The Beautiful World Tomorrow
Breathtaking! That may be the best way to describe the physical, material world after Jesus Christ’s Second Coming to rule this Earth.
Scripture is clear on this fact: The beauty of tomorrow’s world will be resplendent beyond anything we’ve ever seen. Deserts will be fertile. Waste cities will be rebuilt. The temple in Jerusalem will set the ultimate example for such physical opulence: “The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious” (Isaiah 60:13).
Material wealth will be significantly upgraded (verse 17), and humanity will devote much effort to building and planting (Isaiah 65:21-22).
From a visual standpoint, fertile lands and fruit-producing plants are more aesthetically pleasing than barren trees and dead grasslands. A remarkable characteristic of fruit- and vegetable-producing plants is that they blossom with flowers before they produce an edible fruit or vegetable. Why did God create them that way? He did not have to. Obviously, He wanted the physical beauty to match the physical abundance. Imagine the houses and vineyards, the architecture and horticulture!
Imagine how much more beautiful (not just more manageable) the world would be without thorns and weeds and the many struggles man has with the soil—curses that resulted from Adam’s disobedience (Genesis 3:17-18). God will restore the land to the way things were in Eden (Isaiah 51:3).
Since everyone will own property (Micah 4:4), streets will no longer be a place where those who have lost everything will throw down cardboard and sleep amid unmentionable waste. Streets will not breed inhumanity, indecency, depravity or disease; rather they will be safe for all ages (Zechariah 8:4-5). No more ghettos, slums, run-down trashy neighborhoods.
We go to the Feast of Tabernacles each year to celebrate this coming beautiful world. Living for eight days on 10 percent of our income allows us to experience finer material things: from our dress and appearance to our living conditions and dining. At worship services, our men and women strive to make the stage, flowers, music and surrounding environment of a higher quality than at any other time of the year.
Why all this effort for the physical? Is God that concerned with the material world? Do we understand why that beauty will be there?
Those observing the Feast of Tabernacles in this life will be teaching those in the future why their world is so beautiful. They will be teaching people to notice that beauty—to notice the flowers, vines, music and precious stones. To be able to do that, those of us in that position must understand why God puts such an emphasis on that beauty—understand the two great purposes for the beautiful surroundings and quality environment of the World Tomorrow.
A God of Beauty—Not Just Functionality
The beauty of our surroundings and environment is truly important to God. God has spiritual surroundings, but even the material can inspire Him. The angels even shouted for joy when they saw the creation of the Earth.
In the material, physical garden God made for man, He made to grow “every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food …” (Genesis 2:9). God isn’t just into functionality; the trees’ fruits weren’t simply good nutritionally.
Speaking of the beauty of Ambassador College, Chancellor Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in a co-worker letter: “… God Himself set the character standard for the physical properties of His college—and His earthly headquarters where His work is conducted. … They … represent the kind of properties the living Christ has shown us He wants for His work! Co-workers, we need to realize it is not wrong to have the finer things—if one can afford them. In our case God put these finer properties in our hands at less cost than any cheap, poorly constructed, unsightly properties (giving us the same usable space) could have been purchased for!” (Aug. 28, 1967).
God provided these aesthetically pleasing office environments for less, because God is not just into “usable” space!
In a June 29, 1969, co-worker letter, Mr. Armstrong wrote: “God is not the author of ugliness, but of beauty! Not of unsightliness, or drab, colorless, depressing surroundings, but of magnificence, inspiration, culture! Not the source or giver of cheapness, inferiority, but of quality and character! Not of darkness, but of light and brilliance!”
In that letter, Mr. Armstrong argued against those who “have the very wrong idea that we ought to live in drab, depressing, inferior surroundings” by pointing to God’s brilliant dwelling place in the third heaven. You can read the description of God’s throne room in Revelation 4:2-6—the precious spiritual metals and stones, the superior quality of spiritual “materials” used to create this environment, even the high standards of dress of the angelic beings. The beauty there, Mr. Armstrong said, is so stupendous that “our minds simply cannot picture the glorified splendor of it—probably millions of times more beautiful than anything we mortals have ever seen!” (co-worker letter, op. cit.).
