Believers eagerly await their adoption and redemption, when they will also finally be declared to be the sons of God (a name with a long history---Adam, Israel, Jesus---which speaks a great deal as to the ideal that stands behind this usage), with this declaration becoming final when the believer fully experiences the power for resurrection that raised up Christ from the dead and gave Him a new, glorified body. This is the ultimate hope of those that confess Jesus as Lord.
When will this take place? It will take place when the one called Lord, Jesus the Christ, the crucified and resurrected Messiah of Israel and Lord of the world (this is the essence of the Gospel message), finally consummates His kingdom and its attendant renewal of the Creator God’s once good creation. This kingdom and renewal was inaugurated and set in motion when Jesus stepped forth from out of the grave. This kingdom and this renewal will take place when the words of the Psalmist are taken up throughout the world, and it is truly and finally said among all nations, “The Lord reigns! The world is established, it cannot be moved. He judges the nations fairly” (Psalm 96:10).
It is with this declared that the sky is encouraged to rejoice, that the earth is instructed to be happy, and the sea and everything in it are commanded to shout. When this time of renewed creation takes hold, under the eternal Lordship of the Creator God and His Christ, which will be plain for all to see as every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, that all who long for that day will say along with the Psalmist, “Let the fields and everything in them celebrate” (96:12a). Again, why will they celebrate? They will celebrate because they will have been freed from their subjection, their thorns, and their thistles.
Those that participate in the kingdom of the Creator God come to earth (which is happening whenever and wherever people speak and live as if Jesus is already Lord, and will happen in consummation on some great day) will say, “let the trees of the forest shout with joy before the Lord, for He comes!” (96:12b-13a) Why does He come? Not only does He come to finally bring in what is expected to be the glorious freedom of those that have come to be called His children, but “He comes to judge the earth!” (96:13b). That said, it must be said that, according to the expectation of the Psalmist and covenant people of the Creator God (Israel), the Lord’s act of judging is not merely a casting down in condemnation, for their Lord also judges with liberation!
The Lord judged Israel and delivered them from the bondage of Egypt. The Lord sent forth His judges in Israel to deliver them from their bondage. The Lord poured out the judgment of His wrath upon Jesus as He hung on the cross (Jesus representing Israel and so taking its curses upon Himself so as to fulfill Israel’s purpose and so usher in the new age), so as to deliver the whole of the world from the inescapable bondage of death. Yes, when the Lord judges the earth, it is the final consummation of the judgment against death that was delivered through the crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus. In that judgment, His children and His creation will be finally liberated from their long, dark night.
Along with Paul, the Psalmist saw this clearly, as he would go on to write, “Let the sea and everything in it shout, along with the world and those who live in it! Let the rivers clap their hands! Let the mountains sing in unison before the Lord! For He comes to judge the earth!” (98:7-9a) If one has eyes to see, and are willing to put aside notions of the destruction of the earth in some type of cosmic conflagration, the message of God’s restoration and renewal of creation, because of His judgment, is written large upon the pages of His Word.