|Volume 23 Number 4 April 2021
Louis Rushmore, Editor
No, God will not merge Heaven and Earth. Millennialists are incorrect to believe that the righteous will live on planet Earth for a thousand years. In addition, renewed earth theorists are equally mistaken to suppose that the righteous will live on Earth eternally. Both errors arise from a materialistic and literal view of passages that instead pertain to spiritual rather than physical applications. The complete demise of our world about which we read in Scripture utterly demolishes both doctrinal blunders.
Jesus plainly declared: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away” (Matt. 25:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). The “heaven” of this passage is the ethereal atmosphere which surrounds the earth, the same “heaven” of the birds and fowls of the air (Luke 13:19; Ps. 104:12; Jer. 4:25; Lam. 4:19; etc.). …The apostle Peter gives a graphic description of the earth’s end and complete destruction by fire (2 Peter 3:7-10). He says that “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” The Greek word for “burned up” is katakaid, meaning “to burn utterly, as the burning of chaff” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of N.T. Words). (Cline 6)
The phrase “new earth” in II Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1 cannot possibly refer to a reuse of this planet, for the Greek word for “new” here means “new in nature” and thus “not yet used” (Kittel, vol. 3, pp. 447-48). The “new earth” envisioned in II Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1 has nothing to do with our present planet earth. These statements are not talking about this old earth in some renewed state. (Warren 29)
The minutest particles of matter – the basic building materials of everything – will no longer exist after the fiery destruction of Earth – after it is wholly consumed (Biblesoft’s).
Several Scriptures speak specifically of a heavenly and an eternal existence for the children of God following the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Think about these few samples for a start. “‘Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth’ (Matt. 5:5). Did he refer to the land of Canaan? Jesus speaks of the new country as ‘The world to come’ (Mark 10:30 KJV). ‘For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come’” (Heb. 13:14) (Borden 3). “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20 NKJV). “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). “Because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel” (Colossians 1:5). “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; cf., John 14:1-3). “For you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven” (Hebrews 10:34). “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4). Heaven and Earth are not the same thing, but instead, Heaven awaits the righteous following the return of our Lord and Savior.
Eschatology – the theological study of final things – has always been a rich and a diverse source of wonderment as well as a ready field for theorizing. Certainly, members of the churches of Christ have not been and are not exempt from varied opinions about Heaven, Hell and eternity. For the most part until relatively recently, the vast majority of members and preachers among us have been confident in the existence of only two eternal destinations – Heaven and Hell. A few have conjectured that souls doomed to hell would suffer fiery punishment preceding annihilation. Brethren have not espoused as eternal abodes Limbo and Purgatory, which are taught in Catholicism. Historically, though, some even renowned Gospel preachers have been millennialists.
Eschatology. Millennialism. Second Advent. Judgment. New Heaven and Earth. Nineteenth century Restorationists, from Alexander Campbell to David Lipscomb, spoke and wrote about these subjects. They often disagreed, however. Alexander Campbell was a postmillennialist. James A. Harding was a premillennialist. Walter Scott changed his mind several times. David Lipscomb was uncertain. However, these all agreed that the most important aspect of the Christ’s second coming was the regeneration not only of the soul, but the body and the whole cosmos. They believed God will refine the present cosmos by fire and transform (renew) it into a “new heaven and new earth,” just as God will raise our bodies from the grave and transform them into bodies animated by the Holy Spirit fitted for living on the new earth. …Many are surprised to learn this about our forbearers in the faith because they associate a renewed, material earth with fringe groups and strange ideas. But it was the dominant perspective among churches of Christ in the late nineteenth century, particularly as articulated by David Lipscomb and James A. Harding, cofounders of the Nashville Bible School (now Lipscomb University). (Hicks)
In defense somewhat of our spiritual forefathers in some sense, they were laboriously extricating themselves from the denominationalism of the day and the doctrines thereof. The denominations themselves were outgrowths of mutiny against Catholicism. Restoration leaders brought with them some theological baggage through which they were rummaging and discarding useless or hurtful items.
