The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth
“I imagine that nature will be transformed and reconciled. . . . Not tomorrow morning, but in an immensely far-off age, when there will be a new heaven and a new earth.”—Jean-Marie Pelt, French environmental specialist.
DISTRESSED by environmental and social conditions on earth, many would love to see our planet transformed into a paradise. Yet, this aspiration is not just a 21st-century dream. Long ago, the Bible promised the restoration of Paradise on earth. Jesus’ declarations “the meek . . . shall inherit the earth” and “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” are among the most well-known passages in Scripture. (Matthew 5:5; 6:10, Revised Standard Version) Today, however, not many share a belief in an earthly paradise inhabited by the meek. For most who claim to be Christians, Paradise has been lost.
The French weekly magazine La Vie explains why belief in a paradise—whether on earth or in heaven—has been abandoned, at least in the Catholic Church: “After dominating Catholic pastoral teachings for at least 19 centuries, [the notion of a] paradise has disappeared from spiritual retreats, Sunday sermons, theology courses, and catechism classes.” The very word is said to be shrouded in a “heavy fog” of “mystery and confusion.” Some preachers deliberately avoid it because it “conveys too many images of earthly happiness.”
For Frédéric Lenoir, a sociologist who specializes in religion, the notions of a paradise have become “stereotyped images.” Likewise, Jean Delumeau, historian and author of several books on the subject, thinks that the fulfillment of Bible promises is primarily symbolic. He writes: “To the question, ‘What is left of Paradise?’ Christian faith continues to reply: Thanks to the resurrection of the Savior, one day we shall all join hands and our eyes shall see happiness.”
Is the message of an earthly paradise still relevant? What exactly does the future hold for our planet? Is the vision of the future blurred, or can it be brought into focus? The following article will answer these questions.
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