Creation – The Fall – Redemption – Glorification
I was recently asked to teach at our church’s men’s bible study. I chose a topic that is basic to Christian doctrine: Redemptive History. Each week we explored one of the basic pillars of the meta-narrative that constitutes the unfolding plan of God from eternity past to eternity future for the redemption of God’s elect. What we might think of as biblical history is really His-story, that is, God’s story. It was a study that invited much discussion and insight into the purposes of God and the destiny of mankind. So let’s begin:
The first pillar is the doctrine of Creation. In the opening words of Genesis it is immediately established that God exists (Hebrews 11:6) and he is the reason why the universe is here and we exist in it (Genesis 1:1). There is nothing in the Genesis account which would lead anyone to believe in human evolution. Or that God got things going, and then let all things continue by themselves, like someone pulling the string on a top and just letting it spin until it ran out of power. The biblical doctrine of creation holds that the creation of the cosmos was an act of divine power by the Trinity. God the Father spoke, the Son of God brought all things into being (John 1:3), and the Spirit of God moved or brooded over the face of the deep (Genesis 1:2). Unlike the gods of pagan creation stories, who fought amongst themselves and vied for positions of power, the monotheistic God of Christianity were in triune agreement and all participated in actively creating the heavens and the earth. We will look at this in more detail in our next study on The Fall. In fact, much joy surrounded their creative action. The angels are seen as witnesses (Job 38:4-7) to this awesome spectacle, and Lady Wisdom, a personification of the Holy Spirit, is portrayed as a mother happily playing with her new born children (Proverbs 8:31).
The bible teaches that all God had to do was speak, and all things came into being out of absolutely nothing. This action of God creating by the command of his word is known as the Divine Fiat. Meaning, that God needed no pre-existent material of any kind to create something. He spoke to nothing and brought about what he commanded. By his word alone everything that was created came about by the sheer power of his speaking it into existence. Out of nothing came everything-from the smallest particles at the sub-atomic level to the largest galaxies in the cosmic universe. This is creation ex-nihilo; meaning out of nothing. The scriptures, at the outset, make this point abundantly clear- that creation took place by God’s commanding word out of nothing. God spoke and the scriptures tell us “and it was so.”
What keeps it all going? And why can we, as human beings, make sense of it? We can see all this variety: like bugs, and rocks, and water, and fire, and toads, and star-fish, and trees and yet our perception of all this abundant distinction and difference doesn’t confuse us. Instead, it appears to us to be in harmonious interaction with everything else. In other words, it makes sense to us. The creative genius behind a universe that continues in perpetual harmony is the work of Jesus Christ. As we study the scriptures we learn that the creation was created by him, through him, and for him; and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). The created order doesn’t come apart because Jesus Christ is, without effort, holding it altogether. Every created thing is therefore, contingent upon him alone. If for a nano-second God could somehow forget about the minutest detail of any part of creation it would cease to exist: be it a grain of sand, a human being, or the sun.
We are made aware that the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the deep at the time of creation (Genesis 1:2). The imagery in this scripture is endearing. It is of a mother hen guarding or brooding over her newborn chicks. We also discover in the book of Proverbs that ‘Wisdom’ was there at the beginning (Proverbs 8:22,23). ‘Wisdom’ which is the personification of God and who many scholars interpret as the Holy Spirit was the chief architect of the created universe. She established “the seven pillars” (Proverbs 9:1). These seven pillars are a reference to the seven planets that were known at that time. In effect, the ancients believed that the Spirit of God designed the cosmos in an orderly fashion. It was by her wisdom that the universe was designed and created to sustain life on our planet.
As we focus attention on the words,“In the beginning…” we also discover the biblical view of history. It is a linear view of earth history. Unlike other pagan views, which look at life as circular, the bible teaches that there is a beginning and an end. There is a line of events which move throughout world history for the fulfillment of a purpose. That purpose being God’s redemptive will. Other ancient views are circular, they go round and round with no purposeful end. Reincarnation is one such view. It’s a cyclical existence where one goes on in a never ending cycle of existence. This linear view of history is what makes the Judeo-Christian view of life distinct from others.
A final observation from the opening verse of Genesis reveals an interesting note about science. The well known and respected scientist, Herbert Spencer, reduced all that exists into 5 categories: time, force, action, space, physicality.