But Satan is to be bound during this thousand years. The wicked will be all dead, the righteous clad in the habiliments of immortality, and under the protection of their Master, there will be none subject to the machinations of the devil, and hence he will be completely shorn of his power. This will be a glorious period. No wicked living — the saints all immortalized, hence, free from pain, sickness and death. No sorrowing, no tears, no sad farewells, and no temptations, consequently no sin. All will be joy, peace, and love. Not a ripple in the ocean of bliss for a thousand years. Then will be fulfilled the benediction of the Savior: “Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.” Matt. 5:5. Then the earth will belong to the meek — the saints; and it will be theirs by inheritance, but never before. They get very little of it now, and pay very dearly for that. (Brents 300 emphasis added)
In an instant, then, as we conceive, consuming no more space than it takes to produce the spiritual body — in an instant, we say, like the explosion of a vast magazine [a chamber of explosives], will the earth be wrapped in a sheet of flame; and in an instant more, all will pass away. The new earth now lies beneath the smiles of God, decked in light and loveliness such as the unfallen only know. Over it hangs the bright, glorious, outspreading heavens resplendent as the throne of the Eternal. And now to this earth, thus refitted up, the saints return to dwell forever and forever. This is to be their eternal home, their everlasting habitation. Then will be realized the truth of the Saviour’s beatitude: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” This will be a promise till that moment, then a sublime fact in the fruition of God’s children. The saints have never owned the earth, and never will, till then. The notion, so very prevalent, that the Christian’s future home lies away in some immeasurably distant region, is only a vulgar error. No foundation whatever exists for it. God built this earth for man, and he does not intend to be defeated in his purpose. Nothing can be weaker than to suppose that the Saviour will rebuild, out of the old material, a new earth, and then leave it to float in space without an occupant. Such will not be the case. The earth in its renewed form will be man’s everlasting dwellingplace. On it will stand the New Jerusalem, the true city of the Great King, and the home of God’s ransomed children. Here amid the splendors of that grand fane shall they spend the cycles of eternity. (Lard 21 emphasis added)
“Blessed are the meek” (the kingdom of heaven is not all the “blessed” shall inherit); “for they shall inherit the earth.” (Merritt 280)
Highly revered Gospel preachers of yesteryear, having feet of clay like the rest of us, erred in some areas of biblical inspection. That’s why every honest and right-thinking evangelist welcomes examination of his teaching by the divinely inspired and preserved Word of God – the Bible (1 John 4:1; Acts 17:11; 1 Corinthians 14:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; Revelation 2:2).
Not unexpectedly, some denominational commentaries as well as a handful of those penned by our brethren present millennialist comments.
