Ah, you who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land!
Leviticus 26: 40-45
But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their ancestors, in that they committed treachery against me and, moreover, that they continued hostile to me— so that I, in turn, continued hostile to them and brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, then will I remember my covenant with Jacob; I will remember also my covenant with Isaac and also my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.Continue Reading Leviticus 26: 40-45 »Read Leviticus 26: 40-45 Take-Aways »Read Eerdman's Commentary on the Bible »
Isaiah 35: 1-6
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.Continue Reading Isaiah 35: 1-6 »Read Isaiah 35: 1-6 Take-Aways »Read Calvin’s Commentary on Isaiah »Read Eerdman's Commentary on the Bible »
Isaiah 55: 12-13
For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.Continue Reading Isaiah 55: 12-13 »Read Isaiah 55:12-13 Take-Aways »Read Calvin’s Commentary on Isaiah »Read The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary »Read The Oxford Bible Commentary »
Isaiah 65: 17-23
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 for ever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.Continue Reading Isaiah 65: 17-23 »Read Isaiah 65: 17-23 Take-Aways »Read Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture »Read The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary »Read The Oxford Bible Commentary »
Romans 8: 19-23
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.Continue Reading Romans 8: 19-23 »Read Romans 8: 19-23 Take-Aways »Read Calvin’s Commentary on Romans »Read The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary »Read The New Jerome Biblical Commentary »
Revelation 21: 1-5
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.Continue Reading Revelation 21: 1-5 »Read Revelation 21: 1-5 Take-Aways »Read Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture »Read The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary »Read The Oxford Bible Commentary »
Leviticus 26: 40-45
But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their ancestors, in that they committed treachery against me and, moreover, that they continued hostile to me— so that I, in turn, continued hostile to them and brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, then will I remember my covenant with Jacob; I will remember also my covenant with Isaac and also my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. For the land shall be deserted by them, and enjoy its sabbath years by lying desolate without them, while they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they dared to spurn my ordinances, and they abhorred my statutes. Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, or abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God; but I will remember in their favour the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, to be their God: I am the Lord.
Leviticus 26: 40-45 Take-Aways
Human holiness matters to God. The entire law code preceding this Leviticus passage values not just individual holiness — communal holiness has priority. God desires a holy people, and God gives land to this people as part of God’s covenant blessing. Today with the advent of technology and the growth of cities, it may be easy to feel removed from the land and not understand its place in covenant relationship. For the Israelite community, to be holy involved care for the covenant, including care for the gift of the land. When the people do not keep the covenant, they cannot fully experience the gift of creation. However, despite human failings, the end is hopeful because God is faithful and continually restores and renews. Does God’s faithfulness inspire us to faithfulness in return?
For more on Leviticus 26, see the Adult Bible Study Sabbath for the Land
Eerdman's Commentary on the Bible
This sermon is the rhetorical conclusion to the book driving home its message, especially that of the last eight chapters with their call to holiness. It is concerned with communal obedience and disobedience; the ritual and civil measures in chs. 16 and 20 and the warnings of divine punishment (“cutting off”) throughout protect the community from the effects of individual wrongdoing. The original audience, if this was after the exile, could well find the rhetoric recalling their experience and being reinforced by it. There is, however, a special tie with ch. 25. The land is Yahweh’s supreme blessing on Israel; ch. 26 offers them its blessings if they are obedient and threatens them with its loss (v. 33) in case of disobedience. It is therefore appropriate to pair it with ch. 25, in which the land is the symbol of Yahweh’s claim on them (C.J.H. Wright 1990: 150). So the loss of the land is an ironic fulfillment of the sabbath year law (vv. 34-35, 43; cf. 25: 2-7). V. 13 also picks up 25:42, 55. Prefixed, however (vv. 1-2), is a reminder of the most fundamental of all Yahweh’s requirements: to be faithful to him, negatively (v. 1) and positively (v. 2). V. 2 repeats 19:30 word for word; v.1 recalls 19:4 (as well as Exod 20:2-6) but expands it. The “pillars” are free-standing undecorated stones