Short Shot- The Redemption of Creation
All three futurist eschatologies, Dispensational, Amillennial and Postmillennial, say that one day God, through Christ will redeem physical creation. The earth will be purged by fire (2 Peter 3) and all creation, including animals– or as I like to say, even “Bugs, slugs and mosquitoes” will be manifested as “sons of God.” Interestingly of course, when you begin pressing the details of the “redemption of creation” asking of the blood of Christ is going to benefit mosquitoes, and turn them into sons of God, you begin to get all sorts of equivocation and obfuscation. Interestingly, I have had debate opponents openly state that yes, Jesus did die to redeem the bugs, the slugs and the mosquitoes! When pressed to give supporting scriptural proof, however, that is never forthcoming.
This “Short Shot” will only provide some food for thought. For a fuller discussion see my presentation on YouTube, Two Guys and a Bible Redemption of Creation
Romans 8 is the key, foundational text of appeal that is offered as proof for a future “re-creation” of the material cosmos. I will not engage in an in-depth exegesis of that marvelous text, but let me offer a few key points to be considered as part of any proper exegesis- points often overlooked by the commentators:
Paul posits the entire discussion in the context of the imminent vindication of the suffering of the first century martyrs– v. 18. This allows us- forces us- to place his discussion in the context of Matthew 23 and Jesus’ promise concerning the coming vindication of the martyrs.
✔ Paul places his discussion within the context of “the suffering of Christ” (Romans 8:17) a key eschatological concept. The early church had joined with Christ in his suffering and had to fill up the measure of that suffering before the parousia, i.e. the time of their vindication (Cf. Colossians 1:24f0.
✔ Paul uses a number of words that demand an imminent fulfillment of the “redemption of creation.” See my book, Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory, for a full discussion. There is simply no way to escape the fact that Paul believed and taught that the redemption of creation– no matter what we moderns may perceive it to be– was to take place imminently and soon.
✔ Paul places the fulfillment of the promised redemption within the framework of the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, which contrary many believers, was confined to the first century. The miraculous work of the Spirit was the guarantee (Ephesians 1:12f) of that coming redemption and resurrection (2 Corinthians 5:5). It is ironic and self contradictory for many believers to say that the charismata have ended-and they have- and yet, deny that the resurrection and redemption of creation are yet future. Those two concepts / realities are inseparably tied together.
With these few (undeveloped) facts let me get to the meat of what I want to present about “the redemption of Creation.
It needs to be understood first of all that whatever that anticipated redemption was, it was part and parcel of the hope of Israel. Paul is very clear that his resurrection doctrine was from “the law and the prophets” (Acts 24:14f). Thus, since, for Paul, the source of his eschatology as the Tanakh I want to focus briefly on one key OT prophecy of the “redemption of creation” specifically, “the restoration of the earth.”
Amazingly, on FaceBook recently, a church of Christ minister claimed that while Paul preached from the Tanakh when addressing the Jews, that when preaching to Gentile audiences, he did not do so. Thus, for that poster, Paul had an eschatology for the Gentiles that was NOT from the Old Law, and an eschatology for the Jews that Was from the law and the prophets! This is utterly amazing, but it illustrates the desperation of those seeking to find some “chink” in Covenant Eschatology. The fact- undeniable- is that when Paul was before Felix, a Roman, non-Jew, he proclaimed one eschatology, from Law and the prophets (Acts 24:14f).
Now, in Isaiah 49:6-8 we find the following marvelous prophecy and promise:
Indeed He says, It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ” Thus says the Lord, The Redeemer of Israel, their Holy One, To Him whom man despises, To Him whom the nation abhors, To the Servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise, Princes also shall worship, Because of the Lord who is faithful, The Holy One of Israel; And He has chosen You.” Thus says the Lord: “In an acceptable time I have heard You, And in the day of salvation I have helped You; I will preserve You and give You As a covenant to the people, To restore the earth, To cause them to inherit the desolate heritages;
Note the constituent elements:
The work of Messiah would not be limited to the “tribes of Jacob” but would extend to the Gentiles to bring them to the Lord and salvation. This is the ultimate “reconciliation! Messiah would reconcile the tribes of Jacob, making them one again, AND, he would reconcile the Gentiles to Israel! What a promise! This is the ‘ultimate” restoration and reconciliation!
