What’s your perspective? Observing our globe and its inhabitants, it takes no imagination to be gripped and made despondent by the obvious flaws, constant crises, and human horrors. Living with an outlook of hopefulness and even anticipation is a rare thing. Yet for people like Maltbie Babcock there is every reason for it.
During the years he made his home in Lockport, New York, he would often go hiking in the natural beauty of the Niagara Escarpment. He would announce to his wife Katherine as he left, “I’m going out to see my Father’s world.” Captivated by the wonder of creation he wrote:
This is my Father’s world,
and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.
Babcock was not simply caught up in some naive romantic opinion. Though he lived prior to the ravages of two world wars and the mass brutality of twentieth century revolutions, this Presbyterian pastor did not live with his head in the clouds. In the same hymn crafted from his poem he notes “the wrong seems oft so strong.” One hundred years later, we can’t help but agree. It so often is.
What fueled his positive outlook? No doubt it was firmly rooted in the promises of God the Creator. He pronounces, “Behold, I am making all things new” Revelation 21:5 (NASB). The Apostle John (and Maltbie) saw what Jesus was showing them—something for the comfort and encouragement of pressured Christians in the first century and for those longing for hope in the twenty-first:
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:1-5a).
A new earth! A place of LIGHT—no darkness, no sin. Our new home is SECURE from everything that messes up life—it is kept safely away. And where today’s world is shot through by death as lives are taken before birth, destroyed by substance abuse, domestic violence, war, and the mistreatment of the elderly and weak, God’s creation is teeming with LIFE. Nothing but eternal life.
It seems obvious. Who wouldn’t gladly embrace this pristine new creation? An earth where the natural environment and the people in it interact flawlessly? A world without corruption. It is what every social justice warrior fights for, what every philanthropist, every politician and every good neighbour would have to agree is a fitting conclusion to world history! Wholeness—fullness of life in every way!
Indeed, the cry of the bride of Christ, the Church—suffering the scorn of the world, fighting against our own flesh and the sly attacks of the evil one—the cry moved by the Holy Spirit within is, “COME, Lord Jesus, bring this new day about! Rescue us, come live among us. Put all things right and make all things new!”
However, many (along with our first parents) continue to boldly shout, “I know what’s good for me and I alone know what’s bad for me. I do want a healed world, but I want to be the center of it and I really don’t want God to ‘dwell with me.’”
The King of this new earth is not dissuaded by such attitudes. Jesus waits and pursues the lost. Jesus promises, “I am coming!” And no, he is not slow. He is patient, not wanting any to perish, but all to be recreated.
Living in this hope and anticipation, we share in our Master’s mission. What could be more important than announcing forgiveness and new life in Jesus—a new perspective and a solid hope for a bewildered world? What could be better than celebrating God’s new creation with new friends in the presence of our God and Savior Jesus? Nothing!
But what is valuable is costly. Living out God’s call is often not easy. It is hard work. Babcock writes elsewhere:
We are not here to play,
to dream, to drift,
We have hard work to do,
and loads to lift,
Shun not the struggle;
face it; ’Tis God’s gift.
It’s God’s gift. It’s worth it. After all, the creation we anticipate and long for is not the remote garden home, but a CITY OF NATIONS, filled with God’s enemies made friends, dead made alive, joyfully devoted to the service of the One who has given them life:
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10).
We have everlasting life! Jesus’ victorious battle over your sin, death, and the devil gives you every reason for a new perspective, living life to the full in hope and anticipation of our Father’s restored creation.
This is my Father’s world.
O let me ne’er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
the battle is not done:
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
and earth and Heav’n be one.
Rev. Roger Olson is Pastor of Living Faith Church in Watford City, North Dakota.