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NEW CREATION:

A reformed perspective on the final destiny of redeemed humanity


Jean Francesco A. L. Gomes

For some decades now, the interest in eschatological topics seems to be increasing,
specially the subject of the new creation.1 For example, the idea of living forever in a new
heaven and a new earth has been a really great rediscovery of faith for several believers.
Nevertheless, the mainstream evangelical thought still remains withplaces some obstacles to
comprehend Gods ultimate plan for the future of the humanity and cosmos. It seems that
several Christians never heard about a doctrine called new creation and others who are
convinced that God's ultimate plan for humanity is to live in an immaterial heaven.2 For these
reasons, Anthony Hoekema suggests how far away some believers are from the real biblical
understanding of everlasting life.3
It is relevant research on this issue due to the fact that is lacking careful theological
studies specially concerning new creation. William Shedds three-volume Dogmatic Theology Commented [RS1]: NA chamada autor-data, inserir
apenas o sobrenome do autor da obra.
contains eighty-seven pages on eternal punishment, but only two on new creation. 4 In his Formatted: Font: Italic
nine-hundred-page theology, Great Doctrines of the Bible, Martyn Lloyd-Jones devotes less Formatted: Font: Italic

than two pages to the eternal state and the new earth.5 Louis Berkhofs classic Systematic Formatted: Font: Italic

Theology devotes thirty-eight pages to creation, forty pages to baptism and communion, and
fifteen pages to what theologians call the intermediate state. Yet, it contains only two pages
on Hell and one page on the eternal state.6 By contrast, Herman Bavinck seems to devote
particular attention to this doctrine writing fifteen pages on it. The same might be said about
Anthony Hoekema.7

1 See: ALCORN, Randy. Heaven. Carol Streams: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007; HENDRIKSEN, William. A
vida futura segundo a Bblia. So Paulo: Cultura Crist, 1988; LADD, George, Eldon. The Presence of The
Future. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996; MIDDLETON, Richard. A New Heaven and New Earth: Reclaiming
biblical eschatology Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014; MOLTMANN, Jrgen. Teologia da esperana. So
Paulo: Loyola, 2005; WOLTERS, Albert. Criao Restaurada. So Paulo: Cultura Crist, 2007; WRIGHT, N.T.
Surpreendido pela esperana. Viosa: Ultimato, 2009.
2 Middleton, says: This holistic vision of Gods intent to renew or redeem creation is perhaps the Bibles best-

kept secret, typically unknown to most church members and even to many clergy, no matter what their
theological stripe. (2014, p. 24).
3 HOEKEMA, Anthony A. A Bblia e o futuro. So Paulo: Cultura crist, 1989, p. 368.
4 SHEDD, W. G. T. Dogmatic Theology, 3 vols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
5 LLOYD-JONES, D. Martyn. Great Doctrines of the Bible, vol. 3, The Church and the Last Things (Wheaton,

Ill.: Crossway, 2003), 246 48.


6 BERKHOF, Louis. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996.
7 BAVINCK, Herman. Dogmtica Reformada. So Paulo: Cultura crist, 2012, p. 724-739.
In this essay, through by means of a reformed perspective, I we will focus on the
major academic contributions concerning the new creation and argue that our present cosmos
is in continuity with it, being the final destiny of redeemed humanity. This thesis will be
argued first by demonstrating that rather than Christianity, the philosophy behind this
immaterial and ethereal vision of the final state comes from Platonism. The second section of
the essay will analyze which hermeneutical approach is best adequately for reading the
Revelation of John. The final section will introduce some topics regarding new creations
theology.

1 PLATONISM BEHIND THE ETHEREAL VIEW OF THE FINAL


STATE OF THE REDEEMED

In this first part of the essay, we will try to show that Platonism has a huge importance
not only in the Christian reflection regarding what is physical or spiritual, but a broadly
impact on how Christians understand the final state of the believers. Basically, this platonic
influence led some theologians to comprehend the final state of the redeemed as an ethereal
Heaven, which is a non-physical life in a non-physical place, with non-physical persons and
activities.

1.1 Platos dualistic view of life


Plato proposed a double origin for the world. He believed that everything was
composed of matter and form. Matter is itself disordered and chaotic while form is rational
and good. In other words, the visible world is the realm of shadows, of error and illusion. The
problem of evil and human suffering would be matter, the visible world, body etc., and true
knowledge could only be apprehended if humans sought the immaterial forms that are
eternal.8 He would have been influenced by the Orphic myths of the preexistence of the soul
and established that a person is composed of soul or immortal mind and transient and
corruptible body. Therefore, roughly speaking, "Platonic dualism rejects the importance of
matter and emphasizes the supremacy of soul care"9
In his dialogue Phaedo, Plato demonstrates, from the conversation of Echecrates and
Phaedo, what was the attitude and words Socrates would have pronounced when he took the

8PLATO. Fdon. Sao Paulo: Abril Cultural, 2000, p. 126.


9LOPES, Edson. O cuidado com a alma imortal nos dilogos Fdon, Fedro e Repblica de Plato. In: Estudos de
Religio, Ano XXII, n. 35, 178-194, jul/dez. 2008, p. 193.
hemlock, moments before his death. In the course of the narrative, the reason for Socratess
happiness, fearlessness and serenity in the face of death is made explicit, which he considers
to be a good for bringing the liberation of all evils from the body and the beginning of the true
knowledge, which will only occur after the separation of the soul from the body, since in its
conception the body is an obstacle to the knowledge of the truth and seeks to induce the soul
to error. 10 Thus, it is clear that Plato affirms a radical dualism between rational soul and
corruptible body.
The major implication of Platos philosophy in this life needs to be a removal of the
soul from its bodily contamination through philosophical exercise. In like manner, the only
way out to stop the infinite cycles of rebirth (transmigration of souls) is by means of a total
purification of the internal person from all the contamination generated by bodily
influences.11 Therefore, dualism has not only a worldview on the creation of the world, the
problem of evil and ethics; it also has its own eschatology.
The Platonic worldview, and especially Platos more abstract notion of the afterlife,
were given extra impetus in the third century AD by the Greek philosopher Plotinus (204
270), who renovated Platos conceptual framework (combined with Aristotelian and Stoic
ideas) to promulgate a vision of reality that deeply influenced Christian theologians from
Augustine to Pseudo-Dionysius and beyond.12

1.2 The Christian absorption of dualism


Several theologians argue that Western Christianity adopted some elements of
Platonic philosophy, based on its dichotomous mentality.13 Middleton points out that whereas
at least some Christian theologians may have balked at Platos notion that the rational soul or
mind was immortal and the highest part of the person, Plotinus made room for something
beyond, and higher than, reason.
He proposed that above the rational mind or soul could be found the intuitive,
suprarational mind or Nous14 and above (and within) that was the One, the unitary fullness

10 PLATO, 2000, p. 118.


11 Ibid., 2014, p. 31.
12 MIDDLETON, 2014, p. 33.
13 See: MIDDLETON, 2004, p. 31-34, 283-314 (good summary); WRIGHT, N. T. Surpreendido pela esperana.

Viosa: Editora Ultimato, 2009, p. 34-35; PEARCEY, Nancy. Verdade Absoluta, So Paulo: Editora CPAD,
2006, pp. 33-168; BAUCKHAM, Richard and HART, Trevor. Hope against Hope: Christian Eschatology in
Contemporary Context. Trinity and Truth; London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1999.
14 Later identified by some Christian theologians with Spirit or the Logos.
and depth of being from which all reality flowed 15 . Plotinus thus explicitly identified the
ascent to the divine with the turn inward, thereby initiating a Western form of mysticism that
has reverberated throughout the church in the middle ages and even into the modern period.16
Though almost every Christian writer in the first few centuries of the church affirms
the resurrection of the body, one famous exception is Origen of Alexandria (185-254), who
had been significantly influenced by the Platonic vision. 17
In his famous work On First Principles 18 , Origen affirms that since only God is
strictly bodiless, we will indeed have bodies at the resurrection; yet he claims that the
resurrection body will not be in the grosser and more solid condition of the body that is
characteristic of lower beings, 19 but instead will shine with the splendor of celestial
bodies fit for more perfect and blessed beings. Indeed, he is adamant that the resurrection
body will be a spiritual body, which can dwell in the heavens. 20
Bavinck suggests that Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches as a whole were
also responsible for spread this abstract supernaturalism concerning salvation within the
Christianity.21 He claims that before Reformation, the Church saw salvation as exclusively
transcendent and therefore, as it concerns the earth, considers the Christian life embodied
ideally in monasticism. As Wright summarizes: dualistic Christianity see that the good
things in life are spiritual and heavenly while earthly things are bad; the present time is evil,
but the future will be good; the earth is Satan's place although the Heaven is God's place.22
It is no wonder that Plato has influenced the history of Christian thought, for among
Christians there is some concern for the body; however, the subjects pertaining the immortal
soul are still priorities in Christianity in general. Perhaps this is one of the explanations from
which some currents of Western Christian theology incite the need for constant purification
through the practice of fasting and sexual abstinence with a focus on celibacy, so present in
the Church Fathers period, and among many segments of present-day Christianity.23
Someone would ask: Where can we find this dualistic theology recorded today? Some
reformed authors propose that the holistic vision of salvation is obfuscated by many

15 Some Christians identified this with the Father or the mystery of the Godhead.
16 MIDDLETON, 2014, p. 33.
17 BAVINCK, 2012, p. 727.
18 Origen, On First Principles, trans. G. W. Butterworth (reprint, Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1973).
19 Ibid., On First Principles 2.2.2 (Butterworth, 8182).
20 Ibid., 2.10.3 (Butterworth, 141).
21 BAVINCK, 2012, p. 730.
22 WRIGHT, 2009, p. 34.
23 LOPES, 2008, p. 193.
traditional hymns and songs sung in the context of communal worship.24 This is an important
point because it is from what they sing that those in the pew typically learn their theology,
especially their eschatology.25
Middleton comments that from the classic Charles Wesley hymn Love Divine, All Formatted: No widow/orphan control, Don't adjust
space between Latin and Asian text, Don't adjust
Loves Excelling, which anticipates being Changed from glory into glory, / Till in heaven space between Asian text and numbers

we take our place, to Away in a Manger, which prays, And fit us for Heaven, to live with
Thee there, congregations are exposed to, and assimilate, an otherworldly eschatology. Some
hymns, such as When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder, inconsistently combine the idea of
resurrection with the hope of heaven26:
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Before: 0 pt, Line spacing: 1.5 lines
And the glory of His resurrection share;
When His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies,
And the roll is called up yonder, Ill be there.27
Formatted: Indent: First line: 0.5", No widow/orphan
control, Don't adjust space between Latin and Asian
Most hymnals no longer have the sixth verse of Amazing Grace: text, Don't adjust space between Asian text and
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, numbers

The sun forbear to shine; Formatted: Justified, Indent: Left: 0", First line: 0.5",
Space Before: 0 pt, Line spacing: 1.5 lines
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.28
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space between Latin and Asian text, Don't adjust
The content of these hymns collaborates for what Wrights used to claim: There has space between Asian text and numbers
been such a massive assumption made in Western Christianity that the purpose of being a
Christian is simply, or at least mainly, to go to heaven when you die.29 Since God intends
to destroy the present space-time universe so quite soon, then, it really does not matter how
we live in this world. If this reasoning is correct, therefore, there is no other option but the
isolation of secular things and an exclusive dedication to spiritual ones. It was well said by
Nancy Pearcey that the insertion of the dualistic worldview in Christianity was the main
responsible for the present state of alienation, that is, a faith unconcerned with reality. 30
As noted above, several Christian liturgies are responsible for the perpetuity of this
dualistic mentality. If heaven could not be reduced to living in a physical place thus evil

24 MIDDLETON, 2014, p. 27; HOEKEMA, 1989, p. 368; WRIGHT, 2009, p. 106.


25 MIDDLETON, 2014, p. 27.
26 Ibidem. In this page the same author suggests many hymns that hold what he call otherwordly eschatology.
27 Stanza 2 from When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder, written by James M. Black in 1893; hymn #543 in

Fettke et al., The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration.


