Stephen Whitsett BA
Giving an orthodox apologetic answer for Preterism / Dispensationalism
The Redemption of Creation
Rev. Stephen Whitsett B.A. (M.Div., Candidate)
Grand Canyon University, Phoenix AZ
March 8, 2016
Abstract: The question was asked, “Where does the Bible promise that the earth and all things physical would be redeemed?" and what was provided was Romans 8:18-25 in which Paul speaks of creation and its subsequent redemption that comes on the heels of his return. What followed was ridicule. Gnosticism is the denial of the “good” that’s found in God’s creation from the beginning and there are those who hold to the idea that this physical world will remain as it is in its fallen state with no hope of it being “made like new” yet they claim the New Jerusalem arrived in 70 AD and Christ words were fulfilled, ““Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev 21:5) with the destruction of the Jerusalem and its temple. This paper explores the biblical foundation for the redemption of all creation.
The plan of redemption is the unfolding of history in which God makes way for what was lost by Adam, to its final conclusion in which restoration of all things comes to pass. Larry Siegel stated,
Covenant Eschatology celebrates the victory of God in the redemption, reconciliation and restoration of what was lost through the entrance of sin-death into the world through Adam (Rom. 5:12; 6:23). The symphony of God’s “purpose of the ages” (Eph. 3:11), is traced through the progressive unfolding of redemptive history, having been “promised before the ages began” (Titus 1:2 ESV), from Genesis to Revelation. The crescendo and grand climax of God’s purpose that brings about the “restoration of all things”
This then begs the question in the minds of pseudo agnostics, “does the also mean for the physical?” The most obvious answer is found in the very passage in question. Romans 8: we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” The typical response from the Preterist is a focus on the Greek word somatos; s?µat?? singular, “body” which it translated plural, and try to defend the singleness of the word is the implied meaning of one body, the body of Christ, yet what follows in the Greek is “of us” (hemon ?µ??.) plural, so Paul is speaking about each one us in respect to his or her own body as one group of people who are distinct and separate from the rest of the world, the church which is made up of individuals. In case the point is missed our “body” is very much a physical thing that he plans to redeems from what held it, the law of sin and death. With that in mind redemption, ?p???t??s?? apolytroŻsis a deliverance, procured by the payment of a ransom; the body (of us ) was bought back from what had held it in bondage, namely the curse just as Larry spoke of in references to Acts 3, the restoration of all things which in this passage Paul applies it to the physical body.
This thought then is confirmed in Philippians 3;21, “…will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body”. First of all, the passage makes a clear comparison between our body and the glorious body of Christ (not the church). Our body is lowly as it is still subject to the curse. In the literal wording, “who will transform the body (singular) of humiliation of us (plural) conformed to the body of the glory of himself.” the simple phrasing is identical to Romans 8:23 – body of us-. Again their distinction of the phrase “of us” identifies this as our body and not the body of Christ. Secondly “glorious” which comes from the root word “doxa” [1391 (dóksa) literally means "what evokes good opinion, i.e. that something has inherent, intrinsic worth” is speaking of the body Christ has having intrinsic worth, his body evokes a good opinion something to be attained to as the promise is that this low condition is considered “not good”, yet God had declared after making man that it was good, so the effect of sin on the body was “not good” it fell under the power and force of the curse and became lowly in that it was now subject to death and corruption through sickness, disease, and even old age.
In Romans 8 the curse is referenced with “For the creation was subjected to futility (or vanity)” The Bible Commentary states, “the fact that the frustration now experienced by the creation did not come about by its own choice. It came, rather, by the will of the one who subjected it, i.e. God, who decreed a curse on the earth as a result of Adam’s sin (Gn. 3:17-18; cf. 1 Cor. 15:27). The curse was placed by God himself and in passages such as Isaiah 11 he uses language that speaks of a return to the pre fall condition of creation.
7The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. Isaiah 11
A reference to what we find in Genesis 1:30, which was before the fall.
And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food. (sheep was not given to lions for food).
When Isaiah uses “wolves” and “lambs” are we to understand this literally or figuratively? One Preterist tried to associate the terms to the New Testament concept of “wolves” were gentiles and “lambs” as being Jews and explain how they lie down together in the new covenant terms as the great mystery is revealed in Ephesians 3. The person who asked the question above stated, “Please explain how I am wrong to understand this in a 'covenantal fashion'.
His Interpretation is guided by the overreaching principle the words used were never intended to be the literal meaning of what the author was saying, but the words used and the phrases were commonly used in scriptures to relate something spiritual so that every time these words or phrasing is used the spiritual meaning is to be understood as the natural intent of the author. “Covenantal fashion” means that the interpretation of any prophetic passage will be conveyed in terms of the covenant death or birth. The literal words can be talking about the heaven or sky above and the earth, ground below our feet and in its literal context but since heaven and earth is used elsewhere about the people who live under the Old or New covenant therefor every passage that uses this phrase is actually talking about the ending of the Old Covenant and the birth of the new.
One person noted the mistake,
Just because a figure or illustration is used metaphorically sometimes does not necessitate that the metaphor must always be used that way or that it is always symbolic. I think that is where you make the mistake - everything become spiritual, everything becomes symbolic - at least as I understand you. Some things can and should be taken literally - physically. In the same way I see the promise of a future resurrection of the dry bones of Ezekiel.
The prophecy of the dry bones was a spiritual event expressed in a vision while the reality was the literal regathering of Israel. The wolf and lamb do not represent something else in a New Testament context but are literal animals that’s live together that represent the restoration of creation from the curse that had divided and destroyed creation or the natural order in which God created. The spiritual application applied over the Ezekiel passage by the preterist, according to its foundational principle, is that its talking about the ending of the Old Covenant and new life came to the bones in the form of a new covenant based on a new testament passage, Gal 4:24
Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia;eshe corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.
To the preterist the false assertion is made then the old Jerusalem is about the old covenant and the New Jerusalem is the new Covenant. Because the Old Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD therefore the New Covenant was made active and the New Jerusalem came down out of heaven. Yet Israel was rebirthed after the Syrian dispersion. Interestingly enough it is also what happened in 1947.
Creation is often spoken of in anthropomorphic ways such as Isaiah 55:12, “The mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Paul follows the same type of language by describing the creation groaning as if in birth pains. Thayer’s and other lexicons point to this “creation” as being the things God created, the physical world that suffers under the vanity of the curse. Based on the context of the passage where creation is anthropomorphized indicates it is speaking of the literal creation. Anthropomorphism is only applied to inanimate physical things to make it sound “human”.
The book of Romans begins with a reference to creation, “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities…” which identifies Creation is this physical world. He uses the word 4 times in Romans 8 and in its first use, verse 19, he states, “the creation” the article “THE” separates it from anything else as there is only one creation of God. Thayer’s states, “the human creation, Mk. 16:15; Rom. 8:19, 20, 21, 22;” This references back to his opening statement in 18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time.” Why are we suffering in this present time? Because creation is subject to the futility of the curse that was placed upon it.
“That the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption” implies that creation was bound. This is contrasted with its “liberty” which happens when the saints body is set free by the redemption of the body, its freedom from the curse of sin and death is promised in Acts 3, the hope of the restoration of all things. If restoration of all things does not include the physical creation that became subject to the curse, then our God is weak that he can’t even undo the very curse he pronounced. To assume he never reverses the curse is a great travesty of his own word, “Behold I am making all things new” To the preterist all things does not mean “all things” just some.
Revelation 21:5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Is language regarding the nature of the reality of the New Jerusalem. It’s interesting that preterist demands it’s “all things fulfilled” but when it comes to all things restored it only means the spiritual and not the physical even though the physical was subjected to the curse. So the “spiritual” earth is free but not the physical earth. So do we say only the spiritual prophecies were fulfilled not the physical ones.
"Where does the Bible promise that the earth and all things physical would be redeemed?"
Stephen Whitsett responds "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God..For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved".
responds, "Yeah, the last time I talked to the tree in my front yard, it told me it is waiting for that glorious event. It understands it falls short and sins like all other trees"