Creation 2.0: Simply Christian

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense is a marvelous book by N. T. Wright. He introduces the idea that the Bible can be read as God’s work to unite heaven and earth.

In Eden, the two were very close together indeed — so close that God himself walked among men and that death itself was banished from the Garden.

But sin entered the world and not only separated God from man, it separated heaven from earth.

Much later, we read of God walking the earth and speaking to Abraham. There was something going on — something about God’s purposes and Abraham’s faith — that briefly brought God and man closer, but not close enough.

When Israel was in the wilderness, God appeared on the top of Mt. Sinai as a thundering, consuming fire. He spoke to Moses face to face — and for a few days, a bit of heaven touched earth.

God made a covenant with Israel, and celebrated it by briefly uniting heaven and earth –

(Exo 24:9-11 ESV) 9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up,  10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.  11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.

Soon thereafter, God had Israel build a tabernacle for him, in which he would dwell –

(Exo 25:8 ESV)  8 And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.

(Exo 29:43-46 ESV)  43 There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory.  44 I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests.  45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God.  46 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.

In a beautiful piece of narration, Moses concludes the book of Exodus with these words –

(Exo 40:33-38 ESV)  33 And he erected the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work.  34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  35 And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  36 Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out.  37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up.  38 For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.

The book ends, not with the Promised Land, but with God dwelling among the people and guiding them. And, after all, isn’t that really enough?

God, you see, joined heaven and earth in the Holy of Holies. His throne was above the ark of the covenant, a place called the mercy seat. God simultaneously sat enthroned in heaven and on the mercy seat. But there’s no reason to insist that these were two different places.

You see, heaven is not far away. Rather, as C. S. Lewis pictures it in the Chronicles of Narnia, heaven is a step away, but it’s a step we normally cannot see to take. Occasionally, however, God removes the separation.

When Solomon built the Temple, God’s presence moved from the tabernacle to Jerusalem. Later, the prophets spoke of a new heavens and new earth –

(Isa 65:17-25 ESV)  17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.  18 But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.  19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. … 24 Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear25 The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.

You can’t miss the reference to Genesis 1:1. Isaiah promises a day when God will re-create the heavens and the earth, and one feature of this new creation will be the closeness of God to his people.

(Isa 66:18-23 ESV)  18 “For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory,  19 and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations.  20 And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the LORD, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the LORD, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD.  21 And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the LORD22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain.  23 From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD.

Another feature of this new creation is that all nations will be brought in to worship at the New Jerusalem.

When Jesus walked the earth, heaven and earth were again drawn very close together.

At his baptism, the wall between heaven and earth was torn open so God could announce to the world who Jesus is.

At the Transfiguration, heaven and earth were so close that the glory of heaven shown through the fabric of the Creation. The glory of God could scarcely be held back by the darkness of this world.

(Mat 17:2-3 NAS) 2 And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.  3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.

Then, at the cross, it happened again, but in a very different way. God saw that heaven and earth were too far apart. The price to move heaven to earth was the life of God himself — God the Son.

And when heaven touched earth, some amazing things occurred. The Son, who’d been flesh and blood and who’d died, was resurrected. Others had been brought back to life before him. Just a few. But none were resurrected. The few who’d preceded the Son arose from the earth as flesh and blood, only to die again. But the Son arose with a new, heavenly body. Well, this only makes sense. Heaven and earth were touching.

In fact, when heaven touched the earth, it also touched some other tombs, and other men and women long dead walked the earth in their heavenly bodies, too. And this only makes sense, heaven and earth were touching.

And the veil that hid the sight of God’s dwelling in the temple was torn, opening God’s dwelling for all to see. But this only makes sense. God’s real dwelling was already present on earth. He didn’t need two. You see, heaven and earth were touching.

And the sun was darkened. There was no eclipse. There were no clouds. Yet this only makes sense. There’s no need for the sun in heaven. Heaven and earth were touching.

And he ascended, to be transported from earth to heaven, not through outer space but by taking that step toward God.

The church assembled is another place where heaven and earth are joined. Jesus is present both there and in heaven. The Spirit is brought to a heightened glory because so many Spirit-filled people are joined in communion and worship.

Finally, at the end of time, heaven and earth will be fully joined –

(Rev 21:1-5 NAS) And 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.  2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.  3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them,  4 and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”  5 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.”

Heaven will come down to be one with the earth. God’s people won’t be transported to heaven, far, far away from God’s creation. Rather, God’s creation will be perfected, restored, and renewed by joining heaven and earth.

(Rev 21:22-24 NAS)  22 And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple.  23 And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.  24 And the nations shall walk by its light, and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it.

And the joining of heaven and earth — the restoration of Eden, except better — will allow God and Jesus to be the temple. That is, rather than going to the Temple to find God, we will go to God himself.

And then, at last, God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

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7 Responses to Creation 2.0: Simply Christian

  1. John says:

    Jay said, “Heaven will come down to be one with the earth. God’s people won’t be transported to heaven, far, far away from God’s creation. Rather, God’s creation will be perfected, restored, and renewed by joining heaven and earth”.

    Exactly Paul’s teaching in Romans 8 when he said “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God”. Which is also what he meant in 1 Cor.13:10 when he said “..when the perfect comes the imperfect will disappear”. I realize that many CoC members still believe that “the perfect” in 1 Cor13:10 means the completed canon of scripture. But, as I once heard it put, “you can’t pry the finished canon out of that verse with a crow bar. Why? Because it isn’t there”.

    Some then will protest and ask, “Then how do we deal with the spiritual gifts and miracles that we all believed to have ended when the last verse of scripture was written?” Well, each Christian is going to have to answer that question for his or her self. In the mean time, I believe each day is a miracle full of miracles leading us on to the time when all are perfected in Christ.

  2. Price says:

    Is the Unity of God and Man not already begun? Eph 1:13(b)-14 “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

  3. Jerry says:

    Consider also:

    …making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:9-10, ESV)

    [E]ven when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:5-6, ESV)

    The Scriptures are full of such references when we open our eyes to see them.

  4. rich constant says:

    jay thanks for writing these last few …
    really what is the gospel ?
    funny thing ask 5 people you get 5 answers all skewed off center
    it would seem to me to answer that question properly
    i would have to understand THE WHY AND HOW OF Gods TELOS
    understanding so to speak,
    why and how God is truly righteous , not just how it is brought about in the Christ.

    3:2 Actually, there are many advantages.1 First of all,2 the Jews3 were entrusted with the oracles of God.4 3:3 What then? If some did not believe, does their unbelief nullify the faithfulness of God? 3:4 Absolutely not! Let God be proven true, and every human being5 shown up as a liar, just as it is written: “so that you will be justified7 in your words and will prevail when you are judged.”

    3:5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is he?. (I am speaking in human terms.). 3:6 Absolutely not! For otherwise how could God judge the world? 3:7 For if by my lie the truth of God enhances his glory, why am I still actually being judged as a sinner?

    3:20 For no one is declared righteous before him23 by the works of the law,24 for through the law comes25 the knowledge of sin. 3:21 But now26 apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets)27 has been disclosed –

  5. rich constant says:

    also (sorry)
    god THE TRINITY
    when incorporating free will
    had to ask the question WHAT IF
    AND SO
    THE SCHEME OF REDEMPTION BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.
    Which i would say Calvin couldn’t wrap his head around thus the use of the elect.
    and Luther couldn’t get to Gods intrinsic righteousness and subjective genitive of faith in
    ROM 3:22
    witch brought about an anthropocentric understanding of the gospel
    and how my faith works to save me….
    “sinners prayer” i think that’s what it is called ?

  6. Larry Cheek says:

    Rich:
    It sounds like you do understand that the “sinners prayer” cannot accomplish that by its self. That is great!

  7. Neal Roe says:

    It is tough to get this level of reverance and communion when our worship consists of three songs, prayer, song to prepare our minds for communion, two prayers with trays, song to seperate the offering, standing and singing before the lesson, the sermon with football references, an invitation, announcements and closing prayer. By the way, be back a the next appointed time.

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