Matthew 5:3-12 They shall inherit the earth; it is quoted from Ps 37:11, and it is almost the only express temporal promise in all the New Testament. (Matthew Henry’s emphasis added)
Matthew 5:5 Shall inherit the earth. In the Psalm this is equivalent to the land of Palestine, and the psalmist means that, though the wicked may have temporary power, yet God’s true servants shall really and finally have dominion in the land. But what is intended here? Probably our Lord’s audience understood the phrase on his lips as a Messianic adaptation of the original meaning, and as therefore implying that those who manifested a meek reception of his will would obtain that full possession of the land of Palestine which was now denied to the Israelites through the conquest of the Romans. But to our Lord, and to the evangelist who, years after, recorded them, the meaning of the words must have been much fuller, corresponding, in fact, to the true meaning of the “kingdom of heaven,” viz. that the meek shall inherit - shall receive, as their rightful possession from their Father, the whole earth; renewed, it may be (Isa 11:6-9; 65:25; Rev 21:1), but still the earth (Rom 8:21), with all the powers of nature therein implied. (Pulpit Commentary emphasis added)
Matthew 5:5 The promise of possessing the land was originally limited to the land of Canaan (see Gen 17:8) but then was extended to include the entire earth, over which God would someday rule. In essence, then, this is simply another expression for the Kingdom of heaven of verse 3. Both of these ideas existed side by side in Israel’s expectation for the future. The God of heaven has given earth to mankind as a place for their existence. But the time would come when God’s people would enjoy the benefits of heaven and the joys of a redeemed earth. (UBS emphasis added)
“The meek shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa. 2:4). “…for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea” (See Isaiah 11:6-9). In the reign of Him who will “make an end of sins” and “bring in everlasting righteousness” (Dan. 9:24) will God’s will be done on earth, even as it is in heaven. These are just a few of the many scriptures which set forth the conditions of peace and righteousness which will prevail during that era when the Lord shall reign over the earth. Yes, continue to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” (“Meeting God” 9 emphasis added)
In his commentary on Acts, David Lipscomb, an avowed restored creationist, affirmed, “‘The restitution of all things’ refers to the restoration of God’s order and rule on the earth, which had been disturbed by the rebellion of man and the transfer of the earth to the evil one which would occur at Christ’s return.” (Erwin 27 emphasis added)
To pray “thy kingdom come,” as above, for time in which we now live, live represents a complete misunderstanding of the identity and of the nature of the kingdom that both John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1-2) and Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:17) preached. Anyone failing to observe from the New Testament that the church and the kingdom refer to the same divinely established institution (Matthew 16:18-19) and that the kingdom of our Lord is “not of this world” (John 18:36) is a materialist or a millennialist in his thinking – expecting to spend at least 1,000 years or even eternity on Earth. Since the founding of the church or the kingdom of Jesus Christ in Acts 2, the expression “thy kingdom come” is no longer a valid thought to be expressed in one’s prayers. The kingdom came in Acts 2, and it is spiritual rather than physical!
Earth or Heaven, Which?
Even now, a few among us advocate an eschatology that is reminiscent of the doctrine of premillennialists, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons. Will the righteous at the end of time begin eternity as residents on Earth? Will life in eternity on Earth continue as it is now, except without sin? Those ideas bear a resemblance to doctrines espoused by premillennialists, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons.
One of the passages on which non-brethren and brethren alike capitalize to propound the renewed Earth eschatology (maybe also referred to as reversing the curse or renewed creation) is Matthew 5:5. It reads, “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth” (NKJV and most translations). The Bible in Basic English (BBE) reads “heritage” instead of “earth,” whereas the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) has “land,” as also does the Douay-Rheims Bible, the Easy-to-Read Version (ERV) and Young’s Literal Translation (YLT). The Good News Translation (GNT) and Today’s English Version (TEV) say, “what God has promised.” The Living Bible (TLB) has “the whole wide world.” Obviously, some supposed translations do not represent a word for word transition from the original languages to the English language. Yet, some of the translations correctly represent appropriate translation from the original to the words, “earth” or “land.” “An inheritance – he ‘shall inherit the earth’ or the land – the heavenly land” (North 440).
Most explanations of Matthew 5:5 constrain themselves to consideration of the first half of the verse, “Blessed are the meek.” Consequently, most references to Matthew 5:5 dwell on teaching about humility. Commentary on the latter part of the verse, “For they shall inherit the earth,” varies and often is contradictory between sources. Others offer vacillating explanations that either present a take your pick option or maybe they are simply millennial in approach. “Matthew 5:5 The INHERITANCE which is connected with its possession. 1. The meek shall inherit the present earth and be happy in it. 2. They shall inherit the new earth” (Biblical Illustrator).
One must either approach Matthew 5:5 from a literal and materialistic perspective or realize that it is part of a larger context treating spiritual rather than physical applications. Certainly, the context of which Matthew 5:5 is a part that pertains to spiritual applications.
