Part Six: Encountering God in the Wilderness: A Spiritual Journey of Discovery

DSCN2000 (800x600) - Copy - Copy (640x480)Part Six: Why Do Some People Fail to See Evidence Of God in Nature; and is the Book of Nature and Science Compatible?

One of the great blessings God has granted the family of man, as his most beloved creation, is his self-disclosure in nature—and making it accessible to every human being who ever lived. He did this for a reason. People who respond to God in nature and truly seek to find him can find him. The first century Christian apostle and missionary, Paul of Tarsus, speaking to a group of Greek philosophers in ancient Athens, explained it this way:

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all [people] life and breath and everything else. . . . God did this so that [people] would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:24-27, emphasis added).

Notice this promise has limited application—it is for those who “seek him.” God has provided enough evidence in nature to confirm his existence and insight into his nature and character—but he will not coerce people to seek him who choose not to. And here’s the rub. All people have the opportunity to encounter God through creation, “because God has made it plain to them” (Romans 1:19). People who reject this general revelation actually “suppress” truth about God revealed through creation (v.18). So encountering God in nature is a matter of the will. Those who seriously seek God through what he “made” will find him, said Paul. Those who don’t won’t.

General Revelation

When referring to God’s self-disclosure and activities in nature, most theologians today use the term general revelation rather than Book of Nature. It’s called “general” because it is limited in information about God. For example, it does not reveal God’s redemptive plan for the human race nor the depth of the immeasurable love he offers all of us. But it does reveal that God exists and is the creator of life and the cosmos, and that he is eternal, all-powerful, and sovereign over all life on Earth.

For this reason the visible world of nature can be a window into unseen, spiritual realities inaccessible to science and impossible to fully comprehend independent of divine assistance (the Holy Spirit). In other words, God has created two realities: the invisible, spiritual realm undetected by our five senses, and the physical, visible realm accessible to our senses and science. Nature can be a bridge between the two. On the one hand, it is thoroughly physical; yet, because the natural world is the product of God’s creation, it is filled with pictures and symbols of divine realities. Thus, for sincere and earnest spiritual seekers, nature provides remarkable illustrations of divine truths and insight into God’s wisdom, knowledge, creativity, grandeur, and more. We’ll look at many of these in later blogs.

But first, this raises questions that will be answered in the next two blog articles: Is the God revealed generally in nature and the God revealed explicitly in the Bible one and the same? In particular, how does nature reveal God? (C)

NOTE:  Since this series of blog articles are adapted from a new book in progress, I’d appreciate any sincere comments or suggestions you may have.

Part Five: Encountering God in the Wilderness: A Spiritual Journey of Discovery

wildlife book two 061 (640x418)Part five: The Book of Nature: Who Wrote, Who Has Read it, Why I Read It?

Twelfth-century theologians used the term Book of Nature as a metaphorical description of God’s revelation outside the Bible and through creation (nature). Although wildness is only a partial reflection of the greater beauty and majesty of the Creator who fashioned it, the Book of Nature can enhance anyone’s appreciation, wonder, and delight in God.

I’ve been reading this “book” for much of my adult life (I explain why below), and down through the centuries numerous Christian thinkers and scholars have acknowledged its truth and value as a revelation of God. Here are a few examples:

Thomas Kempis (1380-1471), author of one the best known Christian devotional books, captured the essence of the Book of Nature when he wrote: “If thy heart were right, then every creature would be a mirror of life and a book of holy doctrine. There is no creature so small and abject, but it reflects the goodness of God.” Reformation theologian, Martin Luther (1483-1541), expressed this same truth: “God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.” Theologian John Calvin (1509-1564) agreed, but illustrated it quite differently: “The creation is quite like a spacious and splendid house, provided and filled with the most exquisite and the most abundant furnishings. Everything in it tells of God.” The brilliant eighteenth century American philosopher and theologian, Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758), put it simply: “There are many truths concerning God, and our duty to him, which are evident by the light of Nature.”

The wilderness has always been a place of high adventure for me, a place of excitement, expectancy, and inspiration. Its beauty lifts my spirit; its sounds and smells invigorate my senses. The very word wilderness conjures up in my mind memories of shadowy forests blanketed with lofty trees and lush vegetation; of thundering rivers and mile high mountains; of bears, moose, wolves, and myriad other free-roaming animals. Other times I reminisce about the desert wildernesses I’ve explored: arid mountains with long views across broad and lonely valleys; amazingly adaptive plants and animals; rock, wind, heat, silence, solitude—a place where one can really be alone.