28 Mentioned by Middleton, 2014, p. 29.
29 WRIGHT, 2007, p. 102-103.
30 PEARCEY, 2006, p. 33-168.
the only possible expectation of such a vile and despicable world is that of a catastrophic and
destructive end. This claim might be seem holy at first sight, but it is nothing more than
pure dualism disguised of Christianity. As Bauckham pointed: the Christian hope has
constantly been understood as hope for human fulfillment in another world (heaven) rather
than as hope for the eternal future of this world in which we live.31
Therefore, the consensus of opinion among reformed theologians is that the dualistic
worldview, more than biblical Christianity, is one of the responsible elements for shaping the
eschatological mindset of the church during the centuries. But what is the real Christian
perspective about the destiny of redeemed humanity? In order to answer this question, it is
crucial address the key biblical reference that deals with new creation: Revelation 21-22.
However, before we begin, it is important to establish briefly a hermeneutic approach that will
adequately address the Revelation of John considering its complexity regarding apocalyptic
literature and eschatological themes.

2 A HERMENEUTICAL APPROACH FOR READING REVELATION

This second section of the essay aims to outline what scholars means by apocalyptic
literature, its developments, contributions or misunderstandings, and then opt for a
hermeneutical approach with more appropriate exegetical tools to understand John's
Revelation.

2.1 The apocalyptic literature


Soares argues that several issues are responsible for a resurgence of apocalyptic
literature research. He points out the relevant participation of these writings in the formation
of early Christian thought, the recent access that researchers possess to such documents (e.g.
the Qumran Manuscripts), the renewed interest of theologians in eschatology and the socio-
political and religious crisis of the modern era.32
But what do we mean by apocalyptic literature? Russel 33 suggested that the
apocalyptic genre was a primarily literary phenomenon that emerged in Judaism during the
reign of King Antiochus Epiphanes (175-163 BC). Consequently, the consensus among

31 BAUCKHAM; HART, 1999, p. 129.


32 SOARES, Dionsio. A literatura apocalptica: o gnero como expresso. In: Horizonte, v. 7, Belo Horizonte, v.
7, n. 13, dez. 2008, p. 100.
33 RUSSEL, D.S. Apocalyptic: Ancient and modern. London: SCM Press, 1978, p. 3, 21-26.
scholars is that apocalyptic literature refers initially to Jewish writings and later to Christians
works over 250 BC and 100 AD.
Koch 34 took a step forward in research by distinguishing between apocalypses and
apocalyptic. He understands an apocalypse as the literary work itself, while apocalyptic as the
intellectual movement (mentality) that originates the written manifestations. The apocalyptic
literature is, therefore, the expression of a proper time mentality.
Hanson35 went further arguing that there is a threefold division within the apocalyptic
spectrum: the apocalypse being the literary genre, apocalyptic eschatology as a worldview
(mentality), and apocalypticism as a social movement. He claims that, in general, the
apocalypses offered the hope of a new and better world and called for patience and resistance
to the suffering. As a result, apocalypses are typical from periods of despair, sadness and
adversity. They arise after exile trying to harmonize unfulfilled Bible prophecies (such as
those of Israel's restoration in Ezekiel) with the reality of the delay in the long-awaited arrival
of the kingdom of God.36
John Collins suggests that apocalyptic texts cannot be treated as a uniform genre, that
is, they are not made up of one or more distinctive themes, but by a combination of elements,
which are found elsewhere.37 Among the books defined as "apocalypses" are Daniel, the book
of Jubilees, 4 Ezra, 2-3 Baruch, 1-2 Enoch, Abraham's Testament, Apocalypse of Abraham, Commented [RS2]: Josue, Capitulo 4???
Revisar os livros
Revelation of Zephaniah, and Testament of Levi, depending on the author's cataloging.38
Several authors agree that the content of one apocalypse has to do with a transcendent
and eschatological perspective relative to cosmos, the everyday reality and the most essential
human affairs. 39 Following this line of thought, Augustus NicodemusLopes says that the
content of the apocalypses is to reveal, through visions and auditions, certain mysteries about
heaven and earth, humanity and God, angels and demons, the life of the present world and the
world to come, containing alleged revelations received from God through visions and
bringing forth solutions to the problem of evil and the future of the kingdom of Israel and its
enemies.40

34 KOCH, Klaus. The rediscovery of apocalyptic. Naperville: Alec R. Anderson, 1972, pp. 18-35)
35 HANSON, P. D. Apocalypse, genre; Apocalypticism. In: CRIM, Keith (Ed.). The interpreters dictionary of
the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1976, p. 27-34.
36 HANSON, P. D. The dawn of apocalyptic: the historical and sociological roots of Jewish apocalyptic

eschatology. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979, p. 247-57.


37 COLLINS, John. The apocalyptic imagination: an introduction to Jewish apocalyptic literature. 2. ed.

Michigan: Eerdmans, 1998, p.8.


38 COLLINS, John. Daniel: with an introduction to apocalyptic literature. Michigan: Eerdmans, 1984, p. 6-19.
39 AUNE, David. The Apocalypse of John and the problem of Genre. Semeia, n.36, 1986, p. 88.
40 LOPES, Augustus N. O Sermo escatolgico de Jesus: Analise da Influencia da Apocaliptica Judaica nos

escritos do Novo Testamento, Fides Reformata, v.5, 2000, p. 3
With regard to the function of apocalypses, it is well accepted that this is a literature
addressed to a group in crisis.41 In the midst of crisis, the text can deal with spiritual, literary
and social issues. Not incorrectly, the apocalypses can be seen as a protest in the form of
literature, from which the oppressed receive protection from the divine.42

2.2 The literary genre of Revelation


There is much discussion among scholars about the literary genre that best fits the
style and content of John's Apocalypse. Despite the difficulties, determining the literary genre Commented [RS3]: Revelation?
Pls, revise
of a work before interpreting it is crucial to understand what the author meant. Gregory
Linton suggests that any text belongs to at least one literary genre that has not only a generic
function but also hermeneutics, that is, it is necessary for writers to be able to write and for
readers to be able to read.43
The genre of a text provides an interpretive strategy for itself, encompassing in its
structure the smallest details of the text in question. For this reason, in this essay on the new
creation, efforts will be made to determine the literary genre of the Revelation of John, based
on the assumption that such a decision will affect how each part of the references to
Revelation 21 and 22 will be interpreted.
Among critical scholars it is more common to treat Revelation in the same mold as a
traditional Jewish apocalypse. Bultmann44 noted that the New Testament world reflected the
apocalyptic mythology found in the Jewish apocalypses and in Greek ideas of his day.
Ksemann 45 affirmed: "apocalyptic thinking is the mother of all Christian theology."
Schweitzer46 proposed: "the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul are simply the culminating expressions
of Jewish apocalyptic thought." In fact, among critical theologians, the theory that the New
Testament and early Christianity are products of the apocalyptic mentality remains in full
force.47

41 HELLHOLM, David. The Problem of Apocalyptic Genre and the Apocalypse of John, Semeia 36, 1986, p. 26.
42 AUNE, 1986, p. 89-90.
43 LINTON, Gregory L. Reading Apocalypse as Apocalypse: The Limits of Genre. In: BARR, David L. (ed).

The reality of Apocalypse: Rhetoric and Politics in the book of Revelation. Atlanta: SBL Symposium series,
n.39, 2006, p. 11.
44 BULTMANN, Rudolph. Jesus Cristo e Mitologia. So Paulo: Fonte editorial, 4ed, 2008, p.15-16.
45 KSEMANN, Ernst. Anfange christlicher Theologie. In Exegetische Versuche und Besinnungen II, Gottingen

1964, p. 100.
46 SCHWEITZER, Albert. A Busca do Jesus histrico. So Paulo: Novo sculo, 2003, p. 434.
47 Recently, the book of EHRMAN, Barth, Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Oxford: Oxford

University Press, 1999, resurrected Schweitzer's thesis and sought to prove that Jesus was mistaken in his
conviction that the Kingdom of God would drastically erupt during his ministry.
Collins argues that the key to understanding a text is its literary form.48 Since John's
book of Revelation is an apocalypse, the best way to understand it is through the apocalyptic
literary genre.49 The paradigmatic definition accepted by them is as follows:

'Apocalypse' is a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in


which a revelation is meditated by anotherworldly being to a human
recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as
it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial insofar as it involves
another, supernatural world.50

TThhis paradigm of understanding Revelation as mere apocalyptic literature has been


challenged for many scholars. Linton suggests that Revelation resists a classification in a
genre that he calls pure. He argues that Revelation surpasses all boundaries at a high level. It
looks like several different types of text, but it is not identical to any of them. Therefore, he
agrees with the viewpoint that it is a hybrid genre that refuses to remain within a generic
literary frontier.51
He also criticizes those who more narrowly delimit the genre of the Revelation of
John. He writes that because the apocalyptic genre was not yet formulated, then, the writers of
the apocalypses were not aware that they were writing apocalypses. Apparently, such authors
saw themselves writing prophecies. John himself, the author of the biblical Apocalypse, saw
himself in this situation; otherwise he would not have named his book of prophecy six times
(Rev. 1: 3, 19:10, 22: 7, 10, 18, 19).
Beasley-Murray 52 and Bauckham 53 have embedded Revelation in a unique
combination of three literary categories: apocalypse, prophecy and epistle.54 Following this
reasoning, Koester 55 has demonstrated the differences between apocalyptic literature and
John's Revelation. He argues that (1) Revelation is not a pseudo-epigraph, (2) it is not located
in a fictitious place, (3) it is not the result of an esoteric knowledge of a particular sect, (4)
suppresses any explicit reference to historical events, and innovative, especially the repeated
group of sevens. In addition, Beale includes: (6) the epistolary structure of the book (Rev. 1.4-

48 COLLINS, Adela Y. The Apocalypse. Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1979, p. x.


49 Following this line are two important groups of scholars. On the one hand, the work of the Apocalyptic Group
of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) led by John Collins, and also the researchers of the International
Colloquium on Apocalypse, under the direction of David Hellholm, both produced in 1979.
50 COLLINS, John. "Introduction: Towards the Morphology of a Genre", Semeia 14, 1979, p. 9.
51 LINTON, 2006, p. 9-10.
52 BEASLEY-MURRAY, G. R. Revelation. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974, p.12
53 BAUCKHAM, Richard. The Theology of the Book of Revelation, Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 2.
54 For similar perspectives, see: TALBERT, C. H. The Apocalypse: A Reading of the Revelation of John, Knox

Press, 1994, p. 4; MOUNCE, Robert H. The Book of Revelation. Michigan: Eerdmans, 1977, p. 24; BROWN,
Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Doubleday, 1997, p. 778.
55 KOESTER, Helmut. Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2000: 2, p. 248-57.
8, 2.1-3.22, 22.10-21), (7) the frequent presence of exhortations, and (8) The absence of the
vaticinia ex event, a term referring to a prophecy written after the author already had
information about the events to be "predicted". Such elements favor an innovative cataloging
of the book of Revelation as a mixed genre, while weakening the dominant critical view that
relates it as a common Jewish apocalyptic book.56
Thus, the present writer's position is that while the book of Revelation has received
influence from apocalyptic literature, it does not fit the "pure" standards of the Jewish
apocalypses, but it is best understood if viewed as an innovative literary genre that combines
the categories of epistle, prophecy, and the apocalyptic mentality.

2.3 A hermeneutical approach for the book of Revelation


What would be the proper principles for a useful hermeneutical approach to the
Revelation of John? This study offers at least three hermeneutical keys for reading
Revelation: intertextuality, symbolism and recapitulative progressism.

