…for the gentle (meek) ‘shall inherit the earth.’  In the end times: What earth?

Today I am doing more experimental theology.  

The theme is about the future theatre in the eschaton (end times) what type of earth we are going to inherit as believers.  It is not a clear and cut topic.  Namely over the years some scriptures have actually confused me.  An example of this is the Lord Jesus in the Beatitudes said the ‘The meek (gentle shall inherit the earth)’.

On the other hand, there is a Scripture that says the earth is going to be destroyed with fire (2 Peter 3 10).  Where do I start?

On top of this:

  • Some scholars say this world will continue the way it is (evolutionists)
  • Other theologians say this present earth will be destroyed and a new heaven and a new earth will come down
  • Bavinck says the truth lies between these two points.

For me this is an experimental line of inquiry and I believe Herman Bavinck will help me get to the truth.   

Before I even start, I think we need to remind ourselves that:

  1. When God created the heavens and the earth (It was good).  At this stage before sin entered into the world everything was good.  The material universe was ‘good’
  2. There was a Fall Adam sinned.  Adam’s sin not only affected the human race, but it also brought a Fall to the human creation (and the universe)
  3. Regeneration of the human race happened through Christ.
  4. Where does this leave the earth, the theatre in which humans live their life; the earth’s habitats, its animals that Adam was supposed to take care of, our pet rabbit Leo!

The fact is that in theology without realizing it perhaps there has been some gnostic influence that see creation (the material universe as bad!).  Is God a liar?

No! God is not a liar; so perhaps we need to think about the regeneration of the world in some way.   Does the Bible talk in anyway that the world would be regenerated or ‘born again’ Anyone who has pets must also wonder where their pets fit in this grand scheme of things.

There is also another problem that having a negative view of the material universe means that for many people the importance of saving this planet ends up on the backburner (This is a mistake). 

We will be looking at Reformed Dogmatics; by Herman Bavinck; translated by John Vriend; edited by John Bolt; pages 715- 724; printed by Baker Academic.

Creation’s renewal

After the Last Judgement and the banishment of the wicked from the world then creation will be renewed.

There will be many signs before the Judgement. Here are some references:

“29 “But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Matthew 24:29”

“10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 2 Peter 3:10”

“13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:13”

“1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. Revelation 21:1”

Here we can see very harsh things being said about the world, destruction and fire. Bavinck goes into this a little later on so we will also wait before doing exegesis on Peters text.  On the one hand our Lord says that we will inherit the earth but on the other hand Peter talks about the destructive use of fire on the elements.  There are no contradistinctions although our understanding of the issues have now become rather fuzzy!

Concerning the regeneration of the world there are various standpoints.  As Bavinck writes:

“In this expectation of world renewal, Scripture assumes a position between two extremes. On the one hand, many thinkers—Plato, Aristotle, Xenophanes, Philo, Maimonides, Averroes, Wolanus, La Peyreére, Edelmann, and Czolbe among them— have asserted that this world is destined to continue in its present form forever. On the other hand, Origen, the Lutherans, the Mennonites, the Socinians, Vorstius, the Remonstrants, and a number of Reformed theologians like Beza, Rivetus, Junius, Wollebius, and Prideaux believed that the world would not only be changed in form but also destroyed in substance and replaced by a totally new world.”

Within many Christians there is a popular notion nowadays that this present world will be destroyed (annihilated).  For me this view does not hold any water.  It is interesting that when God put Adam in the Garden of Eden there were two trees.  There is continuity with the Garden of Eden with the tree of life (found in Genesis and Revelations) being mentioned again:

“And he showed me a river of the water of life, [a]clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of [b]the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve [c]kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” 

We can also think about the creation as good.  There is continuation between Genesis and Revelations not complete annihilation.

Bavincks view is that this annihalation is not Scrptural and on the surface the ones that look like complete destruction are not.  He gives us the following references:

“26 “Even they will perish, but You endure;

And all of them will wear out like a garment;

Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. Psalms 102:26”

“4 And all the host of heaven will wear away,

And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll;

All their hosts will also wither away

As a leaf withers from the vine,

Or as one withers from the fig tree. Isaiah 34:4”

“6 “Lift up your eyes to the sky,

Then look to the earth beneath;

For the sky will vanish like smoke,

And the earth will wear out like a garment

And its inhabitants will die in like manner;

But My salvation will be forever,

And My righteousness will not wane. Isaiah 51:6”

“16 I have put My words in your mouth and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’” Isaiah 51:16”

17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;

And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. Isaiah 65:17”

“22 “For just as the new heavens and the new earth

Which I make will endure before Me,” declares the LORD,

“So your offspring and your name will endure. Isaiah 66:22”

Concerning the above passages Bavinck says that” In the first place, the description given in these passages is much too rich in imagery for us to infer from them a reduction to nothing (reductio ad nihilum) of the entire world,”(page 716)

These are some important points but then he also takes us into some key Hebrew words and how they ought to be interpreted.