“For they shall inherit the earth.” This statement has generated a great deal of confusion and debate over the centuries, especially when wrenched from its context and interpreted through the distorted sense of popular premillennial theories. But by removing our 21st century spectacles and viewing the words of Jesus from the perspective of His original audience, the message becomes much clearer. The blessings of verses 4-9 are bracketed between the repeated blessing of verses 3 through 10: “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew alone employs the expression “the kingdom of heaven,” which is synonymous with “the kingdom of God” (cf. 19:23,24), underscoring the heavenly or spiritual nature of the God’s kingdom. This spiritual kingdom, equated with the church Jesus promised to build (16:18,19), was to be realized within the lifetimes of the Lord’s immediate disciples (3:2; 4:17; 16:28; cf. Mark 1:15; 9:1). Not long after these affirmations were made, the church of Christ was established (Acts 2:37-47) and its members are recognized as citizens of the heavenly kingdom (Colossians 1:13; 4:11; Ephesians 2:19; Philippians 3:20; etc.). (Moore 89)
Doubtlessly many Jews pondering the words of our Lord, including the apostles (Acts 1:6), presumed that a physical kingdom was forthcoming, and they never contemplated a spiritual kingdom. Frankly, the fact Jesus of Nazareth did not proclaim a physical kingdom – purporting to lead an uprising against Roman oppression – was the very reason that the Jewish leaders sought His death; earlier, many of Jesus’ followers deserted Him for the same reason (John 6:15, 60). Sadly, the thinking of many people today has not advanced from a materialist view to appreciation of the spiritual nature of the kingdom or the church and the mission of Jesus Christ.
We need to ask ourselves, “What did the original audience of our Lord perceive His words to mean?” How would they have received the phrase, “For they shall inherit the earth”? There was a disconnect between the earnest desire of Jews generally in the first century for a physical kingdom and the true message of our Lord Christ. Once more, the apostles themselves are prime specimens.
Matthew 5:5 Not those who try to bring in the kingdom politically or militarily but those who humbly wait on God will “inherit the earth.” The Hebrew of the psalm could mean “inherit the land” in a narrower sense (Ps 25:13), but in Jesus’ day Jewish people expected God’s people to reign over all the earth, as some other Old Testament passages suggest. (Keener)
The audiences to whom Jesus was speaking would have recognized the words of Matthew 5:5 as a quotation of Psalm 37:11a. If we want to hear the message as they heard it, we need to appreciate the significance of this familiar passage. Traditionally, the 37th Psalm is attributed to David and is generally understood as a prophetic exhortation for the Jewish captives in Babylon. …Sometimes is rendered “land” and sometimes it is rendered “earth,” but by recognizing the fact that it was their homeland from which these exiles were separated, it is apparent that it was “the land” in which they longed to dwell (verses 3,29b) and “the land” to which they would return (verses 9,11,16-18,22-29,33,34,37-40). (Moore 90)
Aside from references to the promises to the Patriarchs and later a glimmer of hope to exiled Jews in Babylon, the phrase under scrutiny was regarded as a proverbial expression of God’s blessings to His loyal followers. “The words inherit the earth became a proverb, to denote the enjoyment of very great blessings” (Abbott’s). “Jesus said the meek ‘shall inherit the earth.’ To inherit the earth was a common figure used in Bible times to denote anything of a great blessing. It is used here to denote that the meek will enjoy God’s blessings in this life as well as the one to come” (Robinson 11). “…This phrase is almost a proverbial expression for ‘the highest of blessings…’” (Gospel of Matthew 214).
