But it’s Not an Excuse to Trash This One!
Ok, sorry, I have to admit I’m not talking about Mars or Proxima Centauri B or any other rocky earth like planet that scientists have discovered. There is a chance that we might, with a huge amount of investment and time and energy, be able to send a few people to one of these planets within a century. But what about the rest of us?
Actually, the planet I’m talking about is far better and doesn’t mean going anywhere!
A New Heaven and a New Earth
God makes some wonderful promises through the Bible. One that gives me a lot of hope is that it talks about Him creating a new heaven and a new earth. This is mentioned not just once, but four times. Here are two of them.
But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. 2 Peter 3:13
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. Revelation 21:1
This is a lovely promise for us, we’ve made a real mess of this planet and it can be difficult to imagine sometimes that we can do enough to ‘save’ this planet. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to start over again?
It’s a re- word!
Before we move on, there is a note about the language used here. When we look at the Greek word used for ‘new’ in these two passages, it is the word ‘Kainos’. This word can mean either to create something new, or renew something. Many people feel certain that this means that God will renew the heavens and the earth.
As environmentalist, I love the thought that he may renew the earth. As a re- word, surely has to be pretty high up our R’s triangle! He may not throw it all in the bin, but he may restore the earth to make something new and wonderful again.
Certainly, the descriptions given in these (and other) passages are of something very beautiful. The new Jerusalem is described as being like a bride. This isn’t a description of a shabby half-hearted effort to renew the earth, but of an earth that is beautiful and at it’s best, even better than what we have now.
Some people interpret these passages and others that refer to the future earth as suggesting that God will create something completely new. That seems to be a possible interpretation. However, I don’t believe that should affect how we treat the earth that we have now: Whether it’s new, or re-new-ed, the following will show that I still think we need to look after our current earthly home.
It’s Not Our Property
The Bible is very clear that we don’t own this earth.
‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;’ Psalm 24:1
The land must never be sold on a permanent basis, for the land belongs to me. You are only foreigners and tenant farmers working for me. Lev 25:23
If it belongs to God, not to us, then surely we should have respect for the owner. This blog is-it-odd-to-be-a-green-Christian, also shows that God takes joy in what he has created, if we are borrowing something that doesn’t belong to us and the owner regards it as precious then we really need to take care of it.
The Bible also frequently talks about stewardship, telling us to look after what we have been given. In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25) Jesus makes it clear that if we look after what we have, then we will be blessed.
‘His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” Matthew 25:21
Nowadays, we tend to interpret this parable in terms of money, sometimes we also recognise them as applying to spiritual gifts or abilities, but we also have to remember the context: In a subsistence economy, it’s really about looking after the land. Issues about the land were intimately connected to issues about people. There wasn’t the disconnect that we feel today. The Israelites were relying on the land to produce their food, so why would they not look after it?
We will be Accountable
This article (Are-christian-values-at-odds-with-environmental-values) shows that environmental problems are also social justice problems. God tells us many times that Social Justice is of paramount importance to him, so if we are looking after social justice we are actually looking after the planet.
One day we will come face to face with God, it is clear from the parable of the talents that God has put us here to manage what we have got and that we will be held accountable for our own actions. In this, it’s worth looking at Revelation 11 again.
The time has come for judging the dead,
and for rewarding your servants the prophets
and your people who revere your name,
both great and small—
and for destroying those who destroy the earth. Revelation 11:18
This implies there are two distinct groups: Those who revere God’s name will be rewarded, but those who destroy (corrupt, lay to waste) God’s earth will not. Our actions in burning fossil fuels, encouraging deforestation etc are certainly laying waste to the earth and we need to make every possible effort to avoid this.
The Little Children
Jesus valued the little children at a time when that was against the cultural norms:
‘Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.’ Luke 18:16
Most of us find it hard to plan very well beyond the next few weeks. We talk about global warming causing problems in the future and this can seem very distant. However, our actions in burning fossil fuels and not looking after the earth (and its people) are harming people now and harming our children’s futures. This passage shows how important the children were to Jesus, and this speaks to me that their future matters too – why would you fail to act if you could see that something was going to make your child’s life miserable?
The changes to our planet’s climate may (or may not) make life very difficult during my lifetime, but it will certainly become very difficult during my children’s lifetime. The next generation matters & we need to plan for their future. That means not using up the resources that they will need and not polluting the air to the point that we leave a planet that is not fit for them.
Discipline your children, for in that there is hope;
do not be a willing party to their death. Proverbs 19 v 18.
We also need to teach our children how to live more sustainably, many of them know that there is a need for change, but don’t necessarily realise that we (and they) will have to make changes now to provide a better future for them. But remember that discipline means to teach or train and the best way to train them is to set the example ourselves. What does that mean?
Live more simply
Paul also tells us to ‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.’ Philippians 2 v3-4
One quote I hear frequently in environmental circles is that ‘we must learn to live more simply so that others may simply live’. Many of us have so much more than we really need and all of the things that we own produce (or have produced) carbon emissions. Yet so many people who will be more directly and immediately affected by climate change, have a struggle to get what they really need for survival. With crop failures and other shortages increasingly likely in a warming world, environmentalists are recognising that we will need to share out our resources more fairly: for most of us in ‘developed’ countries, that means making do with less stuff and burning less fossil fuels in our lives.
There is Hope for The Future
But I have a hope that there will be a wonderful future for our planet.
“Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth,
and no one will even think about the old ones anymore.
Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation! Isaiah 65:17
The new Jerusalem is described as a beautiful place
And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. Rev 21:2
And a place where it will be wonderful to live.
God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. Rev 21:3-4
Isn’t it worth a few sacrifices in our lives now to look forwards to getting to that wonderful place? I really hope to see you there!
“As surely as my new heavens and earth will remain,
so will you always be my people,”Isaiah 66:22
 Elon Musk’s plans suggest moving 1 million people to Mars within a century. It is expected to take 110,000 trips to send those people and their cargo. 1 million people might sound like a lot but that’s about 0.01% of the world population. What about the other the 7.799 billion people on Earth?