Whose World Is It? Part 2

In some ways, I think the commenter I quoted from in Part 1 of this short series may have been going for shock value to call our world a Christian world. Or maybe that’s my wishful thinking. I do know that his view has some validity.

After all, Bible-believing Christians agree on one level that this is God’s world, He being sovereign and all. The corruption of the world and its fading glory are not out of His control or outside His plan.

But just as “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (Rom. 1:24a), I believe He has given this world over to destruction. Jesus said on more than one occasion that heaven and earth would pass away (see Matt. 5:18 and Luke 16:17).

He also told a parable about the world likened to a field of grain.

Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.

The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’

And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’

The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’

But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” ‘ ” (Matt. 13:24-30)

Here’s His interpretation of that story for His disciples:

And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age” (Matt. 13:37-40).

The field belongs to God, but He didn’t plant the tares. He did, however, determine that the tares could keep growing side by side with the wheat. In essence, He gave the world over to what the enemy did to spoil His crop.

Isn’t this what we see in our world today? Tares and wheat, so alike you can’t always tell them apart, growing together, the tares at times choking out the wheat. Not the field God planted.

Peter makes it clear what’s to come of this world:

But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:7).

Clearly, God is not planning to redeem this world, nor has He already done so.

The truth is, as the tares were allowed to grow in the field, so Satan is allowed to rule this world. “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19 – emphasis mine. See also John 12:31, 1 John 4:4, 2 Corinthians 4:4, John 16:11, John 14:30.)

Because God is sovereign, there’s only one way that the whole world comes under Satan’s power, only one way he becomes the god of this world, or its ruler — God allows it, and in fact turns it over to him as part of the consequence of the Fall.

Hence, God is still very much sovereign and yet this world is not a Christian world. It is a Satan-ruled world.

Does creation still reflect God? It does. As I finish up this post, I’m being treated to the dramatic beauty of storm clouds bunching over the mountains, dropping lower, prematurely graying the fading afternoon. And I’m mindful of God. It’s His handiwork I see, His power in the storm, His mercy in sending the rain and in bringing it to an end.

The field is God’s, and He gave it over to Satan.

So does God’s sovereignty mean the world is Christian? Or does the fact that Satan rules the world mean it’s not?

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Published in: on November 4, 2011 at 6:11 pm  Comments (24)  
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24 Comments

  1. First, we need to decide what is a Christian. To follow Christ, one must pick up his cross and follow. Is the world doing this? All of creation is under God’s sovereign control, but it is not necessarily “His”. All of humanity is God’s creation, but all men’s hearts are not his. Even though He made the human heart-his soul, each man decides to whom he belongs. The world, for now, belongs to the one who fell from his position in heaven. He is the one who is in control…as long as God alows it.
    …………….And his time is running out.

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  2. Hi Becky,
    I’m not quite sure that I can agree with you entirely here. I don’t agree that Satan rules the world or has a right to do so – rather he is a usurper who continues to attempt to wrest the kingship from God. The earth is still the Lord’s and the fullness thereof is still His, too.
    Annie

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  3. Anne, as you said- he is a “usurper”. But you say this as if the usurping is in progress- but it already took place. Satan is the current ruler however illegitimate his rule may be. He didn’t have to fight God for it. God freely gave dominion over to Adam. Satan just had to trick Adam out of it. He succeeded.

    God IS in control. He has a plan. He knew what would happen when he gave the ruling power to Adam. The plan was already in place. Jesus will become the rightful ruler. The one who is both Son of God and Son of Adam whom this world was intended for.

    All was created “good” as God declared it in the beginning, and God allowed it all to become wickedly tainted with the curse. He didn’t fight this change in ownership because this was part of a better plan. Just as the devil tries to twist all good things to evil, God continues to bring good to to His children out of the evil that happens to them.

    The one who creates something is not necessarily the one who owns it. Toyota doesn’t own my car. It is recognizable as a product of that company. The emblems all over it declare who its maker is- but I am the one who holds the “title” for it. It is legally mine. Since I am a Child of God I acknowledge that all I “own” is the property of my Lord.

    Now if someone were able to trick me out of it- say I was as foolish as Esau and handed over my title for a bowl or soup because I was really hungry- then whoever I made that deal with would be the new owner. Was it a fair trade? No. But Adam made the deal and we have to live with it… and I’m fairly certain if Adam hadn’t done it, I would have. Us humans don’t seem to realize our own foolishness except in retrospect. Adam didn’t even know there was fine print, let alone ask to read it before signing over all that God had given to him- for of a snake that he would surely not die as God had warned him, but would become like God himself. Wow. What a whopper of a lie. But Adam bought it. Gave his (and our) birthright for it.

    Anyone who has not yet accepted the price that was paid for their release continue to be slaves and tenants to the cruel land lord.

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  4. “for of a snake” should have been “for the word of a snake” oops!

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  5. “The one who creates something is not necessarily the one who owns it. Toyota doesn’t own my car. It is recognizable as a product of that company. The emblems all over it declare who its maker is- but I am the one who holds the “title” for it. It is legally mine. Since I am a Child of God I acknowledge that all I “own” is the property of my Lord.”

    That’s a great illustration, Patrick.

    If the world belongs to God in the way that the original commenter suggested (i.e. the world we live in is “Christian”), why did Christ come at all? If the world itself is testimony enough, what is the purpose of a Savior? What does He saves us from? And then why are we given a Great Commission to go tell the WORLD the Good News? Lastly, why would God promise to renew the earth at the Final Judgment if it is already Christian and not in an utter state of decay caused by sin? Were any of these points addressed in the original discussions of this worldview? I’d love to know the perspective on these issues.

    What a fascinating topic, Becky!

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  6. Yes, the world is reserved for fire, so that at the very least this world is only a temporary witness to Him. Yes, it also lies under the power of the evil one. It witnesses to Him incompletely, and its witness can be misinterpreted by those who are “willingly ignorant.” We need so much more to know God. We need Jesus Christ, and for we who live after His earthly sojourn, we need His Word to tell us about Jesus. His Word is what we declare. That the heavens declare His glory is only one part of His Word. The history of all that happened in the world isn’t written for all to see in the Creation. We need the Bible.

    Perhaps that writer was looking for shock value, or rather going overboard in his intention of saying just how much the world belongs to its Creator, just how much it has to tell us about Him. It is insufficient though to know Him and His Son.

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  7. Greetings on your own “world” again, Becky!

    You'll probably guess where I fall on this, though I don't mean at all to deny the truths you included above. In some sense, this world — as it is now, under the Curse — does "belong" to sin and the Devil. Moreover, I would question the idea that this is a "Christian" world, if by that a Christian means that common-grace echoes of God’s truth (i.e., animals and nature “praising” Him as the Psalms say) are equal to the direct and sure revelation of His Word.

    However, I do hope to draw a stronger contrast between some of what you’ve said here, and what I believe are equally blazing Biblical truths that contradict these thoughts.

    Clearly, God is not planning to redeem this world, nor has He already done so.

    Yet the apostle Paul, in one of his frequent passages about the future physical resurrection of Christians (cf. 1 Cor. 15, 2 Cor. 5), casts a direct parallel between a Christian’s physical resurrection and that of the physical universe that even now “groans” with us:

    For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
    Romans 8:18-23 [bold emphasis added] )

    Of course, that might simply mean that while the future existence of God’s people is in a physical universe, that physical universe has little to do with this world — it’s a world completely “rebooted,” with not a single atom “transferred” or redeemed. (Either way, though, the Christian must acknowledge the physical nature of the coming New Earth.) However, I think a lot of that “burn means annihilated” views come from what turns out to be a misreading of 2 Peter 3:8.

    You cited verse 7:

    But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

    (I think I’m using a different translation, by the way; in my case, it’s the ESV, but that should not affect things too radically.)

    This follows Peter’s reminder about how the Earth was destroyed by the Flood. He parallels the future judgment by fire to the past judgment by water — the Flood that covered all the Earth and wiped the surface clean, but did not obliterate it completely.

    Peter goes on, of course, into very familiar territory about the future judgment of Earth by fire:

    But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

    2 Peter 3:8-10 ESV

    The meaning of that last word is crucial, especially because in the KJV, the verse ends like this:

    […] the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

    However, the best translation of the word there is exposed, not burned up, which seems a bit minor at first — until you realize it makes a huge difference about how we see the world. Catchphrases like “you can’t take it with you” or “this world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through” are also based on common perceptions: that the power Satan does hold on this world is not just over this particular period in history, but over the very nature of matter itself, meaning that God will need to nuke the place by fire — not just remodel the place, purging sin — and start completely over.

    I think this is so important that I went and got a Commentary about it. This has italicized Greek words and everything, and I hope it proves helpful to the discussion and your ongoing series.

    2 Pet. 3:10 the day of the Lord. God’s judgment will not be delayed forever (see note on vv. 8–9). When Christ returns it will be sudden, without warning, like the strike of a thief. The heavens (the sky) will pass away (cf. Ps. 102:25–26; Heb. 1:10–12; Rev. 6:14) and the heavenly bodies (stars, etc.) will be burned up and dissolved. There will be no place to hide (cf. Rev. 6:15–16), for the earth and every person’s works on the earth will be exposed (Gk. heurethēsetai, lit., “will be found,” a divine passive meaning “found by God”) to God’s judgment. Some translations read “will be burned up” (Gk. katakaēsetai) because some Greek manuscripts have this wording (instead of Gk. heurethēsetai). But the earliest and most reliable manuscripts have “will be found” (Gk. heurethēsetai), indicating with this reading that the annihilation of the earth is not taught in this passage. Scholars have debated whether the NT speaks of an annihilation of the present cosmos and the creation of a new universe, or whether it indicates the transformation of the present cosmos, including the earth. The latter seems more likely in light of: (1) the preferred reading of this passage (see above); (2) Rom. 8:18–25; (3) many OT prophecies about the renewal of the earth; (4) Christ’s resurrection body being in continuity with his earthly body; and (5) the fact that Christ’s resurrection body is a pattern for the resurrection bodies of Christians (1 Cor. 15:12–58). God seems always to renew, not destroy and recreate, parts of his creation that are marred by sin. See note on Rev. 21:1–8.