Matthew 5:5 This might have been translated the land. It is probable that here is a reference to the manner in which the Jews commonly expressed themselves to denote any great blessing. It was promised to them that they should inherit the land of Canaan. For a long time the patriarchs looked forward to this, Gen 15:7-8; Ex 32:13. They regarded it as a great blessing. It was so spoken of in the journey in the wilderness, and their hopes were crowned when they took possession of the promised land, Deut 1:38; 16:20. In the time of our Saviour they were in the constant habit of using the Old Testament, where this promise perpetually occurs, and they used it “as a proverbial expression to denote any great blessing, perhaps as the sum of all blessings,” Ps 37:20; Isa 60:21. Our Saviour used it in this sense, and meant to say, not that the meek would own great property or have many lands, but that they would possess special blessings. The Jews also considered the land of Canaan as a type of heaven, and of the blessings under the Messiah. To inherit the land became, therefore, an expression denoting those blessings. When our Saviour uses this language here, he means that the meek shall be received into his kingdom, and partake of its blessings here, and of the glories of the heavenly Canaan hereafter. (Barnes’)
The “inheritance of the earth” is a proverbial expression, suggesting bountiful blessings. It was used by the Jews to denote any great blessing. It originally meant the land of Canaan, but later came to mean the sum of all blessings. The expression is found, or similar ones, several times in Psalms 37. It has nothing to do with a future inheritance of this mundane earth. This earth will be burned up (2 Pet. 3:10). (Warnock 6)
Matthew 5:5 Under this expression, which was commonly used by the prophets to signify the land of Canaan, in which all temporal good abounded, Judg 18:9-10, Jesus Christ points out that abundance of spiritual good, which was provided for men in the Gospel. Besides, Canaan was a type of the kingdom of God; and who is so likely to inherit glory as the man in whom the meekness and gentleness of Jesus dwelt? (Adam Clarke’s)
Our Lord was quoting from Psalm 37:11, “But the meek shall inherit the land.” To the Hebrew reader the land would first mean the land of God’s promise; then, in later times as the smallness of Israel was impressed upon their minds, the land would come to mean the whole earth filled with the reign or kingdom of God; then by the time of Christ the expression would refer to the kingdom itself. Furthermore, to inherit would not suggest receiving a bequest in a will, but simply to receiving the benefits of the promises of God. So, the beatitude says this: Happy are those who so completely accept the will of God for their lives that they can retain their composure in the midst of a shaking and changing world, for they shall receive all the promises God has made to those over whom He reigns as King. (Wilson 4)
Matthew 5:5 Inherit the earth, or ‘the land,’ i.e., of Canaan, the type of all blessings, not merely of spiritual ones. The literal fulfilment is not infrequent, but the primary reference is to the Messiah’s kingdom. (Schaff’s)
Literal or Material Interpretation
Admittedly, Matthew 5:5 has proved difficult for even members of the Lord’s church to decipher. Many apply “shall inherit the earth” to the present time in which we live now. J.P. Lusby imagined that the spread of the Gospel message around the world was what Jesus implied.
“They shall inherit the earth” does not mean they shall hold title to all the real estate of earth! The meek shall inherit the earth in their teaching. God set Jeremiah over the nations in his teaching. (Jer. 1:10) Paul said, “The saints shall judge the world.” How? By their teaching. It is not an earthly rulership that is promised, but the meek would inherit the earth by filling it with their teaching. Their teaching would cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. (Compare Isa. 11:9) (12)
It is debatable whether the Gospel of Christ is so dominating the world’s population as to dwarf the occurrence of immoralities, thievery, murder and all manner of wickedness. This is a dark, dark world of sin in which we live, and former days exhibited a greater regard for morality and general honesty than presently discernible.
Most commentators who look for a present time application of Matthew 5:5 reduce the verse merely to the superior Christian appreciation of God’s creation over that of the unrighteous. “How shall the meek inherit the earth? It is evident that the Lord never meant that they would own all the things in the world. He continually warns men not to covet those things. But one part of what he means must be that the meek are the ones who will be able to really enjoy the good things of earth” (Bonner 5). “…We really possess only that which we use and enjoy. The meek now really possess the earth in a sense that the selfish and arrogant cannot comprehend. Perhaps there is also an allusion to the new earth of which Peter speaks. (2 pet. 3:13.)” (Whiteside 119-120). “The meek shall inherit the earth in the sense that they shall enjoy it more fully while living upon it (cf Philippians 4:10-13). Selfish, violent people may literally possess the earth and its physical treasures, but the meek truly inherit the real blessings of this world and appreciate them – without becoming obsessed with them” (Bradd 7). “The meek shall not become the actual possessors of the earth, holding titles to the fields (Luke 12:15), but shall come into the real enjoyment of God’s material blessings – they alone have a capacity for the enjoyment of the earth” (Cox 8).