Behind all these whimsical daydreams and nostalgic reflections lies one unalterable reality. The source and substance of all the wildernesses that have meant so much to me—and played an influential role in my life since childhood—is the Creator. Not an impersonal, aloof, unapproachable creator, but a personal God who desires his creatures to know him, to draw close to him, and to learn from him. He is a God of such extraordinary love for the human race that he has provided, through the grandeur and mystery of nature, an opportunity for everyone to discover his existence and begin to experience his divine presence. ©

But . . . do all people benefit from the Book of Nature? No. Is the Book of Nature a book of science? Yes and no. I’ll explain both these answers in next week’s blog article.

NOTE:  Since this series of blog articles are adapted from a new book in progress, I’d appreciate any sincere comments or suggestions you may have.

PART FOUR: ENCOUNTERING GOD IN THE WILDERNESS: A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

DSCN2127 (640x480) (2)Part Four: God Is Revealed in Nature, but Does This Make Nature Divine?

The theistic religion that provides the most information about God’s self-disclosure in and through nature—and the one that develops the concept most thoroughly—is the Judaeo/Christian religion. This true God is a transcendent, sovereign Creator who exists independent and apart from what he created. At the same time, the Judaeo/Christian God is everywhere present (immanent) throughout nature. He is fully aware of every aspect of creation by virtue of being its creator—somewhat like an architect is intimately acquainted with every component he designs into a building. Only such a God is capable of revealing information about himself in and through nature.

Unlike Eastern and Tribal religions (see part three), the Christian God is personal and approachable. He desires his people to know him, to draw close to him, and to learn from him. He is a God of such breathtaking love that He created nature (among other reasons) to be a reliable pathway on which any sincere spiritual seeker can embark upon and discover that God does exist—and that he has revealed something of his nature and character through what he has made. And in an extraordinary act of grace, God has further ordained that the grandeur and mystery of nature can be a steppingstone to a personal encounter with him outside and independent of nature—a topic we’ll explore in a later blogs.

Does This Mean Nature Is Divine?

Nature is sacred in the sense that God created it, owns it, reveals himself through it, and instructed the human race to be his caretakers over it (see my book, Should Christians Be Environmentalists?). But there is an enormous difference between recognizing the sacredness of nature and considering it divine. Earth-centered religions, such as Gaia, Wicca, and neo-paganism, consider nature divine and therefore worship it. But this view is out of sync with the Christian God, who is revealed through what he created but is not to be identified with it. Such a demeaning view of God elevates what was made above who made it. Should the potter be of less value than the pot? Should the Creator be of less value than the created? Earth-centered religions entertain irrational views of God, incorporate elements of pagan mythology, and are contrary to coherent reality as most people understand it. The Christian religion rejects the belief that nature is divine and should be worship.

Recognizing that nature is sacred, while avoiding worshiping it as divine, is simply a matter of understanding that nature is the creation of the transcendent, all-powerful God described above. It is precisely because the real God is the God revealed in the Christian religion that we can encounter him in nature; learn something of His divine qualities through what He has made; and enjoy his creative handiwork—all without being drawn into the fantasy world where nature is supposedly divine and demands our worship.

Now that we have identified the one true God, we can examine how he is revealed in and through nature. What does it mean that God wrote the Book of Nature, and what does this “book” tell us about God? This will be the topic of next week’s blog. ©

NOTE:  Since this series of blog articles are adapted from my new book in progress, I’d appreciate any sincere comments or suggestions you may have.

PART THREE: ENCOUNTERING GOD IN THE WILDERNESS: A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

DSCN4066 (2) (640x480)Part Three: Will the False Gods Please Stand Up

What kind of God can we encounter in nature? What must such a God be like, one who provides visual illustrations and symbols of his existence and divine attributes in creation? What kind of a God would—or even could—communicate these qualities to the human race through what he created? On the other hand, what kind of God cannot be revealed in nature? There are religious worldviews whose concept of deity disqualifies their god from being the God of creation, and therefore incapable of revealing any alleged divine qualities in nature.

