A little irritation can be good for the soul.
So, there I was, reading C S Lewis essays entitled The Weight of Glory, in which (his essay on membership) he is making a really helpful argument about us being a community (the remedy to a debilitating individualism, which I will examine in my next post here), when, boom, he states that everything that exists, bar the redeemed, will cease to be:
"There will come a time when every nation, human life, all biological life is extinct and every one of us is alive. It was not for societies that Christ died, but for men".
Now, I understand the argument he is making here.
It's pretty clear that outside of the new creation coming in Christ, everything else will cease, so scripture clearly speaks of an end (2 Peter 3:10) to such a realm, but as Lewis notes himself, the 'pearl' Christ has come and reclaimed is not just us, but "all nature, the new universe"(the grand miracle - God in the Dock).
The issue at stake here is essential to how we understand God's redemptive work.
In the beginning, we see God is pleased in creation, which is very good, and He delights and refreshes Himself in this (the 'inhabiting' of the seventh day is especially important here). God's love for His creation, and especially the earth at the heart of this has not changed, which is why Paul informs us in his epistle to the Romans that nature itself, currently under the futility the world has suffered since our fall, is eagerly awaiting the day it will share in the new glory of God's redeemed - a world freed from sin and death (8:18). We can also see, from Genesis and Revelation in the glimpses provided of paradise, that God's role is for humanity is to hold a priesthood which will, through our society, express to all things the wonder and marvel of the nature of God Himself - a reality encapsulated in the city of God, the new Jerusalem, becoming the crowning heart of the new creation.
In the light of such truths, then, the reality is that 'every tribe, people and nation' are made anew into a kingdom of those 'reigning' (living aright) in Christ, as every facet of human life is evidenced well amidst a creation entirely liberated from decay, where death no longer has dominion over a realm entirely sustained by God evidenced in the throne of the Lamb and the tree of life.
It is certain that outside of this hope, there is no reality that isn't deeply dark and devoid of meaning - we are all destined to an end without any meaning, and life is as empty as having a thousand 'friends' on facebook who you don't actually know - but we must realize that God in Christ is reconciling the world to Himself - all things are Christ's, and that the only foreign and alien fields to this are sin (evil) and death, which the death and resurrection of Christ remove from the new order - everything else shall be renewed.
Sometimes we find ourselves at present, because of the foretaste we have received, like the church of the past, living in a foreign land, (Psalm 137) - it can be hard to sing the 'songs of Zion' when life is filled with hardship or loss, but at least we can then turn to God's promises, underwritten in His Son, and look to what is sure, beyond the harshness of today.
It's a key issue to get right. If we loose sight of God's love for what He has made, then we quickly slip into an esoteric exclusivism akin to the Gnostics, where only the 'right' souls are saved, and all of the material universe is valueless (which makes you wonder what was the point of it being made in the first place!).
Earth is is our home, given and adorned by our Father, and we shall live upon it as naturally at home in our bodies (thankfully, without all the aches and pains) as we do now. There will be culture, there will be industry, there will be all that makes life full and meaningful - it will all be, however, far more richer and deeper than we currently understand... that's why it will be home sweet home.
We were created with intent, and that purpose will be fulfilled when Christ makes all things new.