Matthew 5:5 They do in the truest sense enjoy even this life; their contented spirit makes them monarchs. The great man, with all his wealth, is often uneasy with a craving ambition for more; but the quiet spirits of God’s people find a kingdom everywhere. The mountains and the valleys belong really to him who can, with happy eye, look upon them, and then lift his face to heaven, and feel, “My Father made them all.” (Spurgeon’s)
The real enjoyment of earthly blessings belongs not to those who grasp for them and assert and maintain with vehemence and care their right to them, but to those who hold them lightly, and who, ranking them inferior to spiritual blessings, are not burdened by them while they possess them; they are not harassed by the fear of losing earthly possessions. Selfish people may possess the earth, but it is the meek alone who inherit the real blessings of this earth and of the spiritual kingdom. The meek will enjoy the temporal blessings more than others and finally will triumph over the earth in the kingdom of God. (Boles)
The meek inherit the earth after all. Christian people live the best life, all in all, with the most happiness and peace and contentment, even if there should be no future life. They have the best of earthly happiness, and they have the peace and joy of God in their hearts. God gives them grace, and in good time he will give them glory. He guides them by his counsels while they live on earth, and afterward he will receive them into glory. For the present and for the future the Christian has all that is really worth living for, and he who does not live in such a way as to secure this has made of himself an eternal castaway. (E.P.W.)
I emphatically protest the notion that every child of God may sense joy by his very existence in the midst of God’s creation by reason of inheritance attributed by some to Matthew 5:5. Doubtlessly, realization of such an inheritance and joy ascribed to them from “they shall inherit the earth” for many is obscured by the direst circumstances under which they struggle to survive. For many, war-torn, disease-ravaged, hungering, lonely or otherwise wretched environments conceal the simple beauty of the created universe, and consequently, it doesn’t appear to be a suitable and joyful inheritance. Relying on physical blessings alone for joy on earth is unsatisfactory, even for Christians.
The reading in Matthew 5:5 appeared in the Old Testament, too. “Isaiah 54:3 Thus will the promise be fulfilled, that ‘the meek shall inherit the earth,’ – a promise not confined to the Preacher on the mount, but found also in Ps 37:9-11, and uttered by our own prophet in Isa 60:21; 65:9” (Keil and Delitzsch).
The Concept of Possession Generalized in the Psalms. The Psalms build on this pattern of living in the land by emphasizing that possession of the land belongs to those who fear the Lord (Ps 25:12 ff), those who wait on the Lord (Ps 37:9), the meek (Ps 37:11), those blessed by the Lord (Ps 37:22) and the righteous (Ps 37:29). Those who enter into covenant with God receive an inheritance, but they must act to take possession of it and must live uprightly to maintain their inheritance. This idea is no doubt the background for the beatitude-”blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt 5:5). (Theological Wordbook)
Yes, the substance of Matthew 5:5 occurs in the Old Testament, and we acknowledge the biblical principle therein that God will punish the wicked and reward the righteous. Yet, we deny that the context of Matthew 5:5 results primarily in a physical application to the children of God on this side of eternity, despite the declarations to the contrary following. “Regardless of who holds the civil titles to the properties of the earth, this is our Father’s world, and the meek are his children and heirs. Paul the apostle said, ‘…For all things are yours; Whether…the world, or life, or death, or things present or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s’ (I Cor. 3:21-23)” (McGill 32).
