Many Christians are disadvantaged in that we are not well grounded in the Old Testament scriptures. We have been taught for so many generations that as we are now under the new covenant of Christ, that the old covenant is then no longer relevant. This leads many to assume that there is no need to study the Old Testament. That assumption is incorrect.
We do understand that the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed; that the New Testament is the Old Testament fulfilled. But, for some reason many Christians rely only upon the words of the New Testament, without reading and understanding their origins found in the Old Testament.
This lack of understanding of Old Testament scriptures prevents many from fully understanding the completed prophesy revealed in the New Testament. This lack of knowledge of Old Testament figurative prophetic language prevents many Christians from seeing that same figurative language when it is used again in the New Testament scriptures.
If we understand that the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, then we must make an effort to study the Old Testament. The New Testament cannot be lifted away from the Old Testament. They are joined. You cannot understand one without the other.
That means that we have to go back to the Old Testament to get the full meaning of what Jesus and the Apostles said, and the Holy Spirit recorded in the New Testament in the first century A.D.
Let’s look at the phrase “heaven and earth”. It has an original use in the Old Testament.
In Leviticus God is setting out His commandments for the children of Israel. In Chapter 26 he tells them of the benefits of following His commandments, and then of the results if they do not. Look at Lev. 26:14-20 carefully.
“ 14 But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments; 15 And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant: 16 I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17 And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you. 18 And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. 19 And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass: 20 And your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits.” (KJV, all bold emp. mine throughout)
Notice the “your” before the heaven and earth in verse 19? Remember that God is speaking to the children of Israel. Then their heaven and their earth, specifically theirs, must be for the tribes of Israel. So, Israel was a type of “heaven and earth”. The words “heaven” and “earth” as used in Lev. 26:19 are figurative for their land, and not the literal heaven and literal earth.
Look at Deut. 4:26 where Moses is speaking to the children of Israel while still in the desrt.
“ I have caused to testify against you this day the heavens and the earth, that ye do perish utterly hastily from off the land whither ye are passing over the Jordan to possess it; ye do not prolong days upon it, but are utterly destroyed;” (Young’s) or
“ I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.” (KJV)
Moses is reminding them of the covenant God has made with them, and reasoning with them to keep that covenant.
Lev. 4:23, “ Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the Lord thy God hath forbidden thee.” (KJV)
What is the witness against the children of Israel? Isn’t it the covenant God made with them? What else will convict them of their wrongs, and testify against them but the commandments He gave them? Then, isn’t the “heaven and earth” of Deu. 4:26 the “covenant” of Lev. 4:23 which was made specifically with Israel?
Again, as when used in Is. 1:1-2, “ 1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. 2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.” (KJV)
Who is the prophet addressing? The children of Israel! Hear and listen, he says. Who is listening but the tribes of Israel? Here, “heaven and earth” = Israel, a nation.
Look now at Is. 13. 1, “ The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see.“ The first verse establishes that the prophet is speaking to Babylon. Remember that when a prophet speaks he is going to use some figurative language, and it is not literal.
Is. 13:5, “They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the Lord, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land.” (KJV)
The word country we know is a land, and it is a far land, “from the end of heaven”. In the figurative prophetic language country is land and is also heaven.
Is. 13:10, “ For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.” (KJV)
In prophetic language “stars” and “sun” and “moon” are rulers, kings and princes. The “sun” is a greater ruler than the “moon” which is lesser. The moon does not shine as brightly as the sun. Rulers rule over countries and nations. So, when they do not give their light, they are no longer ruling. God has taken away their power, and their light does not shine any more over the nation.
Is. 13:13, “ Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.“
What is God shaking? The prophet is speaking of the destruction of Babylon, of the judgment against Babylon, which occurred in 539 BC when the Medes destroyed Babylon.
Is. 13:19-20, “19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. 20 It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.” (KJV)
When God shook the “heavens” and moved the “earth” out of her place, He was not speaking of the literal physical cosmos, but of the nation of Babylon. He shook their world. He destroyed their world in judgment delivered by His rod and messengers, the Medes.
