The foundation for the hope of a physical eternity rests in the Old Testament expectation of physical, earthly kingdom of the Messiah (Ladd, 681f.). Isaiah speaks of the Spirit-empowered Davidic Messiah righteously ruling over an earth in which both animal and human aggression are put to an end. (Isa. 11-12). Amos ties the rule of the Davidic Messiah to the abundant fruitfulness of the earth (Amos 9:11-15). Joel also emphasizes the abundance of the earth, and this he ties to Yahweh ruling from Zion (Joel 3:17-18). The Psalms anticipate Zion will be the location of future salvation (Psalm 2:6; 14:7; 53:6; 110:2). Isaiah envisions Zion as the location where Yahweh will rule the world in justice (Isa. 2:1-4; cf. Mic. 4:1-7; Jer. 31:1-12). He also connects a future Jerusalem with the New Heavens and New Earth (Isa. 65:17-19).
Excursus on the Millennium: Many of the prophetic passages above have been taken by premillennialists as Millennial promises. Should they be taken as millennial, as referring to the eternal state, or as referring to both? Some passages like Zechariah 14 are clearly millennial since they include elements which cannot be the case in the eternal state. Interestingly, Isaiah 65-66 contains a mixture of elements some of which only fit the eternal state and others which only fit the Millennium. Prophetic books mix time periods in this manner. Other prophetic passages that refer to future blessing on earth centered on the Davidic Messiah ruling from Zion could well refer to both the Millennium and the New Heavens and Earth.
The future hope of an earthly kingdom ruled by the Messiah remained the expectation of the disciples. Though Christ told them they could not know the time of the visible arrival of the kingdom, he did not deny their understanding of its nature (Acts 1:6-8; see Bavinck, 718f.). The epistles also speak of resurrected believer’s ruling with Christ (2 Tim 2:12; Rom 5:17; Rom 4:13; 1 Cor. 6:2-3; see Schriener, 856).
Revelation 21:1 and 2 Peter 3:13 provide the most explicit revelation of a new heavens and new earth. Romans 8:18-25 teaches that the creation is awaiting redemption also. When our bodies are redeemed, the creation will itself be set free from its corruption. Less directly, we have the promise that the meek will inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5), that Abraham will be heir of the world (Rom. 4:13), and that humans will enjoy food and drink in the eternal state (Luke 22:16, 30) (Bavinck, 719; Schriener, 841-64).
In sum, the Old Testament clearly anticipates the future worldwide rule of the Davidic Messiah. This hope remains in the New Testament. It begins to be fulfilled in the Millennial reign of Christ, but several passages indicate that this kingdom will extend into a new earth that will last for eternity.
Bavinck, Herman. Reformed Dogmatics: Volume 4: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation. Edited by John Bolt. Translated by John Vriend. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008.
Ladd, George Eldon. A Theology of the New Testament. Revised ed. Edited by Donald A. Hagner. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993.
Schreiner, Thomas R. New Testament Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008.