10 Things I’ve recently learned about the New Creation

Having attended a very worthwhile and thought provoking church weekend away on the new creation, and in an attempt to help me remember some key truths and applications, I thought I’d commit to page (or screen) 10 things I’ve learned. These truths apply to those who believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I hope you find this list helpful, thoughts and comments below are welcome!

1. The New Earth will be as real and physical as this earth – only better!  (Isaiah 60:17-22, Isaiah 65:17-25, Isaiah 25:6-8, Revelation 21:1-4)

For someone like me who often finds it difficult to imagine what the New Creation will be like, these verses are great in that they tell us that as the New Earth will be an actual place with objects, animals, people etc. but without the pain, suffering and ‘fallen-ness’ of this current earth, and will be totally new, whilst the old earth will be destroyed. Thus, scripture such as this puts to bed any idea that we’ll be floating in the sky in white linen trousers eating soft cheese all day!

2. The New Creation will be place where we will be in perfect relationship with God (Revelation 22:1-5)
Although the process of God working to restore a relationship between believers and himself is already taking place here on earth (through the redemption of our souls through the blood of Jesus Christ as is told us in the book of Romans) therefore meaning we can begin to enjoy the benefits of communion with God now, this relationship will be made perfect when Jesus comes again and fully reunites us to himself. What a great thing to look forward to, and what better motivation can there be to keep going through the trials and tribulations of this life?

3. Faith matters now because it acts as a deposit for the future (2 Corinthians 1:22, 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10, Ephesians 1:13-14)
God has acted in showing love for sinners (Romans 5:8) in sending his son to die for us so that though faith, which is a gift from God (Philippians 1:29-30) we might have a relationship with him. This gift of faith, which results in the Holy Spirit being deposited in us as is massively important because it’s God’s way of putting down a down-payment for us, which guarantees that when Jesus comes again, we’ll be part of the people taken to be with him in the New Creation. What an encouragement!

4. The New Creation is an essential component of God’s plan (Ephesians 1:9-10, John 18:36)
This fourth point essentially follows on from points 2 and 3 in that the Bible doesn’t see the New Creation as an ‘add on’ or merely something at the end not to think about that much now, but as something central to what God is doing today. That is, as the Bible as a whole lays out God gathering a people to himself, for himself, which although taking place right now, will be fully realised in the new creation.

5. The New Creation should therefore shape how we live now (Hebrews 11:13,16, 2 Peter 3:10-13, 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10, Philippians 1:21)
That is, given the certainty given in the Bible that the New Creation will be real, will happen, and is eternal (whereas our lives on this earth are mere drops in the ocean in comparison) these realities should shape the way we live now. Are the decisions we’re making today made in light of the New Creation? This question isn’t meant as a beat up, more as an encouragement to ‘store up treasures in heaven.’ This is explained further in the next point.

6. It’s a good idea to spend time building up both our Godly character and that of other believers (2 Peter 1:1-11, 1 Peter 4:1-11Matthew 6:19-21)
Given that the material things that the earth (and I) hold so dear will perish and be of no value in the New Creation (see 1), why not be thinking about how we can be investing in our own and others  Godly character, which is imperishable and will last into eternity? There are many ways in which this can be done, from serving the body (that is, the church) to meeting with and speaking the truth to each other in love, to regularly meditating on scripture and praying.

7. We should be encouraging others about the New Creation (Romans 8:18-25Hebrews 10:23-25)
Not completely unrelated to the last point, and given the trials and tribulations we can face on earth now, as well as the things we can idolise and focus in on at the expense of Jesus, whether they be jobs, relationships, our football team, money, music or whatever, it’s probably a good idea to encourage others (and ourselves!) that what we experience here on earth isn’t it. As I’ve said elsewhere, given how incredible the new creation will be, why not when someone’s looking or feeling a bit down (or even if they’re not!) encourage them that on because of what’s to come its worth keeping going in the faith until the end. Or to look at it the other way, the things we enjoy here on earth (football, curry, relationships, family, films, etc.) will pale into insignificance when compared with what is to come.

8. We’ll be getting new bodies in the New Creation. (1 Corinthians 15:42, Philippians 3:21)
Although the Godly character we build up now will last to the new creation, our physical bodies will not, we’ll be getting new ones! One of the implications of this is that we can use our bodies up to serve one another as outlined in 6. Whilst this doesn’t mean we should necessarily abuse our bodies by eating donuts/takeaway food/chocolate all day, or cast aside normative rules about hygiene, it does (amongst many other things) free us to use our bodies in light of the new creation, glorifying God, serving our brothers and sisters and helping build the church.

9. We are called to ‘lose life now to gain life later.’ (Mark 8:34-38)
This emphasis on the New Creation, and its prime importance in God’s plan for the world and his people is overtly stated by Jesus himself in the gospel of Mark, where he says to that whoever would follow him should have their priorities firmly rooted in the New Creation.  As I’m sure you’d agree, this is a very challenging thing of the Messiah to say to us in a western culture which has no real concept of any sort of life beyond this earth. What will it mean for us both individually and corporately to lose life now in light of the new creation?

10. What do I day dream about?
Taking into account how great the New Creation is going to be,  and given that we tend to day dream about stuff we’re into, I wonder how many of us day dream about the New Creation? I know I don’t, but why is that? Is it because we think it won’t be that good, or because we value things on this earth as greater than anything else? Whilst I wouldn’t go as far as to say that day dreaming about scoring the winning goal at the 2018 world cup (as I do from time to time) is wrong in itself, but perhaps such day dreams should make us think along the lines of ‘this looks and sounds pretty fantastic in my head, but the new creation will be even better!’ Note, this isn’t to say that there will or won’t be international sporting tournaments in the new creation, I don’t know!

