March 28, 2018
By Keith Boyette
“I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”
Perspective matters. We have been sold a bill of goods. Secular culture regards death as an end point. You are born, you live and then you die. The world tells us the most important things happen in the space of the hyphen between your birthday and the day of your death. Make those moments count to the fullest because they are all you have. Do not waste time because once it is gone you are finished.
There is no question that the moments we enjoy in this life are significant; however, the Christian faith embraces a different narrative. We believe God foresees our formation even before we enter into the world. The psalmist declares, “You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born” (Psalm 139:15-16). In fact, Paul asserts God knew us and had plans for us before God created the world. To the Ephesians, Paul writes, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ… ” (Ephesians 1:4).
Our physical birth simply initiates the next chapter of our journey. It is an important chapter. It is where we choose whether to place our trust in Jesus Christ – to accept the salvation he has purchased for us. It is the domain of our experiencing the second birth – to be born spiritually – to experience new life in Christ. We are accompanied on our journey through God’s good creation by God. The psalmist declares, “Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed” (Psalm 139:16). This life is where we get to use the gifts God has bestowed upon us to serve God and our neighbors for making the presence of God known to others.
As this life draws to a close, however, life does not end. In fact, it is only in that moment of transition we become fully alive. Writing to the Corinthians, Paul observes, “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1). In fact, Paul declares that this life is primarily preparation for the life to come. “While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:4). Life truly begins in that moment of transition. Could this be why John Wesley declared on his deathbed, “The best of all, God is with us.”
Perspective matters. If this life is all we can count on, then everything in this life is raised to supreme importance. However, if this life is part of a larger story that God is writing, then we can live confidently now fully anticipating the future. The Christian life is not focused on the sweet by and by to the exclusion of present realities. However, the Christian knows that what we experience now is not the end of the story.
The Nicene Creed captures this important concept in its affirmation that we “look for the resurrection of the dead.” Jesus confronted the religious leaders of his day in their obsession with the present. Jesus taught, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. For when the dead rise . . . ” (Matthew 22:29-30). The resurrection of Jesus is the precursor of the resurrection of all who die in Christ. As Paul declares, “[Jesus] is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. . . . [E]veryone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back” (1 Corinthians 15:20, 22-23). As those in relationship with Christ, we can boldly approach the end of earthly life with the confident assurance that our resurrection lies ahead and that re-orients our perspective – the best is yet to come!
We know that we live in a broken and fallen world, but the Nicene Creed affirms that we are also living in expectation of the “life of the world to come.” We look forward to the reign of Christ. Paul teaches us that when Jesus returns, “he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24). Indeed, the world will have “become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and he will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). And the one sitting on the throne will make everything new (Revelation 21:5). The old heaven and old earth will have disappeared. God will make his home among his people. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:4). God’s creation will be restored to its pristine condition before the fall. Sin will no longer mar creation or God’s image in humanity.
We gather this weekend to celebrate Easter. Good Friday brings us to the cross where we confront the comprehensive brokenness of a sin-sick world and the love of God who in Jesus met us in the desperation of our estrangement from him. We see our helpless estate and the power of God to bridge the chasm that separates us from him. Good Friday ends in a dark tomb where we come face-to-face with our story if we remain separated from God. But Sunday is coming! On Easter, we rejoice in the great news that “Christ is risen! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!” And we rejoice in the reality that that which is not yet will soon be. We look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Perspective matters!
Rev. Keith Boyette is the president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, and an elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.