The Covenantal Significance of the Destruction of Heaven and Earth

In Beyond Creation Science: New Covenant Creation from Genesis to Revelation, Timothy P. Martin and J.L. Vaughn discuss the idea that the creation account in Genesis 1-3 relays the introduction of a covenant between God and man symbolically described as the creation of heaven and earth. The following brief article will echo and expound upon this view.

Whenever the Bible mentions the earth, earth is often just used to refer to a particular kingdom, not the world as a whole. See In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations.  Thus whenever the Bible mentions the destruction of the earth it is generally, if not always, describing the destruction of a particular kingdom.

As stated and explained in The Earth is More than 6000 Years Old:  How Young Earth Creationists have Misinterpreted the Bible whenever a kingdom is destroyed and its people dominated or replaced by foreigners, this destruction/conquest of an individual kingdom is often metaphorically portrayed in the Bible in the imagery and language of the destruction and creation of heaven and earth itself.  That having been said there may be more to the destruction of heaven and earth than just the literal destruction of a kingdom.  There appears to also be covenantal significance to each instance in which heaven and earth had been destroyed throughout Biblical history.  I believe heaven and earth have been renewed at least eight separate times throughout the course of Biblical history and the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy:

    1. The first recorded incidence of the creation of heaven and earth is, of course, in Genesis 1.
    2. This old earth was then destroyed and a new earth created in Genesis 7 during and after Noah’s flood.
    3. The third time heaven and earth had been renewed was during the military conquest of Canaan by the former Hebrew slaves of Exodus according to Isaiah 51.
    4. The fourth time heaven and earth were destroyed was in the sixth century B.C. at the rise and fall of the Babylonian and Assyrian Empires according to Jeremiah 4:23-26, Ezekiel 32:7-9, and Isaiah 34:4-5.
    5. The fifth time heaven and earth were said to be destroyed was at the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C. according to Isaiah 13:9-13.
    6. I believe the next time heaven and earth were destroyed was during the Maccabean Wars when the Seleucid Empire under Antiochus Epiphanies desecrated the temple in Jerusalem and put a stop to the practice of the Law for three years before the reconsecration of the Temple by the Maccabees. See How and Why the Imagery of Zechariah 14 Intentionally Mirrors Genesis 1:1-10 and Zechariah 14 Fulfilled in the Maccabean Wars: A Preterist Commentary.
    7. Heaven and earth were also destroyed and renewed during Israel’s first century war with Rome according to Revelation 6:12-14.
    8. The final recorded prediction concerning the destruction of heaven and earth is recorded in Revelation 20:11. This event was expected to transpire one thousand years after the destruction of heaven and earth during the Jewish War recorded in Revelation 6:12-14. The culmination of the Thousand Year Reign, the Battle of Gog and Magog and the subsequent renewal of heaven and earth was fulfilled surprisingly literally during the Crusades beginning in A.D. 1095. See Revelation 20: A Preterist Commentary, Ezekiel 39:1-20: A Preterist Commentary and Ezekiel 38: A Preterist Commentary.

In The Earth is More than 6000 Years Old:  How Young Earth Creationists have Misinterpreted the Bible, I explain how in every instance in which heaven and earth were renewed in Biblical history and Biblical prophecy a kingdom was destroyed. These kingdoms were attacked or somehow destroyed most often by way of military conquest. As stated above, there is more to the destruction of heaven and earth than just the literal destruction of a kingdom. There is also covenantal or religious significance in every incidence in which heaven and earth had been destroyed and a new heaven and earth instituted in the Bible. Let us briefly touch upon the covenantal or spiritual significance of each of the eight recorded instances in which heaven and earth had been destroyed and recreated spanning the course of thousands of years of human history.

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The first recorded occurrence of the creation of heaven and earth is recorded in Genesis 1.  As explained in Why Isaiah 65:20 and Related Verses Imply that Physical Death Preceded the Fall of Man, the fall of man instituted an age of spiritual death that was not rectified until the second coming of Christ and the subsequent resurrection of the dead around the time of Israel’s first century war with Rome.  Thus in Genesis 3:14-24, God inaugurated a covenantal curse of spiritual death. The fact that God had a covenant with Adam is indicated in Hosea 6:7: “But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; there they have dealt treacherously against Me.”

Noah’s flood represents a return to the water world of Genesis 1:1-10 before the creation of the earth.

Noah’s flood represents a return to the water world of Genesis 1:1-10 before the creation of the earth.

The second time the earth had been destroyed was during Noah’s flood.  This event resulted in massive destruction and a colossal death toll in that wicked generation.  The covenant instituted by God at this time is laid out in Genesis 9:1-15:

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.  The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given.  Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.  Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.  Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man. “As for you, be fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.”  Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying,  “Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth.  I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.”  God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.  It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh.

