures. Their spirit has gone downward to that earth which is no more. But he is not alone. The ministering spirits which ministered to the heirs of salvation during this life shall be his companions amidst these fairer fields.
2. The world in which we dwell, with all its proper appendages of circumambient air and supernal light, is a material fabric. If, therefore, new heavens and a new earth shall be constituted, they must be material and related to space, or the figure does not hold. And everything concerning that abode would seem to confirm it. It has its entrances, its dimensions, its boundaries, that which can be "seen," that which may be "heard." The flesh of the risen saints is seen in those borders. The glorious body of the Eternal Son is the centre of all the beatific attractions and influences.
3. The visible works of God are the means by which intelligent creatures rise in their thoughts to Him and judge of Him. These are the monu ments of His existence and natural perfections. Heaven and earth but vary and multiply the perfect demonstration of a First Cause, His skill, His might, and His bounty. When we read, consequently, of "the new heavens and the new earth," we cannot fail to infer that they shall be impressed with the same designations. How shall the depths of those heavens, how shall the ever-spreading horizons of that earth, be "sought out" and interpreted for the praises of Him whose glorious majesty shines forth from their incomparable frame l
4. The community of the saints is now a most pleasing fact: they are one. A new heaven and a new earth shall now embrace their whole multitude. God hath prepared a habitation for them. They are all brought home.
5. While the present state of our sojourn abounds in multitudinous life, while it is chiefly administrative to the life of man, we cannot but be amazed at the contrivance and the fulness of those provisions which give general life, and peculiarly that of man, its greatest possible happiness and freest possible exercise. We, however, boast a life of higher functions and aims. To be spiritually-minded is life and peace. The spirit of life breathes it into our soul. Though the sky and earth cannot affect this new mode of being, this life of faith, yet the passions and concernments of the present do war perpetually with it. But "the new heavens and the new earth" shall as much favour the inward life, the life of the spirit, as these mundane conveniences and laws now sustain our inferior life.
6. If the future condition of happiness and glory which shall be prepared for the redeemed may be thus expressed, we may expect that, notwithstanding the difference between it and "this visible, diurnal sphere," there shall be certain points of resemblance. What are now the marks of our dwelling? Heavens — earth. How is our eternal abode described? New heavens — new earth. Is not there in the former an analogue to the latter? Is not the second the reflex of the first? Was there not a shadowing out of ideas which shall seem familiar to the saints in that glory? That which is inferior in appetite and instinct is done away. But is there no beauty in form and colour which the eye may behold? Are there no ravishing harmonies for the ear? Everything here may be but rudiment and cypher to be evolved and interpreted in far distant seats of the universe. By a graduated scale we may now rise through an ascending series of progressive changes until we reach the climax of all.
7. But this supposed parallelism, however unequal, between these different scenes of existence, comprehends an exercise of distinct and perfect memory. The "terrible crystal" of the new heavens, the fair paradise of the new earth, must recall the old.
8. The manner in which the present heavens and earth are supplanted by the new declares that a measure of happiness is ensured by the exchange which perfectly corresponds to the solemn revolution. Joy is the invariable fruit of a rightly appreciated Christianity.
9. Nothing more distinctly marks the evil of sin than the variance which is often supposed in Scripture between man and the scenes of his habitation. These are bid to rise up and declare against him. He is represented as alone "coming short of the glory of God." They are true to their purpose, while he has turned aside from the end for which he was created and endowed. Hence those awful apostrophes with which inanimate objects are invoked, as if even they could but condemn him. They are summoned, like so many witnesses and justices, to denounce his crimes. But "the new heavens and earth" shall environ nothing which can offend. They shall correspond with whatever they embrace. Their pure elements shall only encompass the pure.
10. Since heaven and earth combine all our ideas of the fair and grand, since these complete our present sphere of life and action, the continuance of such machinery in a future state must intimate to us the diversity of its good. Herein is every constituent of our pleasure, whether sensual or intellectual. From above or beneath we derive all our gratifications. There is endless variety.
11. We have no such images of permanence as those works of God concerning which we speak. "For ever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven." "They shall fear Thee as long as the sun and moon endure." "The earth abideth for ever." God suspends the proof of his faithfulness upon these ordinances, upon the covenant of day and night. Yet are we forewarned of their wreck. If, then, these monuments of whatever is durable are themselves to be destroyed, if the azure fade and the globe decay, how certainly may we regard in the new heavens and earth the voucher of a proper immortality! Their sun shall no more go down. Their refulgent tissues shall not decay. They are the perfect signals of a duration which admits no intervals and wants no monitors — which cannot be broken into ages nor counted out by stars!
12. The power of God to protect and bless is not infrequently rested upon His creative achievements. "My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth." "The Lord that made heaven and earth, bless thee out of Zion." "Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, which made heaven and earth." The mourner, the oppressed, the persecuted have sought unto Him who had done all these things — His aid and benediction they could not henceforth distrust nor slight. The meek of the earth were safe beneath the care of Him who made it. The new heavens and earth are fashioned by the same omnipotent artificer, the God of truth and of salvation, and in the same manner does He design that they should support the quietness and assurance of His people for ever! He who reared them shall be their God so long as they endure. They are the standard evidence and voucher of what He can and will work on their behalf.
II. LET US EXAMINE THE EVIDENCE ON WHICH THIS FIRM EXPECTATION RESTS. To Abraham a covenant was given in which were contained many promises of a more than earthly kind. He had the seal of righteousness by faith. From him was to descend a spiritual seed. We believe in the Lord, and He counteth it to us for righteousness! We take this ancient warrant, which no time can impair nor cancel — a warrant distinct, successive, cumulative — and "according to His promise we look for new heavens and a new earth in which dwelleth righteousness." Christianity, which brings life and incorruption to light, which is the promise of eternal life, exhibits the true and alone hope of this surpassing condition. We have everlasting consolation and good hope through grace. We depend upon the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began. Promise is a form of Scriptural revelation and encouragement with which we are familiar. It is an infinite condescension in God thus to bind Himself, and to speak to His servants, "for a great while to come."
(R. W. Hamilton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.