2.3.1 Old Testament Intertextuality


First, an appropriate reading of Revelation needs to recognize its OT intertextuality,
especially with the prophets Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the Psalms. This relationship
between the two testaments is central not only to understand the John's Revelation itself, but
also acknowledge the precise character of the OT prophecies. Beale believes that the major
quotations come from Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah and the Psalms respectively. The rank numbers
may differ depending on the analysis. The fact is that OT plays such an important role in the
interpretation of the book that a proper understanding of its use is necessary for a proper view
of the Revelation as a whole.57
As to the writing process of John's visions, it is probably that he had genuine visions
and subsequently recorded them in a literary format. It is important to note that OT references
used by John are not mere compilations or "recordings" of the visions. Something more
plausible would be to think that the cultural tradition of the author, his own reflection on the
OT have influenced him at the time of writing such views. Beale suggests that John associated
some of his visions with similar passages from OT and employed the language of these

56 There are other proposals with fewer adherences by the scholars, which can be found in the works of J.
Ramsey Michaels, M. Eugene Boring, Jrgen Roloff, J. T. Van Burkalow, James Blevins, among others.
57 BEALE, 1999, p. 77.
passages to record what he saw and heard. For this reason, familiarity with OT is the most
essential condition for an adequate and profitable Revelations reading.58
During the books reading, it is clear that John offers new interpretations for the
ancient texts. Such novelties are the result of the new lenses for which John is reading OT and
his own reality. Beale salient at least four perspectives in which John used the biblical ancient
prophecies: 1. Christ corporately represents the true Israel of the Old and New Testaments; 2.
History is unified by a wise and sovereign plan, so that the earlier parts of canonical history
are designed to correspond typologically and point to the later parts of history; 3. The end-
time era was inaugurated with the first coming of Christ; 4. The later parts of biblical history
interpret earlier parts, so that Christ, as the center of history, is the key to interpreting the
older parts of OT.59

2.3.2 The symbolic nature of Revelation


Secondly, this hermeneutical approach assumes that Revelation needs to be read
considering it symbolic nature. In fact, it goes on the opposite way of some literalist
approaches as found in Walvoords works60, and was recently defended by Campos research,
which provides abundant examples of this kind of literalistic approach. He writes: my first
task is to verify if the text might be interpreted literally (its first sense). However, if the literal
interpretation does not make sense, then, we shall see whether it can be interpreted
figuratively, allegoric, or even spiritually.61
Beale challenges this point.62 First, he suggests that the opening section of Revelation
makes clear that the major part of the book is in symbolic format (Rev. 1.12-20 and 4.1-22.5).
Secondly, he claims that the Greek word (semaino = to show) in Revelation 1.1
means more than communicate, it carries on the the notion of symbolize, signify,
communicated by symbols. He argues that Revelation 1.1 is an allusion to Daniel 2:28-29,
45, confirming that here the word does mean symbolize. 63 Thirdly, he claims that the
nuance of signify or symbolize in Revelation 1.1b is also confirmed by its parallelism
with show () in the first part of Revelation 1.1, because show throughout the book
always introduces a divine communication by symbolic vision (Rev. 4:1; 17:1; 21:9-10; 22:1,

58 BEALE, 1999, p. 80-81.


59 Ibid., p. 98.
60 WALVOORD, 2011, p. 30
61 CAMPOS, 2014, p. 17.
62 BEALE, G. K. The Purpose of Symbolism in the Book of Revelation. CTJ 41, 2006, p. 54.
63 Ibidem.
6, 8). Thus, he concludes by claiming that the adequate method to read this book must be:
interpret symbolically unless you forced to interpret literally. In other words, the reader is to
expect that the main means of divine revelation in this book is symbolic. 64
Following this thesis, this study claims that the non-literal method is the best way to
understand Johns Revelation. Evidently, some parts of the book are not symbolical because
John relates some events directly with history, such as authors exile in Patmos (Rev. 1.9), the
day of the Lord (Rev. 1.10), the seven letters to the seven churches (Rev., Chaps. 2 and 3) and
conclusive verses of Chapter 22. Despite of this explicit historical information, the essence of
the book is figuratively.
Kistemaker notes at least five types of symbolism that matters on the task of its
interpretation, as follows: 1. Nature; 2. Persons and names; 3. Numbers; 4. Colors; 5.
Creatures. Being aware of these five symbolic patters seems to be the most appropriate way to
comprehend the meaning of the book as a whole. 65
First, interpreters must be attempt on how John uses nature symbolisms, such as the
sea of glass (Rev. 4.6), a strong wind (Rev. 6.13; 7.1), the firmament wound up like a roll
(Rev. 6.14), an earthquake (Rev. 8.5; 11.19, 16.18); a consuming fire (Rev. 8.7, 20.9); a
period of silence (Rev. 8.1), a river of the water of life (Rev. 22.1); a tree of life with its
leaves fruiting twelve times per year (Rev. 22.2).
Second, the people and names should not be interpreted literally, for the NT often
employs names not to indicate persons as such, but conditions, meaning and word. In
addition, John uses names to illustrate fidelity (Antipas, Rev. 2.13), deception (Balaam, Rev.
2.14) and seduction (Jezebel, Rev. 2.20). He also contrasts Sodom and Egypt as symbols of
immorality and slavery respectively (Rev. 11.8) with Mount Zion as symbol of the New
Jerusalem which descends from heaven the dwelling place of God with his people (Rev.
14.1; 21.2, 3).
Third, besides nature, people and names, the numbers receive a special significance in
Revelations symbolism. We do not have time to explore all meanings of the numbers here. 66

64 BEALE, 2006, p. 55.


65 Before any comment about how to decode the symbols of Apocalypse, it is important say that John,
sometimes, interprets his own symbols. Merril Tenney highlights ten examples of this: 1. The seven stars are
seven angels of the churches (Rev. 1:20); 2. Seven candlesticks are churches (Rev. 1.20); 3. Seven lamps are
seven spirits of God (Rev. 4.5); 4. Bowls of incense are the prayers of the saints (Rev. 5.8); 5. A great multitude
represents those who come from the great tribulation (Rev. 7.13, 14); 6. The great dragon is the Devil or Satan
(Rev. 12.9); 7. Seven heads of the beast are seven mountains (Rev. 17.9); 8. Ten horns of the beast are ten kings
(Rev. 17.12); 9. Waters represent peoples, multitudes, nations, tongues (Rev. 17.15); 10. The woman is the great
city (Rev. 17.18). TENNEY, Merrill C. Interpreting Revelation. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957, p. 187.
66 For one complete analyses of numbers, see LIMA, Leandro Antnio de. Os nmeros do Apocalipse: A

importncia da anlise literria para a interpretao do livro. In: Fides Reformata, XVIII, No. 1, 2013, p. 9-23.
For this reason, the number seven will be used as a paradigmatic example. Lima proposes that
the number seven is predominant implicitly and explicitly. Instead of be taken literally, the
seven needs to be comprehended as an idea expressing wholeness or completeness. 67
There are consensus that the number seven appears explicitly: Seven spirits (Rev. 1.4,
3.1, 4.5, 5.6), golden candlesticks (Rev. 1.12; 2.1), stars (Rev. 1.16, 20, 2.1, 3.1), candlesticks
(Rev. 1.13,20; 2.5; 11.4), seals horns (Rev. 5.6), eyes (Rev. 5.6), angels (Rev. 8.2.6, 15.1, 6-8,
16.1, 17.1, 21.9), trumpets (Rev. 8.2.6), thunders (Rev. 10.3), crowns (Rev. 12.3), heads (Rev.
12.3; 13.1, 17.3, 7.9), plagues (Rev. 15.1.6), goblets (Rev. 15.7; 16.1), hills (Rev. 17.9) and
kings (Rev. 17.10). Moreover, there are seven thousand people killed by an earthquake (Rev.
11.13).68
John also implicitly uses the number seven. God receives seven attributes in Rev. 5.12
and 7.12. The same is true regarding the people of God, to whom seven beatitudes are
pronounced: Rev. 1.3, 14.13, 16.15, 19.9, 20.6, 22.7, 22.14. The term the word (s) of God
appears exactly seven times: Rev. 1.2, 9; 6.9; 17.17; 19.9, 13; 20.4.69
Fourth, the colors in the book of Revelation must also be interpreted symbolically.
Among the colors John mentions in the Apocalypse, white and black are remarkable. While
the purple indicates riches (Rev. 18.16), gold denotes the perfection of the new heaven and
new earth (Rev. 21.18, 21). Kistemaker still mentions other colors occurring sporadically in
the Apocalypse, but their contexts fail to clarify their use.70
Fifth, John uses symbolic creatures to convey his message. The quadrupeds are a horse
to be ridden (Rev. 6.2-9), a lamb destined to be killed (Rev. 5.6), a lion with devouring mouth
(Rev. 13.2), a bear leaning on its powerful feet (Rev. 13.2), an ox in all its strength (Rev. 4.7)
and a leopard in all its rapidity (Rev. 13.2). Reptiles are a serpent representing Satan (Rev.
12.9,15; 20.2), a scorpion exhibiting its sting (Rev. 9.3, 5, 10) and frogs depicting evil spirits
(Rev. 16.13). Birds are the vultures that bury themselves over their corpses (Rev. 19.17, 18)
and the eagle with their wings outstretched (Rev. 8.13). The locusts probably represent the
plague (Rev. 9.3).
For the reasons above, it is clear that knowing the Hebrew mentality is of utmost
importance for the interpretation of John's Revelation. In contrast to the abstract mentality of
the Greeks, the tables, illustrations, and symbols are the OT Jewish method of
communication. Although John spent considerable time in a Greek setting, and wrote his

67 Ibid., p. 11.
68 KISTEMAKER, 2004, p. 15
69 The seven is also used to symbolize negative things, Cf: BAUCKHAM, 1993, p. 110.
70 KISTEMAKER, p. 29.
book in the Greek language, his composition reflects the Ancient Near East mentality that
communicates revelation with the corroboration of pictorial images.71
About the purpose of symbols Calvin says that they are used to generate a real sense
of what cannot yet be experienced. This is the case of the condemnation of the wicked: since
no description can properly express the gravity of divine vengeance against the reprobates,
their torments and tortures are presented figuratively to us by corporeal things, that is to say,
through darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth, unquenchable fire, worm to corrode without
end the heart (Mt. 3.12, 8.12, 22.13, Mk. 9.43, Is. 66.24).72
As Beale points out, through the images, John seeks to motivate the readers to see
what they still do not see. It motivates readers not to commit to the world, but to align their
thoughts and behaviors with the God-centered patterns of the new creation. They must see
their own situation in this world in the light of the new world, which is now their true home. 73

2.3.3 The recapitulative-progressive theory


Third, the hermeneutical approach of this study takes into account the recapitulative-
progressive nature of John's Revelation. Among so many possible readings of the structure of
Revelation, two stand out among scholars. The first one is usually called the linear theory; the
second is the recapitulative theory. On the one hand, linear theory understands that John's
Revelation presents a continuous development from beginning to end; on the other hand,
recapitulative theory, visualizes the contents of the book from various perspectives, and
highlights its parallel segments.
It is imperative to opt for one of the theories, keeping in mind that the first approach
generally interprets the book literally, as far as it is possible; the second approach presents a
more figurative interpretation.74 This research opts for the recapitulative theory, which shows
a progressive parallelism in each successive cycle of the book and reveals new perspectives in
the unfolding of the divine message to the Church.
In general, this view understands that the entire book of Revelation is permeated with
parallels that are presented in multiples of seven. There are seven letters to the churches of
Asia Minor; there are seven seals followed by seven trumpets and completed with seven
bowls. The parallelism expressed in the three groups (seals, trumpets and bowls) suggests that