which as late as the seventh century BC had been accepted symbols of Yahweh’s presence. It is perhaps to avoid even the suspicion of idolatry that they are forbidden (cf. Deut 16:22). As the conclusion to a law code, Leviticus 26 is similar to Deuteronomy 28, which pronounces blessings and curses on Israel for obedience and disobedience. Both of them follow a tradition which is seen throughout the ancient Near East in law codes and treaties. Yahweh’s “covenant” with Israel is therefore a major theme (vv. 9, 15, 25, 42, and 44-45). Heb. berit means “treaty” as well as “covenant,” so that the idea is appropriate to the literary form. But here there are no blessings and curses, but rather statements by God of his personal intentions. And the punishments are not presented as final vengeance, but rather as a graduated series of disciplinary actions intended to make Israel come to its senses (like Amos 4:6-12), which are expected to be eventually successful (v. 40). Yahweh in fact will never abandon Israel, but will “remember his covenant.” The covenant is seen primarily as Yahweh’s promise (Genesis 17). There are conditions which Israel can break (v. 15, perhaps referring to Exodus 24), but this does not wipe the covenant out. The phrase “vengeance for the covenant” in v. 25 is unique and might better be translated “covenant vengeance” or “treaty vengeance,” referring not so much to the covenant as to treaties in general, with their pronouncement of vengeance on the violator. So in spite of the long series of fearsome warnings, the impression the chapter leaves in the end is of God’s irresistible grace and faithfulness to his people (p 122-123).
Isaiah 35: 1-6
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.
Isaiah 35: 1-6 Take-Aways
The images in this Isaiah passage are of all existing creation being renewed, not replaced. This renewal is for both humanity and for creation. For people, the Lord makes weak hands strong, feeble knees firm, blind eyes open, deaf ears unstopped. For creation, the Lord causes water to flow abundantly from the dry places, and the desert blooms. We see that God does not abandon the first creation. Instead, God comes to it and restores it, so it can express the fullness of life. God loves his creation and does not forsake it, for it is good. When we understand the high value the existing creation has to God, does it inspire us to uphold it as well?
Calvin’s Commentary on Isaiah
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom15.iv.i.html 1. The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad. Here the Prophet describes a wonderful change; for having in the former chapter described the destruction of Idumaea, and having said that it would be changed into a wilderness, he now promises, on the other hand, fertility to the wilderness, so that barren and waste lands shall become highly productive. This is God’s own work; for, as he blesses the whole earth, so he waters some parts of it more lightly, and other parts more bountifully, by his blessing, and afterwards withdraws and removes it altogether on account of the ingratitude of men. Let us now see when this prophecy was fulfilled, or when it shall be fulfilled. The Lord began some kind of restoration when he brought his people out of Babylon; but that was only a slight foretaste, and, therefore, I have no hesitation in saying that this passage, as well as others of a similar kind, must refer to the kingdom of Christ; and in no other light could it be viewed, if we compare it to other prophecies. By “the kingdom of Christ,” I mean not only that which is begun here, but that which shall be completed at the last day, which on that account is called “the day of renovation and restoration,” (Acts 3:21;) because believers will never find perfect rest till that day arrive. And the reason why the prophets speak of the kingdom of Christ in such lofty terms is, that they look at that end when the true happiness of believers, shall be most fully restored. After having spoken of dreadful calamities and predicted the lamentable ruin of the whole world, the Prophet comforts believers by this promise, in which he foretells that all things shall be restored. This is done by Christ, by whom alone they can be renewed and made glad; for he alone renews everything, and restores it to proper order; apart from him there can be nothing but filth and desolation, nothing but most miserable ruin both in heaven and in earth. But it ought to be carefully observed, that the world needed to be prepared by chastisements of this nature, in order that it might be fit and qualified for receiving such distinguished favor, and that the grace of Christ might be more fully manifested, which would have been concealed if everything had remained in its original state. It was therefore necessary that the proud and fierce minds of men should be cast down and subdued, that they might taste the kindness of Christ, and partake of his power and strength. 