Archives For Resurrection

by Steve Childers

clouds

Below are some of my favorite quotes from Tom Wright (Anglican Bishop) on the Resurrection and Heaven:  

“(If you’re a true believer in Jesus), after you die, you go to be ‘with Christ,’ but your body remains dead. Describing where and what you are in that interim period is difficult, and for the most part the New Testament writers don’t try. Call it “heaven” if you like, but don’t imagine that it’s the end of all things. What is promised after that interim period is a new bodily life within God’s new world.” 

“I am constantly amazed that many contemporary Christians find this confusing. It was second nature to the early church and to many subsequent Christian generations. It was what they believed and taught. If we have grown up believing and teaching something else, it’s time we rubbed our eyes and read our texts again.”

“Heaven is important, but its not the end of the world.”

“Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.”

“The great drama will end, not with ‘saved souls’ being snatched up into heaven, away from the wicked earth and the mortal bodies which have dragged them down into sin, but with the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth, so that ‘the dwelling of God is with humans’ (Revelation 21:3).”

“The resurrection completes the inauguration of God’s kingdom. . . . It is the decisive event demonstrating that God’s kingdom really has been launched on earth as it is in heaven.”

“We could cope—the world could cope—with a Jesus who ultimately remains a wonderful idea inside his disciples’ minds and hearts. The world cannot cope with a Jesus who comes out of the tomb, who inaugurates God’s new creation right in the middle of the old one.”

“God’s plan is not to abandon this world, the world which he said was ‘very good.’ Rather, he intends to remake it. And when he does he will raise all his people to new bodily life to live in it. That is the promise of the Christian gospel.”

“It is not about ‘life after death’ as such. Rather, it’s a way of talking about being bodily alive again after a period of being bodily dead. Resurrection is a second-stage postmortem life: life after ‘life after death.’”

“If you believe in resurrection, you believe that the living God will put his world to rights and that if God wants to do that in the future, it is right to try to anticipate that by whatever means in the present.”

“[Jesus] is, at the moment, present with us, but hidden behind that invisible veil which keeps heaven and earth apart, and which we pierce in those moments, such as prayer, the sacraments, the reading of scripture, and our work with the poor, when the veil seems particularly thin. But one day the veil will be lifted; earth and heaven will be one; Jesus will be personally present, and every knee shall bow at his name; creation will be renewed; the dead will be raised; and God’s new world will at last be in place, full of new prospects and possibilities.”

The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”

“In other words, precisely because the ultimate goal is … the redemption of the whole creation, our calling is to live in our bodies now in a way which anticipates the life we shall live then. Marital fidelity echoes and anticipates God’s fidelity to the whole creation. Other kinds of sexual activity symbolize and embody the distortions and corruptions of the present world.”

“It is a matter of glimpsing that in God’s new creation, of which Jesus’s resurrection is the start, all that was good in the original creation is reaffirmed. All that has corrupted and defaced it–including many things which are woven so tightly in to the fabric of the world as we know it that we can’t imagine being without them–will be done away. Learning to live as a Christian is learning to live as a renewed human being, anticipating the eventual new creation in and with a world which is still longing and groaning for that final redemption.”

In the series introduction, “The Greatest Story Ever Told”  we saw how the central message of the bible, the gospel, is best understood as a story or a four-act drama that displays the historic unfolding of God’s creative and redemptive work in the world. And how you can never fully understand the meaning of your personal life story until you understand how your story fits with God’s story.

In Act One, “Creation: The Way Things are Supposed to Be” we learned that the essence of salvation in Christ (the gospel) is the outworking of God’s love by restoring his creation from all the horrible consequences of sin (the fall). And how you cannot fully know the riches of Christ’s salvation until you more fully grasp God’s original intent for mankind to be in perfect relationship with God, self, others and creation.

In Act Two, “The Fall: The Way Things Are Not Supposed To Be,” we learned that our understanding of the severity of the problem is directly proportionate to our understanding of the significance of the solution. And as a result of sin, all of mankind’s perfect relationships (with God, themselves, others and creation) were broken and marked by alienation. We now turn to Act 3, Scene 1, the redemption of mankind and the world through the coming kingdom of Israel and the promised King.

