Living In The Power Of Future Glory

In 2 Corinthians 4.7-10 we read, “7 But we have this treasure in  earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of  the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8 we are afflicted in every way, but not  crushed;  perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not  forsaken;  struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that  the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (NASB).

Sometimes it is difficult to apply Scripture to our own lives. When I read the following story by Chuck Swindoll I immediately thought of 2 Corinthians 4.

Swindoll writes:

When Dan Richardson, an enthusiastic believer in Christ, lost his battle with cancer, the following piece was distributed at his memorial service.

Cancer is limited…

  • It cannot cripple love,
  • It cannot corrode faith,
  • It cannot eat away peace,
  • It cannot destroy confidence,
  • It cannot kill a friendship,
  • It cannot shut out memories,
  • It cannot silence courage,
  • It cannot invade the soul,
  • It cannot reduce eternal life,
  • It cannot quench the spirit,
  • It cannot lessen the power of the resurrection.

Source: “Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations and Quotes” 140.

God With Us

Have you ever wondered why the experiences of those we read about in the Bible are important? How do they relate to us today in the twenty-first century? What can we learn from God appearing to Adam, Eve, Moses, Abraham, or Jacob? Justin Holcomb answers these questions in his post “The Ultimate Theophany.”

Holcomb writes:

The topic of theophany is often neglected in biblical and theological studies, though it is very important. Theophanies are instances of divine self-revelation in which God manifests himself to humans (the word “theophany,” which means “appearance of God,” comes from the Greek roots theo [God] and phaino [to appear]). While theophanies occur in different forms in Scripture, the content of a theophany is always the same. Theophanies consistently show God graciously revealing himself and his covenantal promises to his people.

Types of Theophanies

Mosaic Theophanies: No figure in Scripture had as many encounters with God through theophanies as Moses. God appeared to Moses in the fire of a burning bush (Ex. 3:1-6), causing Moses to hide his face. At Mt. Sinai, Moses went up to the mountaintop to worship God. He saw God at a distance and was invited into God’s presence, remaining there for 40 days. Later, Moses met “face to face” with God (Ex. 33:11; cf. Num. 14:14; Deut. 34:10). This expression hints at the intimate nature of theophanies. Even though Moses experienced a special and intimate relationship with God, he did not experience full revelation. Moses asked God to reveal his full glory to him, but God refused, telling Moses that no one could see God’s face and live (Ex. 33:20). So God passed by Moses, allowing him to see his back (Ex. 33:21-23).

Judgment Theophanies: Many scholars consider Genesis 3:8 to be the first theophany in Scripture. Adam and Eve heard the Lord walking in the garden and hid themselves from his presence. Gordon-Conwell professor Jeffrey Niehaus translates the phrase “cool of the day” as “in the wind of the storm,” based on a rare use of a specific Hebrew word. God often appeared in a threatening form when he was coming to bring judgment. After Adam and Eve sinned, God’s presence was dreadful, declaring judgment for their wrongdoing. Similarly, God revealed himself as a warrior before the Israelites overtook Jericho (Josh. 5:13-15). As Tremper Longman writes, a judgment theophany, “though always threatening, brings both curse and fear to God’s enemies and blessing and comfort to God’s people (Na. 1:1-9).”

Covenant Theophanies: God’s appearances to individuals in the Old Testament were frequently connected to his covenantal dealings with them. Specifically, God revealed himself in theophanies to provide assurance that he would maintain his end of the covenant (Gen. 26:24; 28:12-13; 35:1, 9; 48:3). For example, after Abraham arrived at Canaan, God appeared to him, promising that Abraham’s offspring would inherit the land (Gen. 12:7) in accordance with God’s covenant promises. God appeared to Abraham in human form before Isaac’s birth, assuring Abraham and Sarah that they would conceive a child in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. Additionally, God manifested himself in human form to wrestle Jacob in order to get him to embrace his covenant blessing (Gen. 32:24). By the end of the narration, Jacob is certain that he had met God “face to face” (Gen. 32:30).