2. Flourishing it shall flourish. He describes more fully how great, will be the effect of the grace of Christ, by whose power and might those places which had been overgrown with filthy and noxious weeds “flourish” exceedingly and regain their vigor. This repetition is used for the sake of amplification. The doubling of the word “flourish” may be taken in two senses; either to denote the prolongation of time in incessant vegetation; as if he had said, “It shall not flourish with a passing or fading blossom, so as to return immediately to the foul condition in which it once was, but with a continual, uninterrupted, and long-continued bloom, which can never fade or pass away;” or to denote the increase and daily or yearly progress of improvement; for Christ enriches us in such a manner as to increase his grace in us from day to day. They shall see the glory of Jehovah. What he had formerly spoken metaphorically he now explains clearly and without a figure. Till men learn to know God, they are barren and destitute of everything good; and consequently the beginning of our fertility is to be quickened by the presence of God, which cannot be without the inward perception of faith. The Prophet undoubtedly intended to raise our minds higher, that we may contemplate the abundance and copiousness of heavenly benefits; for men might be satisfied with bread and wine and other things of the same kind, and yet not acknowledge God to be the author of them, or cease to be wretched; and indeed men are often blinded and rendered more fierce by enjoying abundance. But when God makes himself visible to us, by causing us to behold his glory and beauty, we not only possess his blessings, but have the true enjoyment of them for salvation. 6. For waters shall be dug. He next adds other blessings with which believers shall be copiously supplied, as soon as the kingdom of Christ is set up; as if he had said, that there will be no reason to dread scarcity or want, when we have been reconciled to God through Christ, because perfect happiness flows to us from him. But he represents this happiness to us under metaphorical expressions; and, first, he says that “waters shall be dug;” because, where formerly all was barren, there the highest fertility shall be found. Now, we are poor and barren, unless God bless us through Christ; for he alone, brings with him the blessing of the Father, which he bestows upon us. Wicked men, indeed, have often a great abundance of good things, but their wealth is wretched; for they have not Christ, from whom alone proceeds a true and salutary abundance of all blessings. Death unquestionably would be more desirable than that abundance of wine and of food with which we, at the same time, swallow the curse of God. When, therefore, Christ shall gloriously arise, rivers and waters shall flow out and yield true and valuable advantage.
Eerdman's Commentary on the Bible
After the great judgment comes renewal. As in Revelation 21, where the new heavens and the new earth follow upon the great judgment, so too here, centuries earlier, there is the same sequence. Originally it probably marked the renewal of nature with autumn rain after the fiery heat of the summer, but in the liturgy of the temple and the vision of the prophet it has become a picture of the new age after the fiery judgment. The dry land blooms (35: 1-2), both literally and spiritually, since the dry land was the curse on Adam when he was cut off from the presence of God and the rivers of Eden (Gen 3:17-19). In the new age the glory of the Lord would be seen again (35:2), coming to strengthen the weak (vv. 3-4) (p 521).
Isaiah 55: 12-13
For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
Isaiah 55:12-13 Take-Aways
Not only people respond to God’s compassion–creation too responds to God in joy. In this passage, Isaiah gives a dynamic image–creation joins humanity, even leads humanity, to worship God. This image opens our understanding of human relationship with creation. Humanity does not just “rule” creation. Instead, Scripture also tells us that creation leads us. Do we always see our selves in positions of authority over creation, or do we ever humble ourselves to it?
This apocalyptic vision speaks to the coming harmony between humanity and nature. That which appears to harm and disserve human interest, briers and thorns, actually becomes a balm and a service. This testifies to the Lord’s name, it is the Lord’s doing, and it is part of our worship.
Calvin’s Commentary on Isaiah
The mountains and hills shall break out before you. By ‘the mountains and hills’ he means that everything which they shall meet in the journey, though in other respects it be injurious, shall aid those who shall return to Jerusalem. They are metaphors, by which he shews that all the creatures bow to the will of God, and rejoice and lend their aid to carry on his work. He alludes to the deliverance from Egypt, (Ex. siv.22) as is customary with the Prophets; for thus it is described by the Psalmist, ‘The mountains leaped like rams, and the hills like lambs. What ailed thee, O sea, that thou fleddest, and Jordan, (Josh. iii. 16,) that thou wast driven back?” (Ps. cxiv. 4,5.) For the restoration of the Church may be regarded as a renovation of the whole world, and in consequence of this, heaven and earth are said to be changed, as if their order were reversed. But all this depended on former predictions, by which they had received a promise of their return (p172-73).
The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary
The final two verses are generally related to a ‘second exodus’ motif, whereby exiles are depicted as returning home from Babylon. Yet the removal of thorns and briers is a promise rooted in Isaiah’ former word concerning the remnant in the land, the rejuvenated ‘pleasant vineyard’ (see 27:2-4). Briers and thorns are what the land is reduced to under God’s judgment (5:6; 7:24-25), to be removed by God’s gracious action. In the lavish promises of God, the people will come and go from Zion in joy and peace, as all nature salutes God’s dramatic turning of fortunes. This will constitute an everlasting memorial on precisely those terms–that God has wiped out the days of judgment and given those who repent a fully new lease on life (p482-83).
The Oxford Bible Commentary
A recurring theme running throughout the book of Isaiah is that of paradise regained (Whybray 1975:195). In 11:6-9 it was animal life that was transformed; here we are reminded of the ‘briers and thorns’ of the early chapters (5:6 and elsewhere), though the actual words used here are different. In the present vision such threats to agriculture will be replaced by cypress and myrtle, symbols of God’s transformation of the wilderness (41:19). Then, in a way which contributed to the vision of St Francis, the trees can join mountains and hills in praise of God. Not all apocalyptic visions are as attractive as this (p479).
Isaiah 65: 17-23
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 for ever 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 lifetime; 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 labour in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—and their descendants as well.
Isaiah 65: 17-23 Take-Aways
This famous Isaiah passage speaks hope to the realities of Isaiah’s contemporary audience–blessing of land would be of particular importance to this agricultural Palestinian community. As Jerome points out, God promises to transform the current creation, and transformation does not mean annihilation. God takes what exists and makes it new. The New Interpreter’s Bible puts it this way, “Blessing stands (65:23) where curse–over ground, creation, procreation, and human labor–ruled before.” This renewal is complete, and it is of great hope. When we think of the future of the earth, do we first think about God’s hopeful promise? Does God’s hope draw us in and cause us to act out of hope instead of despair?
Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture
Newness Means a Change into Something Better. Jerome: Those who interpret the new heaven and earth to be a change for the better, rather than the destruction of the elements, cite this passage: ‘You founded the earth in the beginning, Lord, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will endure; they will grow old like a garment, and you will roll them up like cloth, and they will be changed.’ In this psalm is demonstrated clearly a perdition and destruction that is not an annihilation but a transformation for the better. Neither does what is written elsewhere indicate that there will be a complete destruction of that was there at the beginning, but rather a transformation: ‘The moon will shine like the sun, and the sun’s light will be strengthened sevenfold.’ And that this may be better understood, let us use an example from our own human condition: when an infant grows into a boy, and a boy into an adolescent, and an adolescent into a man and a man into an old man, the same person continues to exist throughout his succession of ages. For he remains the same man as he was, even though it can be said that he has changed a little and that the previous ages have passed away. Understanding this truth, the apostle Paul said, ‘for the form this world is perishing.’ Notice that he said ‘form,’ not substance (p273-74).
