Isaiah tells of a wonderful time when our world will be changed dramatically from what it is now. Some think that the only way possible for this to happen is for our physical bodies to be discarded and we are "pure" spirits, as if spirits have it any easier living a godly existence! Isaiah pictures everything as it was, but with a crucial difference - we are all able to get along and be safe and even comfortable in each other's presence. We are no longer fighting for resources or trying to perform the wide varieties of "cleansings" that have dogged our steps for so many centuries. Listen to his words...
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD--and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:1-9)
What a powerful and compelling vision of what creation was designed to be, and what it can yet become. I think this is what Jesus referred to as "the renewal of all things." Not God wiping the original creation out and starting from scratch, but God redeeming and sanctifying the creation he already claimed was "very good."
Jesus calls us to live out our faith in the world as it is today with the constant knowledge that we are heading towards the renewal of all things. Martin Luther noted that "When the lion lies down with the lamb, the lamb must be replaced frequently." The willingness of disciples to be the lamb in the presence of the lions and wolves is the best evidence that the renewal of all things will in fact become the dominant reality.
Are you willing to be the lamb, or would you rather be the lion?