Our Future in the Past

 
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Unless we do something soon, our world is doomed, say scientists and scientific journals. Geoff Garne gives a biblical view of the alternatives.

Man has 100 years left, says top NZ scientist,” the front-page headline of Wellington’s Dominion Post (November 17, 2004) warned. Said the story, “One of New Zealand’s top researchers has used a prestigious award ceremony to warn that humans are on track to extinction by the end of the century.”

Professor Peter Barrett was presented with the Marsden Medal last night for his 40-year contribution to Antarctic research, latterly focusing on climate change,” it continued. “The director of Victoria University’s Wellington Antarctic Research Centre used his acceptance speech to warn that climate change was a major threat to the planet.”

After 40 years, I’m part of a huge community of scientists,” he says, “who have become alarmed with our discovery that … we are facing extinction, not in millions of years or even a millennium, but by the end of this century.

The prestigious and respected National Geographic devoted almost half of its September 2004 issue to a discussion of global warming. “Things that normally happen in geological time are happening during the span of a human lifetime,” it bluntly announced. Realising that this might be confronting and contentious, the editor acknowledged that patrons might cancel their subscriptions as a result, saying, “Why would I publish articles that would make people angry enough to terminate their subscriptions?

Because the subject is “too important to ignore,” he went on. “From Antarctica to Alaska to Bangladesh a global warming trend is altering habitats with devastating ecological and economic effects. This isn’t science fiction or a Hollywood movie,” he concludes; “it’s the hard truth as scientists see it.”

In September this year, scientists confirmed much of what was presented there, with warnings about the melting polar ice, which has shrunk drastically in just a couple of decades.
A few weeks earlier, it was reported that an asteroid is hurtling toward earth. Sure, it’s not due until 2025 and is small by astronomical standards, with a diameter of 375 km, but a collision will be terminal for the Earth. If it hits land, it will create a planet-wide dust cloud so dense and enduring that a global winter would ensue, extinguishing all forms of life. If it splashes down in a major ocean, it will create a tsunami so enormous that coasts worldwide would be wiped out. Fortunately, astronomers calculate, it will miss us by a few thousand kilometres—but if their sums are out by just a fraction, goodbye Planet Earth.

So, is there hope? Are we a doomed planet? Does Planet Earth have a future or are we destined to go the way of the dinosaur?

According to scientists, basing their verdict on reasonable observation and investigation, the chances of survival for our planet are slim in the long term. But many scientists do not factor the Divine into their equations.

Would a God who sent His son to die for us allow us to be destroyed, without hope? John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world ...”

As its Creator, God loves this world with an eternal love! He has plans for its future, and He’s told us what they are! First of all, they specifically exclude a worldwide flood (see Genesis 9:14-17) and, second of all, although He says that life on earth as we know it will end, He has a plan for its ultimate—and permanent—restoration! We read this truth in two illuminating passages of the Bible—one in the Old Testament, the other in the New.

Message Of Hope

In two parallel prophetic outlines of world history, the prophet Daniel sheds light on our future. The first is Daniel 2:31-33. “The end” is brought about when a massive rock (but not a literal meteorite) strikes and destroys the symbolic image described. It represents the succession of world empires, from the time of Daniel to the present.

Note, the rock doesn’t actually strike the earth. Rather, it strikes the statue. It brings an end not to human life but to human systems of government, ushering in a new world, the eternal kingdom of God on earth (verse 35). It is the fulfilment of the prayer Jesus taught us: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10*).

The second passage is in Daniel 7:1-7, where the succession of world powers is symbolised as a succession of wild animals. As with the kingdoms they represent, they all eventually disappear until following the demise of the last, “There was given [Jesus] dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed…”

But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him” (verses 14, 18, 27).

This is how the world will end: in glory! It will be inhabited “for ever and ever” by people—God’s people. This is confirmed by Jesus in Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43, in a parable.

Wheat And Weeds

Jesus tells the story of a farmer whose enemy sows weeds in his wheat field. The wheat and the weeds grow together until the harvest when the weeds are easily separated and burned. “The field is the world,” Jesus explained. “The good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares [weeds] are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world… . As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity… . Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (verses 38-43).

Note, God doesn’t deal indiscriminately with human life. And while the day of judgment and destruction certainly lies ahead, God plans to preserve good and destroy evil only.
Obviously in Jesus’ thinking, “the end of the world” is the end of evil—the end of sin—not the destruction of earth or annihilation of humankind but world restoration!

Extreme World Make-Over

In many places in the Bible, God promises to create a new earth (see Isaiah 65:17-25; 66:22, 23; 2 Peter 3:10-14; Revelation 21:1-8). This suggests both its destruction and its survival. In the sense of eradicating every trace of evil that mars our planet, the former is true. But in the sense that earth has no long-term future, the latter is true!

The future course of Planet Earth as outlined in the Bible is readily understood when you know what it has to say about its past. The Bible records that when God created this world, everything it was “good.” It was beautiful and perfect (Genesis 1:31)—“excellent in every way,” the New Living Translation puts it. But then a usurper seized control and sin, pain, hurt and death entered and the devil began destroying both the earth, its creatures and humankind (see Genesis 3ff; Revelation 12:4, 7-9, 12).

It is the devil who both immediately and ultimately is responsible for all the death, war and tragedy we experience, although some would blame God on occasions. The devil uses people who are in his control in these purposes. But the day will come when God will “destroy them which destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18), says the apostle John. God will remove every deep scar, which the reign of sin and evil has etched on our once-perfect planet. He will then renew our sin-polluted world to the pristine perfection it enjoyed when it originally came from the Creator’s hands. He says He will even create “new heavens,” purifying the polluted environment that surrounds the earth.

While God’s cleansing fire purifies the earth of all defilement, His people will be safe with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). They will eternally live in and enjoy their renewed planet, restored to its Edenic beauty and perfection (Revelation 21:1-3).

Behold, I make all things new,” Jesus says. “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4, 5).

It’s no longer doomsayers and doomsdayers that are predicting an end to the world as we know it, it’s recognised journals and scientists. But we don’t have to worry, for Jesus has promised to save us from our own hand. He is about to come a second time and take us to safety, as He promised. The future belongs to Him—and He shares it with us if we choose to accept His rule in our lives now.

* All Biblical quotations are from the King James Version.