For some of us, anticipation of future wholeness and newness of life comes naturally. When we observe the painful, broken, and difficult lives of those around us (including our own), we feel the longing for future glory and healing. I feel it a dozen times a day, and I’m sure many of you do as well. It’s the knowledge that things are not as they should be. It’s the very real feeling that on a personal and global level, all is not ultimately well.
These rumblings and grumblings ultimately point us to God and towards eternity. In light of suffering and struggle, the past resurrection of Jesus and the promised future resurrection of the saints make sense. Jesus has done the work, and we thank God that down the road we will eventually reap the reward. We celebrate the past even as we long for the future.
But what about the present? What about now? How do we participate in the resurrection now?
This is not really a question of process, but of identity. How we participate is answered by who we are presently in Christ. Paul reminds both the church in Corinth and the church in Rome of their new life and personhood in Jesus. The Christian walk is a participation in death and resurrection on a daily basis.
Each flickering light of dawn presents to us the hope of newness of life in that day. We live in the tension of the “already” and the “not yet.” We are already redeemed, but not yet fully sanctified. We are already dead to sin in Christ, but we are not yet completely disentangled from sin in our daily lives. We are already being restored to new life, but we still wait to be restored in our eternal bodies.
Perhaps this is why we gravitate to the past and then pivot our gaze so quickly to the future. The present is chaotic and messy. It’s a cycle of dying to sin and dying to self and choosing to step into new life multiple times within any given day. Our present situation can either be cause for discouragement or hope. If we focus too deeply on either the past or future, we miss out on developing as people of the resurrection in the here and now.
Paul’s address to the Roman believers in Romans 6 assumes that they are still working to separate themselves from a life of sin. He encourages them to avoid cheapening the grace of God by sinning recklessly and thoughtlessly, but he also speaks the truth of the gospel-centered life over them: we should no longer be slaves to sin (Romans 6:6).
Our eternal transformation is intimately connected with our new identity in Christ. We have future hope because, in the past, Jesus physically rose from the dead. The present is rough, but resurrection people can take heart in the mess. We are already transformed with a power beyond our wildest dreams, even if we are still waiting for that transformation to become complete.
Such is the present. Thank God that the resurrection of Jesus is the defining event of our “now.”
Written By Andrew Stoddard