Recently, I’ve seen a couple of tweets that have caused me to reflect on how things will be in the New Heavens and New Earth. A while ago, I saw one tweet about black bodies retaining the same in the resurrected state. While I do believe this, it led me to think about how much race and ethnicity will matter in the new heavens and new earth. There is only so much we do know based on what is revealed in Scripture. So I’ll say from the outset that some of what I’m writing here is speculative in nature but bear with me.
My first thought was to wonder how much are we really going to focus on race or skin color? After all, we will be in the presence of the Savior and the sin that produced all kinds of hostilities, suspicions, and disputes will be absent.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw a holy city, new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. We will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be any mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Rev. 21:1-4)
It’s not lost on me the impulse behind this focus on melanin composition because of the way it’s been disregarded historically and to some extent in the present. It’s a quest for dignity and I get it, though sometimes think it’s overblown. I honestly don’t think a focus on race or skin color does justice to that quest for dignity, anyway. I would insist the better, and more scripturally faithful way, to view dignity is based on being made in the image of God than in blackness. As the old saying goes, “God don’t make junk” and he certainly knew what he was doing to create such diverse people with varying melanin compositions. Continue reading →
Recently, a friend from church was sharing about her episode with anaphylaxis shock. She was home alone with her infant when suddenly and without warning, her body started reacting to what, is unknown. She couldn’t make it to the phone to call her husband or mother-in-law and barely made it to the computer to type a message out. She was going in and out of consciousness and wondered if this was it, was she going to die. But instead of the cheery easiness with which we Christians tend to treat death, there was an easiness about it. Almost a fear, more like dread.
Now this is a strong believer and someone who has had to trust God through some rough stuff. I know there is nothing she would want more than to be in the sweet arms of Jesus. She is not alone. I recall when my son and I were robbed at gunpoint and flashes of losing my life were before me and conjured up that same kind of dread. Or times when experiencing turbulence in airplanes and the mind flashing to a scenario of the plane crashing.
We talked about how these reactions seem contradictory to almost giddy like treatment of death as being a transition from one stage to the other, as if it’s something we should look forward to. I mean, Paul did say, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” I would speculate that a good number of Christians experience this kind of apprehension and guilt for thinking it. Are we weak and unfaithful Christians for being apprehensive about death?
No because there is something else to consider: death is a wretched result of the Fall. Death does to us what God did not intend for our bodies to do, be ripped apart. Death reminds us, or should remind us, what tragedy occurred through one man’s disobedience that plunged God’s creation into cosmic devastation. Continue reading →
As we Christians celebrate the bodily resurrection of our Lord, we loudly proclaim that he is risen. Now through much of my Christian life, I tended to translate that into merely a spiritual enterprise. Meaning, the resurrection signifies the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to the Father, baptism into the kingdom of God and union with Christ. It is that transaction that raises us to new life in Christ (see Romans 6:5-11).
Over time, I’ve come to recognize how this frame of thinking circumvents the significance of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. For his resurrection not only points back to God’s intention in creation but also brings the future of that intention into the present. In other words, it’s not enough for us to reduce the resurrection to merely a spiritual enterprise, that we are now part of God’s adopted family but there is a broader framework in which this reconciliation happens related to God’s restoration of what he intended. It’s why Paul emphasizes our bodily resurrection in 1 Cor 15, to which Christ’s resurrection is a first fruit. Death is an enemy because it is antithetical to creation. The entrance of sin and death unleashed such cosmic wreckage that the whole of the Bible’s story explains God’s plan and action to redeem his creation from that cursed grip.
In that regard, here’s a connection to the resurrection and faith I found quite interesting and insightful. I’ve been reading through this incredible book by Michael D. Williams, professor at Covenant Seminary. Far as the Curse is Found: the Covenant Story of Redemption is essentially a biblical theology of God’s historical-redemptive narrative from Genesis to Revelation, or in other words, “the biblical story of God’s unfolding covenant relationship with his people.” I absolutely love that he starts the book off with The Resurrection: the Single Best Page of the Story to show that the whole story of redemption is anchored in and centered on the work and person of Christ according to what God intended from the beginning.
The writer of Hebrews writes, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). How does this relate to the resurrection? Continue reading →
If you’ve followed me for any period of time, you know that I abhor the prosperity gospel. As I wrote about here in Should We Call the Prosperity Gospel Something Else?, the prosperity gospel has a deceptive nature in that it is not really about getting rich. Because of that, prosperity teaching flies under the radar because many who gravitate towards it would denounce that Christianity is about lining the pockets. What gets missed, is that wealth is just a by-product of the real foundation: material blessings are a sign of God’s favor. So we really can’t restrict the prosperity gospel to money but to any material blessing that we place our hope in. It’s peddler’s would have you believe that getting blessed by God in ways that make you look like you are winning (by the world’s standards) is a true mark of God’s favor. This is the very nature of the prosperity gospel, that favorable conditions are a sign that God approves of us.
And it’s not just about despising a doctrine for doctrine’s sake. But this distorted teaching actually impacts people’s lives. Either people can be lured into a false sense that God is on their side because they are “winning” in life. Or conversely, feel like God is opposed to them when suffering and loss occur and believe they are less loved by God, failed in some way to earn his favor, or basically just have insufficient faith. It’s easy to ridicule those who embraced such distortions and spurn the teachers of this dastardly teaching. After all, the Christian hope, trust and confidence is the work and person of Jesus Christ. Period.
But if we’re honest, there is something about receiving tangible results to life’s negative circumstances: the rescue from wayward happenings, the reversal of loss with a gain of something hoped for, the improvement of life’s condition with a better home, car, job or status symbol. Receiving material rewards, while not the basis of favor from God, can make us feel like God is on our side, that he is looking out for us. Continue reading →
I’ve been working on a post on Rev. 13:16-18 and in doing some commentary diving, was struck by Greg Beale’s commentary on Rev. 13:11. The passage of Rev. 13:11-14 sets the backdrop of my next post and Beale’s poignant assessment of what this passage is saying;
And I saw another beast coming out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. And he performs great signs, so that even he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast who, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life.
As I indicated in my post on reading Revelation, it helps if we understand Revelation to be a series of visions that describe the goings on of what happens between the first and second Advent of Christ, these visions describe the reality of what occurs during that period particularly in relation to the opposition that comes against Christ’s church. In other words, it doesn’t help to see these visions transpire after the church is taken out of the way via a Rapture and isolated to a 7 year period, but rather describes happens from the tine of Christ’s ascencion until his return. As evidenced by the presence of the church, very much describes the onslaught of deception that eventually pits the mainstream culture against Christianity. (It also helps to see chapter 13 as a reflection of a larger series of visions beginning at 12:1). By way of observation in our culture, I have much to say about this, which I’ll get to in a bit, but I found this section from Beale compelling and sobering. Continue reading →