Messiah himself would be “a covenant to the people.” This is a wonderfully suggestive concept!
The work of the Messiah, the time of the New Covenant, would be the time of the “restoration of the earth.”
That time of the restoration of the earth would be “In an acceptable time, the Day of Salvation.”
This is where it gets really, really good!
In Corinthians 5:17f, Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, comprised of both Jew and Gentile, and told them that in Christ, they had become a “new creation”! He reminded them that his ministry was “the ministry of reconciliation.” He urged them to not accept God’s grace– the reconciling grace- in vain:
We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
Do you catch the power of this?
Isaiah foretold the coming Day of Salvation, THE TIME OF THE RESTORATION OF THE EARTH. Paul quoted verbatim from Isaiah and said: “NOW is the acceptable time, NOW is the day of salvation” Words could not be clearer, more emphatic, more undeniable! Paul declared that the anticipated, prophesied time for the restoration of the earth had arrived! The implications for understanding the doctrine of the redemption of creation are profound – and undeniable.
Now, if we are going to accept Paul’s emphatic, inspired declaration, it seems to me that it is time to rethink the traditional concepts of the redemption of creation.
It is empirically, historically, experientally true that any kind of restoration of material creation did not take place in Paul’s day, and is not taking place now. Trees are not bigger and better today. Rocks are not softer. Rivers are not cleaner, bigger, deeper, wider than in Paul’s day– if cleaner, bigger, deeper and wider rivers are entailed in the “redemption of creation.” Carniverous animals still key and eat their prey- including humans if given the chance. The sun is not better, the moon is not prettier, the stars are not “improved.” The bugs, slugs and mosquitoes are still nasty little creatures and when you throw in the virus “bugs” that still rampage through humanity, it is undeniable that the so called “redemption of the earth” and “all creation” did not and has not taken place.
It will not do to say, well, that physical redemption / transformation of the material world will take place at the end of time. Paul was talking about the spiritual redemption of mankind from sin. But wait! That concept is not to be found in Scripture! In fact, it violates God’s standard modus operandi.
In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul said: “That which is spiritual is not first, but the natural.” But to avoid difficulties with their paradigm, futurists turn that around and say, “No, no! We have the spiritual restoration first, and then, millennia later (who knows how much later) we get the natural!” This turns the text on its head; it perverts it! It is patently not what Paul said.
What kind of reconciliation had begun in the first century? As Isaiah predicted, and as Paul manifested, it was the reconciliation between the “tribes of Israel” (See Acts 1-2). And it was the reconciliation between “the nations / Gentiles” and Israel. This was the mystery of God, foretold in the Tanakh, but not understood and certainly not appreciated or sought after (Romans 16:25-26 / Ephesians 3:3-8).
So, to bring this Short Shot to its close:
Isaiah said that in the time of the Messiah, the reconciliation of Israel and the nations would take place.
He said Messiah would “restore the earth.”
He said that would take place in the Acceptable Time, the Day of Salvation.
Paul quoted Isaiah 49 verbatim declaring that the Acceptable Time and the Day of Salvation was present– 2000 years ago.
It is undeniable that the restoration of material creation, a transformation of bugs, slugs and mosquitoes, has not taken place in 2000 years. It is not now taking place.
This means that the promise of the “redemption of creation” was not a prediction of a literal, physical restoration and transformation of physical creation. It was in fact, the very thing that Paul worked for and said it was, the reconciliation between men, and men and God. It is therefore, wrong to posit a yet future cosmological transformation to an Edenic Utopia. That is an unrealistic and un-Biblical doctrine.