Friday, April 15, 2011

Models of Eschatology Part 2: The New Creation Model

In contrast to the spiritual vision model, the second model of eschatology I want to discuss now is the “new creation model.” This model is contrary to Platonism and the spiritual vision model and emphasizes the physical, social, political, and geographical aspects of eternal life. It emphasizes a coming new earth, the renewal of life on this new earth, bodily resurrection, and social and political interactions among the redeemed.[1]

As Craig Blaising states, “The new creation model expects that the ontological order and scope of eternal life is essentially continuous with that of present earthly life except for the absence of sin and death.”[2] Thus, eternal life is embodied life on earth. This approach “does not reject physicality or materiality, but affirms them as essential both to a holistic anthropology and to the biblical idea of a redeemed creation.”[3]

This approach follows the language of passages like Isaiah 25, 65, 66; Revelation 21; and Romans 8 which speak of a regenerated earth. A new creation model emphasizes the future relevance of matters such as renewal of the world and universe, nations, kings, economics, agriculture, and social-political issues. In sum, a new creation model operates on the belief that life in the future kingdom of God is largely similar to God’s purposes for the creation before the fall of Adam, which certainly involved more than just a spiritual element. Thus, the final Heaven is not an ethereal spiritual presence in the sky. As Russell D. Moore points out, “The point of the gospel is not that we would go to heaven when we die. Instead, it is that heaven will come down, transforming and renewing the earth and the entire universe.”[4] Far from being only a spiritual entity, the eternal destiny of the redeemed includes a holistic renewal of human existence and our environment:

The picture then is not of an eschatological flight from creation but the restoration and redemption of creation with all that entails: table fellowship, community, culture, economics, agriculture and animal husbandry, art, architecture, worship—in short, life and that abundantly.[5]

The new creation model appears to have been the primary approach of the church of the late first and early second centuries A.D. It was found in apocalyptic and rabbinic Judaism and in second century Christian writers such as Irenaeus of Lyons.[6] But, as Blaising asserts, the spiritual vision model would take over and become “the dominant view of eternal life from roughly the third century to the early modern period.”[7]

[1] Craig A. Blaising, “Premillennialism” in Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond, ed. Darrell L. Bock (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 162.
[2] Ibid. 
[3] Ibid., 162.
[4] Russell D. Moore, “Personal and Cosmic Eschatology,” in A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel L. Akin (Nashville: B&H, 2007), 912.
[5] Ibid., 859.
[6] Blaising, 164.
[7] Ibid.

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Vlach, I readily accept the New Creation Model. However, I also believe a "heaven" will exist in addition to or outside of the future New Heaven and New Earth. Presently, there is both a cosmos and a heaven, the place where God dwells. It seems the future New Heaven and New Earth replace the present cosmos but "heaven" will continue to exist as well, essentially unchanged. When the book of Revelation speaks about the New Jerusalem "coming down out of heaven from God" and how "God Himself shall be among them", it appears to imply the continued existence of "heaven". While I do envision this heaven as a "spiritual" place, unlike a Spiritual Vision model proponent, I believe this spiritual heaven consists of things that are tangible not immaterial. Would I describe this heaven as "physical" as we understand that concept now? I'm not sure. But I do believe it is a place where things will be other than phantom-like.