The Ultimate Theophany

God’s self-revelation culminates in the incarnation of Jesus, making him the ultimate theophany. Those who saw the face of Jesus saw the Father (John 14:9), experiencing a much more profound theophany than Moses did. Moses asked to see God’s glory, and those who lived with Jesus received what Moses had asked for (John 1:18). Carl Henry writes in God, Revelation, Authority:

The New Testament channels all interest in the theophanies of God into the divine manifestation in Jesus Christ; the Old Testament (Septuagint) term for theophanic appearances is, in fact, used of the resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ (ōphthē, 1 Cor. 15:5-8).

Jesus is also the ultimate “judgment theophany.” He declares judgment on those who reject him (John 3:18) yet provides comfort and blessing for those who would come to him and receive the mercy of God. Jesus brings judgment by revealing the high demands of God’s righteousness (Matt. 5:48) and the depths our desperate condition under sin; his substitutionary death reveals the weight of the curse, which could only be lifted through the death of the Son of God: “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). This is the ultimate judgment theophany, one that leads to hope and salvation.

Again, Jesus is the ultimate “covenant theophany.” Jesus, as God, ushered in the final covenant in “in his blood” (Matt 26:28), the new covenant. In Jesus, God himself looked into the eyes of his disciples and promised to be true to his word. Jesus reveals the ultimate, eternal covenant (Heb. 13:20) between God and his people.

Why Do Theophanies Matter?

1. God is with us. Theophanies remind us of the famous words of Francis Schaeffer: “He is there and he is not silent.” God has not and will not leave his people to suffer in isolation. He will “descend far beneath his loftiness,” as John Calvin said, and reassure us that he will do as he promised. “I will be their God and they will be my people” (Jer. 24:7) summarizes the covenant promise that runs all through the Bible, and theophanies point to this comforting reality.

2. God is holy, awesome, and majestic. Theophanies should humble us. Our God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). All the various pictures of Yahweh in the Old Testament highlight this truth. Theophanies, according to Walter Elwell and Barry Beitzel, “conveyed a sense of the awesome majesty and power of God who is to be approached only with reverence and humility according to divinely prescribed procedures.” Ultimately, God’s holiness is most clearly seen in his wrath against sin, revealed and satisfied at the cross of Jesus.

3. God condescends to us. Theophanies point to God’s gracious condescension to our weakness. Theophanies are visual—they give tangible and physical proof of God. In a sense, they are God “writing it in the sky” for us. Though God wants us to trust him even when we can’t see him (“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” John 20:29), theophanies offer a glimpse into the heart of our God who graciously condescends to help and comfort those who join Thomas in unbelief.

The Neglected Resurrection

Easter is a time when we celebrate the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is easy for us to focus on Christ’s suffering and death upon the cross; however, without the resurrection we have no hope for the forgiveness of sin or eternal life with God. Matthew Barrett shares with us what is gained through Christ’s resurrection in his article “The Neglected Resurrection.”

Barrett writes:

Too often in our churches the resurrection of Christ is a doctrine of secondary importance. It is neglected and forgotten until Easter comes around each year. The same disregard for the resurrection is seen in how we share the gospel. Christians tend to share the gospel as if Jesus died on the cross and that is the end of the story. We make a zip line from the crucifixion to “repent and believe,” contrary to the example Peter sets for us in Acts 2:22-24 and 4:26. The cross is central to our salvation, but what God accomplished there is incomplete unless the tomb is empty on Sunday morning. Therefore, the resurrection of Christ is vital “for us and our salvation” (to borrow from the Nicene Creed). But how exactly?

Our Regeneration Is Grounded in the Resurrection of Christ

Have you ever read the resurrection narratives and said, “Praise God! Because Christ has risen I am born again!” I know I haven’t. But if we truly understand the implications of Christ’s resurrection for our salvation, the new birth would be the first place to turn. Scripture teaches that our new birth—God’s supernatural, monergistic act whereby the Spirit makes us a new creature in Christ, replacing our heart of stone with a heart of flesh—is only possible because Jesus is risen.

