By / Jan 11

In 1987, R.E.M. released its hit song, “It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” You’ve probably heard it once or twice. It’s a fast-paced, catchy tune that seems oddly jubilant for a song about the end of the world.

In a world where seemingly every news story is saturated with the stench of bad news, it’s easy to plug our noses, close our eyes, and beg for Jesus to come back. R.E.M. can “feel fine” all they want; in reality, it feels like the end of the world is at our doorstep and we’re scared to death to answer the door. Deep down, we all want God to pull the plug and get this over with.

To be fair, it’s understandable to long for Jesus’s return in the midst of a sinful world. We groan with creation for his return, relying on the Spirit to remind us that “all things work together for the good of those who love God” (Rom. 8:18-30). The world isn't the way it’s supposed to be, and it’s not the way it always will be. It might be the end of the world as we know it, but we should feel fine.

On earth as it is in heaven

Genesis 1-3 tells us a lot about the future. After a snapshot of God speaking all things into existence, humanity takes center stage. Adam and Eve, though created, didn’t simply exist alongside the rest of creation like roommates sharing an apartment. They were, instead, given the keys to creation. They were landlords of the whole thing, under God’s rule. They were also ordered to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28).

The idea was not only to have children and propagate the species—they were ordered to multiply humans who could then multiply more humans, resulting in the spreading of God’s image across the whole earth. Like ancient kings who identified their kingdoms and marked their territory by placing their replica on key items (e.g., temples, coins, statues), God wanted to mark the earth with his created image-bearers.

But Adam and Eve didn’t make it very long before they were Trojan-horsed by Satan and evicted from the perfection of Eden (Gen. 3). They traded imperishable eternity with their Maker for rotting fruit. They handed over the keys to creation.

Matthew 4, in an eerily similar scene to that of Genesis 3, tells of Jesus’s encounter with Satan. Satan pulls out his top hat and begins to pull rabbits from within. “Turn these stones to bread, Son of God. Throw yourself from this temple and let God’s angels catch you, Son of God. I will give you all the kingdoms of the world, Son of God.” In response to these tactics, Jesus answers the way Eve should have. He says, more or less, “God said to trust what he says. He has given me authority over creation. I have all I need in him. Now go away.” And Satan, the serpent that he still is, slithers away. Instead of being deceived by Satan, Jesus withstood and defeated him. The God-man took the keys back.

Jesus prays in Matthew 6:9-10 for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” In Eden, this was a reality. God walked among his people. There was no barrier between them. Though sin broke that bond, Jesus stepped into human history to fix it. So when he prays for heaven and earth to meet, he’s not being trite—he’s proclaiming something universe-altering. He’s praying for the inauguration of Revelation 21-22, where Satan and sin have been defeated and where God’s people dwell with him again. Edenic perfection is restored, but better—the world looks like it was eventually supposed to, covered in image-bearers who bask in the rays of his glory for eternity. This is not something to fear; it’s something to rejoice in.

When the bad news is gone

Jesus’ prayer mentioned above, his words in the Sermon on the Mount, his Transfiguration, his call for multiplying disciples of all nations, etc. are all signposts for the new heaven and new earth. He didn’t come live a perfect life and conquer the grave so we could sit on our hands. He made us new creations here and now, to be ministers of reconciliation here and now, and to be his mouthpiece here and now (2 Cor. 5:17-21). He sends us out to mirror what the end of Revelation promises. Our lives should shout eternity to the world around us.

The disciples in Acts 2 weren’t preaching and living out merely good morals; rather, they were painting a picture with their lives that this broken world doesn’t have the final word. They were pointing to something bigger. Peter preached about God’s judgment and the disciples shared all their belongings because, in eternity, everything broken will become unbroken. There will be no more evil or selfishness or famine. People will live together in one accord under the reign of a perfect King.

This is still our call today. We are still ministers of reconciliation. God still uses his people to show the world what redemption looks like. We give because one day, no one will be in need. We tell the truth because one day, there will never be another lie. We gather together to worship God and to press one another toward him because one day, worship will be the air we breathe. We share the good news because one day, there will be no more bad news.

By / Jun 4

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.

-Psalm 111:10

We’re in the middle of discovering five tools that will help us think biblically about faith, work, and economics. This week we continue our look at knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. How do we gain knowledge, understanding, and wisdom?

What is the Beginning of All Knowledge and Wisdom 

We know that the Bible teaches, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10Proverbs 9:10). Fear seems like a strange pathway to wise living and a proper relationship with God. How can fear of God be central to the life of faith, which is meant to draw us closer to God in love?

The answer to this paradox is that the “fear of the Lord” is used two different ways in the Bible. In fact, Exodus 20:20 uses them both in the same sentence:

Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’

Moses is drawing a contrast between being afraid and properly fearing God. In the first usage, fear is not coupled with love and trust. It can lead only to terror and despair. This is the way we normally use the word fear.

The proper “fear of the Lord” is coupled with love and trust. It is almost a child-like combination of holy respect and glowing love. Systematic theology professor Robert Strimple writes that the “fear of the Lord” is the “convergence of awe, reverence, adoration, honor, worship, confidence, thankfulness, love, and, yes, fear” in the presence of the eternal God—the Creator of the universe, the holy Lawgiver, the righteous Judge, and the merciful Savior.

So for those who are in Christ, the “fear of the Lord” does not involve abject terror or dread of divine justice, but it is the beginning of a path that leads to wisdom. This path begins with the “knowledge of God.”

General and Special Revelation: The Knowledged of God 

This “knowledge of God” comes to us in two distinct ways: general and special revelation. The Belgic Confession, written in 1561, describes the two means by which we know God:

First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: his eternal power and his divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20. All these things are enough to convict men and to leave them without excuse. Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the salvation of his own.

Through general revelation, we can learn much about God and his truth from observing the world around us. Although the general revelation of God’s knowledge and truth does leave men without an excuse, as the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 1:20, it is not sufficient to transmit the knowledge of the gospel. It is also not sufficient enough to give us knowledge of God’s will for our lives, which is necessary for our salvation. It is only through this special relationship with Christ that we can begin to see and understand the full purpose of the world around us.

It is the special revelation of Scripture, then, that gives us a much clearer picture of creation and the world in which we live. The revelation of Scripture serves as the filter through which everything else should be interpreted.

The reformer John Calvin wrote in his Institutes that the Scriptures are the spectacles with which to read the book of nature, and that the illumination of the Spirit is needed to give us proper eyesight for the reading. As Graeme Goldsworthy points out in his book Gospel and Kingdom,

The creatorship of God tells us that all reality is God’s reality; all truth is God’s truth…if we believe in God as Creator, we may not divide the world into spiritual and secular. The fact that all reality depends upon the creative word of God means that the word of God must judge the ideas of men about truth and error, not the other way round.

In my next post, I’ll write about how many Christians today have compartmentalized general and special revelation. This compartmentalization is at the root of the secular/spiritual divide that has distorted our current view of vocation, faith, and economics.

Related:

Five tools for thinking biblically about faith, work and economics

Why is personal vision important?

Discovering your personal vision

Why I Am Not A Plumber

Gifts, Talents, and Virtues

Putting Virtue into Practice, Part 1

Putting Virtue Into Practice, Part 2

You don’t know what you don’t know: Knowledge, understanding and wisdom

This article originally appeared on the website of the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics.