What is in store for this wonderful universe which we call home. Some scientists say that eventually the stars will be so spaced out that our sky will be dark and that the stars will dim as they run out of energy. All matter will approach absolute zero in temperature, all life will have long since disappeared. Everything around us decays. Life ends in death.
And yet the Bible gives us a very different picture. Apparently there is hope for creation itself to be delivered from its bondage to decay. What does this mean in practice? This slightly speculative article seeks to explore the possibility of a new or renewed act of creation that gives us, and all of creation with us, a hope for a better and glorious future.
Change and decay
At football cup-finals in England the crowd sings a hymn called “Abide with me”. Verse 2 of this hymn reads:
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
Everything changes with time, and the inevitable result is decay. Our hope lies with our God, our creator who does not change, who is not subject to the ravages of time.
Second law of thermodynamics
According to Wikapedia, The second law of thermodynamics can be expressed:
Given a pair of systems touching with different temperatures, heat will flow from hot to cold until the temperature of the systems becomes equal.
In other words, the warmth of an object will decay over time. What applies to heat and temperature seems to be a general principle which applies to everything in the universe. All things decay over time. It applies to astrophysics, to engineering projects, to mountain ranges and to biology. All things are subject to decay. Stars will eventually run out of energy, buildings will deteriorate, mountains will be washed to the sea, and plants, animals and human beings will die.
And yet the Bible holds out the hope that decay can be dealt with by a creative act by our creator God …
Liberated from bondage to decay
The apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans writes:
“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 9:19-23 NIV)
In some way the fate of the entire universe is tied up with those who Paul calls the children of God. Just as we, living in this world, groan inwardly as we see disease, death, suffering , poverty and injustice all around us, so too does creation itself. But as followers of Jesus Christ we have the resurrection life of Jesus and this gives us hope for the future. But what I find absolutely amazing is that the whole of God’s creation exists with the same hope that it will be, “liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God”.
So what is that hope we have? Quite simply, it is the hope that our bodies will be resurrected and that we will have new bodies. The new bodies will not be subject to decay, not bound by the laws of physics which exist now.
What do we base that hope on? When Jesus’ body was resurrected he could be recognised but could appear and disappear at will and was not subject to the laws of physics as we understand them now.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (I Corinthians 15:20-22 NIV)
The future for us, and in fact the future of the whole creation is exciting. God’s creative work is not complete yet. The book of Revelation talks about a new heaven and a new (or renewed) earth.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
My future is not simply, “to go to heaven when I die”, but to have a resurrected body in a renewed creation and to live for ever in a universe where there is no more decay, suffering and death. I wish I knew exactly what that means and the following involves a bit of speculation, but here goes …
Sand and Stars
I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice. (Genesis 22:17-18 NASB).
This promise was made to Abraham that his descendants (including those who have faith like Abraham) would be innumerable as the sand on the seashore and the stars in the sky.
- It is impossible to count the sand or the stars, but one estimate is 7.5 x 10 to the power of 18 grains of sand, or 7,500,000,000,000,000,000 grains.
- The number of stars jumps enormously, and is estimated at 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the observable universe.
- (The number of stars seems huge but there as many molecules in just ten drops of water!)
- The population of the world is just 7,500,000,000 or 7.5 thousand million, and one estimate states that only 100 thousand million have ever existed.
The universe is a huge (enormous, colossal , immense etc) place. What is it all there for? Maybe, just maybe, our future is to explore, populate and rule the whole universe. Not in Star Wars style. It would be awful to think of mankind with all its faults and failings spreading like a cancer throughout the universe. But the children of God, with resurrected new bodies in a renewed earth and universe where God’s will is done, motivation is love, and where decay and death has been defeated … That’s a different matter!