“For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth…. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Ps. 37:9,11). Jesus quoted this in the beatitudes, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). These passages are simply teaching the general principle that the face of God is against evil men, but He will bless those who live their lives in submission to God. Also, it is important to consider that these verses say nothing about when the meek will inherit the earth. The meek inherit the earth now – in this life. (Hatcher 293)
Millennialism and Renewed Earth Theologies
There is no validity to any materialistic viewpoint for the righteous living for 1,000 years or eternally on earth and going about the ordinary affairs of life, minus temptations and subsequent sins. “Perhaps part of the difficulty we have in understanding these verses lies with our tendency to focus on the material” (Jones 98). I understand that inclination since we relate more readily to what we can engage through the five senses. We are physical beings living in a physical world, but we are more than that, forasmuch as we are spiritual beings, too. “‘Heaven on Earth’ is a doctrine rooted in MATERIALISM. Materialism considers physical, tangible, material things, more important than spiritual things” (Robinson 66-67).
Premillennialists have taken Matthew 5:5 as a proof text that they will live and reign on the earth for a thousand years. Also, those who are advocating for a “renewed earth” take it to say that they will live on the earth forever. It is like a millennial reign that never ends. …Worldly-minded Jews, premillennialists, and renewed earth advocates of today all have a worldly view with an earthly hope. (Boyd 65)
Inherit the earth. While premillennialists apply this literally to the inhabited earth after judgment, it is probable that Jesus has one of two concepts in mind: First, He could be referring to our inheriting the “new heavens and a new earth,” as in 2 Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1. “But according to His promise we are looking for the new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” …The application would be this: submit to His will or you will not receive His blessings. (WVBS 55)
Context, context and context are the first three rules of biblical interpretation. If one were to announce the first six rules of correct hermeneutics, they would all be context. Context begins with a particular verse and extends from there to surrounding verses, to the chapter, to the Bible book, to the entirety of the Bible, to known purposes of the writer or speaker, to the place and time of the writing, to the intended recipients of the writing or speech and whatever details that may provide a clearer understanding of a passage. After all, God purposed Scripture to be His communication to mankind, and He created us with the faculties by which we can understand His inspired revelation.
Context is a fundamental rule of hermeneutics. Matthew 5:5 is part of the Sermon on the Mount. John and Jesus were preaching, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17). “Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23). Those who heard Jesus preach the Sermon on the Mount recognized that it was “his doctrine” (Matt. 7:25). The Sermon on the Mount is a sermon on the kingdom. It is the doctrine of Christ about the kingdom of heaven. It begins, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). That is the first of eight introductory beatitudes. In the last beatitude he said, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10). The beatitudes begin and end with a promise of the kingdom that was “at hand.” …All the blessings of the beatitudes are spiritual, and they are all realized in the Lord’s church. … (Boyd 65 emphasis added).
Undeniably, Scripture teaches that this present earth will be destroyed.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” was not said of this earth for it shall be burned up in the day of judgment. “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men… the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” (2 Pet. 3:10.) (Tuten 101)
However, some theorists resort to unusual but indefensible definitions for destruction awaiting Earth at the end of time.
…David’s later description of the earth: “Thou didst found the earth of old, and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. They shall perish, but Thou remainest. They all shall wear out like a garment; like a coat Thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed” [Psalm 102:25-26]. When a coat is worn out we do not try to rethread it and thereby renew it for longer wear, we discard it and get another coat. God is going to treat the earth in the future the same way we treat worn out coats. …Millennialists who want to see this earth used for a future existence try to explain the burning of the earth by suggesting that God’s fire will merely purge this earth of its evil works and leave it ready for a future existence. They compare this fire to the surgeon’s heat that sterilizes his instruments. But sterilizing is not the purpose for this heat. This heat is going to melt and dissolve the earth. …Jehovah’s Witnesses suggest that the “heavens and earth” which will be destroyed will be the kingdom of Satan, not the physical earth. …Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that in eternity this earth will be restored to its original state before the fall of man. But if Paul is teaching anything, he is teaching that this universe will not be restored to its original form. (Furr 567)
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” The promise connected with this blessing has been the object of much discussion and controversy in the religious world. The Premillennialist reads it and finds comfort in thinking it helps substantiate the theory of premillennialism. He interprets it to mean that Christ will reign with the meek on this literal earth for one thousand years. But it doesn’t mean that. In 2 Peter 3:10 we read: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” Since this shows that the literal earth shall be destroyed, obviously Christ did not mean the meek shall inherit this earth. (Finley 11)
Will the Earth Rise Again?
