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new heaven and new earth
Question from Larry Washington on 9/2/2001:

My grandmother who is a Jehovah Witness sent me a tract titled "Life in a Peaceful New World" It states; "These "new heavens" and "new earth," according to the Bible, are not a new material heavens or new literal earth. The physical earth and heavens were made perfect, and the Bible shows they will remain forever. (Psalm 89:36, 37; 104:5) The "new earth" will be a righteous society of people living on earth, and the "new heavens" will be a perfect heavenly kingdom, or government, that will rule over this earthly society of people. She claims that the Catholic teachings on this topic are false. My question, what is the Catholic truth concerning this topic?

Answer by Fr. John Echert on 9/3/2001:

The Book of Jerusalem describes “the New Jerusalem:

21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; 21:3 and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; 21:4 he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away."

With regards to the New Jerusalem, it is clear that we are dealing with an image of the Church. For just as Jerusalem was the physical capital and core of the Old Testament Kingdom of God where His presence was most directly experienced in the Temple sanctuary of this world, so by analogy the New Jerusalem is the place in which the presence of God is experienced, most especially in the worship of the Mass. A further indication that the New Jerusalem is the Church is the description of it as “a bride adorned for her husband.” The Church as the Bride of Christ runs throughout the New Testament and is most explicitly stated by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians:

5:22 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 5:24 As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 5:26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 5:27 that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 5:28 Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 5:29 For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, 5:30 because we are members of his body. 5:31 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 5:32 This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church;

Now just as the prophecies of the Old Testament often have multiple, successive fulfillment, so too the prophetic work which is the Apocalypse. The New Jerusalem is the Church and as such it has been definitively established here on earth, having replaced the original Jerusalem as the center of religious life and worship. However, it will only be fully realized in the heavenly Kingdom wherein the saints now exist in perfect happiness and which we look forward to. The final realization of the New Jerusalem will be when this world has passed away and there remains only the New Jerusalem in its perfection. ©

For those who would like to read more on this, there is a wonderful on-line commentary written by Scott Hahn and Jeff Cavins available at www.e3mil.com on the web for a reasonable fee. This commentary is set up as a Bible study program. This topic is also addressed in the book, “The Lamb’s Supper” by Dr. Scott Hahn. Or I can recommend the commentary on Revelation in the Navarre series. ©

No doubt your gramdmother is sincere but she is badly misled by the cult group known as Jehovah Witness. They have no continuity with Christ through the apostles and their successors and are not truly Christian, so twisted is their view of Jesus Christ and spiritual realities.

Thanks, Larry

Father Echert

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