What should be done about the scourge of in-work poverty?

Red tie‘Poverty is no longer problem of workless and work shy’. This statement, coming from Alan Milburn as the first State of the Nation annual report into social mobility was launched last week whilst potentially challenging views some of us might have about who is in poverty and what the causes are (i.e. the unemployed on benefits who are lazy) shouldn’t really come as a huge surprise when we look at some of the figures around this issue.

The figures in Milburn’s report show us for instance that in actual fact, two thirds of poor children in the UK come from households where at least one person is in paid work (6.1 million people, 4.1 million being adults and 2 million being children, 1 million more than those in workless households.) In addition, research relating to the ‘minimum income standard’, that is, a minimum standard of income required to reach a ‘socially acceptable standard of living’ tells us that a household with a couple and two children where both spouses/partners working full time on the UK minimum wage would fall well short of this standard, they would in fact need to be both earning £9.91 per hour, more than £3 greater than the current minimum wage.  Combine this with yet more research which reveals that living standards for those on low to middle incomes have been faltering and Milburn’s declaration becomes much more understandable.

But what should be done about this scourge of in-work poverty? Whilst the causes are numerous, from low pay, to stagnating wages, to cuts in tax credits, Milburn has focussed in on social mobility as key to improving the outcomes of those who are working and in poverty, and perhaps more importantly their children.

For a Prime Minister who has declared his desire to Britain to become an ‘Aspiration Nation’, where hard work and effort are properly rewarded; social mobility matters hugely. After all, if families where one or both parents are working full time, and they and their children aren’t ‘getting on’ and climbing the economic and social ladders then the end result could be rather embarrassing for the Prime Minister. Hence, it makes great sense for David Cameron and his Government to be thinking about adequate solutions to the problem of in work poverty that places social mobility at the centre and which ultimately and takes more of the lowest paid out of poverty. If the worrying figures in this report aren’t enough to spur Cameron and his Government into action, then a fast approaching 2015 General Election (which according to a recent Ipsos Mori poll which has the Conservatives and Labour neck and neck could be fiercely competitive) surely should.

Coming back to potential solutions though, whilst elements such as an adequate education for the UK’s children are massively important, I wish to focus on what can be done through the UK tax and benefits system. I believe this is not only a vehicle for improving the aspirations of those already in work but also children currently in education who will enter the labour market in the future. In other words, social mobility and the tax and benefits system go hand in hand.

Indeed, let’s take the current tax credits system as an example. Whilst (internationally speaking at least) it supports the lowest earners relatively generously, the comparatively sharp rate at which this is withdrawn means that for a family where one spouse is in work and the other is not means that the reward from any increase in earnings from the minimum wage to the living wage for example (£6.31 to £8.55 per hour in London or an increase of £2.24) or what economists call the Marginal Effective Tax Rate, will be 73%. This means that for every extra £1 earned, the family will only see 27p come into the household. Or take to our minimum to living wage example, from the £2.24 increase, the family will only ever see around 60p of that come into the household.  Thus, as noted by the OECD, this obviously has a significant impact on in work poverty and it would be worthwhile for Political parties of all colours to think about ways in which workers can keep more of their earnings as they progress in the world of work.

The Government will argue that taking people out of income tax altogether will help towards in work poverty and social mobility. Yet evidence shows us that whilst this does have some benefit, it disproportionately benefits those in the upper half of the income distribution and does nothing for those in poverty already not paying any income tax.

In my view, if we are going to focus in on the benefits system, we should look at ways in which withdrawal rates can be reduced particularly at the lower end of incomes. If this can be done, then this will show that Government is willing to support people in work not just at very low incomes, but as they progress up the income distribution. This as a result could have a positive impact in terms of social mobility. What better way to say ‘we’re in it together?’ Critics will say lessening withdrawal rates is expensive, but in the context of the billions spent increasing the income tax allowance, is it really, especially given its potential long term benefits?

Yet we’re missing a trick I think if we only focus on the benefits system. What can be done in terms of our tax system? Well, in terms of recent announcements, David Cameron recently revealed a transferable allowance for married couples, which due to having a positive effect in reducing the tax burden of one-earner couples with children will reduce the METRs faced by these families. No one is pretending however that at the level currently proposed (benefitting families by about £3.85 per week) the effects of in work poverty or social mobility are going to be significant. However if substantially bolstered they certainly could be, and this should be something all parties consider in the run up to 2015 and beyond.

Other things worth considering in terms of the tax system include reintroducing the married couples allowance (MCA) and additional person’s allowance (APA.) Like the transferable allowance, this would maintain independent taxation, but would also benefit two-earner couple and single parent families.[1] A couple more radical options would be to introduce joint taxation, as is the case in a number of OECD nations, or move support for families currently present the benefits system back in the tax system[2]. Doing so could have really positive effects on work incentives, whilst maintaining financial support for families who need it.

In summing up, it’s great to see that Alan Milburn has flagged up in work poverty as a key issue to social mobility. Whilst there are many reasons why social mobility has remained stubbornly hard to combat for decades, the current tax and benefits surely has to feature in the mix. Thus, our  tax and benefits system that promotes social mobility should not only promote work, but also support earners within families (and the responsibility they have for non-earning spouses and children) as they aspire and progress up the earnings ladder. If progress is made towards this end, then I believe we could really see progress being made.

[1] Draper and Beighton, Independent Taxation – 25 years on. Does it meet today’s needs? CARE, London, 2013, p.78

[2] Ibid, p.79