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Many Christians have been taught that the earth is an evil place and that God has plans for us to vacate the earth and escape from evil by going to heaven where we will live forever. This is usually pictured as a great retirement home, where we sing praises to God for eternity and amuse ourselves by learning to play harps.
But God is a Creator by nature. I really cannot see Him being idle for so long, and because we were created in His image, we would soon find heaven to be quite boring as well.
The underlying doctrine behind the idea that the earth is evil and heaven is good is not found in biblical Hebrew thought but in the Greek view and in other non-biblical cultures. Unfortunately, the church adopted many Greek views when it evangelized the Greeks without teaching them the biblical viewpoint.
Greek religious culture was founded on the idea that spirit was good and matter was evil. In fact, matter, they said, was the creation of an evil god—a Satan figure—which they called the demiurge. They believed that the problem at the beginning of time was that spirit came down and intermixed with this evil matter. Hence, the solution was to separate the two into their respective spheres.
Dualism was thus built into the system. Light must be separated from Darkness, good from evil, spirit from matter. The Greek solution posited that good and evil were co-eternal and that the existence of either depended upon the other. Hence, after this great separation is completed, it would only be a matter of time before the two would again be comingled, and the entire process would occur again in a future age.
Many in the church have adopted a similar view that a great separation is coming, in which mankind will be separated into two groups. The “good” will go to heaven; the “evil” will go to hell, a realm that is eternally separated from God. In this view, God is not able to save most of His creation. Being unable to work all things out for good (Romans 8:28), He can only separate them into two groups. This view makes God the greatest Loser of all, impotent against the “free will” of man, and He must then resort to punishing those that He was unable to save.
But is this really true?
The Biblical View
The Bible differs, for there we find that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). When completed, God pronounced all things “very good” (Genesis 1:31). The devil (“demiurge”) is a usurper, not a creator. Matter is not evil, but good. The solution is not to separate heaven from earth but to marry the two. The earth is destined to come into full agreement with the will of God, as heaven and earth come into unity (Genesis 2:24).
So Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:10,
10 Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on [or “in”] earth, as it is in heaven.
The goal of history and the end of all things is clearly stated in many passages such as we see in 1 Corinthians 15:28,
28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.
The separation between God and man is a temporary problem, not a permanent one. The real question is whether or not we believe that God is able to win everything and become “all in all.” Again, we read in Hebrews 2:8,
8 You have put all things in subjection under [Psalm 8:6] His feet. For in subjecting all things to Him, He left nothing that is not subject to Him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to Him.
All things will be subjected to the Son, except for the Father Himself. Paul expresses this again in Colossians 1:16-20,
16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him… 18 He [Christ] is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
All things were created “through Him and for Him.” The same “all things” were reconciled to Him by His blood, “whether things on earth or things in heaven.” Paul did not get this from Greek religious philosophy but from Psalm 8:6. The purpose of creation was to give everything to Jesus Christ. Will God’s will and purpose be fulfilled? Is God able to do this?
The Greeks taught something very different. They thought that only things in heaven—spiritual things—could be reconciled to God. Things on earth were the realm of the demiurge (devil). But Paul lays claim to all things in both realms for Christ. Just because men may not know HOW the divine plan will be accomplished is no hindrance to His ability to do it.
Ruling with Christ
John caught the same vision as well, telling us in Revelation 5:13,
13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”
Yet John also distinguishes between this vast multitude of creation and those called to higher positions of authority. Those who “sang a new song” (Revelation 5:9), being the overcomers in Revelation 14:3, are given a special reward in Revelation 5:10,
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.
These are the ones who inherit life in the first resurrection a thousand years before the rest of humanity is raised. Revelation 20:5, 6 says,
5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who has part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
Having already been purified by the baptism of fire during the Pentecostal Age, these will not be subjected to the second death in the age to come. Their reward is the priesthood, not the priesthood of Levi but the Melchizedek priesthood, for our High Priest is Christ, not Aaron. Priests were given spiritual authority to mediate as intercessors between God and men. They were responsible to teach the ways of God to the people and to serve as judges when disputes arose among the people (Deuteronomy 17:9).
Christ is the King and High Priest of Melchizedek, but He does not act alone. Most of the time, He acts vicariously through others—in this case, the “priests of God and of Christ.” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:2, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” In the next verse, he adds, “Do you not know that we will judge angels?”
Christ is the great Judge, for He said in John 5:22,
22 For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son.
Why? Because creation was given to the Son, and He is therefore responsible for it. Yet this does not mean He does all the judging. It is His responsibility to appoint judges under Him, delegating the authority to judge the world, with Christ as the highest Supreme Court Justice.
The same is true with political rulership. He is the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:16). That is, He is the King who has kings under His authority. For this reason, we see that when the Ancient of Days takes His throne to judge the world, we read also that “thrones were set up” (Daniel 7:9). John, too, says, “I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them” (Revelation 20:4).
In other words, the “saints” will play an active role in the judgment of the world. Often we focus so much on Christ’s top role that we fail to recognize the lesser role of the saints.
In my view, the saints will be seated on “thrones” at the White Throne judgment, participating in the verdicts that are pictured as the “river of fire” (Daniel 7:10). But their long-term calling will be to oversee their portion of humanity to administer the “lake of fire” until the Creation Jubilee. This will manifest Christ to them through the Holy Spirit’s baptism of fire so that they will be able to learn righteousness through their example. And, if necessary, disciplinary measures could be taken as well.
Inheriting the Earth
Jesus said in Matthew 5:5,
5 Blessed are the gentle [or “meek,” KJV], for they shall inherit the earth.
Their inheritance is not heaven, but “the earth.” Psalm 2:8 says,
8 Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
While ultimately, this is a messianic prophecy, it also applies to us. Christ has been “appointed Heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2), but we, as children of God, are also “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). To be an heir, however, is conditioned upon faith during our lifetime. The rest of humanity will benefit from the divine plan, but they will not be heirs. They will be citizens of the Kingdom, but they will not inherit the Kingdom.
Hence, even as Adam was given dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28), so also Christ has been given the dominion not only in the earth but also in heaven. As part of the family of God, we too are coheirs with Him. Our dominion will not be limited to the earth, but neither will the earth be left out or lost, as some teach. The only thing that will be lost and burned up (figuratively) will be the systems and governments of men, along with their sin.
So as the first resurrection approaches, let us prepare our hearts according to the plan of God, and let us find our place in that plan, so that we know our calling and can function in it.