Responsible Earthlings

Responsible Earthlings

The issue of climate change is a charged one, but also one that can’t be ignored. We can debate the causes and culprits till the cows come home, but the fact remains that this planet is our collective home for now, and we each share in the responsibility for it.

I’ve read articles by several Christian writers who have, I think, taken a sensible and scriptural approach: God has appointed us stewards over His creation, and it is our responsibility to care for it and manage its resources (Genesis 2:15). On the other side, I have read what I think is an irresponsible approach, based on a skewed application of certain other Bible passages. It goes like this: Earth’s surface and atmosphere will one day be destroyed in a global conflagration, and God will create a new and better world on the remains of the old (Psalm 102:25-26; 2 Peter 3:7-12; Revelation 21:1), so it doesn’t much matter what we do to it now; it’s all going to burn up anyway. Why bother ourselves with trying to preserve it if God has other plans?

Yes, God is going to give our planet a makeover, but not until after the millennium, the 1,000-year period of relative heaven on earth that follows Jesus’ second coming. And according to both biblical forecasts and present-day pundits, the world that Jesus will take over when He returns will be in a sad state indeed. By then, the problems we are creating today will have been compounded by a reign of global terror known as the great tribulation, led by the devil-man known as the Antichrist, which will be followed by the apocalyptic battle of Armageddon. Jesus will put things right, but the cleanup won’t happen magically or all at once. It will be a better world right from the start, because one thing that does more damage to the environment than almost anything else—war—will be banned (Isaiah 2:4), but there will be much physical cleanup work to be done, and Jesus isn’t going to do it all Himself.

“That’s not my problem,” some say. “I’ll be home safe. Jesus will take me to heaven when He returns, and all will be forgiven because I’ve received Him as my Savior.” Yes, everyone who has received Him, either dead or alive, will rise to meet Jesus in the air at His coming and be whisked away to heaven, and yes, everyone’s sins will be forgiven, but there is something else to consider: In heaven, each will be rewarded according to his or her deeds in this life. “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10. See also Daniel 12:2-3; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15).

As much as I, old egalitarian that I am, like to speak of the equality of all humankind, heaven is not going to be a classless place. Those who have lived by the precepts of loving God and loving others as best they could (Matthew 22:37-39) are going to be at the top of the heap, while those who have lived me-first lives are going to find themselves with pretty meager rewards in the next life. They get into heaven because salvation is an irrevocable gift not based on merit, but they may not get very far past the door.

It won’t surprise me if many of those people end up helping with the monumental restoration projects that will be carried out during the millennium, after the battle of Armageddon and other prophesied catastrophes. There will still be mortals, the people who managed to live through the great tribulation and its aftermath, and they will be busy doing what mortals do, trying to make a life for themselves and their families. But the immortals, all the believers, both those who were dead and those who were alive when Jesus came back for them, will also have a role to play. “They shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6).

The Bible is clear that those who have proved themselves responsible will hold positions of responsibility, while others who have not proven themselves worthy of such trust will have to help out in more menial ways. As in the parable that Jesus told about the nobleman who turned his wealth over to his servants while he journeyed to a far country to claim his kingdom, authority will go to those who have earned it. “Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.” (See Luke 19:11-27.)

Earth will eventually get a complete renovation, but before that happens we still have a little over 1,000 years to try to make it a happy, healthy place. Live responsibly.