Bible Q&A: Why bother about this planet if there's going to be a new earth?

Our Bible Q&A series explores the questions you’ve asked us about the Bible.

This article represents the author’s personal view. It accords with Bible Society’s values, but is not intended to express our position as an organisation.

Question:

What is the relationship between the new heaven and the new earth in the Book of Revelation? If there is to be a new earth and the present one is to be destroyed, how far should Christians be concerned about the conservation of the old and the green energy agenda?​

Answer:

The book of Revelation is full of complex and specific imagery which we’re well advised to study in the context of the whole Bible. Turning to Jesus, we hear him teach his followers to pray: 'Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.' 

When Christians talk about eternity, the emphasis tends to be on heaven. Jesus, on the other hand, teaches us to see heaven and earth intertwined. Notice that, according to him, God’s kingdom is to do with his will being done, not apart from earth, but on earth. And whatever the coming of God’s kingdom will eventually involve in detail, surely Jesus’ prayer for God’s will to be done on earth wasn’t just about the future.

Therefore, as a follower of Jesus I have to ask myself: is God’s will being done on earth right now, while rising sea-levels threaten whole island nations including ours, warming oceans produce super-charged hurricanes capable of flattening entire cities, and record temperatures fuel untameable wildfires and destroy the crops people desperately rely on?

According to almost every expert in the field, all of the above is basically caused by humans. In other words, it’s partly my fault. As a follower of Jesus, who wants God’s will to be done on earth, I therefore have no choice but to review the part I play in the wholesale destruction that is unfolding in front of our eyes.

If I understand Jesus correctly, the question of how we behave today is valid, whatever happens tomorrow. On judgement day, the master will want to find his servants doing his will; no more, no less. Martin Luther is credited with quipping: 'If the world was to end tomorrow, I’d still plant an apple tree today.'

It’s tempting to think that what you or I do to ‘save the planet’ is irrelevant, unless those who have the power to stem climate change – say, the USA, China or Brazil – commit to protecting the environment and move towards carbon neutral economies. But that’s a bit like saying, why should I pay taxes, as long as the super-rich are trying to avoid them? I believe as Christians we’re called to represent a righteous God by doing what is right, full stop. In terms of the environment, God ‘put the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard it’ (Genesis 2.15). Humans have the God-given duty to look after his creation.

The encouraging thing is, each of us can make a difference by making simple lifestyle changes: insulate our homes, lift-share or get the bike out of the shed, give up or at least eat less meat, and book a holiday in Devon instead of the Seychelles. And, make no mistake, there’s power in numbers. Politics and business tend to react very quickly, once enough individuals begin to change their behaviour.

Going back to the Bible – while it speaks of earth renewed, it also suggests that renewal starts now as, day by day, Christ’s followers decide what it means to follow him. And I can’t see how this could exclude our response to the climate crisis. 'Thy will be done on earth.'

Have you got a question about the Bible? Let us know and we’ll do our best to answer it!

The Bible Course

The Bible Course

Whether you're well versed in Scripture or just starting out on the journey, The Bible Course offers a superb overview of the world’s best-selling book.

Bible Q&A: Best verses to memorise?

Bible Q&A: Best verses to memorise?

What are the best ten Bible verses to memorise?

More Bible Q&A

More Bible Q&A

Our Bible Q&A series explores the questions you've asked us about the Bible.

Bringing the Bible to life

Bible Society, Stonehill Green, Westlea, Swindon, SN5 7DG. Registered charity 232759