“Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.”
Peter was being used of God to encourage new Christians in their faith. He had been emphasizing and explaining that Jesus is coming again to judge. Jesus’ return is the hope of the Christian. In his first letter Peter declared that we are regenerated unto this hope, for an inheritance is reserved in heaven for us—a salvation that will be revealed in the last time (I Pet. 1:3-5). But while Christians are yet on this earth, they will experience heaviness because of a multitude of trials, which try their faith so that it might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (I Pet. 1:6,7). In this chapter of his second letter, Peter has been saying that the return of the Lord means the great destruction of the present heavens and earth (II Pet. 3:10-12). But he quickly goes on to say that the destruction of the present world means the creation of new heavens and a new earth. The old will pass away. And then God will make all things new.
The ultimate goal and vision of the Christian is the new creation, which will abide forever. Our hope is not the kingdom of God on earth. God sets before His people the promise of a new and wonderful creation when Jesus comes again. This is our hope. And for this we are to look with eager anticipation! God promises that there will be “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” The present “heavens shall pass away…, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (10). This destruction will not be annihilation, i.e., a complete passing away. There will be a restitution of all things (Acts 3:21); and like a coat that gets old, they shall be changed (Ps. 102:26). Just as the destruction of the first world with the flood resulted in a new world by change and not by being created out of nothing (II Pet. 3:6, 7), so the old will be changed into new. God will create the new heavens and earth out of the ashes of the present world.
Be aware that this denies that an evolutionary development of things will continue forever. And this denies the expectation of a glorious kingdom on this earth.
The word “new” can mean a renewing or a reviving in the sense of bringing to greater life. When Paul writes about the believer being a “new creature” in Christ, so that all things are become new, this implies a radical change in inner life and character, but not such a change that the result is something unrecognizable. The form and substance of the new creation will be similar. God uses the same words (heaven and earth) to describe the first (Gen. 1:1) and the glorious final (Rev. 1:1). The new is likened to the first when it is spoken of as “Eden” (Is. 51:3), with a tree of life (Rev. 2:7, 22:2). There will be similarity, but the glory and the richness of life in the new heavens and earth will be so much greater that it will be a tremendous change. For example, there will be no more night (Is. 60:19, 20), and no more sea, creating divisions and separations (Rev. 21:1).
Also, the new heavens and earth will not be under a curse anymore. The new world will be purged and purified from all the effects of sin. The whole of creation was made subject to vanity because of man’s fall into sin (Gen. 3:17; Rom. 8:20). As a result, creation groans, waiting to be delivered from the bondage of corruption (Rom. 8:21-23). Creation is said to anticipate this deliverance as a pregnant woman waits to be delivered. It is as if the new world is hidden within the present world, waiting to be evidenced when the present is destroyed. In the new heavens and earth there will be no curse, but only blessing. There will be peace and harmony within all of creation (Is. 11:6-9).
Another way to speak of it is to say that the new creation will be the old refined—just as the “now” world was refined in the flood of the “then” world (5-7). The day of Jesus’ coming will be “like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap” (Mal. 3:2, 3), not a destructive fire. Just as God delivered the “then” world from all the wicked, leaving only believing Noah and his family, so the fire at the time of Jesus’ return will deliver creation from all the reprobate and from the kingdom of the Man of Sin, leaving only the resurrected elect.
This idea is supported by the fact that the book of Revelation gives brief accounts of heaven that make us think of the book of Genesis. Instead of the heavenly luminaries, the glory of God will light the City. Paradise will be regained. Man will not be hiding from God, but will be dwelling with God in perfect communion. Instead of being prevented from the Tree of life, man will be eating of it.
Our text adds, “wherein dwelleth righteousness.” Righteousness is being right in God’s sight. God is righteous, for He is perfectly good. God created Adam good, with original righteousness. But after the fall of mankind into sin there is none righteous, no not one (Ps. 14:3;Rom. 3:10). The holy God, who sees and knows all, declares that “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Rom. 3:20). Hence the present world lies under the curse of God because of man’s sin. But in the new heavens and earth there will be only righteousness. There will be no unrighteousness there. Only those made righteous by the obedience of Christ (and declared to be so by God Himself only on the basis of Jesus’ perfect saving work) are the inhabitants of the new creation. And in the new world the righteous will no more do any unrighteousness. All of the elect (confer v. 9) will be there.
We will be free from this body of death, which bears the effects of the curse of sin, and in which we only sin. No more will we have to spend prayer time confessing sin and asking for forgiveness. We will only be praising the Lord.
In the glory of the new heavens and earth wherein is only righteousness, we will dwell with God (Rev. 21:3). The covenant relationship of friendship and fellowship between God and His people will be consummated. Whereas now we have times of some warm communion with God, then we will live in it continuously. Now we have times when our hearts are spiritually cold, but then nothing will keep us from intimate fellowship with God. There we will know only the joy of walking close with God, not cumbered with any weakness or worldly care. Now we have many times when we forget God and thus willingly sin against Him. In this present world we are often unaware of or confused about Scripture’s truths. Also in the intermediate state (after death, when only our soul is experiencing glory) we will have limitations: not yet will we have our bodies; not yet will all the members of the church be present; not yet will we have the explanations of the judgment day. That is why these souls of saints anticipate and pray for vengeance and for the fullness of glory also. But in the new heavens and earth we will be freed from every limitation and weakness. Then we will be able to give full expression to our joy all the time.
Then everything will be peace and a sense of being at home. Redemption in Jesus makes us to receive the adoption of sons, so we are a part of God’s family. We will be like Him (even like His most glorious body) in the family of God. God would have His children “look for,” that is, anticipate eagerly, this new creation. This is our living hope (I Pet. 1:3-7).
Our hope has an effect, namely, godliness in life. Hope is a beautiful, living thing. And it is efficacious. Anyone who hopes for the new heavens and earth will aspire to it—and this aspiring will evidence itself in an optimistic anticipation. So true is this effect that it can be said that one who remains living unrepentantly in filthy sins has little or no thoughts for the kingdom of God in the new heavens and earth.
This is what is meant by: we are diligent to be found of God “in peace, without spot and blameless.” Instead of being focused on and totally engaged by this world and the things of this world, we look for the new heavens and earth. We learn that real integrity (blamelessness) consists of being approved of in God’s judgment—not what finds the praise of men.
How can we, who still fight against so many of our own sins, be found blameless by God? Only in Christ. Only because of Christ.
Let us “be diligent that we may be found of him in peace.” This peace is a peace of conscience, because it is rooted in enduring help. Focus on the peace Christ made for us with God by the blood of His cross, when He reconciled us to God by His death and resurrection. Be diligent to enjoy the peace of conscience that He gives. This peace is a quietness of soul because it rests on Christ, His blood, righteousness, and atonement.
Look for the new heavens and earth! Anticipate it with great joy! Let the knowledge of its coming have an effect on how you are living now. What manner of persons ought ye to be?!