A Biblical Basis for Why I Believe the “The Peaceable Kingdom” Will One Day be Reality
*At the end of this blog, you will find links for further fascinating reading on this topic. All Scripture references are taken from the New Living Translation.
As a young girl, I frequently watched wildlife documentaries where lions devoured wildebeests or crocodiles closed huge jaws around the necks of their terrified prey. Lots of blood was involved but I watched unperturbed. Years later, I am no longer desensitized. I watch far fewer such films and when it gets to the hunting part, I close my eyes and sometimes hold my ears shut so I can’t hear the gruesome details of a zebra or a gazelle becoming dinner.
The Peaceable Kingdom, a painting by artist Edward Hicks, portrays the kind of world I want to live in. Hicks, a Quaker, created one hundred variations of the work beginning in 1820. In the foreground of one version done in 1826, several young children mingle with a menagerie of creatures that includes not just domesticated animals but big cats and even a wolf. One toddler has his arm around the neck of a tiger.
Hicks based this work on Isaiah 11:6, “In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all.” Some may say the conditions described in these verses are only figurative. However, there are too many specifics and other Biblical passages support a literal interpretation. Verse nine reinforces such a conclusion when God says, “Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.” Notice it says, “nothing,” rather than, “no one.” Imagine a world where animals don’t have to die to feed someone or something, where extinct plants, flowers and animals live again –a world where there is no fear, pollution or destruction.
The first chapter of Genesis gives an account of God’s creation of everything from insects to man. He commands them to multiply and fill the earth. How could this multiplication happen in the presence of predation? How could animals tearing and devouring be part of Jehovah God’s “very good” creation? Some may say that my definition of “very good” might be different from God’s definition. However, the Bible says the curse God placed on the world after Adam and Eve’s fall into sin brought death. It seems illogical to argue that there was death only among animals before the fall.
But perhaps more compelling evidence is found in Genesis 1:29-30 when God introduces the newly formed man and woman to their home. “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.”
God gave the vegetation to all animals, everything that has life. In our world today, carnivores such as dogs, cats, and bears eat only meat (although they’ve infrequently been observed feeding on plants). After the fall, God killed an animal to make Adam and Eve clothing (Genesis 3:21). Yet there is no indication in the Old Testament of predation for food either among man or animals until God commanded Noah and his family to kill and eat after they emerged from the ark (Genesis 9:1-3).
In Genesis 2:18-20. God brings all the creatures he made to Adam to name. If the state of the animal kingdom were as we know it today, God would have had a hard time getting all those deer, bunnies, and squirrels to come to scary Adam. Along with the first man, they would also have feared for their lives in the presence of tigers, lions and bears, oh my!
Before the naming, God also decides that Adam needs a partner. It is fascinating that the Bible says that God created Eve because among the animals, not one suitable partner could be found for the man. Why is this search mentioned? Was God seeking a “helpmeet” for Adam among his creatures? Is it possible animals were capable of much more before the curse, perhaps even of speech? When the serpent tempted Eve, she didn’t seem surprised by a talking reptile. As for man, scientists say, we only use ten to twenty percent of our brain’s capacity. What might Adam and Eve have been able to do before sin, “dumbed us down?”
Romans 8:19-23 has always intrigued me with its promise. “Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.” If death is part of God’s curse, and liberation from that curse banishes death for all of creation, then surely predation was not God’s original plan and someday we will experience the reality of these verses.
In Revelation 21:1-7, as John nears the conclusion of his heavenly vision, he sees, “A new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared” He then hears, “a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’” The New Living Translation states it in the present continuous tense, “I am making all things new,” as if God were already in the process of bringing his creation back to its perfect, blissful state.
The Bible says that the wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23). God is the author of life, not destruction. He loves all of his creation and his heart broke most of all over the rebellion of the ones he created in his own image to love him and be loved by him. But I believe he also grieved the tragic toll the fall took on the animal and plant life of his once flawless world.
Through Christ and the cross, God redeemed the world once again to himself. He sets us free from sin and transforms our hearts and lives. One day, dying, evil, decay, and suffering will no longer be a part of our reality. And if you are a follower of the Savior, that ought to thrill you with excited anticipation. As for me, I’m going to sit down and have a conversation with a tiger.
http://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/760/what-was-life-like-in-eden-before-the-fall *At “Stack Exchange,” the author states, “It seems the man (and woman) had not gained anything like immortality yet according to Genesis 3:22.” This contradicts what the apostle Paul say in 1 Corinthians 15:21 that, “Death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man (Jesus).”
Stack Exchange also questions the nature of evil:“If evil is not an opposing entity, but is merely the absence of good, then pain, suffering and death would always have been potentially part of creation.” This goes against the entire Bible’s portrayal of Satan as the representation of evil who always opposes God and his people–he was already opposing God by tempting Adam and Eve to disobey their loving Creator.
In addition, this author prefers to answer questions from the portion of the Old Testament the Jews usually consult rather than from “Christian sources.” However, the Old and New Testament are inextricably linked and the new fulfills the old and completes God’s plan. Therefore a correct answer to this author’s questions cannot be obtained by ignoring the gospel texts and the letters of the apostles.