God’s Answer to Environmental Extinction

A lot of recent election promises showed concern for the planet.  This is possibly a first in the history of UK elections. Politicians are addressing a problem that is uppermost in many people’s minds.  Below we identify just some of the problems covered by the threat of ‘environmental extinction’. Later, we will look at God’s perspective on the subject.

Biodiversity in danger
There is an enormous ‘biodiversity web’ that means that harm done to even the smallest component of that web affects the efficient running of the entire system.  But with the increase in global warming, pollution and deforestation, biodiversity is in danger. Billions of species are going, or have gone, extinct all over the world.
The cycle of rainfall, the ‘under’ and ‘over’ ground river system, seas, winds and cloud has existed since the world began.  Even this cycle is in trouble. Water pollution is a huge concern for us and our environment. Not only is polluted water a big financial strain but it is killing both human and marine life.
With oil spills, an abundance of plastic waste and toxic chemicals entering our waterways, we’re damaging the most valuable resource our planet has to offer.
We need plants and trees to survive as they provide nearly 25% of the world’s oxygen, along with food and medicine for everyone, all over the globe.  But if deforestation continues at the rate it is occurring, we won’t have much of the valuable forestry left. With natural wildfires, illegal logging and the mass amount of timber harvested for commercial use, our forests are decreasing at an alarming rate.  As well as reducing our supply of oxygen, the loss of forests is contributing around 15% of our greenhouse gas emissions.
General pollution is one of the primary causes of many of the other environmental concerns, including climate change and biodiversity.  All 7 key types of pollution: air, water, soil, noise, radioactivity, light and thermal, are affecting our environment.
Climate change
A highlighted by a recent UN report, without ‘unprecedented changes’ in our actions and behaviour, our planet will suffer drastically from global warming in just 12 years.  Greenhouse gases are the main cause of climate change, trapping in the sun’. An increased ocean temperature is affecting the sea life and ecosystems habituated there. The rise in global sea levels is shrinking our land, causing mass floods and freak weather incidents across the world.  If we continue as we are, the world will suffer irreversibly.
How has it come to this?  

The Biblical Perspective

In Genesis chapter 1 God made the earth to be ‘very good’.  But in Genesis 3:1-6 we discover that sin changed everything.  At the very start, humankind was given ‘dominion’ or a level of ‘overall supervision’ of the earth, under the instruction of God (1:28).  After the fall, however, the consequences of that sin came on them and all future generations. Humankind still had dominion but also possessed free will on how to exercise that ‘dominion/power’. People have always had freewill to decide how to behave: they could use the earth for their own ends or try to care for it as God intended.  Sadly, and fatefully, humankind has misused what God gave them. This has brought all sorts of problems. For instance, God told the Israelites how best to plant (Leviticus 25:3,4), that is, to leave the earth fallow in order for it to recover after a growing period. In other words, don’t keep taking from the earth; give it a rest. Nowadays land is not generally left to recover and the dust bowl of America is evidence of man’s mistreatment of the earth.  In Leviticus 19:23 God told people that fruit trees should be left for three years after planting, that the fruit should not be consumed. In other words, give growing things a chance; don’t take from them too soon. The book of Deuteronomy says ‘don’t destroy trees’ (20:19) ‘for the tree of the field is man’s life.’ Perhaps this statement has more significance today than then, since the oxygen we breathe comes from trees.
Mass production v the health of the planet
So, man left off looking after the earth and began to use it for the generation of wealth.  Mining of gold, jewels, minerals, oil, the clearing of forests and so on has continued since the Bronze Age, from burying of rubbish in mizzen heaps to the more modern landfill.  Then from the Industrial Revolution onwards many countries developed the concept of mass production. An 1866 photograph of the Black Country and one of China in 2019 are not dissimilar.  The earth is still being sacrificed for the gain of wealth. Increase in wealth and GDP is the only real goal!
Attitudes today
Prof. Will Steffen of the Australian National University and the Stockholm Resilience Centre has said: “Some people say we can adapt due to technology.  But that’s a belief system; it is not based on fact… It’s clear the economic system of today is driving us towards an unsustainable future and people of my daughter’s generation will find it increasingly hard to survive….”  “History has shown that civilisations have risen, stuck to their core values and then collapsed because they didn’t change. That’s where we are today.”

The Bible foretold it….
In Matthew 24:3 the disciples asked Jesus what would be the sign of his coming and the end of the age.  Interestingly, Jesus replied that there would be great tribulation, such as had not been from the beginning of the world (v21).  He also described signs in the sun, moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.  For the powers of the heavens will be shaken’. The meaning of the words Jesus used indicate a ‘no way out’ situation. Today nations are in upheaval; there are nationwide protests throughout the world. Certainly the powers of the world are shaken.  In Matthew 24:22 Jesus ominously adds that for the sake of the elect (i.e. those faithful to him) those terrible days would be cut short (v22). So what will God do? He will establish what He began in Eden.   
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea’ (Habakkuk 2:14) How?  By establishing God’s rule and sending Jesus back to implement it. Luke 21:27 ‘then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.’
From then on, instead of pursuing greed and profit (and sometimes war) the world order will be dramatically changed.
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the Lord’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And peoples shall flow to it.
 Many nations shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion the law shall go forth,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between many peoples,
And rebuke strong nations afar off;
They shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war anymore.
Micah 4:1-3

A further verse shows the peace and tranquillity of those days:
But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree,
And no one shall make them afraid;
For the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken. (v4)
The Kingdom of God, then, will be like no other.
The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them,
And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose;
It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice,
Even with joy and singing. (Isaiah 35;1-2)
Certainly the Bible promises much.  How can we believe it?
The Bible is full of the evidence of God’s power in the world.  The promises He has made in His word ensure that there will always be an earth on which this delightful life can be played out. If the prophecy of the Bible has always turned out to be accurate, then we can believe in the rest of what God has promised.  God understands human nature. His purpose in sending Jesus is evidence of His love in saving humankind from sin. Simply reversing environmental disaster is just the tip of the iceberg in rectifying the perilous state of today’s world. God’s new world will be so much more than the end of extinction, but a God-ruled kingdom in a sin-free world.

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