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Easter and the Last Enemy

I gave this as a mini sermon at my church on Easter (not the main service, but a side event).  I’m working on the discipline of writing any actual content whatsoever on my blog, so since I’ve already just written this anyway, here’s a post.  Scripture references NASB.

I think growing up in the church I’ve gotten used to the idea of Christ’s resurrection.  Like, I know what happens next in the story — the disciples come to the tomb and it’s empty!  Where’s the body?  Those silly disciples!  So, what is the significance of this?  The Son of God came to earth, died — God himself died — and then he himself rose from the grave, appearing to people bodily and then rising to heaven.  What is the significance of that?  What does that mean for the greater story God is writing?

An acquaintance of mine once argued if you don’t mention Christ’s resurrection, you haven’t communicated the whole gospel.  But why is that?  Why isn’t it enough to talk about his taking our place on the cross?  Now, Paul talks a bit about this in 1 Corinthians 15.  But in order to appreciate this this, first —

What was the first curse of sin mentioned in Genesis?  Back before God delivered the curse to the serpent, Eve and Adam — before they discovered their nakedness — God said one thing: “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16).

And so we see the most fundamental curse of their sin against God: death.  Spiritually, separation from God; physically, separation from loved ones after a few decades on earth.

And we were left with a world of brokenness.  Of selfishness, of betrayal, of apathy, of cynicism, of murder, of pain, of sickness, of separation, of loneliness, of disaster, of sadness.

But the Israelites, to whom God revealed himself, had a hope in a final Resurrection. The last chapter of Daniel says:

Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Daniel 12:1-3

And so the Israelites were given these words, as a far-off hope. (The Pharisees affirmed this belief, although the Essenes and Sadducees denied it; it was affirmed by the Mishna in the third century, though the belief has become less popular among jews in recent centuries.  At least this is my understanding from some brief research; please correct me if I’m mistaken.)

But then God came into this world as a man. And

Jesus said to [Martha], “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.”

John 11:23-25a

What a curious statement! We knew that in the end the dead would rise from their graves, but now Jesus said, “I am the resurrection.”

And then he died.  The man they thought was the messiah, even the Son of God, now lay dead in a tomb.  And then Mary Magdalene and some other women, and Peter and John, came and found the tomb empty — one more great indignity, that the body would be taken.

And he was seen by the Twelve (minus Judas), and some other disciples at various points, and finally over 500 people who believed in him.  Alive — not just alive, but with a renewed body.

Thus Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15: 

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep.

1 Corinthians 15:1-6

Paul goes on to explain that our whole faith rests on this.

Our world of brokenness, of sin, of evil, of selfishness, of betrayal, of apathy, of cynicism, of murder, of pain, of sickness, of separation, of loneliness, of disaster, of sadness, has this good news.  This Word made flesh.  And Paul lists the final things that must happen, in order.

What is the first thing that happens in the end times?

Christ, the Messiah, is risen. In a sense, that is the first event.

The resurrection of the rest of humanity has not happened yet, but the first person has been resurrected in His new body — Jesus Christ. Continuing (emphasis added):

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming

1 Corinthians 15:20-23

According to Paul here, the resurrection has in a sense already begun, and we are only waiting on the rest.  We then see that every enemy is defeated:

then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.

1 Corinthians 15:24-25

Every enemy in order, one by one undone.  And what is the final enemy to be defeated?  Is it Satan?

No, Paul says (verse 26): “The last enemy that will be defeated is death.”

And everything wrong with the world is one by one undone.  The brokenness, the sin, the evil, the selfishness, the betrayal, the apathy, the cynicism, the pain, the sickness, the loneliness, the sadness.

We see this in Revelation as well.  At the end of the Thousand Years:

When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:7-14a

Satan isn’t some equal fighting with God through history — he’s not even the final enemy God defeats.  We see God sweep Satan into the lake of fire along with the beast and false prophet like dust on the floor, and then the final event happens: everyone who has ever lived is released from death and judged, and death itself is thrown into the lake of fire.  John continues:

This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

Revelation 20:14b-21:5

When God is making all things new, what does that means for our bodies?  We are given new bodies, not entirely different from our old ones.  Paul explains this back in 1 Corinthians 15 — verse 37:

and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else.

and continuing through verse 49:

Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.

And so we see we are given renewed bodies like Jesus was given, in some sense like our old body but in some sense different, the way a plant is different from a seed.

And who participates in this victory over Satan, sin, and death?  We all do, in Christ. Paul says, in verse 55:

Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 54b-57

Paul concludes this with a charge, an encouragement, by saying “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”

So now we go about life knowing He is making all things new.  We have already seen the beginning of the end.  Jesus’s resurrection is a sign that the final resurrection is not far off, in which our bodies and the whole earth and heavens are made new.

So let this encourage each other.  You are surrounded by people, as Daniel says, who will shine like the stars forever.  In not long God is coming to dwell with man. Remind each other of this hope, as it is easy to forget.

Let this give us urgency in telling the world.  The last judgment is coming.  When death gives up all the people who have died, it is too late to do anything more; the books will be opened and everyone judged.

And let this motivate every little thing we do: He is making all things new, restoring our bodies.  The fact that we’re not going to be disembodied souls but continue to be physical beings in what will be a perfect world gives us hope now.  Our hands matter, our feet matter; we will use them in the new heavens and earth.  Work itself was not a curse of the fall; but work was cursed.  But the fact that we can look forward to fulfilling work in the new heavens and new earth encourages us to practice now.

God is writing a bigger story for His glory, which we are a part of, from creation, to the fall, to the hope given to the human race through the prophecies of old, to Jesus’s coming and first victory, to his final coming and victory.