God’s self-disclosure in and through creation precludes religious worldviews that consider God an impersonal substance or essence—a pantheistic view of God proclaimed in Eastern religions. In this religious philosophy, God encompasses everything that exists; more precisely, everything that exists is God. Anything that appears distinct from God (e.g. physical nature) is maya—an illusion. This god is not a creator who exists apart from the physical universe. Therefore, theologically and logically, such a view would make it impossible for this god to reveal anything about itself in nature. There is nothing tangible to reveal.

Similarly, worldviews that embrace animism are equally disqualified. Animism is the second major category of world religions, and the fundamental belief of all tribal cultures. Although most animists acknowledge a supreme bring, he is generally remote and seldom enters into human affairs. Rather, animists focus on the spirit world. They believe spirits indwell every aspect of nature, both living (animals and plants) as well as nonliving (rivers, lightening, sacred mountains, and so on). These spirits, which allegedly lurk throughout nature, are feared more than revered; they are generally not beings one would wish to draw close to. In fact tribal cultures practicing animism live in constant fear of angering spiritual forces, and through rituals, prayers, and other activities regularly seek to appease them. In short, with their preoccupation with the spirit world, animism reveals nothing substantial or positive about God in nature.

We are left with only one religious choice: theism, the third major category of world religions. What are the necessary qualifications for a theistic God to self-disclose in creation? And does a God revealed in nature make nature itself divine? Both questions will be answered in next week’s blog article. ©

Note:  Since this series of blog articles are adapted from a new book in progress, I’d appreciate any sincere comments or suggestions you may have.

PART TWO: ENCOUNTERING GOD IN THE WILDERNESS: A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

DSCN2171Part Two: Call of the Wild—in the Neighborhood!

I want to begin our spiritual journey of discovery in the “wilderness” at my home. It’s the best way I can demonstrate that all people, even those who claim to have no particular interest in nature, possess an innate desire to maintain some kind of regular contact with the natural world. Knowing this makes it easier to understand the spiritual significance of nature. (Much more on this later.)

My wife and I have tried to live in small communities and in rural areas. Our present home is no exception. It was new when we purchased it and located only a short walk from a beautiful grove of ancient live oaks. Within minutes, we can hike under their massive sheltering branches and then plunge into an “elfin forest” of native chaparral.

Still, we wanted nature even closer. So within days after moving in, we began the backbreaking task of planting ground cover, shrubs, and trees to cover the barren earth. We put out bird feeders and birdbaths and planted flowers that attracted butterflies and humming birds. We wanted nature at our doorstep; we wanted to look out our windows and see greenery; we wanted birds and other animals to feed in our yard. The hard work paid off. So far we have identified nearly forty different species of birds just looking out our living room windows. We’ve had raccoons, opossums, squirrels, rabbits, and lizards find nourishment in our yards.

My wife and I are not alone feeling this irrepressible urge to landscape. We are familiar with other newly developed neighborhoods, and without exception every resident moving in did the same thing we did: They immediately began to plant shrubs, trees, and grasses in order to maintain a semblance of nature around their homes.

This deep-seated desire to have nature close by is evident even with people living in condominiums and apartments; urban dwellers with little to no private outdoor space. If you live in a condo or apartment, look around you right now. What’s hanging on your walls? Probably at least a few photographs, paintings, or calendars of outdoor scenes—artificial “windows” to the out-of-doors you seldom get to visit.

Many homeowners also maintain a thriving indoor nursery. And their creativity holds no bounds. I’ve seen indoor plants sitting on kitchen tables, hanging from walls, drooping precariously from ceilings, floating in water-filled mason jars, and gasping for breath in terrariums. I’ve even seen houseplants sprouting out of a discarded shoe and growing out of a hole through a concrete slab floor. I think you get my point. Urban and suburban dwellers want nature close by.

This same desire to experience nature up-close goes well beyond what we do in and out of our personal homes. Millions of people flock to Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and other national and state parks every year. Millions more visit zoos, aquariums, natural history museums, wildlife preserves, and botanical gardens. Corporately, especially in urban and suburban communities, cities set aside parks and nature preserves and prohibit development in exceptionally beautiful open space. Most Americans willingly support federal and state laws that protect wild habitats so that wolves, bears, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, and other animals can prosper—animals that few people will ever see in the wild.

For decades I’ve witnessed this phenomenon: The developed world clearly desires to maintain at least some contact with natural settings. There is something about the wilderness, wild animals, city parks, home gardens, and even pets that humans find intuitively gratifying to be around. Clearly, deep within the human soul, entrenched in the recess of our minds, something beckons us to nature. This “something” is God!

