Jesus told the disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them.
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
The "place" Jesus is preparing corresponds to the eternal inheritance of the saints. We are not told much about the "place" that Jesus is preparing, but it likely has to do with preparing the saints for their role in the kingdom of God in the course of their lives in the present world. This "place" also corresponds to the things promised to Abraham; the land where he was a stranger.
Peter said, in the day of the Lord, the heavens will pass away, with great noise. But there is no air in space, so there can't be any noise up there either. Clearly then, this must be figurative, and "heaven" and the "noise" must be interpreted. What heavens did he mean?
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.
In one sense, the heavens have passed away already. The old cosmology of Peter's time has been replaced; the theories once widely accepted about the universe have been discarded. The idea of a rigid sky, revolving around the earth once a day, has gone. All the planetary spheres of the Ptolemaic system have gone. Since the scientific revolution, the diurnal rotation is attributed to the earth, not the sky. The demise of the rigid heaven was accompanied by a great commotion, or "noise," because as a result of the new discoveries, the Bible was discredited, and the church too, in the minds of many, as the church had supported the geocentric view, and persecuted Galileo and others who defended the Heliocentric view. It was the age of the "enlightenment" and the rise of scepticism.
While the heavens of the ancient world may be said to have passed away, and have been replaced with the modern scientific view, there still remains the question of the meaning of "the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."
Peter also indicated that these events were a reason for the saints to live holy lives. Evidently there would be many whose works would be exposed as flawed. But, how was the scientific revolution related to conduct? Perhaps there is another sense in which the heavens will pass away.
Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
Peter encouraged the saints to look for a new heavens, and a new earth, "according to his promise." Since it is what was promised, this must refer to some previous promise. I suggest it means the establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth.
Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
What is on fire? Is it a fire of judgment? Could "heaven" be a metaphor? Perhaps "heaven" refers to the church. If so, there is plenty of "noise" involved in the controversies that affect the church.
1 Peter 4:17
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
There is a judgment going on in the house of God.
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
The war is conducted in heaven; it is spiritual warfare, involving ideas, and interpretations, not flesh and blood.
Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
Who are those that dwell in heaven? Here, the saints are contrasted with the world, those who dwell in the earth and the sea. Paul wrote:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
According to Paul, those who dwell in heaven are "us," that is, the saints. Our blessings are not on this earth, but in heavenly places. And Jesus also taught that we ought to lay up treasure in heaven.
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Paul said believers "sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." [Ephesians 2:4-7] So in this sense, the saints are the ones who dwell in heaven.
The woman in Revelation 12:1, clothed with the sun, represents the church. She is pictured as in heaven, although the church remains on earth physically. In this prophecy, stars are symbols of the saints.
Perhaps, the apostle Paul's reference to "principalities and powers in heavenly places" in Ephesians 3:10 includes those who have been given authority in the church.
Paul also spoke of principalities, and powers, and "spiritual wickedness in high places," in Ephesians 6:12. Could they be those in authority in the church? If rulers in the church are meant, there is to be a judgment, and it would be a "fiery" one for all those who do evil, as works that are defective would be burned up in such a judgment.
That he who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth; and he that sweareth in the earth shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hid from mine eyes.
For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.
Evidently the new heavens and new earth means the glorified church, the heavenly Jerusalem, which will become a "rejoicing."
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
The "sea" is a metaphor that stands for the wicked, as the sea was a border of Israel on the east and west; Israel being symbolic of the people of God.
But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
Copyright © 2010, 2012, 2013 by Douglas E. Cox
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