God’s language of prophesy is a challenge because it is a majestic and grand metaphor, a hugely poetical style. The metaphors and poetry which He used were to provide the sovereign and supreme import, the full vision and implications of what became the actual or literal outcome. The judgment was pronounced from heaven above in metaphors, given to His prophets, and then carried out with a literal consequence which was seen by those who were under God’s judgment.
For instance, many Old Testament scriptures testify to the fury of God, and compare it to fire.
Psa. 89:46, “ How long, Lord? wilt thou hide thyself for ever? shall thy wrath burn like fire?” (KJV)
Is. 66:15-16, “ For, lo, Jehovah in fire cometh, And as a hurricane His chariots, To refresh in fury His anger, And His rebuke in flames of fire. 16 For by fire and by His sword, Doth Jehovah do judgment with all flesh. And many have been Jehovah’s pierced ones.’” (YLT)
Jer. 4:4, “ Be circumcised to Jehovah, And turn aside the foreskins of your heart, O man of Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, Lest My fury go out as fire, and hath burned, And there is none quenching, Because of the evil of your doings.” (YLT)
Lam. 2:4, “He hath bent his bow like an enemy: he stood with his right hand as an adversary, and slew all that were pleasant to the eye in the tabernacle of the daughter of Zion: he poured out his fury like fire.” (KJV)
We can see from these scriptures the metaphor words “like” and “as” which compare God’s fury to fire. Learning from these defined metaphors of the Old Testament, we then associate the prophetical word “fire” with God’s anger and judgment against the wicked people.
Ezek. 19:12, “But she was plucked up in fury, she was cast down to the ground, and the east wind dried up her fruit: her strong rods were broken and withered; the fire consumed them.” (KJV)
Ezek. 23:25, “And I will set my jealousy against thee, and they shall deal furiously with thee: they shall take away thy nose and thine ears; and thy remnant shall fall by the sword: they shall take thy sons and thy daughters; and thy residue shall be devoured by the fire.” (KJV)
As the metaphor of fire speaks of the anger and judgment of God, then the verses that use the word “fire” are immediately associated with the judgment that He carried out. You can just as easily replace the word “fire” with “Lord’s judgment”.
The method of the actual, literal judgment sentence was not necessarily by a literal fire because he used both natural elements and foreign nations to achieve His judgment against the wicked ones He condemned.
God’s judgment upon the sinful and wicked Sodom and Gomorrah was literally fire and brimstone.
Gen 19:24, 28: “24Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven;…..28 And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.” (KJV)
The wicked people of Sodom and Gomorrah “saw” God in the fire and brimstone that rained down upon them. But His judgment was not always executed by literal fire. Sometimes it was carried out by bringing down a fierce warrior nation upon the condemned and wicked people.
Isa. 34:2-5, “For the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter.
3 Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall come up out of their carcases, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood.
4 And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.
5 For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment.”
Isa. 66:16, “For by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many.”
Jer. 9:9, 16: “9Shall I not visit them for these things? saith the Lord: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?… 16 I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor their fathers have known: and I will send a sword after them, till I have consumed them.”
So, when Christ told His disciples that there were some standing there that would see the Son of man coming in His kingdom (Matt. 16:28) and when He told Caiaphas that, “ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven,” (Matt 26:64), and when he told John, ” Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him” (Rev. 1:7), He meant that the people would see the outcome, the consequence and resulting action of the judgment. They would “see” the resulting death and destruction.
We can only learn the full meanings of the prophetic language of God from within His own words. We must study the original source, and delve through the Old Testament to see these same words as they are found in the New Testament. I guarantee you that much of the New Testament language that many people believe to be literal is still God’s prophetic judgment language of the Old Testament.
Here is one that most people have wrenched and turned inside out.
2 Pet. 3:10, 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.“
This verse even tells us that it is speaking of the judgment of God; that “the day of the Lord” is the same meaning as in Zechariah 14:1-2.
“Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.
2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.”
A “day of the Lord” signified a time of judgment against a wicked people or nation. The first thing that should come to mind when we see these words is the judgment language of God that is found throughout all of the Old Testament. The “elements shall melt with fervent heat” is the metaphor of the fire of God’s anger.
Ezek. 22:20, “As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you.”
The prophesy of Ezekiel 22 that God would gather the people into Jerusalem and melt them is the same prophesy of 2 Peter 3 of the elements being melted with fervent heat! Both prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and the Mosaic sacrificial temple.
After God’s judgment was carried out, then a new and purified air for the people was set in place. New “elements” or a new system was established, to refresh the order of living clean and pure to serve God without sin. In the prophesy of bringing Israel out of the Babylonian captivity, Isaiah spoke of new elements… a new heaven and a new earth.
Isa. 65:17-19, “17 For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. 18 But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. 19 And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.”
God brought Jerusalem back into being after the tribes of Joseph and Judah returned from the Babylonian captivity. They rebuilt Jerusalem according to God’s instructions (see Ezra and Nehemiah), and recreated the city with new purpose to live before God according to His laws.
The creation of the new heavens and new earth in Isaiah chap. 65 was the contemporary historical recreation of Jerusalem (the earth) under the authority of the Levitical priesthood and hierarchy of the Judean political structure (heavens) decreed by God.
Isa. 65:21-22, “21 And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the Lord. 22 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain.“
Did God destroy the literal world and recreate it again after the remnant of Israel came out of Babylon? No. No more did He do so after the destruction of Jerusalem. Creating “new heavens and a new earth” was a metaphor for the restored condition of the people to live under God’s sovereignty. It looked forward to the new heavens and new earth under the gospel of Christ.
