We’ve explored the resurrection of the body in part 1. We also explored the renewal of “the creation itself” (Romans 8), which follows us in Jesus’s promise to “make all things new” (Revelation 22).
In part 3, releasing later today, we take this same biblical logic—of continuity and renewal—and apply this to human culture and storytelling.
Epic Resurrection series
We explore these seven questions:
- Why did God give us the gift of making culture (including stories and art)?
- After humans turned evil, why did they still go on making things?
- When Jesus redeems us, how does this change the stuff we make?
- What about stories made by nonbelievers?
- Will God let us go on enjoying culture forever in the new creation?
- Does this mean great human works will last forever in some way?
- Finally, what about Christian-made stories made for God’s glory?
For this series, we drew on biblical texts and the biblical teaching of several solid, conservative Christian pastors and teachers.
You can get the complete show notes here.
Below, however, I’m copying several resources, including a few we didn’t directly quote in the episode.
From this sermon by John Piper (later edited for his book Future Grace):
… When Revelation 21:1 and 2 Peter 3:10 say that the present earth and heavens will “pass away,” it does not have to mean that they go out of existence, but may mean that there will be such a change in them that their present condition passes away. We might say, “The caterpillar will pass away and the butterfly emerges.” There is a real passing away and there is a real continuity, a real connection. Or we might say, “The tadpole passes away and the frog appears.”
And when 2 Peter 3 says that this heaven and earth will be “destroyed,” it does not have to mean entirely “put out of existence.” We might say, “The flood destroyed many farms.” But we don’t mean that they vanished out of existence. We might say that the immediate surroundings of Mt. St. Helens were destroyed. But anyone who goes there now and sees the new growth would know that “destroy” did not mean put out of existence.
And so what Peter may well mean is that at the end of this age there will be cataclysmic events that bring this age and this world to an end as we know it — not putting it out of existence, but wiping out all that is evil and cleansing it, as it were, by fire and fitting it for an age of glory and righteousness and peace that will never end.
Well, it may mean that. But does it really mean that?
There is no reason to believe that the cultural dimension of earthly reality (except insofar as they are involved in sin) will be absent from the new, glorified earth that is promised. In fact, the biblical indications point in the opposite direction. Describing the new earth and the new Jerusalem, John writes that “the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. . . . The glory and the honor of the nations will be brought into it” (Rev. 21:24, 26). This very likely refers to the cultural treasures of mankind will be purified [sic] by passing through the fires of judgment, like gold in a crucible.
… In light of what we have been saying about the earthly creation and man’s task of subduing and developing it, those purified works on the earth must surely include the products of human culture. There is no reason to doubt that they will be transfigured and transformed by their liberation from the curse, but they will be in essential continuity with our experience now—just as our resurrected bodies, though glorified, will still be bodies.
From Heaven by Randy Alcorn (partly quoted at this blog)
Scripture says that the fire of God’s judgment will destroy “wood, hay or straw,” yet it will purify “gold, silver, [and] costly stones,” which will all survive the fire and be carried over into the new universe (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). Similarly, the apostle John notes that when believers die, what they have done on Earth to Christ’s glory “will follow them” into Heaven (Revelation 14:13). These are earthly things that will outlast the present Earth. . . .
As we have seen in a number of passages that use words such as renewal and regeneration, the same Earth destined for destruction is also destined for restoration. Many have grasped the first teaching but not the second. Therefore, they misinterpret words such as destroy to mean absolute or final destruction, rather than what Scripture actually teaches: a temporary destruction that is reversed through resurrection and restoration. . . .
Books are part of culture. I expect many new books, great books, will be written on the New Earth. But I also believe that some books will endure from the old Earth. Any book that contains falsehood and dishonors God will have no place in Heaven. But what about great books, nonfiction and fiction? Will we find A. W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy, J. I. Packer’s Knowing God, John Piper’s Desiring God, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, and Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps on the New Earth? I’ll be amazed if we don’t find them there, just as I’ll be amazed if no one sings John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” in Heaven.
Perhaps those of us who are writers will go back to some of our published works and rewrite them in light of the perspective we’ll gain. Maybe we’ll look at our other books and realize they’re no longer important—and some of them never were. The New Earth, I think, will confirm many things I’ve written in this book. It will completely dismantle others. “What was I thinking?” I’ll ask myself. (If I knew which parts those were right now, I’d cut them out!) And I’ll marvel at how much better the New Earth is than I ever imagined.
From The Pop Culture Parent (releasing Sept. 7, 2020, co-authored by Stephen)
Scripture never indicates human progress will be lost or “reset” after King Jesus renews all creation. Wheels will still be wheels, and we needn’t reinvent them. Music scales and mathematics are part of this universe’s unchanging laws. The “hero’s journey” will still be a basis of many stories. Thus, if we have no reason to suspect our genres and styles will be reset, we also have no reason to suspect we would disregard specific and good creative works that glorify God. Sure, J. R. R. Tolkien may create even better Middle-earth tales. But surely we will always remember his first stories of Beleriand, the Elves, and the hobbits. . . .
Lest this seem crazy, remember that even the most flawed human still dimly reflects God’s image. Similarly, a flawed story, song, or game reflects the glory of God, albeit with a faded and distorted image. How much more clearly will our glorified eyes see this reflected glory shining in manmade things! After all, if we see a reminder of sin today, this doesn’t make us sin today. We only fall into sin when our own idolatry latches on to these depictions. But in eternity’s tomorrow, those idols and twisted desires will be no more. We will be literally incorruptible.
Finally, a fictional reminder from C. S. Lewis:
[Lucy] looked harder and saw that it was not a cloud at all but a real land. And when she had fixed her eyes on one particular spot of it, she at once cried out, “Peter! Edmund! Come and look! Come quickly.” And they came and looked, for their eyes had also become like hers.
“Why!” exclaimed Peter. “It’s England. And that’s the house itself—Professor Kirk’s old home in the country where all our adventures began.”
“I thought that house had been destroyed,” said Edmund.
“So it was,” said the Faun. “But you are now looking at the England within England, the real England just as this is the real Narnia. And in that inner England no good thing is destroyed.”
—C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle, page 208
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!