71 Ibid, p. 31.
72 CALVIN, Institutes, 3, 25, 12.
73 BEALE, 1999, p. 69.
74 KISTEMAKER, 2004, p. 97.
the writer is not presenting a chronological sequence, but rather different aspects of the same
events.75 The structure of the book is not only recapitulative, it is also progressive because as
events are repeated, the details of these intensify to perfect completeness.
The strongest argument for the recapitulation view is the observation of repeated
combined scenes of judgment and salvation found in the conclusions of several sections
throughout the book. The pattern of these scenes is always the same, consisting of a
description of judgment followed by a picture of salvation:

Judgment: 6. 12-17 and Salvation: 7. 9-17; Formatted: Font: 10 pt


Judgment: 11. 18a and Salvation: 11. 18b;
Judgment: 14. 14-20 and Salvation: 15. 2-4;
Judgment: 16. 17-21, including 17. 1-18: 24 (works as an intensified judicial conclusion of the entire
book) and Salvation: 19. 1-10;
Judgment: 20. 7-15 and Salvation: 21. 1-8, including the following section of 21. 9-22. 5, which serves
as a salvific and intensified conclusion to the whole book. 76 Formatted: Font: 10 pt
Formatted: Font: 10 pt
Besides the recapitulative and progressive relationship evidenced by the narratives of
judgment and salvation, there is a clear link between the seven initial letters and the other
visions of the book. Beale suggests that the imperfections of the church in the old creation
(Rev. 2-3) parallel antithetically to the corresponding perfections in the new creation (Rev.
21.9-22.5). Each of the promises made to the "winners" is completely fulfilled in the final
vision of the new consummated creation:

Tree of life: 2.7 and 22.2 Formatted: Font: 10 pt


The temple: 3.12 and 21.22
The eternal city: 3.12 and 21.2, 10
The name of God: 3.12 and 22.4
Book of Life: 3.5 and 21.27
White garments: 3.5 and 21.2 (cf. 19.7-8)
Precious and luminous stones: 2.17, 28 and 21.11, 18-21, 23; 22.5, 16
Saved reigning: 2.26-27; 3.21 and 22.5
Exclusion of second death: 2.11 and 21.7-8

Thus, the initial section of the book, the letters and the segment of completion, the
new creation, are not parallel in a synchronous or thematic way, but are antithetically parallel,
forming an inclusion frame for the five (or six) internal sections, which recapitulate.77 This
understanding of the structure provides a very important theological principle for this work,
the idea that the kingdom of God and the new creation have already begun but have not yet
been consummated.

75 Ibid., p. 23.
76 BEALE, 1999, p. 121.
77 BEALE, 1999, p. 135.
In fact, the final chapters of Revelation are the fulfillment of all the themes developed
at the beginning of the book, as well as of every message of the Old and New Testaments. In
this way, the recapitulative-progressive theory best explains the nature of the theological
meanings of John's Apocalypse. The pictures of the new covenant, the new temple, the new
Israel, and the New Jerusalem are the future fulfillment of the main prophetic themes of the
Bible that find their last climax in the new creation. Therefore, the new creation itself is the
most comprehensive of these biblical promises, of which the four new realities above are only
facets. Such promises are metaphors for the unique reality of God's intimate and glorious
presence with his people.78
Finally, the format that the book was written and structured should motivate its readers
to a thorough reading of the story and not just a purely futuristic look. While important
sections of the book will shed light on the future, many more refers to the past and the
present. The book of Revelation is not merely a futurology but also a redeeming, historical,
and theological psychology for Christian church thinking. 79 In other words, the Revelation of
John, if understood with the proper eyes, has great relevance both for the future and for the
present reality.
In the next section, based on the hermeneutical assumptions adopted here, a biblical
and theological analysis will be made regarding the new heaven and new earth concept.

3 AN INTRODUCTION TO NEW CREATION THEOLOGY


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As discussed above, this section of the essay aims to apply such hermeneutical
principles in the study of new creation. The structure of this chapter begins with a necessary
clarification between the intermediate state and new creation, the debate among annihilation
and restoration with regard to the destiny of the created universe, the relation of new creation
and kingdom of God and, in the end, an exegetical synthesis of the three most important texts
about the subject: Isaiah 65.17, 2 Peter 3.3, and Revelation 21-22.

3.1 The intermediate state and new creation


Although the doctrine of the intermediate state and the new creation are distinct topics
within Christianity, some theologians used to mix the two inadequately. The great twentieth-

78 Ibid., p. 173.
79 Ibid., p. 177.
century preacher, Lloyd-Jones claims "it seems quite evident that our heaven will be to live in
this perfect world where God made his tabernacle with men and women. The new Jerusalem
descends to the earth (Rev. 21.2) and we will live there in this wonderful city."80
Though Lloyd-Jones is correct in stating that God's people will live in a perfect world
that is no other world than this, he clearly mixes the concepts of heaven and new creation
without proper explanation. The same happened with Alcorn in his book Heaven, which is
about new creation.81
Some theologians have also realized this confusion and have struggled to organize the
concepts in a more biblical and coherent way. Wright highlights that heaven is the temporary
place where the saved will enjoy the presence of God after death, but it is not the final
destination their. The reason for this, they have not yet received the resurrection of the body,
which will only happen in the new heaven and new earth. 82 Wright makes an important
distinction between Chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation with Chapters 21 and 22. In the first two,
the description is of what is happening in heaven (which is another dimension) now, with the
redeemed and with Christ, but in the two last, the scene refers to the final destination of all the
saved here on earth:

when we come to the picture of the actual End in Revelation 2122, we find, no
ransomed souls making their way to a disembodied heaven, but rather the new
Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth, uniting the two in a lasting
embrace.83

In his work Psycopannychia84, Calvin taught that the intermediary state is a reality of
both blessing and expectation for the believers, for its blessing is provisional and
incomplete. 85 Since that time, the doctrine of the intermediate state has been taught by
Reformed theologians 86 , and is reflected in the Confessions of the Reformation. 87 As

80 LLOYD-JONES, 1999, v.3, p. 299.


81 ALCORN, 2007.
82 WRIGHT, 2009, p. 34-35.
83 Ibid, p. 35.
84 A response to the Anabaptists of his time who taught that souls simply slept between death and resurrection.
85 CALVIN, 1958, v.3, p. 413-490.
86 Cf.: HODGE, Charles, Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1940, III, pp. 713-703; SHEDD,

W.G.T. Dogmatic Theology, Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, 1979, III, p. 591-640; BAVINCK, Herman.
Dogmtica Reformada. So Paulo: Cultura crist, 2012, pp. 595-651; BERKHOF, Louis. Teologia Sistemtica.
So Paulo: Cultura crist, 2000, pp. 675-690; BERKOUWER, G.C. The Return of Christ. In: Studies in
Dogmatics. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972, pp. 32-64.
87 Cf. Catecismo de Heidelberg, Q.57; Confisso Belga, art. 37; Confisso de Westminster, cap. 32 (ou 34);

Breve Catecismo de Westminster, Q.37; Catecismo Maior de Westminster, Qs. 86, 87.
Hoekema adds: "our glorification will not be complete until the resurrection of the body has
taken place"88
Recently, Campos also made this correction in his series of books The Human Habitat
by mentioning the book by Alcorn, Heaven, which deals with the new Jerusalem, but has a
misleading title. He suggests that contemporary authors may have the fear of being identified
with the teachers of Jehovah's Witnesses. 89 The preface of the work summaries the need for a
theological distinction between heaven and new creation:

A first important theological distinction was to distinguish the intermediate state Formatted: Font: 11 pt
(heaven) from the final state (new earth). That is, when we die, we go to a place
called "heaven" and there, as wonderful as it may be, is not our final destination
because, we wait for the resurrection of the body to dwell in the restored paradise,
the habitat that God has always intended for us.90 Formatted: Font: 11 pt
Formatted: Font: 11 pt
Therefore, for a proper understanding of the doctrine of new creation, it is necessary to
distinguish the present and provisional place of the souls (heaven or intermediate state) from
the final place of the saved with their resurrected and glorified bodies (new heaven and new
earth). In this essay, both the heaven and the new creation will be treated as material and
physical places, one being provisional and the other definitive, respectively. 91

3.2 Universe destroyed or restored?


Though it is a matter of common ground among Reformed theologians that God has in
mind a definite and physical place for his people, there is debate whether the new creation
will be in a new/another created world out of nothingness or new/fully restored world.
Bavinck puts Origen, Lutherans, Mennonites, Socinians, Vorstius, Remonstrants, and
even some reformed theologians (Beza, Rivetus, Junius, Wollebius, and Prideaux) among
defenders of a new/another world that will be destroyed in substance and replaced by a whole
new world. Despite of this, Bavinck continued claiming in his own days that the idea of the
redeemed live in another world finds no support in Scripture. 92

88 HOEKEMA, 1989, p. 141.


89 CAMPOS, 2014, p. 16
90 Ibid, 2014, p. 6.
91 Maybe Eden as the possible dwelling place of the glorified Jesus. A good paper regarding the present habitat

of resurrected Jesus might be found in ALMEIDA, Jair de. O Padro den: Modelo de restaurao da criao.
In: FIDES REFORMATA XII, No2, 2007, p. 79-92. In page 82, the author claims that: E nossa opiniao que ha
grande chance de o homem Jesus ressurreto e glorificado estar, desde sua ascensao , no paraiso perdido de Adao .
Nao haveria lugar melhor para sua existencia como homem.
92 BAVINCK, 2010, v.4, 725.
Currently, most Reformed theologians seem to have cast aside the hypothesis of a
radical discontinuity between the old creation and the new. While many authors of Lutheran
confession continue to favor the concept of annihilation of the land93, among the majority of
calvinists there is a growing tendency to emphasize the renewal of creation. 94
Bavink argues that passages supposedly teaching the destruction of the substance of
the world describe, in metaphorical terms, the change that will be introduced after the Lord's
day, but do not signify the destruction of the substance of the world. Therefore, the defense of
the annihilation of the present cosmos it is a denial of the biblical narrative of redemption and
restoration. In Scripture God redeems and renews the same humanity, the same world, the
same heaven and the same earth that have been defiled and corrupted by sin. 95
Turretini points out several arguments in favor of the cosmos renewal as opposed to
those who favor the total annihilation of it.96 First, he declares that from the Psalm 102.25-27,
the destruction of the world and the creatures is carried out through verbs of semantic field
like aging, changing, which do not designate extinction of annihilation, but only change.
Further, the destruction or judgment of God does not affect the world completely, but only
areas marked by deliberate sin.
Secondly, he mentions that 1 Peter 3.6, 10-12 is also about the renewal of creation.
Peter compares what is about to happen in the future with what has already happened in the
flood. Actually, the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. Turretini
notes that the world perished, but was not destroyed because the world that arose from the
flood was not another creation, but exactly the same, totally purified.
Thirdly, the apostle illustrates the changing of creation as a qualitative changing: pass
away, dissolved, burned up, and exposed. God is treasuring the creation to melt it in
the fire. As a goldsmith, God's purpose is not to destroy, but to expose the dross of the world
and restore its genuine value. The fire that will strike the world is a fire of purification, as fire
does with gold, and as fire does to purify food. It is the fire that kills the bacteria and thistles
generated by sin. Through fire, God rescues the old world. Therefore, the dramatic passages
of apparently destruction (2Pt. 3.10, 12; Mt. 24.35; Mk. 13.31) refers to what fire burns, melts
and purges, rather than annihilates.97

93 Cf.: Berkouwer, 1972, p. 220.


94 BERKHOF, 2002, p. 77.
95 BAVINCK, v.4, p. 726
96 TURRETINI, Franois. Compndio de Teologia Apologtica. So Paulo: Cultura Crist, 2011, p. 689.
97 Ibid., 2011, p. 689.
The best option to follow, according to such reformed theologians, is in favor of the
restoration of creation, for "it is hard to imagine that God would utterly annihilate his original
creation, thus giving the impression of yielding to the devil the last word"98

