What is salvation?
In my first post in this series I proposed the below chart as a way of answering that important question. In this post I will comment on the ninth sector (9).
|Personal||Forgiveness of Sins and Relationship with God (1)||Moral (Inner and Outer) Transformation (2)||Resurrection of the Body (3)|
|Communal||One Body of Christ: One New Society (4)||Reconciliation and Social Transformation (5)||The Fullness of the Kingdom of God (6)|
|Cosmic||Resurrection and Exaltation of Jesus (7)||Redemptive Emergence of New Creation (8)||New Heaven and New Earth (9)|
Sector 9 identifies salvation as the liberation of the comos from its bondage to decay and destruction. The whole cosmos groans, along with humanity, for relief from the frustration to which the world has been subjected. God saves the comos by renewing it, by ushering in new heavens and a new earth.
The root of this expection is the promise to Abraham. The land, the whole world, is the inheritance of Israel. The creation belongs to the Son of David, the Son of God. As co-heirs with Jesus, we, too, are heirs of the world.
Too often Christians have thought they must escape the creation and fly away to glory in heaven. If, of course, one means that they want to escape the “present evil age” or escape the decaying, destructive powers of death, then I understand their meaning. I, too, want to escape that. But the biblical story is not about escape but redemption. The picture drawn in Revelation in 21 is that heaven will come down to earth. Then the whole earth will be filled with the glory of God. Heaven will be on earth as heaven and earth are one.
That union of heaven and earth–the union of the dwelling of God with the dwelling of humanity within the creation–is the moment when the glory of God will fill the earth. Everything within it will be called “holy” and the earth will know the righteousness, justice and peace of the fullness of the kingdom of God.
This was the hope of Israel. They yearned for a time of peace and justice, of righteousness and love (hesed). They hoped for a time when the lion and the lamb would lie down together. They expected a time when all the nations would bow before Yahweh. They trusted that God would reign fully in his earth. These are the promises and prophecies that will be fulfilled when God renews the heavens and the earth and comes to dwell with the heirs of the promise.
The goal (telos) of the creation is not annihilation, but redemption. For some God created materiality in order to ultimately destroy it. In this view God created materiality as some sort of probationary period to prepare people for lliving as purely spiritual beings. Humans, then, reach their goal in spiritual existence without materiality. Consequently, at some point, creation itself will not only be unnecessary but inherently inferior, a lower level of existence.
But this is not the Biblical story that I read. God created the cosmos in which to rest, delight in, and enjoy. He did not create it to snuff it out of existence. Though subjected to frustration, God will redeem it and the resurrected saints will enjoy the harmony, peace and wholeness of both creation and community as they bask in the love of God. Resurrected saints need a resurrected (renew) cosmos in which to dwell with God.
I do not know what that will look like. I’m not sure what resurrected bodies will feel like and look like. I don’t know all that a renewed creation will be or become. But I do think there will be substantial continuity between what is and what will be just as there is continuity between our present bodies and our resurrected ones. Just as God will redeem our bodies, so he will redeem creation.