Answer by Simon Turpin
There are many questions we can have regarding the Bible: “what if this…?”, “what about…?” or “why didn’t God…?” What we need to realise, however, is that the Bible does not always directly address every one of our questions although it may answer them indirectly.
Created in God’s image
When God created mankind in Genesis 1 we read: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). The Hebrew word for ‘image’ is selem and in the Old Testament there is a correspondence between the person and the thing that the ‘image’ represents (for example, idols – Numbers. 33:52; 2 Kings 11:18; Ezek. 7:20). God appointed mankind as His royal representatives to rule and deputize the world for him in order to reflect His image (Gen. 1:26-28; Psalm. 8).
As His ‘image’ bearers God created us in His image with a will, just as He has, and gave us real choices with real consequences. We were given the choice to remain in that fellowship with Him (Genesis 2:16-17); although limited and not independent of Him. This is so that we could love and worship Him. By placing humanity in a created realm separate from Heaven, with the plan of salvation set up before creation (see below), God could give us a real choice that allowed us to sin without contaminating Heaven.
Why did God Create?
In thinking of the question ‘why did God not create us in heaven and let us stay there with Him’ we need to also ask ‘why did God create the world anyway?’ The simple answer is because He wanted to! Or to be more specific, God ‘willed’ the creation of all things: Revelation 4:11 tells us: “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honour and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.” It is God and God alone who is the cause of creation. He did not need to create the universe. It was a free act and His will that creation came about. The next question could be why He would want to create? Well, Scripture informs us that it was in order to display his glory: Psalm 19:1 tells us that “The heavens declare the glory of God.” People often wonder why God would create such an enormous universe with only one planet that contains life on it. The answer is simply because it declares to us the glory of our Creator. Paul in Romans declares the glory of this creation: because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:19-20)
The glory of God’s creation screams His existence yet the reason people choose to reject their Creator is not because they do not recognise His glory, but that they ‘supress the truth in unrighteousness’ (Romans 1:18).
The prophet Isaiah declared why God created Israel:
Everyone who is called by My name,
Whom I have created for My glory;
I have formed him, yes, I have made him.” (Isaiah 43:7)
The reason God brought Israel into existence (note the verbs used to describe their existence – created, formed and made – all used in Genesis chapters 1 & 2) was for His glory. Just as the Psalmist tells us the purpose of the heavens is to display God’s glory, so the reason for Israel’s existence was to bring glory to God. Isaiah goes on to speak of God’s glory in creating mankind:
For thus says the Lord,
Who created the heavens,
Who is God,
Who formed the earth and made it,
Who has established it,
Who did not create it in vain,
Who formed it to be inhabited:
“I am the Lord, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:18)
God’s work of creation was not meaningless but there was a purpose to it in forming the earth specifically to be inhabited by mankind. The Psalmist even proclaims that God gave “the earth…to the children of men” (Psalm 115:16) and this reveals God’s generosity towards us in giving us the earth. People are, therefore, the purpose of God’s creative activity. The reason then for the universe’s, Israel’s and our own existence is the glory of God!
God’s glory in saving sinners
Ephesians 1:4-6 tells us about God’s ultimate display of His glory which is shown in His grace towards sinners:
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
Paul describes the redemptive act of God’s choosing of His people as taking place before the creation of the world. This was to show “the glory of His grace.” All believers then should praise God because He has adopted us into His family and has lavished upon us His grace: “undeserved favour.” The pinnacle in this plan of God’s act of glory came about in the death of our Lord Jesus, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). The death of Christ for the redemption of His people was planned before the foundation of the world to take place on the earth. The death of Christ was not an afterthought in the mind of God or a surprise to Him but was part of His divine plan (Acts 2:23).
One reason then why God did not create mankind to stay with Him in heaven is that before the world was created He planned to be glorified through the death of His Son in the redemption of fallen mankind.
The book of Revelation describes those who have been redeemed from the earth glorifying God in heaven:
Blessing and honour and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!
Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever. (Revelation 5:13-14)
The purpose of our life on earth as well as in heaven will be to glorify the one who has redeemed underserving sinners and adopted them into his family.
It is important to keep in mind that when God made man originally he made him with a material body and an immaterial soul (or spirit) (Genesis 2:7; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Matthew 10:28) which means that we are designed to live in a physical creation. What is more, the Bible speaks of the transformation of creation where God’s people can dwell in it forever (Romans 8:21). The New Testament does not picture the future of Christians floating around in clouds in heaven. Rather, it pictures a future lived out in a renewed and restored heaven and earth in resurrected material bodies (2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 21:1-2, 5).
Image: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
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