3.3 New creation and the Kingdom of God


The reformed theologians believes that relate the new creation with the concept of
Kingdom of God it is one important task in order to understand both doctrines. Ridderbos is a
scholar known to have done one of the most meticulous studies on this issue in his book The
Coming of the Kingdom.99 His book is a good survey about the kingdom's nature, its fulfilled
aspects and presence in the world as the result of Christ's first advent, along with its yet future
final consummation to be accomplished at his second coming. This three thesis in his work
are central for this essay concerning the new creations theology.
First, he claims that in the OT the expression kingdom of God does not yet occur in
the same invariable sense as in the NT. But the thought of a coming kingdom of God,
consisting in the universal divine kingship over the whole world, for the good of his people
and for the overthrow of any power that opposes his rule, has from olden times been one of
the central motives of Israel's expectation of salvation.100 Thus, the theology of the kingdom
helps the interpreters of the OT to expect from God a final time of restoration of whole
cosmos.
Ridderbos also notes that OT most often speaks of its coming as the coming of a
person. The same observation holds for Jesus' use of the word basileia. There is no doubt that
the former sense, especially that of dominion as the exercise of royal dignity, is the most
prominent usage of the word in various central pronouncements about the "kingdom of
heaven" in the gospels. The spatial meaning of kingdom is then a secondary one. He
concludes that we should not in the first place think of a spatial or a static entity, which is
descending from heaven; but rather of the divine kingly rule actually and effectively starting
its operation; therefore, we should think of the Divine action of the king. 101
Secondly, the fulfilled aspects and presence in the world as the result of Christ's first
advent. He argues that the coming of the kingdom of God promised by the prophets was
fulfilled at the coming of Jesus, the Christ. According to him, the coming of the Kingdom of

98 GRUDEM, 1999, p. 998.


99 RIDDERBOS, Herman. The Coming of the Kingdom. Paidea Press, 1978.
100 Ibid., p. 8
101 Ibid., p. 24-25.
God is both the central event of redemption and the central theme of Christs teaching. In his
preaching Jesus proclaimed it as the present fulfillment of the OT prophecy of salvation,
manifested in his person and in his work.102
One of the ways in which Scripture seems to relate God's new creation and reign is
through the nuances of time. For example, Cullman103 states that. in the book of Mark 1. 14-
15, Jesus proclaims the gospel of the kingdom by saying that "time is fulfilled" and
simultaneously that "the kingdom of God is at hand ". In other words, the end has begun, but
it is not yet finished.
The expression "already not yet" has become commonplace in the writings on
eschatology, and it sums up the biblical view that with the incarnation of Jesus the end times
have already begun but are not yet finished. In other words, God's dominion is not restricted
to the future alone. The future and the present are intertwined and inseparable in Jesus'
preaching104
Thirdly, Ridderbos says when Christ preached about the kingdom of God, he was
talking about the messianic kingdom that will bring about the redemption of the whole
cosmos. The earth is involved in the divine deliverance. Thus it can be understood that the
future bliss is repeatedly described not only as a spiritual enjoyment or elevation, but as a
kind of joy embracing the whole of human life.105 In another place he claims that the coming
messianic kingdom will entail the redemption of the whole cosmos, the resurrection of the
dead, the universal judgment of the whole world and eternal life in God's paradise. 106
Therefore, the new creation fits perfectly into what Jesus brought with the coming of
the kingdom. When Jesus came, the kingdom came, and the coming of the kingdom is the
beginning of the new creation. We can separate the two concepts to better understand what
each one means, but we must not forget that the two concepts refers to the same reality
brought by the Messiah. Wolters states that: "the kingdom of God and the new heaven and
earth are one and the same: the place where God reigns forever" 107
Goheen also tied the two ideas in a special manner:

Jesus is speaking the language of the Jews of his day: the language of the kingdom. They
are all waiting for the climatic moment of universal history to dawn. There is a
widespread expectation that God is about to act in love, wrath, and power by the

102 Ibid., p. 104.


103 CULLMAN, Oscar. Cristo e o Tempo. So Paulo: Editora Custom, 2003, p. 48.
104 See: ZABATIERO, Julio. Teologia Sistemtica: Curso Vida nova de teologia bsica. So Paulo: Vida Nova,

2006, p. 141; PANNENBERG, Wolfhart. Teologia Sistemtica. So Paulo: Paulus, 2009, v.3, p. 58.
105 Ibid., p. 274.
106 Ibid., p. 10.
107 WOLTERS, 2007, 83.
intervention of his anointed king (Messiah) and by his Spirit to restore his reign over the
whole world all creation, all nations, all human life. Jesus makes the astonishing claim
that he is that anointed king, that the Spirit of God is on him to restore all creation and all
human life to live again under the rule of the sovereign God.108

To rescue the doctrine of new creation is, consequently, reclaim the heart of the
gospel. As Goheen points out, the kingdom of God is the central theme of good news. 109 But
what exactly is this kingdom that Jesus claims is breaking into history? The kingdom of God
is first of all the power of God at work in the Messiah and by the Spirit to restore all creation
and all human life from the pollution of sin and its devastating effects. In his words and
deeds, Jesus makes known that all history is leading to this restoration. Gods healing power
will ultimately triumph over sin, death, and evil at the end of all things.
Beale states that Gods work as creator is continued through Christs work of
redeeming fallen creation, which is new creation, inaugurated by his resurrection. 110 Thus,
just as the kingdom of God was inaugurated by the first coming and will be consummated at
the second coming of Christ, contemporary theologians tend to speak of the new creation
being inaugurated and consummated by the same advents.
From now on, the texts of Isaiah 65.17, 2 Peter 3.13, and Revelation 21 and 22 will be
analyzed for a broader understanding of the nature of the restored cosmos.

3.4 Analysis of Isaiah 65.17


According to Watts111 the structure of Isaiah, Chapters 65 and 66, forms a thematic
unity. The passage stands at the heavenly court where king Yahweh is uttering formal words
before his people. God becomes the character of the whole scene promising a future in a new
creation for his servants. Watts proposes the following structure for reading the two Chapters:

Scene: The great day of Yahweh (65.1-66.24)


Episode 1: Yahweh deals with his opponents (65.1-16)
Episode 2: Yahweh Ends His New Jerusalem (65.17-66.5)
Episode 3: Yahweh confirms his servants in the new city (66.6-24)

108 GOHEEN, Michael. A Light to the Nations: The missional Church and Biblical Story. Grand Rapids: Baker
Academic, 2011, p. 17.
109 Ibid., p. 19.
110 BEALE, G. K., & MCDONOUGH, S. M. Revelation. In Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old

Testament, Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007, p. 1098.
111 WATTS, John. Commentary on Isaiah (34-66): WBC, v. 25, Dallas: Word Books, 1987, p. 438.
This structure is very similar to Chapters 20 and 21 of Revelation of John, where first
God judges the enemies of the church and then promises the new creation. Motyer 112 argues
that the whole Chapter is written on the basis of this contrast between what has passed and
what will be, between Babylon and New Jerusalem, and so on.
Beale states that Isaiah 65.16-18 makes a qualitative contrast between the "previous"
earth, where the "first affliction" of the captivity occurred and "a new heaven and a new
earth" where there will be "joy and exultation" lasting. In the other quotation, Isaiah 66.22, he
points out that one of the qualitative differences is that "the new heaven and the new earth"
will remain "forever" in contrast to the old, which has passed away. Therefore, Revelation
21.1 depicts the future fulfillment of the two prophecies of the new creation in Isaiah. Judaism
also conceived the new creation as a renewal of the ancient creation (see Jub 1:29, 4:26, 1 in
45.4-5, 2 Bar 32. 1-6, 57: 2, 4 Ezra 7.75, Tg. Ps.- J. Deut 32.1, Tg. Hab. 3.2).
In Isaiah 65.17, this contrast is perceived grammatically by the expression "For",
which functions as an explanation of verses 13-16, referring to past anguish. God will create a
new reality because he has already overcome the previous one, so that his people can enjoy a
new life without having to remember what happened.
This aspect of God's creative role in the passage is directly related to Genesis 1 and 2.
Watts points out that the expression "create" appears in the account of creation nine times and
within the block of Isaiah 40-60 nineteen times. For him, the emphasis of the text is that the
new creation is a work of Yahweh, not of men.113 The same God who created the heavens and
the earth in the beginning will be responsible for creating the new heavens and new earth at
the end. This is why Motyer suggests that the new heavens and new earth are nothing more
than the fully restored Eden.114
The first things that passed away are related to the tragic past that Israel lived in the
hands of the ancient kingdoms that dominated the people of God, especially Babylon,
recorded in Chapters 1-39. This past will be eliminated from the memory of Israel when God
himself comes against the enemies and thus usher in a new era of joy in a new earth.
In fact, the immediate fulfillment of this prophecy occurred after the Babylonian
empire was defeated militarily by the Persians and by the consequent decree of Cyrus in favor
of the reconstruction of Jerusalem. However, the prophecy was not fully fulfilled during that

112 MOTYER, J. Alec. Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, v. 20,
Downers Grove, IL: IntervarsityPress, 1999, p. 449.
113 WATTS, 1987, p. 456.
114 Ibid., p. 452.
historical period as enemies continued to revive the dreams of the past in their pagan practices
and rebellions.115
The most plausible interpretation is that Isaiah 65.17 is a micro model of macro reality
recorded in Revelation 21.1. Although Jews have received victory against the Babylonians
and enjoy relative peace in their rebuilt Jerusalem, the fulfillment of the new creation is
eschatological and will occur when Christ, the true king, defeats the ultimate Babylon and
then makes a new creation of the whole universe. Therefore, the prophecy of Isaiah 65.17 can
be read keeping in mind its immediate, local, national, and limited fulfillment, but must be
understood and magnified by its future, global, international and perfect spectrum in
Revelation 21.1 where all God's people will enjoy the renewal of the whole cosmos.
Schulz claims that Isaiah's view of the new heaven and earth is a kind of
"eschatological reversion to primeval conditions," that is, the prophet looks to a future reality
that reminds him of what the original conditions were like. Thus, the historical reality of the
future is seen under the imaginative lens. In interpreting a text as rich as this, the reader is led
to read Genesis 1-2, Isaiah 11, Revelation 21-22, among so many other passages. Because of
such variation and combination of images, a literal reading of these passages is not
plausible.116
Beale highlights this very adequately. He claims that at the consummate time of
Israels restoration, there will be a new creation. The return from Babylon was only an
adumbration of a yet future restoration for Israel, since there was then no appearance of a
Messiah, no new creation, and no temple greater than Solomons, and Israel remained in
subjugation to its enemies for generations afterward. As seen in Revelation 3.14, the Isaiah
prophecy has been inaugurated in the death and resurrection of Christ in a more radical way
than ever before. It has also been inaugurated throughout the church age as people believe in
Christ and become a new creation (2Co. 5.17; cf. 2Co. 4.; similarly Ga. 6.15).117
This reading has its force in the fact that Isaiah himself writes his prophecy in
universal categories, that is, for Jews and Gentiles. He states in Chapter 66.22-23 that the new
heavens and new earth will be open to worship of all the nations of the earth. On the other
hand, contrary to universalist theological tendencies, the enemies of the people of God will
receive permanent judgment118