Act Three (Scene 1): Redemption Through the Coming Kingdom (Israel)

From immediately after the Fall, God’s intention was to restore his loving rule over mankind and creation (Gen 3:15). At first God worked his redemptive purposes through individuals like Enoch and Noah. Then God chose to re-establish his kingdom on earth through Abraham by promising him a land and a multitude of descendants through whom God would bless all the nations of the world (Gen 12:1-3).

Through Moses and the exodus from Egypt, God makes Abraham’s descendants his own people. God then gives them his law at Mount Sinai so they might live under his loving rule, as Adam and Eve had done before they sinned. God blesses them with his presence in the tabernacle and he gives them elaborate sacrificial ceremonies through which they can approach him. Through Joshua the people of God enter the land of Canaan and under Kings David and Solomon they build the temple of God and enjoy the rule and blessings of God.

But because of the disobedience of the kings and the people of Israel the promises to Abraham were only partially fulfilled. As a consequence of their disobedience the nation of Israel came under God’s judgment. Civil war broke out and the kingdom of Israel was divided into two parts—Israel in the north and Judah in the south. The pagan nation of Assyria destroyed the northern kingdom. The pagan nation of Babylon later conquered the southern kingdom and took its people into exile in Babylon.

During this dark period, God spoke to the people of Israel and Judah through the prophets. He told them they were being punished for their sin but that there was still hope. They foretold the day when a great Messiah King would come and deliver them from all their oppression. He would be “the offspring of David whose kingdom would be established forever” (2 Sam 7), “the Son of Man whom the Ancient of Days gives all dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, and all peoples, nations, and languages will serve him. His dominion will be an everlasting dominion (Dan. 7).” And he “will create a new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind (Isaiah 65:17).” And the lion will lie down with the lamb (Isaiah 11:6).

lion-and-the-lamb

When the people of Judah were allowed to return from exile they must have thought that the time had come. But God made it clear that the coming of the Messiah and his kingdom on earth, when all things will be made new, was still in future.

Four hundred years after the completion of the Old Testament, Jesus began his public ministry with these words, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel”. To his original Jewish listeners this was an especially meaningful announcement. When Jesus made this announcement, the Jews had been scattered throughout the Mediterranean world and greatly oppressed by the Roman government for many years. They longed for the Messiah to come, set up His kingdom, and save them from their political oppression (Ridderbos 1975:48).

However, the Jews soon learned that the kingdom Jesus was announcing and inaugurating was not what they expected. The nature of Jesus’ kingdom more spiritual than political, as was the oppression from which Jesus came to deliver his people. The Jewish people would learn that the enemies this king came to engage in battle were not political enemies but spiritual enemies. The Bible calls these enemies the world, the flesh, the devil, and death itself. As king, Jesus came to wage war with these spiritual enemies in order to set his people free from their captivity to sin and all its effects: personal guilt, moral corruption and world corruption.

Although Jesus as king was fully present at this time, Mark 1:14 shows us that the kingdom “was near.” This means the kingdom was not yet fully in their midst. Jesus was beginning to set in motion all that would eventually bring about the universal rule and reign of God over not just Rome, but over all the nations of the earth and the entire world.

Centuries earlier, God made clear through the prophets that the goal of this coming kingdom would be to invade this fallen and broken world, drive back the forces of evil, and bring the restoration of everything lost in the fall. However, there were certain critical events that had to take place during this time in history for God’s kingdom to come in greater fullness. And those epoch, world-changing events could only happen through one person-the coming King.

Coming soon: Act 3 (Scene 2): Redemption Through the Coming King (Jesus)

Adapted from the upcoming book © 2015 All Things New, Steven L. Childers

AllThingsNew

I remember being taken back by his request. As we sat down to spend some time together, a colleague and friend said, “Steve, tell me your story.” “What story?”, I responded. “Your story”, he replied, “Let’s start with where you were born and brought up and then just go on from there.” “How much time do you have?”, I asked. “Why don’t we start with an hour”, he responded.

I don’t think I’ve ever told “my story” like this before. Frankly, it’s very rare to find someone who sincerely wants to hear someone else’s story in great detail. I guess that’s because we’re all so naturally self-centered. As I told “my story” I realized it was made up of a succession of smaller stories. Some of the stories were happy. Some were very sad. My friend was even moved to tears during one of my stories.