But what kind of God? This question will answered in next week’s blog article. ©

PART ONE: ENCOUNTERING GOD IN THE WILDERNESS: A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

dscn2166-copy-640x480Part One: The Spiritual and Psychological Benefits of Nature

Three thousand years ago, King David wrote in Psalm 55: 6-7, “Oh, how I wish I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away and rest! I would fly far away to the quiet of the wilderness” (NLT). Some three thousand years later, American author, environmental advocate, and political anarchist, Edward Abby,” wrote in his widely popular book, Desert Solitaire, “We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. . . . We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis.”

No two people could be further apart spiritually or philosophically than Israel’s ancient King David (c. 1000 BC) and the late Edward Abbey (1927 – 1989). Yet I’m certain both would have an answer to this question: Why do I (and as far as I can tell the vast majority of people) always experience feelings of tranquility and delight when hiking and exploring wild nature—and when back home have an irrepressible yearning to return?

Abbey would likely answer this question by pointing out that the human race, especially people living in urban and suburban environments, have a genuine psychological need for regular contact with wild, unspoiled nature. On the other hand, I suspect King David’s answer would be more in line with my own: Wild nature offers peace, quietude, and restoration—a place for spiritual reflection and insight.

The fact is King David and Abby are both correct. The human family possesses a psychological and spiritual longing to maintain contact with nature.

In the blog articles following this one, I’ll demonstrate that God has in fact revealed certain of his divine qualities and eternal character in and through nature. Thus, the family of man’s universal desire to associate with nature is spiritual in origin. It reflects an innate longing to encounter God that God himself has placed within the human heart, and nature (among other ways) can be a first step to fulfilling this longing. This is also the basis for people’s psychological desire to maintain some contact with the natural world, as recent studies in human behavior reveals. (I’ll demonstrate how this plays out in next week’s blog.)

What’s particularly wonderful about God’s self-disclosure in and through nature, and the reason nature can be an effective apologetic and evangelistic point of contact, is that it is available to all people everywhere, regardless of religion, culture, or period of human history. God has revealed enough information about himself in creation that nature can be a springboard for any serious spiritual seeker desiring a deeper, fuller understanding of God. (Through the Bible and the Christian witness.)

Exploring this remarkable fact, and helping readers discover what they can learn about God and themselves through nature, is the primary goal of this series of blog articles. And in case you think this will be a theologically challenging, esoteric, or mystical journey, don’t worry. It won’t be. With a little reflection, apprehending what I’m going to share will not be difficult at all, because I will use illustrations, analogies, and events taken directly from nature itself—many of which you will already be familiar with!

In next week’s blog we’ll begin our “spiritual journey of discovery” together, starting at my own home. ©

INTRODUCTION: ENCOUNTERING GOD IN THE WILDERNESS; A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

ENCOUNTERING GOD IN THE WILDERNESS
A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

DSCN2806

Introduction

Since childhood I’ve explored countless wild habitats: forests, deserts, chaparral, grasslands, mountain slopes, and riparian. I’ve written two books and more than thirty articles on nature, wildlife, and environmental ethics (from a Christian perspective). And for many years I’ve sought insight into what can be learned about God through nature: What does creation teach us about God’s divine attributes, His flawless character, His eternal love and provision for humans and animals, and His promises to the human family?

Theologians call God’s self-disclosure in nature general revelation. As the term implies, this channel of divine revelation is limited in scope and in details about God. For example, it does not explain God’s plan for human redemption, nor does nature reveal anything specific about Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, general revelation does provide a legitimate way for people to learn truth and gain knowledge about God. This in turn can encourage serious spiritual seekers to consider further, fuller insight into the God of creation (i.e. through the Bible and God’s people).

I’m writing this series of blog articles (and the book-in-progress from which they’re adapted) for both Christians and non-Christians. My intent is to provide visual confirmation and illustrations in nature of some of the eternal truths and knowledge that God has revealed in the Bible. At the same time, I’ll share some of the breathtaking wonders and boundless beauty of God’s creation. I’m convinced that nature can strengthen a Christian’s faith in God. It has for me.