115 Ibid., p. 457.


116 SCHULZ, Richard. Intertextuality, Canon, and Undecidability: Understanding Isaiahs New Heavens and
New Earth. Bulletin for Biblical Research 20.1, 2010, p. 1938. p. 33.
117 BEALE, 1999, p. 1041.
118 WATTS, p. 473.
As for the literary style of the passage, it is worth mentioning that Isaiah writes his
prophecy metaphorically. In contrast to the literalist perspective of Pentecost 119, Walvoord120,
and MacArthur121, who claims to be the millennial the fulfillment of this prophecy, Motyer122
proposed that Isaiah used elements that readers knew and added to metaphor and hyperbole to
create the impressions of what was yet to come. In fact, the metaphorization and
hyperbolization of prophecy seems to be the best way to read a text like this: "Never again
will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his
years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a
hundred will be considered accursed.
The prophet uses the metaphor and the absurd to convince his audience of the
impossibility of four situations: 1. Child who lives but a few days; 2. Old man who does not
live out his years; 3. To die at a hundred years is to die still young; 4. Anyone who sins after
one hundred years will be cursed. Inverting the order, anyone has lucidity to agree that: 1.
Children live a few days; 2. Old men die in old age; 3. To die at a hundred years is to die old;
4. Whosoever sins always receives a subsequent curse. In other words, Isaiah figuratively said
that in the new future creation there will be no death of children, old or young, nor will there
be curse and sin, for the reality will be perfect.
Those who choose a literalist interpretation of the text must recognize that it leaves
them with no choice. If all the promises made are perpetual (Is 65. 18), and if the period
described in the passage contains death, curse, and sin, then there is no reason to expect a
better future. To identify Isaiah 65.17 with the millennium is to agree that this millennium
will be forever. Therefore, it is not coherent to interpret the passage alluding to its fulfillment
in the millennial period, but rather to its final fulfillment in the new creation.
In view of the foregoing, we suggest the following considerations regarding Isaiah
65.17. First, Israel's future hope in contrast to its past of exiles and suffering. Second, the
leading role of God as the creator of the new creation. Third, the promise refers to a
qualitative change in reality rather than a geographic shift. Fourth, the promises of the prophet
are a micro-vision of the macro-vision of Revelation 21 and 22, including Jews and Gentiles,
and much more than a territory in Palestine, the promise involves the restoration of all

119 PENTECOST, Dwight. Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1965,
p. 490, 561.
120 WALVOORD, John. Revelation. Chigago: Moody Publishers, 2011, p. 293.
121 MACARTHUR, Revelation. (chp. 12-22). Thomas Nelson, 2000, p. 263
122 MOTYER, 1999, p. 451.
creation. Fifth, Isaiah's style is clearly metaphorical and hyperbolic, so a literalist reading
does not make justice to the Scriptures.

3.5 Analysis of 2 Peter 3.13


Peter's second epistle has three distinct parts: an exhortation to believers to grow
spiritually (Chapter 1), instructions to them to oppose the doctrines and lifestyle of these false
teachers (Chapter 2), and teachings that prepare them for the end of the world, the judgment
and the day of the Lord (Chapter 3). In this last chapter, Peter makes an important statement
about the new creation: "But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a
new earth in which righteousness dwells (2Pt. 3.13). As the focus of this Chapter is to
analyze the reference of the new creation in Isaiah 65.17 and Revelation 21 and 22, Peter's
text will be analyzed more briefly, especially in the way it is used in its epistolary context.
The pericope is 3.1-11, and Peter is interested in preparing the Church with regard to
the teaching of false teachers. The fourth verse makes clear what the teachings preached by
such men is: "Where is the promise of his coming?". Kistemaker argues that the heresy of the
false teachers denounced by Peter was to deny the concreteness of the final judgment.123
In fact, first-century Christians had doubts about the time of Christ's return. Taking
advantage of this doubt, false teachers discouraged the Christians to think about the future in
order to concentrate only on the present. They said: "everything is the same as always and
nothing has changed" (2Pt 3.4). In the Protestant midst, this doctrine that Christ never taught
he would return seems to be defended by Dodd.124
Peter responds to his opponents by reminding them that they deliberately forget two
pertinent facts: the flood and the destruction of the world. Kistemaker, then, points out: what
God has done in the past is a reminder of what is yet to come.125 It draws a contrast between
the flood and final judgment. On the one hand, the world of Noah was destroyed by water, on
the other hand, the present world will be burned by fire (2Pt. 3.6-7).
Kistemaker126 argues that for Peter the new creation arises from the old creation, the
old cosmos gives birth to the new. The flood did not annihilate the earth, but transformed it;
just as the new earth was the consequence of the flood, so also the new heavens and the new
earth will be the consequence of the fire.

123 KISTEMAKER, Simon. Epstolas de Pedro e Judas. So Paulo: Cultura crist, 2006, p. 435.
124 DODD, C.H. The Parables of the Kingdom. Nova York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1961.
125 KISTEMAKER, 2006, p. 438.
126 Ibid., p. 455.
He also mentions that the nouns heavens and earth have no definite article, so that they
form a pair (2Pt. 3.12). The term heavens refers to the atmospheric sky, not to the dwelling
place of the glorified saints. This dwelling needs no renewal, for it remains untouched by sin.
However, some considers this interpretation forced due to the fact that there are texts
speaking of purifying the heaven where God dwells, as the text of Revelation 12, which
mentions the expulsion of the dragon from there. 127
Because of sin, the whole creation of God groans in his suffering, as Paul writes (Rm.
8.22). The creation now hopes for the day when God will set it free from the fetters of sin to
share in the glory of the children of God. In the new heavens and new earth he casts out sin,
and thereby liberates the creation of his bondage. Peter calls this new creation "the home of
righteousness." The apostle personifies the term justice and says that it has permanent
residence in the new heavens and new earth.128
Therefore, according to Peter, the Christians hope for a day of judgment that will be
followed by the restoration of all things. On the one hand, fire burns and consumes the wicked
and sinners; on the other hand, it purges all impurities from the earth by making it new,
transformed, and useful to be the dwelling place of God's people in everlasting righteousness.

3.6 Analysis of Revelation 21 and 22


Like the structure of Isaiah 65 and 66, the Day of the Lord comes in Revelation,
Chapter 20. All the enemies of Christ and his people were finally judged and defeated, and
then the promise of a new creation appears again on the scene. As it has been said, John
combines the two quotations of the new creation in Isaiah 65.17 and 66.22 in one text, for the
new heaven and new eschatological ground is a place where there is fullness of joy, absence
of weeping, and this for ever and ever.
Indeed, in a careful reading of Revelation 21 and 22, there is no doubt that the new
creation is God's final design for his people and for history. Unlike what some Christians used
to think, the new heaven and new earth is not the same thing as living forever with God "in
heaven." It has already been explained that Scripture defines heaven as a provisional reality,
whereas the new heaven and new earth is described as a definitive reality in which the present
creation will undergo a total restoration. It is in this place that Jesus promises to live forever
with those who are saved.

127 This comment was made by Dr. Leandro Lima, the writer masters advisor.
128 KISTEMAKER, 2006, p. 455.
Chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation bring together much of the OT themes. Beale points
out that all the promises of restoration of the created world made by Isaiah in Chapters 11, 25,
52, 55, 61, 65, 66 are finally fulfilled. Therefore, in a more attentive reading of the book of
Revelation, it will be clear that the final word of the book is hope and not destruction.129
Aune130 suggests a threefold structure consistent with the vision of the New Jerusalem
(2.10b-22.5):

1. External Description of the City (21.11-21)


a) It has the glory of God and the jewel-like radiance, v.11
b) The wall of the city, v. 12-14
c) Measuring of the external features of the city, v.15-17
d) Materials out of which the city is built, v.18-21

2. Internal description of the city (21.22-22.5)


a) Absence of a temple, v. 22
b) Absence of sun, moon and night, v. 23-25
c) Absence of impurities, v. 27

3. The New Jerusalem as Paradise (22.1-5)


a) The river of life, v. 1-2a
b) The trees of life, v. 2a-c
c) Those present in the city, v. 3-5

3.6.1 The new heaven and the new earth (Rev. 21.1-8)
Following the proposals of structuring above, the final scene of the book is opened
with the vision of a new heaven and a new earth. Aune131 argues that the first view of the new
creation is composed of a poem in the form of chiasmus (1-4) and seven real sayings of that
seated on the throne (5-8):

a. New heaven and the new earth (v. 1a)


b. First heaven, earth, and sea have passed away (v. 1b)
c. The sea exists no longer (v. 1b)
d. The holy city descends from heaven (v. 2)
d God dwells with people (v. 3-4a)
c Death exists no longer (v. 4b)
b Former things have passed away (v. 4b)
a God creates everything new (v. 5a)

In this case, the emphasis of the structure of the four verses lies in the relationship
between the holy city, which is the bride of the lamb dwelling with God himself in the new

129 BEALE, 1999, p. 1039-40.


130 AUNE, David. A commentary of Revelation. WBC, Dallas: Word Books, 1998, p. 321. For other proposals,
see: Carson, 2010, p. 305; Beale, 1999, p. 1039-40.
131 AUNE, 1998, p. 286-7.
creation, in fulfillment of the promises of the tabernacle, temple, and new covenant. As for
the seven statements in verses 5-8, Aune132 also suggests:

1. Behold, I am making everything new (v. 5a)


2. Write, for this message is trustworthy (v. 5b)
3. It is finished (v. 6a)
4. I am the Alpha and the Omega (v. 6b)
5. I will freely give the water of life (v. 6c)
6. Those who conquer will inherit these things (v. 7)
7. The cowards, unbelievers ... they will experience the lake that burns... (v. 8)

This structure is in accordance with the pattern of the book, composed of seven
beatitudes, seals, trumpets, bowls, etc., highlighting the perfection and fullness of what will
be the new creation that God promises to create.
John sees a new heaven and a new earth. In the earlier analysis of Isaiah 65.17 it was
considered that it was not another creation, but of the same heaven and the same earth,
qualitatively renewed, because the Jews waited for the time when Jerusalem would be rebuilt,
and then they could definitely dwell there. Hendriksen133 puts forth that in the Greek language
there are two ways of referring to something "new." Something that is new in its origin or
something that is new in its quality. The first term [nos] is used for something created
from nothing, related to its origin, and the second [kains], different from the first,
indicates novelty in terms of quality.
John uses the term [kains] four times: a new heaven and a new earth, the word
of God from the throne that makes all things new and the new Jerusalem. The same term that
is repeated four times in Revelation is also found in the reference to the new creation of 2
Peter 3.13. In other words, God will not despise the earth that he has created, on the contrary,
he promises to redeem his original qualities, destroying that which is rotten and rejuvenating
that which is already good. Appropriately, Beale states that the Church expects a new world
not another world; a restored world, not an unknown world.134
This assessment is corroborated by the fact that the NT authors present salvation as
restoration. Frequent terms are: "reconciliation," "renewal," "regeneration," and
"restoration".135 God regenerates the saved without destroying them, the body of those who
are alive in the second appearance of Christ will not be destroyed, but renewed. And likewise,
God will not destroy the good world he created, but will renew his quality. Paradise is not

