The Purpose of the Earth

GOD TELLS US that He created the earth (Genesis 1:1). If we recognise that, it is reasonable to ask why, and what is His purpose with it.

The first indication is in the Bible’s first chapter:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26).

Our history began in paradise, in the Garden of Eden. But in chapter 3 we see the fall of humankind, the introduction of the curse, and the expulsion of our first parents from paradise. The Apostle Paul puts it thus: ‘The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope’ (Romans 8:20).

Paradise Lost

Had God’s purpose with the earth failed? No—it was ‘subjected in hope’. The earth became the arena on which is being worked out God’s plan for redemption, which includes both humankind and the earth itself. When Adam sinned, both he and his world were cursed; this curse will be undone by his descendant and successor, Jesus Christ.

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:21–22).

The Bible tells of the process of undoing the curse. It was imposed at the beginning, and it will be removed at the end: ‘No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him’ (Revelation 22:3).

There is a suggestion that God’s purpose is not with the earth—that our destiny is to spend eternity in heaven, and therefore the earth is expendable. God tells us otherwise: ‘The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea’ (Habakkuk 2:14).

This suffering world will yet be saved and glorified. And we are given details of the Kingdom to come. Look at these promises of God. To the patriarch Abraham: ‘I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God’ (Genesis 17:8).

This promise was reaffirmed to his son Isaac (Genesis 26:1–5) and Isaac’s son Jacob (Genesis 28:13).

The promises strengthened these great men in their pilgrimage. ‘By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise’ (Hebrews 11:8–9).

And the promises will be literally fulfilled when they are raised from the dead at the return of Jesus Christ: ‘I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 8:11).

Paradise Regained

Jacob’s name was changed to Israel (Genesis 32:28), and the Bible story is largely concerned with the nation that are his descendants. ‘They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises’ (Romans 9:4). But the promises to the patriarchs had their focus in the singular offspring, as the Apostle Paul points out: ‘ Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings”, referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring”, who is Christ’ (Galatians 3:16).

It is Jesus Christ who is the heir of all the earth. He is the last Adam, through whom the curse will be lifted. It is he who will ‘possess the gate of his enemies’, and in whom shall ‘all the nations of the earth be blessed’ (Genesis 22:17–18). It is written of him, ‘The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel”’ (Psalm 2:7–9). When he returns we should not expect the nations of the earth to submit willingly to him.

The promise of glory is also extended to us: ‘The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father’ (Revelation 2:26–27). As Jesus said elsewhere, ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth’ (Matthew 5:5).

It is evident then that a glorious future awaits the earth. God’s creation will not be in vain. ‘For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the Lord, and there is no other’ (Isaiah 45:18). The redemption of this suffering, war-torn, polluted and ravaged world will be realised when Jesus Christ returns to be its king. And we each can share in that glorious age.

From Thus Saith the Lord

High over lashing waves our God is throned: Psalm 93:4

Proud billows bide their wrath at His command. Jeremiah 5:22

Lofty as hills, roll on your restive might:

Fling, seas, in thunder, ‘gainst the granite height: Yet shall you lie like glass beneath His hand. Revelation 15:2

Thrones, realms, dominions, flaunt their fleeting day:

Base men arise, and fall to long decay: Tumultuous peoples roar like ocean tide: Isaiah 57v20

Nations in rage the suff’ring earth divide: Yet all unknown He rules their ceaseless fray. Daniel 4:17

His day shall dawn, His golden beam content Those limpid waters’ depth, their fury spent. Psalm 65:7

Like sun in bounty, healing, blessing, free, Love’s gaze shall fathom all the restless sea, Mark 4:39

And joy glow back through all His firmament. Matthew 6:10

Lou Sargent

Hymn 91 from the Christadelphian Hymn Book Reproduced by permission of The Christadelphian

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