The Hebrew word ‘abad’ the ‘perishing’ of ‘heaven and earth’:

“…the entire world, Further, the perishing (abad) of heaven and earth (Ps. 102:26), is explained by the fact that they will wear out like a garment, be changed like clothing, wither like a leaf, or vanish like smoke (Ps. 102:26; Isa. 34:4; 51:6)”

Bavinck then looks at the verb ‘to create’ ‘bara’:

“’[Bara’]… certainly does not always mean creating something out of nothing but frequently denotes a divine activity by which God brings forth something new from the old (Isa. 41:20; 43:7; 54:16; 57:18).”:

e.g:

“20 That they may see and recognize,

And consider and gain insight as well,

That the hand of the LORD has done this,

And the Holy One of Israel has created it. “Isaiah 41:20

“7 Everyone who is called by My name,

And whom I have created for My glory,

Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” Isaiah 43:7”

“16 “Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals

And brings out a weapon for its work;

And I have created the destroyer to ruin. Isaiah 54:16”

So then he finishes off in the Old Testament by saying bara is used in various contexts such as

  • Planting
  • Laying foundations
  • Making

Before we move in to the New Testament we need to say that there are certain premises we need to remember.  The main Scripture the Apostles and early Christians used was the Old Testament and a lot of the time it was the Septuagint (LXX in Greek).  The Apostles did not have a New Testament at hand to use.  The Apostles interpreted the Old Testament by the help of the Holy Spirit and the reason God had given them. 

To sum up there is continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and this is why in later centuries Marcion was seen as a heretic because he wanted to throw the Old Testament away!  The key word here is ‘continuity’

On page 717 Bavinck goes through some verses that prove:

“Accordingly, with reference to the passing of the present world, we must no more think of a destruction of substance than [we would] with regard to the passing of the earlier world in the flood. Fire burns, cleanses, purifies, but does not destroy.” From page 717

So let us look at some of these references:

18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Matthew 5:18

35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. Matthew 24:35

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 2 Peter 3:10

17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:17

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. Revelation 21:1

In verse 11:

A perishing like an old garment

11 THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN;

AND THEY ALL WILL BECOME OLD LIKE A GARMENT, Hebrews 1:11

In verse 10 below

  • Destroyed = perhaps the word dissolve is a better translation than destroyed:
  • Burned as the word ‘up’ is not in the Greek.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 2 Peter 3:10

Note; λύω luō ; a prim. vb.; to loose, to release, to dissolve

Verse 12 below

‘changed’

12 AND LIKE A MANTLE YOU WILL ROLL THEM UP;

LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL ALSO BE CHANGED.

BUT YOU ARE THE SAME,

AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.” Hebrews 1:12

His conclusions for this section are:

“Only such a renewal of the world, for that matter, accords with what Scripture teaches about redemption. For the latter is never a second, brand-new creation but a re-creation of the existing world. God’s honour consists precisely in the fact that he redeems and renews the same humanity, the same world, the same heaven, and the same earth that have been corrupted and polluted by sin. Just as anyone in Christ is a new creation in whom the old has passed away and everything has become new (2 Cor. 5:17), so also this world passes away in its present form as well, in order out of its womb, at God’s word of power, to give birth and being to a new world. Just as in the case of an individual human being, so at the end of time a rebirth of the world will take place as well (Matt. 19:28). This constitutes a spiritual renewal, not a physical creation” page 717

He has a lot more to say, but “…Still these comments do not do complete justice to the New Testament hope of future blessedness” (page 718)

Reflection

The aim of today was to think about the world we are to inherit as Jesus said.  I am not saying this is the only way to interpret the text, but Bavinck has certainly convinced me that it is.   Even as believers are renewed ‘born again’, the earth itself will be renewed and it is in that new earth that we inherit.   Humanity a lot of the time want to be like God! They are not. Many wars have been fought over the centuries and billions of lives have been lost. Today the theatre (world) in which people live out their personal stories is in danger of destruction. Will we ever learn that:

The way of love is better than the way of pride and selfish motivations. Although humanity is guilty of the greatest sin (Turning their back on God and making themselves to be gods). God did not give up on humanity but even in the garden God gave humans skins to Adam and Eve to wear. Since then God has worked through history and sent his Only Begotten Son to die on a cross as a way to bring salvation to us. The root cause of destruction on this planet is the human race but through Christ this is being rectified.

2 Responses to “…for the gentle (meek) ‘shall inherit the earth.’  In the end times: What earth?”

  1. smargaretcynthiayahoocom Says:

    Thanks Hasan. Food for thought! I`ve wondered about those scriptures as well.

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