In terms of non-Christians, there are millions of outdoor enthusiasts—campers, sportsmen, wildlife photographers, hikers, environmentalists, and neo-pagans (nature worshippers)—who hope to find spiritual fulfillment in nature. This series will show why God’s self-disclosure in nature can be a conversation starter—an apologetic point of contact—with this variety of spiritual seekers. This in turn can lead to opportunities to share Jesus Christ.

Here’s why nature can be an effective evangelistic and apologetic point of contact:

Just as the human race possesses an intuitive sense of eternity, because God has placed such knowledge in the human heart (Eccl. 3:11); just as the human race intuitively recognizes a fundamental, universal moral code, because God has placed such a code in the human heart (Rom. 2:13-15); so too God has placed within the human heart an innate awareness of His existence, which can be awakened through contact with nature (Rom. 1:19-20). By means of numerous illustrations and symbols found throughout nature, any earnest spiritual seeker can sense God’s active presence in creation, identify some of His divine attributes, gain insight into His character, and even intuit some of the eternal promises He has made to the human race.

General revelation, then, can be a bridge from ignorance of God to recognizing the reality of his existence, so that, as the Apostle Paul put it to the Greek philosophers in Athens, “men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us” (17:27, NIV). Future blogs in this series will show that nature is a universal testimony to God’s existence—and a call for all spiritual seekers to “find” him.

Beginning in part one next week, and continuing for many weeks to come, I’ll provide compelling biblical and other evidences on what I’ve briefly touched on in this introduction. Along the way I’ll share some my own insights and experiences from many years of wilderness wandering. If readers come to better appreciate and enjoy nature in the process, so much the better. ©

TIME FOR A SABBATICAL

After more than four years posting a weekly blog article (I always posted the same blog twice a week), it’s time for a break. So I will not be posting any new blogs for a while. However, my readers can choose from many dozens of blog series to read. They include everything from apologetics to environmental ethics; from what it will be like in Heaven to evangelism; from answers to the tough questions non-Christians ask to will our pets and other animals join us in Heaven–and many other topics of interest.

Thanks to all of my faithful readers during this blog journey, you have been a blessing to me and an encouragement to my ministry.

WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE IN HEAVEN?

DSCN4066 (640x480)Part Six: ARE THERE HINTS OF HEAVEN IN NATURE?

In last week’s blog we saw that the eschatological “New Earth” (Heaven) will surpass the Garden of Eden in wonder, grandeur, and beauty. In this week blog—the last of this six part series—we’ll see that God has given hints of what the New Earth may look line in nature.

God in the Wilderness
Most Christians familiar with Scriptures already know that God has revealed some of his essential divine attributes in creation (e.g. Romans 1: 19-20). This truth has long captured the imaginations and stirred the creative geniuses of artists, poets, and wilderness sojourners. Poets such as William Wordsworth, transcendentalists such as Henry David Thoreau, wilderness wanderers such as John Muir, Christian writers such as Philip Yancey, Annie Dillard, and John Eldredge, and theologians such as Alister McGrath have all sought to capture the spiritual dimension of nature.

There is a reason for this. God has graciously given the human race hints of Eden in nature—and therefore insight into what eschatological New Earth (Heaven) may look like. Although predators and poisonous snakes and stinging insects dwell in today’s wilderness, the ecological harmony and beauty of nature still show a remnant of the peace and tranquility of Eden—and the presence of our Creator.

Hints of a Future “Eden” in Creation
Wild nature is a privileged peek—like the tailor to a movie—into a future paradise awaiting God’s people, a place with all the joy and peace and unspoiled beauty of Eden. In God’s timing the wilderness—indeed, all of creation—will be transformed (Romans 8: 19-23), and the dim memory of Eden planted in the recesses of our minds will someday become a living reality. “We must see nature,” Oxford scholar Alister McGrath teaches, “as a continual reminder and symbol of a future renewed creation, a world that we do not yet know but believe to lie over the horizons of our human existence. It is as if we are homesick for a lost Eden, longing for a fulfillment that we know lies ahead of us but have not yet found. . . . We must learn to see the present beauty of nature as a sign and a promise of the coming glory of God, its creator.” (The Reenchantment of Nature, 183-184)

The idea of nature as a precursor or foretaste of Heaven is a concept McGrath reflects on in several of his books. In A Brief History of Heaven he writes: “For writers such as Augustine and Lewis, the memory of Eden lingers, haunting humanity with its longing to regain entrance to this forbidden realm. Nature itself becomes a parable, charged with a divinely imbued potential to recreate the memory of Eden, and make us long to return to its now-deserted meadows.” (78) And in Glimpsing the Face of God:

