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"New Heavens and a New Earth"

Isaiah 65:17-25

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.

I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a life-time;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.

They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.

They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord - and their descendants as well.
Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent - its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.

Revelation 21:1-8

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth;
for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,
and the sea was no more.

And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
"See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away."

And the one who was seated on the throne said,
"See, I am making all things new."
Also he said,
"Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true."
Then he said to me,
"It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
Those who conquer will inherit these things,
and I will be their God and they will be my children.
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."

The texts of this Bible study are visions of God's creative and transforming power at work, making all things new now and in the future.


The Isaiah passage is in the form of divine speech which powerfully asserts the transforming power of God in the universe and history. In response to the laments and complaints of the post-exilic community in Israel (Isa. 63:15-64:12), God says:

For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth:
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
In that which I create;
for behold, I create in Jerusalem a rejoicing
and her people a joy.
(Isa. 65:7-8, RSV)

We need to note, among other significant matters:

1. God is active in this divine re-creation of the new heavens and a new earth. Divine creative and transforming activity makes its divine mark in the new age.

2. The use of the participial form of the verb "to create" in the original Hebrew version of the passage pulls the divine creative activity into the present time.

3. The cosmological characteristics of the heavens and the earth have been radically transformed and redeemed.

4. The new Jerusalem comes from above, that is, from God.

5. The former things shall not be remembered; the new age has been ushered in, and the messianic city is characterized by the messianic banquet and joy.

6. An important relationship is established in the new creation, namely, between God and the people of God, the elect. In contrast with universalistic outlooks in other chapters or books of the Bible, it is a change in the nation's relationship with the Lord that transforms the cosmos.

In the new age, the community will be redeemed. Under God a new stage in history is set. Relationships with God will be of such intimacy that God is ready to answer the redeemed even before they call on him (65:24).

The characteristic features of the community in the new age are described broadly in verses 20 and following. People will enjoy the fruits of their own labours (v.21); unusually long life is set before them (v.22). People will build their own dwellings (v.22). The same thing is true for land, people, plant and harvest (v.22). Finally, humans will be fertile, producing their offspring (v.23).

As to the quality of life, the intimacy between God and humans transforms the cosmos itself, overturning the natural order of violence between wolf and lamb, or lion and ox, giving way to peace (v.25).

This powerful vision depicting a utopia needs further scrutiny. One should be mindful of propagating a new utopian doctrine without sounding socially naïve or appearing to be an other-worldly escapist. The utopian doctrine can be proclaimed with integrity only in the context of the worshipping community itself.

The optimistic outlook of Isaiah suggests there is hope for the situations and needs of various communities throughout the Pacific today. We are mindful of the political turmoil in countries such as the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Fiji, the desolate situations of low-lying, resource-poor nations throughout Micronesia and Polynesia, and the corruption among leaders in many other countries of the Pacific.

Today, the exilic community of the Pacific is comprised of:

1) disillusioned migrants who seek better opportunities for work and study in nearby developed countries;

2) helpless victims left behind by those who leave;

3) the disappointed public who feel robbed of their freedom and rights to a fair and good life;

4) the concerned majority who would like to trust but find no security in trusting their leaders to administer political, social and economic aspects of their life;

5) the marginal believers and youth who are less and less convinced by the healing power of the church;

6) leaders who propagate a ‘better life' without God.

The modern Pacific exile is a displaced person, both physically and spiritually. Yet the idea of a new heaven and a new earth remains for such a person an ultimately desirable objective. The image suggests that in this re-created cosmos, all will be renewed and an equilibrium of fairness will be achieved. Isaiah prophesies divine intervention. This divinity is the differentiating factor in believers' and non-believers' concepts of a transformed society - yet it is only in this divinity that transformation is possible.

Our call for God's transforming power is our admission that only God can make a difference. Without God, there is no difference for it is God alone who creates and re-creates. The spiritual shift of Pacific people caught in the waves of distrust, disillusionment, hopelessness, alcoholism and other social predicaments has caused a widening chasm which must be filled by a call to intimacy with God. This intimacy is found in the creation of peace, trust and hope and the return from exile to a greater and deeper relationship with God. Christians are called to make God's presence better known in various aspects of life, by becoming themselves (ourselves!) the vessels through which God's character is made known.

As the laments and complaints of Israel were heard by God, and as the prophet relayed their coming liberation, we now are called to respond to the laments and complaints of Pacific peoples in this contemporary era. We are called to relay the message that God's kingdom is at hand, and that this kingdom, which consists of God's peace and love, is achievable. God's transforming power is not just physical power but also a spiritual strength through which lives are bettered and integrity is refined. All this may be achieved only through God's transforming power.

Rev. Dr Lopeti Taufa (Pacific)



Creating and re-creating God,
Our hope is in you.
Hear our cries and laments.
Bless our vision for
transformed relations,
sustainable communities,
pacific, peace-loving world.
Holy God, creative power,
Our strength is in you.
We long for you.
Guide us, inspire us,
As we join in the dance of life.
In your grace, and in the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Abundant life is offered and is possible.
In your transforming grace and power
We become a people of joy.
In the name of the Triune God, the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, we pray. Amen.

How to work with these texts


Lopeti Taufa describes what is happening to people in the Pacific. If you were writing this reflection from your own context, what would you say about the people of your nation or region? Writing it down may help you think about it. Do you find the same relevance in the messages of Isaiah 65 and Revelation 21 as you hear the promise of a new heaven and a new earth?

Look at the characteristic features of the new age described in the two passages. Make a list of them, and then think about them one by one. What do each of these say about the quality of life in the promised community? Where do we see each already present in the life of our churches and communities, even in a small way? Do these passages simply offer a better life in the future, or do they challenge us to begin to realize them now? What actions would we have to take for our churches to become living examples of the new community?

How does this Bible study help us understand and respond to the assembly theme "God, in your grace, transform the world"?