2 Pet. 3:13, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.“
Rev. 21:1, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.”
The meaning is the same as found in the Old Testament prophesy of a new system restored to God, with the “heavens” of the world nations under the authority of God and the “earth” being the people, specifically those who have put on Christ in the new heavenly covenant.
Heb. 8:10-13, “ For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.“
What was meant by old and new? If there was to be a new covenant, a new heaven and earth, then the previous one was old, right?
Rev. 21:2-3, “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. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”
The word “new” implied that the old covenant, and the old heaven and earth, and the old Jerusalem were gone. They had vanished away. The prophesy of Revelation foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, the destruction of the old heaven and earth covenant with Israel, the destruction of the old earthly tabernacle in that temple in Jerusalem.
They were replaced with the new covenant of the new heaven and earth gospel of Christ whereby the people of God would worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24), in a spiritual temple in a spiritual city of God (John 4:21), the new Jerusalem where His laws are written on our hearts for all those that are in Christ.
That the new replaced the old is seen in the parable of the wine skins.
Matt. 9:16-17, “16 No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.
17 Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.“
The meaning should be clear, that Christ told them a new covenant was to replace the old covenant. It wasn’t going to be a patch job, nor a merging of the two, nor a mix of the old vintage with the new vintage.
“No more sea” of Rev. 21:1 referred to the former distinction between the nation of the land and the nations of the sea. The land, or earth in the Old Testament was most often Israel. The opposite of land, “sea” was the metaphor for the idolatrous nations surrounding Israel, just as the sea or water surrounds the literal land.
After the battle of Rev. chap. 19, after the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the persecuting powers of the beast of Rome, the new heaven and earth covenant of the gospel of Christ meant that all nations could now come back to the Father through Christ.
Gal. 3:28-29, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Col. 3:11, “ Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.”
So, no more sea! It doesn’t matter now whether your flesh and blood lineage is of Israel, or Greece, or Britain, Russia, China, America, or Canada. Every nation, every people of every land are invited, called through the gospel of Christ to come back to the Father, our Creator. And, if we answer that call by being immersed in water for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16), then we are counted for the seed of Abraham, and we are the Israel which God established forever! (Gal. 3:26 -28)
Isa. 45:17, “But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.“
Despite what many people believe, God was not speaking of restoring and reestablishing an earthly nation of Israel. He was speaking of the new Israel, those faithful of Christ which are counted for the seed of Abraham, that are in His body, His church, and His New Jerusalem. Those in Christ are the Israel which is saved “in the Lord with an everlasting salvation.” (See also the post “God’s Definitions -Part I: The House of Israel.”)
Therefore, Revelation’s new heavens and new earth are not a literal restoration of a clean environment, nor a literal restoration of a clean atmosphere. Nor is the New Jerusalem a literal restoration of an earthly city of Jerusalem. They are metaphors for the new covenant under the gospel of Christ. The New Jerusalem was prepared as a bride (“as a” means metaphor) for her husband (Rev. 21:2). She was / is the bride of Christ, which is the church of Christ.
Therefore, the New Jerusalem is the same as the bride and the church of Christ.
Furthermore, it did not signify the end of the physical world, nor the end of all political national existence. Notice that after the new heaven and new earth creation of Rev. 21:1, and after the new Jerusalem came down out of heaven to be with men (Rev. 21:2), that verses 10 – 25 describe the walls and gates of the city.
Walls separate those within from those without. Those within are those that are in Christ. Those without the city are those that are not in Christ. Now you have the distinction that Paul made in both Galatians and Colossians, that the only difference God sees under the new heaven and earth covenant of the gospel of Christ is those that are in Christ and those that are not.
Rev. 21:27, “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
This verse signifies the continuation of life after that battle of Rev. chap. 13 – 19. That nothing abominable outside of the city would enter into it meant that life continued on after Christ won the victory. Sinners and evil doers still exist outside of Christ’s church.
Again, we can derive the conclusion. Revelation is not a prophesy of the end of the physical cosmos, nor of the end of the physical earth, nor of a destruction of the physical realm. It was the prophesy to the first century Christians of the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesy of Christ’s everlasting kingdom. And, it came about during that generation in which Christ was made manifest on earth.
See Matt. 12:41, 42, 45; 23:36; 24:34; Mark 8:12, 38; 13:30; Luke 11:50, 51; 21:32; Acts 2:40; Heb. 1:1-3, 1 Pet 1:20 among many others.
We do not have to fear an end of the world scenario as so many false prophets are forecasting today. We are to run our race against sin (1 Cor. 9:24), being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29), teaching others of the hope that is within us (1 Pet. 3:15), and staying the course, and remaining faithful to the end of our earthly life (2 Tim. 4:7). Then we have won with Christ and receive the crown of eternal life in heaven.
Be assured that Christ reigns now at the right hand of the Father, and He will continue to judge the nations in righteousness just as He has always done.
Psa. 2:7-11, ” I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.“
See the previous posts that bring forth the scriptures to prove that the judgment pronounced in Revelation was for that generation in which Christ was manifested on earth; all ten parts of “It’s Not The End of the World”, “The Beast of Revelation,” “The Whore of Babylon,” “The Latter Days Are Not Our Days,” “The Seventy Weeks of Daniel Chap. 9”, and others.
Sources: The KJV, and Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) All bold emphasis is mine.