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BULLETIN THIRTY SIX
Whose Word are we Talking About ?
There is an article in Journal of Creation 30(3) 2016, pp. 104-109, from Dr John Hartnett, which is surprising in its errors. It is a matter of biblical interpretation where these occur, for his reference to physics appears to be limited mainly to a series of WHAT IFs, as if to imagine that while this and that are NOT the case, in what is known or assumed in his special field, they MIGHT in some way or other be so if things are in fact different from what they might appear.
So might pigs fly, or snakes perish and oceans dry up. All sorts of things MIGHT happen if you want to make (in this case, almost) airy hypotheses. We need to remember that while scientists, including brilliant ones like Hartnett, are as free as anyone else to imagine various conceivable things, what is operative is the evidential reality; and of course, as he so well points out in his joint work on "Dismantling the Big Bang", this does NOT include hypotheses of a dreamy kind and contrary to evidence such as the Big Bang.
So let us leave the basis, minus imaginations of various kinds, this way and that, and stay with what is known, being neither astronomically imaginative this way, or that, and return to the only place where we will find the unevictable truth concerning the point, the word of God written.
Now it is here that some unfortunate errors are made.
When Jesus said that heaven and earth would pass away (Matthew 24:35), the fact that there is another statement elsewhere (He presumably made very many dicta) which refers to a hypothetical situation in order to emphasise the reality of a point, has NOTHING to do either with an imagined equivalence of the two very different statements, or with the nullification of one of them.
To nullify does not change its nature, concerning a reported speech. It evacuates it; but it is still there.
It is to interpret which is more here to the point. If heaven and earth WILL PASS AWAY, could one dare to suggest that this means that these will linger no longer; die; be finished ? One does so dare! It does mean that. Passing away is not passing on, or passing into a new type of mission, by remaining. If your old car passes away it does not mean it is rebuilt.
When Revelation 20 tells us that heaven and earth fled away and that there was no place for them, does this mean that they did not go away at all, let alone in fleeing mode ? One would labour to find how that could be so, a flat negation of the written word of God. Indeed, not only does the Lord here declare that heaven and earth fled away in the prophetic scene, but that there was "no place found for them." Now does NO PLACE suggest TOTAL place! Another flat negation of what is written.
Or again, does the fact that heaven and earth created not least with man in mind, mean they were not created ? Does focus on persons make peripheries and magnificences attending (plus or minus, creative or devastating), other than stated ? Does the arrival of a person remove a site ? Does the purpose of a judgment remove the reality of a site, or changes in environment in association with that ? Is man to re-write the scenario ? Does the destruction of a courtroom and its evil works mean that the non-destruction of that court room, that the court room in fact stays, the combination of terms forgotten ?
To some it may seem good so to hold, but there is no confusion about the author, in the context: it is God. HIS word is that this association will be burnt up, not some distillate. He knows what He wants. He says it. He will do it. Heaven and earth in fact WILL pass away. He said so. So listen.
When Isaiah declares the word of God as in 51:6 does this mean that when the earth grows old like a garment and the heavens vanish away like smoke, that the earth and heavens in fact abide intact ? Does the association with vanishing and age there expressed in contrast to the abiding eternity of GOD'S SALVATION, mean that though the salvation abides in eternity, the heavens and earth, instead of providing a contrast to such a thing, will do the same! Or does it mean that heaven and earth being fated to be nullified, passing away, so will the salvation depart?
Are we to ignore the entirety of these statement of NATURE and the CELESTIAL in their pointed contrast, and annul the flat statement as well! Does VANISH mean endure ? Does vanish away mean, simply continue, or alter course so that they are, as it were, saved by the bell. The Bible repeatedly and categorically states the contrast, the dimensions and destiny of both, and making it personally problematical because of imagination does nothing but reject the message on this point. It is God who speaks with knowledge, with neither equal nor participant from outside.
In the Psalms there is indeed reference to the extended continuation of the created universe*1, for it does go on without ceasing as if there lay the fault. But when an age is finished, then its ingredients go with it. That is why, in terms of the longevity and stability of heaven and earth, without imposed barrier, there is also even there, attestation of removal when the totality of the construction is done, as in Psalm 102. Here is the normative perspective.
As to heaven and earth, we are told, they will grow old like a garment (this is their destiny), and "like a cloak, You will change them," which does not indicate the same old cloak. Indeed, these entities "will perish." Now to perish as in John 3 in another dimension, does not mean to endure, to have a continuity. It means that the thing in view has an end which is end indeed and of a particular morbidity as well. It is not perish in the sense of not perishing; it is perish in the sense of ceasing to have entity in a mouldering rather than a renovating manner. Perish does not mean to be sick, or sad, or in need. It means to go by losing its natural and necessary structure. It may be a sad end but it is not a new beginning.
This is the universal biblical depiction, and when NO PLACE is found for the fleeing heavens, as written, the portent for this statedly perishing, and fleeing away series of entities is this: one could look for some place to put them; the endeavour could be CONCEIVED. But the powers that be, God indeed, FOUND NO PLACE for them (Revelation 20:11). Location denied. Accommodation deleted. Office completed. In all of heaven and earth or anywhere else, NO place is found for them. God Himself finds no such place. It is time for man to learn that He means it.