    Finally, I’ve been anticipating writing a Spec-Faith series about whether Christian fiction, along with other Things, will last forever into the After-world. This helps tremendously in trying to balance the Biblical truths that Biblical revelation trumps natural revelation, and Satan is powerful — while God is still in control, and that He will redeem the physical world, along with resurrected human beings.

    This seems a crucial issue especially for Christian writers and story-lovers, because if it’s true that such things have no place in eternity, isn’t that sufficient enough reason either to do the bare minimum of effort toward their excellence, if we have anything to do with them at all? While this isn’t always the case, I’ve seen plenty of folks use that as an understandable justification to be lax in their “unspiritual” jobs or talents, seeing them as simply ballast that’s due to be nuked, at best only means to more-spiritual ends. Seeing Christ’s redemption as extending to the physical world, not just the souls of those who’ve received His salvation, would change that.

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  8. […] ended Part 2 of this short series with these questions: So does God’s sovereignty mean the world is Christian? […]

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  9. Hi Patrick
    I didn’t mean to leave the impression that I thought Satan’s usurping was still in progress. And I’m pleased you clarified your own remarks. I thought you were implying by your comment on the first post in this series that Satan still had a legal right to the world. It seemed to imply some sort of a legitimacy which I now see you did not intend.
    Annie

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  10. Thank you, Stephen. I really appreciate these thoughts. I was actually looking at those very same passages and was digging further into the distinction on ‘found’ vs ‘burned’, trying to articulate some of the more subtle aspects behind various comments here. Your final comments are most illuminating.
    Annie

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  11. from the peanut gallery overlooking Mars Hill: good discussion!

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  12. […] days ago Rebecca Luella Miller responded in a three-part post (which I encourage you to read here, here and here, and there will be at least a […]

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  13. Anne, you said

    I don’t agree that Satan rules the world or has a right to do so – rather he is a usurper who continues to attempt to wrest the kingship from God.

    I agree that Satan doesn’t have the right to rule and that he is a usurper, but Scripture makes it clear that he does in fact have the position as god of this world and ruler. It’s not permanent obviously, but it’s why we as believers have to battle “the world” as well as our sin natures and Satan’s forces.

    Becky

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  14. Patrick, your Toyota illustration is priceless. That really does give a clear picture of the difference between the maker and the owner. In the case of the car, however, the maker not only permitted you to take possession, he facilitated your doing so.

    In Satan’s case, God allows him his position but He does not condone or approve of it. In fact His purpose of allowing it seems to be wrapped up in “giving him enough rope to hang himself.”

    BTW, my take on Adam (see “Adam Loved His Wife Too Much”) means I view him as acting willfully. Only Eve was deceived, Scripture says.

    Becky

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  15. Lindsay, great questions all. The original commenter has written a rebuttal post, so if you’d like to learn more of his thoughts you can check out his article “Is This a Christian World? Part One.” For me he didn’t answer these questions satisfactorily, but it’s interesting to explore the subject. I’m a little brain-fried tonight so may not be seeing all there is to see in the post.

    Becky

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  16. Hi Becky,
    I apologise for not being more careful in my distinctions. I think what’s troubling me is that very early in this discussion the ideas of ‘ownership’ and ‘rulership’ were, if not conflated, then seriously entangled. In many of these comments, ruler seems to equate to owner. I believe there should be a careful distinction made between the two. Over here, an owner doesn’t cease to be an owner just because a thief comes in and steals his property.
    Annie (who would like to write more, but is having serious problems with the “log in” icons over the top of the comment box.)

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  17. Stephen, wow. Where to start?

    First a caution, I guess. Scripture needs to be handled aright. The commentary you quoted, used, for example, Rev. 5:15-16 as a support that there’s no place to hide “for the earth and every person’s works on the earth will be exposed.” But the verses actually say

    Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.

    In other words, these verses are describing how things are going to be during one phase of the destruction of the earth. There’s nothing there at all about showing no place to hide. In fact they do hide but would rather die than face God’s wrath.

    Colossians 3 — “For it is because of these things [immorality, impurity, and three more similar things] that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience” [emphasis mine].

    Secondly, we can indeed look at Jesus to understand a little bit about the future. His resurrected body was made of better stuff than our mortal bodies, being as it is immortal. Does the immortal come from the mortal?