Consider two passages. According to Peter, God has “caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3). The same God who raised Christ from the grave has also raised us from spiritual death to spiritual life. And the apostle Paul says that while we were dead in our trespasses and sins, God, being rich in mercy, “made us alive together with Christ” and “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:5-6; cf. Col 3:1).

Because God has raised Christ from the dead, he can make us alive together with Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s resurrection life is the very basis and means by which we are born again.

Our Justification Is Grounded in the Resurrection of Christ

Those who believe in the God who raised Christ from the dead are counted righteous. As Paul says in Romans 4:23-25, like Abraham we are counted righteous, for we believe in him “who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” By raising Jesus from the dead, God approved the work of Christ on the cross for our sins. God declared his Son’s work complete! The penalty for our sin has been paid, and no guilt remains. As Wayne Grudem explains:

When the Father in essence said to Christ, “All the penalty for sins has been paid and I find you not guilty but righteous in my sight,” he was thereby making the declaration that would also apply to us once we trusted in Christ for salvation. In this way Christ’s resurrection also gave final proof that he had earned our justification (Systematic Theology).

Jonathan Edwards also states the matter precisely:

For if Christ were not risen, it would be evidence that God was not yet satisfied for [our] sins. Now the resurrection is God declaring his satisfaction; he thereby declared that it was enough; Christ was thereby released from his work; Christ, as he was Mediator, is thereby justified (Miscellanies, Vol. 13, 227).

In other words, if God did not raise Christ from the dead, he would essentially be saying, “I am not satisfied with your atoning work on behalf of sinners.” If this were the case, we would still be dead in our sins, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:17. And if we are still dead in our sins then we stand guilty before a holy God, unjustified and condemned. It is hard to improve upon the words of Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

If it is not a fact that Christ literally rose from the grave, then you are still guilty before God. Your punishment has not been borne, yours sins have not been dealt with, you are yet in your sins. It matters that much: without the Resurrection you have no standing at all (The Assurance of Our Salvation, 492).

Our Sanctification Is Grounded in the Resurrection of Christ

In Romans 6, Paul explains that we can “walk in newness of life” because Christ was raised from the dead. We are not to continue in sin, for how, as Paul asked, “can we who died to sin still live in it?” We have been baptized into the death of Christ so that “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4). But Paul is not finished. He has much more to say about the resurrection and our sanctification.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:5-12).

Paul’s last two sentences are especially powerful. As Christians, we are united to Christ. Christ died to sin, and so also must we consider ourselves dead to sin. But Christ also came back to life. The life he lives he lives to God. Therefore, as those who are in Christ, we are alive to God. No longer are we to walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Our old, unbelieving, sinful, condemned self has been crucified with Christ. And now that we are new creatures, we are no longer enslaved to sin, but by the power of the Spirit are able to walk in this newness of life.

None of this, however, is possible if Christ remains in the tomb. His resurrection is our victory over the reign of sin. Only because he has risen do we have the assurance, the confidence, and the ability to now walk in godliness. In this light, therefore, Paul’s admonition is all the more convicting:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Col 3:1-4).

The Climax of Redemptive History

Richard Gaffin once wrote that not only is the resurrection of Christ the pivotal factor in Paul’s soteriology, the “climax of the redemptive history of Christ,” but it is also that “from which the individual believer’s experience of redemption derives in its specific and distinguishing character and in all aspects of its inexhaustible fullness” (Resurrection and Redemption, 135). 

I couldn’t agree more. If we miss the importance of Christ’s resurrection for our salvation, then we have, as Sinclair Ferguson observes, misunderstood the gospel, severing our salvation from the lordship of Christ (Resurrection and Redemption, 6). How unthinkable this must be for the Christian who, as Calvin explains, believes that “our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ” (Institutes II.16.19).

John 3:16

It is hard for me to believe that this simple video upset so many people when it was televised during the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots’ football game. Personally, I think it is a great video, and I would suggest you copy the address, post it on your Facebook page, and email it to friends and family.  It is, after all, the only message that truly brings hope for all the world!