The reference in the Hartnett article to II Peter is especially awry. Citing that heavens and earth, being impersonal, do not have works, he appears interested in the proposal that THEREFORE the assertion in the Bible that the earth and its works will be burnt up means that they will not be.
That is, the declaration that 1) the earth, and 2) its works, will be burnt up is deemed a no goer. Delete "earth"? Well, not really. Delete contradiction rather.
What then ? This is not high class exegesis for once again included in it is a flat contradiction. Who is to be followed, the inspired writer that the earth will be burnt up, or another saying this is not so. The entirety is in view in II Peter 3. He states this: "the heavens will pass away." Contrary views merely reiterate the illusory. That in addition to the heavens passing away, the earth shares a correlative fate with the words "burnt up" does not mean that though the heavens will pass away (as stated), the earth will not. Speaking, in addition to the already noted fall of the heavens, in terms of being burnt up adds force and colour; it does not reject the earlier statement. It means this correlative association has one end.
The trouble with the earth, taken as inclusive of all aspects of course, is what is worked on it, and this does not mean that the earth is a naked instrument, but an occupied power, and all of it, the object and the characterisability of what is wrought in it, have but one end. Not mere end. Not energic loss end. Not any type of NON-END.
It is intended, unamended end. It is the end of the entire operation, base and occupation. construction of a site, and devastation of it with all that has gone with it: a total exhaustive condemnation and fitting end. No place is found for the sullied globe, the sickly site, the grossly abused place and its inhabitants for whom it was crafted not least; it is all one configuration, with precisely the FATE forecast by Christ, Isaiah and John in Revelation.
Indeed, the constituent parts, programs, participant entities of which the earth is composed, its 'elements' will go out with vast energic outburst and heat. That vast loss is merely one of many correlative consequences of its dismissal. These all but litter II Peter 3 on the issue, as clear as footprints in soft sand; but clearer, as is information to the ready mind. Out with the container, out with the contents! done with the habitations of cruelty, done with the inhabitants! removal of the house of shame, and of the shame within it, of it, through it and in which it lay (as in I John 5:19, Isaiah 24:1-6, 51:1-6).
Gone is the staff, support and grabbed place of man,
with the displacing
brigands ensconced in it,
ruined with it, for their reckless fecklessness and hustle
has no more base:
man has no more place,
and except where he receives divine, saving grace,
it departs in one gigantic crash giving the confusion
so many confusedly sought to make its source, now rather its end,
depleted, dispatched, deprived, depraved, dismissed.
It will not feebly flit. It will instead be designated by destining deity as to be deleted, with "no place found for it," passing away, burnt up, vanishing, fleeing. The character of the explosive, disruptive, dispersive exit is dwelt on. There is no escape.
After this vanishing, there will a new heavens and earth. The vanishing is not a way of continuing (Revelation 20:11). When no place is found for you it does not mean all place.
This exegesis by contradiction does not sit well with any theory; and the ideas of a new type of physics that is not found is not ground for building on a roving imagination, looking for possibilities, as if this were a biblical impartation. Thought is free. Declarations of God are free to Him, but not to us.
It is in the abstract conceivable for all people on earth to be saved. It is however a narrow and constrained way, said Jesus the Christ, by which they enter. The possibility is not actual. The case is far different.
In parallel, it is best to keep to the words of Christ and the prophets without making imaginative or presumptive guesses of a new basis.
Too many have done that before. It always fails; because God never does (Zephaniah :5); and to separate God from His word (cf. SMR, TMR and Index A-B, at Apologetics) is like separating the spinal cord from a body, and talking health.
A COMPANY MAY STRAY FROM WHAT IT SAID;
BUT THE WORD OF GOD ENDURES
UNHAMPERED BY LUST OR IGNORANCE
What does not endure is the heaven
and the earth,
for these are replaced,
in the decrees of judgment.
It is like a car insured: new for
the new is better.
In this connection, Psalm 99 is of special interest. The Lord in His personal purpose and power, grace and covenant is far greater than any material scaffolding like the earth, for the display that greets His sentient and intelligent creation, mankind. Thus we read that He was indeed available as depicted in the temple symbols, part of the covenant with Israel, but to this what is added ? It is this:
"Let the earth be shaken!
In other words, so great is His personal transcendence over the creation (like a book, however brilliant, yet less than its author), that when there is any question of majesty, let the earth be shaken like a mindless student, drugged or deep in sleep. Let it realise its entire dependence on Him!
The earth was merely established by a decree (Psalm 148) that it should not be shaken. The Lord needs no decree; for He is its source. It is not the earth which simply fails to continue, but it is the Lord who cuts it short when the decree is countermanded, the end is prescribed and the grandeur of creation is dwarfed by His plan.
This creation, except where expressly excluded by grace, is subject further to His wrath. Further on this, is to be found in Isaiah 24, a parallel to Isaiah 51:6. Here the Lord is shown dealing with the lavish lordliness of man, His shameless arrogance, His tendency to take (divine) things for granted, to assert himself and his little world (compared with the resources about it and beyond it). This He declares as He surveys coming judgment (which interrupts things, just as death did and does, except for His counter-command of pardon for many):
"The earth is violently broken,
The earth is split open,
The earth is shaken exceedingly,
The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard,
And shall totter like a hut,
Its transgression shall be heavy upon it,
And it shall fall and not rise again," (bold added).