Exodus sinai

The next time heaven and earth were destroyed and created anew was during the conquest of Canaan by the former Hebrew slaves of Egypt. The covenant that had been instituted at this time was the Law of Moses which had been imparted by God at Mt. Sinai. This idea is made explicit in Isaiah 51. In v. 15 God “divided the sea” and in v. 16 “gave the law[.]” It is in this context that God is said to “plant the heavens and found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’” Here one can see how heaven and earth are created anew at the reception of the Law and the subsequent conquest and settlement of the Israelites in the land of Canaan after the exodus.1

After the Romans worshipped the image of Vespasian in the Jewish Temple, Titus ordered the Romans to slaughter all the people left in Jerusalem.

The fourth and fifth times that heaven and earth were destroyed and renewed was during the rise and fall of the Babylonian and Assyrian Empires. During this time Assyria conquered Israel and exiled many Jews throughout the empire. Then Babylon conquered Judea and destroyed the first temple making it impossible to fully follow the customs of the Law of Moses laid down by God at Mt. Sinai. During this time God issued Israel a certificate of divorce according to Isaiah 50:1 and Jeremiah 3:8 temporarily nullifying the covenant of the Law which was instituted by a marriage covenant between Israel and God at Sinai (Isaiah 54:5-7 and Jeremiah 31:31-32). The temporary nullification of the Law of Moses was marked by the destruction of the first temple in the sixth century B.C. After the Jews returned from their seventy years of exile after the fall of the Babylonian Empire, the Temple was rebuilt and the covenant of the Law of Moses was reinstituted with the addition of a few other divinely ordained customs laid out in Ezekiel 44.

Thus the destruction of heaven and earth is said to occur around the time of the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians according to Jeremiah 4:23-26 and then again at the fall of Babylon which resulted in the return of the Jews from exile and the subsequent rebuilding of the Temple shortly thereafter. Here one can see that the destruction of heaven and earth seems to accompany both the time of the destruction and rebuilding of the Temple. Since the Temple is necessary to perform the Law of Moses, it is perhaps not surprising that the destruction of heaven and earth seems to mark both the destruction and rebuilding of the Temple which marked the cessation of the practice of God’s covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai and its resumption.

I believe the sixth time heaven and earth were destroyed and recreated was during the Maccabean Wars. During this war the Jews fought for and temporarily won their sovereignty from Greece during a series of battles in the second century B.C. This war began when the Seleucid Empire attacked Jerusalem and seized the Temple, desecrated it and put a stop to the practice of the Law. The Temple remained under Greek control until it was seized by Jewish rebels under Judas Maccabees and reconsecrated three years later. With the Temple seized and the Jews thus unable to perform the stipulations of the Law, God’s covenant with the Jews was temporarily put on hold and heaven and earth was destroyed. The destruction of heaven and earth at this time is implicit in Zechariah 14. In this chapter events fulfilled in the Maccabean Wars are painted in imagery mimicking the steps and events of the creation of heaven and earth in Genesis 1:1-10. See How and Why the Imagery of Zechariah 14 Intentionally Mirrors Genesis 1:1-10 and Zechariah 14 Fulfilled in the Maccabean Wars: A Preterist Commentary.

The Romans burned Jerusalem and its temple in A.D. 70.

The Romans burned Jerusalem and its temple in A.D. 70.

The next time heaven and earth had been destroyed was during Israel’s war with Rome.  At this time heaven and earth had been destroyed in fulfillment of Revelation 6:12-14.  This destruction of heaven and earth was and is a sign of the creation of a new covenant as indicated in Jeremiah 31:31-35:

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.  “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”  Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The Lord of hosts is His name: “If this fixed order departs From before Me,” declares the Lord, “Then the offspring of Israel also will cease From being a nation before Me forever.”

The fulfillment of the celestial omens mentioned in Jeremiah 31:35-36 that signify the destruction of heaven and earth is discussed in vs. 12-14 in the commentary on Revelation 6.  The surprisingly literal fulfilment of these heavenly signs during the Jewish War marked the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70 which made it impossible to follow the Law of Moses.  The fact that the Law could not be followed to its full extent as a consequence of the permanent destruction of the Temple is the ultimate sign of the fulfillment of the Law.  The fact that the Law was expected to come to an end at the destruction of heaven and earth is predicted in Matthew 5:17-18: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

Velázquez, Diego. Cristo de San Plácido. Museo del Prado.

“[F]or I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)

As was the case at the destruction of heaven and earth during the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites and the conquest of Israel by the Babylonians, the destruction of heaven and earth during the establishment of God’s covenant of forgiveness of sins brought on by the cross foretold in Jeremiah 31:31-35 was also enacted by military conquest. The full implementation of this new covenant, Christianity, was symbolized by the destruction of Israel and its Temple by the Romans in A.D. 70 which, as stated above, made it impossible to follow the Law of Moses. The fact that it was and is impossible to fully follow the Law from A.D. 70 to the present because the Temple had been destroyed implies that the Law had been fulfilled and the old covenant established at Mt. Sinai was replaced by a new covenant—Christianity. Not surprisingly the establishment of God’s new covenant with Israel, Christianity, which came into full effect in A.D. 70 at the destruction of the Temple was also marked with Biblical imagery denoting the destruction of heaven and earth as is strongly implicit in Revelation 6:12-14.

