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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Rhythmic Strains, Melodious Refrains and the Sound of Redemption in the New Heavens and Earth

I was reading John Piper’s message, “The Triumph of the Gospel in the New Heavens and the New Earth” with Tchaikovsky’s “Suite from the Nutcracker” playing softly just within the threshold of my hearing. Outside, a bird in the tree is singing a melodious refrain (I would have thought the bird was actually part of the music had I not been paying attention). The pitch and volume of both bird and broadcast blended into a perfect concert.

Imagine my escalating joy in Christ Jesus as I read the following with these rhythmic strains as background music:

“Paul’s words in Romans 8:21 are a clear witness to the continuity between the old earth and the new earth: ‘The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption.’ So he understands ‘new’ to mean ‘renewed,’ not replaced. It’s not like, ‘I got a new car.’ When something is set free, it doesn’t go out of existence or get abandoned. It may change, but it is still there, and free.

So one of the things you say to that mom with the disabled child: You know, the Bible teaches that even though your son has been denied a lifetime of leaping and running on this earth to the glory of God, there is a new earth coming, freed from every disease and disability, and he will have not just a lifetime, but an eternity, to run and leap to the glory of God . . .

One might be tempted to say to a suffering saint (parent of a suffering child), ‘You see what the Bible says: The natural order—the creation—will be set free from its bondage to corruption. Well, your body—or your son’s body—is part of that order, isn’t it? Yes. Then you too—he too—will experience this glorious liberation from corruption and have a new resurrection body, because you are part of what is being liberated.’

That is emphatically not the way Paul sees things. It is true that our bodies will be redeemed in the new order. Verse 23b: ‘We wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.’ But our bodies are not drawn up into this newness by being part of creation. It’s the other way around. The creation is drawn up into ‘the freedom of the glory of the children of God.’ Verse 21: ‘The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.’

The freedom of the glory of the children of God comes first. Then having glorified his children with their new and glorious bodies—which Jesus said will shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father (Matt. 13:43)—then the whole creation is fitted by God as suitable dwelling for the glorified family.

So you say to the parents of the disabled child, ‘Your child will not be changed to fit the new glorified universe; the new universe will be changed to fit your glorified child—and you.’ The point of verse 21 is that God loves his children and provides what is best for them.”

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Behold the birds of the air; for they sow not, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them; are you not much better than they are?” (Matthew 6:26)

So to the birds I say, “Sing on!”

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