    Of course God can change that and cause the mortal to be remade into the immortal. But since Scripture uses terms like New Heaven and New Earth, and since we know God can speak into being whatever He wishes to create, it seems just as likely that He will bring about a brand new place but the same, sort of. We know that the New Earth won’t have a moon or sun or sea.

    But honestly, whatever isn’t stated in Scripture is speculation and not something to hang our theology on.

    Lastly, be careful about assigning motives to people, saying they’re doing a sloppy job because they believe this or that. Maybe what you think of as a sloppy job is their best. Christ commended the widow for giving her mite. We should be careful we aren’t sitting in judgment of the widow, clucking our tongue and saying she’s not got a generous heart because she’s giving so very little to our Lord.

    Further, there’s plenty of Scripture about work that contradicts any notion that a sloppy job is OK, so anyone who would claim theological grounds for doing a bad job (it’s only going to burn) is not taking the total council of the Bible into consideration.

    OK, that’s it for now. Thanks for “dropping by my house.” 😀 It’s like the good ol’ days. 😉

    Becky

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  18. Stephen, an add. You said

    Finally, I’ve been anticipating writing a Spec-Faith series about whether Christian fiction, along with other Things, will last forever into the After-world.

    I don’t understand why you think the idea of our stories lasting hinges on this world being redeemed. Our stories aren’t a physical thing — they are of our imagination.

    I could be wrong, but I suspect our imaginations will be purified and enhanced in the New Heavens and New Earth. I suspect our stories from this world will seem like kindergarten scratchings. But even if they still have merit, they will last whether or not there’s a hard copy or a digital rendition of our stories that gets redeemed over into the New Heaven and New Earth. They are in our minds, aren’t they? And our minds are part of our bodies, which will one day be new. Won’t we, therefore, have those stories in us?

    Becky

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  19. Hey, I still haunt the place, Becky, even if I’m not commenting as much! We just agree too often, so that if I were to reply more often, it would be a cut-and-paste, “Amen, sister.”

    I can do the same to much of the above, yet God has enriched my life and glorified Himself in renewed appreciation for His plan to redeem — not just recreate — the physical planet and universe, that I simply can’t help trying to communicate more about Scripture’s happy ending. This affords an opportunity. So here goes again.

    Scripture needs to be handled aright. The commentary you quoted, used, for example, Rev. 5:15-16 as a support that there’s no place to hide “for the earth and every person’s works on the earth will be exposed.” But the verses actually say [opposite, including that people do hide, and before the New Earth]

    It’s not often one has to “exegete” a Bible commentary in like fashion to the actual Bible. But I double-checked that one. It’s actually saying that unlike in Rev. 6:15–16, when people hid from a global cataclysm, there will be no place to hide. Still, I think the wording could have made clearer the contrast, such as, “There will be no place to hide (unlike in Rev. 6:15–16).”

    I’m not sure how other end-times views allow for this prophecy of the Sixth Seal Judgment — a massive earthquake — but I do know that in the premillennial, Left Behind-style Tribulation outline of things, this earthquake occurs early in the apocalyptic schedule. The actual fire-cleansing of Earth is still in the future.

    Secondly, we can indeed look at Jesus to understand a little bit about the future. His resurrected body was made of better stuff than our mortal bodies, being as it is immortal. Does the immortal come from the mortal?

    Absolutely His Body had powers and abilities that He originally never exhibited. My point, and the commentary’s point, was that there is continuity between His pre-resurrection and post-resurrection bodies. His scars are the most notable example. Nothing in Scripture forbids understanding resurrection as actual resurrection of selfsame material, even if supplemented. Nothing implies that something has gone wrong with the actual fabric of the physical. Rather, everything in Scripture points toward the goodness of matter itself (it wasn’t C.S. Lewis who made up the principle behind “God likes matter; He invented it). The material world is not sinful. It is suffering because of humans’ sin (Romans 8), the sin of those who would have been its kings and queens under Him as King. But all the right order will be restored.

    Of course God can change that and cause the mortal to be remade into the immortal. But since Scripture uses terms like New Heaven and New Earth, and since we know God can speak into being whatever He wishes to create, it seems just as likely that He will bring about a brand new place but the same, sort of.

    He could. That was never in doubt. But will He?

    Perhaps a better question would be: why would He need to?

    It seems that to insist upon a brand-new creation, with absolutely no carryover of physical objects (which are not evil), atoms, nature, animals, representations of culture, is an artificial constraint. Unless I see this proved positively from Scripture, I’m not sure why we need to accept it as axiomatic. As for the definition of “new,” again we find a correlation between us as “new” people — we still have much of our same personalities, appearance, and talents from after we were saved as before, and will carry the same with us into New Earth — and the New Heavens and New Earth. “Made new” is a good qualifier. As for more, of course I recommend Heaven and Alcorn’s explorations of what “new” in this context best means.

