He hath made everything beautiful in its time: also he hath set eternity in their heart, yet so that man cannot find out the work that God hath done from the beginning even to the end (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
How did we get here? What is going to happen to us at the end?
These two questions have loomed large over mankind throughout its existence. It seems mandatory for every culture to have some concept as to the origin of existence and humanity along with some type of expectation of the final events of world history.
These matters engage us and fascinate us to this very day. Both those who favor creationism and those who favor evolution can agree on the importance of having some understanding regarding from where humanity and all things come. Obsession over the demise of humanity remains a mainstay within our culture: consider the bleak scenarios presented in popular television shows and movies, the dire warnings about global warming, the expectation from the news media that we are always on the precipice of the end of civilization, and so on.
None of us were present when existence and humanity began; we cannot know for certain whether we will live to see the final apocalypse. So why do these matters so interesting and important to us?
Explanations of origins and apocalypses frame how people understand the reason for their existence and their purpose and direction in life.
The reasons we believe our universe exists and regarding our place within it shape how we feel about ourselves and our environment. If our creation story suggests that we are merely slaves of the gods working to provide them with food, as the Babylonian creation story said, it would be easy to find little value in life. If our creation story tells us that we are highly developed mammals in a universe that happened without cause or purpose, as is the case with the current scientific consensus, it is hard to find meaning in life and easier to act like animals. Because we accept the creation story as told in Scripture, how the Creator God made all things by His power and made man in His own relationship, we can accept our place in the creation and seek to live in conformity to the image of God (Genesis 1:1-2:3, Romans 8:29).
Likewise, the expectations we have for the future shape how we feel about our purpose and where we are headed in life. If there is no real future hope, and all we think we can trust in is in this life, it is easy to develop the attitude of “let us eat and drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” (Isaiah 22:13, 1 Corinthians 15:32): most who believe this will remain self-absorbed, satisfying their own desire with little concern for the welfare of other humans or the world at large. If we fall into the trap of believing certain events must first happen before the world ends, it is easy to get complacent and not be ready for the Lord’s return (cf. Matthew 24:37-25:13).
But if our hope rests in Jesus’ resurrection, expecting our own resurrection and eternity in the “new heavens and the new earth,” we will understand how very important it is to reflect Jesus’ mentality, attitude, and deeds in this life (Romans 8:29, 2 Peter 3:9-13). We will understand how believers can begin to share in that new life and new creation now spiritually through the spiritual death and resurrection inherent in baptism, living as Jesus’ representatives in His Kingdom which shall never fail (Romans 6:3-7, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21).
Understanding our origins and understanding our final apocalypse are not idle matters; they represent our deep existential questions and help guide us in our understanding of who we are and where we are going. The answers gained from Scripture express both the dignity and challenges of mankind, explaining why we are here, the problems we have, why this life is so important, and how to obtain true life in the next. Let us be conformed to the image of Jesus and share in His resurrection!
Ethan R. Longhenry