At another time, later, I reciprocated and heard his story. The result was that we came to know each other at a much deeper level than before. That’s because you can’t really know someone without first knowing their story. The same is true about God. The only way to really know God is to know his story. And the bible is a record of that story.

Even though the bible contains hundreds of stories it has only one overarching story. And even though the bible contains sixty-six books it has only one overarching message. If you’re not careful you can know a lot of the stories of the bible and miss the story. And if you’re not careful you can also know a lot of the messages of the bible and miss the message.

What’s interesting is that the central message of the bible, the gospel, comes to us primarily by means of stories found in the bible. So the gospel is best understood as a story or a drama that displays the historic unfolding of God’s creative and redemptive work in the world. This one story unfolds throughout the bible like a four-act dramatic play.

Cosmic Gospel Diagram

ACT 1 CREATION: The first act, creation, sets the stage for us and introduces us to the main characters and context.
ACT 2 FALL: In the second act, the fall, evil enters the story resulting in a cosmic conflict with horrible consequences.
ACT 3 REDEMPTION: In the third act, redemption, we see God’s great acts of redeeming that which was lost in the fall primarily as he works through the people of Israel and culminating in the redemptive life and work of Jesus Christ.
ACT 4 RESTORATION: In the fourth act, restoration, we see God’s final restoration of all things that have been corrupted by evil—including humanity and all of creation.

So where do we fit in this story? Today we are living in the third act—redemption. We are living in that unique time between the resurrection of Jesus and the restoration of all things. During this time the kingdom of God has come but it is still coming. So we are called to fulfill that portion of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

This means we are now called to make our own contribution to this supreme restoration project—which is God’s restoration of all things that have been corrupted by evil. This project of “making all things new” will be completed by Jesus at his return. He will finish what he started. In the meantime, we are called to join with the worldwide body of Christ in this mission of God (Plantinga).

While no single definition of the gospel can do it justice, the gospel is nothing less than the good news that God has acted in the person and work of Jesus Christ to restore his fallen creation and to rescue people from all the consequences of sin—including not only salvation from personal guilt but also from heart corruption and even cosmic corruption.

The good news is that through Jesus Christ the kingdom of God has now invaded this fallen world, and it is bringing with it not only the promise of forgiveness of sins (a new status) but also the promise of a transformed life (a new nature) and eventually a transformed creation (a new world).

Never forget that you are not an accident. Life is a story. It has a beginning and an end. In between there is an unfolding plot in which God means for you to play a significant role in the restoration of all things. You can never fully understand the meaning of your personal life story until you understand how your story fits with God’s story.

To read about the first act in the greatest story ever told click here.

A Look Ahead:

In this Introduction to the All Things New series, The Greatest Story Ever Told, we’ve seen how the central message of the bible, the gospel, is best understood as a story or a four-act drama that displays the historic unfolding of God’s creative and redemptive work in the world. And how you can never fully understand the meaning of your personal life story until  you understand how your story fits with God’s story.

In Act 1 of the All Things New series, The Creation: The Way Things Are Supposed To Be, we will learn that the essence of salvation in Christ (the gospel) is the outworking of God’s love by restoring his creation from all the horrible consequences of sin (the fall). And how you can never fully know the riches of Christ’s salvation until you more fully grasp God’s original intent for mankind to be in perfect relationship with God, self, others and creation.

In Act 2 of the All Things New series, The Fall: The Way Things Are Not Supposed To Be, we will learn that because of sin, mankind’s: 1) perfect standing with God was lost (resulting in condemnation, guilt, and separation), 2) mankind’s perfect life with God was lost (resulting in death, captivity, and corruption), and 3) mankind’s perfect world with God was lost (resulting in alienation from God, self, others, and creation).

In Act 3 of the All Things New series, The Redemption: The Way Things Are (The Already), we will learn how God, through the nation of Israel, and the person and work of Jesus Christ, by his Holy Spirit, graciously provides a redeemed standing, a redeemed life, and a redeemed world.

In Act 4 of the All Things New series, The Restoration: The Way Things Will Be (The Not Yet), we will catch a life-changing glimpse of the consummation of this grand story in God’s gift to mankind of a new standing, a new life, and a new world–as he Makes All Things New.

Adapted from the upcoming book © 2015 All Things New, Steven L. Childers