“Nevertheless, beauty no longer adorns the whole earth. On the contrary, we discover alongside each other the beautiful, the ordinary, and the ugly. A lion is beautiful; a calf is ordinary; a rat is ugly. The same holds for the plant kingdom. The cedar enthralls us with beauty, the willow strikes us as ordinary, and the thistle turns us off… You find this same threefold categorization not only among plants and animals, but even among nonorganic nature. Some mountain ranges inspire worship. Then there are very ordinary humpbacked mountains that you scarcely notice as you walk past them. There are wild rock crevasses so barren and awful that they arouse an involuntary shudder; these are real specimens of the “formless and void” that once existed. Similarly you find next to the lushness of nature in one region the bare flatness of another region, and next to that terrain you find the barrenness of heath and desert. This is true of the atmosphere as well. Some days you enjoy the kind of sky and weather that make you smile and lift your spirit to the heights, followed by other days that are rather ordinary, when it does not rain and the sun and moon make their appearance. Then you face the days when the stormy winds splash the rain against you and the walkway underfoot becomes impassable. In those three phases the activity of common grace swings restlessly back and forth in terms of the beauty of nature.
Repeatedly God shows you and gives you a sense of what your lot on earth would be, and how ugly the world would be, if the curse had been carried out to its ultimate conclusion. And then God lets you behold an exhilarating natural phenomenon that makes you homesick for paradise. Then you sink again back into the ordinary where nothing excites you or repulses you, but instead where everything around you lacks any vitality and chills your enthusiasm.” -Abraham Kuyper
BTW NOTE: As an “ordinary means of grace” Presbyterian minister, I know I’m ‘in the tank’ on this, but I would not make the absolute contrast between “the beautiful” and “the ordinary” that Kuyper does here. But I think I can still see what he is getting at.
“By means of his resurrection, Jesus arose in the same body that had hung on the cross, and he appeared in glory to John on Patmos with this continually identical body. This makes us think of an uncut diamond that is soon to be cut. Remaining the very same stone, the finely cut diamond radiates an entirely different glory. People realize in advance that a diamond is nothing but a piece of coal, which is transformed into carbon through intense heat and exposure to oxygen in the air. If a piece of coal can become a diamond simply through the application of elemental natural forces, and by some polishing that diamond can obtain a most elegant luster, what would prevent God from transforming what is now on earth into the exalted luster of his glory? When Scripture tells us that the precious jewels that are now so rare on earth will be the ordinary building material in the New Jerusalem, we receive the very same mental picture that the minerals will remain the same, and that through a new chemical process, from what now exists the exalted heavenly divine glory will sparkle.” -Abraham Kuyper
“Glory [Heaven] is, in fact, nothing other than a higher degree of beauty. It is beauty in its consummation, but still in a way whereby present beauty and coming glory are connected to one another, such that both are revelations of one and the same principle.” -Abraham Kuyper
BTW NOTE: What Kuyper is saying is that present expressions of beauty reveal in lesser degrees the beauty that will be revealed at the end of the age. In principle, ‘beauty now’ and ‘beauty then’ are the same thing. So, those who admire beauty (in creation, in art, in a person, in music, etc) cannot help but indirectly express longing for the world that Christ will usher in at his return–even if everything else about them is marked by unbelief. This is another example of the inconsistency of unbelief.
“Scripture even uses a special word for that more exalted beauty of the coming world, and repeatedly describes what will come at that time as the kingdom of glory. No matter how beautiful in many respects this earth may already be, it is not yet glorious. That more exalted beauty, called “glory,” comes only in the hereafter. To such an extent even that those who belong to Christ will arise at that time and will dwell in a regenerated body that will be conformed to the glorified body of Christ. In the Revelation of John we receive a picture of that glorified body of Christ, one that is so astounding and overwhelming in its appearance that when John beheld it, he fell to the ground as though dead.” -Abraham Kuyper
“What image is used to portray for us that new earth? Surely not one that is simply spiritual. No, rather an earth that thoroughly resembles a visible, external, observable creation. Who can fathom the portrait given us in John’s Apocalypse of the New Jerusalem with its foundations of emerald and sapphire and its pearly gates, without being immediately overwhelmed with the impression of a glorious beauty that will far surpass the most beautiful thing our eyes have ever seen?” -Abraham Kuyper