I grew up in the heyday of VHS, and I still like them. Every time my siblings and I are together for Christmas, we watch a number of classics on VHS. Of course, before we can watch, we have to rewind the tape. While the VCR will rewind much faster with the TV off, I prefer to keep the picture on. There’s something neat about watching a movie play backwards. The events of the movie are undone as you rewind the tape to the beginning. I don’t know why, but I think it’s fascinating to watch the undoing of these events.
In Genesis 1 and 2, Moses describes God’s marvelous act of creation. In six days, God made the heavens and the earth and all that they contain. He spoke, and there was light (1:3). He made an “expanse” to make a distinction between the waters of the heavens and of the earth (1:7). He gathered all the waters of the earth into one place to make a distinction between land and sea (1:10). Then, he filled his good creation with good things, beginning with the sun and the moon to populate the sky (1:14-19). He created birds and fish to populate the waters of heaven and earth (1:20-23). Finally, he created the living creatures to populate the land, with mankind as the crown jewel (1:24-30). “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (1:31).
God’s creative work was very good, but when sin entered into the garden through Adam and Eve, things took a turn for the worse. Genesis 5 details the descendants of Adam up to Noah, and the drum beat of that chapter is the phrase, “And he died.” Death had entered into creation, but not merely death. The beginning of Genesis 6 details the wholesale corruption of mankind. Moses tells us, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (6:5). God’s good creation had gone bad, and so God declared that he would blot out every living creature from his creation. God declared that he was going to hit the rewind button on creation.
So, only five chapters after creation, we read about de-creation. Moses describes the undoing of God’s creative activity through the flood in language that rewinds all the way back to Genesis 1:2. First, the gathering of all the living creatures and Noah’s family into the ark is the undoing of the creation mandate to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (1:22, 28). Second, the pouring forth of water from both the great deep and the heavens (7:11) is the undoing of God’s distinction between the waters of the heavens and the waters of the earth (1:7). Finally, by the time the flood had ended, the earth was essentially undone all the way back to being without form and void (1:2).
However, de-creation was not God’s goal. Genesis 8 begins by telling us that “God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark” (8:1). Moses then describes a process of re-creation. “The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed” (8:2). A distinction was once again made between land and sea (8:3). Eventually, God sent the remnant in the ark out, giving them the command to “be fruitful and multiply” (8:18). Re-creation of a world filled with wickedness was accomplished through de-creation.
This idea of re-creation through de-creation becomes a motif in Scripture. The OT prophet Zephaniah, for example, uses de-creation language to describe God’s judgment against Judah. In 1:2-3, Zephaniah prophecies that the Lord “will sweep away man and beast…the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea.” God’s sweeping away is prophesied in the reverse order of creation. Judgment against Judah is the undoing of creation.
The re-creation through de-creation motif finds its fulfillment in the language of final judgment in the New Testament. Though de-creation came through water in the days of Noah, in the last days it will come through fire (2 Peter 3:6-7). And by means of fire, John tells us in Revelation that the earth will lose its form (6:14), the separation between heaven and earth will be removed (6:14), and the sun and the moon will no longer shine (6:13). The order that God established at creation will be undone in the final judgment. But, just as in the flood narrative, this de-creation happens for the purpose of re-creation. In Revelation 21-22, John describes a new heaven and new earth and a New Jerusalem being established. Paul declares that the creation will be set free from corruption (Rom 8:19-25) and that through Christ all things are being reconciled to him (Col 1:20), including we who are in Christ, who are called a new creation (2 Cor 5:17).
So, the re-creation through de-creation motif finds its fulfillment in Christ. As Christ reconciles all things to himself, he is re-creating the fallen heart of every believer. But he’s not content to end there. He is preparing a place for his saints, a place where “nothing unclean will ever enter” (Rev 21:27) and where there will no longer be a need for God to undo his good creation. This is our hope, not that we live with God in heaven, but that we live with God in a perfect new creation. This is the goal to which Scripture points us through the de-creation/re-creation motif.