New Earth

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A Book that Reveals

Top ImageThe Book of Revelation in the Light of the Stars

It is not often from where I live that I can look up into a clear night sky, but when this is possible I am amazed by the sheer number of stars and planets that exist out there. I wonder how many people have gazed in wonder and awe at the scope and grandeur of God’s creation? Millions upon millions spread over the hundreds and thousands of years all confirming what King David declared when he wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1).

What you may not know is that many of the ancient people saw even more than grandeur and glory in the night sky, they saw a profound story. A story written in the stars? Well, you see, writing only arrived in the biblical lands between 1700 and 1500 BC, so how then did God communicate the story of creation, sin, and redemption before then? The obvious answer is that it was passed on from generation to generation using stories, but just how did these verbal stories stay true to the original and all come together in one grand narrative?

How did Word of Mouth Stay Accurate

The answer that I propose is that the ancients, under God’s direction, drew a series of pictures in the night sky by imagining lines joining prominent stars. Each picture told a sequenced part of the grand narrative and acted as a memory aid to all in every generation initiated into this ‘secret’. These star pictures (constellations) are still used in our day by astronomers to map the heavens.

In my book ‘The Book of Revelation: in the Light of the Stars’, I show how these star pictures can be read to reveal the amazing story of divine redemption.
Interesting as this may be, it doesn’t mean much to us as present-day disciples of the Lord Jesus because we now have all sixty-six books of the bible as our grand narrative of God’s redemptive story. However, these same scriptures contain many references to the ancient star-story and you can find some of them in Job 9:9, 26:13, 38:31-32, and Amos 5:8. However, when we come to the last book of the bible, the Revelation of John, we find that it is rich with references and allusions to the star-story.

What is more, chapters 12,13, and 14 of the book of Revelation are very difficult to understand without reference to the star-story. Not only do these chapters validate the authenticity of the star-story, but we need an understanding of this story to more fully understand them. So, my book is both a commentary on the book of Revelation and a disclosure of the star-story. It is, as far as I know, a unique contribution to evangelical biblical interpretation.

Now Revised and Updated

This book is a revision of what I wrote several years ago under the title ‘Revelation in the Stars: the Sidereal and Written Word’. I have tried to clarify difficult portions and I have also updated where necessary. After a lot of hard work by myself and my daughter Karen the revised edition is now available on Amazon Kindle.

To get an idea of the book’s main themes and contribution, listen to my presentation to the faculty of the South African Theological Seminary AUDIO HERE and have a look at the PowerPoint slides that accompanied it SLIDES HERE.

Please consider reading the entire book as I believe that it will both enlighten and encourage you in living out your Christianity in a world that seems to be winding down into chaos. Oh, and it will encourage you because the story has a happy ending as God wraps up this sin-sick world and creates a new HeavenEarth where He lives forever with His faithful children.

Click HERE to go straight to the Amazon preview of the book, look at its content and introductory pages and hopefully purchase the book.

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Creation post

Old Earth, Young Earth – Who cares?

How old is the earth

I find it hard to believe that Evangelical Christians are divided, and passionately so, over whether planet Earth is 6,000 years or 4 billion years old.

Indeed, Jon Greene writes that it is ‘one of the most polarizing and divisive issues within the Christian community’. In the past, local churches and even entire denominations, have divided over issues such as baby baptism, speaking in tongues, and even end-time scenarios. But to divide over the age of the Earth seems even more pathetic!

In 2012 Joy! Magazine was buzzing with articles and letters to the editor about this issue, and so they asked me to write a ‘calming’ article which I titled ‘The great creation debate’. Now it seems that things are hotting up once more, and so I feel the need to make some observations… again.

To get up to date I watched a number of YouTube debates  between people like Kent Hovind and Ken Ham on the Young Earth side and Hugh Ross, and Hank Hanegraaff on the Old Earth side. All the Christians I have heard, or read, who are involved in the controversy believe in the inspiration of the Bible and, strangely enough, they all seem to agree that Darwinian Evolution (change through unguided naturalistic processes), as it is commonly understood, is neither biblical nor logical. Yet Kent Hovind called Hugh Ross a heretic, to his face, claimed that the God he worshiped was not Hugh’s god and that the graciously tolerant Dr. Ross was a cult leader. What on earth (pun intended) is the cause of such insecurity and animosity?

