Leading Question: “In God’s new kingdom, how will the law of God be different than that law of God that we now know?”
Introduction to the Issue: In this sinful world, attitudes toward God’s law vary enormously. Some obey without raising any questions; some obey while raising all kinds of questions; and some simply rebel. What will happen to all that in a new world?
Remarkably, in the audio conversation that accompanies this study guide, my two conversation partners (Joe Galusha, Professor of Biology, WWU and Dave Thomas, Dean of the School of Theology, WWU) and I all agreed that in God’s new kingdom the new covenant promise of Jeremiah 31:31-34 will be fully operative. The key lines are:
“No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more” (vs. 34)
In other words, all rebels have vanished. The transformed rebels who are there – and there will be many – rebel no longer. God’s law is written on the heart and response to the law is fully intuitive.
Where my conversation partners and I were not so clear is the status of law until we arrive in the kingdom. I am prepared to argue with vigor that the new covenant promise can be operative in this world so that our response to God’s law here on earth can move in the direction of being fully intuitive. At least the process will have a very serious beginning. But once the Lord returns to take his people home, we all agreed that we will be in perfect harmony with reference to that law.
The question of why we differed so markedly on our views of how law operates in our sinful world now is one worth pursuing in our Sabbath School classes.
To celebrate the “hope” which motivates all of us, I would like to conclude this series of lessons with two of my favorite new earth quotes. One is from Isaiah 11, the description of God’s vegetarian kingdom. The other is from Ellen White’s book, The Great Controversy, indeed what I quote here are the concluding paragraphs of that book. I know of no finer description of the victory of love over selfishness in the great conflict between good and evil.
The question has been: Will the universe follow the law of selfishness or the law of self-sacrificing love? The answer will then be clear. Here is her answer and ours, preceded by the glorious picture of God’s vegetarian kingdom in Isaiah. It is a world in which no one eats anyone else. All live together in peace.
6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
“The Controversy Ended”
Ellen White, The Great Controversy, 677-78
There the redeemed shall know, even as also they are known. The loves and sympathies which God Himself has planted in the soul shall there find truest and sweetest exercise. The pure communion with holy beings, the harmonious social life with the blessed angels and with the faithful ones of all ages who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, the sacred ties that bind together “the whole family in heaven and earth” (Ephesians 3:15) – these help to constitute the happiness of the redeemed.
There, immortal minds will contemplate with never-failing delight the wonders of creative power, the mysteries of redeeming love. There will be no cruel, deceiving foe to tempt to forgetfulness of God. Every faculty will be developed, every capacity increased. The acquirement of knowledge will not weary the mind or exhaust the energies. There the grandest enterprises may be carried forward, the loftiest aspirations reached, the highest ambitions realized; and still there will arise new heights to surmount, new wonders to admire, new truths to comprehend, fresh objects to call forth the powers of mind and soul and body.
All the treasures of the universe will be open to the study of God’s redeemed. Unfettered by mortality, they wing their tireless flight to worlds afar – worlds that thrilled with sorrow at the spectacle of human woe and rang with songs of gladness at the tidings of a ransomed soul. With unutterable delight the children of earth enter into the joy and the wisdom of unfallen beings. They share the treasures of knowledge and understanding gained through ages upon ages in contemplation of God’s handiwork. With undimmed vision they gaze upon the glory of creation – suns and stars and systems, all in their appointed order circling the throne [677/678] of Deity. Upon all things, from the least to the greatest, the Creator’s name is written, and in all are the riches of His power displayed.
And the years of eternity, as they roll, will bring richer and still more glorious revelations of God and of Christ. As knowledge is progressive, so will love, reverence, and happiness increase. The more men learn of God, the greater will be their admiration of His character. As Jesus opens before them the riches of redemption and the amazing achievements in the great controversy with Satan, the hearts of the ransomed thrill with more fervent devotion, and with more rapturous joy they sweep the harps of gold; and ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of voices unite to swell the mighty chorus of praise.
And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”– Rev. 5:13.
The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.