Near the end of the Book of Isaiah, the prophet describes a future time of happiness for the Lord’s covenant people. Speaking on behalf of God, Isaiah expresses surprise that people who had rebelled and rejected God so many times were now seeking after Him and willingly following Him:
I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.Isaiah 65:1
Because of this change of heart, amazing things will happen:
Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.
But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.
And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.Isaiah 65:17-19
And this change will be durable:
For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain.Isaiah 66:22
This concept of “new heavens and a new earth” appears several other places in scripture. Peter sees in Isaiah’s promise a hope for a future time of peace and happiness:
Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.2 Peter 3:13
And John used this phrase to describe the earth in its exalted, resurrected state:
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.Revelation 21:1, 4 (See also Isaiah 25:8.)
And the Jaredite prophet Ether uses the same phrase during his prophecy of the New Jerusalem:
And there shall be a new heaven and a new earth; and they shall be like unto the old save the old have passed away, and all things have become new.Ether 13:9
I think there are two ways to think about this phrase:
- As a literal description of the eventual sanctification of the earth. (See Doctrine and Covenants 29:23.) In this interpretation, “heaven” refers to the sky and the atmosphere, emphasizing that the whole experience of living on the earth will change. (See Genesis 1:1.)
- As a metaphorical description of the change we experience as we are sanctified. When we change, our perception of the world around us changes. That includes our perception of our tangible surroundings (the earth) but also of spiritual realities (heaven). In this interpretation, everything changes when we change. Our perception is enhanced and we are able to see things as they really are, not with our current clouded vision. (See 1 Corinthians 13:9-12.) Perhaps this is one meaning of the Savior’s teaching that “all things have become new” (3 Nephi 12:47, 2 Corinthians 5:17).
Today, I will be grateful for the process of sanctification promised by Isaiah. I will be grateful that, in spite of the entropy and erosion which seem to be the natural state of the world, God will one day renew the world and make it incorruptible. I will also be grateful that He is willing to renew me and convert me into a person who can belong in that new world and who can see things as they really are.