May 10, 2017

The Universe and Our World
God Unfolding His Grace for Ages to Come

The Gospel we offer here today seems so different from the good news that Jesus and His apostles give. To the early church, the Gospel was made clear in the life, words, and work of Jesus.

The early church had only the Old Testament and the oral traditions that would eventually become the four gospels. The four gospels preserve the life and words of Jesus, and so we hear Jesus’ declaration of the Gospel. Jesus declares that “the kingdom of God” has arrived (Mark 1:15).

But this little phrase is absolutely meaningless apart from the story of Israel – apart from the Old Testament, and in particular Daniel, Isaiah, and the Psalms, “Jesus died for my sins” — a phrase that sits at the heart of the telling of the Gospel in the west, indeed in some circles has become all that the Gospel is — is a reductionist statement that does at least two things.

  1. It abstracts the meaning of Jesus life and sacrifice from history.
  2. It de-politicizes the Lordship of Christ by isolating Jesus from the kingdom.

In evangelicalism, we have made atonement all about a personal relationship and a future other-world destiny. Wright argues — and the only conclusion possible in relation to a theology of the kingdom — that in restoring us to right relationship with God the king, the atonement enables us to embody an alternative kingdom – an alternative way of bringing God’s power into the world.

At the cross God Himself becomes our deliverer. The all-powerful God became the Son of Man, the Servant, the Shepherd, the Savior. In God’s kingdom power is used to serve others.

But Jesus called them aside and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors exercise authority over them. It shall not be this way among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave” (Matt. 20:25-27).

Atonement – from the earliest stories, like Abraham’s almost sacrifice of his only son – demonstrates an alternative to power. Redemption is not meant to take us out of this world but is an entry point of God’s power (His kingdom) into this world. He saved you by serving you so He could save you to serve others.

For the eons to come, God has given us the purpose for the universe:

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6-7).

God has chosen to redeem the descendants of the three sons of Noah in order that this world might reflect the grace He shows to the universe for the eons to come.

Salvation takes a selfish man physically, mentally, and soulishly, and turns him into a selfless man.

Heaven Is the Earth with the Curse Reversed

“In those days…the God of heaven will set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Dan. 2:44). “The meek will inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).

The Resurrection ushers in God’s Kingdom in totality (our last enemy is death)(I Cor. 15:26).
You and I will be given heavenly, glorious, physical bodies – (I Cor. 15:12-32).
The Bible never indicates the soul exists apart from a body. Christ before His Incarnation appeared in a similar body. Enoch, Elijah, and Moses (and Moses died) are in heaven, but two were seen with Christ at the Transfiguration having bodies (Luke. 9:28-36). When we are raised from the dead our physical beings will be transformed (the corruptible puts on incorruption). Jesus called people in Heaven by name (Luke 16:25) including Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matt. 8:11). We will know one another.

  1. Human beings do not become angels in heaven, we remain human beings.
  2. To be human means that we feel emotions (the soul).
    Our present emotions are skewed by sin, but in heaven, we will be delivered from that sin.
    There will be joy without envy, anger without selfishness, sorrow without regret.
    He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; no mourning, no pain” (Rev. 21:4).
  3. When we get to heaven we will continue to have desires.
    God created our desires. He loves it when we find satisfaction in what He’s prepared for us.
    We’ll have desires to discover, to learn, to explore, to relate, to invent, to create, to live!
    Heaven is not the absence of itches; it is the satisfying scratch for every itch.”
    Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4).
    In short, in heaven, we will continue with our identities forever (see Is. 66:22; Rev. 20:15).

What the resurrection will produce is a personhood fully redeemed.
Our bodies will be real physical bodies with a natural beauty that won’t need “cosmetics.”

  1. The form of our bodies will be perfectly suited for a redeemed world.
    The body shall be of that size which it either had attained or should have attained in the flower of its youth and shall enjoy the beauty that arises from preserving symmetry and proportion in all its members . . . overgrown and emaciated persons need not fear (Augustine: The City of God). No disease. No deformities. No decay.
  2. The body will have all five senses (and maybe more).
    Taste, touch, sight, smell, sound are all ours to enjoy in God’s creation (see appendix 24).
  3. It is possible that there is a radiance of the body that portrays beauty.
    (Matt. 13:43; Dan. 12:3). This may be figurative, but it also may portray true radiance.
  4. People in heaven are depicted as wearing clothes.
    (Rev. 7:9; Matt. 17:1-4). Clothing is more than a covering for sin’s shame. It is often worn as a matter of comfort and appearance. Clothes are instructive (Ex. 28:4-43).

The entire scope of this study is to show how the First Adam failed to accomplish what the Last Adam succeeded in doing. The Last Adam, Jesus Christ, has chosen to redeem out of the world men “from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9). The world comes from one family, and the Father seeks to ransom us from our sin and selfishness, but demonstrating the power of love and service to others in atonement. We know that the purpose of God for the ages to come is to demonstrate His favor to the world, and a taste of His Kingdom today is to model His love for us to the world around us.

See Appendix 24The Kingdom of God for the Ages to Come