How would you define "perfect"? l'm not sure that too many people have pondered how many things in life are perfect. Perhaps most Christians would regard only two things as "perfect": (i) God, and (ii) The original Creation.
I try to teach my church that Biblical literacy involves being able to discern what is indeed a Biblical statement, and what is meant by a Biblical statement. When it comes to pondering what "perfect" means, we may have a problem if we look to support our two examples with Scripture. Firstly, Matthew 5:48 asserts that God is perfect. Not only is God essentially perfect, but so are His ways (Deut. 32:4), and His will (Rom. 12:2).But the second assertion is a little more difficult to demonstrate from Scripture. In fact, it's so difficult we may have to concede that it's impossible. Yet, despite this obvious difficulty the idea that God's original creation was "perfect" is so widely assumed that to suggest otherwise meets with astonished bewilderment. Yet it is this unquestioned assumption that forms the foundation for several seriously important teachings. I want to suggest that what we regard today as being "flawed" with our world (earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, storms) were probably a part of God's original design. Therefore the "perfection" of the original creation which is described as being "good" and "very good" may not have been the kind of perfection that might have romantic notions of.
WHAT WE THINK WHEN WE THINK CREATION WAS PERFECT...
In Hank Hanegraaff's book, The Apocalypse Code, he makes the assertion that the end will ultimately be a restoration of Paradise: "Paradise lost will be Paradise restored." The assumption behind this statement is that the original creation was both "Paradise" and that it was "perfect". This is just one way in which our understanding of the beginning affects our understanding of the end.
If we are to assume that the earth was the kind of "Paradise" where there were no "natural disasters" or laws of decay operating (like desiduous trees dropping their leaves) and that it was "perfect" before the Fall of Man, then we must assume that everything was created immortal (never to end). Scripture doesn't say this. Secondly, we will assume that Adam's sin imputed sin to all of creation (birds, animals, reptiles, vegetation). This leads to the rather Platonic idea that the physical world can be "evil". And it also leads to assumption that when animals kill to eat, like a lion catching and eating its prey, it is the evil result of the Fall of Man. But Psalm 104, widely regarded as a "creation" Psalm, seems to suggest that the lion is actually created by God to eat prey, and that this is not the result of the Fall- but the design of God-
The lions roar
for their prey and seek their food from God.
How then could the Scriptures be saying that animals eating animals is the result of the Fall when on the other hand it says that this is the way God designed things? In other words, what we have romantically assumed as being "perfect" (a world with no decay or death of any kind) may not have been what was actually originally created! Natural Laws, such as gravity and decay, may have been instituted by God before the Fall. Certain organisms have a life-cycle of just a few hours. In that time they are birthed, matured, reproduce, then die. For the Christian who rightly rejects the explanation of naturalistic evolution as the explanation for how life began, yet maintains that there was no death at all prior to the Fall of Man, this presents a problem. Either, that organism is doing exactly what it was designed by God to do or it was formed after the Fall. Since God rested from creating on the sixth day, we cannot claim that God created these organisms after the Fall. This is just one example of how reasonable it is to accept that there was death of non-humans before the Fall of Man.
GOD'S CURSE OF THE GROUND...
But some might argue, "Didn't all of creation lose its perection after Adam sinned when God cursed the ground?"
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
We need to accept what this text says rather than add to it. When Adam sinned, he forfeited the blessing of provision that was original. But just because something is blessed doesn't mean that it was 'perfect'. Secondly, we note that Adam's sin affected him, rather than creation. Thirdly, it would be wrong to think that weeds, thistles and thorns were created as a result of Adam's sin (God had rested from creating after the Creation Week). These things were already present in the original creation of God. But Adam's sin resulted in mankind being 'cursed' (the removal of God's blessing) since the ground was cursed "because of you".
Before Adam sinned he was protectively blessed from sickness and some would suggest perhaps even from injury. After the Fall, that protective blessing seems to have been forsaken by Man. We are all therefore now subject to the futility that is associated with living in this world. Romans 8:22-23 says that Creation now "groans" awaiting redemption. But since it was mankind's sin that wrought the curse upon it, it is our redemption that it now groans for.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
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.
The resurrection of Christ has assured the ultimate redemption of mankind. For Plato, the body and the physical world was corrupt and of less value than the spiritual. But Christ's physical resurrection shows us that our physical bodies are intrinsic to our identity. Far from Plato's concept of the physical realm being incompatible and corrupt with the spiritual, Christ's resurrection reveals that "goodness" lies not in the nature of an object or being, but in its allegience- for God or against God?
In speaking of the End, Paul says that creation one day will be released from its bondage to decay.
that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
But this same Romans 8 passage does not describe the original creation as "perfect" or even Adam's Fall imputing sin to all of creation. When Adam's sin came into the world, it came to mankind-
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—
Is God's ultimate purpose to restore earth to a perfect Paradise? This may happen in the end, but I doubt that it's God's ultimate purpose. His ultimate purpose is His Glory. In the meantime, if we regard this earth as "fallen" then there is little motivation to look after it- after all, it's been broken by sin and God will one day throw it away. But if we regard the earth as having been created "good" and remained "good" even after the Fall of Man, then we have no excuse to be party to the deliberate environmental vandalism that some Christians unwittingly give assent to. Conversely, if we equate "natural" as being as close to "perfect" as possible we will argue that forests should never be logged or tended. The implications of how we understand what God had originally created are far-reaching.
Before you repeat the idea that Paradise Earth was originally created perfect, consider whether this is truly what the Bible reveals. It will affect how you understand the current climate-change debate, the future of our planet, and your understanding of God will culminate the end.
I'm on a mission to counter this discrediting of Scripture. It is my mission to help reverse Biblical illiteracy rates and produce resources to help readers understand what they are reading and how to correctly interpret the Scriptures. I opened this article by saying that the issue of eschatology is secondary to how we read and interpret the Scriptures (Hermeneutics). That's why I've made my eBook- The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible available for an immediate download. Thousands of people around the world have now read this eBook and many have written to me thanking me and others for promoting a more sound method for reading and interpretting the Bible. I encourage you to download this eBook and read for yourself an alternate view to End Times than the one presented by many of these pop-preachers. When I first released this eBook several years ago I was a bit of a lone voice. But now some big ministries are beginning to say the same things. Most notably is Hank Hanegraaff's latest book, Unlocking The Apocalypse Code, where he now makes the same assertions. I predict that in the days, weeks, months, years to come, Jesus Christ will be Lord and His Word will be found true and reliable.
Dr. Andrew Corbett, 10th May 2007