We can see that in figurative judgment language used by the prophets of God, that “heavens and earth” are nations under judgment. The phrase and words are used the same way all throughout Isaiah in the prophetic judgments against all of the nations God warned. God was going to change their “world”, or His covenant with them. How then shall we understand this same language when we see it in used in the New Testament?
Heb. 12:26-29, “ 26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. 27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 For our God is a consuming fire.” (KJV)
Do you recognize now the prophetic figurative language? It is the same that was used in Isaiah, and the other prophets in the Old Testament. Shaking the earth and the heaven must be understood as the destruction of a nation and the change in God’s agreement with them, in the same way that it was used in the Old Testament. It is the judgment of Israel once more, and specifically Jerusalem of the first century A.D that is spoken of in Heb. 12.
In verse 27, what cannot be shaken? The answer is in verse 28, the Kingdom, which is everlasting. It is the Kingdom of the New Testament, the never-ending, everlasting, spiritual Kingdom. The New Testament, the new covenant brought by the blood of Christ, bought by the sacrifice of Christ in place of all of us, fulfilled the Old Covenant which God had made with the children of Israel. The New Covenant would be with spiritual Israel, the new Jerusalem, all those that are in the body of Christ.
The Old Covenant was removed, shaken, taken out of the way, and replaced with a New Covenant that would not be shaken. The last days spoken of in the New Testament were the last days of the Old Covenant.
2 Pet. 3:7, “ But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” (KJV)
Peter wrote this letter sometime before 68 A.D., most probably between 64 – 66 A.D. It predates the destruction of Jerusalem, and the temple. The reference in verse 7 above is to the then future destruction of Jerusalem, and not to the literal physical cosmos as most people try to make it say. The verse specifically states “against the day of judgment”. So, we need to immediately associate judgment language with this verse.
All Old Testament prophesy of “fire” was judgment figurative language of destruction against a nation or land, against a group of people. Judgment was brought against a sinful people who would not repent and turn back to God.
What was being kept in store and reserved unto fire, that is destruction, was Jerusalem. That destruction occurred in A.D. 70, and the “heavens and earth” of the land of Judea, the remaining two tribes of the children of Israel, and the covenant with them, passed away. The destruction of the temple which Jesus foretold in Matt. 24, was the destruction of the Jewish world. It was the destruction of the Old Covenant sacrificial system that passed away.
Now look at Matt 5:17-18, ” 17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (KJV)
Are we still under the law of the Old Covenant? Most people will agree that we are not! Then, working back through the scripture, “heaven and earth” must have passed. Today, some 2,000 years later, we still see the literal heavens and the literal earth. So Matt. 5:18, recorded in the first century A.D., is not speaking of the physical cosmos. It is the same figurative OT language of prophesy. It is speaking of the land nation of Judea and old Israel, and the covenant under which it still operated. That land and that nation whose capital was Jerusalem was going to have to pass away before the New Covenant with spiritual Israel could be completely probated and set firmly in place.
If you believe that the heaven and earth of Matt. 5:18 means the literal physical cosmos, then you must also believe that the Old Covenant, the old law is still in place.
I submit to you that the figurative “heaven and the earth” were always the nations who came under judgment of God for breaking His laws and commandments in both the Old and New Testaments; that the heaven and the earth of Matt. 5:18 was the Old Covenant God had established with the tribes of Israel; that they were the land of Judea and the two tribes remaining, and the surrounding nations that would come under judgment with her in A.D. 70; and that they have indeed passed away with the destruction of Jerusalem.
As we are under the New Covenant, the New Testament, then all has been completely fulfilled as Jesus stated would happen in Matt. 5:18. The New Heavens and the New Earth are the New Covenant, and the way God is now dealing with His people. They are the spiritual Jerusalem, and the spiritual Kingdom of Christ.
Is. 65:17, “ For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.”
Rev. 3:12, ” Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.“
Rev. 21:2, “ And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
For more study please see my posts titled “It’s Not The End of The World, Parts 1 – X”.