The Crumbling of Creation: The Cause of the Earth’s Decay and God’s Glorious Cure

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Excerpt Is man the basic cause of all the earth’s problems? Would the planet be better off if man did not exist on it at all? Some environmentalists think so. Continue reading

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For example, philosopher Paul Taylor states, “Given the total, absolute, and final disappearance of Homo Sapiens, not only would the Earth’s community of life continue to exist, but in all probability, its well-being would be enhanced. Our presence, in short, is not needed. And if we were to take the standpoint of that Life Community and give voice to its true interests, the ending of the human epoch on Earth would most likely be greeted with a hearty “Good riddance!” 1 Similarly, anthropologist David Graber declares,

 

Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet. I know social scientists who remind me that people are part of nature, but it isn’t true. Somewhere along the line—at about a million years ago, maybe half that—we quit the contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth . . . . Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.2

 

In fact, the biblical view of the cause of the earth’s decay is not entirely at odds with the above statements. It is true that in one sense, man’s sin is the cause of the earth’s decay, according to Gen 3:17-19. But the environmentalists quoted above fail to take into account God’s perspective on the whole matter. So it is not surprising that the solution that they propose is entirely the opposite of what God intends.3 God’s solution is not to eradicate man, but to redeem him, enabling both man and the earth to be gloriously renewed.

 

The purpose of this paper is to explore briefly the biblical view of the cause and cure for the earth’s decay. To do so, one must start at the beginning: the state of creation before the Fall (Gen 1-2). Next, God’s judgment on the earth as a result of the Fall will be considered (Gen 3 and Rom 8). Third, the theme of God’s curse on the land will be explored briefly throughout the OT, with special attention to the OT Prophets. God’s judgment on the land is not limited to Gen 3. Finally, God’s glorious cure for the planet’s decay will be unfolded, culminating in the New Heavens and New Earth spoken of by Isaiah, Peter, and John.

 

The Original State of Creation (Gen 1-2)

 

Genesis 1-2 lays out in vivid detail God’s creation of the world. The account begins with God’s creation of the heavens and the earth and then continues to describe the creation of light, atmosphere, land, sea, plants, sun, moon, stars, animals, and, finally, man. According to Gen 1, all of God’s creative activity took place in six days.4 Six times in the creation narrative up until the creation of man, the statement is made, “and God saw that it was good.”5 After the creation of man, the final creation event of the sixth day, Gen 1:31 states that “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.”6 As Gerhard von Rad observes, this statement

 

. . . is of great importance within the terse and plain language of the author. It could also be translated “completely perfect,” and rightly refers more to the wonderful purposefulness and harmony than to the beauty of the entire cosmos. This statement, expressed and written in a world full of innumerable troubles, preserves an inalienable concern of faith: no evil was laid upon the world by God’s hand; neither was His omnipotence limited by any kind of opposing power whatever. . . . God created the world perfect.7

 

Far from being an afterthought, the creation of man seems to be the climactic portion of the narrative.8 First, it is God’s final creative activity, after which he pronounces His creation “very good.” Creation does not seem to be complete until God has created man. Second, the language introducing God’s creation of man indicates God’s personal attention: the language heretofore had been impersonal (“let there be”) but now becomes personal: “let us make.” Third, man alone is created “in God’s image” (Gen 1:26-27): none of the animals or plants were created in His image. And finally, only man is given the command to subdue the earth and have dominion over it, including plants and animals (Gen 1:28b-30).9 So while fallen man’s current “dominion” over the earth may be problematic, it was God’s plan for man to have dominion over the earth right from the beginning. Nowhere is this truth made more eloquently than by David in Psalm 8:4-9, where he exclaims,

 

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than God, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen-- Even the beasts of the field, The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea That pass through the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth!10

 

David is amazed–as we should be–at the uniqueness and authority given by God to man at creation. Given the vastness of the universe, why should man be so important? Because (contrary to the environmentalists quoted above) God designed it so that man alone would be created in His image, with the entire earth under man’s dominion. God set it up that way right from the start.

 

God's Judgment on Creation after the Fall (Gen 3:17-19; Rom 8:19-22)

 

Though the world was perfect when God created it, tragically man’s sin changed everything. After God created the man and the woman, and gave a command not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen 2:16-22), both Adam and Eve disobeyed (Gen 3:6). The first consequence of that disobedience was death–the consequence God warned Adam about when he gave the command in the first place: “in the day you eat of it, you shall surely die!” (Gen 2:17). God’s specific judgment soon followed. First, God judged the serpent (Satan) who tempted Eve. Assuming that the Hebrew preposition !mi in Gen 3:14 is comparative (cursed are you more than all the cattle and all the beasts of the field), then in a lesser sense all the animals were cursed.11 Next, God judged Eve, stating that she would have pain in childbearing (16). Finally, God judged Adam, stating that he would now have difficulty in working the ground, and, as God forewarned, he would die. Specifically in the context of God’s judgment on Adam, God cursed the ground as well:

 

Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.” (Gen 3:17-18).

 

Thus, in some sense, all of creation was affected by the fall: the animals and even the ground itself. Clearly death entered the human race after the Fall as a result of sin.12 It seems likely that death also entered the animal world at this point as well, since prior to Gen 3 both man and the animals were to eat plants, not other animals (Gen 1:29-30).13

 

In Romans 8:19-23, Paul provides further commentary on the judgment of God on creation as a result of man’s sin. In the context of the believer’s current suffering and yet strong hope for future complete redemption and restoration, Paul writes that the creation is going through the same process:

 

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

 

Paul seems to be basing his statements upon Gen 3:17-19, so in one sense what he says is not new.14 Yet, he emphasizes several points about the Fall’s effect on creation. First, it was subjected to futility, i.e., “subjected to the frustration of not being able properly to fulfill the purpose of its existence.”15 Second, it is God who so subjected creation. It is part of His judgment from the Fall. Third, creation’s groaning and man’s groaning are inextricably linked: when man groans, creation does too. As Cranfield well states, “We may think of the whole magnificent theatre of the universe together with all its splendid properties and all the chorus of sub-human life, created to glorify God but unable to do so fully, so long as man the chief actor in the drama of God’s praise fails to contribute his rational part.”16 Finally, there awaits a glorious redemption for both man and creation. As Albert Wolters puts it, “all of creation participates in the drama of man’s fall and ultimate liberation in Christ.”17 That glorious redemption will be discussed in the final section of this paper.

 

God’s Judgment on Creation Elsewhere in the OT

 

But before turning to the glorious liberation from the curse, both for man and creation, it is well to look at other OT passages which in some sense speak of God’s judgment upon creation. These passages help to reinforce the principle that, just as in the Fall, the fate of creation is closely tied to God’s judgment upon humanity. Though the treatment here will be brief, hopefully the sheer number of passages cited will help to reinforce the theme.

 

The Flood (Gen 6-9)

 

One does not need to venture far into the OT to see another major example of the effects of man’s sin on creation. A scant three chapters later in Genesis, God sent a world-wide flood. Genesis 6 provides perhaps the premier demonstration that the sinfulness of Adam spread throughout the entire human race. God sent the flood because He saw that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5). Though He preserved righteous Noah and his family, God destroyed the rest of humanity. But in the process He sent a flood which destroyed not just man, but “both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air” (Gen 6:7). Man was not the only part of God’s creation that was destroyed–all but the fish were destroyed with mankind. Likewise, the earth underwent catastrophic change, with a flood lasting 40 days and 40 nights. Peter sums up the effects of the Flood on the earth in 2 Peter 3:6: “the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.” Once again, creation suffered because of the sinfulness of man.

 

The Law (Lev 26 and Deut 28-29)

 

While neither Lev 26 nor Deut 28 describe actual judgments of God upon creation, these passages provide essential warnings to the people of Israel that disobedience of God’s Law would bring judgment upon them and upon the land. Both blessings upon the land (for obedience) and curses (for disobedience) are given. The blessings in Lev 26 are that God would provide “rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit” (Lev 26:3-6, esp. v. 4).18 Similarly, in Deut 28, blessings will be the produce of the ground, increase of herds, cattle, and flock, and rain (Deut 28:2-12). But in both passages the curses for disobedience far outweigh the list of blessings! In Lev 26, the list includes withholding of rain (i.e., drought), the land and trees not yielding their produce, and desolation of the land (Lev 26:19-20, 30-36, 43). Interestingly, the desolation on the land specifically ties in with the failure of the Israelites to observe the sabbatic year (allowing the land to rest every seventh year) (Lev 26:34-35), demonstrating again the close relationship between man’s disobedience and God’s judgment upon the land. Deuteronomy 28 and 29 give a similar list of curses: a curse on the produce of the land, no rain on the land, and plagues on the land (Deut 28:18, 24; 29:22-23, 27).19

 

The Prophets

 