Will the earth ever rise again? Isaiah the prophet says, “No.” “The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again” (Isa. 24 :20). True, there are some passages which speak of “the righteous inheriting the earth,” but these must be understood in the context of God’s land promises to the Israelite nation a promise which typified heaven, the eternal “promised land.” See Psalm 37:9, 11, 22, 29; 105:9-11; Joshua 21:43; 23:16. Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, spoke to the Jews in that context of understanding when he said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” This could just as well be rendered “…for they shall inherit the land.” In those same Beatitudes, Jesus spoke of “seeing God,” “inheriting the kingdom of heaven,” and “great is your reward in heaven” (Matt. 5:1-12). In John 18:36 he said “My kingdom is not of this world.” Other passages use the word “earth” in the sense of “the world to come” (Heb. 2:5; Eph. 1:21), and “the new heaven and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21), a figure of speech referring to heaven itself which will take the place of the present “heaven and earth” that Jesus said would pass away. Solomon makes a statement, in Ecclesiastes 1:4, which would seem to contradict the plain teaching of Scripture already considered. “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth forever.” There is no contradiction, however, when we remember that the Hebrew word for “forever” often had a temporary significance meaning “throughout the appointed time, or until the end ‘of the age.’” Circumcision was called “an everlasting covenant” (Gen. 17:13), the Passover was an ordinance “forever” (Ex. 12:14), and the Levitical system had an “ever lasting priesthood” (Num. 25:13); yet, we know that all these ceased when the Law was fulfilled and removed with Christ’s death. Even so, the earth abides perpetually, throughout all generations of its appointed time. (Cline 6)
“Matthew 5:5 Shall inherit the earth. The land; Canaan as the type of all blessings. It is the heavenly land especially that is inherited. The especial reference is to the Messiah’s kingdom, of which “the land” of Canaan was a type” (People’s). “Inherit the earth” cannot be strictly literal, for the earth will be destroyed (2 Peter 3:10). Instead, the reference to inheriting the earth is anti-typical of Canaan and typical of Heaven. Heaven is described as “new heavens and a new earth” (2 Peter 3:13). The consequence of the phrase “inherit the earth” is that the meek shall be in Heaven.
…“Inherit the earth” is phraseology in the same category as being in the kingdom and seeing God… The “new earth” is not this old earth renovated, as Dr. Billy Graham teaches… Do you believe Christians are literally “salt of the earth”? No? Then why should we DEMAND a literal application to Matt. 5:5? (Springer 21-22)
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Not this old sin-cursed earth — they have to purchase it; but the new heaven and new earth which Peter says we Christians look for. It is inherited. (Myers 2)
Before we give up our hope of heaven for an eternal earth, we ought to read the rest of the sermon. In the Sermon on the Mount, heaven is always greater than the earth. Immediately after the beatitudes Jesus said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven” (Matt. 5:11-12). …Renewed earth advocates renew the old premillennial assertion that the will of God will be done on the earth after the Lord returns… (Boyd 71)
“…The meek, who are God controlled and God tamed, will inherit the new earth spoken of in 2 Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1” (Tolle 41). What a grand reunion that will be – that eternal fellowship with the Godhead and with those who likewise have fellowship with Them. See you there! After all, that’s where King Jesus will be, since He cannot reign as King or serve as Priest on earth (Zechariah 6:12-13). “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).
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