New Heavens and New Earth: Before the Millennium or After?

The placement of the new heavens and new earth traditionally comes after the Great white throne judgment. The trouble is there are too many verses that argue against that. In this short expose, we will consider some verses, that if taken literally, prohibit the above interpretation. Click here for a larger (though not exhaustive) list of verses on the timing. For Messianic Age lectures click here or interview here

The Messianic Age: The Millennium and Beyond (The Beginning of the New Heavens and Earth)

The Messianic Age: The Millennium and Beyond

The typical end-times sequencing is

  1. The great tribulation
  2. The second coming
  3. The judgment of the nations (separation of the sheep and the goats) (Mat 25:31-41, Joel 3:2)
  4. The millennium, Jesus ruling with a rod of iron (Isa 11, Rev 20:1-10)
  5. The Great White Throne Judgment
  6. The new heavens and and the new earth
The first thing we need to consider is that the earth will be in such havoc that the Lord must recreate it at (or shortly after) the second coming because it will be uninhabitable; all the oceans will have been turned to blood and be full of rotting dead corpses of all the sea creatures – certainly not a nice place to live!
 Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead [man;] and every living creature in the sea died. (Revelation 16:3) Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. (Revelation 16:4)
This will be followed by every island and every mountain moving out of their places.
Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.(Revelation 16:20) 
In a parallel passage, Isaiah says the earth will fall and not rise again:
The earth is violentlybroken, The earth is splitopen, The earth is shaken exceedingly. (Isaiah 24:19) The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, And shall totter like a hut; Its transgression shall be heavy upon it, And it will fall, and not rise again. (Isaiah 24:20)
 Finally, the heavens are going to roll up like a scroll.
All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; All their host shall fall down As the leaf falls from the vine, And as fruit falling from a fig tree. (Isaiah 34:4)
The heavens are the same as the veil that the prophet Isaiah talked about
Oh, that You would rend [tear, break] the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence. (Isaiah 64:1)
John, in the book of Revelation, was permitted to see the fulfillment of Isaiah’s request when he noted:
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. (Revelation 19:11)
 Peter told us that the day that the Lord returns is when the heavens will pass away.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which 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. (2 Peter 3:10)
 Whereas Peter stated that the elements would melt with fervent heat, the Psalmist described it as:
The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD, At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. (Psalms 97:5)
If we should ask why will the earth begin to melt, the answer is that his return is when the earth is finally exposed to his great fiery-lightning presence.
For behold, the LORD will come with fire And with His chariots, like a whirlwind, To render His anger with fury, And His rebuke with flames of fire(Isaiah 66:15) For by fire and by His sword The LORD will judge all flesh; And the slain of the LORD shall be many. (Isaiah 66:16)
The parallel passage in 2 Thessalonians reiterates the truth of that moment:
…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, (2 Thessalonians 1:7) in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8)
 Therefore, we see that the heavens pass away and the earth is utterly devastated at the second coming and thus a new heavens and new earth are absolutely necessary. In Isaiah 65:17 God declares that He will make new heavens and a new earth which from reading the passage is occurring at the beginning of the millennium/messianic age.
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.  (Isaiah 65:17) They shall build houses and inhabit [them;] They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. (Isa 65:21)  They shall not labor in vain, Nor bring forth children for trouble; For they [shall be] the descendants of the blessed of the LORD, And their offspring with them. (Isa 65:23)) The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, The lion shall eat straw like the ox, And dust [shall be] the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,” Says the LORD. (Isa 65:25)
The new heavens and earth come first and then God’s elect, the Jews, begin to build houses and have children. What definitively demonstrates that the new heavens and earth in this passage is during the millennium is from verse 20 which states that death will still be possible.
“No more shall an infant from there [live but a few] days, Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; For the child shall die one hundred years old, and the sinner [being] one hundred years old shall be accursed. (Isa 65:20)
Commentators have either glossed over this passage or, in the case of the Pulpit commentary, have suggested that Isaiah was confused! That idea is based on the suggestion of Delitzsch who suggested that there would be three ages:
  1. The first age, or ordinary human life, as we have hitherto known it a checkered scene of sin and holiness, of happiness and misery, of sorrow and rejoicing.
  2. The second age, or the period of the millennium, in which “the patriarchal measure of human life will return, in which death will no more break off the life that is just beginning to bloom, and in which the war of man with the animal world will be exchanged for peace without danger.
  3. And the third age, or a final state of happiness in heaven; or the heavenly Jerusalem, when death will be destroyed, and sin will be no more, and tears will be wiped from all eyes, and the former things will be passed away altogether. (Rev 21:4) The three ages are distinctly marked only in the apocalyptic vision of St. John the divine. (Re 20 Re 21) Isaiah and the other Old Testament prophets have an indistinct view, in which the second age and the third age are confused together, the characteristics being chiefly those of Age II, but some of the characteristics of Age III being intermingled. (The Pulpit Commentary, 1880 – 1919, Isaiah 65:17)
There cannot be three ages because John clearly stated in Revelation 21:1 that “the first heavens and the first earth passed away” which means that there can only be two ages and not three. God further underscores this reality by stating in Isaiah 66:22
“For as the new heavens and the new earth Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the LORD, “So shall your descendants and your name remain.  (Isaiah 66:22)
This is stated in in Daniel 7:18 as well:
‘But the saints [Jews] of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.’ (Dan 7:18)
 Once we see that the new heavens and new earth must go at the beginning of the millennium so many other pieces of our end-times puzzle fit into place. The key is to take things literally. We also begin to see God’s promises to Israel in a different light. I suggest that replacement theology, which has permeated our theology more than we realize, has gotten us off track on the timing of the new heavens and earth. God promised that he will establish the kingdom and the Jews would be the head and not the tail and that kingdom, would never, ever pass away.  (Dan 7:18)
The basic chronology therefore is as follows:
  1. The great tribulation
  2. The second coming
  3. The judgment of the nations (separation of the sheep and the goats) (Mat 25:31-41, Joel 3:2)
  4. The new heavens and and the new earth (possibly before the judgment of Joel 3:2)
  5. The millennium, Jesus ruling with a rod of iron (Isa 11, Rev 20:1-10)
  6. The Great White Throne Judgment
The rethinking of when the new heavens and new earth occur takes time to accept. It took me a while because I kept thinking that no thinks that and therefore I shouldn’t believe it either. But then I just kept seeing it in Scripture. In the end, the plain interpretation of Scripture won.
This and other topics will be covered in my new book, The Edge of Eternity.