But it is in the prophetic literature that God repeatedly warns that He will judge the land because of the people’s sin.20 There are thirty-seven separate references in the OT Prophets to God’s judgment on some aspect of creation.21 Sometimes the judgment is upon other lands, such as Babylon (Isa 13:20-23) or Edom (Isa 34:5-17); but usually the judgment is upon Israel. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel are replete with warnings of God’s judgment upon the land of Israel. Isaiah 6:11-12 speaks of the land being desolate because of God’s judgment; in 7:23-25 the land is filled with briers and thorns (as also in 32:13); in 9:19 the land is burned up; and in 33:9 the earth mourns. Lebanon is shriveled, and Sharon is like a wilderness. A very moving text on the judgment of God on the earth is Isa 24:1-13, where Isaiah states that “the earth mourns and fades away, the world languishes and fades away” (v. 4) and “the curse has devoured the earth.” Moo rightly observes that Paul’s language in Rom 8:19-22 may well be taken from this passage in Isaiah.22

 

Jeremiah has an even larger number of passages connecting judgment upon the land with Israel’s continued disobedience. Some of the language of devastation reflects the reality of the imminent captivity of the land by Babylon, as in Jer 4:6, 7, 20, 23-29. The land is depicted as a desolation in 18:16; 19:8; 25:11; 33:12; and 34:22. The land will be burned because of Israel’s sin (7:20), with the mountains burned up as well (9:10-11). The land will be a habitation for jackals (10:22), and there will be drought and famine throughout the land (14:1-6, 12; 24:10; 29:17-18; 32:36). As Jer 23:10 states, “because of a curse the earth mourns, and the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up.”

 

This bleak picture continues in Ezekiel. In particular, themes of famine and desolation prevail (famine in Ezek 5:12-17; 7:15; and 14:13-21; desolation in 33:28-29 and 36:1-4, where the desolation eventually turns to fruitfulness in 36:5-36). Even the mountains are cursed in Ezek 6:1-10. Indeed, God states that He is “against the land” in Ezek 21:3. Once again, God’s condemnation of the people results in condemnation of the land itself.

 

Finally, many books in the Minor Prophets echo the same theme. In Hos 4:1-3, because “there is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land” (v. 1), “the land will mourn,” including the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea (v. 3). Joel 1:8-12, 17-20 speaks of a famine; and in 2:10 “the earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble, the sun and moon grow dark, and the stars diminish their brightness” in the day of the Lord. In Amos 4:6-12 God says that He withheld rain and sent plagues on the land in order to chasten Israel. Nahum 1:4-5 speaks of the Lord drying up the seas and the rivers and Bashan, Carmel, and Lebanon. In Zephaniah 1:1-3, the Lord declares that He will “utterly consume everything from the face of the land,” including man and beast, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea. Haggai 1:10-11 speaks of the earth withholding its fruit and the heavens its rain, because the Lord called for a drought on the land. And finally, in Zechariah 7:14 God says that the land became desolate because of the people’s disobedience.

 

So the pattern is clear. The emphasis in these OT texts is that man has disobeyed God repeatedly, with consequences upon both man and all of creation. Thankfully, the final picture is not nearly so bleak: ultimately God will redeem both mankind and creation. To that restoration we now turn.

 

God’s Glorious Cure: The New Heavens and New Earth

 

The glorious redemption both of mankind and all of creation is the high point of Paul’s discussion in Rom 8:18-25. Both believers in Christ and all of creation are currently groaning under sin and God’s curse. But there awaits a glorious redemption for both man and creation.23

 

Many of the OT prophets contain this theme of creation’s glorious restoration. Jeremiah 33:12-16 speaks of the desolate place of Jerusalem becoming inhabited once more, once the Messiah, the “Branch of righteousness,” is ruling righteously on the throne and Judah is saved. In Ezek 34:23-31, once the Lord and His servant David are on the throne, then there will be “showers of blessing” on the land, and the trees and the earth will again be prolific with their produce. In Ezek 36, the desolate mountains (compare Ezek 6:1-10) will now shoot forth their branches and yield their fruit to Israel (vv. 8-9), and the waste places will become like the garden of Eden (vv. 33-36). In Hos 2:21-23, instead of the Lord withholding grain, new wine, and oil, the land will overflow with them (the same thought is expressed in Joel 2:19, 22-24). Amos 9:13-15 speaks of the fertility of the land, with abundant wine and fruit. And Zech 8:12 speaks of the prosperity of the land once the Lord restores Israel and dwells in her midst (Zech 8:3-8).

