This book by Michael Vlach, professor of theology at Shepherds Theological Seminary, is a theological and biblical argument for what the author entitles the New Creation Model (NCM), describing God’s design for the future of all creation, including humanity. Vlach defines the NCM via a quote from Craig Blaising: “New Creation Eschatology believes that the eternal state is not a heavenly, timeless, non-material reality but a new heavens and new earth, such as in Isaiah 65, 2 Peter 3:13, and Revelation 21 and 22. The dwelling place of the redeemed in that new creation is not in heaven but on the new earth” (p. 5).
In contrast is the Spiritual Vision Model (SVM), which “emphasizes individual and spiritual issues, and a spiritual existence in heaven apart from earth and anything related to our current experiences” (p. 2). Vlach details sixteen elements of the NCM (pp. 71-112), but in a comparison chart with SVM, he adds a few more (pp. 67-69). The key features of the NCM are as follows:
- The present earth is restored and renewed
- The destiny of the saved is a tangible new earth
- Time exists
- Motion exists
- The experiences on the new earth are similar to the experiences on the present earth, minus the effects of sin, the fall, and the curse
- God is the primary focus, but love of other saved persons exists, and interaction with the new earth exists
- Culture exists
- Social and political interactions exist
- Geo-political nations with leaders exist
- Diverse ethnicities exist in harmony and are celebrated
- Awareness and social interactions with the saved exist
- Food and celebrations exist
- Learning about God and His creation continues
- People use their resurrected bodies to move and interact with other people and the new earth
- The senses of sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch exist and will work better than they do now
- Houses exist on the new earth
- Farms and agriculture exist
- Animals exist on the new earth; they have inherent value to God and remain important in eternity
- Saved people talk and communicate with each other
- People remember other people and experiences from the present age; what does not carry over are negative memories and experiences from the present earth and age
- Salt water oceans that are dangerous and separate people by large distances are removed, but large bodies of water and aquatic creatures exist
In the same chart, the author also lists the key features of the SVM, although some of these descriptions would be held only by those who hold an extreme SVM position. Happily, most who lean toward SVM have a blend of NCM as well. The list is as follows (cf. pp. 145-153):
- The present earth is annihilated
- An entirely different planet exists or the new earth is spiritual Heaven
- The destiny of the saved is spiritual Heaven
- Time does not exist
- Motion does not exist
- No relationship to this present age exists. Eternity takes place in another realm with different experiences.
- God alone is the focus of the saved
- Culture does not exist
- Social-political interactions do not exist
- Geo-political nations do not exist, only saved individuals
- Ethnicity no longer matters
- No awareness of other people exists, except an awareness of others as they join in worshipping God
- Food and celebrations do not exist
- There is no need to learn anything
- The resurrected body exists but has little use since Heaven is mostly about mental contemplation of God
- Saved persons will see and perceive God, but no need exists for senses such as taste, smell, or hearing
- Houses do not exist
- Farms and agriculture do not exist
- Animals do not exist; they have an instrumental value now but have no place in eternity
- Talking and communication do not exist
- No memory exists of the present earth or age
- Oceans and bodies of water do not exist; aquatic creatures do not exist
Vlach explains the two models and why they are important (pp. 49-170), traces their prominence throughout church history (pp. 171-247), and discusses how both models are viewed from millennial theological perspectives (pp. 249-315) as well as from theological systems such as dispensationalism and covenant theology (pp. 317-390). The author believes that dispensationalists most consistently hold to a NCM.
This reviewer believes the NCM, as explained by Vlach, is the correct understanding drawn from Scripture and, therefore, The New Creation Model is a valuable resource. In a book this large, only a few points can be highlighted, but below are a few of interest.
- Accurately handles the cultural mandate, recognizing that it will be fulfilled in the Kingdom only when Christ returns (pp. 91, 108, 114-117, 122, 141, 252, 255, 258).
- Takes a strong premillennial view (pp. 263-283) and sees the Kingdom coming in two stages (the millennial and the eternal state), inaugurated at the Second Advent (pp. 133-143, 252-261).
- Distinguishes David’s throne from God’s throne (p. 256).
- Strongly opposes supersessionism (pp. 352-354).
- Believes that the present earth will be changed and restored but admits some NCM adherents believe it will be annihilated (pp. 8, 23, 54-56, 75-77, 167, 260, 279, 314, 340). This reviewer would have like to have seen a more robust exegetical defense of the author’s position.
- While clearly distinguishing between the millennium and the eternal state, often uses millennial texts, especially from the Old Testament, as if they also included the eternal kingdom (pp. 17, 23, 59-61, 76, 79, 90, 101, 105-107, 142). More clarity would have been appreciated.
- I am not sure what Vlach means when he states, “God is working to bring the restoration and renewal of the present earth and all creation” (p. 166). My understanding is that the present creation will be either annihilated and recreated, or purged and restored to God’s original design; and I believe Vlach would agree. So how God is presently working to bring in restoration does not compute.
Nevertheless, The New Creation Model is an excellent, and accurate, account of God’s design for His future Kingdom and for humanity. Highly recommended.
by Michael J. Vlach (Cary, NC: Theological Studies Press, 2023), 417 pp. + VI, paper $33.95
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Southern View Chapel