The Gospel for all... Creation?
Recently our Life Group (Small Group, Bible Study Group, etc) wrapped up a study through the Gospel of Mark. The concluding chapter (16) is unique in that the final 9 to 11 verses (depending on translation) are debatable as to whether or not it is the original ending written by Mark. I don't intend to try and answer whether it was actually written by Mark or by copyists in later history, but what I am struck by is the language found in verse 15.
"And He (Jesus) said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." (emphasis mine)
At first, you might just read right on by this, or right on through it, and not catch the nuance. But notice that Jesus said to "preach the gospel to all CREATION." Not, "to all creatures," not, "to all peoples," rather, "to all creation."
Curious, I pulled out my Greek New Testament and searched for which word was being translated here as "creation." It is the Greek word ktisis, which literally translated actually is "creation, or anything that is created." It is used elsewhere in Mark's gospel twice, in 10:6 "from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female," as well as 13:19 "For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will."
Both other instances of ktisis imply the whole of the created order, or the sum of all creation... heavens, earth, sky, dirt, trees, animals and yes, people.
Where else does ktisis show up in the New Testament?
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen... -Romans 1:20
For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature (could also be translated, creation) rather than the Creator... -Romans 1:25
For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. -Romans 8:19-22
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold new things have come. -2 Corinthians 5:17
He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. -Colossians 1:15
If indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the GOSPEL that you have heard, which was PROCLAIMED in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. -Colossians 1:23
Ktisis (creation) can be both "that which was created by God," as well as "that which followers of Christ become," or rather, a new TYPE or KIND of creation.
But what is interesting to me, going back to Mark 16:15, is that Jesus instructs his followers to declare the gospel, the message of the Kingdom of God, to all "creation," to "all of that which has been created by God and for God." Paul himself, in Colossians 1:23, picks up this thinking when he talks about the gospel being proclaimed in all creation under heaven.
So what is Jesus wanting? Is he hoping that Peter would begin to witness to trees? Is he expecting John to start a discipleship class with squirrels? Shall Matthew convert some rocks while he's at it?
I think this would be a very silly and shallow way to think about "proclaiming the gospel to all creation." Rather than thinking about it in these terms, what if we took a step back and asked a bigger question, "what IS the gospel... the message of the Kingdom of God?"
If you start there, and begin to grasp a more holistic view of the gospel, then this issue of "proclaiming to all creation" actually makes a whole lot of sense. The modern/evangelical view of the gospel is fairly limited in scope, often times reduced to "getting souls in to heaven." The "gospel" becomes only about people, and only about their fire-insurance after death. However, I believe the gospel, the good news, the Kingdom of God is much bigger and more inclusive. I believe the gospel is about the restoration and the reconciliation of ALL things.
For it pleased the Father that in Him (Jesus) all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile ALL THINGS to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of the cross. -Colossians 1:19,20 (emphasis mine)
Creation itself is groaning, waiting, hoping to be set free. The gospel is about and for the whole world, not just the humans (and not just their souls).
Therefore, Jesus' instruction to proclaim the gospel to all creation makes sense in this light. For when we truly live out the Kingdom of God, when we actually begin to grasp what it means to live out the gospel, we are being ourselves "new creation," and we are bringing about the Kingdom and Will of God ON EARTH just as it is IN HEAVEN.
All creation benefits when we become true followers of Jesus (or at least, it OUGHT to benefit). We are the stewards of the earth, invited to care for it and partner with it in the praise of God (read the Psalms). The proclamation of the gospel is for the good of all creation. The Way of Jesus is the best way for humans to live AND for the earth to be its fullest and truest.
Many Christians tend to shy away from things pertaining to the earth and the stewardship of it, and I find this saddening. God's work through Jesus is to restore and renew all things, to make his final dwelling place HERE as Heaven and Earth merge. How sad for us if our gospel is only for and about getting people's souls in to "heaven" when they die.
Let's broaden our perspective of the gospel.
Let's proclaim a message of hope, renewal and restoration for all things.
Let's share the gospel for the sake of all creation.