More and more lately I’ve thought about the job God gave to Adam and Eve upon creating them: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on earth” (Gen. 1:28). Also, “the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). Work isn’t a product of the fall, but toilsome labor is (Gen. 3:17). Humanity was given a job from the beginning, and it directly pertained to caring for God’s creation.
The creation language of the heavens and earth is very much architectural language. An ancient audience would have read Genesis 1–2 and thought of it as resembling the construction of a deity’s temple. The whole earth is the Lord’s temple, and we—His image-bearers—were given the task of caring for it. Obviously, we wrecked that job miserably, but the earth that God created is still His, and we are still to care for it.
I used very much to oppose the rabid environmentalism that I saw on television. However, after having given more study to the earth itself and God’s intention for it, I’ve come to learn that God still cares very much about His earth (temple). Even after sin entered the picture, the task initially given to Adam and Eve—to tend the garden—remained in place. It wasn’t removed after sin entered the picture.
Someone may well say, “Well, the earth will be destroyed at judgment!” This is likely taken from 2 Peter 3:10; however, when we read the context in its entirety, we notice a couple of things: 1) the fire that will destroy the earth is likened to the floods which once destroyed the earth (2 Peter 3:5). If we’re to look at this as a parallel, then we must admit that the floods didn’t destroy the earth since it was forever destroyed to be no more. Rather, the floods purified the earth and what we have now has existed since the flood because that version of the earth has been destroyed. 2) Immediately after mentioning that the heavens and earth would be destroyed, the author says that we look for new heaven and earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13).
If our present earth is to be destroyed by fire, it’s for the point of refinement and a new earth. We might say that caring for the earth is still our vocation. Read also Revelation 21:1. I’m not speaking about any sort of millennialism, but about the second coming of Christ our Lord.