The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary
Here again we can feel the presence of chap. 1, with its call to heavens and earth to serve as witnesses against rebellious children. But so far gone are those days, enclosing the wicked opponents of the servants as well, that God announces an imminent plan: the creation of a new heavens and a new earth. The final vindication of the servant and the servants was to involve the reconstitution of Zion and her repopulation with children she did no know she had even conceived. So, naturally, those themes appear here (v.18). But the descriptions accompanying this new heaven and new earth are more than the natural fulfillment of promises God has made, even as they are that, to be sure. The most graphic example of this is seen in the final verse (6:25). Here a word-for-word recycling of verses from Isa 11:6-9 appears. That is, God is making good on the word of promise to Isaiah’s generation, when God spoke of a day to come when enemies in the realm of nature would peacefully coexist. Yet, appended to this is reference to the serpent and the curse upon him, based upon Gen 3:14. To speak of a new heaven and a new earth is to return to creation and the curses that followed upon the very first act of disobedience. It is to go back beyond the rebellions of Isaiah’s generation, or of the present generation; back to the very point of rupture. In order for the former things to be put away for good, God must begin all over again. Mention of the curse over evil as embodied in the serpent–that creature that cannot coexist with others except as a parasite–makes clear that Genesis language and context are pivotal in the construction of this unit. When this is clear, then one can see the force of all other allusions as well advanced years, like the ages of the great ancestors from Genesis, will be like youth, and there will be no premature dying (65:20). Human labor will not be marked by the ‘thorns and thistles’ of Genesis (3:18) nor by Isaiah’s briers and thorns (5:6; 7:24, 25; 27:4; 55:13). Children will be born without labor pains, in line with the promises to Zion (54:1; 66:7), and with obvious resonance to Gen 3:16. Blessing stands (65:23) where curse–over ground, creation, procreation, and human labor–ruled before. The ‘seed’ the servant was to see becomes, in this new heaven and earth, a new creation altogether. In the enjoyment of one’s work in long life (65:22) humankind is likened to a tree in its longevity, and one can hear in this verse no reference to a tree of life to be contrasted with a tree of knowledge of good and evil. Something truly new is being set forth, against the backdrop of these former things (p544-545).
The Oxford Bible Commentary
The bitterness of the preceding poem gives way to a new promise. ‘For’ at the outset suggests a link with what has preceded, but this may be an assertive usage: ‘Surely I am!’ YHWH as creator has been a recurrent theme since ch. 40, and the last two chapters of the book take this to a climax with a complete renewal of heaven and earth 9cf. 66:22). The ‘former things’ played an important part in the lawcourt-like material of ch. 41; now, as in 43:18, they are to be set aside. The cosmic picture of v. 17 then narrows down to hopes for Jerusalem in 18-19, but perhaps in view of the way the city is idealized in Isaiah the shift is less dramatic than it seems. The blessings promised in the following verses are characteristic of the hopes of an agricultural community in the ancient world. The allusion to a tree in v. 22 may be a deliberate contrast to the rejected trees of 1:29-31, in view of other allusions to that section in these final chapters (p483).
Romans 8: 19-23
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
Romans 8: 19-23 Take-Aways
“Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” When the church prays the Lord’s prayer, it prays that God’s will and restoration may be carried out now on this earth. We are praying for a renewal of the earth that God has given us. And in this passage Paul is clear: creation waits for children of God to live out their prayer and help free creation from decay. Humanity joins creation’s groaning, and together they anticipate God’s redemption. We are involved in creation’s hope. We must remember that God’s redemption is holistic — it is not just for us. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, do we actually believe that God’s kingdom can come on this earth? Do our prayers match our actions?
Calvin’s Commentary on Romans
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom38.xii.vi.html For the intent expectation of the creation, etc. He teaches us that there is an example of the patience, to which he had exhorted us, even in mute creatures. For, to omit various interpretations, I understand the passage to have this meaning — that there is no element and no part of the world which, being touched, as it were, with a sense of its present misery, does not intensely hope for a resurrection. He indeed lays down two things, — that all are creatures in distress, — and yet that they are sustained by hope. And it hence also appears how immense is the value of eternal glory, that it can excite and draw all things to desire it. And not only so, etc. There are those who think that the Apostle intended here to exalt the dignity of our future blessedness, and by this proof, because all things look for it with ardent desire; not only the irrational parts of creation, but we also who have been regenerated by the Spirit of God. This view is indeed capable of being defended, but there seems to me to be a comparison here between the greater and the less; as though he said, “The excellency of our glory is of such importance even to the very elements, which are destitute of mind and reason, that they burn with a certain kind of desire for it; how much more it behoves us, who have been illuminated by the Spirit of God, to aspire and strive with firmness of hope and with ardour of desire, after the attainment of so great a benefit.” And he requires that there should be a feeling of two kinds in the faithful: that being burdened with the sense of their present misery, they are to groan; and that notwithstanding they are to wait patiently for their deliverance; for he would have them to be raised up with the expectation of their future blessedness, and by an elevation of mind to overcome all their present miseries, while they consider not what they are now, but what they are to be.
