For instance, in the opening of those last chapters, the Apostle John writes the following words:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had passed away...And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying:
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God…
And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are faithful and true.” (Revelation 21:1a, 3, 5 BSB)
As beautiful and hopeful as these verses are, to be fair we must say that there is also something a little puzzling about them. In these verses found near the end of the Bible, God speaks of the new heaven and the new earth. In fact, he speaks of making all things new.
However, if we go back to the other end of the Bible, to the beginning book of Genesis, we see God making the first earth. This is the same earth on which we are living now and which he speaks of “passing away” in the book of Revelation. But when we read of the creation of this first earth in Genesis, God also had seemed very pleased with what he had made.
As we remember, at every stage of creation, at the end of each day, God saw that what he had done was good. Moreover, at the completion of all of this initial creation, at the end of the sixth day, we read that, “God looked upon all that He had made, and indeed, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31 BSB).
If God had been so pleased with the first creation of Genesis and proclaimed it very good, why then is it destined to pass away? Related to this problem are some other of the verses about the new creation found in Revelation that I did not quote. These speak of God wiping away every tear from our eyes and that there will no longer be crying or mourning—or pain. We are told that these things will also pass away.
We are certainly happy to hear these things about the new creation, but if the first creation of Genesis was so good, why are these undesirable things even part of our experience now in the first creation?
The simple answer to these questions is that through Satan, sin entered into the first creation and caused the man and the woman to stage a great rebellion against the authority of God, bringing corruption into that creation. It is because of this rebellion, that God has been required to redeem not only men and women, but also the earth and creation itself.
This is actually a good answer as far as it goes, but there is something deeper here that we must explore. Using only the above explanation, we might get the impression that Satan was able to spoil God’s original creation against the best will of God, causing God to eventually have to start all over. If we are not careful in how we answer these questions, it might seem that God was not able to prevent this initial corruption by Satan.
Again, in answer to this, it could be said that the single uncertain element and which gave Satan a foothold in this original creation was the free will of man. It was because Adam and Eve had been given the ability to choose to accept or to reject the will of God that there existed the possibility of failure.
Indeed, this is what happened. God knew that without that ability to choose to love him, men and women could never be more than automatons with pre-programmed wills—hardly someone who could give or receive love. God chose instead to create men and women “in His own image,” meaning among other things that we have wills that are our own, and able to make choices that have meaning.
We might think that giving the man and the woman the ability to choose would necessarily mean that there was uncertainty and risk on the part of God. If so, it apparently was important enough in his creation that he saw it all as worth the risk.
Some Difficult Questions
These are all valid points to consider, but in some ways, they do not completely answer the original question. It still leaves unanswered why, if God proclaimed the original creation as being “very good,” how then will it finally arrive at a point where it will come to ruin?
Put another way: Are the eventual appearances of the new heaven and the new earth necessary only because the first ones did not work out quite the way that God had intended? Did he make a mistake?
There is a fundamental problem with this assessment. This problem is found in some words that I used in the previous section, at least when they are referring to God—they are the words “uncertainty and risk.” This of course goes contrary to multiple passages in the Bible that speak of God’s absolute sovereignty over all the earth.
For instance, the prophet Isaiah writes the words of God when he says:
Remember what happened long ago, for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like Me.
I declare the end from the beginning, and ancient times from what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and all My good pleasure I will accomplish.’ (Isaiah 46:9-10 BSB)
The Apostle Paul paraphrases another passage from the book of Isaiah, writing:
O, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and untraceable His ways!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?”
“Who has first given to God, that God should repay him?”
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36 BSB)
And John, the same apostle who wrote the book of Revelation also wrote in one of his letters that “God is greater than our hearts, and He knows all things” (1 John 3:20).
So this is not a question of things getting out of God’s control. The more complete answer to this dilemma has to do with understanding better God’s full intention for his creation.
The Creative Rest
As we have seen, when God finished the original creation, he seemed very pleased with what he had done. At the end of each step in the creation process, we see that God looked at the results and saw that all was good. Then, at the very end, we read that “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31 NAS).
In addition to this, after God finished his work in the six days; on the seventh day he rested. This was not a rest that was needed because of physical exhaustion. It was not because God had wearied himself from the work. It was what I like to call, “a creative rest.”
