Ask Steve: New Creation Model vs. Spiritual Vision Model

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, I heard things about the New Creation Model and Spiritual Vision Model approach. What are these two models and why are they important? Will understanding these things help my understanding of God’s purposes in the world or is this more religious gibberish that only scholars care about?

Answer: The two models heavily influence Christian thought because they have a tremendous influence on how you view the gospel, the Christian life, where the world is going (eschatology), and how you interpret Scripture, both OT and NT. In essence, your understanding of Scripture and practical approaches to life’s issues is based off a worldview shaped by either the New Creation Model or Spiritual Vision Model. That is why it is important to acquire a basic understanding of these two models and why they are important since they ultimately shape your Christian worldview, which in turn influences how you live your life presently and formulate what your expectations are for the future.

The Spiritual Vision Model is a spiritualized approach to Christian living that is Platonic in nature, which means that it is based on the Greek philosophy that is pessimistic about matter and optimistic about spiritual things. In its fundamental view of eternal salvation, the Spiritual Vision Model sees salvation as primarily a spiritual matter and involves nothing of the current bodies, which will not be resurrected in the last days. In other words, salvation is mainly a “ticket” to the spiritual afterlife, or the other dimension. The eternal destiny of the elect is heaven, which is another spiritual, disembodied world. It is nothing resembling this current sin-ridden earth. There is no emphasis on change, time and space, temporal locations, cultures, nations, and other features that resemble the current earth. 

The next life will be radically different than the current one in several ways: 1). A basic contrast between spirit and matter, 2). An identification of spirit with mind or intellect, and 3). A belief that eternal perfection entails the absence of change, 4). The old earth will be completely done away, with no resemblance or artifacts carried over into the new world. Ethnic and national distinctions are transcended. Everyone will likely be uniform in identity, culture, and language.

In terms of celestial life, eternal activities will be remarkably different than that of this current world. The redeemed saints will probably not participate in eating, drinking, or games. There is no time in heaven. The saints will be undertaking something resembling an unending church service, such as singing songs of praise and contemplation of God’s greatness. There will no longer be work, whether toilsome or productive, but eternal rest in His presence. In heaven, there will be no trifling with political, social, or vocational matters that have been a part of the former fallen world. Every physical and national thing depicted in the Old Testament, regarding nations, political system, and religious institution of Israel, has supposedly been spiritually absorbed into Christ, who represented it all in His life, ministry, death, and resurrection.

In contrast, the New Creation Model views Christian life differently, placing a stronger emphasis on the material, or continuity between this world and the next one. They view salvation as more holistic, which means that not only are our souls saved from sin and its penalty, but our bodies will also be resurrected and delivered over into the new earth in its glorified state. This means there is no separation of soul and body. The N.C. eschatology sees a renovated earth and not merely a disappearance of the physical into another spiritual dimension. As stated earlier, the Creation Model views physical things more positively, and understands factors like ethnic and cultural distinctions as existing in the new heavens and new earth. The present earth will not be destroyed and done away with, but will be remade and restored when God ushers the kingdom and the new earth in. Because they stress the continuity of the ontological order of this life to the next one, the New Creation Model sees the real possibility of eating, drinking, playing, working, and celebrating in eternity, along with singing and contemplating like the Spiritual Visionists say. There is rest in the new earth, as well as physical work, although not of the same kind as in the current sin-cursed world, which is painful and burdensome due to the fall incurred by man in Genesis 3. Arts, sports, governmental, social and cultural entities will be carried over from the old earth into the new earth, although without the residue of sin and flawed human influences. Finally, all physical and national entities, especially those that are mentioned in the Old Testament, will exist in the new earth as part of God’s original and good design.

Understanding these two models is significant because it teaches us a lesson about Scripture interpretation. Do we trust in what God’s word says about the eternal state or in what pop culture says? Are we faithful to interpret eschatological passages according to grammatical-historical hermeneutics, as with the rest of the Bible? Or are we interpreting these passages in a manner that is overly figurative, symbolic, and mystical? Whichever approach we take affects our eschatology, which can affect how we understand God’s purposes for the future. A consistent grammatical-historical hermeneutics typically leads to premillennialism, which is usually identified with the New Creation Model. A more platonic influenced approach to interpretation (or Christoplatonism) can lead to spiritualization of eschatological texts leading to amillennialism and postmillennalism. This leads to the Spiritual Vision approach (although this is not always the case).

As Christians, it is important to have a right view of Scripture and of what God is doing in the world. God’s word is more consistent with the New Creation Model, that the cultural, political, social, and physical elements of this world are good and will be part of the new earth. Genesis 10:31 supports this idea. Genesis 12:7 demonstrates the reality of a real future Promised Land to the descendants of Abraham. Deuteronomy 30:1-10 and Jeremiah 31-33 promised the inevitably prosperity of the nation and people ofIsrael. Isaiah 66:22 speaks of the new earth filled with distinct and varied nations. Isaiah 11 even speaks of the presence and reformation of the animals in the future kingdom on earth.

These verses show us that God will not abandon this world. He does not deem the created things of this world (culture, animals, social order) as evil, but only the sin that had tainted it, which will be judged and destroyed forever before the time of the New Earth. Knowing this, we must not entertain the idea of a platonic, “boring,” Eastern-mystical heaven that is incorporeal and lifeless. We must not carelessly remove ourselves from the affairs of this world and think it all as going to hell. Rather, we must be involved in the cause of the Great Commission and deem as good what God as created as good, knowing that they will be part of the New Earth. Therefore, understanding these things is not mere jibberish that has no true relevance, but can be instrumental in encouraging Christians to have an eternal perspective.

Recommended Reading: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond by Stanley Gundry and Darrell Bock