 

But no prophet speaks of the restoration of creation as eloquently or as frequently as the prophet Isaiah. In Isa 11, once the righteous Ruler is on the throne, the entire earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord (v. 9). The animals will no longer need to be feared, but will dwell peaceably with little children (vv. 6-9).24



Isaiah 27:6 states that restored Israel will “blossom and bud and fill the face of the world with fruit.” Isaiah 30:23-26 speaks of the restoration of the land, with “rivers and streams of waters” on every high mountain and hill (so also Isa 41:18-19; 43:19-20; and 49:10-11). After the devastation of the land described in Isa 34, chap. 35 speaks of the land’s glorious restoration: “the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose” when they see the glory of the Lord (vv. 1-2); instead of jackals there will be waters bursting forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert (vv. 6-7). At the same time the blind, deaf, and lame will be restored as well (vv. 5-6). There will be no ravenous beast on the highway, because the ransomed of the Lord will return to Zion with singing (vv. 8-10; so also 51:10-11). Isaiah 40 similarly speaks of a highway in the desert, with every valley exalted and every mountain brought low when the glory of the Lord is revealed (40:3-5). And in 51:3 the Lord will comfort Zion, making “her wilderness like Eden and her desert like the garden of God.”


The culmination of these beautiful prophecies of restoration in Isaiah is his declaration in Isa 65:18-25 that the Lord will create a new heavens and a new earth. It will be a time of complete joy in the land. Though there will be death and sin (vv. 20-21), they will not be prevalent. Isaiah 65:25 closes with what seems to be a summary of the themes of Isa 11:6-9: “the wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, says the Lord.” These glorious passages all seem to be talking about the Millennial reign of Christ, as prophesied in Isa 11 and many other passages, and discussed in more detail in Rev 20:1-6. Christ will return to the earth as Redeemer, Conqueror, and King (Zech 14:4-9). Christ will reign over the world in righteousness, and both mankind and creation will be redeemed and restored. Colossians 1:20 makes it clear that through His death on the cross, Christ will “reconcile all things to Himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”25


After the end of the Millennial reign, there will be a final rebellion led by Satan (Rev 20:7), at which time he will be judged permanently and cast into the Lake of Fire. Then, Rev 21-22 appear to be speaking of the Eternal State, where there is finally “no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying” (Rev 21:4) and the Lord and the Lamb are on the throne (Rev 21:22; 22:3). Death, which entered the world through the Fall, is now eliminated entirely.


Since Rev 21:1 speaks of a “new heavens and new earth,” some commentators think that Isaiah’s chronology is incorrect or imprecise, and that the “new heavens and new earth” comes after the Millennium.26 Peter also speaks of a “new heavens and new earth” following the day of the Lord and the earth’s destruction (2 Pet 3:13). But that time period seems to fit with the end of the tribulation period, (after horrific judgments upon the earth have occurred) and the beginning of the millennium, when Christ rules over the earth. It seems best to see that in Rev 21:1, John uses the same terminology of a “new heavens and new earth,” but speaks of a later time period (the Eternal State).27


While many commentators agree with G. K. Beale’s assessment that the new heavens and new earth “is probably not a portrayal of a literal new creation but a figurative depiction,”28 I would disagree. Just as mankind is waiting for the redemption of their physical bodies, so all of creation (according to Paul in Rom 8) awaits a physical restoration as well. The new heavens and new earth does not necessarily mean an entirely “new” earth, with the old one completely discarded, since 2 Pet 3 speaks similarly of the earth that “perished” in the flood, but the earth after the flood was not entirely “new.” Rather, as Beale observes, the new cosmos will be a “renewal” of the old cosmos, “just as the body will be raised without losing its former identity.”29

 

Conclusion


Yes, the earth is decaying. And yes, the cause is man’s sin. And it is certainly true that man may contribute to the decay of God’s creation by not being good stewards of creation as God intended–whether by pollution of the air, deforestation, overutilization of some resources, contributing to species extinction, and so forth.30 But that is not the emphasis of the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation. The emphasis of these passage is that man has disobeyed God, and therefore the creation also has come under judgment. The ultimate answer is not to eliminate mankind from the planet, or to enact hundreds of environmental regulations (though some may be needed). The ultimate answer is for man to be restored to God.31 And God promises to do exactly that. The same biblical passages that speak of God’s judgment upon man and creation also speak of a glorious restoration. Christ will return to judge the wicked and redeem the righteous, and there will be a new heavens and a new earth. At that time creation will be completely restored. Man once again will rule (with Christ as the head), and both man and creation will be in peace and harmony at last, all according to the grand purpose of God. May that time come quickly! Maranatha!