We appreciate the beauty of a glorious sunset, while wondering if the sense of beauty it awakens within us is somehow a pointer to another and more wonderful world that we have yet to discover . . . .
What if nature is studded with clues to our true meaning and destiny, and fingerprinted with the presence of God . . . ?
We possess a sense of longing for something that seems to lie beyond the created order, yet is somehow signposted by the creation. (9, 13, 112)

The wonderful, magnificent, breathtaking good news is that at the end of this age Jesus will return to gather His people to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. But there is also a tragic side to this. The future New Earth is reserved only for people who have received Jesus Christ as God’s acceptable substitute for their sins and rebellion against Him. Jesus said in John 3:17 that God did not send Him into world to condemn it, but to save it. But then He adds this somber warning: People who do not believe in Him already “stand condemned.” Why? Because they have rejected Jesus (18).

Everyone has the opportunity to spend eternity in the Peaceable Kingdom—Heaven. But everyone must first make a decision. As in the conclusion of Robert Frost’s memorable poem,

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

For people who choose the road to Jesus Christ, it will make all the difference. They are guaranteed eternity in a New Earth far more wonderful than anything we can possibly imagine in this world. Our redeemed friends and family—and yes our pets and wild animals—will be waiting there to greet us. ©

Today’s blog ends this six week series. As I’ve pointed out, this series has been adapted from my book, Will Dogs Chase Cats in Heaven?: People, Pets, and wild Animals in the Afterlife. For a more in depth study of this and other related topics, I hope you’ll consider reading my book.

 

WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE IN HEAVEN?

DSCN0591 (640x480)Part Five: How Will The New Earth Surpass the Garden of Eden?

We saw in last week’s blog article that Heaven (the New Earth) will resemble the Garden of Eden. This week we’ll see that although the Garden of Eden may be its prototype, the future New Earth will be far more magnificent. It will surpass even Eden in grandeur, wonder, splendor, beauty, and enchantment. Referring to the Isaiah 11: 6-9, Bible scholar and theologian Richard Bauckham put it this way:

“That a new creative act of God is envisaged [by the Old Testament prophets] is certainly right. The new creation surpasses Eden, but one could also say it realizes the potential of Eden. The original innocence of humans and animals does provide the prophet with a model for what the future will be like. It relates the future to what has been God’s will for his creatures from the beginning, and it sees that divine intention achieving its goal fully in the future, after which there cannot be another fall into violence.” (The Bible and Ecology: Rediscovering the Community of Creation)

In terms of its physical environment, the New Earth will have many similarities to our present Earth. As Randy Alcorn points out in his comprehensive book, Heaven, “The New Earth will not be a non-Earth but a real Earth . . . with dirt, water, rocks, trees, flowers, animals, people, and a variety of natural wonders. An earth without these would not be Earth.

But the eschatological New Earth will be much more than a reinvigorated Garden of Eden. It will be Heaven itself (see part two). It will have many astonishing features that differ radically from what we experience on Earth today. There will be no seas on the New Earth (Rev. 21:1). Nor will light be derived entirely (if at all) from the sun and moon (Isa. 60:19-20; Rev. 21:23). Unlike Eden, the New Earth will encompass more than nature. There will be civilizations, including nations, rulers, and cultures (Rev. 5:9-10). Indeed, the metaphorical language used to describe the new Jerusalem (precious minerals, pearls, golden streets, etc.—Revelation 21:18-21) indicates a world that humans words cannot adequately describe.

Best of all “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” in the New Earth (Rev. 21:4). Nor will the human population include “the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murders, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (21:8). In short, there will be no evil or sin or the possibility of a second Fall in the redeemed and restored New Earth because Satan and his minions would have been cast into hell “for ever and ever” (20:10).

But what makes this New Earth truly Heaven—and distinct from the Garden of Eden—is that God will dwell there with His people (Rev. 21:3)! While God visited the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:8), He will actually reside on the New Earth (Rev. 21:3)! Saved, resurrected humans will see the Lord Jesus Christ face-to-face and live with Him forever (1 Thess. 4:16-18; Rev. 22:3-4). ©

In next week week’s blog article, I’ll explain how we can observe in nature “hints” what the natural environment of Heaven may look like.