The new year has arrived. I hope you will find it a year when you prosper in body and soul. I hope it will be a year when the righteous flourish and the wicked fall. I hope it will be a year when nations experience God’s goodness as a faithful Creator and his saving grace in Christ. I hope most of all it will be the year when the Lord Jesus returns in power and great glory, with the voice of the archangel and trump of God, overthrows all evil and establishes his everlasting Kingdom in a new heavens and new earth. I fervently hope it will be the year when new creation (already initiated in the hearts of those in Christ 2 Co2 5:17) is fully and finally realized.
I hope for this ‘blessed hope’ because it is in it that our destiny as ‘God’s sons’ will be consummately realized and revealed (Roms 8). It is only in the return of Christ that wars will cease, wickedness will be overthrown, and God’s people will truly prosper in body and soul. It is by his Coming that suffering, sorrows, tears and death will be no more; former things forgotten. No Green utopianism will accomplish this, nor an economic formula (whether fiscal or monetary), nor social engineering, nor a political agenda, nor any other human enterprise. Only God’s intervention in history in a final and apocalyptic salvific sense will bring renewal and new creation.
The arrival of new creation in its fulness is the arrival of final and ineffable glory, the light that dispels all darkness. Some speak as if the coming regeneration is simply Eden restored. This is a great mistake for the first and former is always only a shadow, a type of the fulfilment. The fulfilment always eclipses the promise and the new always exceeds the old. We see this in the progress between the old covenant and the new covenant. At every point the new covenant is ‘better’. It is based on ‘better promises’ (Hebs 8:6), has a ‘better hope’ (Hebs 7:19), has in Christ ‘better sacrifices’ (Hebs 9:23), introduces a ‘better life’ (Hebs 11:35) in ‘a better country, that is a heavenly one’ (Hebs 11:16). Christ is the messianic prophet priest and king who surpasses Moses, Aaron and David. At every point the realization transcends the OT expectation and promise. This is how our God is. He is a lavish generous God who gives in ways that ultimately ‘eyes have not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart imagined.
What is true in the progress from old covenant to new covenant is equally true in the movement from old creation to new creation. Adam was the acme, the zenith, of the first creation, yet he is ‘of the earth’; he was ‘a man of dust’, the second man, by contrast, is ‘of heaven’ (1Cor 15:47). The first man, Adam, became a living soul, the second a life-giving spirit; Adam received life but Christ gives life (1 Cor 15:45). In the old creation corruption and mortality were possible (and actual) in the new creation we have only incorruptibility and immortality (1 Cor 15:54). Paul designates the first creation ‘natural’ and the new creation ‘spiritual’ (1 Cor 15:44). Now we should be clear that for Paul natural/spiritual is not a Greek dualism of physical/non-physical. Christ, in resurrection, had a physical body, but no longer a ‘natural’ body, rather it was ‘spiritual’. This seems to mean that the resurrection life which infused and energised it was ‘of the Spirit’ and not merely biologically earth-bound. This would seem to articulate with Paul’s distinction between ‘heavenly bodies’ and ‘earthly bodies’ (1 Cor 15:40). Just as God has fitted sun, moon, stars for their heavenly function (and glory ) so the resurrection body is fitted for a ‘heavenly’ existence; clearly Christ’s resurrection body is fitted for the sphere in which he now lives (indeed it is fitted for heaven and earth) and so too will be all who are raised to resurrection life.
Contrast is clearly as significant as continuity between the two creations, if not more significant. In the original creation marriage was instituted because it was not good for man to be alone; however, in the new creation there is neither marriage nor giving in marriage, all are as the angels in heaven, for the eschatologically new creation finds man in Christ crowned with glory and honour never attained (or attainable) in the first (Hebs 2:5-9). Note too that in the first creation Adam is given stewardship of the earth but in new creation ‘all things in heaven and earth’ (a merism for the entire universe) are subject to Christ and the new humanity of which he is head (Ephs 1); all things are subject to him, that is, save God (Hebs 2:9; 1 Cor 15:27,28). Paul insists that we should not be surprised at the radical disjunction and transformation new creation will bring. He reminds us we see this principle in the present creation; a mere kernel of seed transforms through death into something that transcends its promise (1 Cor 15:37,38). Thus the human body of the believer that belongs to the old order and old creation is sown in corruption, dishonour and weakness but is raised to immortality, glory and power (1 Cor 15:42,43). That new creation means something incomparably more wonderful than merely Eden restored should be beyond dispute.
In describing the new creation, Revelation draws some of its imagery from Eden, but Eden does not exhaust it – imagery from the New Jerusalem, the eschatological city of God is also employed. And indeed, the Eden and the New Jerusalem images while suggesting correspondence also suggest a fulfilment that eclipses the original; the images are morphed and exploded to create a kaleidoscopic picture of a reality that defies description. If there is a river in the eschatological Eden then it is in Revelation ‘as bright as crystal flowing from the throne of God and the lamb’ (Rev 22). It runs not through Eden but down the middle of the street of the New Jerusalem. The tree of life is not merely a tree in Eden but has become a great tree that straddles the river and has fruit that heals (in Eden the tree could sustain life but could not heal). There is no sun in this eschatological Eden for the light is the glory of God himself. Nor is there darkness or night; the potential for evil is no more. The ‘new Eden’ meta-morphs the original. Of course, it is all imagery, but it is imagery intended to convey a reality more glorious than all that has preceded, more glorious than we can at present grasp in literal language. However, we understand it, the overture (old creation) only hints at the symphony of new creation that is to follow.
Our hope is a new creation inconceivably blessed and irradiated with a glory that is indescribable. We wait patiently in 2013 for this ‘hope of righteousness’ that is, life lived in the glory of God. While we wait, we may suffer all kinds of hardships. Christians will be mocked and treated unjustly. We will be hated, misunderstood and misrepresented. We will suffer for righteousness sake, and for Christ’s sake, and we will have to stand steady in faith through the various trials of life that all men face, but all these afflictions will work for us an eternal weight of glory. It is this glory for which we long and look and in which we hope.
My prayer in this coming year is this:
Rom 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.