4/27/2007

The Difference Between “making all things new” and “making all new things.”

NEW – Velvet Jesus, Movement Six

I came to faith in a standard evangelical American church, where the gospel was most often framed in Evangelism Explosion terms, where the question that needs answered is:
“Suppose you were to die today and stand before God and He were to say to you, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?’ what would you say?”

According to this question, the greatest issue of the Christian faith is this: We need to get into heaven.

I affirm that the gospel addresses the afterlife, but I think that we may need to reframe the gospel to reach a new generation of post-Christian and post-modern people. Rob Bell’s term for this is “repainting the Christian faith,” the subtitle of his book, Velvet Elvis.

Maybe instead of focusing in on the benefits of placing our faith in Jesus for the afterlife, we should start talking more about how doing so changes us and our world now.

Maybe we should see heaven and hell here on earth in our present experiences, and be used by God to be transformation agents, shifting the tide from hell toward heaven. Things like 9/11, the Virginia Tech shootings, corporate greed, shady politics, abortions, pandemics, poverty…they all can be seen as hell on earth.

But the Christian community has a prayer to combat this hell on earth. We pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Bell writes,

“Now if there is a life of heaven, and we can choose it, then there’s also another way. A way of living out of sync with how God created us to live. The word for this is hell” a way, a place, a realm absent of how God desire things to be. We can bring heaven to earth; we can bring hell to earth. (p. 147)
“For Jesus, this new kind of life in him is not about escaping this world but making it a better place, here and now. The goal for Jesus isn’t getting into heaven. The goal is to get heaven here.” (p. 148)

We look forward not to a time when we will go up to heaven to be with God; we look forward to the time when God will come down to us and live with us here on earth forever.

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Rev. 21:2-3)

I’ve written about this Reformational worldview a lot here at Vanguard Church. It states that God’s ultimate goal is to restore the Creation. This is why we talk about rebirth, redemption, reconciliation, resurrection, renewel. God is reclaiming his creation, renewing his creation, restoring his creation.

In the end, Jesus does not proclaim that he is starting from scratch to make all new things. No, his proclamation as the Alpha and the Omega is “I am making all things new!” (Rev. 21:5).

He brings to its culmination what he began with his resurrection. The renewal of all things!

Posts in this series: TRUE – Velvet Jesus
TASSELS - Velvet Jesus
NEW – Velvet Jesus

Related:
Is Rob Bell a Godless Man, Condemned by God? Review of John MacArthur's The Truth War


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8 comments:

Ted Gossard said...

Bob, I concur with this strongly. When we speak about "heaven" and "hell" it had better be with reference to life here and now (as well as later) and with reference to God's good creation and the new creation in Christ begun now.

God bless the churches that hang on to the old traditional ways and God uses them, but I would be a thorn in their side if I was with them (over time).

michael said...

I just like the way Bell takes our focus from heaven being the goal to focusing on why we are here, which is to spread the Gospel...that is the goal.

joeldaniel said...

michael...
and that the Gospel is more than a verbose message, but a living, breathing person who leads us into living, not just talking. which is why, then, we get so excited about not only heaven but living now, too.

Doug Jones said...

Salvation is the beginning of a whole new life where God makes all things new... now and for the future. I love that John speaks of eternal life in the present tense... that it begins as we begin to believe and live according to God's plan. This is a needed repainting of our faith in Evangelicalism... were the emphasis on the purpose and benefits of faith in Christ is far to futuristic... may His will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven - open our ears that we may hear.

Nate W said...

Bob, I am enjoying your review of Velvet Elvis. But regarding this last post, although I agree with you, I am wondering how you deal with a text such as 2 Peter 3:10-13. In my opinion, our translations literally imply the heaven and the earth being "destroyed." And further yet, how do we get from NEW heavens and NEW earth to a RENEWED heavens and RENEWED earth?

Again, I believe there is an explanation here, but I am curious as to how you treat these texts.

Peace.

Nate

Brian said...

Bob -

I had my confirmation class discuss this today in the context of message of the Book of Revelation - and then came across your post tonight.

I think this is a message we need to emphasize more because the pop culture idea of the end of the world contributes a lot to our way of life and thinking about how we treat the world today.

Bob Robinson said...

Nate-
Glad you've joined us here in the vanguard!

Your question concerning 2 Peter 3:10-13 is an excellent one.

The context of the passage gives us what we need to in order to understand it. Earlier in this same chapter, Peter writes, “3First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." 5But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

Peter compares the “destruction” in the future to the world’s previous “destruction” by the water of the flood. The question is this: Was the earth literally destroyed in the Flood? The answer is obvious: No. Yet this is the word used. So, what happened? God purified the earth of its sin.

Just as the Great Flood did not wipe out the world but cleansed it of its sin and made it “new,” so the next event must also be primarily concerned with cleansing rather than the annihilation so that the world can be made “new.”

Bob Robinson said...

Nate,

The further thing you ask is also very significant: "how do we get from NEW heavens and NEW earth to a RENEWED heavens and RENEWED earth?"

The Greek word for "new" in these passages is "kainos," not "neos." While there is a significant synonymous overlap between these words in the time of biblical Greek, it should be noted that "neos" means newness that is describing the age of something (as in a young man or new [young] wine). Kairos, while possibly meaning this, has a wider symantic range - it was used prior to biblical times as meaning "that which has not been used."

In other words, kainos does not need to mean "new" as in "brand-spakin' new," or "never existed before." It could also mean, "that which is renewed!" For instance, Jesus gives a "new" (kainos) command in John 13:34 that his disciples should love just as he loved them. But this new command is not brand new, it's been God's command all along (Lev. 19:18, Deut. 6:5). Jesus is renewing the command, yet in the context of the incarnate God, it is said to be "new."