Response to Chapter Three of the Bible Teach book
In this chapter the Bible Teach book explains the Witness view of the “new earth.” As was noted in our response to the Preface, the subject of the new earth is one of the Witnesses’ main beliefs. We cited the section from the Catechism of the Catholic Church to show that historic Christianity also shares a belief in the “new heavens and the new earth.”
Revelation 21:1-5 gives us the description:
“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, 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, "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away." And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true."
This passage describes what theologians describe as “the final state.” Heaven and earth (the “new heaven and the new earth”) are joined together. The passage refers to the New Jerusalem “coming down out of heaven from God” to the new earth. Notice particularly these words, repeated three times: “the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them…and God himself will be with them.” In the first paradise, Adam and Eve had a foretaste of this special fellowship with God. Adam and his wife spoke directly with God. There “the man and his wife heard the sound of Yahweh God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” (Genesis 3:8, NJB) It was only when the first human pair turned away from God that they experienced the fear and shame that is connected to sin. In the new heavens and new earth that special relationship with God is restored.
Here is where we begin to see some of the differences between what the Bible really teaches on this subject and what Jehovah’s Witnesses teach. When the Bible speaks of the “new earth,” it always speaks of it together with the “new heavens.” (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1; Isaiah 66:22) They are never referred to separately. Why? Because, as already noted above they are shown as joined together. The Witnesses separate the new earth from heaven. What is the result? The passage from Revelation chapter 21 quoted above says that in the new heavens and new earth “God himself will be with them (mankind).” In the Witness view of things, God remains in heaven and the people on the new earth never actually experience God himself dwelling among them. Adam and Eve were able to communicate directly with God. But the humans in the Witnesses’ new earth will never communicate directly with God.
At this point, read the complete description of the “new heavens and new earth” in Revelation chapter 21 and Revelation chapter 22. The New Jerusalem (which is the Church, the Bride of Christ) is shown coming down from heaven. It is described as an immense great city with gates that open for all to enter. God promises:
“To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment. He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:6-8)
There are two rewards pictured here: access to the fountain of water of life or the second death. After describing the great beauty of the New Jerusalem, Revelation 22:1-4 mentions this “water of life”:
“Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads.”
Adam and Eve heard Yahweh’s voice. Here God’s people will “see his face.” Adam and Eve were denied access to the “tree of life.” (Genesis 3:22) Here the “tree of life” is given for all the nations. Are these nations kept away from the New Jerusalem? Notice these words:
“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light shall the nations walk; and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it, and its gates shall never be shut by day -- and there shall be no night there; they shall bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.” (Revelation 21:22-27)
New Jerusalem is described as an immense city with open gates. Who goes into the City and who cannot? The passage above says “those whose are written in the Lamb’s book of life” will enter the City. Revelation 22:14 and 15 explains further:
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and every one who loves and practices falsehood.”
If one is denied access to the City they do not have access to the “tree of life.” Those outside of the City are those accursed by God.
Witnesses often ask: “If those in the New Jerusalem ‘shall reign for ever and ever,’ who do they reign over? (Revelation 22:5) The best answer is that it’s not who they reign over but what. Those in the New Jerusalem reign over the new creation. Revelation 5:10 referred to this earlier when it spoke of Christ the Lamb:
“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain and by your blood did ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.” Here the Witnesses’ New World Translation says they “rule as kings over the earth.” Their Kingdom Interlinear of the Greek Scriptures shows that the traditional rendering is correct, for it shows the Greek text says : “they are reigning upon the earth.”
Ask the Witnesses studying with you:
1) Will God’s people be able to see God in the “new heavens and new earth”?
2) Will God actually dwell with mankind in the new heavens and new earth?
3) Will God’s people be able to enter the New Jerusalem or will they be outside of it?
4) If my name is written in the “Lamb’s book of life” will I be able to enter the New Jerusalem?
At this point the Witnesses will most likely explain their understanding of the “two hopes” for Christians which we referred to earlier in our response to the Preface of the Bible Teach book. We will elaborate more on that in later chapter responses, but it is enough to ask the Witnesses now:
1) Doesn’t Revelation chapter 21 & 22 indicate that the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven to the earth?
2) How do you explain Revelation 22:14 & 15? If one is outside the City aren’t they condemned?
3) Doesn’t the Bible always refer to the “new heavens and new earth” together and not separately?
No Heavenly Hope for the Old Testament Saints? Responds to the Witness view that the Old Testament servants of God did not have a heavenly hope.
The description of the “new heavens and new earth” in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Commentary in the New Testament Commentary by Simon J. Kistemaker.
He gives this overview of Revelation chapter 21:
“After the final judgment, John shows his readers a picture of perfection that differs
radically from the present world. The old order has passed away and all things are
new. Cosmic time has been turned into eternity; separation from God has become
intimate communion with him. Death belongs to the past, for the saints drink the
water of life. The wicked are in the lake of fire, while the saints are with God and
belong to his family. The new Jerusalem is a picture of perfection with respect to
measurement, adornment, and glory. This picture reveals a river of life flowing from
the throne of God and the Lamb with fruit-bearing trees on either side of this river.
With the curse removed God’s servants serve him and the Lamb. This is Paradise
restored. Note the connection between the first creation recorded in Genesis and the
new creation of heaven and earth in Revelation. In Paradise before the Fall, God
intimately communed with Adam, gave him instructions, and provided for his needs
(Gen. 2:15–25). On the new earth, God dwells with his people in intimate fellowship:
“Look, the tabernacle of God is with people, and he will dwell with them” (v. 3a).
After the Fall, Adam and Eve hid themselves from the presence of God (Gen. 3:8); at
the restoration God dwells with them forever in his tabernacle.The Garden of Eden
was a place without fear, pain, crying, and death; the new creation is a place where
“there will no longer be death, or grief, or crying, nor will there be pain anymore” (v.
The second half of the chapter (vv. 9–27) is a description of the new Jerusalem
regarding its holiness, perfection, adornment, and glory. This portrait of the city
related in human language of time and space depicts, be it inadequately, the beauty of
the new heaven and the new earth. The somewhat disjointed flow of thought shows
that the writer is attempting to transmit as many details as he is able. Nonetheless,
throughout his discourse John develops his basic theme that God is with his people in
a holy and perfect setting.”
For a detailed commentary on these chapters read:
Kistemaker's Commentary on Revelation 21 (Click on the >> at the bottom of the page
Kistemaker's Commentary on Revelation 22 to go to the next page of the commentary.)