Does CMI deal with end times?

Well, both yes and no!

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Published: 3 September 2019 (GMT+10)
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Previously published in a CMI newsletter, February 2019

A lot of people write in asking for CMI’s position about end times. In most cases they want to find out if we agree with their particular view about when Christ is going to return, whether there will be a rapture, and the sequence of events. Of course, one’s view of end times is important—otherwise the Bible wouldn’t spend so much time telling us about it. In our experience, many who are passionate about eschatology and who have formed a definitive view, often use it as a type of litmus test for CMI’s orthodoxy, and other Christians in general. The mere fact that sincere, Bible-believing Christians can hold such a range of views should indicate how challenging it is to interpret these passages definitively—after all, with much of it we are dealing with the future and it hasn’t happened yet!

However, we feel that CMI’s mandate is to focus on providing the foundation for a biblical view of end times, which goes to the heart of what we hope for in eternity. For that we need to understand the Bible’s big picture of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. Get this big picture wrong and one will not be able to have any sound biblical view of end times. As we explain this, it will be important for you to look at the biblical references we cite, because these will be common elements that all Bible-based end times views share—and these elements are related to this big picture view.

This earth will pass away

Before the Fall described in Genesis 3, the earth was a perfect paradise with no death, disease, thorns, or carnivory. Adam’s sin brought death on not just his descendants (all of us), but also on the whole world. Today’s world is scarred by the global judgment of the Flood. Romans 8:22 tells us:

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (emphasis ours).

Peter says that the world will be judged again in the future—this time with fire, not water (2 Peter 3:10–14). Just like at the time of the global Flood, the entire earth will be destroyed. But this destruction will pave the way for the final restoration of the earth. This has to happen, because a sin-cursed earth that bears the marks of judgment is not a suitable home for resurrected, perfected people. To some this seems overly dramatic. But just think, as long as a fossil remains in the ground it is a reminder of death and sin, and also Satan’s legacy on the earth, so it has to be erased completely. Just as God raises our dead, destroyed bodies and restores them to be perfect bodies that will never sicken or die, God will completely restore the destroyed earth.

A new heavens and earth

Even the phrase ‘new heavens and earth’ indicates the nature of the restoration we look forward to. The Bible uses the phrase ‘heavens and earth’ to talk about the entire physical universe in a comprehensive way (Genesis 1:1). So, when the Bible talks about a new heavens and earth (2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21–22), even the term indicates that it is like the first heavens and earth—otherwise there would need to be a different term for it.

So ‘new heavens and earth’ means we should look to what God originally intended for the physical creation to understand what things will be like—what Eden was like before Adam sinned. Eden was a picture of the perfect paradise God created for people to live in. It was a place especially suited for humans to live comfortably and engage in easy, pleasant work (Genesis 2:15). In the well-watered garden with plentiful food, all their needs were provided for. Best of all, they enjoyed direct, intimate fellowship with God. There was no sin, no death, and no barrier between men and God. This has to happen again, and it is most certainly something we all look forward to. So the ‘new heavens and earth’ will be a restoration back to how things were before the Fall.

A ‘physical recreation’?

When people think of heaven and our resurrected state, many imagine an ethereal or ghost-like spiritual realm where we’ll all sit on clouds and play harps. However, that fails to appreciate God’s purpose in creating the earth to be a perfect home for humanity, and that fails to appreciate God’s plan to restore the original lost paradise.

Jesus’ mission was not a ‘Plan B’. God is not going to scrap this world for an ethereal, spiritual state that we can’t imagine, He’s going to restore it to a state even better than the initial creation, because there will never be the possibility of another Fall. There are many good aspects of creation that we can appreciate and enjoy even in this fallen word. And many of the things we love about this earth are things we’re still going to enjoy on the new, restored earth. We will have spiritual and physical bodies (we actually have those now), sensory experiences, and be able to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation as He always intended. That’s why the Resurrection of Christ is so important—He was raised with a glorified physical body—the same sort of body that we will receive (1 Corinthians 15).

What about the ‘spiritual body’?

Some people think that when Paul refers to a ‘spiritual body’ in 1 Corinthians 15:44, this means that we will have a non-physical body. However, this misunderstands what Paul means. When Paul talks about ‘earthly’ and ‘spiritual’ bodies, he isn’t referring to what the bodies are composed of, but of what motivates and drives the desires of the different bodies.

Will we experience time?

Another misconception some people have is that in the Resurrection we will not experience time. But as creatures, we have a beginning in time, and we will remain ‘time-bound’ even in the resurrection. Think about it—we will experience events one after another, so even though it’s not certain how we will measure time in the context of an eternal existence, we will experience time. Only God is outside of time. When we look forward to worshipping and singing to God, for example, music involves timekeeping. If we are walking from one gate to another in the New Jerusalem, it will take time to travel there.

God’s original plan cannot be thwarted

The restored earth must again be physical because if God does not restore the physical world and at least what was lost, then Satan would ‘win’ in a certain sense, because he would have foiled God’s original purpose in creating the earth. Instead, God will undo everything Satan did, and He will make creation even better than before. This is why the resurrection of Christ was so important. It gives us an inkling of what God will do when Christ returns. Only the Creator of the universe has the power over death.

The end of Revelation gives us a glimpse of what is to come. A world without sin, and where God is praised because of His mercy and grace, and Jesus is glorified as the Saviour of the nations. Those who have trusted in Christ are resurrected in glorious bodies that will never sicken or die, to live righteous lives in intimate fellowship with our Creator.

Compromise in Genesis causes problems for end times views

It is absolutely clear that Revelation 21–22 presents the New Heavens and Earth as the physical restoration of Edenic perfection. If God’s original design included millions of years of death and suffering so that evolution could progress, and God called that ‘very good’, then the idea of a ‘restoration’ is not really something to look forward to. Is He again going to use a process of millions of years of death and suffering? Revelation 21:1 says:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, “

How can a millions-of-years view be biblically consistent when God promised that there will be no more death or pain in the new heavens and earth? Even long agers and theistic evolutionists believe in this promise, but how can they be consistent if they think God used a process of death and suffering over millions of years to originally create?

God did it once before—He can do it again!

All these elements are common to all Christian views about eschatology. Scripture’s teaching about the future New Heavens and Earth only makes sense in light of the Bible’s big story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration, and most importantly starting with a literal, good creation. If God created a perfect world with no sin or death, it makes sense that the final goal would be its restoration to its pre-sin state.

The ‘yes and no’

So in a way, eschatology is core to CMI’s ministry in one sense—we absolutely assert that the goal of Jesus’ work was to restore not just believers, but the entire physical creation. And this will happen when He comes again. No matter what various people believe about the timing, or how to interpret various prophecies, getting the biblical foundations right means we all should look forward to the day when we stand on the restored earth with our resurrection bodies, in the presence of our incredible Creator.

Helpful Resources

From Creation to Salvation
by Lita Cosner
From
US $12.00
Creation Restored
From
US $10.00
DVD

Readers’ comments

Jon S.
We could measure months via the tree of life:
Rev 22:2 "In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations."
Rodney P.
Thank you, Gary and Lita for your very encouraging and Biblically solid article. Yes, when we see the unambiguous evidence for God's judgement of sin by flood in the past then we can believe in Peter's prophecy of judgement by fire in the future.
David B.
Whatever heaven looks like, it’s quite clear from Rev 10:6 that “there shall be time no longer”.
Lita Cosner
That's a bit of a translation issue. It can mean, as many translations have it "there will be no more delay". And that makes sense in the context. Of course, that particular translation issue is not something CMI takes a position on. But as later in Revelation we have the Tree of Life bearing fruit every month of the 12 months (Revelation 22:2), John can't have meant that there will literally not be time.
Philip C.
Well said! You quite rightly concentrated on the areas of eschatology we all can agree on.
Thank you.
Peter M.
Loved the article - what an exciting prospect! God so loved the "cosmos" that he sent Jesus! Interesting thought about fossils being a reminder of the Fall and therefore not present in a restored planet. You might well be right (there goes one of my childhood hobbies!) but Jesus' resurrected body still had scars (ask Thomas!). Is that relevant to the discussion or was this a special case so that the disciples could recognise Jesus and be reminded of his generosity? As a rapidly ageing guy I'm looking forward to a perfect body!
Lita Cosner
While I think it's wise not to be more specific than Scripture is, there is definitely a theme of the restoration of creation in the New Earth. See our article The new earth.
Michael B.
I have been using what the Scriptures say of the resurrection and new Heaven and earth to get Christians stuck in "deep time" theology to stop and think about why would the creation take millions of years and the resurrection take only the twinkling of an eye?
1 Corinthians 15:51-53
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

Your Brother in Christ,
Michael
Edmond C.
A lot of people think that, in the new heavens and new earth, we will know everything, be good at everything, etc. For example if we played a soccer game in heaven, no one could ever win because each side would be too perfect. I don't think that is the case. I believe that our perfect resurrected bodies will not just automatically be good at everything. Here on earth we have to work, practice, learn, and get better at what we do. Some people have natural talents, but to truly be great at something, you always have to strive for greatness. However, here on earth because of sin, that struggle is much greater, and eventually we die. Solomon called all this vanity and futility. Why, because what we strive here for is not eternal. I believe that the new heavens and new earth will be the perfected environment for humans to discover, learn, build, explore and worship their creator. The scripture mentions that outside New Jerusalem there are nations and kings that give tribute to the God in New Jerusalem. Who builds these nations and kingdoms? I think this has always been God's plan for man, he made us curious, learning, building, striving creatures. Giving us all knowledge as soon as we enter eternity to me does not seem like God's way of doing things. I think we will spend eternity in a quest to understand creation and by doing so learning more about God. And I think soccer will be just as fun and competitive as ever. But without wrong motives, anger, hatred, death, jealousy, etc. I don't think that striving and learning are due to sin, I think that is how we were created.
Rosemarie N.
Wonderful article! I’m reminded of what we have to look forward to...thank you Gary and Lita.
Alan B.
Thanks so much for such an excellent exposition of the restoration of the perfect physical home for Man.
On the sixth day, God pronounced the populated Creation as Very Good - ie. Truly Good, and it was not possible for it to be any better, it was the pinnacle of creativity. Thus the new heavens and earth must be EXACTLY like the original (otherwise it would be less "very good"), except that God will never allow Man to sin again - He will rule the nations with a rod of iron.
And I love your thought that even the fossils will be consumed, so that there is not a hint of death left.
The only reminder will be the marks of crucifixion.
David J.
Excellent balance by "Gary and Lita" connecting their ministry (my view--the foundational truth of the Bible's book of Genesis}
with totality of scripture, big picture, creation, fall, restoration, recreation (did I get the "CFRR" correct?) Interesting to, I believe, that even liberal theologians reading the brief article will (should?) be challenged by the direct and wonderful clarity presented. CMI, keep up the good work!
Lester V.
Regarding the "spiritual" bodies that we will have in eternity, you stated, "When Paul talks about ‘earthly’ and ‘spiritual’ bodies, he isn’t referring to what the bodies are composed of, but of what motivates and drives the desires of the different bodies." If the motives and drives are all that will be changed, how is it possible for Jesus to supernaturally appear inside locked rooms (without going through a door)? In Philippians 3:21, Paul said that "our vile body" will be changed, and "fashioned like unto His glorious body". That seems to indicate that our resurrection bodies will also be capable of doing things that are physically impossible for our fallen ones to do. Since such things can't be put to scientific test, they are beyond natural explanation, but that doesn't mean they aren't true. It just means that we don't understand them.
Lita Cosner
Lester, I think you misunderstand what we were saying. Of course the resurrection body will be different than our mortal bodies. For one thing, the resurrection body will never sicken, age, or die. We were saying that it will be a physical body, not a spirit. (A solely spiritual existence as a human is not the defeat of death, but the definition of death!)
Peter H.
Great response. Thanks.
Gerrit '.
In Genesis 1 God says to Adam: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it." This is what is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate. A command by God to discover all that He has put into creation and work with it the greater glory of the Creator. Will that command be renewed on the new earth. If so then we will all be very busy on the new earth working out every possibility that God has placed into His creation. And that "job" will keep us occupied for ever!
Josef L.
"But just think, as long as a fossil remains in the ground it is a reminder of death and sin, and also Satan’s legacy on the earth, so it has to be erased completely."

I'm not so sure this is good reasoning. For example, Jesus has a physical body, something he took on as a result of death and sin to reconcile man with God. Also Jesus' resurrected body will probably still have scars as a result of his crucifixion. One could easily argue that these things would be a reminder of Satan's legacy on earth.

But I do believe eschatology is at least in the realm of apologetics, if for not other reason then for Matthew 24:34. I've seen many atheists mock Christians for an alleged failed prophecy by Jesus. So I don't think eschatology is avoidable for an apologist. I'm sure you guys have had this brought up at some point also.
Lita Cosner
Jesus kept the scars of His crucifixion as a memorial of His payment for sin. But regarding the earth He says, "I am making all things new" and everything we're told about it indicates a totally restored creation free from the effects of sin and the Curse. Why would Jesus in manifesting HIs complete victory over Satan keep reminders of Satan's 'legacy'? We're not told that any such thing will happen in Scripture.

We have said that eschatology is important, and I would agree that it is important for apologetics. However, CMI is not a comprehensive apologetics ministry, but a creation ministry. Eschatological ministries have to come from a particular point of view, and we avoid denominational stances for reasons laid out in our article End-times and early-times. So we are dealing with the part of eschatology that is directly related to creation, which is the restored new earth. And coincidentally, that is precisely the point where all Christian eschatologies agree.
Steve B.
I wonder if "no more time " could simply imply that there will no longer be aging, of our bodies, of the earth or any thing else.
Lita Cosner
While aging is part of our subjective experience of time, time itself is experiencing events one after another. If you're referring to Revelation 10:6 KJV, as I mentioned to David B., that's a bit of a translation issue, and I think the way most other translations say it, that there will be no more delay, fits better with the context.
Josef L.
Lita,

I really am not trying to belabor the issue or be argumentative. I understand that CMI isn't a comprehensive apologetics ministry but a creation-focused one. But I think it's important to realize that not everything CMI has written on is directly related to creation. So it becomes hard to know at times which topics CMI would address and which CMI wouldn't. For example, Matt 24:34 I think is well within the realm of CMI. Because skeptics use this to question Jesus' credibility, and if Jesus' credibility is in question, then it matters not what he said concerning creation or the flood. But in order to answer Matt 24:34, eschatology must be addressed to some degree.
Lita Cosner
Hi Josef,

Everything CMI has written on is a) directly related to biblical authority and about things defined in CMI's Statement of Faith and b) not taking a stance on denominational matters. So we take a stand on, for instance, the Trinity because all Christians definitionally believe in the Trinity and the deity of Christ. We take a stand on pro-life because that is a clear teaching of Scripture that every Christian should agree about, and human life derives its value from being created in God's image. If you go down the list of what we talk about, it should be fairly easy to understand why we take an issue on the non-existence of aliens, for instance, but not eschatology.
Steve H.
The article said: “Just as God raises our dead, destroyed bodies and restores them to be perfect bodies that will never sicken or die, God will completely restore the destroyed earth.” and: “So the ‘new heavens and earth’ will be a restoration back to how things were before the Fall.” The article also confirms that we will still sense the passing of time, but the question of ageing is not addressed. But then in response to Lester V, Lita says: “…For one thing, the resurrection body will never sicken, AGE, or die. We were saying that it will be a physical body, not a spirit.” So how does that square with ageing before the fall in Eden? If there was no ageing in Eden, then: (A) what was the Tree of Life for? And (B) how could Adam and Eve have fulfilled God’s mandate to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28) if babies could never have grow to adulthood? Also, if there is no ageing in the New Earth, then there can be no filling of the new earth - just those saved by Jesus from the old earth, so the new earth would not be a complete “restoration back to how things were before the Fall.” Lita is correct in saying that "it's wise not to be more specific than Scripture is". So how can we say that there will never be any ageing in the new earth?
Lita Cosner
When I said that we won't experience aging, I was referring to the fairly uncontroversial notion that our resurrection bodies will not undergo the slow process of breaking down that ends in death that we know as aging.

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