In an age of skepticism, where many see the creation account as unscientific, a closer look reveals that Spencer’s five fundamental elements of scientific theory are imbedded in the opening verse of Genesis. Let’s look at them:
- In The beginning – Time
- God – Force
- Created – Action
- the Heavens – Space
- and the earth – Physical properties
So while scientist’s are a little late in realizing these properties of existence, they have been in the bible from the start. Of course, evolutionists would credit an unknown force or an accidental burst of energy as the source for our cosmos, but the bible attributes all that came into existence to an all powerful, intelligent and personal God. This makes humans, not mistakes or hiccups in a non-caring evolutionary schema, but wonderfully created beings who bear the image of their Creator who have been given the gift of life for the extraordinary privilege of knowing, intimately, the God who loves them.
Creation – The Fall – Redemption – Glorification
The second foundation on which redemptive history rests is what is commonly called in Christian doctrine as The Fall. By the time the reader reaches chapter three of Genesis, the paradise that Adam and Eve experienced turns quickly for the worst. Because of their failure to obey God’s single command the first parents came toppling down from the crowning glory of God’s creation to falling headlong into the depths of rebellion and sin. An act that would effect the nature of every human being who would be born after them (Romans 5:17).
We live in a day when the word ‘sin’ has lost the force of it’s biblical meaning. We have grown accustom in our culture to hear this word used as a common reference to doing something bad or the risk one takes when crossing an inner moral boundary. It may even be used in a flippant manner in conversations. But from God’s perspective there could be no more heinous act by humankind. And without understanding the real damage and consequences of sin, a person can never understand their need for salvation much less see the actions of saving grace from a loving God. Additionally, the message about the cross and of a sin-bearing Savior becomes entirely meaningless to them if not downright ridiculous to some.
The secularization of the church by mainstream culture has affected all of us in one way or the other. It is therefore, to our benefit as growing Christians that we have a view of sin that is biblical. The pervasive issue among many in today’s churches is that many compromise when it comes to sin in our lives. I believe two things must happen in order for us to have the Spirit of God bring his sanctifying freedom into our lives. 1- We must hate sin and 2- We must be passionately more in love with God than our personal sins. No one can be neutral when it comes to sin, our natural propensity is that we love our sin.
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
And again Jesus said,
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:24
Being a lover of money may not be your sin or mine, but anything that you or I love more than God is our master and controls our life.
Here is the diagnosis of the human condition according to the Lord. Keep in mind, these scriptures are given not to necessarily make you feel bad; anyone given a terminal diagnosis would already feel that, but it is to pinpoint where the disease lies and make us aware that if a cure is not administered it will kill us. When I say sin will kill us, I am speaking spiritually and refer to the terminal death of the soul, though our body has suffered the sentence of mortality and corruption as well.
The heart is deceitful and terminally sick: Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it?”
Our corrupt nature makes us children of wrath: Ephesians 2:3 “among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
In our corrupt nature we are all enemies of God: Romans 5:10 “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
Not one of us are good: Romans 3:11-12 “no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Steve, are you telling me that I can’t do anything good? Let’s ask the prophet Isaiah.
“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” Isaiah 64:6
Consider what Isaiah is declaring. “All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” The original rendering is much more crass. The wording for polluted garment is closer to a bloody rag. And it is shocking to realize that the deeds he speaks of are one’s righteous deeds. Sobering thought. When it comes to justifying ourselves before God by doing something “good” that we believe merits the self, this scripture shows us that our best efforts are like filthy rags. If our good efforts are likened to dirty laundry what does that say about our wicked actions? Christian, if our actions, for God or others are not soaked in the redeeming blood of Christ they amount to nothing more than a pile of dirty rags. The apostle Paul recognized this when after presenting his perfect, impeccable resume. He said:
“If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…”
Rubbish? Those are Paul’s words. That’s his estimation of all the good things he did before he came to know Christ. Once again, the word ‘rubbish’ may have been toned down for our modern ears. The original Greek word includes the idea of “dung” or more specifically, human excrement. Are you getting any idea about how far we have fallen?
