I’ve been struggling a little recently trying to reconcile contrasting passages in the Bible that speak of the fate of our world. On the one hand, we read of Christ returning like a “thief in the night” (1 Thes. 5:2) and “the elements will be destroyed by fire” (2 Peter 3:10), which seems to suggests a completely unexpected return of the Lord, which will suddenly sort everything out in a magnificent display of perfect justice with astonishing mercy.
On the other hand, God’s creation was “very good”, and though fallen, appears to be headed for redemption, reconciliation and recreation – “He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross” (Col. 1:20). We were originally commissioned as the Earth’s stewards, looking after and developing this planet’s true potential.
So is this planet destined for destruction or scheduled for saving? Are we to merely stay pure, trusting in Christ and waiting for His return to rescue us all, or are we called to seriously engage in the process of recreation: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Sadly, I don’t know exactly how God plans to close the page on finite human history. However, I’ve come to the realisation that I’m far safer believing that, somehow, this actual world is being saved and I am part of the journey. Rather than close my eyes to the chaos of that dominates our news, whether bitter conflict in Syria or another mass murder in America, the frittering away of our planet’s resources on frivolities or the rampant pollution flowing into our oceans, I am called and empowered by Christ Jesus to take a stand against the onslaught to evil. I must fight for truth, reach out with love and pray for peace.
Maybe the other-worldliness and retreat from reality that has so often characterised Christianity – think cloistered monks living in the middle of nowhere and refusing to engage with broken societies – has actually delayed Christ’s return. Have we allowed this planet to reach the brink of destruction because we’ve been waiting for the Saviour who has already given us everything we need to complete His mission?
You see, if I sit back and assume that God has got it covered, just think about all the terrible consequences. Yet, every effort I expend in making earth more like heaven is a living testimony to those who don’t yet believe and desperately need the grace only Christ can give. I take a much graver risk by doing nothing.
What keeps me going? Well, I know heaven is better by far:
- As worship with God’s people on earth is profoundly satisfying, then praising Christ Jesus with all the hosts of heaven will be more thrilling still
- As our hearts burn within us whenever the Scriptures are opened, all truth will be even more tremendous
- As the glory of a sunset stirs us now, what will the beauty of the new heaven and earth be like?
- As cross-cultural fellowship excites us now, how much more being part of the great multitude beyond counting from every tribe, tongue and nation?
- As sometimes we “rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory”, we shall revel in delight where there is neither sorrow, nor tears.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.