The Heaven and Earth (from the Jewish Perspective)

What does the Bible mean when it talks about heaven and earth? Are we already in the new heaven and new earth? Is heaven simply a place we all go to one day or is it (also) referring to something else as the Jews originally understood it? The following post written by Terry Cropper from Covenant Talk sheds some light on this subject.

Any Israelites who were remotely familiar with the law were well aware of the fact that heaven and earth was synonymous with the law or the Old Covenant.

There really is no private or individual interpretation to the scriptures. The truth has always been in there. It’s our job to search it out. It is much like mining. The more time you spend studying the Jewish language, culture, politics, and historical setting in which Scripture was originally written, the more nuggets of gold you find.

Let’s start with the Biblical terminology of heavens and earth that are first applied to Israel. In Isaiah, Jehovah, speaking of the creation of Israel, and giving them the Mosaic Covenant: “But I am the LORD your God, Who divided the sea whose waves roared, The LORD of hosts is His name. And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, That I may plant the heavens, Lay the foundations of the earth, And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.'” Isaiah 51:15-16

This could not be talking about the physical “heaven and earth;” that was in existence long before God created Israel and gave them the law. God was saying how he established Israel and gave them a covenant that was called the heaven and earth.

In Deuteronomy, Moses said, “Call heaven and earth to RECORD this day AGAINST you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19). Moses was not calling the literal heaven and rocks against Israel but a covenant. If they obeyed the covenant they had life.

Through the law, all of their transgressions were recorded against them. Deuteronomy 31:26-28 “Take this book of the LAW, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that IT (the law) may be there for a WITNESS AGAINST thee. For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death? Gather unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call HEAVEN AND EARTH to RECORD AGAINST them.”

What records against them? Certainly not the physical heavens and earth, but rather the law: Deuteronomy 31:26 “Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a WITNESS AGAINST thee.”

In the above passage, it is evident that the witness against them is that which is in the ark of the covenant — namely the two tables of stone or the ministration of death. Of course we remember this ministration of death as that which was nailing it to his cross. Colossians 2:14 “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was AGAINST us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;”

Isaiah compares the temporal quality of the law versus the eternal quality of the New Covenant salvation. Those who dwelled in the old heavens and earth will die in like manner.

And of course this should bring to mind {4} “Listen to Me, My people; And give ear to Me, O My nation: For law will proceed from Me, And I will make My justice rest As a light of the peoples.{5} My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth, And My arms will judge the peoples; The coastlands will wait upon Me, And on My arm they will trust. {6} Lift up your eyes to the heavens, And look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, The earth will grow old like a garment, And those who dwell in it will die in like manner; But My salvation will be forever, And My righteousness will not be abolished. (Isaiah 51:4-5)

Notice the words heaven and earth. Also notice the future tense in this old testament prophecy. “The heavens WILL vanish away like smoke. The earth WILL grow old like a garment.”

Of course if you were a Israelite this should bring to mind Hebrews 8. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: {11} And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. {12} For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. {13} In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”

Notice the use of the present tense to describe what was taking place at this time: “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. The language that the writer of Hebrews uses is synonymous to Isaiah 51:4-5. We see that the Old Covenant that was decaying (present tense) and waxing old (present tense) was READY to vanish away.” (Hebrews 8:10-13 KJV)

So the term heavens and earth are also synonymous with the covenants. In Matthew 24 Jesus predicted the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, the very center of the Jewish world. Referring to the passing of that system, Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. {18} For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

Are we today still under the law of the Mosaic Covenant? Of course not. But notice Jesus said, “the law would in no way pass away until HEAVEN and EARTH pass.” With the destruction of their Temple (the centerpiece of the Jewish Old Covenant world system), the old heaven and earth or old covenant was completely taken away. Any Israelites who were remotely familiar with the law were well aware of the fact that heaven and earth was synonymous with the law or the Old Covenant.

[Post updated on 2 December 2010]

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