How can we get an idea of God’s environment if we’re always surrounded by filth and squalor? “Is it so strange, then, that God has providentially maneuvered circumstances so as to set His earthly headquarters of His work in an environment that is comparatively nice and beautiful, as things go here on Earth?” (ibid.).
Take the beauty of the auditorium that God used Mr. Armstrong to build, which opened in 1974. Think of the beauty of the auditorium we were privileged to help build today.
What’s the point of that lavish beauty? “The new auditorium is in no way ostentatious, but rather it is plain in elegant simplicity and beauty. It breathes character through its superb quality and meticulous craftsmanship. It is modern, with a certain flair, yet retaining complete dignity; an appearance of being light and airy, yet reflecting stability and strength. The coloring is generally bright, uplifting, inspiring, not dark, gloomy or depressing. I heard one person describing the character of the auditorium as a building, and I said, ‘Why, you’ve just described the very character of God.’ And if it bears that character, I am pleased and I believe God is pleased” (member and co-worker letter, April 28, 1974).
Herbert W. Armstrong taught us that although physical beauty is temporary and not our goal in life, it depicts, can point to, and be connected to godly character.
Our first point then, is physical beauty was created to point man to spiritual beauty—to quality and godly character.
Points to Godly Character
Physical beauty was designed to be an inspiration—a stimulation to achieve the highest of standards in life.
Consider how Adam was not just created to focus on spiritual things. God put him in the Garden of Eden to “dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15), because God knew that his focusing on and improving the physical environment would facilitate his spiritual character development!
“God intended man to work this Earth, improve it, beautify it, give it glorious character—and in so doing to build into his own life the ‘beauty of holiness’ (1 Chronicles 16:29),” Mr. Armstrong wrote in Mystery of the Ages. “God never intended humans to live in poverty, filth and squalor or ugliness. Man should have beautified the Earth, and developed man’s character in so doing. His civilization should have been a ‘heaven on earth.’”
In the World Tomorrow, God’s Family will focus people on the physical surroundings and their part in them. The physical environment will be a teaching tool to point humanity to the spiritual beauty God wants them to have.
In Isaiah 41:18-19, God says of tomorrow’s world: “I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together.”
Verse 20 tells us why God will do this: “That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.” The purpose of all that natural beauty is to have people better understand God’s character and greatness, which is the standard God demands from His creation.
“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen. This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise” (Isaiah 43:19-21).
The World Tomorrow is not about physical beauty for physical beauty’s sake: It’s about people learning the greatness of God. It is about how the highest standards that He places on His physical creation were meant to inspire man to higher standards.
We go to the Feast of Tabernacles to celebrate this time, and to “learn to fear” God (Deuteronomy 14:23). Physical beauty can help us do that, as it points us to God’s beauty: “O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth” (Psalm 96:9).
There is beauty to God’s holiness. Verse 10 shows us this is about the reign of Jesus Christ. When our beautiful God reigns, that brings beauty! (verses 11-12).
What the Queen of Sheba Saw
A small foretaste of this coming beauty was achieved in Israel under the reign of King Solomon—the builder of the first temple.
Outstanding quality was required of that edifice. David had told his son Solomon the temple was to be “exceeding magnifical” (1 Chronicles 22:5). Even the construction of the ark of the covenant (which would go inside Solomon’s temple) required the same quality of craftsmanship, detail and beauty (see Exodus 25)—all for an item that would be hauled through the desert for many years.
The Queen of Sheba visited Solomon, not only to prove his wisdom, but also to see if the temple he had built was in fact as beautiful as reports said it was.
Sure enough, she was impressed not only by Solomon’s wisdom, but also by his buildings, wealth and a great staff! The Queen of Sheba noticed the temple, the quality of food, the assembling of his crew—how organized they were—the functioning of his officials and even their wardrobe! (2 Chronicles 9:3-4).
The queen told Solomon that not “half of the greatness” was told to her (verses 5-6). There was something special about this place that was hard to describe.
She said, “Happy are thy men, and happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and hear thy wisdom” (verse 7). She saw that those serving the kingdom and that temple were happy. There was a different vibe here than she was expecting.
The queen even said: “Blessed be the Lord thy God, which delighted in thee to set thee on his throne, to be king for the Lord thy God: because thy God loved Israel, to establish them for ever, therefore made he thee king over them, to do judgment and justice” (verse 8). What a blessing and what praise of the great God that the kingdom’s beauty inspired from this carnal queen! She saw physical character that represented great spiritual character.
