“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.”
The Lord’s appeal at the start of this verse is to lift up our eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth. To us, these things are permanent. And they are vast beyond our knowing. The heavens above are purported to be perhaps endless. The depths of the sea are full of things that we have yet to see or understand.
This verse then says that the heavens shall vanish away like smoke. Once it is gone, smoke cannot be recovered. Depending on how much there is, it may last a time, but it still dissipates. So shall the vastness of the heavens be similarly done away; like smoke that is blown away.
The earth shall wax old like a garment. Nobody has the clothing that they were wearing fifty years ago. It wears out; it develops holes, the cloth becomes thin. Or, the style changes and falls out of favor. In their wandering in the desert Israel enjoyed clothing that did not wear out for forty years. But even that eventually did wear out, just as the earth will one day wax old like a garment.
Next the Lord said that they that dwell on the earth will also die in like manner as the earth. The daily the newspaper lists individuals who have died, and the lists are different every day. Everyone that was alive 150 years ago is now dead. And everyone that is alive now will be dead in 150 years. All of us grow old. Even in the days before the flood people grew old and died, though they lived much longer. We, too, wax old like a garment, just as the earth will do.
Having spoken of things that will not last, the heavens, the earth, and the people on it, the LORD then speaks of things that will last.
The first is God’s salvation. In the context, what is needed is salvation from the destruction of the heavens and the earth. While those things are temporary, God’s salvation shall be for ever. When the heaven and earth are destroyed, God will not be inconveniencing Himself. He is beyond them. Jesus said that God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him should worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). He is not of the earth.
But the destruction of the heavens and the earth is not the main thing from which man needs, and God offers, salvation. All of mankind is guilty before God because of their sin against Him. All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). This is eternal death, which is separation from God (Revelation 21:8). This is the thing from which all of mankind needs salvation. God’s salvation shall be forever.
The second thing that will last is God’s righteousness. He says above that it shall not be abolished. Sin stands in the way of seeing God. Hebrews 12:14 tells us that without holiness no man will see the Lord. But 2 Corinthians 5:21 states, “For he hath made him (Jesus) to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Through Jesus, mankind can be declared righteous. Someone who is declared righteous has no reason to fear because God’s righteousness shall never be abolished. Sadly, many do not take up God’s generous offer.
The notion of the heavens and the earth being dissolved might be concerning. Scripture tells us that they will not be removed, but replaced. In Revelation 21:1 John reports, “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.”
In Revelation 1:8 Jesus said of Himself, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” Notice that He calls Himself the beginning and the ending.
That He is the beginning is seen in John 1:1-3 and 14 which tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. …And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” Jesus created all things.
In that He is the ending, the verse above tells us that there will be an ending. Revelation 20:11 says, “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.” In that scene, Jesus is the One on the throne. At His command the heaven and the earth will flee away. Since He is the ending, the end will not come until He says. It will not be the world spinning out of control into oblivion. It is under the control of the God of the Universe, the Creator, the One Who brought it all into being.
So, the end of all things is the beginning of new things: a new heaven and a new earth. 2 Peter 3:11-13 says, “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” What a wonderful change for mankind and this planet, because on the new earth will dwell righteousness. Even so, come Lord Jesus!
Lift up your heads, pilgrims aweary,
See day’s approach now crimson the sky;
Night shadows flee, and your Belovèd,
Awaited with longing, at last draweth nigh.
He is coming again, He is coming again,
The very same Jesus, rejected of men;
He is coming again, He is coming again,
With power and great glory, He is coming again!
Dark was the night, sin warred against us;
Heavy the load of sorrow we bore;
But now we see signs of His coming;
Our hearts glow within us, joy’s cup runneth o’er!
O blessèd hope! O blissful promise!
Filling our hearts with rapture divine;
O day of days! Hail Thy appearing!
Thy transcendent glory forever shall shine.
Even so, come, precious Lord Jesus;
Creation waits redemption to see;
Caught up in clouds, soon we shall meet Thee;
O blessèd assurance, forever with Thee!
Refrain (Mabel J. Camp)