On October 7, Harper-Collins will release the newest “designer” Bible. Written on recycled paper, using soy ink, and focusing on the eco-friendly aspects of the God’s Word, the Green Bible will draw attention to more than 1000 verses of Scripture that speak about the earth. Drawing visual attention to these divine statements regarding creation, they will color these verses in a verdant green. Like the traditional, red-letter Bible, this book will make its environmental mark by “going green.” Concerning the project, Time Magazine reports:
Green runs through the Bible like a vine. There are the Garden and Noah’s olive branch. The oaks under which Abraham met with angels. The “tree standing by the waterside” in Psalms. And there is Jesus, the self-proclaimed “true vine,” who describes the Kingdom of Heaven as a mustard seed that grows into a tree “where birds can nest.” He dies on a cross of wood, and when he rises Mary Magdalene mistakes him for a gardener.
I would agree, sort of. From Genesis to Revelation, the Scriptures are very creation-conscious, but always for a larger purpose. God created the earth for humanity; God sustains and prospers the earth for his image bearers; and one day God will one day regenerate the cosmos so that Jesus Christ and his disciples will superintend that New Earth (cf. 1 Cor. 15:24-28; 2 Tim. 2:11-13).
Trent Hunter, a good friend and the one who clued me in to the Green Bible’s release, makes several cogent points in his blog on the Green Bible. He remarks:
Jesus did not enter the earth for the earth. Neither does he redeem humans for the sake of the earth. God’s creative and redemptive purposes are about God’s glory in the praise he receives from those who uniquely bear his image.
I agree. The pinnacle of creation is the Image Dei, that is humanity, you and me. However, I would add that while God did not redeem humans for the earth in an ultimate sense. In another sense, he did. Jesus died on the cross so that redeemed humanity would again reign over his creation with Him (cf. Revelation 2:28-29). Thus God is greatly concerned about the earth and its restoration, but his aim in recovering the planet is for His Son and the humanity that his son saved for destruction. Likewise, God’s wrath is poured out on those who destroy the earth. This isolated point might be cheered by those who campaign “Reduce! Reuse! Recycle!” But in truth, it may be those who are most outspoken about the earth that are in fact destroying it by their idolatrous hatred towards its Creator and Restorer. Consider Revelation 11:15-18:
Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.
The nations raged, but your wrath came,
and the time for the dead to be judged,
and for rewarding your servants,the prophets and saints,
and those who fear your name, both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth” (Revelation 11:15-18)
In all this green-talk, I wonder what color Revelation 11:18 will be in the new Green Bible?
In John’s apocalyptic vision, the beloved disciple records the words of the saints who hear the announcement of the kingdom come! They give praise to the Lord almighty, the one who created all things (see Revelation 4:11), and they exalt him for taking his place as the king of the world he created and established. They praise because the terror of this age, namely the raging of nations, has come to an end, and they sing for joy because God has come to reward his faithful remnant. And then they announce these prophetic and perhaps ironic words, “destroying the destroyers of the earth.” In context, the passage reads: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was…for destroying the destroyers of the earth.” In other words, with the coming of the kingdom (Rev. 11:15), the time has come for the creator of the earth to judge the earth (Rev. 11:17-18), and this judgment is not upon the flora and the fauna. It is on the quick and the dead!
Clearly in this passage, the Green Bible would have linguistic reasons to mark the text green: Those who destroy the earth shall be destroyed! Don’t miss that, Al Gore may say! However, the question becomes: Who destroys the earth? Is it those who litter? Those who refuse to recycle? Those corporate industries who emit toxins and dump chemicals into EPA-protected wetlands? Or is it something else? The Scripture does not blush. The destroyers of the earth are those who rage against God (cf. Psalm 2). The reason that the earth is groaning is not because of carbon dioxide, but because of the curse (cf. Gen. 3:14-19). The curse that has been declared upon you and me, because of our creation-destroying sin. Romans 8 tells the story,
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
From the beginning, the earth has been subjected to futility because of Adam’s sin and ours (cf. Rom. 5:12ff). And as the rest of Scripture indicates, the only atonement for sin is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Consewquently, the earth will groan until all sin is dealt with and the sons of God are revealed. Therefore, the environment will not be restored by legislative efforts to reduce the burning of fossil fuels; the earth will not be saved by green-thumbed gardeners, and it will not be saved by a Green Bible. It will only be saved by the one man who can re-create and resurrect.
The testimony of Scripture is clear, we are all destroyers of the earth, and we all deserve to be cast into the burning lake of fire (Rev. 20:14), but the good news is that God sent his son to redeem humanity and the earth. Again, not through environmental policies, but through his son Jesus Christ–the vine, the gardener, and the second Adam–can humanity and all creation have new life (cf. Col. 1:20). He alone is the hope of all creation.
So, what about the Green Bible? I hope that the Green Bible does well in its sales! I hope that lovers of God’s creation will pour over the Scriptures that speak of creation and the only One who can bring about the new creation. I pray that as they read the green and the black ink that they will see that the regeneration of the earth comes not by human effort and green verses, but by one man, Jesus Christ, who alone as the True Vine can save us from our earth-corroding sin. He alones saves. He alone restores. This requires more than just green ink though, it requires red blood. As Hebrews 9:22 says, “without the shedding of blood, their is no remission of sin,” and as Revelation 11:18 makes clear, without red blood there is no green earth!
May we who enjoy God’s creation and His redemption, praise him for saving the earth by saving a people who are saved by his death, burial, and resurrection. May those who read the Green Bible come to know the resurrecting power of Jesus Christ purchased with Red Blood.
Sola Deo Gloria, dss
(For further reflection check out: Trent Hunter’s Blog “A Scripture for the Prius Age”, Robbie Sagers and Dr. Russell Moore message Environmental Protection and Animal Stewardship, taught at Ninth & O Baptist Church last year, and John Piper’s sermon on the subject, “God’s Pleasure in Creation.”)