Today we celebrate how Jesus experienced victory on the cross and in His resurrection, and the implications of that are already beginning; his resurrection is the firstfruits of things to come, and we are witnesses of this good news to the world.

How then ought those who trust in Christ live, knowing that we have already seen the beginnings of the hope promised through the prophets of old?  What hopeful people we ought to be!

He has given us a hope in him.

He has given us a word to bring to the nations.

He has given us good responsibilities while we wait for his coming.

He has promised us a future in the new heavens and new earth, physically with him.

Quotes: Peepiceek and Puddleglum

I was originally going to name this blog “Peepiceek and Puddleglum,” before my vision for the blog shifted. Here was my original first post.

From Prince Caspian:

“Listen,” said the Doctor.  “All you have heard about Old Narnia is true.  It is not the land of Men.”

From The Silver Chair:

Thirdly, the pain itself made Puddleglum’s head for a moment perfectly clear and he knew exactly what he really thought.

About

This blog is the output of my frequent forgetfulness that we influence others far more through personal relationships in our lives than through our words.  I want to remember Alan Jacobs’s social media principles, including that “Some conversations are more meaningful and effective in living rooms, or at dinner tables, than in the middle of Main Street.”  But this is where I post sometimes to Main Street; pray for my discernment.

I don’t think of myself as good at research, and very few of my views are insights I logically came to on my own independent of others.  But I strongly dislike echo chambers, and I hope if nothing else what comes through in this blog is a synthesis resulting from the fact that I spend time in a number of different subcultures that usually don’t talk to each other.

For more info on the intended ethos of this blog, see my first post.

Kuyperian Conspiracy

Love and Truth Have Met

One day in September 1991, in the universe of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Harry Potter came to the realization that science alone was not enough to succeed—one had to hold oneself to values as to how such science would be used.  The Manhattan Project would never have happened in the Wizarding World—which has such an effective code of ethics that not even Dark Wizards would stumble over something that destructive.  On this desire to better wed ethics to knowledge, Harry and his colleague Draco Malfoy formed a scientific society founded on a few essential values from the very beginning—the Bayesian Conspiracy.

Meanwhile, in July 1937 in the real world, an international ecumenical “Conference on Church, Community and State” (note missing comma) met at Oxford, out of which, under the leadership of International Missionary Council Secretary J. H. Oldham, a group formed which met regularly for discussion centered “in one way or another, on the issue of cultural leadership in a modern society.”  With the rise of Nazism and the world thrown into another war, these men realized the need more than ever for a proper worldview foundation for a just society.  Even if we win with our weapons, how can we be sure to avoid falling into their evils one day ourselves?  Despite the emphasis on proper truth foundations for just action, the Moot may be judged not to have gotten much farther than talk.  After nine years of interesting intellectual discussion, it dissolved.

Meanwhile, in July 1886, Abraham Kuyper, minister in the Dutch Reformed Church and future Prime Minister of the Netherlands, who firmly held to Christ’s lordship in all of life from preaching in church to working in culture, despite various mistakes, was well underway on the path of living it. 

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” 

Since college, I’ve found myself caught up in an intellectual Christian strain in the tradition of Pascal, Kuyper, and Chesterton—we use the label Christian humanist—to think seriously about how God’s glory displays in all creation.  “The ethical question ‘What is permissible?’ faded in relation to the question ‘What is the main thing, the essential thing?’”  At the same time, I’ve had the benefit of participating in a ministry with a philosophy that emphasizes being doers of the Word and every member a minister which leaves me never content to settle either for talk without action nor excusing ordinary people from being used by God.  Breadth of perspectives is important to me, and I’ve been surprised to find my contemporary Christians both conservative and progressive citing some man named Abraham Kuyper with admiration.

Anti-Echo Chamber

Back in 2019 I described myself as an “extreme moderate,” but that doesn’t quite describe myself, as I often do pick a side.  I think I’ve found a more accurate way of describing myself.  I’m very much bothered when there is a point of view not being considered in a conversation.  Most conversations should not have every view considered; but the question is whether opposing views have been considered or, when referenced, are referenced in their strongest steelman form.  I dislike echo chambers, and usually try to be the one to bring in a point of view I don’t see represented.

Epistemologically, I find it incredibly unlikely that one side would have figured out all the truth; but even setting aside the concept of sides, I once recently met an intelligent woman who had come to a few conspiracy theories on the basis of evidence and logic.  My evidence and logic had led me to disbelieve, but the reasonableness of her approach led me to dig into epistemology more deeply and come to appreciate how the way others have come to alternative views is not as foolish as I supposed.  The chances that I know all the answers are infinitesimally low, and the best I can hope for is to have an upward trajectory of correcting error (the whole premise behind naming a website Less Wrong).

But I am not in the deepest sense motivated toward epistemology for its own sake; but truth is a foundation for goodness and beauty, and I’ve come to a similar mindset around morality.  There are many who have different moral convictions than I do.  What bothers me most is when people never evaluate their convictions; have I really considered what is the Best way to live out this or that area of life?  But I and others who are on that journey must never consider ourselves to have arrived.  There is no man or woman who has successfully overturned every rock of their lives to check where they might be wrong.  This is a journey for truth and goodness that requires endurance.  As a Christian, I am starting from the best possible place: a righteous slate in God’s record.

The Conspiracy

I want to gather around others who are ambitious for seeing God glorified in every sphere—those who have high aspirations for seeking the good even in the smallest things—and those who want to see their culture changed for good starting with themselves.

This is a blog about finding more rocks to turn over, in epistemology, worldview, praxis, and culture.