Biblical Studies, New Testament

Creation in Light of the New Heavens and New Earth

Some time ago, I abandoned the view that the earth will be destroyed at the end of the age and have come to believe the earth will be restored as the final dwelling place for glorified believers and that God’s glory will fill the entire created order. In light of this, I have pondered how one’s responsibilities concerning creation in the meantime are to be viewed. While I don’t have a great deal to say about this just yet, I happen to be reading an article on the new heavens and new earth recently and the author’s comments were ones with which I could resonate. Here is what he said:

“While I do not think of myself as an environmentalist, I must admit that they are concerned about the right things. Too often this issue is passed off by Christians as a secular or liberal concern, important only to radicals or new-age spiritualists.  Evangelicals speak of it only occasionally, and then usually from the standpoint of a mere consumer. Further, when evangelicals do address creation’s future it often sounds quite dismal. A. Truesdale, believing this is indicative of eschatology run rampant, states:

‘Theologians and scientists who are evangelicals should join hands to help lead evangelical Christianity out of its bondage to an errant eschatology. Dispensational premillennialism defrauds the creation of the gospel’s promise that it too ‘will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God’ (Rom. 8:21, NKJV). It also cripples the witness of evangelical faith in the world.’

While I am not ready to abandon the progressive nature of revelation or to relegate apocalyptic literature within the canon to a lower status than other passages (something Truesdale appears ready to do), I must agree that the exaggeration and galvanization surrounding this eschatology have led to inappropriate conclusions regarding the nature and scope of apocalyptic literature. Indeed they have fostered an insensitivity, even neglect, toward passages teaching continuity between the old and new earth. Certainly these problems are being corrected, but as yet the corrections have not reached the people in the pews. As evangelicals we believe that God created this world, in whatever way we think that took place. We should further believe that this world has a future in God’s plan of redemption (Hos 2:14–23; Rom 8:18–25; Col 1:16–20). If God cares enough about his creation to redeem it, how can we be apathetic, or merely economically inclined, toward it?”[1]

Αυτω η δοξα

[1] Gale Z. Heide, “What Is New About the New Heaven and the New Earth? A Theology of Creation from Revelation 21 and 2 Peter 3,” JETS 40 (1997): 40.


7 thoughts on “Creation in Light of the New Heavens and New Earth”

  1. I agree that the earth should be taken care of and we shouldn’t abuse it or just continue doing what we’re doing and causing it to get worse but it’s hard to come to that conclusion whatever you eschatology as a Christian is. If you believe the earth will be destroyed or it will be renewed, either way God is going to take the final action on what earth will be like regardless of what we do to it and how nice it is or isn’t. I think it would be better to worry about the earth for other reasons like aesthetic reasons, or practical reasons like how global warming affects the poor, how damaging the environment affects us and our children negatively now, etc. I’m not sure it needs to have a specifically Christian reason behind treating it good, especially not one tied to eschatology.

  2. Bryan: I agree that regardless of your eschatological bent, responsibility as it pertains to being good stewards of creation should be a given. And, I also agree God will certainly be the one responsible for how things end. While it would certainly be good if everyone treated creation well (including some of the ways you suggest), I think Christians should especially do so in light of the fact that it is God’s good creation. I certainly don’t think that not littering or reducing our petroleum consumption is going to somehow stave off God’s final redemptive acts concerning his creation. But I don’t look at it simply in those terms, but more in the light of the creation as being “good.” I should have clarified as much in the initial post that I don’t think that one’s concern and stewardship for creation should merely be eschatological in scope, but biblical-theological: it was created by God and deemed good. This has also influenced my views on other issues, such as cremation, tattoos, etc.

    Matt: Well, it was inevitable given the nature of our study format (kind of a round table discussion). As far as any reactions, there was nothing too unexpected. Naturally there were some who, I think, thought my understanding of these things was certainly plausible, and others who had more than a little disagreement with me! One of our members even said of Wright (after the video session on the “rapture”), “That poor man’s confused–he didn’t even mention the seven years of tribulation!” 🙂 The next day she brought me some “Tribulation Maps” and some cassette tapes on end times and prophecy!!! It was standard premil dispy stuff, which I find unconvincing, so I just tucked it away in my desk drawer! I did have one guy, though, who was really willing to discuss things, so that led to some good conversations. Ultimately orthodoxy doesn’t hinge on one’s eschatological views, so it’s been fun to talk about the differences in our views.

    I wonder what would happen if I revealed that I don’t take the creation accounts in Gen 1-2 literally–now THAT might get me in trouble! 😛

    1. Haha…good to know there were some open minds. But Genesis 1-2…yeah, that would be a “moving Bible class.” That is, “honey, let’s pack the bags…we’re moving after that!” 😉

  3. I think my point is that it’s not enough to say because God created creation good that we shouldn’t dump chemicals in the water, burn coal, drive gas guzzlers, slash and burn, use unbiodegradeable product, etc., and we should recycle, plant trees, eat local, etc. After all God created animals good and we slaughter them by the thousands and thousands (if not more) every day for food, and I have no problem whatsoever with that. We destroy things all the time that God created good. It seems God creating something good is not enough, since that doesn’t dictate how we can or can’t treat those things. I mean if we could treat the planet however we wanted and it would always recover then it would be no big deal. I think we have to appeal rather to what effect destroying something God created as good has on us and others as the reason for not destroying it and what actions we should be taking instead.

  4. Bryan: I think we’re on the same page. I guess my point really is more general, that our actions and attitudes toward creation (both human and non-human) should be an outflow of the greater realities of God’s kingdom, both in the present and future. How we treat others and the world in general has, or at least should have, a direct correlation to how we view God and his redemptive work. So, ideally our concern for the world and all that is in it should stem from a biblical-theological view of God’s view on these things as revealed in Scripture. Consequently, and I think this is your point, our actions should be considered in light of the outcome, whether good or bad, as that will ultimately affect our environment (both the natural and relational).

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