A New Creation
Director James Cameron’s titanic blockbuster Avatar was released on DVD yesterday in conjunction with Earth Day. With a worldwide gross over $2.5 billion, Avatar topped the all-time box office charts and the film’s surreal setting made for intriguing headlines.
Avatar “may have been a little too real for some fans who say they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora,” CNN.com reported in January. They labeled this phenomenon “Avatar blues.”
In an online article, Reasons To Believe founder and astronomer Hugh Ross offered this take on the film and its downer side effects, “Avatar’s portrayal of Pandora...appeals powerfully to the universal human longing for a perfect world.” Such longing sometimes makes us critical of the conditions on our own planet.
In his book Why the Universe Is the Way It Is Hugh notes that people who “complain that an all-loving, all-powerful, all-wise God would have done a much better job of creation” often operate under two faulty assumptions: (1) God created this world solely for the comfort and pleasure of humans; and (2) there is nothing beyond the present cosmos.
Yet, as Hugh points out in his Avatar article, The eventual end of our cosmic existence does not mean, however, that we are without any hope, purpose, or destiny. The Bible declares that a moment is coming when the Creator will remove the current universe from existence and replace it with a brand new creation.
Hope, Purpose, and Destiny
God’s promise of eternal life in a new, perfect creation for those who accept Christ’s atoning sacrifice on their behalf comes with a rock-solid assurance not provided by the “afterlife” solutions proposed by other religions. The apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:38–39,
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
As further reassurance of God’s faithfulness, Christ sends the Holy Spirit to indwell believers as a sort of spiritual down payment.
But what does this future into which Christians put so much hope look like? Many people envision Heaven as a boring cloud world where the redeemed do nothing but pluck harps all day, every day, for-e-ver. (This was the picture I had in my head until I read Heaven by Randy Alcorn.)
Fortunately, this yawn-inducing scenario is not what awaits us. Although the Bible tells us no one can fully comprehend or imagine how fantastic Heaven will be, Scripture does give us a glimpse into life in the new creation. For example:
- The Book of Revelation describes the New Jerusalem as a massive city made of gold, jewels, and pearls from which God will personally rule over the new world.
- Jesus frequently compares the inauguration of Heaven to a wedding feast or royal banquet—that means festivity and fun!
- In 1 Corinthians 6:2–3, Paul indicates that we will hold positions of authority over the angels, meaning we will have plenty to do besides play harps.
- Best of all, Revelation 21:4 declares God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
This future in the new creation sheds light on the purpose for our experiences here on Earth. The present creation fulfills multiple purposes for God, among them: the display of God’s goodness and glory, the conquest of evil, the rescue of humans from sin, and the preparation of God’s followers for their roles in the new creation.
Hugh explains the two-creation model this way in Why the Universe Is the Way It Is:
"Christianity’s new creation is a realm far beyond human ability to imagine. And in the current cosmos, God is for humans, not against them. He’s provided for their pleasure and joy and promised to help them cope with life’s challenges, including the effects of sin and evil. In the biblical view, trouble and trials prepare individuals to partake of a kingdom they wouldn’t be equipped for otherwise. Those difficulties are not expressions of a deity’s meanness, nor are they meaningless."
And neither are they without compensation.
Paul puts it this way, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18) because “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
If you thought Pandora was amazing, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Resources: Want a glimpse of Hugh’s popular book Why the Universe Is the Way It Is? Check out the free companion podcast! (Also available via iTunes.)