What is God’s vision for this world?: Class 1

Mar 02, 05:09 PM
Introduction
  • Pandemic revealed our frailty 
  • Sir David Attenborough - “Perfect Planet”. He has a vision. What is ours?
  • Started “good”, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31 NAS95)
  • Will end “good”, “On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse;” (Revelation 22:2–3 NAS95)
  • If the start is good, and the end is good, how should we treat what we have in the meantime?
  • Traditional Christian interpretation is to avoid the question by: 
    1. Focussing on where we are going - ‘to heaven’. 
    2. Dismissing what is going on down here - it will all burn anyway.
  • Is this true and accurate?
  • What is the impact of such thinking?
  • I’m going to argue three things in the second class:
  1. We are responsible for the impact of our choices regarding how we use this creation
  • “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27 NIV11)
  1. We have an opportunity to partner with God in his desire to draw people to himself through his creation
  • “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1–4 NIV11).
  1. We have an opportunity to honour God by sharing in his joy at his creation
  • “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31 NAS95)

  • We will address these issues more specifically in the next lesson
  • In today’s class we will start by gaining a better theological perspective on the topic of how we should treat God’s creation - in other words, God’s vision

Passage often cited (including by me in the past) as a reason to not be concerned about what happens to this creation:

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.  Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:10–13 NIV11)

Big issue for this lesson: Are our assumptions about destruction correct? 

How do we interpret this passage?

  1. The language
  • Apocalyptic language
     
    • Associated with God intervening, usually in judgment and bringing justice
      • “Day of the Lord - 2 Peter 3:10. More on this to come.
  • Highly dramatic, imagery-rich and poetic
  • Legal document written in Rap lyric style?
  • (Psalm 114:1–8 NIV11)
  • Daniel: Prophets
  • NT: Revelation and others
  • Therefore - be careful of literal interpretation of such passages

  1. The day of the LORD
  • Decisive action of God - ending some things and beginning others
  • Gen 3 - judgment and grace
  • Noah - flood and rainbow
  • Day of judgement and mercy always attended by terrifying signs in the earth and sky. See:
     (Isaiah 13:2–13 NIV11)

  • Judgement, Justice and Mercy leading to liberation, peace and prosperity (see also Jeremiah 46:10; Ezekiel 7:10; 13:5; 30:6; Daniel 2:31-35; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11; 3:4, 14; Amos 5:18, 20; Obadiah 15; Zephaniah 1:7, 14; Malachi 4:1, 5…).
     
    • Is. 65:17-25 (See also Isaiah 11:6-9; Hosea 2:18.)

  • Future era of blessing for God’s people in new harmonious creation.

  1. End to sorrow, pain and premature death - vv19-20.
  2. Self-sufficiency, prosperity and fulfilment - vv21-23.
  3. Intimacy with God - v24.
  4. Ecological balance - v25.
  • Not literal, but a radical remaking of the natural order returning to Eden. What is the substance of this vision?

1. Physical vision - houses etc are real and material. “There are no disembodied spirits strumming hearts on ethereal clouds here.” 124.
2. Earthly vision. Not about going to heaven, but “about the earthing of heaven into creation.” “creation is healed of human suffering and of conflict between animals, as God’s kingly rule is re-established.” 124
  • OT “day of the LORD” is looking forward to a newness which is a renewal and a return

  1. The coming of the Christ
  • Parousia - Jesus is coming back
  • Late great planet earth; Left Behind series - created much confusion
  • Pre-mill; post-Mill; a-mill: many-millenialisms….
     
    • Whatever the details…something climactic is coming when things will change

  • A climatic day will bring what has been begun to completion:
     (2 Peter 3:10–13 NIV11)

  • Context: decisive cleansing judgement, evil destroyed, God’s creation purified. Judgment will refine, purify, renew.
  • Parallel with Noah’s flood (vv5-7) makes it clear. Earth not destroyed in flood. “The picture is of selective judgement, not complete destruction. Just as the water of the flood cleansed the earth, so the refiner’s fire of verse seven will purify the world from evil, but not annihilate it.” Page 126.
  • ‘Elements’ - not periodic table, elemental forces of the universe, the distorted powers which have thwarted God’s rule on earth.
  • Earth not burned up, but ‘laid bare’ or disclosed.
  • Jesus came to show us how to live in harmony with creation as it was meant to be, not how to escape it.

  1. New isn’t new
  • New / renew
  • Rev 21/22
  • (Revelation 21:1–4 NIV11)
  • (Revelation 21:6–7 NIV11)

  • Verse one - annihilation of present and earth, replacement by new? No, three reasons:

  1. Poetic language - see the rest of Revelation. “The emphasis of the symbolic language is not on destroying the old, but on “making everything new” (21:5) as God comes down from heaven, removing sin and chaos (the sea being a common old Testament metaphor for the forces of chaos), and makes his home with humanity.” Page 124.
  2. Clear links with new earth of Isaiah 65, and first creation, Genesis 1-2. Paradise regained. Tree of life (Genesis 2:9) was inaccessible after fall, now provides healing and fruit (Revelation 22:2). 
  • “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:2 NIV11)
  • The curse replaced by new intimacy.
  1. New does not necessarily mean brand-new but renewed. New Testament Greek, two words for new, neos - totally new, kainos - new as to form or quality. Bible consistently uses latter for new creation (Revelation 3:12; 21:2; 21 1; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:5). See similar imagery 2 Corinthians 5:17. 
  • “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV11)
  • “In the same way that God recycles broken, scarred, twisted human beings into new creations in Christ, so the “old” earth will be recycled into God’s new creation, where “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). Page 125.
  • ‘Heaven’ is the new heaven and new earth, new Jerusalem, Revelation 21:1-2.
  • Beautiful, safe, lit up, fruit. Sounds like Eden. Heaven is in reality Eden restored.
  • The new city will be a “green” city:
  • (Revelation 22:1–5 NIV11)

  • The frustrated liberated, Rom 8
  • (Romans 8:18–25 NIV11)

  • Not obliterated but resurrection. 

  • All creation suffered because of rebellion in Eden. Waiting for relief of its frustration. “The Greek in this passage suggests that “creation has been unable to attain the purpose for which it was created.” Why? Because the adama (the cultivated soil) was subjected to ineffectiveness because of the rebellion of adam…. Creation experiences the same “bondage of decay” as does the human race.”

  • Death defeated, curse repealed, reconciliation with God and Eden. Romans 8 juxtaposes resurrection of humanity with the resurrection of creation. Nature, like humankind, not destined for destruction but transformation.

  • God’s dream is the liberation of creation from decay.

  • Therefore we should participate in liberating creation from decay - not speed it up!


Conclusion
  • “We are fuelled by a moral perspective, not simply a pragmatic one. We cannot fix everything, but we can be bold in our difference. A light in the darkness, a leaven in the lump.” Sandra Richter, Stewards of Eden
  • God created something beautiful. We’re called to imitate God. The least we can do is try to reverse the uglification of creation. This means we must not be guilty of making things worse, but better. It is not acceptable to be passive, but imperative to be healing the damage done to this world by ignorance and violence.
  • When you pray the Lord's prayer perhaps think a bit differently about "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
  • Next time: Compassion and justice for the vulnerable; creation evangelism and God’s joy

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community. 

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: [malcolm@malcolmcox.org](mailto:malcolm@malcolmcox.org). 

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“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11) 

God bless, Malcolm