    We know that the New Earth won’t have a moon or sun or sea.

    Self-same answer about Alcorn’s book (specifically chapter 27).

    Yet I can offer this challenge: are you sure? Rev. 21:23 is in the context of discussing the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, filled with the light of God that means “the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it.” It doesn’t say these things no longer exist. The New Jerusalem is not the entire New Earth; it’s a subset of it, a specific location. The angel introducing the city to John carries him to a high mountain (21:10), presumably the one upon which the city comes to rest. Kings will come into the city from outside the city (v. 24), already illuminated by the city’s light that stretches into the nations outside (still 24). The city’s gates will never shut, confirming that there is space and a world outside it, to which people may come and go (v. 25, and if Rob Bell had understood this, he might not be so absurd as to claim this somehow means anyone can get into the New Earth Kingdom itself even after death).

    As for “the sea was no more,” one doesn’t have to buy the Heaven book (or be given one for Christmas by a colleague and commentator — yes, that is a hint hint!) to look into that. Alcorn’s article addresses that, based not on speculation but exegesis of the term “sea,” paired with other clear Biblical references to bodies of water on the New Earth (such as in Ezekiel). I particularly loved his quote from Charles Spurgeon.

    But honestly, whatever isn’t stated in Scripture is speculation and not something to hang our theology on.

    My thought is simply that the Bible tells us more about the New Earth not only implicitly through its constant emphasis on redemption (as opposed to annihilation and ex nihilo recreation), and explicitly in its descriptions of the New Earth — not only in Rev. 21, but sprinkled throughout the OT. We are free to speculate, but we’re limited where the Bible limits us — and not where it doesn’t (such as the implication that we must necessarily assume this world’s material must be destroyed).

    What did you think about the exegesis of “exposed” vs. “burned up” from 2 Peter 3?

    Lastly, be careful about assigning motives to people, saying they’re doing a sloppy job because they believe this or that. Maybe what you think of as a sloppy job is their best.

    Could be. Yet I know that in the past, I have felt little desire to pursue excellence or even physical exercise simply out of bad theology of the material world and the body. The sin is Out There, I assumed, not in here. And I’ve spoken with others who have believed the same. Emphasizing where the Bible specifically contradicts this view can only help us realign where it’s needed!

    Christ commended the widow for giving her mite. We should be careful we aren’t sitting in judgment of the widow, clucking our tongue and saying she’s not got a generous heart because she’s giving so very little to our Lord.

    Not sure how this relates, but I completely agree: don’t judge based on appearance alone, even with Christian Art and all that.

    Further, there’s plenty of Scripture about work that contradicts any notion that a sloppy job is OK, so anyone who would claim theological grounds for doing a bad job (it’s only going to burn) is not taking the total council of the Bible into consideration.

    Amen. And one who bypasses that truth is bypassing both the Bible’s doctrines about good work (even without overt witnessing) pleasing God, and the fact that man’s original purpose — to work in the Garden of paradise — continues to this day, even amidst the Curse of sin, and will continue even better in the New Earth.

    I don’t understand why you think the idea of our stories lasting hinges on this world being redeemed. Our stories aren’t a physical thing — they are of our imagination.

    Here’s why I’m onto this, and it’s for a slightly different purpose. I’ve known folks who believe that somehow, on the New Earth, we will be completely different people. They don’t believe that even our imaginations will “carry over.” It’s an ignorance of Resurrection. It’s not heresy, by any means. But I’ve heard of people weeping because they have accepted Gnostic, “spiritual” notions that not only their selfsame bodies, but minds, won’t be in the New Earth. Extremely paraphrasing Scripture: hogwash.

    I could be wrong, but I suspect our imaginations will be purified and enhanced in the New Heavens and New Earth. I suspect our stories from this world will seem like kindergarten scratchings.

    I can’t wait for New Earth novels. Imagine the hordes of them. And what will we write about? A great story needs conflict. I wonder if perhaps that’s a (highly!) supplemental reason God permitted sin and suffering: to make not only His Story better, in the end, but our own stories that are patterned on His own.

    But even if they still have merit, they will last whether or not there’s a hard copy or a digital rendition of our stories that gets redeemed over into the New Heaven and New Earth. They are in our minds, aren’t they? And our minds are part of our bodies, which will one day be new. Won’t we, therefore, have those stories in us?

    While indeed stories begin in our imaginations, and while God could certainly recall to mind exactly what, say, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in The Lord of the Rings to republish on the New Earth — I also ask, why the constraint of feeling we must doubt actual existing copies of paper books can be resurrected? It seems to over-complicate the process: 1) Tolkien dies, goes (presumably!) to the intermediate or current Heaven. 2) Years later, Christ returns, does whatever (I’m not getting into that!), resurrects/recreates the Earth, combined with the New Heavens. 3) Tolkien is resurrected. 4) He would like to get back Lord of the Rings. 5) So he’ll need to dig back into his resurrected memory — which I’m guessing would be able to recall everything perfectly — and then rewrite the book on physical paper. 6) Why so cumbersome?

