Just saw the movie “Noah” last week. My brother-in-law observed, “Not bad if you’re into Biblical disaster flicks.” The acting and special effects were good; fidelity to the biblical text was not so good. Nonetheless, the movie’s theme of new life coming out of death and destruction was faithful to the overall biblical message—and it came through repeatedly, even if parts of the movie were sheer inventions and indulged huge amounts of artistic license.
What I did like was that at the end, not only the world was new, but Noah was too, even if that last bit stretches the biblical story. The new world, however, was the same planet with the same atmosphere. There was discontinuity with the past, but there was continuity, too. It still had people. Other people were still hard to get along with, as Noah’s son Ham’s leaving home made poignantly clear. There were still mountains and sea, animals and birds, but everything was new in the sense of freshness, blossoming and bearing fruit.
A Good Ending
In the New Testament (Hebrews, 1 Peter, 2 Peter), the story of Noah is the illustration, par excellence, of the end of this world. Not the end in the sense of the total and final destruction of it; rather, an ending leading to fulfillment of God’s ultimate, good purpose for the earth and all of creation. Destruction, when it appears in the Biblical text, is never the end. It is always the prelude to something better, something good. This is very important to remember.
We recently finished a series on the Book of Revelation in our Food for the Hungry (FH) chapels. It’s significant that in Revelation 22, the last chapter of Revelation and of the Bible, after all the death and destruction portrayed before, a “New Jerusalem” has come down to earth—and there is a “new” heaven and a “new” earth, but the same planet remains. Multitudes are experiencing the “shalom” of God, the peace and well-being God desires for all; however, there are still people who are outside the city walls. Evil is present, but is not a threat to God’s final purpose. It is contained. (Revelation 22:15).
The “tree of life,” first introduced in the creation story in the first book of the Bible, is present and flourishing. It bears fruit every month and its leaves are “for the healing of the nations.” There are still nations, and they still need healing (Revelation 22:1-2). The kings of the earth bring their treasures into the Holy City; there is commerce (Revelation 21:24-26). People are still able to “wash their robes,” and fresh and clean, gain entrance into the Holy City and access to the Tree of Life. There is movement into the city from the outside (Revelation 22:14). Though there is discontinuity with the past, there is much continuity, too.
Do Not Fear
The point is this: the earth is ultimately destined for fruition, not destruction. The present fascination among Christians with end time destruction is ultimately destructive itself. When faced with a fearful future, the controlling attitude is defensiveness and the controlling emotion is fear. Many Christians today are defensive and fearful, because they are focusing short of God’s ultimate goal for the earth and its inhabitants. Death and destruction have been with us since the dawn of humanity. They were never the “end” for which God created the heavens and the earth, and they aren’t now.
As Jesus said to His disciples when they faced a life-threatening storm, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40)
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