I am a pessimistic recycler. Yes, I try my best to recycle, reuse, and cut down on waste – but I do not think it will ultimately solve the world’s pollution problems for future generations. Even if everybody does recycle conscientiously (which I am also pessimistic about), I believe it is a losing battle. The fact is, that man has a long history of harming, robbing, even decimating the planet – and, sadly, old habits die hard. I remember being overwhelmed, for example, by the horrifying residual waste and permanent disfigurement of the countryside I’ve seen in copper mining towns in the American West. The almighty dollar, convenience and greed have characterized the many forms of pillaging and polluting humans have perpetrated upon land and sea in countries all across the earth.
While I am pessimistic about recycling, I am very glad that a science fiction ending of the human race drowned in its own waste is not the end of the story. Thanks be to God! I have been thinking about a phrase the Lord Jesus used in our readings in Matthew, in January, and it came back to mind as I read Psalm 102 today. In speaking of the Kingdom Age, “when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne,” he calls it “The Regeneration.” Matthew 19:28 The Re-Generation. That’s a nice word isn’t it? To regenerate something is to develop it again or to bring it back to its original state. That’s a hopeful, comforting concept when we consider the polluted earth, isn’t it? I have always found it to be so. Even in its post-Eden condition, this is a remarkable planet – rich with amazing geographic features and lush plant and animal life. Let’s contemplate regeneration today.
The verses in Psalm 102 that brought Jesus’ words to mind are these:
Of old You founded the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. Even they will perish, but You endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end. The children of Your servants will continue, and their descendants will be established before You.
These are prophetic words. And they are hopeful words. Prophetically, they tell us that the heavens and earth will indeed get worn out. It should be noted that God doesn’t wear them out – people do. They dig out its treasures to fill coffers, and build landfills to hide messes. They invent machines that fill even the heavens with smog, pollution, and poison. The word for “perish” in the passage means to “be destroyed.” Oceans filled with plastic and global warming are not new concepts to the Creator. And the words “wear out” mean “to wear out by use” or “use up completely.” The idea is just as it suggests – an old holey garment that must finally be thrown away.
Other passages in Scripture also talk about this need to dispose of a messed-up earth. Consider this verse in Isaiah:
Lift up your eyes to the sky, then look to the earth beneath; For the sky will vanish like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a garment, and its inhabitants will die in like manner; But My salvation will be forever, and My righteousness will not wane.
So God will change the earth (amazingly it will be as easy for Him as it is for us to change clothes!) The Hebrew for “change them” in Psalm 102 means to “pass away” or “replace.” The Lord Jesus repeats this same concept several times in the Gospels. He says, “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away. “ Mark 13:31 & Matthew 24:35
Peter also speaks of the day of the Lord with this imagery:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
So we get this consistent message through the Bible that the earth will be destroyed/purged and then regenerated. It must be cleansed because “its works” are worthy only of destruction.
Now we are getting to the hopeful part too. Peter tells us that the people who are watching for regeneration are holy people. They are looking for the passing of the first heavens and earth. They will witness the establishment of a new Creation – in which the modus operandi is righteousness (not greed, oppression and inequality i.e. sin).
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away…
These people will witness the blossoming of deserts. Scorched land will become quiet pools. They will experience everlasting joy when sorrow and sighing flee away. They will be fruitful and blessed. cp. Isaiah 35 & 65
“For just as the new heavens and the new earth which I make will endure before Me,” declares the LORD, “So your offspring and your name will endure.”
Psalm 104 (in our readings just a couple of days from now) gives a wonderful little cameo of this regeneration that also describes our part in it. Consider the foreshadowing of; resurrection, passing away of the works of the wicked, renewal of the earth, and manifestation of God’s supreme power to those who profess His Name:
You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face of the ground. Let the glory of the LORD endure forever; Let the LORD be glad in His works; He looks at the earth, and it trembles; He touches the mountains, and they smoke. I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD. Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD!
There is a consistency of pattern about all of the renewal passages we have considered. They all tell us the earth will be worn out/destroyed/in need of regeneration. But they never leave us there. They go on to say the God knows this. He has known it since Creation. He has had a plan in place for renewal right from the Beginning. The passages tell us God does not change. He endures forever. He will renew both the earth and the people who follow Him in truth. Revelation brings it full-circle when it calls it “eating of the tree of life in the Paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7 This is the ultimate regeneration – Eden restored and now forever without sin. The righteous will be saved, enduring, dwelling in the regenerated heaven and earth, established before Him. Forever.
This is good, hopeful news to a people living in polluted surroundings. Indeed! The Psalm is worthy of repetition:
As for me, I shall be glad in the Lord…Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord!