How Will the Earth Be Redeemed?
Consider the fantastic words contained in Romans 8:19-23:
The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration [curse]... in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God....We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Think about it: As the entire creation, including animals and plants and nature itself, fell on humanity’s coat-tails, so the entire creation shall rise on our coat-tails, the beneficiary of Christ’s redemptive work and resurrection.
As goes humanity, so goes all creation: the Earth, the animals, and all creation. As creation wasn’t only about us, so redemption is not only about us.
The “redemption of our bodies” refers to the resurrection of the dead. Paul says that not only we but “the whole creation” longs for and cries out for the earth-wide deliverance that will come with our bodily resurrection.
Do you find yourself sighing and groaning? Have you seen the look in the eyes of a suffering animal, and thought, the creation cries out for deliverance?
We know instinctively there’s something better than this. We catch glimmers of greatness, we have foretastes of joy, but they are elusive.
We groan for what creation groans for—redemption. Genesis 3 shows us God put the Curse not only on mankind but also on the earth and animals. Human beings and the Earth are inseparably linked. The Earth fell on our coat-tails. And it shall rise on our coat-tails. Together we fell, together we shall rise.
We will glorify Him by ruling over the physical universe, showing respect and benevolence for all we rule. The righteous potential of humanity will at last be revealed at our resurrection. We’ll be righteous people with incorruptible bodies. We will not be inhuman in eternity, we will be more fully human than we’ve ever been. Sin and curse are not intrinsic to humanity—they are foreign to it. They are invaders, to be defeated.
God will transform the fallen human race into a renewed human race and the present Earth into the New Earth. It’s a place that won’t be ruined by tsunami and floods and earthquakes and typhoons.
The text obviously includes the only beings besides humans that walk the earth that are capable of true suffering: the animals. Isaiah 11, 60, and 65 all depict animals on the New Earth, as does Ezekiel 47. Animals will not kill each other. There are two chapters on animals in my book, Heaven.
The entire creation fell under us, and the entire creation longs for a deliverance from suffering that will one day come—in the resurrection. As the creation fell on our coat-tails it will rise on our coat-tails.
We will have new bodies, not non-bodies. We will live on a new Earth, not a non-Earth. A new car is first and foremost a car. It is not a non-car. A new Earth will be first and foremost an Earth, not a non-Earth. That means we have a reference point by which to understand the New Earth. The current Earth is bursting with clues suggesting what we will find on the New Earth.
“Joy to the World”
No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.
How far does Christ’s redemptive work extend? Far as the curse is found. If redemption failed to reach the farthest boundaries of the Curse, it would be incomplete. Our spirits, our bodies, the earth itself, the animal kingdom, all are under the Curse, and will be delivered from the curse. God will not abandon his creation—he will redeem it.
* Redemption: buying back what was formerly owned.
* Reconciliation: regaining a friend.
* Renewal: making new again, restoring to an original state.
* Resurrection: becoming physically alive again, after death.
* Regeneration: being born again, having a new beginning.
* Restoration: bringing back the lost
God is the ultimate salvage artist. He loves to restore things to their original condition—and make them even better. A phrase from the hymn “Hallelujah, What a Savior!”: “ruined sinners to reclaim.”
Reclaim is another re-word. It recognizes that God had a prior claim on humanity that was temporarily lost but is fully restored and taken to a new level in Christ. Stripping old paint off an antique to restore to original.
At the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus, Matthew 19:27-28
He could have said at the destruction of all things. No, at the renewal. “All things” means that this Earth is bursting with suggestions of what the New Earth will be like. What will be gone is sin and death and curse!
“In keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” 2 Peter 3:13
A New Earth is a renewed Earth, a reclaimed Earth, a redeemed Earth, a resurrected Earth.
“[Christ] must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.” Acts 3:21
God’s plan to restore everything is found in the prophets:
Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that men may bring you the wealth of the nations—their kings led in triumphal procession. The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the pine, the fir and the cypress together...and I will call you the City of the LORD, Zion of the Holy One of Israel. I will make peace your governor and righteousness your ruler. No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders...the LORD will be your everlasting light and your days of sorrow will end. Then will all your people be righteous and they will possess the land [erets, the earth] forever. Isaiah 60:11-21
“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth....But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more....21 They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit....The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD. Isaiah 65:15-25
He [Son of Man, Messiah] was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed....But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, forever and ever. Daniel 7:14, 18
God’s plan is for Christ to rule over a heaven and earth that are unified and made into one. God’s presence will be on earth (Rev. 21:3), and God’s will shall be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, bringing Heaven to Earth:
He made known unto us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. Ephesians 1:10
Why do we love the great stories? Because they are pictures of the greatest story. There hasn’t ever been a story yet with people living happily ever after, since people die. But one story will come out that way. It’s a true story. And you and I are part of it. Our redeemer is our king, who took on death and Hell, and defeated them. He will destroy death and cast Satan into the lake of fire.
For more information on the subject of Heaven, see Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven.