The world and our bodies are not things we will escape from, but something that God, through Christ, by the Spirit, will one day renew and re-animate to reflect the kind of body and creation He envisioned from the very beginning.
We will have our bodies forever. Yes, they will be like Christ’s glorified, post-resurrection body, the same, yet different from the body he had during his public ministry, but it will be a body nonetheless.
We will live on the earth forever. It will be a renewed and restored earth, but it will be the earth nonetheless.
Continuity and Discontinuity
This discussion is really about continuity and discontinuity. In the first instance—our bodies and the earth will remain—continuity. In the second instance—both will be different—discontinuity. Both will remain, yet will be renewed and restored.
As Stanley Grenz wrote in his book Created for Community, “God promises to make all things new, not to begin anew.” His creation will undergo a transformation, not a complete destruction, as God is not about to abandon his good work.
Any idea that says our bodies are temporary and that they do not have a place within God’s plan of cosmic redemption reflects Gnosticism more than it does Jesus and his message of restoration.
Any idea that sees the world as inherently evil, something destined for utter destruction, something that God has destined to annihilate, has not only misunderstood the entire witness of scripture that clearly communicates a different message, a message rooted in Jesus’ life, teaching, death and resurrection, but has also misread the end of the story and God’s plan to restore the earth.
God’s plan has always been and will always be centered in the redemption, restoration and renewal of this broken world and to make it into the place where we will live for all eternity—in a city that John referred to as the New Jerusalem.
N.T. Wright put it this way,
The great drama will end (Rev. 21-21), not with ‘saved souls’ being snatched up into heaven, but with the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth.
What does this mean? It means this world is our home and we’re not just passing through. Yes, God has a plan to redeem and renew it, but the world will remain.
Continuity and discontinuity.
Any idea that says otherwise is rooted more in a Gnostic-way of seeing things than in a God-way of seeing things.
As Paul wrote in Romans 8:19-23,
The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.