But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:13)
I used to read a bedtime book to my kids each night called 1,000 Things to Know About Animals. Giraffes and monkeys and cute little webbed feet penguins — our sons enjoy them all. However, the boys prefer the frightening creatures. Crocodiles with powerful jaws. Vampire bats with eerie eyes. Copperheads. Tarantulas. The more poisonous, the more hideous, the better.
The pictures and the fascination with all things gory prompted our son Seth to pose a troublesome question. “Why did God make scary stuff?” A conversation on the origin of evil with a preschooler.
Growing older, however, doesn’t silence the question. A bridge collapses in Minnesota. A crisis escalates in Darfur. A region in the Middle East seems (again) like it might spiral into chaos. God, why all the scary stuff?
Scripture provides some clarity. God did not intend or create evil. A mutinous angel rebelled, choosing humanity and the earth as the fulcrum of his insurgency. Forced into the fray, we routinely choose the mutiny, against God. We often invite evil.
The result, however, was that evil did not remain merely in the isolated sphere of individual choices (either of angels or humans). Like a dirty needle pumping heroine into the bloodstream, this rebellion straight-lined evil into the created order. Our planet is now riddled with the foul stench. Disease. Greed. Ruin. Can anyone truthfully look at the human race and the mess we’ve made of our planet and believe our problem is merely cosmetic?
Evil is certainly not all we see in our world. Grace and beauty and kindness abound. However, everywhere we look, we see evil’s imprint. Loneliness. Deception. Abandoned children. Shattered marriages. Hungry nations. How can our sickness be healed? How can evil’s dark stain be removed?
Strangely, the Apostle Peter offers hope via a blistering, apocalyptic picture. The heavens will vaporize with an ear-splitting roar. Falling to the earth, fire will scorch the sky. The earth’s raw chemical elements will liquefy like wax dripping from a candle. Peter says that God is going to destroy everything like this.
But destruction is not the point. With God, destruction never holds center stage. God always moves toward redemption. The devastation will work to clear the brush, to remove all the malignant infection evil has cultivated. Destruction will offer a severe mercy. With power and fire and swift, final authority, God will reach into the bowels of the earth and wrench evil’s grip free, once and for all.
This cataclysmic work is not a final destruction, the earth done and finished. Far from it. The destruction breeds new life. It will be a (do we even have language for such a thing?) creative destruction. From the devastation, God will create again, refashioning the earth once considered ruined into the kind of world He wanted in the beginning. We will enjoy the wonder of a new heaven and a new earth.
On this new earth, there will be no disease, no sorrow. No one hungry. No one lonely. The lion will lay down with the lamb. Not a single hint of “scary stuff.”
Dear Lord, I trust Your plan for this world. Even when I am confused or scared, you comfort me with wisdom and peace. Thank you for always moving toward redemption.