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14. What if Jesus Promised to Redeem Not Just People and Creation, But Also Fantastic Stories?

Will the idea of stories and books last into the eternity ruled by King Jesus—and what about the stories we love now?
Fantastical Truth on Apr 28, 2020 · Series: · 2 comments

Let’s finish our series by exploring some big questions about the Bible’s promises of epic resurrection. Will the very idea of stories and books last into the eternity ruled by King Jesus? What about other human cultural works? Could even specific books and other human culture end up lasting into the prophesied New Heavens and New Earth?

Epic Resurrection series

  1. Ep. 12: What if Jesus Promised to Redeem Not Just Our Souls but Our Bodies?
  2. Ep. 13: What if Jesus Promised to Redeem Not Just His People But His Creation?
  3. Ep. 14: What if Jesus Promised to Redeem Not Just People and Creation But Also Fantastic Stories?

Scriptures we cite

“For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
and her people to be a gladness. …

They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.

Isaiah 65:17–18, 21–22 (emphasis added)

“Therefore, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in an ear in private rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.”

Luke‬ ‭12:3‬, CSB‬‬

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

John 21:25 (emphasis added)

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

1 Corinthians 3:10–15 (emphasis added)

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.

Revelation 20:11–12 (emphasis added)

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.

Revelation 21:22–26 (emphasis added)

Intro and questions

  • Some folks get nervous here: because we’re talking about eternal stories.
  • Not just classic books, but actual TV, games, internet, memes, and beyond.
  • What about stuff like R-rated movies? shows? comic-book antiheroes?

Concession stand

  • We make other concessions in part 1 and part 2 of this topic series.
  • We can’t go deep into things like Isaiah 65:17, “the former things were not remembered.”
  • When it comes to flawed human art (not animals, etc.) we do speculate more.
  • We’ve got to be really careful here. God takes sin seriously. So do we.
  • But if any kind of stories/art have no eternal worth, let’s ditch them now!

1. Why did God give us the gift of making culture (including stories and art)?

  • As we’ve seen, Christians often catch a “meme” that it’s inferior to be human.
  • But it was God’s idea that we should worship him in human ways.
  • In Genesis 1:28 (the cultural mandate), God commands people to make culture.

2. After humans turned evil, why did they still go on making things?

  • Sin corrupts our stories, just like creation (which groans) and us, decaying.
  • But Scripture has examples of people still making stuff./
  • Not just Israel (records, poetry, songs) but other nations (Jubal in Gen. 4:21).

3. When Jesus redeems us, how does this change the stuff we make?

  • Christians have insider info. We know why we’re meant to enjoy stories.
  • Sometimes we forget, of course. But even then, Jesus is good to us.
  • Even the idea of stories as “vehicles” for truth > “art for art’s sake.”

4. What about stories made by nonbelievers?

  • Even today, we know plenty of non-Christian-made stories that are amazing.
  • Great stories are great because God is. He puts this goodness into world.
  • Make no mistake: they’re still flawed, no matter how Christian in theme.

5. Will God let us go on enjoying culture forever in the new creation?

  • If we see the cultural mandate as forever, then culture as an idea will last forever.
  • He will redeem (not annihilate) his creation, so why not also human sub-creations?
  • Scripture specifically refers to cultural practices, like treasures, wine, feasts, and trade

6. Does this mean great human works will last forever in some way?

  • We would presume yes for some cultural works, because the Bible speaks of trial (not obliteration) by fire.
  • Some stuff will absolutely not last, for example pornography or other material made to rebel against God.
  • But even if stories still reflect some bad ideas, why presume divine “censorship”? They can’t corrupt resurrected saints.

7. Finally, what about Christian-made stories made for God’s glory?

  • Here’s a wonder: Scripture seems to promise Christians’ good works will last.
  • We’ve no precedent to limit this to overtly “ministry” works. Why not also creative works?
  • Our works seems subjected to the same “testing,” refining fire (1 Cor. 3:10–15), and will then survive.

Quotes and notes

For this series, we draw on biblical texts and the biblical teaching of several solid, conservative Christian pastors and teachers.

From Creation Regained by Albert M. Wolters

There is no reason to believe that the cultural dimension of earthly reality (except insofar as they are involved in sin) will be absent from the new, glorified earth that is promised. In fact, the biblical indications point in the opposite direction. Describing the new earth and the new Jerusalem, John writes that “the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. . . . The glory and the honor of the nations will be brought into it” (Rev. 21:24, 26). This very likely refers to the cultural treasures of mankind will be purified [sic] by passing through the fires of judgment, like gold in a crucible.

