The Toronto Zoo has a tagline that goes: Same Planet, Different World. I find that is a very apt description for my understanding of the New Earth that Christ will usher in when he returns. It is not a new planet that God will make but a renewal of this same planet. It’s a new world order, for sure, a world of difference between our current world and God’s world order in the New Earth to come when the life of heaven becomes part and parcel of earth. But the same planet. God promised, “Behold, I make all things new”; he did not promise to make all new things (Revelation 21:5). Same planet, different worlds.
For more biblical supports of this viewpoint and refutations of the popular Rapture theology and brand new planet theory, see my post on The Rapture: A Mistaken Belief.
What are some of the implications of this “same planet, different worlds” theology? Here’s some, you may be able to think of more:
- Earthkeeping is a spiritual matter, integral to our faith and the exercise of faith, it’s not simply an add-on matter – this planet belongs to God and it will not be junked or destroyed but renewed or restored to its original goodness before humans messed it up. God created us to be earthkeepers and stewards of this planet earth that is our home. Environmentalist thinker William Van Geest spelled it out well: “This means that the convictions we hold about the creation and the way we deal with it are spiritual matters and cannot be separated from our faith. Our stewardship of creation is a response to God’s love and blessing, his sustaining presence, his redemptive power. Being a steward of creation is an integral part of being a Christian.” (God’s Earthkeepers: Biblical Action and Reflection on the Environment, 1995, p.14) But stewardship of creation is not limited to only overtly environmental activism. It’s all wrapped up with our Christian life of following Jesus. This gives great motivation as well as encouragement to our environmental activism – not only in the big acts of ecological justice but also in the small acts. Not all of us are gifted to be eco-justice warriors, joining Greenpeace on marches or chaining ourselves to trees or something of that sort. But even the little that we do – our reduction of waste from personal consumption, our changes in lifestyle choices, our reduction of energy use, our faithful recycling efforts, our reusing of items – contributes to God’s restoration of the planet. So, no excuses for not doing our part, even if it’s only a small part!
- Christians should welcome and enjoy the good that is currently in our world, the truth that comes from understanding how our God-designed planet works, and the beauty that comes from contemplating the wonders of nature. As the old hymn goes, “This is my Father’s world. He shines in all that’s fair. In the rustling grass, I hear him pass; He speaks to me everywhere.” Even scientific studying and exploring of nature’s wonders can be a spiritual experience. Seeing how different species adapt and evolve in order to survive in changing environments can be as awe-inspiring as contemplating the details of Michelangelo’s paintings on the Sistine Chapel; contemplating the beauty and enormity of the stars and the galaxies can be as faith-inspiring as listening to Bach. It also means our whole being enjoyment of this wonderful planet is not only justified but also sanctified. From enjoying a hike up the mountains to a quiet time in our backyards, or even just a stroll in a city park, we are encouraged to enjoy these as legitimate spiritual acts of enjoying God’s gifts to us, and through that, to enjoy God’s presence. Of course, this does not mean we ignore the other conventional means of enjoying God’s presence, i.e. worship with God’s people.
- Christians need to rethink what salvation means. If this planet is restored, not destroyed, into a new world order or its originally intended world order, depending on how you want to look at it, then salvation is not simply about saving human souls as an escape from planet earth anymore is it? Salvation takes on a much broader meaning, it becomes cosmic. Or, at least, in my terminology, salvation is in 3D – it involves all dimensions of our lives. In my next post, Rethinking Salvation and God’s Mission, I will look more closely into this.
What other implications can you think of from this “same planet, different worlds” theology?
For more theological reflections on the environment, read my post: A Christian Four-Eyed Perspective on the Environment.