New Creation: A Theological Summary

“There is the earnest preaching of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come; the development of the guilt of man, the grace of God, the love of Christ, the mystery of the Cross, sin pardoning mercy, adoption into the family of God, with the unction of the hope of the resurrection to everlasting life, of the new earth and the new heavens, &c., &c. These are the soul-stirring, the soul-subduing, the soul-transforming themes of the gospel of the grace of God.”[1]

Alexander Campbell (1865)

Eschatology, epitomized in the idea of “new creation,” is not so much about what happens last and the order in which it happens as much as it is about the future that is already present and at work in the world.

Creation is good, but new creation is better. The creation, though it retains its inherent goodness, is presently frustrated because it is bound over to corruption. It awaits something better; it awaits a glorious liberation. The present bondage will pass away even as the creation itself is gloriously transfigured when the new heavens and new earth appear.

As the present form of the world is even now passing away, the new creation is already present. The children of God experience the first fruits of the new creation through the presence of the Spirit who transforms them from glory to glory. By this the children of God are new creatures renewed in the image of their Creator. Yet the children of God, along with the creation itself, groan for full adoption through the redemption of their bodies. This new humanity, already present by the Spirit through sanctification, will fully appear in the resurrection.

New humanity is grounded in the new human, Jesus the Messiah. The glorified Lord is new creation. He reversed the curse under which creation groans as the kingdom broke into the world through his ministry in the power of the Spirit. He transformed death as the firstborn from the dead by the will of the Father. His Adamic body was transformed into a new body animated by the Spirit of God through which the ascended Messiah reigns in the heavenlies. At the right hand of the Father, ever interceding for the people of God, he has poured out the Spirit upon the church in order to transform them into new community, a new creation. Jesus, as glorified human, will return to redeem humanity and inaugurate the new heavens and new earth so that the glory of the God may fill the creation.

This new humanity embodied in Jesus is the ground of new creation. That new life is our life. Jesus’ new creation kingdom ministry is our ministry. The second Adam’s life-giving body is our future body. Just as the old Adamic life passed away in the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus, so our lives—inwardly renewed and outwardly redeemed—participate in the new life revealed in the new humanity of the ascended Lord. Just as our old Adamic life is transformed into a new and glorious freedom, so the creation itself will share in the joy of the children of God.

This story—the movement from the old age to the new age—is pregnant with meaning for church, ministry, and life. As new creatures, we live by the ethic of the new creation. As people translated into the kingdom of God, we live as if the kingdom of God has already come. Anticipating the renewal of creation, we pursue environmental care. We embrace the vision, ethic, and mission of the new creation embodied in the incarnation, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus the Messiah.

This year Harding School of Theology will explore the significant themes, implications, and applications of “new creation” through chapel and special events throughout this academic year. The richness, depth, and visionary importance of this theme define Christianity.

This piece was authored for HST’s Bridge (Summer 2013).


[1] Alexander Campbell, “Orthodox Regeneration,” Millennial Harbinger 4th Series, 5 (September 1865) 494.



4 Responses to “New Creation: A Theological Summary”

  1.   tom mclure Says:

    The chorus to a song we sing at church:

    “We’re living the life of the future;
    a gift from the heart of the Father:
    The Spirit providing the power
    to walk in the steps of the Savior.
    We’re living the life of the Kingdom of God
    The Future has already come
    We’re living by faith in the Father, the Spirit, the Son”

  2. Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Thanks, Tom. That is quite meaningful and on target. Eschatologically astute!

  3.   Darrell Ray Says:

    I have often reflected on this idea, which I believe to be well supported by scripture. One of the most beautiful expressions of the concept, I believe, is from C.S. Lewis’ “Miracles.” As one of those most curious of specimens, a scientist who appreciates and studies theology, I have reread and often quoted from this passage:

    “…only Supernaturalists really see Nature. You must go a little away from her, and then turn round, and look back. Then at last the true landscape will become visible. You must have tasted, however briefly, the pure water from beyond the world before you can be distinctly conscious of the hot, salty tang of Nature’s current. To treat her as God, or as Everything, is to lose the whole pith and pleasure of her. Come out, look back, and then you will see… the astonishing cataract of bears, babies, and bananas: this immoderate deluge of atoms, orchids, oranges, cancers, canaries, fleas, gases, tornadoes and toads. How could you have ever thought this was the ultimate reality? How could you ever have thought it was merely a stage-set for the moral drama of men and women. She is herself. Offer her neither worship nor contempt. Meet her and know her. If we are immortal, and if she is doomed (as the scientists tell us) to run down and die, we shall miss this half-shy and half-flamboyant creature, this ogress, this hoyden, this incorrigible fairy, this dumb witch. But the theologians tell us that she, like ourselves, is to be redeemed. The “vanity” to which she was subjected was her disease, not her essence. She will be cured, but cured in character: not tamed (Heaven forbid) nor sterilised. We shall still be able to recognise our old enemy, friend, playfellow and foster-mother, so perfected as to be not less, but more, herself. And that will be a merry meeting.” – C.S. Lewis, Miracles

    I am particularly intrigued by the comment about pursuing environmental care. A number of years ago, I responded to a letter in the now defunct Nashville Banner, where a well-meaning and deeply religious lady had dismissed those “tree-huggers,” arguing that we cannot harm creation since Genesis 1.28 gives us a divine mandate to have dominion over creation. I suggested that the implication of stewardship in 2.15 was the intent, that mankind was expected to take care of the creation.

    About that same time, I was teaching Environmental Science as an adjunct at the Harpeth Hall School, and we studied a unit on how different cultures see their place in nature based on their culture’s creation stories. As we considered the Judeo-Christian story, I asked my class if there was conflict between Genesis 1.28 and the comment in Genesis 2.15 that the man was placed in the garden to tend it and care for it. One young lady quickly responded, “The first verse says what to do, and the second one says how to do it.” I had never heard anything so wise from anyone before on this topic. I still relate the story every time I discuss the concept of environmental stewardship in my classes.

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