The biblical narrative circumscribes time. It gives history a beginning: the moment of creation in 4004 BC. It gives it an end: Judgment Day—on a date yet unknown—and the beginning of the New Creation. It gives it a remarkably limited duration: so far just over 6,000 years of Yahweh’s history with us and of our history with Yahweh.
This narrative also circumscribes space. Like time, the biblical narrative divides space into a handful of parts with remarkably limited range. At its simplest, it divides space into Heaven, Earth, and Hell.
Heaven consists of at least three major parts. One part is made up of the firmament: a concave, solid, yet transparent dome which stretches from one end of the earth to the other. In it are located the sun, moon, and stars (which include the five planets—Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn—visible to our unaided eyes). A second part lies between us and the firmament. In it birds fly, clouds float, and winds blow. A third part, Heaven proper, lies above the firmament. Here Abba sits enthroned with Jesus at his right hand and both are surrounded by a host of angels and saints. We may think of Heaven proper as headquarters of the Kingdom of Heaven which includes Earth as well.
In good Chalcedonian fashion, affirming the biblical narrative does not mean we must deny other narratives. It does mean, however, that we give priority to the biblical narrative.
Other narratives speak of distant galaxies which the biblical narrative ignores. We may safely ignore them too.
The corporate media always makes much of space exploration, spy satellites, the International Space Station, moon landings, the Hubble telescope, and even colonizing Mars. We may safely ignore all this as well as lacking in meaning. In fact, as witnesses to Jesus Christ, we would do much better to focus more deliberately on nurturing creation than on distracting ourselves with spectacles in outer space. Growing our own carrots lacks the glamor of an Olympian space race, but it is more meaningful and healthier too.
Other narratives claim to be scientific. To be scientific simply means to be verifiable using visual observation and sensate logic. The scientific method has never been an adequate one for rightly understanding the biblical narrative or Jesus Christ its center. To do that, we must use the paradoxical logic of the biblical narrative itself and rely exclusively on the grace of Jesus Christ himself. As Karl Barth once put it, only Jesus Christ can speak meaningfully to us about Jesus Christ.
Below Heaven we live on Earth. The biblical narrative divides Earth into at least two parts: the land and the seas. Yahweh created the land--which includes all plants, animals, lakes, and rivers as well as soil and rocks--as the perfect context for us to enjoy a relationship of freedom and love with him, one another, and all our fellow creatures (Genesis 1). That relationship of freedom and love is the whole purpose of creation (Genesis 2).
Affirming creation as context and covenantal relationships as purpose means living on the land in ways which respect its integrity and vitality.
We live on Earth’s surface. Below us is Hell. On that great Day of Judgment, Jesus will definitively send Satan, his demonic minions, and even Death itself to Hell. He will also send, along with them, an indefinite number of us human beings who absurdly devoted ourselves to the Olympian gods. This may well include all of us who have stubbornly trespassed the good limits imposed by the integrity and vitality of the land and of our fellow human beings.
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