Our Environment Reflects Our Character
One thing the queen noticed was the clothing of Solomon’s servants.
Consider even the adorning of the human body as a way to reflect the character of God. God created clothing to adorn the first human beings, to make them more beautiful! But why would He do that? Because He can teach us so much about quality, standards, and character. In fact, how we dress is often a reflection of our inward character.
Solomon, while his thinking was right, understood the connection between physical beauty and spiritual character. “By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through” (Ecclesiastes 10:18).
What does a corroded building represent? What does a run-down house represent? It represents slothfulness and idleness. Those growing in spiritual character “dress and keep” their physical property, because they know the meaning behind it. They want “quality and character” to describe not only their spiritual (unseen) character, but every aspect of their lives—from their clothes to their homes.
A similar principle is stated in Proverbs 24:30-32: “I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction.”
In this passage we see how the physical state reflects the spiritual state! Vineyards and fields in the World Tomorrow will prosper—they will be “pleasant to the sight”—because the character of God will be developed in all people. We will use that physical environment to increase wisdom and understanding.
Conducive to Education and Higher Thinking
“At Ambassador College we strive to create even a physical atmosphere of equality, character and beauty,” Mr. Armstrong wrote in his autobiography. “We find quality and cultural surroundings much more conducive to inspiring education than a bare, colorless, depressing atmosphere” (Volume 2; emphasis mine).
Here is the second purpose: Physical beauty can create an environment conducive to higher thought, learning and spiritual growth.
“Do you think God wants us to live in slums, ghettos, or in drab, depressing, unbeautiful surroundings?” Mr. Armstrong asked in the 1967 letter quoted earlier. “He does not want us to live beyond our means—but He does want us to use our minds actively and alertly, and to work hard and faithfully, and to improve our surroundings—even as we improve our spiritual character.”
There are two components to this: First, a superior environment creates a setting for superior thought and learning; but also, the active involvement in improving those surroundings aids in our learning—both our mental development and, of course, our spiritual character.
God created such beauty for a grand purpose. God knew our minds could be uplifted, inspired and even elevated to greater thought by the character of our physical surroundings.
In the World Tomorrow, education will be heavily emphasized. And good teachers know that environment is vital to the student’s education.
Micah 4:4 says that God will give every man his own fig tree and vine, or property, and “none shall make them afraid.” Slums, ghettos, homeless living on the streets, all breed mistrust and paranoia—fear. The improvement of the physical environment, as Micah wrote, will eliminate that fear. How much more will people be able to learn when they aren’t constantly looking over their shoulder—afraid of getting assaulted or of being mowed down by gunfire?
In Isaiah 35, God prophesies that the “lame man [shall] leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert” (verse 6). God sees a connection between physical renewal and beauty and spiritual renewal and beauty!
Surrounded by Beauty Forever
Even those born as spirit beings into God’s Family will be inspired by the beauty of tomorrow’s world. God’s plan involves His Family being surrounded by magnificent, incomprehensible beauty forever. Revelation 21 describes that holy city to descend from heaven and be where God dwells with His Spirit-born Family. The beauty of God’s dwelling place will have “the glory of God” (verse 11; see also verses 18-19).
We are going to help God “plant the heavens”! (Isaiah 51:16). As awe-inspiring as they are now, they need repair. The universe will soon be our garden, our vineyard, our pasture. It starts, for us physical beings, with how we manage, maintain and improve our physical surroundings—from our dress, to our homes, from our lawns to our work spaces.
Soon God’s Family will teach these principles to the entire world. We will help God create a world of beauty that is aesthetically stimulating and uplifting. People will stop and meditate and muse on God’s wonders in the everyday miracles of creation. Students will learn in an environment of peace and safety—in aesthetically pleasing classrooms. They will learn the character of God. Then God will eventually set up His throne here, with its surroundings, and together we will plant the heavens with inspiring splendor!
Let us, in the meantime, make our own properties and surroundings reflect the character and beauty of the living God. As we do that, we gain practical experience in preparing to assist Jesus Christ when He turns this world into a Garden of Eden!