Q&A: When Heavenly Realities Will Become Earthly

When Heavenly Realities Will Become Earthly

How and why will humanity's redemption impact the rest of creation?

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Answer

The Scriptures are very clear that God cares for and values the physical creation he's made, both the world and us, as the apex of that creation. He has poured himself, in fact his own image and identity, into us as his creatures. He cares about us and he cares about the world he has made. The resurrection of Jesus is one of the witnesses to the reality that God cares about the physical state, and its resurrected and renewed form. Our hope, and what the Scriptures teach, is that we, in our final home, will be in a new creation, a new heavens, and a new earth, the Scriptures call it, which is a physical embodied existence. The Scriptures teach, in Romans 8, that the world itself is longing for its own redemption, even as we ourselves are awaiting our own adoption as sons and daughters of God's kingdom. So, it is a great hope. It is something that has impacted me, as a parent, as I think about speaking about the gospel and the future hope with my children. There is a day, I tell them often, when disappointments of broken toys, and the day after one's birthday, or especially for us, the day after Christmas, when all the anticipation of getting new things has gone away, and when friends die of cancer, and other situations that occur, I remind myself and my children by offering them the hope that not only will we have the forgiveness of sins, but that all of those things are signs that this world is not as it should be, and that our hope, our sure hope, is that there is a day coming when God will renew all things. We can see this especially in the beautiful words that Jesus taught us, his disciples, to pray when he said, "Our Father, who is in heaven, let your name be sanctified, let your kingdom come, and let your will be done, on this earth, even as it now is in heaven." That crucial, central, foundational Christian idea is that we are now living in a time of waiting for the heavenly realities to become earthly realities, that the way things are done in heaven when God is hallowed, when all things are right, and righteousness and glory and truth and love reigns, our hope as Christians, our sure hope, is that those realities of heaven will become earthly realities. And this is what the Scriptures promise and hope as the new creation, our eternal home.

Answer by Dr. Jonathan T. Pennington

Dr. Jonathan T. Pennington is Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation, and Director of Research Doctoral Studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminar