My research interest is creation and eschatology, or creation in God’s future purposes. One thing I’ve noticed is that when you speak to people about the new earth you quite often encounter the view that we ought not to waste time speculating about such things because ‘one day we’ll know.’ Or some similar response. This view seems to be alarmingly widespread.
- this view seems to be built on the idea that the bible says very little about the new creation. That idea is false. But if people won’t engage on the subject, due to the ‘One day we’ll know’ view, then the idea is self-confirming.
- another idea behind this view is (in my opinion) that if there is something to be said about the new creation, then it has nothing to do with this creation anyway – and therefore it is redundant to the church and our task as Christians. Again, this is a mistaken view. We don’t adopt this approach with other eschatological truths, e.g. future judgement. In the mind of most Christians, future judgement has everything to do with the present day task of the Church.
- the hope of the new creation is fundamental to our lives as Christians, as disciples of Jesus Christ. This is the case in Romans 8, in 1 Cor 15, in 1 Peter 1…I could go on.
- in what other area of biblical interpretation does this approach arise? Christology? I want to learn about Jesus, but there’s no point speculating – one day we’ll know…?!
The Bible’s teaching on the the new creation has been effectively de-coupled from the teaching of the church on salvation, judgement, even resurrection.
If we’re not clear on the future hope of a restored creation, then our individual Christian lives and our churches will not be correctly missional, hopeful or balanced in their outlook. One day we will know, but knowing in the here and now is our present task.
Looking at joy in trials brought to mind this quote from Jurgen Moltmann which describes a much better alternative to what is sometimes called heavenly-mindedness (a misleading phrase).
That is why faith, wherever it develops into hope, causes not rest but unrest, not patience but impatience. It does not calm the unquiet heart, but is itself this unquiet heart in man. Those who hope in Christ can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it. Peace with God means conflict with the world, for the goad of the promised future stabs inexorably into the flesh of every unfulfilled present. Jurgen Moltmann
In our new Bible Study series in our congregation, we’re studying the book of James.
How can James tell us that when we’re tested we need to consider it a joy (James 1:2)?! Well, James is saying nothing different to Jesus himself:
Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great… Matt 5:11-12
Peter Davids says:
Joy is the proper perspective for the test of faith…This joy, however, is not the detachment of the Greek philosopher, but the eschatological joy of those expecting the intervention of God in the end of the age. Suffering is really experienced as such, but it is viewed from the perspective of [salvation-history]. It is this perspective that Jesus gave the church in the Sermon on the Mount. NIGTC, James, 67-68
James’ reasons however are very practical. We feel joy because we know that if we persevere through the trial we will come out of it with increased endurance – we will be more mature as Christians, having proved God’s faithfulness. Our joy sets us up to persevere, and not to give up. We’re not joyful to be suffering, but we are joyful when we realise that as Christians, no suffering can ultimately defeat us, but rather through God’s grace, we come out stronger, better able to stand and to serve.