New Creation a term denoting the theory of a restoration of the physical universe as the final abode of glorified humanity.
I. Argument for the Doctrine. — Predictions of a great and universal renovation are, in a more or less direct form, an almost invariable feature of Biblical Eschatology. Such was the tone of prophecy before Christ's first advent, such that of the apostolic writings, and such that of our Lord's own words as recorded in the Gospels and the Apocalypse. This may be shortly indicated by the words of an ancient prophecy, "Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind" (Isa 65:17; comp. 66:22); those of an apostolical epistle, "The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up... Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2Pe 3:10-13); and those of the great Christian prophecy, "I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new" (Re 21:1,5).
That these predictions of a new creation are figurative is an easy explanation, and it may be in some slight degree corroborated by the fact that the kingdom of Christ is a re-creation of human nature in his own person by his incarnation, and of the souls of mankind by their regeneration in holy baptism. Such an explanation, however, reaches but a little way towards drawing out the meaning of the predictions in question, for even if they include that which it refers to (as is not likely from the analogy of our Lord's own prophetic language), they yet undoubtedly look beyond it, and point unmistakably to a new creation, not of souls, but of the material earth, its surrounding "Heaven" or heavens, and the works as well as the beings which it contains.
The chief difficulty in the way of belief in such a renovation is probably that which arises from the accompanying prediction of a preceding destruction. Looking on the changes which are wrought on the surface of the earth, or which have been wrought during the historic ages, we observe that the whole sum of them, after all the ordinary and all the convulsive operations of the physical forces which affect them, falls far short of anything approaching the magnitude of so stupendous a change as that which would be made by a destructive catastrophe, such as is predicted. The terrific operation of fire on the body of the sun is now, however, well known to scientific observers, as well as the vast and most rapid changes which it effects. There is no difficulty in believing that such changes may be effected on the body of the earth, when we observe enormous craters to be almost instantly created on that of the sun — so enormous that many planets as large as the earth might be engulfed in them, and so intensely heated that the very granite would melt in the midst of them.
A more formidable objection is one drawn from the moral aspect of such a destruction. Allowing that it is reasonable to set aside the physical difficulty as being confuted by scientific knowledge not less than by a priori reasonings as to Almighty Power, is it consistent with our ideas of God's attributes that the magnificent works of man — works of architecture, engineering, art, and skill — works that betoken the use of God's own gifts of intellect, and the progress of humanity in the development of those powers and the application of those materials with which the Creator has provided it — that these should be utterly destroyed? Can there be no consecration of man's handiwork by which it may be symbolically renovated? Must the very foundations of the earth and all that rests upon them be utterly broken up before the palace of the New Creation can be erected? Would not such a destruction, we are almost tempted to say, be a kind of waste, and contrary to the first principles on which God's providence is ever working?
No doubt such objections as these, and many more such, will arise in thoughtful minds; and no doubt they will be accompanied by a wish to understand the statements of the Bible in some easier way; to adopt a metaphorical meaning, for example, such as would take the new creation of heaven and earth to be a moral regeneration, and the passing away of the old creation as the cessation of sin. But St. Peter appears to have been inspired to meet such objections with a plain contradiction beforehand; for when he is about to speak of the destruction of the earth and the heavens in a manner that quite shuts out the idea of his words being intended to be metaphorical, he prefaces the awful statement by predicting that in the last days there will come scoffers, arguing that, from the apparent firmness and permanence of all things for so many ages, there is no probability of their future actual destruction. The apostle therefore warns us off from such objections, and leaves us little rational ground for supposing a metaphor to have been intended by the words "new heaven and new earth." Perhaps we may be better reconciled to a literal sense of these words if we take into account a few considerations respecting the power and authority of the Creator and his probable purpose in organizing a new creation.
(1.) It is manifest that all things belong to God to deal with as he may think proper: there is no known law by which he binds himself to preserve as it now stands either the creation of his own hands or the handiwork of the race that he has created.
(2.) He infinite power of an Almighty Creator, that can call forth a new creation at his will, makes the destruction of many worlds a matter of no importance in the vast scheme of his general purposes and his eternal existence. "Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt-offering. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity" (Isa 40:15-17). Or, to use a homely simile, as we often see portions of beautiful columns, moldings, and carvings built into the rubble of mediaeval churches as if they were common stones of no value, and are aware that this was done by buillers who knew that they could produce better work than that which they were concealing or partially destroying-so we know the great Architect of the universe can replace all that he causes or suffers to be destroyed with a new creation of still greater beauty, glory, magnitude, and use, without effort and at any moment.
(3.) This seems to lead up to the object of so wide a destruction as that implied by the words of Holy Scripture, the "whole creation groaneth and travaileth together," fallen with fallen man, even in Christ's dispensation degenerating age by age, and removing further and further from the high standard of perfection in which it first came forth from the hands of the Creator. It is to make room for a perfect creation that this degenerated one is to pass away — to make room for one in which there will be no capacity for degeneration, no trace of imperfection, no stain of a will adverse to the will of God.
By the consideration of truths such as these we may fortify our faith in the word which God has four times spoken by his prophets; and believing that we can see some reason why there should be a new heaven and a new earth, believe also that there are many others which are beyond our knowledge, and that therefore our safest course is to take the divine proclamation simply and literally as it stands. Whether by an utter destruction and an entirely new creation, or whether (as is more probable) by a regeneration and purification effected by fire, in some way or other God will cause the heavens and earth that now are to pass away; and will fulfill his own words, "Behold, I make all things new," in the sense of a material renovation. SEE CONFLAGRATION, GENERAL.
II. Material Renovation. — Theory as to the State. Although it would be venturesome to pursue this idea of a new creation into details, by speculating as to the new features that will characterize the abode of mankind and its celestial surroundings, we are fully justified in following it up as regards our own nature. Respecting human nature, there is no room whatever for doubt. It will be taken into the presence of its Creator after having passed again under his creating hand, renovated into a perfectness of condition even greater than that which belonged to it in its most perfect temporal condition.
(1.) First it is to be considered that there will be a new creation of the body. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption" (1Co 15:20). Such is the truth which St. Paul declares to us when he is dealing theologically with the question of the resurrection. Such also is the truth that we are taught by the very instinct of self-consciousness. It is not bodies such as we are provided with for the work of this world that will be suited to inhabit a new earth, or to stand in the immediate presence-chamber of the all- glorious and all-holy God. Such bodies as these can never be dissociated from imperfection and degeneration, disease, decay, and dissolution. They are endowed with functions that are evidently incompatible with a never- ending immortality; and we cannot imagine hunger, thirst, and the capacities and desires which are most characteristic of bodily life as it now is to have any place in heaven. They exist under laws that involve the loss of strength, vigor, and beauty after the lapse of a few score years; and we cannot imagine the wrinkles or weakness or decrepitude of old age to have any consistency with the perpetual youth of a renovated creation.
Hence the same inspired teacher tells us that the body which is sown in corruption is raised in incorruption, that which is sown in dishonor is raised in glory, that which is sown in weakness is raised in power, that which is sown a natural body is raised a spiritual body;... this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. These are most wonderful statements; but can we gain from them, from other light of Holy Scripture, or from the light of our own experiences, observations, and reasonings, any definite ideas on the subject of this renovated body which is to find itself fit for making a home of a renovated world? It is almost impossible to do so except by a series of negatives. For the spiritual body of the resurrection sera there will be no hunger nor thirst, no marrying nor giving in marriage, no pain, no suffering, no decay, no dissolution. It will answer to the great Catholic dogma, "I believe in the resurrection of the body." "the resurrection of the flesh," in such a manner that every one will have a ready consciousness of identity, as of something restored which had long been lost, and yet it will be "a spiritual body," one of which, if we can positively say "it is the same," we must also say with equal certainty "it is not the same." Perhaps the very phrase "spiritual body," which sounds like a contradiction of terms, contains the real explanation as far as we can now reach it. That which we think of in this life as the human body is a complex structure of substances and organs whose principal purposes are those of sense; but even as it now exists we can discover traces of a lower organization and a higher organization. There is that which seems at once to be of the earth earthly that which the Scripture calls "flesh and blood" — the grosser organization associated with the maintenance of animal life and action; and there is also that which we find little difficulty in associating with spiritual life and action — the nervous system, or that portion of it which is connected with the organs and faculties whereby the mind works and communicates with the world around. The one seems to belong to our bodies in common with the bodies of creatures lower than ourselves in the scale of creation, the other to belong to those bodies in common with beings higher than ourselves. We easily believe of angels that they speak and think and reason; that they see and hear; that they remember and increase in knowledge; that they love and adore; and some of these properties which belong to men and angels we dare to think of as belonging even to God. Is there not, then, in that part of our bodily system which enables us to do all this which is done even by angels and by One higher than angels, the germ of that spiritual body "which can inherit the kingdom of God?" And may we not venture to think of the resurrection of the body as a clothing again of our souls and spirits with all the organization that belongs to the higher part of our being, while that which belongs to the lower part lies forever in the dust with which it has mingled ?
It is not difficult to imagine bodies so regenerated that they find their original pattern in the body that rose from the grave three days after death, and afterwards ascended into heaven. It is, in fact, most easy and most rational to believe that as the Incarnation of the Son of God was the new creation of a Man perfect in body and soul, so it was the first step in the new creation of all human nature; and that as we have borne in our bodies the image of the earthly. which is the First Adam, so in our bodies also we shall bear the Image of the heavenly, which is the Second Adam. SEE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST.
Thus, when the word has gone forth, "Behold, I make all things new," this will be a part of that new creation, that the bodies of the redeemed will be as the glorified body of Him who is not ashamed to call them brethren; bodies such as were laid in the grave, and with something about them yet which will identify them with a former life, and yet spiritual bodies on which the incarnation will have done its thorough work by restoring to them their share in the Image of God; making them ever pure, ever incapable of evil, of degeneracy, or of decay.
(2.) As the external features of human nature will be thus renovated, so also will there be a renovation of all that belongs to its mental and spiritual faculties. Towards such a new creation it is easy to see that the work of the incarnation has ever been tending. What man lost by the fall he regains by his restoration in Christ. Man lost the image of God, but the express Image of the Father took upon him the fallen nature, raised it to its first estate in his own person, and made it possible for it to regain that position in the persons of all men. Man lost by the fall the spirit which was breathed into him so that he became a living soul, but the Holy Spirit descended to dwell in the Church on earth, and to continue the power of the incarnation; and now each sacramentally built up man has the loss repaired, and becomes once more body, soul, and spirit. as in his first creation. SEE SPIRIT.
But this is a gradual. not a sudden work, and although in the first regeneration of human nature at conversion, and in all the stages of sanctifying edification, the Lord is causing it to go through a process of renovation and re-creation, the climax of that building up of the restored spirit of man will only be attained when the final fiat of re-creation goes forth. Under the operation of such a re-creation, that which we sometimes call "the religious faculty" will become supreme among all the mental qualities of our nature. Then, too), all evil passions, all sorrows, all cares, having passed away as part of the former things that have no place in the renewed world, it is reasonable to believe that other mental faculties will have room to develop in a degree for which there has been no sufficient opportunity in this life; so that the intelligence of each one of the renovated persons will be like the intelligence of an angel. Thus all that is good and noble in the spiritual and intellectual part of human nature will become infinitely more good and noble still. The humblest sinner of this life who attains to the life everlasting will stand as a glorious saint before the throne of God. The lowliest intellect will be so cleared, so vivified and developed, by the making of all things new, that there will be no such thing as ignorance-as we now understand it-possible, nor any bar set up by the will to the attainment of an exalted reach of knowledge.
It seems, then, that we must blend together the highest earthly saintliness and the highest earthly intelligence if we seek for a type of the perfectly renovated inner nature of man; and when we have thus gained some idea of what will be effected by the new creation, we still have to remember that this type of the newcreated mind and spirit of mall places us only on the threshold of his future life. He will go on, without limit of time and age, dwelling in close communion with the all-holy and all-knowing God; and from the perpetual shilling of that "light which no man," in his mortal condition, "can approach unto," there must be a never-ceasing growth of saintliness and intelligence, a development of each which can find no limit short of the holiness and knowledge of the One who is without bounds.
III. Spiritual Surroundings. — As the renovation of the material world, and of the corporeal and incorporeal parts of man's nature, will alter all the conditions of what we should call from our present standpoint man's existence and work in the world, so also it will alter those of his existence in the Church, since among the revelations of that future life which were made to St. John there was a special one of a "New Jerusalem coming down from God, out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Re 21:2). We are all familiar with the glorious things which are spoken of this city of our God. In wrought with our habitual devotions as they dwell on the future are such words as
"With jasper glow thy bulwarks, Thy streets with emeralds blaze; The sardius and the topaz Unite in thee their rays."
But we are probably disposed to dwell on these glorious pictures of the holy city without a sufficient recognition of the fact that they represent a development and new creation of the religious life, and especially of that part of it which is associated with divine worship. For this renovation of the religious life and of divine worship is also the glorious climax of our Lord's incarnation; and therefore the coming down of the New Jerusalem from God is followed by "a great voice out of heaven," which recalls to our mind the fact that our Lord's incarnation was a tabernacling of the Deity in the humanity. "I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God" (Re 21:3). That same presence of God, therefore, which has been at once the great power of the religious life and the great object of divine worship in the Church militant, will be the same in the Church triumphant. As God is now with his people in worship, the virtue of which is derived from the incarnation, so will he be with them in a direct presence, the power of which will be to them a perpetual light and an inexhaustible life; and as now God is in his holy temple, and thither we gather that before his altar we may bow down in adoration of his mystical presence, so then, when there shall be no temple in the holy city — "for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it" (Re 21:22) — the glorious and visible presence of him that sitteth on the throne will be that before which the elders will cast down their crowns, and the vast multitude of the redeemed sing forth their hallelujahs.
Thus the Church militant will develop into the Church triumphant; Christ's first and his second advent will prove to be two stages in the mighty work of new creation. The former things that are to pass away-a degenerate world, a fallen man, an imperfect religious life, a halting worship-all these having derived what good there has been in them from the first stage of the new creation, that good will still remain, even though their distinctive characteristics of evil, weakness, and imperfection will have been burned out and annihilated. But God is pleased that there should be a degenerate world, and a fallen man, and an imperfect religions life, and a halting worship no longer, and therefore the second stage of the mighty work of the incarnation will be attained in the complete fulfillment of the words, "Behold, I make all things new."