|Volume 23 Number 4 April 2021
Some modern religionists teach that this earth is to undergo a process of cleansing and renovation following the Final Judgment, and it will then serve as the eternal home of the redeemed. Their hope is, therefore, an earthly, rather than a heavenly, hope. The Bible sets forth but “one hope” (Ephesians 4:4; Titus 2:13-14), not two, and the one hope of Scripture is Heavenly.
Jesus plainly declared, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away” (Matthew 25:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). The “heaven” of this passage is the ethereal atmosphere which surrounds the earth, the same “heaven” of the birds and fowls of the air (Luke 13:19; Psalm 104:12; Jeremiah 4:25; Lamentations 4:19; etc.). Jesus continued, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:35-51).
The apostle Peter gave a graphic description of the earth’s end and complete destruction by fire (2 Peter 3:7-10). He said that “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.” The Greek word for “burned up” is katakaid, meaning “to burn utterly, as the burning of chaff” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).
Will the earth ever rise again? Isaiah the prophet said, “No.” “The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again” (Isaiah 24:20).
True, there are some passages that speak of “the righteous inheriting the earth,” but these must be understood in the context of God’s land promises to the Israelite nation, a promise that typified Heaven, the eternal Promised Land. See Psalm 37:9, 11, 22, 29; 105:9-11; Joshua 21:43; 23:16. Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, spoke to the Jews in that context when He said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” This could just as well be rendered “…for they shall inherit the land.” In those same Beatitudes, Jesus spoke of “seeing God,” “inheriting the kingdom of heaven” and “great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:1-12). In John 18:36 He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”
Other passages use the word “earth” in the sense of “the world to come” (Hebrews 2:5; Ephesians 1:21) and “the new heaven and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21), a figure of speech referring to Heaven itself, which will take the place of the present “heaven and earth” that Jesus said would pass away.
Solomon made a statement in Ecclesiastes 1:4 that would seem to contradict the plain teaching of Scripture already considered. “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth forever.” There is no contradiction, however, when we remember that the Hebrew word for “forever” often had a temporary significance, meaning “throughout the appointed time or until the end of the age.” Circumcision was called “an everlasting covenant” (Genesis 17:13), the Passover was an ordinance “forever” (Exodus 12:14) and the Levitical system had an “everlasting priesthood” (Numbers 25:13). Yet, we know that all these ceased when the Law was fulfilled and removed with Christ’s death. Even so, the earth abides perpetually, throughout all generations of its appointed time.
The New Testament abounds with promises of the hope of Heaven. The Hebrew writer said that great men of faith in ages past looked forward to the Heavenly Home. “They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on this earth, seeking a better country, that is, an heavenly” and “God hath prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:13-16). Peter described our inheritance as “incorruptible [imperishable], undefiled, that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4).
Paul, throughout his epistles, pointed toward our Heavenly Home and inheritance. “The hope which is laid up for you in heaven” (Colossians 1:5). “You have in heaven a better and enduring substance” (Hebrews 10:34-36). “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18). Earlier, Paul said, “There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). He admonished the Christians at Colossae, “Set your affection on things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God, not on things on the earth” (Corinthians 3:1-2).
John, in the Book of Revelation, related the glorious visions he was given of all the redeemed at home with God in the celestial, eternal city. Chapter 7 reveals two visions: (1) The 144,000, a symbolical number representing the sum total of the elect of Israel, the firstfruits of the Gospel and (2) a great, innumerable company of redeemed ones “out of all nations, kindreds, peoples and tongues.” These, too, were standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes. Putting both together, we see all of God’s children from all dispensations gathered with their Heavenly Father in the Eternal Home.
Revelation 21 describes the blessings enjoyed in that celestial city, and Revelation 22:14 tells us how we can be among those who enter. “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have a right to the tree of life and may enter in through the gates into the city.” This coincides perfectly with Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21. Christ is the “the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9).
The “one hope,” therefore, is the hope of all the redeemed together with God the Father and Christ the Lamb, rejoicing and praising Him throughout eternity. This is “the new heaven and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
Cline, Ted. “The Future Home of the Saved: Heaven or Earth?” Firm Foundation 5 Feb 1974, 6.