    Ultimately all this is based not on speculation or Scripture’s silence, but on the principles of continuity — spirit/soul, and body — that apply to God’s people, patterned on Christ’s own resurrection, and the planet itself. Romans 8, 1 Cor. 15, 2 Cor. 5, 2 Peter 3 — with the exegesis above — and Rev. 21 are the keystone passages. Sure, some questions remain, but not as many as we might think. And while we can certainly pursue Biblically informed views on things like work, artistic excellence, even the goodness of physical things, without delving into New-Earth study — I’ve felt it helps to know more about the joyful, everlasting ending of Scripture’s epic Story.

    (Finally, my most substantive comment of all: I want Speculative Faith to have a magic Expand-O-Comment Box like your site has.)

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  20. Absolutely His Body had powers and abilities that He originally never exhibited.

    I don’t know what that idiot above was thinking, but he should have thought that through more definitely before saying that with such confidence. Scripture is silent on the question of whether Jesus’ post-Resurrection body had powers His previous one didn’t. Examples:

    Pre-Resurrection, Jesus …
    1. Jesus walked on water.
    2. Turned water into wine.
    3. Healed countless people of diseases.
    4. Disappeared into a crowd, at least once.
    5. Fed thousands of people with only seven food items.
    6. Predicted the future and knew things only God could know.
    7. Perceived the very thoughts of men — a telepathy-like superpower.

    Post-Resurrection, Jesus …
    1. Apparated between places, a few documented times.
    2. Ascended bodily into Heaven to sit at God’s right hand.

    Conclusion: It doesn’t seem like Christ did (in an admittedly limited time) wilder types of miracles after His resurrection than He did before. So for this blog commentator who said so brazenly that “absolutely His Body had powers and abilities that He originally never exhibited” needs to get his brain checked.

    Another principle of bodily/material continuity, by the way, proved from the resurrection of Christ: He makes much about His being the exact same person, inside and outside, that His disciples knew. Moreover, the very fact of His resurrection — that His body was gone from the tomb — confirmed it was the same body, brought back to life. Jesus did not vanish inside the tomb, leaving a pile of ash, and take possession of a completely new body. Instead, His selfsame body, from when He was killed on the Cross, was brought back to life. And while no, it doesn’t seem like He then had any special “spiritual” miraculous powers that He could not have done before His death and resurrection if He chose to, that’s a related issue. The main point is that our resurrections, and the Earth, will be like His: continuous!

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  21. Nothing implies that something has gone wrong with the actual fabric of the physical. Rather, everything in Scripture points toward the goodness of matter itself (it wasn’t C.S. Lewis who made up the principle behind “God likes matter; He invented it). The material world is not sinful. It is suffering because of humans’ sin (Romans 8), the sin of those who would have been its kings and queens under Him as King. But all the right order will be restored.

    YIKES! Stephen, I think you might be fixated on gnosticism. Seriously. I never said, in any of these posts, that the material world is “sinful.” Without mind and will, I don’t see the material world “disobeying.” And of course God “likes matter.” He Himself declared what He made to be good. That’s never been in question.

    Nevertheless, the world — defined as the universe, that which was made good — does suffer the consequences of sin. God clearly ordained this in Genesis 3.

    I see now from your bit of autobiographical background why this issue has become a big deal to you, but please don’t assume that others have those same errors in their thinking that you once had. I was raised on the “American work ethic” which had underpinnings in Christianity. I probably knew “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” before I knew John 3:16. (A bit of an exaggeration for effect. 😉 ). The point is, it has never crossed my mind to coast here on earth because what counts is in heaven. I think you might be transferring your own old way of thinking onto others who disagree with your views.

    Honestly, Stephen, for me this falls into the camp of vain speculation. We don’t know or understand what went into creating this world. Why would we think we can figure out what will go into creating the next one? And for me, it simply doesn’t matter. I trust that God will do it perfectly. I accept what is apparent in Scripture — we will still be us, not some reincarnated version of ourselves, as evidenced by Jesus’s resurrected body.

    At the same time, I accept what Jesus said, that He was going to prepare a place for us. Might that be in an alternate universe that is even now being made in a manner similar to the one He used to make this one?

    What does it matter, as long as I know Jesus is true to His word, that He will have the place prepared, that I’ll be with Him?

    If there’s not a single novel there, it will still be Heaven, so why should I try to prove that this thing or that thing will be when clearly I don’t know.

    And as to the “principles of continuity” it doesn’t seem as if there was any continuity when God created the heavens and the earth. They were not, then they were. If He so chooses continuity, of course He can. He’s God. But goodness, any “principles” are only the evidence of God’s work holding all together.

    Destruction could come simply by His removing His hand that keeps it all going, so I don’t see any “principle of continuity.” In fact, Colossians tells us not to be taken captive by philosophy and empty deception according to the traditions of men, according to the elementary principles of the world rather than according to Christ.

    Stephen, it is Christ we are to be seeking, not the continuity of physical matter into eternity.

    As far as I’m concerned all we really need to know is given to us in Scripture. Take I Corinthians 15 for example:

    35 But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” 36 You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; 37 and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. . . . 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. . . . 50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.

    Stephen, it seems to me you don’t see the destruction of this earth as “dying” the way I do. I don’t have a clue if God will use the fabric of this world as a seed that will blossom into the New Heaven and Earth or if He is making something new even now in preparation for the day when this world is utterly gone. I don’t see that it matters because I trust a good, wise God to do what’s best. I believe that this world must die, that it will be destroyed and that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us.

    I don’t know how these things work together. I suspect we can’t know, that this creation process is as much a part of God’s transcendent ways as was the first one. I think it is unwise to purport that speculation, even if it uses Bible verses as a backing, is doctrine upon which we can and should order our thinking. I don’t find it helpful to constantly fight the accusation that I am gnostic, for example, because I read Scripture apparently in a more literal way than you do.

    I also don’t think the end I believe the Bible holds is any less happy than the one you envision. Christ is victor. In vanquishing His foes, if He chooses to do away with His world, well, it is His to do with as He pleases. Why should I care? Is the end any less happy if He has a New Heaven and a New Earth waiting in an alternate universe and burns this one up completely, or if He annihilates this world and speaks into being another, or if He uses the leavings of this one to make it into something reborn? I don’t see one outcome less happy than the other. For us, the end will mean everlasting life in God’s presence. How it comes about, to me, is vain imaginings.

    As I see it, this insistence that the things of this world will carry over into the next is a huge trap, a way to tie us to loving this world too much. As for me and my house, I want no part of it. I’m happy to let God burn up the wood, hay, and stubble and refine the gold and silver — whatever those things may be!

    As to 2 Peter 3:10 – “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” Translating “burned up” as “exposed” based on 2 earlier manuscripts doesn’t change what the rest of the verse says. While the process of causing the heavens to pass away and the elements to be destroyed with intense heat can certainly expose the works (when a bridge collapses, for example, people can see that the structure wasn’t strong enough), but I don’t see that word contradicting or undoing the idea of destruction.

    So, Stephen, in the end, I don’t think this issue is profitable. I just don’t. I think it is dangerous to spend too much time on it (and feel I’m doing so in this very LOOOOONNG comment) because it is speculation into the transcendent. I don’t see it as all that different from what Harold Camping did, especially if doctrine and behavior is built on this speculation. It kind of scares me, I guess you’d say. It’s eyes off Jesus and onto something else. I don’t like it. (And I guess I just learned that from my tirade here — hadn’t realized I felt so strongly about this).

    Becky

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  22. Hey back, Becky. I think that we’re coming to a better understanding here, and it’s helping me ensure that I do stay on-Message and publicly ground these ideas in the Gospel.

    But first, a disclaimer. A heavy disclaimer:

    My references in the above comment to “that idiot” were directed not toward anyone else here, but myself. Ha, ha! … Well, I thought that my jocularity was clear from my preceding quote of myself. But that was likely lost because I didn’t make it clearer, perhaps by including a winky-face.

    I don’t think anyone else here is an idiot, and only referred to myself as thus. Hope that helps!

    Also, it would likely serve everyone if I make sure to allow for the Biblical truth that yes the end of the world as we know it is coming. God will destroy it with fire, as we’ve been discussing above. Yet given the Biblical prophecy of cultures, ships, precious metals, all kinds of “earthly” things forecast in the coming Kingdom, it’s also clear that God will resurrect that same creation.

    So does He destroy the Earth, or resurrect the Earth? Both/and. I’ve been saying more of the latter, though, and I think you’ve been saying more of the former. Both are confirmed in Scripture. 1) Because this world’s sin and the Devil’s works must be purged before any resurrection occurs. 2) Because earthly things that were part of God’s world — gardens, technology, work, bodies, time, animals, water, air, the Earth itself — don’t count as sinful.

    A few responses, though this discussion might be winding down, or else, having been clarified a bit, it might pick up. Not sure. My hope is not to have the Last Word, but a continuing exchange:

    The point is, it has never crossed my mind to coast here on earth because what counts is in heaven. I think you might be transferring your own old way of thinking onto others who disagree with your views.

    Could be! And I’m very, very glad to see that you value earthly things, not for their own sake but for God’s sake and glory. That doesn’t surprise me about you personally, of course.

    Yet I do believe this tends to be an exception. From keeping up with recent evangelical rhetoric (mostly good stuff), there seems to be plenty of (rightful) corrections against material- or moral-prosperity nonsense, but which errs in opposite ways.