Trying to make sense of the debates on this issue can be confusing and frustrating.
DarwinOn the one side, the arguments often devolve into “God’s Word says so, so that’s the way it is” statements, and on the other side the many references to quasars, the speed of light, quantum mechanics, and so on can be a little overwhelming. Debaters tend to argue at length (Pun intended once more) whether the meaning of the word translated as ‘day’ in Genesis Chapter One can indicate a long period instead of a 24-hours. Ken Ham accuses Old Earth Creationists of arguing from the basis of science and then trying to make the biblical account conform to the so-called evidence. Dr. Ross, however, claims that he is equally committed to the inspiration and authority of the Bible, but that he sees no conflict between a reasoned interpretation of the scriptures and the scientific evidence. But is the real driving issue the matter of WHEN God created? Is it really? I don’t think so.

Ken Ham states that his concern is not so much the age of the earth as it is the authority of scripture, and I think that here he puts his finger on the underlying issue. The 20th century scientific age ushered in aggressive atheistic criticism of biblical authority, and even within the church liberal scholars undercut the belief that the Bible is divinely inspired. Charles Darwin’s theories of natural evolution added to the controversy and so several ‘fundamentalist’ Christians dedicated themselves to the task of defending the inspiration and authority of scripture against science in the face of humanistic scorn and derision.

Darwinian evolution, although taught in most schools as ‘fact’, has now been largely abandoned by most informed scientists, and so the battle front has shifted to the matter of the age of the cosmos in general and the earth in particular. Young Earthers contend that a ‘plain reading’ of the English translation of Genesis One necessitates belief that God created the world in six consecutive 24-hour days some 6,000 years ago. Old Earthers, on the other hand, claim that a literal reading of the Genesis creation account, in its original Hebrew, leads to the understanding that the world was created by God over very long periods of time. So, both sides believe that God created all things, and both sides believe that the Bible is inspired and authoritative, yet they differ vehemently on how to interpret the inspired scriptures. Dear, Oh dear, it’s the same problem underlying the old baby christening versus believers baptism controversy, or the lady elders dispute, or the homosexuality issue.

To my way of thinking the crucial matter of belief concerns whether God created everything, and not when or how He created.
magicianThe how and when of it only becomes important to me if it impacts on core Christian doctrines such as sin, spiritual death, salvation, and so on. Young Earthers do debate these issues as well, but not well, and nothing I have read or heard has even come close to convincing me that the biblical record is not entirely trustworthy when it sets out these truths… and everything else for that matter. And I don’t need to hold a Young Earth position to believe these doctrines.

Where I get more than irritated is when Young Earthers try to explain away the geological evidence of extreme age by claiming that God created the earth with an appearance of age. God is not a trickster and the fatuous contention that if He created Adam with the appearance of age then why not the whole earth just saddens me. The biblical account does not state HOW God created Adam other than the simple declaration that He ‘formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’ (Genesis 2:7). I also tend to despair when ostensibly highly educated men and women claim that the Great Flood accounts for all the problems concerning dating  geological strata, the fossil evidence, and so on. And all for the sake of proving that the Bible is authoritative? No, actually, it is to demonstrate that THEIR INTERPRETATION of the Bible is authoritative!

OK, so by now you have realised that if I had to take sides I would position myself in the Old Earth Creationist corner of the ring. It is getting a bit crowded there what with men like Norman Geisler, Lee Strobel, J.I Packer, Wayne Grudem, Gleason Archer, and Francis Schaeffer taking up so much space.

Just for clarity here are the core beliefs of us Old Agers (taken from J.W.Green’s article):

  • God miraculously created the universe from nothing, created life from non-life, and progressively intervened in history to supernaturally create new species of life.
  • The age of the earth has no bearing on the creation of life. An ancient earth does not equate with Darwinian evolution.
  • Darwinian evolution is unbiblical, biologically untenable, and not supported by the fossil record. Old-earth creationists adamantly reject the Darwinian concept of common descent—the hypothesis that all plant, animal, and human life ultimately evolved from primitive single-celled organisms through unguided mutations and naturalistic processes.
  • God miraculously created Adam and Eve, humanity’s historical parents, who were new distinct creatures from whom humanity’s sin originated.
  • Earth’s geologic features formed over long ages through both gradual and catastrophic processes.
  • Genesis 1 is a literal account of God’s creation. After God created the heavens and the earth, He then created life over six successive “days,” which in the original Hebrew may be literally interpreted as long epochs of time.

