The Earth is Ours (Part 2)
Last week, I talked about my obsession with Human Planet, the BBC series that brings the triumph of manly dominion to our TV screens. I’ve since finished the final two episodes (in all their high-definition glory) and although I’m impressed, even moved, by how well the series depicts our God-given rule over the earth, the story still feels incomplete.
What Human Planet fails to mention is the extent and exclusivity of man’s dominion. Right now our dominion is limited. From tornadoes to tsunamis, we’re still at the mercy of the earth. We’ve spent millennia trying to tame it, to subdue its fury, but because we live in the Not Yet, we must strive with the earth, even as it groans for freedom from the curse (Romans 8:19-23). But someday that dominion will extend as we reign over a redeemed earth. Moreover, the Sermon on the Mount, which we touched on last week, speaks of future dominion that can only be claimed by those who are found in Christ (Matthew 5:5). True dominion, although foreshadowed by people from all walks of life, is exclusive to the saints. These are truths that Human Planet, a secular series, simply can’t touch.
So allow me.
WARNING: Lots of speculation ahead!
We will rule in time. Thanks to some of our favorite hymns, the myth prevails that when we die we no longer live within the bounds of time. For me, that’s easy to dismiss for one reason: we’re not God. Humans were originally designed to live in time (think Eden). Lack of biblical evidence aside, I see no reason to believe that timelessness is better, or any more desirable, than living in an endless succession of moments, especially when those moments are packed with praise. Plus, there’ll be plenty of time to build, to make music, to swim, to snowboard, to fellowship, to drink fine wine, and perhaps to explore all those places I saw on Human Planet.
We will rule in space. Of course, the above activities presuppose a physical place. Contrary to bleak theories that we’ll be whisked away to some spiritual state without structure or substance, Scripture suggests a material place—indeed, a planet with cities and streets, rivers and trees, lions and lambs. But the best evidence for a future physical dwelling is the risen Lord himself. Following his resurrection, Jesus was seen, touched, then taken up. And as a human, he needed somewhere to ascend. Somewhere in space. We’re not sure where, but the universe is a big place. Since he currently rules in space, we can reasonably conclude that he also rules in time—a testament to the humility of Christ, who took on humanity and continues to live within that which he created.
We will rule in glorified bodies. We don’t know much about these new bodies, but Paul tells us they’ll be imperishable, raised in glory and power, and will be “spiritual bodies” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Based on Christ’s glorified body, the guarantee of our own, we can assume some sort of continuity with our current bodies. Before his resurrection, Jesus’ disciples had last seen him bloodied, beaten and bruised; once glorified, the signs of stress were stripped away, save the crucifixion wounds, and they knew him at the sound of his voice. It might be the same for us on the new earth: “You look kind of familiar—woah! Bryan Magaña?! Is that seriously you? Looking good, bro!” I like to think 33 is a good age for our new bodies, about the age Jesus was when he rose. The glorified Christ also cooked and ate fish, visited with friends, and made a mysterious entrance (John 20:19). All things to consider.
We will rule with creativity. Isaiah’s description of the new earth involves men building houses, planting vineyards and enjoying the work of their hands (Isaiah 65:21-22). While much of Human Planet focuses on people who have learned to survive in remote and ruthless environments, the final episode zeroes in on cities, which we designed to suit our desires. Heaven could work in the same way, as much of the imagery in both the Old and New Testaments center on city life and the New Jerusalem. Whereas some people imagine we’ll revert to rural life, living on the land, I maintain that part of man’s dominion is technology. Cars, skyscrapers and cell phones on the new earth are OK with me (although, by then, cell phones may be as “advanced” as two cans and a string).
We will rule with Christ. Most importantly, the new earth is a place where God, once again, dwells among men. We could go on speculating on specifics, but don’t lose sight of what’s really important: we will reign with him (2 Timothy 2:12). Indeed, the dominion of God’s people will reach deep into time and space, as we reign with the risen Christ and reflect the beauty of our creator in the new heavens and new earth.
What do you think? Have you given much thought to our future home? Do you have a completely different take? Feel free to leave your comments below!