When we look at the world today, we all feel a deep conviction that this is not the way things are supposed to be.
In his book Lost in the Middle, Paul Trip writes, “Like a knife rammed into the heart of creation, sin brought death into the world and all the aging, sickness, and decay that goes with it.”
There is another Paul who wrote some insightful things about this conviction – and frustration, I might add, with death and destruction and all the negatives of this fallen world. Thankfully, the Apostle Paul’s insights weren’t limited to death. He wrote about resurrection, too. We need his God-breathed words of wisdom in our age.
Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:52, 54-55,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed…then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
What Paul describes here is our great hope. Death will be swallowed up in Restoration, that fourth and final glorious chapter of the four-chapter gospel. In this last chapter, we will live with Christ in a new heaven and new earth which are not marred by the curse of sin.
Yet, while we are invigorated by the hope of what Christ has in store for us, Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15:58:
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
The “work of the Lord” Paul is referring to is all the work we do in our families, our churches, our communities and our vocational jobs. This work done in the here and now, in the third chapter of Redemption, is still important to God. We must always be aware of the differences between the chapters of Redemption and Restoration in God’s story.
Redemption, gives us a glimpse of the way things could be. But there will still be weeds in our garden. Total restoration awaits the final chapter just like everything else in this world. In this current chapter we live and work in a cursed world that’s populated by fallen, sinful people. We see and experience systemic problems: exploitation, ambition, greed, envy, and covetousness, to name a few.
Yet, we don’t give up. Just as in death we have hope of resurrection, in life we have hope that one day all will be set right. As Richard Doster writes:
We rub our hands in eager expectation, knowing these aren’t excuses to avoid the world; they’re the very reasons we plunge into it… We work with the confidence that He’s present in all we do — working through us to accomplish His will on earth, just as it is in Heaven.
Let us continue to put our hope in Jesus and the restoration to come. In the meantime, let’s get to work on those weeds in the garden.