We can all relate to this type of creative rest in one sense or another. It is a rest that we also might take after we have finished a project with which we have been working for some time. When the work is finished, we enjoy sitting back to consider, examine and even admire what we have done. This is especially true with creative projects, like painting a picture or composing a piece of music.
After working so hard on these projects, it may not be that we are physically tired necessarily, but we rest to consider what we have done before moving onto something else. We enjoy inspecting our work, listening to our musical piece, or reading the poem we have just finished.
This is a creative rest. This is what God did on the seventh day.
The Completion of Phase 1
The environment that God originally gave to Adam and Eve was a perfect environment. His image within them was untarnished. In God’s love for those that he created in his image, he gave to them the responsibility to care for it. This is shown to us in the form of the naming of the animals. God did not name the animals, but instead brought each before Adam so that the man could give them a name.
The act of naming the animals is more than a cute Bible story we tell to our Sunday School class. God did this to demonstrate that the man was to be responsible for the animals. It is only the person that is responsible to care for someone or something who also has the right to give these a name. God gave names to Adam and Eve, but Adam was given the task of naming the animals. The animals of the earth were under man’s dominion (I mentioned this a few weeks back when I spoke on the Image of God).
God said to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26-28 BSB).
He placed them in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it. (Genesis 2:15)
Then God rested from his work. But despite the creative rest, God was not yet finished. This rest that God took on the seventh day was not an indication that this was the final completion of his creative work. To be sure, it was at the completion of a large part of it, but there would be more to come.
It is something like a builder that has a large building project involving many structures and many phases to the entire project. At the end of each building or phase, there is a sense of completion, but there is more to be done. The builder might pause for a creative rest before moving on to the next phase, but the final rest will not come until the entire project is complete.
So what has happened to God’s original plan? Even at the completion of phase one, God was pleased with what he had done, and the first man and woman dwelt with him in much the same way as it will be in eternity. Even at this point, the man and the woman, the earth and all of its creatures were without corruption. There was complete peace and harmony on earth.
Did God’s purposes become thwarted? As we know, Satan entered the picture. He was the snake in that garden who introduced the first man and woman to the concept of discontent. He convinced Adam and Eve that God was holding out on them and that they could have more. Because of the doubts that Satan placed within them, for the first time Adam and Eve were dissatisfied with their lives.
Tempting Eve with the very fruit that God had warned them not to eat, Satan told her, “For God knows that in the day you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Just as Satan himself had rebelled against the authority of God and had lost his own ideal state of existence that he before had known as one of God’s own angels, he is now attempting to beguile the first humans to do the same. Of course we know what happened. Satan twisted the words that God has spoken and tempted Adam and Eve with the thought that they could become equal to God. In other words—they would become gods themselves.
The Entire Earth Falls Under the Power of the Evil One
If Satan is successful, he will have the entire creation of the earth under his influence. Remember, God had given the man and the woman authority over the earth and all of its creatures, and if Satan could put these first people under his spell, then that authority over the earth and its creatures would be transferred to him.
In the book of Romans, Paul mentions this in speaking of the present state of creation mentions this, writing, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but because of the one who subjected it” (Romans 8:20).
What Satan did in beguiling the first humans into forsaking the authority of God, he also subjected all that God had put under them into this same “futility.” In addition, as Adam and Eve were the forerunners of our entire human race, this initial rebellion set the precedent for all descendants who were to follow.
The Rebellion is Not Only that of Adam and Eve
Even with this being so, it is not merely that we are suffering from Adam and Eve’s mistake. Paul explains that this rebellion is not only that of Adam and Eve, but also our own. Speaking of our own guilt in this matter in showing our own rebellion, the apostle writes the following:
For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and darkened in their foolish hearts. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images of mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:21-23 BSB)
The guilt is also our own. It was from the time of the initial act of rebellion that we as a human race began to devalue the image of God. Our worship instead began to be focused on ourselves, which eventually began to be a worship of creation itself, instead of the Creator.
Or as Paul further put it: “[We] exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is forever worthy of praise! (Romans 1:25)
Thus, the image of God that he had placed within us became corrupted by our rebellious and faulty thinking. We became confused in our priorities, ignorant of the eternal truth, and condemned to live with constant discontentedness.