Todd S. Beall, Ph.D. is Professor of Old Testament Literature & Exegesis at Capital Bible Seminary, Langham, MD, since 1977. He served as Assistant Academic Dean and Registrar, from 1978–94. He was a Translator/Editor of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, 1998–2002. Dr. Beall formerly served on the ABR Board of Directors for 15 years.

 

Endnotes: 

1. Paul Taylor, Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986) 115.


2. David Graber, “Review of Bill McKibben, The End of Nature,” Los Angeles Times (October 29, 1989) 9. Graber was Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Yale University until 2007.


3. Thus these men unwittingly affirm the truth of Isa 55:8-9: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.’"


4. As I have written elsewhere, I see no need to take these days as anything other than literal 24-hour days, with the creation of the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1) occurring as part of the first day, as Exod 20:11 states. See Todd Beall, “Contemporary Hermeneutical Approaches to Genesis 1-11,” in Terry Mortenson and Thane Ury, eds., Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth (Green Forest, AZ: Master, 2008) 131-62. See also, Todd Beall, “Christians in the Public Square: How Far Should Evangelicals Go in the Creation-Evolution Debate?”  (paper delivered at the Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Nov 15, 2006) 1-10.


5. The first occurrence is in Gen 1:4 (bAj-yKi rAah'-ta ~yhil{a/ ar>Y:w:  [“and God saw the light, that it was good”]), but the expression for the next five occurrences is identical (bAj-yKi ~yhil{a/ ar>Y:w:  [“and God saw that it was good”]–Gen 1:10, 12. 18, 21, and 25).


6. While this is not the place for extended discussion on attempts to harmonize Gen 1-2 with evolutionary theory, one definite problem in any attempted harmonization is the repeated emphasis in Gen 1 that the earth was created perfectly, every step of the way. Such an emphasis seems impossible if God somehow used the evolutionary process, with imperfections all along the way, to cause the world to come into being. One would have to argue that the term “good” is a relative one, or is somehow used imprecisely in a loosely figurative manner in Gen 1. But the text certainly does not “read” that way naturally. See also Albert Wolters, Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985): “God does not make junk, and we dishonor the Creator if we take a negative view of the work of his hands when he himself takes such a positive view. In fact, so positive a view did he take of what he had created that he refused to scrap it when mankind spoiled it, but determined instead, at the cost of his Son’s life, to make it new and good again. God does not make junk, and he does not junk what he has made” (p. 42).


7. Gerhard von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1973) 61. See also Andrew Kulikovsky, Creation, Fall, Restoration: A Biblical Theology of Creation (Ross-shire, Scotland: Mentor, 2009) 140.


8. So also Wayne House, “Creation and Redemption: A Study of Kingdom Interplay,” JETS 35 (1992) 6: “Genesis 1 presents the creation of man as the pinnacle of God’s creative activity. Humanity stands at the center of all of God’s creation. The rest of the creation, both material and immaterial, including angels and other creative beings, is a backdrop for the drama of human history.”


9. Michael Bullmore (“The Four Most Important Biblical Passages for a Christian Environmentalist,” Trinity Journal 19 [1998] 152) gives a total of eight distinctives from Genesis 1-2 that highlight man’s uniqueness, including the four distinctives presented above.


10. English text quotations are generally from the NKJV, but in this case I have changed the translation of v. 5 from “the angels” to “God,” which better reflects the Hebrew term ~yhil{a/ used here.


11. The preposition !mi could also be separative (“cursed from all the cattle”). So E. J. Young, Studies in Genesis One (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1964) 97. But the comparative use (used in the vast majority of English translations) seems preferable: how are snakes separated from the rest of the animals? So Kulikovsky, Creation, Fall, Restoration, 215.


12. Romans 5:12 is conclusive on this point: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”


13. So Kulikovsky, Creation, Fall, Restoration, 204-214. So also James Stambaugh, “Whence Cometh Death? A Biblical Theology of Physical Death and Natural Evil,” in Terry Mortenson and Thane Ury, eds., Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth (Green Forest, AZ: Master, 2008) 373-98. This position accords well with Romans 5:12, in that Paul states that death entered the world through sin, implying that death did not exist before the Fall. But this point is hotly debated. For counter arguments, see Douglas Moo, “Nature in the New Creation: New Testament Eschatology and the Environment,” JETS 49 (2006) 461 n. 41; and John Munday, Jr., “Creature Mortality: From Creation or the Fall?” JETS 35 (1992) 51-68.


