The New Heavens and the New Earth: Hope for the Creation in Jewish Apocalyptic and the New Testament
Clark, David G., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
The New Heavens and the New Earth: Hope for the Creation in Jewish Apocalyptic and the New Testament. By David M. Russell. Philadelphia: Visionary, 1996, vi + 266 pp., $18.00 paper.
The author's interest in the redemption of the physical creation began in his childhood. The mountains near his eastern Tennessee home were being devastated by strip mining operations, and yet the sermons he heard seemed concerned only with spiritual salvation. The "challenge" of this study is therefore "to demonstrate that the apocalyptic motif of the `new heavens and a new earth' preserves an important and positive role for the present creation" (p. 6). To meet this challenge, Russell explores two issues. The first is whether the Bible, especially apocalyptic literature, has any interest in creation, and the second is whether the expectation of a new heaven and a new earth constitute a call to escape from this world.
In chap. 1, "Creation and Apocalyptic," the author describes the chief contribution of apocalyptic literature as the depiction of "the cosmic reach of God's redemptive purpose" (p. 23). Without apocalyptic literature, redemptive theology collapses into anthropology. Moving to creation and redemption in the OT, Russell finds the affirmation of a creation that is good, but now degraded by the fall and its aftermath. In Israel's covenant, God himself owns the land, and the tithe, firstfruits, Sabbath, etc., all have an ecological perspective. Jewish apocalyptic literature is the focus of chap. 3, and once again he finds no disparagement of the natural order, only the awareness that it has been impaired by human sin and (mostly by implication) will be restored in the age to come. …