Isaiah 66 and 2 Peter 3 speak of our hope in expecting a new heaven and a new earth. Why would God create a new earth if people will only be able to go to heaven or hell? -- Alejandro Corona (Mexicali) and Juan Carlos Torres

Isaiah 66:22, and also 65:17, describe the future, glorious history of Israel as "new heavens and a new earth." Peter picks up on this theme in his second letter, as you point out. Some groups, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, take the passages literally, though the most common Christian interpretation has been to take them figuratively. (I believe most of the descriptions in the final chapters of Isaiah are figurative. This is not to say they have no meaning, but that their meaning is best understood by treating them according to their literary genre -- which is prophecy/poetry.)

"The heavens and the earth" represent the entire cosmos -- all that there is. A new heavens and earth suggest "all is made new." Presumably heaven does not need to be recreated. (God has always kept his abode pure!) Whether there will be a new planet earth is a matter for debate, but in my opinion this is highly unlikely -- even if it is nice to think about.

I base my opinion on the context of Isaiah. He is describing the future situation of Israel -- after the return from the Exile. No one can properly interpret Isaiah without understanding the historical situation. If you have never studied the O.T. background, I might suggest Gleason Archer's A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. If the description was not to be taken literally in Isaiah's time, the reasoning goes, neither would the language necessarily have to be taken literally when Peter appropriated it.

This article is copyrighted and is for private use and study only. © 2004. Reprints or public distribution is prohibited without the express consent of Douglas Jacoby.