It is not the sins which are here said to be split open, but the earth. It is not the persons only, but their habitat, one and all, worker and work, wonder and woe, which receives dismissal. When Babylon was to be destroyed (as in Isaiah 13, Jeremiah 50-51), the meaning was not that Babylonians would have a tough time. That was not hard to say. Its meaning is that the lurking of lordly and lavish murders and idols in that regime and that source and centre, and in that aroused edifice and civilisation, like Sodom and Gomorrah, would have come to it a vast totality of evil, that deserves no grave: it would all perish, as it did.
Back to the case, then, we find this:
What will rise is a new heaven and a
new earth as in Revelation 20:11-21:1 and II Peter 3:10-12.
Here we learn that since ALL THESE THINGS such as the heavens will pass away and be dissolved, and that we accordingly look for a new heavens and a new earth. God sets a terminus for all things, upholding all things in the meantime by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3), for they are not sufficient in themselves, nor has He dissolved His own sovereignty to anything in any measure. He GRANTS by grace what He personally desires for persons, but the scaffolding for the laboratory of history is not immune to disaster, judgment or dismissal. Its term is His commandment, and His commandment is of His own good pleasure.
So when we read that the earth will fall and not rise again, in Isaiah 24, and that it is to pass away from the testimony of the truth itself, from Jesus Christ, or that it will perish, along with the heavens, thrown into the equation, as in Psalm 102:25-26, it does not entail a long life and a happy one for either the perishing heavens or the perishing earth. It means what it says: it will GO, PERISH, DISSOLVE, be REPLACED, be SUPERSEDED, end in energic release, fail to have a continuity; it will be a shambles as well as a shame, and it will become an exit in rubbish, with ruin the very entrance to its end. The imagery does not remove the reality: it simply adds comparisons and parallels in part, to this phenomenon which swallows up all, so that there is in the end, no possibility of misunderstanding, except by flat and multiple contradiction.
If a cave had been a site for the torture and abuse of victims for a long period, its destruction ALONG WITH death for the perpetrators would ... speak, comment, illustrate the passing and the folly in one combined hit. It would be too unspeakable a site and lair, for further existence. If God wants that, who is to stop Him; if He so evaluates and provides such a perspective, is some other to usurp His multiplied words, references and declarations. If someone says, Your mansion of evil and you will both be destroyed, do you think he means that you will go, but it won't! Indeed, it is put so graphically: the heavens will pass away, and it declares further, fervently (II Peter 3:10),
"both the earth and the works that are in it, will be destroyed."
Like a barrel of concentrated radioactive waste, how desirable to be able to make barrel and waste pass away together, the implement and the purpose as one great illustration of the modes of mankind.
Passing away, as in the words of the One who made it, means what it says: they will perish. He could have elected to have only this earth, or earth and sun and moon, perish, and left the overall site of thousands of years of evil and lordliness by presumption to attest its importance in its day; and spared the earth. But these things have held eternal significance, and will have eternal insignificance! they will go.
As with Sodom, as with Babylon, so with this wider and now growing scene of desolatory horror (just consider for example what is happening to thousands of Christians who WERE in the Middle East, or WERE alive in the Middle East, but are being exterminated as the earth will be), it will cease to exist just as will pain and evil when the only way that life can prosper is the only way left (Revelation 21:4).
Moreover, this divinely induced phenomenon, the last this earth and heavens will have to show, is to be wrought in testimony that there is a vast contrast between nature (the created per se) and grace (what God does in His blessed mercy and peace, with what is His own adopted and pardoned people): It is this. HE does not change; the rest does. THEY will perish but HE will endure. This is the manner of the contrast again and again, the systematic severance and colossal difference, not in configuration or collation merely as of things made, but in BEING: the dependent and the independent, the Creator and the created, the decree-dependent and the personally promised. It is indeed as II Corinthians 4:18 pronounces it to be, a matter of the TEMPORAL and the ETERNAL. The things that are seen are temporal, it announces, but the things that are not seen are eternal..
Stepping back yet further, we find this in Hebrews 11: "the worlds were framed by the word of God so that the things that are seen are not made of things that are visible." Creation did not make the Creator, and it was the invisible that gave light and life (where applicable) to the visible.
These domains do not alter, and when the uninterrupted time for this heavens and earth is duly fulfilled, and it has fulfilled its entire divine purpose, then and not till then will its invisible Source, Originator and Creator, dismissing it, find no place for it, and it shall it perish. Those who are called and have come to the very visible incarnation of the invisible and eternal God as Messiah and Saviour, who have loved His appearing and found His agonisingly evident atonement on the cross, their joy and their cover in the family of everlasting life; these shall NOT perish, though the mountains be cast into the midst of the sea. THESE DO NOT come into judgment like the earth and all to whom it has given shakeable and perishable place for their alien performance and uncontrite hearts.