Hope for the Environment
As Christadelphians, what should our perspective be on environmental problems?
Problems Without a “Way Out”
Jesus said that the time of his coming would be characterized by “distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring.” (Luke 21:25)1 The word used in Luke’s gospel for perplexity is translated literally as “without a passageway.” The problems of the Last Days are to be not only distressing but unresolvable. There will be no way out.
There’s no question the world is a mess nowadays. There’s the brutal war in Ukraine, Myanmar, Yemen, Ethiopia, and many other places. There are the resulting refugee crises and mass migrations. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates 103 million forcibly displaced people in mid-2022, with over 50 million fleeing across international boundaries.2
These things are grievous. Yet, lots of folks take a perverse sort of comfort in saying, “It was ever thus.” The implication is that somehow, man will find a way and muddle through the problems. Some might even quote Ecclesiastes 1:9, that there’s “nothing new under the sun.”
But the problems of the Last Days will be different. They will be perplexing. There will be no way out. Man’s capacity to destroy the planet with nuclear weapons fits this category. There’s no way of putting the genie back into the bottle; this threat will not go away. The problem becomes even more pressing when considering the proliferation of such weapons in nations led by unstable and wicked men.
Environmental Problems With No Way Out?
Many people consider the environmental problems of this earth as having no way out. A National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) website says,
“The effects of human-caused global warming are happening now, are irreversible for people alive today, and will worsen as long as humans add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.”3
Glaciers are shrinking, sea levels are rising, and extreme weather events, droughts, wildfires, and species extinctions are projected. Quoting NASA again:
“Some changes (such as droughts, wildfires, and extreme rainfall) are happening faster than scientists previously assessed. In fact, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—the United Nations body established to assess the science related to climate change—modern humans have never before seen the observed changes in our global climate, and some of these changes are irreversible over the next hundreds to thousands of years.”
What should we think about all of this? Some are inclined to dismiss climate change as a hoax invented by scientists intent on padding their research budgets. The argument has strong political overtones, with many conservative politicians outright denying climate change or questioning its implications. On the other hand, the political left has embraced climate change as a signature topic of concern.
We Christadelphians have always kept out of politics but find ourselves in times where it is challenging to maintain that position. We are awash in a sea of information, much tailored by our internet experience to match and reinforce our interests and inclinations. The political right or left might attract us—the views of one side or the other aligning better with our Biblically informed perspective on particular issues.4 Our political inclinations might unconsciously influence our thoughts on climate change and the environment. We want to be sure we think well and are guided by the Word of God.
A Biblical View of Environmental Problems
So what should our perspective be on environmental problems, as Christadelphians?
First, we should see the earth as manifesting the creative majesty of our heavenly Father. In Psalm 104, David marvels at God’s creation and sustenance of the earth.5 God “sends the springs into the valleys,” providing drink for birds and beasts, giving life to the vegetation that nourishes and blesses man (Psa 104: 10-21). The bird’s song glorifies God (v. 12). The bounty of wine, oil, and bread makes man’s heart glad, his face shine, and strengthens his spirit. All of this is God’s blessing and handiwork.
It should grieve us, then, to hear of the earth polluted, its natural resources swept away.
Consider the rainforests: these are home to half of the world’s plants and animals. Rainforest plants provide medicines, and their trees are crucial in regulating the earth’s atmospheric health. But “more than half of Earth’s rain forests have already been lost due to the human demand for wood and arable land… if current deforestation rates continue, these critical habitats could disappear from the planet completely within the next hundred years.”6 “In 2019, the tropics lost close to 30 soccer fields’ worth of trees every single minute.”7
see the earth as manifesting the creative majesty of our heavenly Father
Time would fail us to speak of overexploitation of the seas, fisheries collapsing, dying coral reefs, plastics in the ocean, pollution of air, water, and soil, and the global waste disposal crisis. These things should grieve us because we see God’s handiwork defiled.
Environmental Problems and God’s Judgments
As Bible students, we should not be surprised by environmental problems. God’s blessing and favor on the promised land were contingent on Israel’s obedience (Deut 28:1-4, 15-18). Likewise, the prophets speak of ecological problems as signs of God’s wrath.
Isaiah describes the consequences of God’s judgment as making the earth, “empty and … waste … plundered” and a place that “languishes and fades away” and “defiled under its inhabitants” (Isa 24:1-7). The context to the end of the chapter suggests this prophecy has to do with the Last Days, leading up to the time when “The LORD of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before His elders, gloriously.” (Isa 24:23).8
Hosea says environmental problems were consequences of Israel’s waywardness:
The Apocalypse says God will “destroy those who destroy the earth.” (Rev 11:18).
We may have always read these passages as being figurative. If so, maybe we need to reconsider. The literal corruption of the earth is consistent with man’s greed and disharmony with God.
Our Blessed Hope
Whether or not we accept the overwhelming scientific consensus about climate change,9,10 there is no question many people are deeply troubled by environmental problems and see them as having no solution. It is not too much of a stretch to say their hearts are “failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth.” (Luke 21:26).
God Himself has said, “Truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.” (Num 14:21). If God’s glory is seen in His creation, then surely the earth must be restored in the Kingdom Age.
Isaiah 35 is a beautiful poem of restoration in the Kingdom Age. We are moved when we read it, perhaps finding ourselves humming the melody of an old favorite hymn it inspired, “A rose shall bloom in the lonely place.”11 The scene Isaiah describes is so perfect that even the wilderness and desert sing and shout for joy.
We’re reminded of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and his response to the churlish Pharisee demands that he silence his followers: “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:40). There’s no containing the intensity of the moment.
we have confidence in a better day
Isaiah 35 speaks of removing mankind’s physical afflictions; the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the mute are made whole (vv. 5-6). So too, the afflicted earth is healed: waters burst forth in the wilderness, “thirsty lands” (more personification) become springs of water, and the dry land comes to life with grasses, reeds, and rushes. (vv. 6-7).
We are right to be grieved by the world’s environmental problems, but we have confidence in a better day. The afflictions and sorrows of sin will be replaced with the strength and joy of holiness. The glory and excellency of our God will be revealed in a gloriously restored earth. May this vision guide us and keep our heads lifted in these times of perplexity!
Baltimore Ecclesia, MD
- All Scriptural citations are taken from the New King James Version unless specifically noted.
- The problem is that no political party aligns perfectly with God’s perspective on all issues. We will inevitably be compromising if we embrace one side or another. Psalm 146 wisely encourages us not to place our hopes in failing mankind but to have confidence that the almighty God will provide equity, social welfare, healing, and justice. Man cannot do it. God can and will.
- While there is no attribution of authorship to Psalm 104, Psalms 103 and 104 fit together well, and Psalm 103 is attributed to David. Both begin and end with “Bless the LORD, O my soul!” This exultant refrain occurs five times in these psalms (103:1, 2, 22 and 104:1, 35) and nowhere else in Scripture.
- See also Jeremiah 4:23-28, which begins by describing the earth as “without form, and void,” using the exact language of Genesis 1:2.
- Oreskes, Naomi (2004). The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change. Science, pg 1686. Available online at https://www.science.org/doi/abs/10.1126/science.1103618.
- Hymn 289 in the “green hymnbook” (2002) was written by Bro. William Osborne (1825-1899) and first published in the Christadelphian Hymn Book of 1869.