132 Ibid., p. 287.


133 HENDRIKSEN, William. Mais que vencedores. So Paulo: Cultura Crist, 1999, p. 289.
134 BEALE, 1999, p.1043.
135 WOLTERS, 2007, p. 124.
destroyed; it is reconquered, so that what God began with a garden in Chapter 21 will be
transformed into a majestic city with golden streets adorned with many precious stones.
John also mentions that in this new world, the sea will no longer exist. This raises an
intriguing question: What is the sea in the book of Revelation? According to the literalist
interpretation of the Apocalypse, there will no longer be the element of water in the new
creation.136
Campos, following this line, argues that "John certainly is not referring to water as an
element of survival of the human race, but to the immense amount of salt water that occupies
three quarters of the Earth."137 Further on, the author acknowledges that the absence of the sea
in the new creation "might have symbolic connotations," but it does not make it clear to what
extent this influences its interpretation. Finally, the author concludes that the enormous
amount of water that today occupies an immense physical space on the planet will exists no
longer, thus giving place to other things in the restored habitat.
On the other hand, the symbolic interpretation suggests that the sea mentioned here is
associated with chaos. Because Israel is not a maritime people, their poetry is full of negative
connotations of the sea, usually associated with danger, chaos and the like. On this basis,
Carson argues that this passage from Revelation "is saying that in this new heaven and in this
new earth there is no more chaos, no more destruction, no more dirt and mud." 138
Beale points out at least five symbolic meanings that the sea assumes in the book of
Revelation: 1. Sea is a representation of evil or chaos; 2. Sea is the conflict between nations;
3. Sea is the place of the dead; 4. Sea is where the first beast comes; 5. Sea is what separates
John from the other churches.139
This means that the sea is a part that represents the cosmos as a whole, but not so
geographically. Instead, the nuance of seasickness represents metaphorically the full range of
afflictions that once threatened God's people in the old world. He mentions Isaiah 51.10-11,
which metaphorically equates the removal of the waters in the deliverance of the Red Sea to
the removal of pains at the consummation of the ages. What God is promising with the
withdrawal of the sea in the new creation is not the physical sea, but a kind of last exodus for
its people. Therefore, the presence of a literal sea in the new creation would not be
inconsistent with the figurative exclusion of the sea in Rev. 21.1.140

136 MACARTHUR, 2000, p. 263, WALVOORD, 1966, p. 311


137 CAMPOS, 2014, p. 37-42.
138 CARSON, 2010, p. 306.
139 BEALE, 1999, p. 1042.
140 Ibid., p. 1043.
So it is not the physical and literal sea. The biblical text is not stating that in the new
creation there will be no net portion of the planet. In short, to say that the sea will no longer
exist means to believe that there will be no further threat of Satan's turbulence, there will be
no more national strife, for all nations are gathered before the Lamb. There will also be no
more death, no more corrupt economic realms ruling over the land, and no more "the sea" of
exiles to separate the members of the churches. The saved will live together forever in a new
creation full of justice.
After a glimpse of the new creation, John suddenly sees something else: "The holy
city, the new Jerusalem, which came down from heaven from God" (Rev. 21.2). Should we
join the two figures? Carson141 proposes that John is only changing the metaphor, because
apocalyptic literature skillfully overlaps different metaphors. In short, the new creation can be
understood as a new heaven and a new earth or can be imagined as a new city, a New
Jerusalem. This change enables readers to glimpse different aspects of the same reality.
Some things are very important about this city. First, the Apocalypse is a story of two
cities, as it contrasts the famous and idolatrous Babylon with the New Jerusalem. Second, this
holy city which is at the same time the new creation, is also suddenly seen as a bride (Rev.
21.2). John jumps again from one figure to the other. Third, there is a relationship between
this woman in Chapter 21 and that in Chapter 12, for both represent the true covenant faith
community. While the woman of Chapter 12 represents this suffering community on earth,
the bride of Chapter 21 represents the redeemed community of all nations, finally secure in
the perfect presence of her bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Fourth, this bride is finally marrying her
fianc. The relationship here is between Christ (bridegroom) and his Church (the bride). The
final wedding feast is called the "marriage supper of the Lamb" (Rev. 19.9). For this reason,
Beale describes the vision of Revelation 21.1-22.5 with the following title: "The new creation
and the Church in its perfect glory."142 In fact, John is seeing much more than a new physical
earth, he is seeing everything at once with overlapping images.
There is also a mention of the tabernacle of God with his people. This notion of God
dwelling with his people repeatedly appears in the OT. In Leviticus 26.11-12, the Lord
promises that I will be your God and you will be my people. Centuries later, promising a
new covenant with his people, he said, "... I will be their God, and they shall be my people"

141 CARSON, 2010, p. 306.


142 BEALE, 1999, p. 1039.
(Jr. 31.33). Carson notes that first God revealed himself in the tabernacle, then, promised to
self-actualize in the minds and hearts of his people.143
The verse 3 and 4 pictures the state of joy in the new creation in negative terms: there
will be no tears, pain, mourning, death or any curse. Verse 5 is a repeated assurance of safety
to its inhabitants: "Behold, I make all things new. And he added, "Write, for these words are
trustworthy and true." Again, John is using the words of Isaiah, now Isaiah 43.19: "Behold, I
do a new thing," in a more universal way: "I make all things new." The insertion of the plurals
and of the whole suggests that all of God's people together with the heavens and earth have
become the new creation of God.
The expression Alpha and Omega first and last letters of the Greek alphabet
linked to God here in Revelation 21.6 is also used referring to Jesus in Revelation 1.8. In
addition to highlighting the deity of Christ, the expression mentions the two opposing poles to
represent the whole contained within them. Thus, Jesus is the Alpha and Omega because he
has dominion over all things, both those of the beginning and those of the end of history.144
A final comment on this section can be made in relation to those sentenced to the lake
of fire and to the second death. Just as in Isaiah 66.24, after describing the vision of the new
creation ends with a judgment sentence, Revelation 21.1-7, describes the condition of the
redeemed in the new creation and then announces eternal judgment to those who continue
without redemption and death. Note the comparison of the two texts:

(Is. 66.24) And they shall go out and (Rev. 21.8) But as for the cowardly, the
look on the dead bodies of the men who faithless, the detestable, as for
have rebelled against me. For their murderers, the sexually immoral,
worm shall not die, their fire shall not be sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their
quenched, and they shall be an portion will be in the lake that burns
abhorrence to all flesh. with fire and sulfur, which is the second
death.

Interpreting the above references, Morris 145 suggests that the book of Revelation
presents judgment and grace accompanied by one another. The beauty of the bride necessarily
involves the prostitute's judgment, the new creation demands the disappearance of the old
woman, and so on; it is impossible to inhabit Babylon at the New Jerusalem.

143 CARSON, 2010, p. 308.


144 BEALE, 1999, p. 1055.
145 MORRIS, Leon. Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary. v. 20. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press,

1987, p. 236.
Finally, the first scene (Rev. 21.1-8) describes the new creation as a new place with a
new people in a new relationship with God: a new earth (place), the New Jerusalem (people),
and the perfect union between Christ and his people (relationship).

3.6.2 - External description of the city (Rev. 21.11-21)


John describes the New Jerusalem as a place permeated by the glory of God
mentioning the radiance of the jewels (v. 11). It also has a wall (v. 12-14), measures (v. 15-
17), and precious building materials (v. 18-21). With such symbolic descriptions, John
describes the greatness of the new creation as a place, and at the same time refers to the
beauty of the city as the Church of God. The key to interpreting symbolism is in the
introduction of the vision: "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb ... and
showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God" (Rev. 21.9-10).
Therefore, one can say that the symbolic descriptions contained in this view refer to the
restored habitat of the redeemed, and especially to themselves.
Beale points out that the broad structure of the city (Rev. 21.12-22. 5) is based on the
vision in Ezekiel 40-48. 146 The prophet sees what is the pattern of the last temple (Rev.,
Chapters 40-44) and the arrangement of the eschatological city and the divisions of the earth
around the temple (Rev., Chapters 45-48) would be. Beale also rejects such descriptions as
referring to a literal perception of a physical city, precisely because it is interpreted by John
himself as a description of the Bride of the Lamb (Rev. 21.2,10).
For him, this section is a recap of the first (Rev. 21.1-8) that enlarges the images of
God's final fellowship with his people in the new creation.147 Thus, the characteristics of the
new Jerusalem will be interpreted symbolically, without the physical reality of the new
creation being denied, that is, God will restore all the created cosmos and his people will live
in a physical earth, but the details of how would be this glorious place can not be equated with
the figurative descriptions of Revelation.

3.6.2.1 The appearance of the city (Rev. 21.11)


According to Aune148, the identification of the New Jerusalem with the Church is a
sign that John wants to emphasize the priestly status of the people of God (Rev. 1.6, 5.10,
20.6). The city is white as a jasper stone, the same stone mentioned in Revelation 4.3 to

146 BEALE, 1999, p. 1061.


147 For a literalist approach to the New Jerusalem as the capital of the new creation, Cf.: CAMPOS, Hber. O
Habitat Humano: O Paraso restaurado (Parte 1). So Paulo: Hagnos, chp. 2 e 8.
148 AUNE, 1998, p. 367.
illustrate the glory of God shining from the throne. John's idea is clear: God's people in their
final status will perfectly reflect the glory of God, fulfilling the original design of creation in
which God made man to reflect his image and likeness (Gen. 1.26).
In addition to this stone, the other jewels mentioned reflect the value of the people of
God and also that the Lord is not glorified more in places, but in his own people. God
manifested brilliantly from the ancient tabernacle, but his glory is no longer mentioned in
tabernacles, temples or places, now is essentially gleaming in his own people, the New
Jerusalem.

3.6.2.2 The wall of the city (Rev. 21.12-14)


John says that the city has a high wall. The author's detailing of this construction
already indicates that the content of the vision is essentially symbolic: it has twelve doors,
twelve angels, the inscribed names of the twelve tribes of Israel, twelve foundations, and on
these the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. How to interpret the repeated appearances
of number twelve in this passage? Carson argues that this is a way of saying that all the
people of the old covenant and all the people of the new covenant together constitute this
unified people (as a new man in Christ in Ephesians 2.15).149
Beale interprets that the whole view of the wall comes from Ezekiel 40. The multiple
gates of the temple of Ezekiel and the twelve gates of the city (Ezk. 48. 31-34) are merged Commented [RS4]: Ez. > Ezra
Ezekiel > Ezk.
into a group of twelve willing gates around a temple-city of John's vision. Unlike Ezekiel, an Verificar todas as referncias, pois esto iguais > Ez. e Ez.

angel is stationed at every gate. For him, these angels are comparable to the angels of the
churches and the twenty-four elders who represent the true people of God.150
The city of Ezekiel (Ezk. 48. 31-34) has four groups of three gates facing east, north,
south, and west; Ezekiel's list begins with the north and then the east, but in John's vision, the
angel measures first at the east gate, then north, south, and west (influenced by Ezekiel 42.15-
19). Each of the gates of Ezekiel and John is named after one of the twelve tribes of Israel
written on it. Interpreting the symbol, Beale suggests that the high and great wall represents
the inviolable nature of the communion with God that these people will have in the new
creation.151 Further on, John's statement contributes to this indestructible status of security in
God: " nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false,
but only those who are written in the Lambs book of life (Rev. 21.27).

149 CARSON, 2010, p. 311.


150 BEALE, 1999, p. 1068.
151 Ibid., p. 1068.
3.6.2.2 The Measures of the city (v. 15-17)
In the following verses, John takes his readers to know the measures of the New
Jerusalem. The author says that the city is quadrangular, that is, a perfect cube composed of
twelve thousand stages; its wall is a hundred and forty-four cubits. Again, this has an
eminently symbolic character. The number 12 multiplied by 12 is equal to 144. This is a way
of saying that all the people of the old covenant and all the people of the new covenant
together constitute the people of God, as already mentioned.
"The measures are human, that is, angelic." The apparent contradiction of the featured
phrase faithfully translates the very essence of vision, for it portrays something about humans,
but in a supernatural and symbolic way. In this sense, Beale argues that John is warning
readers not to interpret the vision literally or merely "humanly," but in a spiritual and
supernatural way, otherwise they will not understand its real meaning.152
The only place in the OT that had a cubic shape was the Holy of Holies, in the
tabernacle or in the temple. In that place God manifested his glory when the blood of the
animals was shed. Being in the Holy of Holies was as close as a human being could get in the
presence of God. John, on the other hand, informs that the whole city is built in cubic format.
Carson points out that this is a way of saying that "all of us are forever in the very presence of
God. We no longer need a mediating priest. We no longer need any blood sacrifices."153
When the blood of Christ was shed on the cross the veil of the temple was torn, and
the way to the Holy of Holies was opened (Mt. 27.51). Now, more glorious than that, the
whole city is fully filled with the presence of God. It is as if John were saying, through the
measures: "The city and the Church will be the new Holy of Holies."

