Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet;
but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God
(Philippians 3.13-14 NASB )
D ECEMBER 9, 2008
We could sum up God’s purpose for the eons with two little, but mighty words: all and new . The
purpose of God is that He become all in all in all new . In other words, He will become all in all things,
which means His entire creation, both visible and invisible, and He will do this through His Son, our
Lord Jesus Christ. But there is much more, for, in Christ, He intends to make all new. In other words,
all the former things will pass away and there will be all new things. Thus, we read of a new heaven
nd a new earth; the holy city, New Jerusalem; and the new creation in Christ.
Others might think that this is all so futuristic that it has little bearing on our lives in the here and now;
but, I have good news for any that think this way. If you are in Christ, you are already a part of the all
ew, for, according to Paul, in Christ is a new creation .
Therefore, if anyone [is] in Christ, [he is] a new creation; the old [things] passed away,
look!, all [things] have become new. (2 Corinthians 5.17 ALT)
For in Christ Jesus neither does circumcision have any power [or, avail anything] nor
uncircumcision, but a new creation! (Galatians 6.15 ALT)
In a sense, Paul was not declaring something that was obscure, for through Isaiah the prophet, the
Lord made very similar declarations. In fact, given Paul’s background, it is safe to state that he was
uoting the ancient prophet.
“Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they
spring forth I proclaim them to you.” (Isaiah 42.9 NASB)
“Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I
will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43.19 NASB)
“You have heard; look at all this. And you, will you not declare it? I proclaim to you new
things from this time, even hidden things which you have not known.” (Isaiah 48.6 NASB)
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be
remembered or come to mind. (Isaiah 65.17 NASB)
However, Paul was not merely issuing a prophetic word but a word based on his own experience, for
like John, he saw the new heaven and the new earth. John heard the Lord declaring that He is making
ll new, and he saw it as well.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first [former] heaven and the first
[former] earth passed away. And the sea is not [any] more [fig., the sea no longer exists].
And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having
been prepared like a bride having been adorned [for] her husband. And the One sitting
on the throne said, “Look! I am making all things new!” And He says to me, “Write,
because these words are true and trustworthy.” (Revelation 21.1-2; 5 ALT [CV])
According to his testimony to the Corinthians, Paul was snatched away to the third heaven and
aradise to hear declarations that were not allowed to be spoken.
If you have been reading my previous issues on this subject, perhaps you are getting tired of hearing
about God’s purpose summed up in the word all . As for me, it is a glorious subject that seems to be
gnored in our day, so the least I can do is keep it in the forefront for any who have an ear to hear.
If boasting must be, though it is not expedient, indeed, yet I shall also be coming to
apparitions and revelations of the Lord. I am acquainted with a man in Christ, fourteen
years before this, (whether in a body I am not aware, or outside of the body, I am not
aware–God is aware) such a one was snatched away to the third heaven. And I am
acquainted with such a man (whether in a body or outside of the body I am not aware–
God is aware) that he was snatched away into paradise and hears ineffable declarations,
which it is not allowed a man to speak. (2 Corinthians 12.1-4 CV)
It seems clear that, along with Isaiah, both John and Paul were given the same vision, and both were
given the word that all would be new. Look, all have become new! Look, I am making all things
new! As John came to be in spirit to perceive the Lord’s day, as recorded in Revelation 21-22, so was
Paul snatched away in spirit to see the Lord’s day. In other words, Paul saw beyond the coming
millennial kingdom to the eon of the eons (God’s day) in which there is a new heaven and new earth,
and New Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven, having the glory of God. I believe that when he
proclaimed all things have become new, Paul was testifying to what he saw.
It is most probable that Paul was snatched away to the third heaven, and it was there that he saw
paradise, which is New Jerusalem. However, we are presented with a challenge in his use of the
words third heaven . Paul was the only one of all the inspired writers to refer to the third heaven. Most
commentators view the third heaven spatially, as if it is merely a third level or place in the heavens
that currently exists. It is seen as the place where the throne of God is today. However, where in
Scripture are we told this supposed fact? If this is true, then it should be and, in fact, must be
explained by Scripture. The fact of the matter is that it is not found in Scripture, other than in this one
epistle. How are we to answer this dilemma?
It has been proposed by others that the use of the word third indicates third in sequence, rather than
in place; thus, it is the third heaven, chronologically speaking. In other words, throughout the eons
(time), there will have been three heavens, and the third heaven refers to the new heaven that is to
come when our current heavens and earth pass away with a roar, and the elements will be destroyed
with intense heat. Peter gives us the answer to this question as recorded in 2 Peter 3.10: But the day
of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away . Notice that he refers to
heavens in the plural. If the third heaven exists today, then it too would have to pass away; so it must
not be included in the present heavens. But we are also given more information, for, in the same
passage, Peter wrote that there were heavens: It escapes their notice that by the word of God the
heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which
the world at that time was destroyed [a disruption] , being flooded with water (2 Peter 3.5-6 NASB
[added by writer]). One might be tempted to think that this refers to the flood of Noah’s day, but the
thing that escapes their notice is that the earth had been destroyed by water and was in waste and
ruin (see Genesis 1.2) prior to Adam being formed from the soil of the earth. Elohim had to restore the
earth that was in disruption (waste and ruin) prior to creating man.
Thus, there was a first heavens (of old, long ago) and earth before the disruption. A second heavens
and earth came into view with the restoration of the ruined earth, as recorded in Genesis 1.2b ff. We
are living in the realm of the second heavens and earth that are reserved for purging by fire following
the millennial kingdom. There will yet be a third heaven and earth in which righteousness dwells, after
the present ones pass away (or, are cleansed and purged) (2 Peter 3.10-13). [Note: Most translations
of Revelation 21.1 refer to the first heaven and earth, but it also could be translated as former ,
meaning “the one that preceded the new one.”]
Since Paul was snatched away to the third heaven, the paradise that he was caught away to must be
in relation to the time of the third heaven as well, for this coincides with John’s vision on the isle of
Patmos. While he was snatched away to the third heaven, he saw the paradise, and this, I believe, is
the revelation that Paul described as in Christ, a new creation .
Like the other prophets, he had to proclaim: Look, all have become new!
The Upward Call #02-0880 by — Stuart H. Pouliot