Have you ever had a friend come up to you, and begin telling you about a movie you are excited to see soon? What do we usually say? “Don’t spoil it for me!” Usually, we don’t want movie “spoilers.” A “spoiler” occurs when a friend tells us how a certain movie will end, much to our chagrin. However, there is one “spoiler” we should all be thankful for.
If you don’t want to know how the Christian life ends, I’m sorry to tell you that it’s too late, for “He is risen!” The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the ultimate spoiler, because it tells us the end of the story, the story of all existence. More than that, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is, in many ways, the end of the story itself. Acts 2 tells us that these are the “latter days.” There is no more revelation from God, because all that God desired to do to redeem the universe has been completed in the life, death, and resurrection of his Son.
“But wait!” you may say. “We are still dying, wars are still fought, the environment is still deteriorating, sadness and fear are still present. How has the universe been redeemed?” This brings us to what theologians call the “already and not-yet” model for understanding the “latter days.”
Already Christ has been raised from the dead, the “firstfruits” of those who have fallen asleep – but our own bodily resurrection is not yet.
Already the forces of Satan have been dealt the death blow – but his influence has not yet been overthrown.
Already our redemption has been accomplished – but we do not yet see its application thoroughly “worked through” the “dough” of creation. Geerhardus Vos was indeed right, when he says that we live in a world of “semi-futurities” (Vos, 43).
Because Christ has been raised from the dead, the end is already here, the Spirit has been poured out, and life everlasting is ours. The end is here, even if it isn’t here all the way. Because the end has arrived, this changes everything about our present lives. All of your life, every battle against sin, every deed of mercy, every relationship is meant by God to prepare you for life in his New Creation. This is why Paul will often pray that God would sanctify believers completely, body and soul (1 Thessalonians 5:23). We are not sanctified ultimately for this present existence; we are being “fitted” for life in the New World! This is also why Paul will say that if there is no resurrection, we are of all people most to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:19). Why? Because if there is no resurrection, then life lived in this body is in vain, for God has always intended us to live on this earth, in this body, to give him glory. Without a physical resurrection, we are not able to glorify God as he intends!
How does the resurrection change the way we live our lives now? Let me briefly give you two ways:
1) The resurrection teaches us to value life in this material world.
This world is indeed fallen, but it will not always be fallen. Remember what Paul says in Romans 8, how creation longs to be free of its bondage. Derek Thomas in his recently-published book, Heaven on Earth, reminds us that in its final form, heaven will be like this earth, only “renewed and more glorious!” (70). The New Creation will be like this earth, only freed from sin, and more glorious than we can imagine. Every good endeavor mankind pursues, the “glory of the nations” as Revelation calls it (Rev. 21:26) will be carried over into the New Creation, once Christ returns. When the earth is burned up, it will be a fire of purification, not of annihilation (2 Peter 3:10).
This changes how we view our work. If work is basically good, and God is glorified in it, then work is continued in the New Creation. Your current job is training you to work perfectly to God’s glory in the New World. This changes how we treat our bodies, and the bodies of others. If we are meant to live in bodies, even when Christ returns, how much more are we to treat our bodies well! Paul tells us that our bodies are united to Christ, even now (1 Corinthians 6). If our bodies will continue in the New Creation, this means that our neighbors’ bodies will as well. We therefore seek to preserve physical life as much as we can, because men and women are not just souls.
The implications could continue, but I encourage you to think of your own position.
2) The resurrection teaches us to hope
Second, the resurrection teaches us to persevere in hope while we suffer. This world will be redeemed, but the not yet of the latter days has not arrived. Sin is still present, our bodies still decay, and this “veil of tears” remains before our eyes. We groan, as cancer eats away at us, as our minds grow weak and memories fade. In the midst of all our suffering and sadness, we remember to hope. We hope because we know that we don’t suffer anything that a good resurrection can’t fix! One day, disease will be a memory. Loss of friends and family will be to us a shadow of the past, that fades instantly under the brightness of God’s glory.
In light of this, be encouraged, your labor in this life is not in vain! We are not “polishing brass on the Titanic.” This world is not going anywhere, even if the evil in it will be burned away like dross. The end has been “spoiled” for us, and we are all the more thankful for it.
I leave you with a quote from Martin Luther, that teaches us to keep near the finality of Jesus’ work: “Live as if Christ died yesterday, rose this morning, and is coming back tomorrow.”