The Creation Continues
But the hopeful news is that God has not finished his creative work. He has provided a way for those of the old creation to have a new life in the new heaven and the new earth. I again quote from Paul the apostle:
I consider that our present sufferings are not comparable to the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the revelation of the sons of God…in the hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until the present time. Not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:18-23 BSB)
The Completion of the Final Phase
It is not until we come to the book of Revelation, a book that tells us about the last days upon the present earth and the coming of the new, that we read words that speak of full completion:
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”
And He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 21:5-6 NAS)
After these words, the book of Revelation continues to tell of the state of the new creation. As we have read, it will be a place of God where he dwells with man and where he will be with them in the most complete sense. The people whom are called his people will be with him, without corruption, for God tells John that “the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars” will not be part of this new creation.
The writing in Revelation continues with the description of the new creation. In reading the words, one gets a sense of true completion. There is no snake in the garden and no corrupting influence present. It is not because the new creation is populated by people with no wills of their own, but it is because every individual human being, using the free will that God has given to each one, has made the choice to live under the Lordship of God.
No Cowards Allowed
That is why God says in these final chapters of Revelation: “Let the unrighteous continue to be unrighteous, and the vile continue to be vile; let the righteous continue to practice righteousness, and the holy continue to be holy.” (Revelation 22:11 BSB).
In this completed state, every person will simply continue in the state which they have chosen for themselves. The wrong-doer and the filthy will remain in that state because they have chosen to do so. They will remain so for eternity. These have their own fate. This is described in the harshest of terms:
“To the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and sexually immoral and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This is the second death” (Revelation 21:8 BSB).
All this will come about for the cowards and unbelievers because we as a human race have not merely ignored the teachings of God, but we have even suppressed them. I quote from Romans 1:18-20:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness. For what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from His workmanship, so that men are without excuse (BSB).
The Time of Full Completion
But this is not what God has planned for those who have repented of their rebellion against their Creator. For those of us who have come to understand that God is still in the process of creation, he has promised that our new existence is coming.
The final chapters of the Bible give us a preview of what God has in mind for eternity. It is not a complete picture, since no doubt most of it is even beyond what our imaginations are able to comprehend. But the vision that God gave to the writer John at least gives us a glimpse of what is to come. In every phase, from the first to the last, we see Jesus Christ.
Twice in these final chapters of the Bible, Jesus says this of himself: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 21:6; 22:13).
Alpha and Omega are, of course, the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet. Whatever else Jesus may have meant by this statement, it demonstrates that he has been involved in this process of creation from the beginning. He was there at the original creation, he has been present through the entire process, and now, at this point of conclusion, Jesus is still there, bringing all to completion.
It has been God's plan from the beginning. In the fullness of time, all things in heaven and on earth will be brought together and summed up in Christ (Ephesians 1:10).
This is Far Beyond Choosing Our Government for the Next Four Years
Everyone in the United States is presently focused on November 3—who will our country choose to run our lives. Important as our decisions are for this time in the history of our nation and of ourselves, there is a decision that each must make that so far outweighs any present political decision that it makes our presidential choices seem almost insignificant.
The greater decision is not the kind of country we wish to live in, but the kind of creation. Do you wish to live in an eternity where wickedness and evil are unrestrained, where there is no such thing as grace and mercy? The Bible describes this existence as one of fire and brimstone. I do not know if this is a literal fire and brimstone or not, but it is written in this way to illustrate the extreme suffering that all will endure.
The wickedness of that place is merely the end results of the rebellion against the Creator. Satan may have begun this rebellion here on earth by telling Adam and Eve that “they would be like God,” but this lie started the human race down a path that will finally end in deep and total suffering.
And the lie continues. People still think that they can be their own masters. Each who persists in this lie will eventually see the truth, but by then, it will be too late. The time for repentance and renewal with God will be over.
Realize that your choice in this matter is actually the only truly important decision that you will ever make. If you have not yet done so, look honestly at your life’s goal and direction, repent of your thoughts that centered only upon yourself. We often do not think of this as rebellion against God, but that is essentially what it is. In whatever way we see ourselves as masters of our own lives, we are refusing to give to God the Lordship of His creation.
Here are some other words written by John the apostle:
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9)