14. So C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1975) 413. Cranfield also notes that by “creation” (ktisij) Paul means “the sum-total of sub-human nature both animate and inanimate” (411-12).


15. Ibid., 413.


16. Ibid., 414. For an excellent (though brief) treatment of Romans 8, see J. Mark Lawson, “Romans 8:18-25–the Hope of Creation,” Review and Expositor 91 (1994) 559-64.

 

17. Albert Wolters, Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985) 47. Wolters rightly argues against the Gnostic view that the world is inherently evil. He views sin as “an alien invasion of creation” which is “completely foreign to God’s purposes for his creatures. It was not meant to be; it simply does not belong. Any theory that somehow sanctions the existence of evil in God’s good creation fails to do justice to sin’s fundamentally outrageous and blasphemous character, and in some subtle or sophisticated sense lays the blame for sin on the Creator rather than on ourselves in Adam.” (pp. 48-49).

 

18. For an excellent treatment of Lev. 26, see William D. Barrick, “The Eschatological Significance of Leviticus 26,” Master’s Seminary Journal 16 (2005) 95-126.

 

19. Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the Temple in 1 Kgs 8:35-36 (=2 Chron 6:26-27) contains a similar plea to send rain to the land if God had been withholding rain because of the people’s sin.


20. While not in the prophetic literature per se, mention should be made of the Lord’s withholding of rain from Israel for over three years as announced by Elijah the prophet (1 Kgs 17:1; 18:1, 41-45; see Jas 5:17-18: “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.”).


21. Author’s count of chapters where this theme is contained. I had hoped to find a discussion of this theme in various OT Theologies (I checked the works by Paul House, John Goldingay, Bruce Waltke, Walter Kaiser, and Walter Brueggemann), but did not find this theme covered in depth, so I read through Isaiah-Malachi to find the passages mentioned in this section.


22. Moo, “Nature in the New Creation,” 462.


23. As Marvin Tate observes, “Creation and humanity share a comprehensive solidarity in the sufferings of this present time and in the hope of glory to be revealed. The human and the nonhuman creation wait in hope for the redemption of their existence. Marvin Tate, “The Comprehensive Nature of Salvation in Biblical Perspective,” Review and Expositor 91 (1994) 478.


24. If this passage is taken literally (as I do), it may well indicate that the nature of the animals will be restored to their condition prior to the Fall.


25. A few verses earlier, in Col 1:16, Paul states that Christ created all things “that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible,” so it is fitting that He who created all things will also reconcile all things on earth and in heaven.


26. So John Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40 to 66 (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998) 656. Oswalt states that in Isa 65:17-25 Isaiah amalgamates several aspects of the kingdom of God “that may be chronologically distinct but are spiritually identical.” Similarly, E. J. Young writes, “In the concept of the prophet, time and eternity, the age of the New Testament and the eternal heaven, are not sharply distinguished” (The Prophecy of Isaiah [3 vols.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972] 3:514). So also John Walvoord, “Revelation,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament (Wheaton: Victor, 1983) 984. Walvoord claims that the chronological order in Isa 65 is “reversed,” with vv. 17-19 referring to the eternal state and vv. 20-25 referring to the Millennium. But it seems best to take all of Isaiah 65:17-25 as referring to the Millennium.


27. John uses Gog and Magog in a similar way (taking the image, but speaking of a slightly different time period), since in Ezekiel 38-39 the term seems to refer to a battle in the Tribulation Period, but in Rev 20:8 the battle clearly occurs after the Millennium. Robert Thomas sees the new heavens and new earth in Rev 21:1 as occurring “chronologically following the Millennium and the Great White Throne,” but regrettably does not discuss the phrase’s use in Isa 65:17-25. Robert Thomas, Revelation 8-22 (Chicago: Moody, 1995) 438-39.


28. G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999) 1040.


29. Ibid.


30. The Evangelical Environmental Network contains on its website a whole host of sins that they see man committing against the environment. See for their basic statement on the care of creation (off site link). For a contrary view (with which I am personally more aligned), see The Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship (off site link).


31. What the radical environmentalists miss is that man is the focal point of all of creation: it is man’s sin and restoration that is the key. As Wolters observes, “the biblical accounts of sin and redemption are similar [in that] in both cases, although the whole creation is involved, it is still humanity that plays the pivotal role” Wolters, Creation Regained, 60.

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