3.6.2.3 The building materials of the city (Rev. 21.18-21)


According to John, the holy city also possesses valuable building materials: a wall of
jasper (v. 18a), the city made of pure gold (18b), twelve foundations (v. 19-20), twelve pearly
gates v. 21) and a very bright golden square (v. 21b). The relationship of these symbols to the
OT is vital to understanding here. The people of God are white and pure as jasper, and golden
as gold; such jewels refer to the personal treasure of the kings of antiquity, guarded with
special affection. God applies the primitive custom of the kings to himself, fulfilling what he
said in Exodus 19.5: "if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be
my treasured possession among all peoples.

152 Ibid., p.1077-78.


153 CARSON, 2010, p. 311.
Moreover, each of the twelve foundations is covered with precious stones: jasper,
sapphire, agate, emerald, onyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth and
amethyst. Kistemaker leaves no doubt that the twelve precious stones correspond to those that
covered the breastplate of the high priest when he entered the Holy of Holies (see Exodus
28.17-20, 39.10-13).154 In other words, all the individuals who make up the whole of God's
people are priests and a perfectly holy nation (Ex. 19.6). What is more, they are all "high
priests", for they have all reached the maximum degree of access to God - and they are
already the Holy of Holies. The superimposed images serve to confirm that there will be no
defect in them nor in their communion with God.

3.6.3 Internal description of the city (Rev. 21.22-22.5)


In his detailing of the inner characteristics of the New Jerusalem, John emphasizes
things there that will be absent. According to his description, there will be no more temple,
sun, moon, night, impurities nor wicked. On the other hand, the Lord and the lamb will be the
temple, and their glory will light up the whole city like a strong lamp, that is, absent things are
replaced by the presence of God himself.

3.6.3.1 Absence of a temple (Rev. 21.22)


Carson rightly points out that "we can not imagine a temple within the Holy of
Holies."155 There is no need to go back to something smaller when the greatest and fullest has
been achieved. The Father and the Son will be the meeting place with the saved and they will
adore him with absolute intimacy.
According to the Gospel of John, the first coming of Jesus has already fulfilled
Ezekiel's prophecy concerning a new temple. At the time when Jesus said that the temple
would be destroyed, but that he would rebuild it in three days, he did not mean a physical
structure, but his own body who would pass through death, but would rise again on the third
day (Jn. 2.19-22). Similarly, in Revelation, John excludes the details of Ezekiel 40-48 from
his vision (Rev. 21.9-22.5), for he understands that all those details were perfectly fulfilled in
God and in Christ, not in a physical structure.156

154 KISTEMAKER, 2004, p. 715.


155 CARSON, 2010, p. 312.
156 See: BEALE, 1999, p 1091.
3.6.3.2 Absence of sun and moon (Rev. 21.23-25)
As for the absence of the sun and moon stars, John is not trying to make a treatise on
the astronomical structures of the new creation, just as the absence of the sea does not shed
light on hydrological questions. Again, Carson says: "the language here is symbolic."157 In the
ancient world, in a culture that did not count on electricity, the hours of the night brought
great darkness, especially if there was no moon. It was customary to close the gates of the city
to increase the safety of its inhabitants. Therefore, in this type of culture, the sun and moon
not only gave structured time, but also functioned as elements of relative security.
When John affirms the absence of sun and moon, he is in no way denying literally the
existence of the stars in the new creation, but affirming that the future habitat of the redeemed
will be filled with peace and social security. Peace will reign forever, there will be no more
suffering, death, sin, or threats of danger, for the glory of God shines brighter than the sun
itself bringing security to its inhabitants.158
Beale argues that John's dominant idea is to show that the glory of God is
incomparable to any source of light in the old or new creation.159 He also suggests that the
description of the city is related to the nature of God's people, therefore, he claims that the
glory of God is sufficient to make the city (= His people) shine forth.

3.6.3.3 Absence of impurities (Rev. 21.26-27)


John also assures his readers that there will be nothing else contaminated or unclean
that threatens the Church's relationship with God. In the New Jerusalem, God's people will be
perfectly free from sin, temptation, or even lose their eternal salvation. This is a clear
reference to Genesis 2.17, also 3.17, in which God announces the curse of death to those who
eat the forbidden fruit. Unlike Eden, there will be no more possibility of falling into sin in the
New Jerusalem, for such a cursed tree no longer exists; so the saints will be secure in God
forever.
It should be noted that John presents no form of universalism in verse 26. Nations and
kingdoms bringing glory to the city do not correspond to "unsaved condemned eternally
visiting the new creation." John is not describing an exodus from the wicked from the lake of
fire toward the new Jerusalem, for he himself states in the next verse that the only inhabitants
of that place are those inscribed in the Book of Life (v. 27). The reference to kings and

157 Op. cit., 2010, p. 312.


158 HENDRIKSEN, 1999, p. 263.
159 BEALE, 1999, p.1093-5.
nations bringing their glory and riches to the city must be interpreted as an action done by
their own dwellers. Beale argues that they are not bringing literal riches to the city, but
offering themselves in worship to God forever and ever.160

3.6.4 The New Jerusalem is the perfect Eden


The last part of John's description of the New Jerusalem is full of elements already
seen in Genesis 1 and 2. At the conclusion of his vision of the holy city, John recalls elements
from the Garden of Eden. With a vibrant intertextuality, John sees the small garden of the old
creation expanded into the city of the new creation. What began as a small garden is now
glimpsed as an integral part of the whole restored cosmos. Thus, John sees the same river of
the water of life (22.1-2a), the same tree of life with its fruits and leaves (22.2a-c??) and its
new inhabitants: God together with his royal subjects (22.3-5).

3.6.4.1 The river of the water of life (22.1-2a)


For John, the New Jerusalem is an enlarged Eden, thats why the water lifes river
could not be absent. The symbolism is evident: this water flows from the throne of God and
the Lamb and is nothing other thing than the very life of God that is available to his people
forever. It is the river that represents the immortality of all those who drink of this water. It is
the same water that John in his gospel calls the living water and offered it to a Samaritan
woman (Jn. 4.10). Jesus is offering what he himself is: the source of life that quenches the
thirst of human beings in the present and also flows to eternal life (Jn. 4.14).
John himself interprets what he meant regarding the water of life in his gospel (Jn
7.37-39). Now it became clearer what Jesus had in mind when he promised to offer living
water to the thirsty, he was spoken about the Holy Spirit who would flow from Jesus to his
disciples. Likewise, in the New Jerusalem, God's people will enjoy the refreshing presence of
the Spirit of Jesus forever and ever, or to put it another way, the Scripture promises that the
same life that now dwells in the savior will also be perfectly inside the saved.

3.6.4.2 The tree of life (Rev. 21 2a-c)


If God himself is the water of life, who else could be the tree of life? By purpose, in
the gospel of John, Jesus as well as living water is also compared to a tree (vine) that bears
fruit (Jn. 15.1-11). In the book of Genesis, the tree of life was responsible for offering

160 Ibid., p.1095.


immortality: "... the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, let he
reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever (Gn. 3.22).
God drove the couple out of the garden after the so that they would not eat of such tree
in that state of sin, otherwise they would live like this forever. But God had his plan: to offer
eternal life to men through Jesus the Christ. Thus, the New Jerusalem, all the saved eat the
fruits of the tree and are healed by their leaves.161 Again, John is symbolically referring to the
blessing of eternal Christian salvation through a metaphor known from the old covenant (Gn.
3.22; Ezk. 47.12). All the saved will live eternally because they feed on Christ and were
healed by him.
The twelve months also produce twelve fruits. This number in Revelation is always
related to the people of God. The idea is simple: the tree of life (Christ) generates the twelve
fruits (people of God). There is a connection between the source and the results: Jesus is the
tree and his own people are its fruits as in John 15, where Jesus was the vine and the
disciples were the branches that bore fruit. Following the same language, all the nations that
inhabit the New Jerusalem are fully healed of their sins and their death.

3.7.4.3 Its inhabitants: God and his people (Rev. 21.3-5)


In the first Eden, the first man worshiped God. Now, in the new Eden that is the new
creation, New Jerusalem or new heaven and new earth, all its inhabitants will be with God
face to face. This relationship between creation and restoration, past and future, clarifies
God's eternal plan for human history: to reveal himself and to be known by a people forever.
The face-to-face expression reminds us of the very close relationship that the first
couple had with God in the garden in the cool of the day (Gn. 3.8) and more specifically the
kind of relationship that Moses wanted to have with God (Ex. 33.20). Unfortunately, Moses
could not see God face to face, for God himself had stated: "no man shall see my face and
live." However, in the New Jerusalem, those redeemed by the cross of Christ will be
transformed in such a way that all their sinfulness will be destroyed. There will be no more
sin between man and his God. Therefore, John boldly states that the saved will see God in all
his glory also called beatific vision by some theologians.162
As marriage illustrates the belonging of a man to his wife, the two becoming one
flesh, the name of God shall be upon the foreheads of the inhabitants of the holy city; they
belong to God and nothing can bring them out of their presence. This, not by chance, refers to

161 KISTEMAKER, 2004, p. 729.


162 See: CARSON, 2010, p. 315; MORRIS, 1987, p. 244.
the fact that the high priest carried the name of God in his face in the old covenant. That man
represented the maximum intimacy that a man could reach before God. In the new creation,
all the saved will have this privilege.
The throne of God and of the Lamb is located at the center of the new creation
(Livro?Rev. 22.3-4). This also has a profound meaning: God will reign over all the earth as a
sovereign king and all the saved will serve him like pleased servants eternally. The life of
God will be reflecting upon them and, under his rule, the saved of all nations will reign
forever over the new creation.

Conclusion

For the reformed tradition, the final destiny of redeemed humanity is the new creation,
not a place distant from this world, but precisely the same cosmos totally restored. This essay
firstly by arguing argue that the hope of an everlasting living within an immaterial place in the
future is not part of the Christian worldview, rather, it is about an inadequate absorption of the
dualistic mindset of platonism.
Second, in order to comprehend the eschatological promises of Scriptures, we sought
to analyze which hermeneutical principles best fit the reading of Revelation. It was suggested
that Revelation has a mixed genre composed by epistolary, prophecy and apocalyptic literary
forms. Moreover, an adequate reading of Apocalypse must consider its OT intertextuality, the
symbolic nature of the book as a whole, and attempt to its recapitulative-progressiveness.
Finally, it was presented some introductory features about new creation theology,
highlighting the differences between the intermediate state and new creation, its relations to
the kingdom of God, and three exegetical surveys on Isaiah 65.17, 2 Peter 3.13 and
Revelation 21 and 22.
We recognize that what Christians believe about the afterlife directly affects what they
believe about life before death, that is to say, eschatology matters. For this reason, as the
Church lives in the midst of the era of the inauguration and consummation of the Kingdom of
God, it is precisely in this interval of ages that the Church needs to perform its missional task.
God is working for the restoration of all things and inviting his Church to join him in this
project. As Hoekema pointed: we can not simply regard the present earth as a total loss, or
rejoice with its decay. We really have to be working for a better world right now."163

163 HOEKEMA, 1989, p. 382.


The Church must believe that all the redemptive activity that it practices in this life
has eternal values. We have a responsibility to work for the glory of God precisely because
we know that this work is not vain, useless or fleeting, but as the resurrection of the body, it
will last forever.
Several dimensions of Church daily life practices could be changed in the light of new
creation theology. Doubtless, our hope for the restoration of all things must challenge the way
how we read the Bible, perform liturgies, preaching, evangelism, sacraments, ethics, creation
care, social justice, and even in which measure we are ready to suffer for the Gospel. If God is
utterly committed to set the world right in the end, therefore the Church needs to reorient its
entire mission from this.