This has been a difficult little article series for me to write because it’s stretched me so much. These are big concepts, and the implications of chasing them out are big. Though the writing hasn’t come easy, part 3 has finally arrived. [See Part 1 and Part 2]. So far I’ve given sort of a thumbnail proposal about how we ought to look at the pictures we find in Genesis 1-2 and in Revelation 21-22 (the first two and last two chapters of the Bible, the story of the world). It’s a difficult endeavor to imagine a world which depended upon sinless people to tend and care for it. And imagining a re-created world surging with the glory of God which affords redeemed humanity the dignity of a purposeful, active eternity is even more difficult. An honest and committed look at the startling project-like nature of creation that Scripture shows us will probably change our entire world-view. And if it changes our view of the world, hopefully it will leave us with more than just some interesting thoughts — hopefully it will propel us to action.
In part 1, I said that the fallen state of the world is important to consider because, in a very large sense, that’s where we are today. But we’re not there entirely. Revisiting the beginning of the story, we remember that God made a good world full of potential and forward motion. When man sinned, we shot off course, helpless to ever find our way back. God didn’t abandon us, however, but set about to span the gulf between where man went and where man should have been. This new “project” is what we call the Old Testament, the presence of God with people in dreams, thunderclouds, visiting strangers, burning bushes, pillars of cloud and fire, prophets’ words, and visions of glory.
The project of the Old Testament was always aimed at restoring mankind, the stewards of creation, to their right relationship with the world and with God. The revelation of God’s presence to man got more and more intimate as the project went, but so also did the realization of the extent of man’s sin get fuller and fuller. The miraculous gift of a blueprint for righteousness (Torah) only proved that man could never attain it. The people who tried (the Jews) only made their sin more acute, bringing in to sharper focus man’s depravity. It’s almost as if this peculiar people trying to practice righteousness in a dark and evil world seemed to funnel pain and death on themselves; the clarity of their imperfection attracted sin. But in the fullness of time, when enough sin had been funneled to a point among these people, the most perfect revelation of God’s presence was revealed exactly at that point in the incarnation of God Himself – Jesus Christ. Jesus did what no other man could do: he, being blameless, took on the full weight of sin and died. The consequence of sin is death. And the mystery of how Jesus’ death was able to pay for the consequence of our sin is enormous. But it’s true.
The project of dealing with man’s sin was ultimately accomplished with Jesus’ death, but God granted the world time to accept this reality. We have the dignity of the choice to hand over our sin and place it on Jesus’ sacrifice. And with the closing of one project on the cross, another began just outside an empty tomb, in a garden. This is the project we looked at in part 2. It’s not only already been revealed to us, it’s already begun. When Jesus rose from the dead, He launched a new creation. He is the first of a new kind of person, a rejoining of spirit and body, heaven and earth. And Christians (we who believe what Jesus has done, hand over our sin, and participate in Jesus’ death and resurrection through baptism) stand with one foot already in that new creation, that new project.
So now, we as Christians live to participate in that new project. Since we implement the Resurrection of Christ and thereby anticipate the final New Creation, our task is extensive and important.
- First, our work is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58) but will somehow be part of the New Creation.
- Since we belong to Christ who is the perfect example of true humanity, we must show the world how to be human. And the most fully human thing we can do is to worship the God in whose image we’re made.
- As we worship we’re equipped for mission (service to the poor and needy).
- We are to pray for the world, making God present through His Spirit where the world is in pain.
- In everything we do, we are to claim this world as the sphere over which God is sovereign.
We have beautiful images of God’s world both in Genesis 1-2 and in Revelation 21-22, and we can find hints of what sort of people we’re meant to be in both. But our supreme example of humanity is Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture and through His Church. If we’re Christians, we’re no longer defined by our fallen-ness but by Christ’s defeat of death and reversal of the Fall. We are resurrection people — that means we are to work for the final project of New Creation right now. It’s why we’re here.