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What will the end of the world look like? It’s a question that countless books and movies have tried to answer. Even if God is in the picture, they tend to depict believers as being whisked away to safety while the rest of the world is destroyed.
Ian Smith addresses these misconceptions in his book Not Home Yet: How the Renewal of the Earth Fits Into God’s Plan for the World. By showing from the Bible that the world we live in won’t be annihilated, but rather renewed and perfected, Smith helps us to see the significance of life here and now: "The knowledge that our home will be renewed will give relevance to life." (p. 14)
Smith begins by reminding us that the Bible starts with Genesis 1, not Genesis 3. Since the earliest days of the earth, God has demonstrated his care for the beautiful world he created. This continues all throughout the Bible:
“And as the Bible spans its story from a garden in Eden to a garden in the New Jerusalem in Revelation 22, we are reminded that God's commitment to his creation does not wane.” (p. 26)
In each chapter, Smith considers a different aspect of “home”. We see how the Fall corrupted our home so we still feel its effects all around us today. Although God destroyed his creation with the flood, he was still committed to its re-creation. The apostle Peter compares Jesus’ return to this flood (2 Peter 3), helping us see that this earth will be renewed and re-created, not completely annihilated. We don’t become disembodied spirits who need to flee to a spiritual plane for refuge.
Smith then considers the temple, tabernacle, and the person of Jesus Christ—all ways in which God made his home among us. These prefigure the new heavens and new earth, where God will finally dwell with his people, uninhibited by sin, for eternity.
Other chapters consider the importance of the promised land throughout biblical history, parallels between various exile stories and our ultimate homecoming to the renewed earth, the nature of our eternal home, and what this journey home means for our lives now.
Some of the chapters covered ground I was already familiar with—like what actually happens after we die, while we wait for the coming of the new heavens and new earth. Other chapters opened my eyes to biblical themes and types that I hadn’t noticed before. I’ve now got direction on further reading I want to do to grow my understanding of the end times.
There were many things I loved about this book. I appreciate how Smith grounded his work in biblical theology. As all good theologians do, he interprets the Bible in light of itself. Rather than simply plucking out passages that explicitly talk about Jesus’ return or the new heavens and earth, Smith considers them in light of the entire Bible. Not Home Yet is emblematic of the new crop of books that are robustly committed to biblical theology.
Smith covers a lot of ground in this book. He connects all his arguments to great themes and doctrines of the Bible: covenants, kingdoms, resurrection, creation and re-creation, exile and homecoming. Its scope is huge. At the same time, Smith endeavours to make the book practical, showing how these doctrines matter for our lives now.
Even though I didn’t always agree with the suggested applications, and I felt that the book could have explored them more thoroughly, Smith certainly got me thinking about how I live out my theology of the end times. I appreciate that he presents a holistic view of the Christian life—caring about Sunday and Monday, the cross and the resurrection, now and now yet.
Smith is a careful thinker. As I was reading and grappling with the book, he would often anticipate and answer the questions that came up in my mind. More than anything, you can tell that Smith wants to exalt Jesus as supreme over all things, in this life and beyond.
Ultimately, Not Home Yet encouraged me that God truly is committed to this world. I can look forward to the day when all the joys of this universe are infinitely amplified, without any corrupting stain of sin. As I wait for that blessed day, I was challenged to live out these beliefs now. Smith writes:
“The task of the church is both to declare the reality of Christ's rule over his creation and to show what it will look like, as individuals, families, and whole societies are renewed by the gospel of the lordship of Jesus.” (p. 149)