This phrase is used to refer to the world we will inhabit in eternity with God (2 Peter 3). It is not a mere cleansing, renewal or restoration of our present world like what God did with the waters that covered this planet in the days of Noah. Peter draws a clear contrast between the destruction of the old world and the coming destruction of the present world. Our present world is reserved for fire. “The heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up… all these things will be dissolved” (vv. 10-11). Our present world will one day be gone (Matthew 24:35); there will be no place found for it (Revelation 20:11). But we have another place Jesus has prepared for us in His Father’s house (John 14:1-3; cf. Hebrews 11:16). This inheritance is “reserved in heaven” for us and is not just new in time but in kind, “incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away” (1 Peter 1:3-5; cf. Colossians 1:5). The new world will be spiritual, heavenly and eternal not physical, earthly and temporary as is our present world (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:11).
In the new world, we will not have a corruptible, weak, dishonorable, physical body of flesh and blood after the image of the earthy but an incorruptible, powerful, honorable, spiritual body after the image of the heavenly (1 Corinthians 15:35-57). The resurrection body Jesus received was physical, with flesh and bones, because He was raised to walk on the earth again (Luke 24:39-43; John 20:25-29; 1 John 1:1-3), yet He still possessed the same miraculous power He possessed before His resurrection to pass through things, walk on water, appear and disappear. He must have received His present glorious body when He ascended into heaven (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:50). One day we, too, will be raised, not to walk on earth again but to go and forever be with the Lord in the new world (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). Therefore, we will be given a different body like His glorious body (Philippians 3:20-21). On that day “we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). We shall be equal to the angels of heaven (Luke 20:34-36).
In Romans 8:18-23, creation is personified as if it has a soul awaiting the new creation, just as we are awaiting our new bodies. In both cases, the new is not earthly and physical but spiritual and heavenly.
We should not think of the new world as we do the present world. The present world is a mere type or figure of the world to come. The physical points to the spiritual. For example, in the last two chapters of Revelation John is given a vision of the church in its triumphant and eternal state after the day of judgment (Revelation 21-22). It is described as a new heaven and a new earth (21:1). John explicitly says that the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. He also adds that the sea is no more. The sea stood between God and His people in chapter four (4:6). In chapter fifteen (15:2) the faithful are seen after death standing on the sea. They had moved closer to God. But in the new world there will be no separation between God and His people. “God Himself will be with them” (21:3).
In John’s vision, the new world is pictured as a new Jerusalem (21:2). It is not the old physical city of the earth but as other visions in Revelation this one comes from heaven. John goes on to describe this city in much detail comparing it to a bride adorned for her husband and speaking of its foundations, walls, gates, a street, the kings of the earth, a river, a throne and a tree. These things are not meant to be taken literally but symbolically (Revelation 1:1; e.g. v. 20). They are but figures in an apocalyptic book to help us understand what it will be like in eternity for the people of God. It will be beautiful and wonderful. There will be room for all. We will never be moved but will be fully protected from sin and forever provided spiritual health and life. It will be glorious because we are there with God and the Lamb. God could only relate the new world to us by using familiar figures from our present world, but the two are completely different worlds.
Robert Dodson is the Preaching Minister for the Northwest Church of Christ.
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