Sunday, August 03, 2008

New heavens and new earth

Pastor Chris' sermon on mission prompted me to think further about the purpose of humankind. His message is mainly on the fact that we are made not for ourselves but for God and for others.

I was processing this some time ago and now that it got triggered again, I began to visualise my thoughts:

The Trinitarian God out of his love and creativity
--> created the heavens, earth, living things, man & woman
--> man & woman is to multiply the earth
--> man & woman decide to be god themselves
--> creation was separated from God
--> creation multiplied in that separation
--> creation deteriorated in a downward spiral
==> God will make new heavens and new earth

We are now in that "==>" period before God makes the new heavens and new earth. Here is where he prepares the people to receive him in faith. Here is when God came in the form of a man to redeem and restore creation to God so that we are no longer separated from Him. Here is where the wheat will exist with the chaff, only to be segregated in the Last Day when God will judge who will live with him in His presence, no longer separated.

I began asking questions - why doesn't God make us inherently good and loyal and loving? He made us and he can definitely do that. So why not? If we are naturally good and kind and loving, denying ourselves, the fall wouldn't have happened, or would it? I could not figure it out and so I went back to Scriptures:

Genesis 1:26-27
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

God in his creativity and love made man and woman in His own image, in His likeness. Much has been debated what "image" or "likeness" would mean in this case. The rarity of the word in the Bible and the uncertainty of its etymology have made its intepretation highly problematic. While there may be several possibilities I think it means the natural qualities in man, his capacity to reason, to create and his personality.

Genesis 2:18-19
Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.

Man was given the freedom to decide on how the created world should be, the way he wants to live his life, within the perimeters God set.

Genesis 3:6
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

I think this is where the question that I asked was faulty. God did create man and woman to be good, more than that he also gave man and woman companionship akin to the Trinitarian, he gave them freedom and dominion over the surroundings, and he created them in his image, with good but limited qualities like intelligence and creativity.

With the freedom and dominion given is where the first man and woman fell. They did not do badly in terms of companionship or with their intelligence, creativity etc. Where they did badly was the worst of all that dragged everything else down as well. With their capacity to decide, they rationalised their actions against what God had instructed. They first "saw" that is good for food even though there were numerous other trees they can take food from; then they thought it was pleasing to the eyes, and finally decided that it will make one wise.

The tempter was straight to the point - "the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." But they did not agree immediately. They rationalised it stey by step to finally be convinced that it was not wrong to do so, God meant it differently. That's when man fell, when he thought he knew better, not because he was bad.

But the badness of mankind did become the result of that decision.

We do have the capacity to be good, loyal and kind - just that we decided that we can be "better", we decided that it is not wrong to want to be good, loyal and kind only to ourselves.

Only Christ can help us - he has overturned everything that we hold on to.

Where we live for ourselves --> he denied/emptied himself
Where we want to be god --> he took the form of a bond-servant
Where we were made in the likeness of God --> he was being made in the likeness of men.
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:5ff)

Coming back to where I was: We are now in that "==>" period before God makes the new heavens and new earth.

Here is where he prepares the people to receive him in faith:
It is only by faith in Christ that God takes us
Anything other than Christ is ourselves
And that will not do for the new heavens and new earth
Where God's presence will be
Where there is no more I, no more self
But God and the one body of Christ, us as one unit
There will be no separation

If you can't live with that, you can't live in the new heavens and new earth.


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