I have posted on Revelation 21 and Galatians over previous days and in those chapters we have the phrases ‘I saw a new heaven and a new earth’ indicating the renewal of creation in totality, and Paul’s stark statement that ‘new creation’ swallows up all other (old) distinctions. All of this is tied of course to Jesus who is the firstborn of all creation; the one who in his resurrection gives us a hope for the future: our resurrection and the renewal of all things (could be translated as the ‘re-genesis’ of all things, the rebirth, re-start of all things – Matt. 19:28).
A future reality? What is the process to get to that future reality? The second question is not easy to say; my conservative nature means we await the parousia in a fairly classic sense: those who have died in Christ return with him (all the language used is the language of the then current empire and all the activity of the Emperor visiting the city is parallel, where he would come with his own into the city for the imperial visitation). Perhaps like those of the OT era who were waiting expectantly a coming Messiah we will get a lot of surprises. However, the easiest way I have found to tie it all together is that we are supplying the material (every cup of cold water given to big wonderful acts of kindness / creation investment) for the age to come.
John saw the whole of creation renewed; Paul says in Galatians:
For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything, but a new creation is everything! (Gal.6:15).
That last phrase is somewhat abrupt, with it being simply: ‘but new creation‘. In contrast to that basic divide between covenant people and non-covenant people, Paul simply says (I imagine him with a megaphone), BUT NEW CREATION!!! That statement changes everything, every human relationship, every value system. Everything is redefined.
It is the same phraseology in 2 Cor. 5:16, 17:
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we no longer know him in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; look, new things have come into being!
Again ever so succinct – if anyone is in Christ, NEW CREATION, with the next part could equally be translated as ‘everything from a former era has passed away’.
I think the megaphone concept works well. The contrast is so great that there is a dramtic before and after. It is the same shock as we get when we read Rev. 21 about the new heavens and the new earth. Same shock and with John we might be able to simply say ‘future… and until then nothing really is different’, but Paul does not let us make that mistake. It is NOW. The only qualification is that we are ‘in Christ’.
It is that location that affects our sight. How we see ‘everyone’. All are called and invited to live in the new creation where we all make a contribution to the future where there is no more sorrow, tears, indeed no more death.
It does not mean we cover our eyes to what is damaging (there is enough of Paul in the various letters where he confronts all damaging behaviour), but the reason for confronting is that the contribution to the fulfilment and appearing of that new creation is hindered every time we fail to live out our lives humanly (this I think gets to the heart of ‘sin’, to fall short of the glory of God). We are not blind to issues but we see through eyes that, in the words of one who has already made a contribution to the future, ‘I have a dream’.
When teaching on the prophetic I like to describe the seeing aspect as being similar to driving a car where one can see the outside physical world, but if there was a piece of paper on the dashboard and the light comes in a certain way one can also see the distracting piece of paper. If driving best not to look at the piece of paper, or to remove it! If prophesying it is best to focus on the piece of paper. Two realities vying for focus. That is the reality Paul writes about. He is well aware of over-realized eschatology that denies living in a fallen creation, but that awareness is placed in the context of ‘new creation’.
Sight. ‘What do you see?’, is a question God asks, e.g., Amos or Jeremiah; one that Jesus asked of Simon the Pharisee.
It is one that we also have to respond to. It is that sight that motivates us in our relationships and causes people to work for the renewal of creation. Ecological problems do not exist in the new creation, and if ‘new creation’ is here…