The Christian Outlook
The outlook of the natural man is bounded by the things of time and sense. Necessarily so. Being alienated from God and devoid of spiritual life, his interests are narrowed to this earthly sphere, and where his treasure is—there will his heart be also. To "succeed" in this life, to obtain for himself a position of power and prestige in this perishing world, is as far as his ambitions go. To eat, drink, and be merry—is the highest ideal of the vast majority of our fellows. Being of the world—as well as in it—the portion of the unregenerate is confined thereto. If his immediate portion be a disappointing one, he lives in hope of improving the same.
And what is true of each of its units, holds good of the whole: The world may not yet be the paradise they long for—yet they indulge in the wishful thinking that before long a Golden Age will dawn.
There is much speculation and theorizing upon what is needed to usher in that Golden Age. Many have held that the only thing which obstructed it was some particular form of government, under which they lived: A government which confined the good things of this life to the privileged classes and withheld them from the laboring masses. In support of that theory, force has often been employed, ancient monarchies being overthrown, and republics taking their place. Every form of government that human wit could devise has been tried out: Absolute monarchy, limited monarchy, aristocratic rule, republicanism, democracy, communism—only to find that human nature remained unchanged and discontented as ever. More recently, it was said that Utopian conditions would eventually be reached by a natural process of evolution—that as civilization advanced, things would automatically improve. But such a fantasy has been rudely shattered by the world tragedies of our own lifetime.
Others have pinned their faith to what is generally thought of as somewhat vaguely called "Religion." Its leaders and advocates have felt that the world is suffering from something more serious and radical than surface disorders, and therefore, that the remedy must deal with what is wrong within. They realize that it is sin which lies at the root of the world's miseries and sufferings, and they aver that religion is the only power which can overcome sin. There are, however, even more brands of religion than there are political philosophies, each one claiming to be the best, if not the only, panacea for all the world's ailments. The devotees of each of these types of religion hold to the idea that if only a sufficient number of their fellows can be induced to endorse their particular creed and adopt their mode of life—that there would soon be a vast improvement—that selfishness and injustice would be replaced by righteousness; that wars and wretchedness would give way to peace and happiness.
But the Christian outlook is entirely different from that of either the profane or the religious worldling.
Having had his eyes opened to see his own native depravity and made to feel the plague of his own heart—he is under no delusion concerning the state of his fellows. He knows from painful experience, that the disease from which his fellows are suffering is far too desperate for any human means to alleviate—still less, to cure; and that priests and Levites are of no avail for the half-dead traveler on life's highway. He realizes that all mankind lie under the curse of a holy and sin-hating God, and therefore, that "destruction and misery are in their ways—and the way of peace have they not known" (Romans 3:16-17). If his thoughts are regulated by the Word of Truth, he knows that "the whole world lies in wickedness" (1 John 5:19), and therefore, that the Ethiopian will sooner change his skin, or the leopard his spots—than that it should be capable of any change for the better.
"Nevertheless we, according to his promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13). There is 'The Christian outlook!' That "Nevertheless" is in view of what is stated in the preceding verses. There, we are told that "the heavens [the stellar and atmospheric heavens] shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10, and partly repeated in verse 12). We do not propose to now cross swords with either those who deny, or affirm, there is yet to be a "Millennium" (on that subject, the writer has no definite opinion); rather do we here call attention to the Divinely-revealed fact that at the close of human history—and in our judgment, no one on earth has or can have even an approximate idea of when that will be—this earth, and all its works, is going to be (not renovated nor purified, but) totally and finally destroyed. That will be the end of all the much-vaunted and admired productions of man.
But though the whole of this scene is doomed to destruction, so far from being dismayed and overwhelmed by such a prospect, Christians direct their gaze to something beyond and yet future, and "according to his promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13). The poor worldling has nothing better than his own wishful thinking on which to base his hope of a coming Golden Age. The Christian, who not only knows that this world is going to perish when it has served its Maker's purpose—but has the definite promise of One who cannot lie that the present mundane system is going to be replaced by a new earth (which will endure not merely for a thousand years—but forever), in which sin shall never enter—but wherein righteousness shall dwell—and as the result thereof, where everlasting peace, blessing, and felicity shall reign!
We—whose eyes have been anointed with Divine salve and whose hearts rest upon the infallible Word of God (in such passages as Isaiah 65:17; 66:22), look—with a spiritual vision—for new heavens and a new earth. We look with the eyes of faith, which are able to see Objects invisible to physical sight (Hebrews 11:27) and behold things whose actualization lies in the future, rather than in the present (Hebrews 11:1).
We look with the eyes of hope—not of a mere wishful expectation—but of a confident anticipation of what God will surely bring to pass.
We look with the eyes of happiness, as Abraham looked forward to the day of Christ, "saw it, and was glad" (John 8:56).
We look with the eyes of contentment—for the new heavens and earth wherein dwells righteousness will satisfy every holy longing and be the summum bonum of all pure desire. Yes, we look beyond the bounds of time—to the glorious horizon of eternity!
As the unregenerate behold with horror the devastated cities of Europe and the rubble of what was not long ago its most venerated monuments (and the child of God cannot contemplate such ruins unmoved), as they look with faltering hearts after those things which they very much fear are soon to come upon the earth; as we are now witnessing the demolishing of Dagon—what man has termed "our Christian civilization" —the eye of faith looks for that which the Lord God shall yet call into existence, which will witness the consummation of His purpose and be the grand finale of redemption. "Therefore, beloved, seeing that you look for such things—be diligent that you may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless" (2 Peter 3:14), that is the practical application. O that grace may be granted both writer and reader to heed it.