Well, if any Young Earth proponents read this article I am sure to get some interesting comments; probably more than when I write on something really important like the centrality of Jesus! Sigh! I titled this article ‘Old Earth, Young Earth – Who cares?’, but it is pretty obvious that there are a whole lot of people who do care… a lot. So, for the sake of fairness, here is a Young Earth Creationist site that has been recommended to me.

We should care about ‘truth’, but I believe that the focus of our passionate concern should be things such as the centrality of Jesus, the trustworthiness of the Bible, and dependence on the Holy Spirit for life and ministry. However, I don’t think that we should be focusing on defending one way of interpreting scripture against equally God-honouring understandings.

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Old and New Earth

The New Earth

Revelation Revisited New HeavenEarth

The very first seven words of the Bible are, ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth’, and the first seven words of Revelation 21 are, ‘Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth’.

Seven is a number that occurs many times in the Bible, particularly the book of Revelation, and symbolises ‘completion’. So now, as we come to the final chapters of Revelation, we find the cycle of creation completed and a new cycle inaugurated. Revelation 21:1, which I have just quoted, continues with the words, ‘for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea’. Other scriptures also describe something of how the old heavens and earth will pass away, for instance, 2 Peter 3:10 has; ‘On that Day the heavens will disappear with a shrill noise, the heavenly bodies will burn up and be destroyed, and the earth with everything in it will vanish’ (TEV). Isaiah prophesied the end of the old with the words; ‘All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shrivelled figs from the fig tree’ (Isaiah 34:4). John echoed these words in Revelation 6:13-14 where he wrote; ‘the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place’.

The specific detail that ‘there was no longer any sea’ is interesting. I believe that John was connecting us back to the Genesis account of the first creation where it states that ‘the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters’ (Genesis 1:2). What I understand from this is that John wants us to know that the new creation will not be a gradual process like the first, but will be brought about in a sudden and swift manner. There could also be a second level of meaning to the absence of any sea because ‘sea’ in Old Testament times was sometimes seen as the breeding ground of evil, the place of the unsaved dead, and a symbol of rebellious nations – so the new world will not contain any of these elements.

Tree of LifeAlthough from verse 2 of Revelation 21 the symbol of a city, the New Jerusalem, replaces the ‘new world’ analogy, I am going to stick with it a while longer to draw out some of the other connections back to the Genesis account of the first creation. Genesis 1:16 records that on the fourth day ‘God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night’ but Revelation 21:23 states that the new creation ‘does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp’. Genesis 2 tells of how God created a place for mankind described as a ‘garden in the east, in Eden’, (Genesis 2:8) and how a river watered this garden. In Revelation 22 we read of a ‘river of the water of life’ flowing down the centre of the new creation. Genesis also records the trees that God planted in Eden to provide food, as well as with the Tree of Life. Revelation carries this imagery into the new creation with the words; ‘On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations’ (Revelation 22:2).

The central idea of all of these comparisons is that the new creation will be superior to the first.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’ (Revelation 21:2), and ‘No longer will there be any curse’ (Revelation 22:3). Of course, the biggest difference between the old and new creations is God’s direct presence with His people. In the old creation God was personally and directly present with His people relatively infrequently, for example:
  • In His meetings with Moses in the Tabernacle,
  • In His few personal manifestations to the prophets, and finally,
  • During the short life of Jesus of Nazareth.

Since then God has been indirectly present in and through His church through the ministry of the Holy Spirit… but in the new creation, He will dwell permanently with His people.Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them’ (Revelation 21:3) See also Revelation 21:22 and 22:3-4.

The old creation started with God walking in the garden with Adam and Eve, but, as we know, the sin of rebellion soon ruined everything. In the new creation there will be no more sin, nor even the possibility of it, for the devil and all his followers will be removed and only God and His people remain.

And the truly good news is that if you and I know Jesus as Saviour and continue to follow Him as Lord, then we will one day experience the new creation, the HeavenEarth, the eternal dwelling of God with His people. Amen!
In my next and probably last post in this series, I plan to show how the New Jerusalem depicts not only the final state of creation but also  the church throughout the ages… I am looking forward to writing about this!

 

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.