Piper: “The Triumph of the Gospel in the New Heavens and the New Earth
The final session of the Gospel Coalition is by John Piper, on the theme of “The Triumph of the Gospel in the New Heavens and the New Earth.” Don Carson introduced Piper by saying that with regard to the transcendence of God, Piper is our generation’s Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
Piper began by saying that, in his opinion, Lloyd-Jones is the greatest preacher of the 20th century. Piper listens to him every Monday morning. Every preacher should go to www.mlj.org.uk. We are shaped by those we hear.
Piper wishes every pastor could have been asked to preach this sermon. God loves to give insight to desperate pastors.
Gen 1:1: creation. Gen 1:27. Man created in God’s own image. Gen 1:31. Very good. Gen 3: Adam and Eve reject God as their supreme wisdom, beauty, and desire. Then God curses them and the ground. Gen 3:15: I will put enmity between the creation-destroying serpent and the woman and her seed. The apostle Paul hears in that the hope expressed in Rom 8:20-21:
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
God created the universe out of nothing and it was very good. Then Adam and Eve did something horrifyingly evil in their hearts: they preferred the fruit of a tree to fellowship with God. God not only sentenced them to death but subjected the entire creation to futility and bondage to corruption. Every human dies and suffers. As do animals. Rivers, volcanoes, tsunamis, storms, AIDS, malaria, cancer, heart disease, tornadoes, freak accidents. If we could see 1/10,000 of the world’s suffering at the moment we would pass out or throw up. Only God almighty can bear that sight.
Why did God do this to the world? The creation didn’t do anything–why did he subject it to such decay? God said: “cursed be the ground because of you.” Why the kaleidoscope of tragedy?
God put the natural world under a curse so that the horrors we see around us would become a vivid picture of how terrible sin is. Natural evil is a signpost to the unspeakable wickedness of moral evil.
Our hearts are so dull and blinded to the exceeding wickedness of sin. Do you know anyone who feels the abhorrent evil our sin is? Almost no one is incensed or nauseated at how we belittle the glory of God? We don’t see it or feel it. But let God touch my little finger and he’s in the dock–what is he doing; where is the justice?
This is God’s way to help you hate your sin.
(See also Piper’s sermon, Where Is God?)
God mercifully shouts to us in our sickness and pain and calamities: this deformity or tragedy is like preferring television to me, or like wanting to be in heaven without me.
What do you say to the parent whose child will never have a mental ability beyond six months? You open your Bible to Romans 8.
Romans 8 is the greatest chapter in the Bible. Everyone should memorize it.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Young pastors: this text is one of the most important texts to get clarity on, from the beginning of your ministry.
One of Piper’s first sermons 27 years ago at Bethlehem was Christ and Cancer. Piper did a funeral every 3 weeks for the first year and a half. He did not want them thinking that if they just had faith, they wouldn’t be in the hospital–because of v. 23: “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” In your ministry, nail this on the front end. Your people need to know where you stand, so that when you stand by their bed, they have a theological framework for what you say. And if you’ve done it well, you don’t have to say anything.
1. God promises that there will be liberation for this creation from its bondage and decay. V. 21: “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption.” This earth will be a new earth. Isa 65:17; Isa 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1; Acts 3:19. “New earth” means “renewed earth”–not in the way that you get a “new car.”
Your disabled son will have an eternity to run and leap to the glory of God–and this world will have seemed like a light and momentary affliction.
2. This liberation from its natural order will be a participation in the freedom of the glory of God. V. 21: ” the creation . . . will . . . obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” The creation follows man into corruption–and into glory. The creation is drawn up into the freedom of the glory of God. Note the order: the freedom of the glory of the children of God comes first; then, after glorifying our bodies, the whole creation is fitted as a suitable dwelling for the glorified family.
Your child will not be changed to fit the new glorified universe. The new universe will be changed to fit the glory of your child. He will not have to adapt anymore; everything in creation will be adapted to him.
The world (which we should care about) is not important in itself, but as the playground, temple, farm, craft store, of the children of God.
3. The arrival of the new liberated creation is compared to a birth; so there’s not only continuity with this world, but also discontinuity. V. 22: “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” A child is human (continuity) but not his mother (discontinuity).
Will my disabled son ever grow up? Will he eat on his own? Will he be able to make anything? God will make this world in a way that nothing is wasted. Your son will eat with Jesus. God will give him full development, for his maximum joy and God’s maxim joy?
What’s the deepest assurance and highest hope we can give these parents?
4. The hope of having redeemed bodies in the new creation is secured by our salvation which we received in the gospel–but this (receiving new bodies) is not our best hope. Vv. 23-24: “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.” With reference to his hope, we are saved. When we were saved, this hope was secured for us. We are saved by banking on Christ crucified and risen (1 Cor 15:1-3). If there were no gospel for sins, we would not be included in the new heavens, and there would be no heavens and earth.
The ultimate gift and good of the gospel is not the redeemed bodies, not propitiation, not justification, not forgiveness of sins–these are all means. The ultimate good of the gospel is the glory of God himself in the his crucified and risen Son. 1 Pet. 3:18: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”
The risen Christ will never lay down his risen body, but will keep it as an emblem of Calvary, where God’s grace was displayed most fully. We will sing of the slain lamb forever.