Signol, Emile. Taking of Jerusalem by the Crusaders. 1847

Signol, Emile. Taking of Jerusalem by the Crusaders. 1847

I believe the final prophecy concerning the destruction and creation of heaven and earth was fulfilled one thousand years after the destruction of heaven and earth during the Jewish War predicted in Revelation 6:12-14.  During the thousand years between the Jewish War and the Crusades, Israel grew to become an almost exclusively Christian nation.  The spread of Christianity in Israel between the Jewish War and the Crusades is the Thousand Year Reign mentioned in Revelation 20.  At the end of that thousand year interval, the Seljuk Turks, coming from the land of Gog which is in modern day Turkey, conquered Israel in 1071 A.D.—exactly one thousand years after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70.  After seizing Israel, the Seljuk Turks harassed and killed Christian pilgrims on holy pilgrimage to Israel.  This molestation of Christian pilgrims incited the first Crusade, the Battle of Gog and Magog.  See Revelation 20: A Preterist Commentary, Ezekiel 39:1-20: A Preterist Commentary and Ezekiel 38: A Preterist Commentary.

The First Crusade occurred 1000 years after the Jewish War with Rome and is the Battle of Gog and Magog.

The First Crusade occurred 1000 years after the Jewish War with Rome and is the Battle of Gog and Magog.

As was the case at the destruction of heaven and earth during the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites, the conquest of Israel by the Babylonians, the conquest of Babylon by the Medes and Persians, the conquest of the Maccabees over the Seleucids and the conquest of Israel by the Romans, the destruction of heaven and earth at the Crusades was also marked by military conquest. Though Christian Europe won the first battle, the Battle of Gog and Magog, during the First Crusade, the Christian Crusaders ultimately lost political control over Israel in subsequent Crusades. As a result Israel grew to become a predominantly Muslim nation by the end of the Crusades. Here one can see the religious significance of this instance of the destruction and recreation of heaven and earth.

After the Jewish War and the subsequent Bar Kockba Rebellion, Christianity replaced Judaism as the dominant religion in Israel. After the Crusades, Islam replaced Christianity as the dominant religion in the region. Though Islam replaced Christianity as the dominant religion in the Israel, this fact, I believe, does not make obsolete the new covenant instituted by the cross. Remember that after the flood and the establishment of the then new heaven and earth, God promised to never again destroy the land with a flood according to Genesis 9:11. This covenant is presumably still in effect even today despite the fact that heaven and earth had been destroyed several times since then. Furthermore, though the covenant of the Law inaugurated at Mt. Sinai was temporarily nullified at the destruction of the first temple by the Babylonians in the sixth century B.C., and then again during the desecration of the Temple by Antiochus Epiphanies during the Maccabean Wars of the second century B.C. this fact did not permanently put an end to the covenant at Sinai until heaven and earth had been destroyed centuries later at the final destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. Therefore, after the institution of a new heaven and earth, subsequent renewals of heaven and earth do not necessarily nullify old covenant promises. The only time in which a new covenant replaced an old one was in A.D. 70 when the covenant of the Law was replaced by a new covenant of forgiveness called Christianity. That having been said, I do not believe that the destruction of heaven and earth at the time of the Crusades invalidates the previous covenant established by Christ at the cross and finally put into full effect at the destruction of heaven and earth during the Jewish War (Matthew 5:17-18).

  1. The following is an interesting quote from the Dead Sea Scrolls: “I [God] will cause my glory to rest on it [the tent of meeting] until the day of creation on which I shall create my sanctuary [Solomon’s Temple], establishing it for myself for all time according to the covenant I have made with Jacob in Bethel.”  (The Temple Scroll col. 29.)  Does “the day of creation” refer to the time of the construction of the Temple itself?  Or could this “day of creation” refer to the construction of the cosmos at the time of the building of Solomon’s Temple?

One thought on “The Covenantal Significance of the Destruction of Heaven and Earth

  1. Ron

    Interesting: “Then Babylon conquered Judea and destroyed the first temple making it impossible to fully follow the customs of the Law of Moses (…) During this time God issued Israel a certificate of divorce. (…) The temporary nullification of the Law of Moses was marked by the destruction of the first temple…”
    The destruction of the first temple happened at the NINTH OF AV!
    At the NINTH OF AV the second temple was also destroyed and the Law of Moses nullified (for ever). This was a clear sign for the jews. Today is an annual fast day in Judaism which commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and the subsequent exile of the Jews from the Land of Israel. The day also commemorates other tragedies which occurred on the same day, including the Roman massacre of over 500,000 Jews at Betar in 135 CE.

    Reply

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