The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary
The reason why present suffering cannot compare with the coming glory is because the whole creation is on tiptoe with excitement, waiting for God’s children to be revealed as who they really are. Suddenly we have turned a corner. Whereas, up until now, it might have been possible to think that Paul was simply talking about God’s salvation in relation to human beings, from here on it is clear that the entire cosmos is in the view. Nor is this a strange oddity, bolted on to the outside of his theology, or of the argument of Romans, as though it were simply a bit of undigested Jewish apocalyptic speculation thrown in here for good measure. No: it is part of the revelation of God’s righteousness, that covenant faithfulness that always aimed at putting the whole world to rights. This is why, as we saw in 4:13, Paul declared that God’s promise to Abraham had the whole world in view. Paul could hardly express the longing of creation more dramatically. Literally, he writes, “For the eager expectation of the creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the children of God,” an obvious pleonasm (use of extra or redundant words for effect) that makes its own point. The whole creation – sun, moon, sea, sky, birds, animals, plants – is longing for the time when God’s people will be revealed as God’s glorious human agents, set in authority over the world. But why? Why should creation be so eager for this? And how does Paul know such a thing? He answers by explaining the present state of creation, drawing on Genesis 3 and other Jewish traditions. Creation itself is in bondage, in slavery, and needs to have its own exodus. It has been “subjected to futility,” not deliberately (it did not rebel as humankind rebelled), but because God subjected it to corruption and decay, creation’s equivalent of slavery in Egypt (“the slavery which consists of corruption,” v. 21). God did this precisely in order that creation might point forward to the new world that is to be, in which its beauty and power will be enhanced and its corruptibility and futility will be down away. And, if one dare put it like this, as God sent Jesus to rescue the human race, so God will send Jesus’ younger siblings, in the power of the Spirit, to rescue the whole created order, to bring that justice and peace for which the whole creation years. (This cannot be reduced to the old liberal Protestant “social gospel” – from which the resurrection, which Paul here presupposes, was usually bracketed out.) The basis of Paul’s belief here must be a combination of two things: the biblical promise of new heavens and new earth (Isa 65:17; 66:22), and the creation story in which human beings, made in God’s image, are appointed as God’s steward over creation. Putting the picture together, in the light of the observable way in which the created order is out of joint, and the clear biblical and experiential belief that the human race as a whole is in rebellion against God, Paul, in company with many other Jews, saw the two as intimately related. After the fall, the earth produced thorns and thistles. Humans continued to abuse their environment, so that one of the reasons why God sent Israel into exile, according to the Scriptures, was so that the land could at last enjoy its Sabbaths (Lev 26:34-43 [cf. 25:2-5]; 2 Chr 36:21). But the answer to the problem was not (as in some New Age theories) that humans should keep their hands off creation, should perhaps be removed from the planet altogether so as not to spoil it any further. The answer, if the creator is to be true to the original purpose, is for humans to be redeemed, to take their place at last as God’s imagebearers, the wise steward they were always meant to be. Paul sees that this purpose has already been accomplished in principle in the resurrection of Jesus, and that it will be accomplished fully when all those in Christ are raised and together set in saving authority over the world (see 1 Cor 15:20-28). That is why, Paul says, creation is now waiting with eager longing (Vol. 10, pg 596).
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary
19. creation waits with eager expectation for God’s sons to be revealed: Paul discloses his view of the created world, which in its chaotic state manifests its cosmic striving toward the very goal set for humanity itself. He thus affirms a solidarity of the human and the subhuman world in the redemption of Christ. It recalls Yahweh’s promise to Noah of the coveant to bemade “between myself and you and every living creature” (Gen 9:12-13). In this context the noun ktisis denotes “material creation” apart from human beings (see 8:23 . . . ). Created for human beings, it was cursed as a result of Adam’s sin (Gen 3:15-17); since then material creation has been in a state of abnormality or frustration, being subject to corruption or decay itself. Yet Paul sees it sharing in the destiny of humanity, somehow freed of this proclivity to decay (p 824).
