The far-distant future is a subject that is seldom mentioned in creation vs evolution discussions, but actually presents substantial problems for Christians who say that the earth is millions (or billions) of years old.
First, let us see what scientists say about the future.
Scientists are in general agreement that the universe will one day reach ‘heat death’. This is a condition in which all the energy in the universe is evenly distributed and at a temperature of a fraction of a degree above Absolute Zero. The universe would then exist, they say, devoid of life, and virtually forever.1
Robert Matthews, science correspondent for The Sunday Telegraph, puts it this way, ‘A mere thousand billion years from now, all the stars will have used up their fuel and fizzled out. There will still be occasional flashes in the perpetual night: the death throes of stars so large that they have collapsed in on themselves to form black holes. Even these will eventually evaporate in a blast of radiation. For the next 10122 years [that’s 1 followed by 122 zeros—a much higher figure than the number of atoms in the universe, which is 1080.], this Hawking radiation will be the only show in town. By then, even the most massive black holes will evaporate, leaving the universe with nothing to do for an unimaginable 1026 years. … In the beginning, there may have been light, but in the end, it seems, there will be nothing but darkness.’2
The above gloomy prognosis is in accord with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that the amount of usable energy is decreasing. So it is true that, energy-wise, the universe is winding down. However, the big difference is that Christians understand from the Bible that God will intervene before the above scenario reaches its predicted bleak conclusion. Indeed, He already has intervened in the incarnation, death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Since the 1800s—i.e. from the time Lyell, Cuvier, Darwin and others challenged the traditional view that the universe was only thousands of years old—various Christians have tried to harmonize long-age views with biblical beliefs. Although Christians reject atheistic evolutionism, many (unwittingly?) accept important aspects of evolutionary theory, including the belief that the earth is billions of years old.
The four most common ways in which Christians have incorporated billions-of-years into the Bible are:
Christian long-agers allow billions-of-years notions about the past4 to dictate what they believe Genesis means. But they are in a bind if they wish to be consistent. This is because they accept the secular view of billions of years in the past, so, logically, they are stuck with secular long-age notions about the future. However, such long-age ideas of the future are just as contrary to what the Bible says as are long-age ideas of the past.
Referring to the future, the Bible says not just that ‘the heavens will disappear with a roar’ and ‘by fire’ (2 Peter 3:10–12), but that God ‘will create new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells’ (2 Peter 3:13; cf. Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 21:1). So how long do progressive creationists, theistic evolutionists and other long-age Christians allow God to create the new heavens and the new earth, if they insist that it took Him billions of years to produce the present heavens and the present earth?
The Bible tells us that all men must face not just the issue of mortality, but also of morality. Adam, unlike the animals, was created with the capacity to choose to obey or to disobey God. Because God has given man this choice, the single most unavoidable fact of man’s future is that we all must appear before the judgment seat of God. ‘It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment’ (Hebrews 9:27).
All men would fail this judgment because ‘all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23). However, those who receive God’s forgiveness through repentance and faith in Christ are acquitted (John 5:24), because their sins have been laid on Christ (Isaiah 53:5–6), while Christ’s righteousness has been credited to their account (2 Corinthians 5:21). Their destiny will be to become like Christ (1 John 3:2), to live with Christ and share His glory (Colossians 3:4), and to be sons of God in perfect fellowship with Him forever (Revelation 21:3, 7). This sense of purpose and future is in stark contrast to the purposelessness of the secular/evolutionary view where all of humankind’s efforts and achievements ultimately count for nothing, anyway.
Thus, for Christians, the future is not ‘nothing but darkness’, as Robert Matthews predicts above, but life with God in Heaven, portrayed in the Bible as a city which ‘does not need the sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb [i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ] is its lamp’ (Revelation 21:23).
On the other hand, the future destiny of those who reject God’s forgiveness and refuse a right relationship with Him is not extinction in a universe moving towards heat death, but rather a ‘heat death’ of another sort, in what the Bible calls ‘the lake of fire’, which is the place ‘prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Matthew 25:41), and the destiny of the unredeemed (Revelation 20:15).