Question:

The new heaven and the new earth in Revelation is being taken litterally by my friend.  I know its refering to the spiritual earth.  My grandson and I studied this scripture last night (Revelation 21:1-2).  He brought up the fact that in Rome, the Christians were oppressed and God is promising them, in this scripture, a new earth.  Not too unlike the pilgrams when they left their home country and came to this one they called it the New World.  We were wondering why the writer used the word "earth" when we know that Christ's kingdom is spiritual not of this earth. We determined that the word earth is used because its something we can relate to and make sense of.  Is that right?  Will you comment?

Answer:

Anyone reading Revelation must understand that it states it is written in symbolic or figurative language. John stated that the message given to him was “signified” (Revelation 1:1). This just means that the message was written down in signs or symbols. A quick reading of the book shows that this is obviously true, but why use symbols instead of plain text?

First, the use of symbols limits who can understand its meaning. Like Jesus’ use of parables, the symbols would have meaning to Christians and would be gibberish to those not inclined to follow God (Matthew 13:10-17). Notice that John said the book was written to show God’s servants the things that would shortly take place (Revelation 1:1). The use of symbols limits that revelation to only God’s servants.

Second, the use of symbols give greater illustration. Great pageantry and glory is described with vivid symbols. Things too great and marvelous to understand are compared to familiar ideas. For example, heaven is described as having streets paved with gold. Yet heaven is a spiritual realm and gold is physical. Are the streets actually gold lined, or is the author describing a place so beautiful and valuable that the most precious metal in our world is considered cheap paving material in heaven?

Finally, the use of symbols dramatizes the events. The scenes are so vividly portrayed that they are locked into our memory. Readers of Revelation do not quickly forget its message.

So, yes, the use of "earth" is the familiar dwelling place of humanity, but this dwelling place is new, which means it won't be like the old one. Referring to a new heaven means that the new dwelling place will not be in the same place as the old one. Just as we understand that when John said, "the city was pure gold, like clear glass" that he isn't talking about physical gold because gold isn't transparent, we know that the new heaven and new earth isn't a physical place in this universe.

Thank you! I just finished a study of Revelation with my grandson and these are all things we learned. I appreciate your help in renewing my mind. Very well put. Who couldn't understand this? Thank you so much!