Revelation 21: 1-5
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.’
Revelation 21: 1-5 Take-Aways
“Behold, I am making all things new.” Here again, as in Isaiah, we see that God’s recreation of the earth is a renewal not an erasure. This vision describes not creation from nothing, but creation from something–specifically this existing earth. Jesus came not to destroy, but to restore. God will create the new heaven and new earth in the same way. God’s presence itself yields this transformation, for in its light, evil must flee. God calls us to walk in the light as God is in the light. This means that we do not just wait for God to come to restore the earth. We testify to God’s coming by walking in the light now–this means taking steps to care for the earth that God will ultimately new.
Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture
Through the transgression of humankind, creation suffers corruption and mortality (Oecumenius). However, God will establish heaven and earth (Cassiodorus, Oecumenius, Andrew of Caesarea). This renewal will not involve the annihilation of the world’s substance and the replacing of it by another, different substance (Oecumenius, Andrew of Caesarea). Rather, through fire that which is corruptible will burn away, leaving only transformed substance suitable to bodies now made immortal (Augustine). In this new heaven and earth, transformed and made fit for people now remade, the soul is restored to its integrity and the body is restored to its original strength (Augustine). Then there will be no evil, and the restless and stormy turbulence of human life will also be no more (Augustine, Andrew of Caesarea) (p352).
The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary
Picking up on a theme twice repeated in the final chapters of Isaiah (Isa 65:17; 66:22), John sees a new heaven and earth replacing the ones that have vanished. The theme of newness of Second Isaiah (eg Isa 42:9), hinted at in promises to the angels of the seven churches (Rev 2:17; 3:12) and in the song that greets the Lamb (Rev 5:9; 14:3), is now fulfilled. What is past, the “first,: the provisional rather than the fundamental (cf. Rev. 1:17; 22:13), is no more. There is a brief, unexplained mention that there will be no more sea. The sea in heaven (4:6) became a threatening place, to be endured or “conquered” (15:2), and the earthly sea had been the object of judgment (5:13; 7:1-2; 8:8-9; 12:12; 16:3; 18:21). It was a place to be exploited by the mariners (18:17), and above all the sea was the place out of which the beast had arisen to threaten the eternal destiny of humanity (13:1; cf. 12:12; Mark 5:13). That threat is now removed (p720).
The Oxford Bible Commentary
V. 1, the expectation of a new cosmos here echoes Isa 65:17. ‘New’ carries its eschatological sense of radically different, but implies a radical renewal of the old creation rather than creation from nothing (cf. Paul’s use of ‘new creation’ in 2 Cor 5:17). Absence of sea, if this means the primordial chaos from which the beast arises (13:1), implies that the creation is established eternally, beyond any threat of reverting to chaos. V. 2, the new Jerusalem will be described at length later in the chapter. It comes from heaven as the dwelling place of redeemed humanity with God–the union of heaven and earth, or of the bride with her husband Christ (cf. 19:7-8). V.3, the words echo God’s OT promises to dwell with his own people Israel as their God (Ezek 37:27-8; Zech 8:8) and also that many nations will be his people with whom he will dwell (Zech 2:10-11; df. Isa 19:25; 56:7; Am 9:12). The best text has ‘his peoples’ (rather than ‘people’), using in the plural the word commonly used of God’s own people (laoi) rather than the more usual word for the other nations or Gentiles (ethne). Now that the covenant people (Israel and the church) have fulfilled their mission of witness to the nations, all nations will share in the privileges and promises of the covenant people. From this point two strands run through the account of the new Jerusalem that follows, one referring to the covenant people, the other to the nations. V. 4 cr. isa 25:7-8. In God’s immediate presence on earth all sorrow, suffering, and death are banished forever: this above all is what makes the new cosmos new (1303).