… In light of what we have been saying about the earthly creation and man’s task of subduing and developing it, those purified works on the earth must surely include the products of human culture. There is no reason to doubt that they will be transfigured and transformed by their liberation from the curse, but they will be in essential continuity with our experience now—just as our resurrected bodies, though glorified, will still be bodies.

Heaven, Randy AlcornFrom Heaven by Randy Alcorn (partially quoted at this blog)

Scripture says that the fire of God’s judgment will destroy “wood, hay or straw,” yet it will purify “gold, silver, [and] costly stones,” which will all survive the fire and be carried over into the new universe (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). Similarly, the apostle John notes that when believers die, what they have done on Earth to Christ’s glory “will follow them” into Heaven (Revelation 14:13). These are earthly things that will outlast the present Earth. . . .

As we have seen in a number of passages that use words such as renewal and regeneration, the same Earth destined for destruction is also destined for restoration. Many have grasped the first teaching but not the second. Therefore, they misinterpret words such as destroy to mean absolute or final destruction, rather than what Scripture actually teaches: a temporary destruction that is reversed through resurrection and restoration. . . .

Books are part of culture. I expect many new books, great books, will be written on the New Earth. But I also believe that some books will endure from the old Earth. Any book that contains falsehood and dishonors God will have no place in Heaven. But what about great books, nonfiction and fiction? Will we find A. W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy, J. I. Packer’s Knowing God, John Piper’s Desiring God, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, and Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps on the New Earth? I’ll be amazed if we don’t find them there, just as I’ll be amazed if no one sings John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” in Heaven.

Perhaps those of us who are writers will go back to some of our published works and rewrite them in light of the perspective we’ll gain. Maybe we’ll look at our other books and realize they’re no longer important—and some of them never were. The New Earth, I think, will confirm many things I’ve written in this book. It will completely dismantle others. “What was I thinking?” I’ll ask myself. (If I knew which parts those were right now, I’d cut them out!) And I’ll marvel at how much better the New Earth is than I ever imagined.

The Pop Culture Culture Parent, Ted Turnau, E. Stephen Burnett, Jared MooreFrom The Pop Culture Parent (releasing Sept. 7, 2020, co-authored by Stephen)

Scripture never indicates human progress will be lost or “reset” after King Jesus renews all creation. Wheels will still be wheels, and we needn’t reinvent them. Music scales and mathematics are part of this universe’s unchanging laws. The “hero’s journey” will still be a basis of many stories. Thus, if we have no reason to suspect our genres and styles will be reset, we also have no reason to suspect we would disregard specific and good creative works that glorify God. Sure, J. R. R. Tolkien may create even better Middle-earth tales. But surely we will always remember his first stories of Beleriand, the Elves, and the hobbits. . . .

Lest this seem crazy, remember that even the most flawed human still dimly reflects God’s image. Similarly, a flawed story, song, or game reflects the glory of God, albeit with a faded and distorted image. How much more clearly will our glorified eyes see this reflected glory shining in manmade things! After all, if we see a reminder of sin today, this doesn’t make us sin today. We only fall into sin when our own idolatry latches on to these depictions. But in eternity’s tomorrow, those idols and twisted desires will be no more. We will be literally incorruptible.

One way or another, we’re dealing with eternal realities.

  • I’ve heard Christians say, versus fiction, “Well, let’s talk about the real world now.”
  • But in the real world, we partake in stories and art. It’s part of being human.
  • All this is real-world stuff. If it’s not, then we’ve no reason to enjoy it now!

Fantastic fans

Aaron Sirb replies to the launch of the Lorehaven channel on YouTube:

This is awesome! One of your first subscribers lol. I’ll try to stick with you to the end. God bless!

Sherry Chamblee shared this note about episode 5:

I know I’m late commenting on this but I’m just now listening to this episode.
I really appreciate your perspectives on this issue.
I also really appreciated what you both said about not completely throwing out the caution towards Hollywood content that is preached in more conservative churches.

  • What stories do you hope will (just maybe) make it into New Earth? Share your comment below.
  • Subscribe for free to! We’re giving away two digital copies of Tosca Lee’s pandemic novel The Line Between.

Next on Fantastical Truth

We’re joined by novelist Randall Ingermanson to reminisce about his sci-fi Oxygen (with John B. Olson) and follow his new biblical fiction, Son of Mary, book 1 in his Crown of Thorns series!

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Fantastical Truth

Lorehaven explores fantastical stories for God's glory: fantasy, sci-fi, and beyond.

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    In the Fantastical Truth podcast from Lorehaven, hosts E. Stephen Burnett and Zackary Russell explore fantastical stories for God's glory and apply their wonders to the real world Jesus calls us to serve.
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