What Does It Mean?
Study Guide, April 10, 2016
Pastor Clay Olsen
Many Christians have enjoyed following the Inductive Bible Study method in helping them go deeper into the Word of God. The ‘inductive’ part refers to the attempt to use the information about a specific situation to draw a conclusion. And central to this method are the three areas or three key questions to apply to each passage of Scripture that you are studying:
1. Observation, or What does it say?
2. Interpretation, or What does it mean?
3. Application, or What does this now mean for my life?
This method is a great help in studying and applying the wonders and teachings of God’s Word in your life.
But I bring this up because it’s right there in the second question of ‘What does it mean?’ that many of the wonders and teachings of God’s Word for us get overlooked. And so, for a number of weeks we’re going to take a deeper look at some of these wonders and teachings that have been ‘overlooked’ in order that we might be even more filled with wonder over God’s marvelous teachings that He has revealed to us, His children, and to then be even more inspired to share them with others concerning…“What does this mean?”
Speaking about wonders, here’s a question for us: Wouldn’t you have loved to have witnessed the original creation of the heavens and the earth? Just think; the Angels had a front row seat in watching God create the universe by the works of His hands and the power of His spoken word.
How fantastic it would have been to witness the creation of the heavens and the earth. Well, guess what? In one of the greatest revelations in the Book of Revelation the Apostle John informs us that, even though we didn’t get to witness the original creation of the heavens and earth, we are going to get to witness the re-creation of the heavens and earth. And we discover this by ‘fleshing out’ the answer to the question of ‘What does it mean?’ after John tells us this: Rev 21:1-20 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.” NASU
Fabulous! But now, before we get very far into this, for all of us ‘coastal Christians’ who love the beach and the sea and the sounds and the rivers and estuaries and such, be assured: when the Apostle John stated ‘there is no longer any sea’ he did not intend for any of us to, in using first century terminology – to ‘freak out’ about it. (Actually, I kind of doubt that ‘freak out’ was used in the first century…but the idea is there…) But really, who doesn’t love the waters of the Earth? And when we say ‘who doesn’t’, remember ‘Who’ it was that loved the waters first! Gen 1:2- “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” 6-7- “Then God said, “Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.” And that is what happened. God made this space to separate the waters of the earth from the waters of the heavens.” NLT
It’s more than clear that God loves the waters of earth. The waters of earth are part of what God called ‘very good’. In fact, God loves the waters of earth so much that in the new earth God places a river that flows directly from His throne in the central area of the eternal capitol city of the New Jerusalem. Look at this: Rev 22:1- “Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street.” NASU So even in the capitol city of New Jerusalem there is a river that flows right down the center of Main Street.
So God loves the waters of earth even more than we do. Therefore, be sure of this, that ‘no more sea’ does not mean ‘no more water’. It simply indicates that the new earth will have a different arrangement as far as water is concerned. Remember, now, about three fourths of our globe is covered by water, leaving only a fourth of it for occupancy. But this won’t be the case in the eternal world. Also, many believe that John was also using the word ‘sea’ in the sense that many people associated ‘sea’ with danger, and storms, and separation, as in John himself was separated from people in his exile on the island of Patmos.1 And in this sense, John was using the tool of grammar we would call a ‘hyperbole’, or an exaggeration in order to make a point…a point here about no more dangers. And we know there won’t be any of those dangers in the new world.
Again, since God loved the waters of the earth of His original creation, you can rest assured that He will make sure that there will be bodies of waters on the earth in His re-creation. And since it is also indicated that the new earth will no doubt be much enlarged, as just the capitol city is 1500 miles across, there will be plenty of area for plenty of bodies of water. Plus, remember, God also loved the fish He created to live in the waters. In fact, if you recall, Jesus is the One who made a ‘fish breakfast’ on the banks of the Galilee for His disciples after His resurrection. So, no worries, fisherman mates…
But now on to what John said about God creating or re-creating a new heaven and new earth…and back to what this means? Another aspect of Bible interpretation has to do with what is called the ‘historical, grammatical, and contextual’ elements of Bible interpretation. In other words, when we are doing our observation and our interpretation and our application, we are to pay special attention to the historical setting of the passage, as well as trying to grasp what the author was actually saying with the words he chose and to whom he was speaking, along with the context in which he was speaking. And speaking of ‘context’ here, it’s helpful to remember the old, yet very important, saying; that when it comes to the rule of ‘context’ – ‘context rules’.
So back to the passage. What is the context of John’s revelation here? What had just concluded before John tells us about the creation of the new heaven and new earth? Right…What had just concluded was the one thousand year Millennial reign of Christ upon the renovated earth where His church and the assembly of the saved of Israel had reigned with Him. And at the conclusion of that Millennial reign Satan had been loosed from his internment and allowed to gather the last vestiges of any of the unsaved that had been born in the Millennial period from those who had directly entered the Millennium when Jesus returned to earth to set up His Kingdom on earth. So the Millennial Kingdom will be a unique time when both resurrected people and pre-resurrected people, or those who were present on Earth when Jesus returns, are dwelling together and interacting together upon Earth. It seems strange to us, but it won’t seem strange to them. What will be strange is that the saved who enter the Kingdom directly when Jesus returns will continue to have children, and many will open their heart to the Messiah King, yet there will be some that will still not repent and surrender to the Messiah King, even when Christ is reigning in person upon the Millennial earth. That just shows how deep the rebellious nature of human nature really is.
But then after that final rebellion is quashed, then the Great White Throne Judgment takes place, in which the unrepentant and unsaved of the ages each receive their sentences of eternal separation from the God whom they had not received as their Lord and Savior. They are removed from God’s presence and therefore all that are left in God’s presence are all the saved from all the ages who make up God’s forever family.
That’s the context. And so with all God’s family now with their Lord and Savior, what do they see God do next? God’s family now watches as God re-creates the heavens and earth. And along with all God’s holy Angels, God’s resurrected human family, all have front row seats watching God create the universe again before their very eyes. Yes, we missed the original creation of the heavens and earth, but we are going to watch the next one…the re-creation, or as some call it, the ‘resurrection’ of the heavens and earth into a new glorified version of the heavens and earth. And this new heaven and new earth will be very, very, very good! Or in heavenly language, some people are going to ‘freak out’ in a good way watching this! (No, I doubt that will be a saying even in the heavenly language as well…or then again, who knows?) When we got to Moscow, one the the Russian Pastors said that the language of Heaven would be Russian, because Paul said that when he was caught up into the third Heaven he heard words that he couldn’t speak! That had to be ‘Russian’. Plus it takes an eternity to learn it…too many consonants all in row…
But again, in the context of what John reveals to us about this re-creation of the new heaven and new earth, included in what that means is this; it means that we are included in this whole scene, since we are right there with our God when He does it! Talk about something to look forward to, huh? Plus, since nothing that is righteous and holy is impossible with God, it’s entirely possible that God may even want to show His family how He created it all in the first place. Think about it: If the finite minds of man can create a video depicting the creation of the world, what do you think our infinite and omniscient and omnipotent God can come up with in depicting or in re-imaging His original creation for us?
Do you ever wonder why the Universe is so big? Even now scientists estimate that there are somewhere between 100 to 200 billion galaxies in the Universe besides our own. What kind of plans do you think God has in mind to do with them in the coming new world, after He remakes or remodels even them? Can you imagine what kind of theater a galaxy could provide for the things God wants to show His children, either about the history of our own world or the future of things in the new world? Or can you imagine even what these wondrous new heavens are going to look like or contain? And even why is that of interest to us in the first place? Who put that interest in us for exploration and discovery? Of course, the One who made us in His own image put these righteous desires within us. And if you connect these righteous desires for exploration and discovery to what Paul once revealed to us then it really boggles your mind, in a good way: 1 Cor 2:9- “...but just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.“” NASU So even however amazing and fantastic you can imagine God’s re-creation of the new heavens and new earth to be, along with whatever activities and opportunities God has planned for us in them all, it’s all far beyond whatever you can even imagine. That’s just the kind of God and Heavenly Father we have!
And since we’re speaking about witnessing the re-creation or the resurrection of the new heavens and earth, and since we mentioned the Millennial period that follows Christ’s return to the earth, guess what that also means? Since Christ brings His ‘Church’ back with Him when He returns, it means that we are also going to witness God’s work of ‘renovating’ this present earth for His kingdom reign on this earth. And do you remember one of the astonishing things that happens in the renovation of this present earth for the Millennial Kingdom? Peace is restored even into the animal kingdom. And that means that your playful pets will now include animals like; lions and tigers and bears…Oh my!
That’s one of the things ‘peace’ means when the ‘Prince of Peace’ is King over all the Earth!
1. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.