What does ‘New heavens and New Earth’ mean?
The “New Heavens and New Earth” is a way of saying a “whole new creation”. It’s not trying to draw a distinction between Heavens and Earth; rather it’s trying to say “a new everything”.
The phrase “Heavens and earth” by itself are the Bible’s way of saying “Everything in the creation”. It’s a phrase that uses two words that refer to extremities (“heavens” and “earth”) to capture the breadth of everything in God’s creation. We use phrases like that as well, for example, “It’s all on for young and old”, meaning every person (even middle-aged), or “From east to west”, meaning everywhere.
You could check out:
- Genesis 1:1 (the first verse in the Bible)
- Genesis 14:19 and 24:3 (which shows that God rules over both heaven and earth without distinction)
So when Isaiah predicts that God will create a “new heavens and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22) he means a whole new creation, a whole new world with *everything* made new (check out Revelation 21:5). That means that what we look forward to is not just floating around on clouds, or being away from the good things of the world. Sometimes we wrongly use the word “heaven” like this, as if “heaven” means boring eternity or playing harps. Rather “heaven” is a shorthand for “new creation”, and it means that all of the good things in this world will be made perfect, complete, and joyful forever.
As for the exact details – the Bible doesn’t give too many details. Questions about how old we’ll be in the new creation, or exactly what food will be there, or whether my dog will go there, aren’t really answered. But we do know that it will be joyful, interesting, fun, full of love and care and that God will be there giving us good things (check out 1 Corinthians 15)! I certainly look forward to it!
As an aside, I’m not entirely up to speed with the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ teaching, but having had a chat to a few of them over the years I can definitely say that the Bible’s teaching on the “New Heavens and the New Earth” is completely different to what I’ve heard the JW’s teach. From what I understand, the JW’s believe that the “New Heavens” is different to the “New Earth”, that there will a limited number of very special people in the “New Heavens” while the rest are on the “New Earth”. There is absolutely nothing in the Bible to indicate this, although they sometimes refer (wrongly) to Revelation 14:1-3 to support the theory that there are 144000 special people who are different from other Christians. But like most numbers in Revelation, 144000 is a “symbolic” number, meaning “lots of God’s people” – 12 generally represents the number of God’s people (12 tribes of Israel), 1,000 generally represents a large tribe, and so 144000 is 12 times 12 times 1000, symbolic of lots of God’s people – you and me!