Bible in a Year – Day 223: What on New Earth?
Today, we wrap up yet another book of the Bible – that’s 23 if you’re counting. We also get to wade a little into the realm of eschatology – of what will happen at the end of time. At the end of the book of Isaiah, there is a lot of talk about punishment and blessing and about the new heaven and new earth. And much has been made about these verses.
Some of them seem to affirm a traditional view of heaven and hell. Others, like the very last verse of the book, raise some questions about how most people view eternity:
“And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.” (Isaiah 66:24)
Now, remember, this is after the formation of the new heaven and new earth – after the “end of the world”. A lot of people believe that after that time, everything becomes “spiritual” – in other words, the word ends, everybody either goes to heaven or hell – eternal bliss or eternal fire – and that’s that. But that’s not what Isaiah says.
In Isaiah’s prophecy, you’ll notice that the world doesn’t just vanish. Instead, it is remade. In Isaiah’s vision, the physical world still exists (the new earth) as does the spiritual world (the new heaven). And, in Isaiah’s vision, the new earth is as God intended, but is not free from death. In fact, in this new earth will lie the dead bodies of those have rebelled against God. We are told that the righteous will “go out” (presumably out from the new Jerusalem) and see them. We will also see the worms that will not die and the fire that will not be quenched…right here on the the new earth. That’s not exactly the picture of heaven and hell I was taught in Sunday School classes as a kid.
Now, let me say that I’m certainly no eschatologist. In fact, there are many other parts of the Bible that I find much more intriguing than the “end times”. What I do know, however, is that God has a habit of blowing our minds – of going far beyond our limited understanding and even beyond our wildest imagination. He makes things simpler than we think they can be and he simultaneously navigates through complexities that we can’t even begin to comprehend. And so, as we read the Bible and try to understand what all of this end times stuff means, I think it’s probably best that we remember the words of Isaiah:
“These are the ones I look on with favor:
those who are humble and contrite in spirit,
and who tremble at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2)
A simple reminder in the midst of complexity. Those who follow God closely have no need to figure out exactly how it all will end. He’s got you taken care of.
- Bible in a Year – Day 365: The End
- Bible in a Year – Day 363: What Does That Mean?
- Bible in a Year – Day 353: Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing
- Bible in a Year – Day 298: Jesus Reads Himself
- Bible in a Year – Day 274: Ctrl
- Bible in a Year – Day 264: Bugging Out
- Bible in a Year – Day 253: Prince or Prop
- Bible in a Year – Day 252: Lip Service
- Bible in a Year – Day 247: Chances
- Bible in a Year – Day 241: Love Breaks Through