As I write, I’m looking into a green forest, with an ocean in the distance. I’m on holidays, enjoying my children and grandchildren. It feels like the kind of wild natural extravagance and intimate communal joy God always intended for his earthly realm.
But I’m aware that other people are having a very different kind of day. A friend’s father is wrestling with a cancer diagnosis. Another friend’s son is in jail. And if you’ve ever seen the rows of tents in those refugee camps, you can’t forget what life on earth is like for many.
This world was God’s idea. He never intended us to inflict pain and suffering on each other through war, conquest, famine, manipulation, exploitation, and abuses of power. Humans do violence to each other when we grasp power that should be in God’s hands.
But if God is king and this earth is his kingdom, isn’t it his responsibility to sort out this mess? He does, but not in the way we expect. He made himself vulnerable to us, suffered at the hands of evil, to absorb it and carry it away. He calls us earth-dwellers to follow in his footsteps, to take up our crosses too, for the healing of the world.
Do you think God’s plan to restore the earth will work? The Bible does not end with God giving up on earth as a failed project and conceding he’ll have to take us to heaven instead. No, God is working on a complete makeover for the earth: not its damnation, but its restoration. Heaven and earth will be restored in right relationship: earth governed by heaven.
The Bible ends with God’s government coming down to earth. Earth will operate under the restored administrative capital of God’s government — renewed Jerusalem — and God will reign forever (Revelation 21).
In the beginning, God designed humans to rule in his earthly realm (Genesis 1:26-28). That’s our significance (Psalm 8:6). People abused that power by acting like beasts, but God has given the kingdom to one who acted like a human, one like a son of man (Daniel 7). Kingship over the earth was entrusted to him when he was raised from the dead. We who are restored in the Messiah are restored to what humans were designed to be — God’s co-regents in his earthly realm (Ephesians 1:18-23).
Consequently, what we do with the earth really matters. We are custodians of God’s earthly realm. Our king provides for his realm — even the birds and flowers according to Jesus. We have responsibility to manage his provision. We have the responsibility to do so cooperatively, in community, treating each other as children of the king.
That’s how the earth will know its king, and discover what a beautiful world it is.