Earth, Our Temporary Home

Temporary home?

Yes, and I don’t mean “Life is short, and then we go to heaven.”

I think N. T. Wright is basically correct about the New Testament’s message of hope. The gospel is not primarily about “going to heaven” when you die. The gospel is good news that in Christ, God is fulfilling the promises inherent in creation, the call of Abraham, the exodus of the Israel, the establishment of the Kingdom of David and the entire Biblical story. In Jesus Christ, God is redeeming and restoring his creation. The gospel story ends in Jesus coming on the clouds to reign on earth and establish his reign of peace once-and-for-all.

You cannot, however, separate God’s reign of peace and justice from the other cosmic changes the gospel promises: the death of death, the transformation of bodily existence and the coming of a new heaven (sky) and new earth.

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, Paul says, we shall be changed. The perishable must put on the imperishable. The mortal must put on immortality. This is as true for the cosmos as it is for the human beings who inhabit it.

The earth is not immortal. It was born (in big round numbers) about 4500 million years ago. The first life appeared about a 1000 million years later. Photosynthesis took about another 1000 million years to oxygenate the atmosphere. Multi-celled organisms nearly another 1000 million years to appear. The first land animals only appeared about a 500 million years ago. The dinosaurs disappeared about 65 million years ago. Hominids have been using tools for about 2.5 million years. Agriculture has only been around for 0.01 millions years, give or take a bit.

The earth will not support life forever. The sun’s nuclear evolution will dictate the earth’s future. As the sun grows older, it will grow brighter. The earth’s temperature will increase, affecting the way that carbon-dioxide cycles through the atmosphere and oceans. In 500 to 900 million years, CO2 in the atmosphere will decrease to a point that the earth cannot support plant life anymore. The lack of vegetation will ultimately result in the loss of oxygen, so animal life will also become extinct. After another 1000 million or so years, water will disappear from the surface of the earth. The sun will become a red giant in about 5000 million years, expanding to about 250 times its current radius. Maybe the sun will swallow the earth; maybe the earth’s orbit will expand far enough for its charred  remains to survive.

The total history of life on earth is about 3/4 complete. Still, five hundred million more years is a long time, especially compared to the short history of human civilization. Without the hope of the resurrection, I suppose it might as well be 500 years as 500 million. I won’t survive long enough to see what happens. If God does not transform all creation, neither will anyone else.