    That does form my perspective, not only personal backgrounds.

    Either way, though, personal backgrounds don’t discount the substance of the discussion. I hope I’ve kept the above focused squarely on the Story of Scripture and proofs from passages. But if not, and especially due to the sudden doubts that this is bypassing the Gospel, I’ll try to be more careful.

    I accept what is apparent in Scripture — we will still be us, not some reincarnated version of ourselves, as evidenced by Jesus’s resurrected body.

    Very cool. I never doubted that we shared that belief. Some don’t, though. Some Christians have said definitively that we will not have actual bodies in the afterlife. Methinks I should have made clearer that I was addressing this (false and damaging, but not heretical) belief in general, not anyone specific here.

    At the same time, I accept what Jesus said, that He was going to prepare a place for us. Might that be in an alternate universe that is even now being made in a manner similar to the one He used to make this one?

    In my view, Scripture rules this out, and thus to think God could do this in another way is actually the questionable speculation. But I don’t mean to imply I think that belief is heretical or anything! 😀

    What does it matter, as long as I know Jesus is true to His word, that He will have the place prepared, that I’ll be with Him?

    Just speaking for myself, it matters because Christ constantly encouraged His disciples to seek their reward, and the Kingdom, in Him, and wants us to avoid materialism and emphasis on Things, being prepared to suffer, yet also to enjoy His good gifts. (Cf. 1 Tim. 6:17, in which Paul, in the Spirit, says that rich Christians should avoid arrogance and basing their hopes in wealth, but instead hope in God “who richly provides us with everything to enjoy”).

    Results: we do everything we can to advance the Kingdom — but while knowing that only He would ultimately bring it, after His return.

    While I don’t view discussions about the New Earth’s nature, and the specific prophecies about carryover from this world to the next (including people, nations, kings, cultures, even ships and trade and commerce) as mere speculation, I recognize it could come across that way. Hanging out with folks among whom some un-Biblical speculations are common might not help much! (Not that I’m immune to these myself.) However, I would question the implication that we’re not free to speculate about the New Heavens and New Earth, outside — but not contrary to — what Scripture assures us about that world. For me, and for many others, this makes us crave God and His Home, His gifts, for Himself and His Gospel, not bypassing either. I do recognize, though, that this may come across as materialistic or weird, and I’m not sure how to prevent that perception of if I should even try. Maybe that’s impossible to do over the internet anyway!

    Destruction could come simply by His removing His hand that keeps it all going, so I don’t see any “principle of continuity.”

    Maybe we’re defining “continuity” differently? In my definition it illustrates how God keeps His Story going and sees sin in perspective. It’s not nations, cultures, trade and commerce, gold and jewels, work and accomplishment and technology, but the abuse of these things. Nothing prevents, and several Scriptures support (such as Isaiah 60, 65-66), the belief that these things will carry over into the Kingdom. And Romans 8 portrays the earth not just as host to the parasitic, Satan-ruled world system — which other Scriptures urge us to detest and avoid — but as “groaning,” the victim of sin, awaiting its redemption just as we await ours. I hope that helps clarify things.

    And that may be all for now! Again, the discussion might fade to black, or might pick up and rush on for multiple more comments. I wouldn’t mind either way. But I’m glad for the discussion to this point, and hope this comment eases any confusion. I’m also grateful for the chance to re-immerse myself in this subject, after being more “rusty” about it for a while, and integrate the perspectives here into the other series. Godspeed …

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  23. Stephen, thanks for clarifying your personal rebuke. Since I had just read the previous comment, I understood that you were taking yourself to task for typing something you didn’t actually mean. Still, it’s good that you made it clear, and maybe it’s a good warning to us all about calling anybody names in the cyberworld (as well as in the face-to-face one).

    Regarding the topic at hand, you said:

    I would question the implication that we’re not free to speculate about the New Heavens and New Earth, outside — but not contrary to — what Scripture assures us about that world.

    Perhaps your own speculation is helpful to you, Stephen. It’s the assertion that you are not speculating, that you know with certainty that a particular set of ideas is so, and the suggestion that others who disagree with your views are therefore in error that seems inconsistent with a passage like 1 Tim. 1:3b-7. How can we make confident assertions about things that the apostle Paul, who had a vision of the “third heaven” wouldn’t even talk about?

    . . . instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

    I expect this to be my last comment on the subject, Stephen, since I don’t share your ideas that this conversation makes me crave God and the things of God more. For me it’s “dissipation.”

    Of course this is a public forum and I have absolutely no objection to you or anyone else who wishes to continue the discussion from commenting.

    Thanks for braving the shark-filled waters. 😉

    Becky

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  24. […] I did a four part series entitled “Who’s World Is It?” (See part 1, 2, 3, and 4). Why then would I want to re-visit the […]

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