Much can be said regarding the circumstances of the Fall but the immediate results that follow Adam and Eve’s disobedience were tragic. They were promised by the devil that if they would eat of the forbidden fruit they would become like God, knowing good and evil. We quickly learn, that if anything, this newly acquired knowledge of good and evil did nothing to keep them from making morally poor choices. Created in innocence to trust their Creator they chose instead to become gods themselves and be in a position where they themselves could determine what was good and what was not. What transpires as they defend themselves before God is alarming.
Adam blames God and Eve blames the devil.
Listen to Adam as he gives his reason, or excuse, for disobeying the single command of God. He takes absolutely no responsibility.
The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Genesis 3:12
To understand the scope of treachery in Adam’s answer we must first remember the penalty that God announced should they disobey his one command. God commanded the man,
“…but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:17
I’m sure that these words of warning ran like cold ice down the back of Adam as he recalled them to mind. Disobedience would result in immediate death. Adam licked the dregs of sin in two ways. First, he blames God and second, the loss of selfless-love gives way to self-survival. Adam’s response reveals how he snubbed his Lord. He puts the blame on God for giving Eve to him for his mate. It’s your fault God! If you hadn’t given me this woman, none of this would have ever happened! There is a confrontative accusation here. It was as if Adam pointed his finger at God and blamed Him; that He made a big mistake, the mistake being that the Lord brought to him this woman for a wife. In Adam’s new found knowledge he estimated that it would have been better if Eve was never created. Adam’s solution maligned the wisdom and goodness of God and turned it into a reason to call God blameworthy for the mess he now found himself in.
Then there was the inevitable consequence of death. Adam moved Eve in a position of a human shield. He was no longer her intimate lover, friend, confidant, wife and soul mate. The selfless Adam had become a selfish monster, passing the guilt on to the one who was supposed to be his closest friend and lover. He knew that the consequences of disobedience was death and he was not willing to die for his own sin. So he pointed to Eve and in effect, deflected the death sentence that he knew was upon him and aimed it at her. Kill her! This holy, spiritual, loving husband of a man was willing to see his own wife die if but to spare his own life. From being Eve’s selfless lover and husband, he became her selfish accuser.
A broken command.
The Fall is the darkest part of human history. But God was not caught off guard. He didn’t have to try to patch things up along the way of human history. No, he had a plan. A plan that had been designed by the Trinity before the creation of the world. A plan that would undo the tragic consequences of sin and restore fellowship with Him. The fact is this, that the grace of a loving God did not bring instant physical death upon them on that day, though they suffered a spiritual disconnect between them and God. By God’s grace they lived for hundreds of years. Instead, he killed an animal and covered their sins by the substitutionary death of an innocent animal.
“And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21
The form and substance of things to come was appearing in the shadows of Old Testament covenants and sacrifices (Colossians 2:17). Soon, the splendor of a glorious light would shine. Which leads us to our next foundation: Redemption.
Creation – The Fall – Redemption – Glorification
If Creation answers the question Where did we come from?, and The Fall answers the question What went wrong?, the next plank on the doctrinal foundation of Redemptive History answers the question: How is humankind restored to God?
Let’s recall the warning that God made to Adam concerning the forbidden tree: That should he violate the Lord’s command, Adam was to suffer the penalty of death on the very same day (Genesis 2:16,17). Death would commence in two ways: First- Spiritual death would be immediate. Meaning, the relationship between God and mankind would be severed in an instant. After Adam sinned the Lord’s question to the couple, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9 ) doesn’t mean that God didn’t know where they were in a physical sense, but that the relationship they shared at the deeper spiritual level was no longer there. It had been cut off. God, knowing all things, certainly knew something had gone very wrong. The writer of the narrative presents God in human terms (anthropomorphically) to present the emotion attended by a rift between two very close friends. It is a way a father might be looking for his lost son, or of someone wondering why his friend did not show up at their regular time and place of meeting. And secondly, though bodily death was not immediate, it nevertheless meant that the process of physical death had begun in their bodies, though they would not yet die for hundreds of years.
“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:16,17
Nowhere, at this point in the story, do we read or hear in God’s command a mention to Adam, of anything about redemption or forgiveness for a sin done against Him. All Adam knew at this point is should he disobey the Lord’s single prohibition, would mean that it would been taken as an act of open rebellion against his Creator, an act worthy of immediate death. One of the lessons we can take away from this law-command by God to Adam is this: God is a holy God, and not even one single sin will get past the eyes of his righteous judgement, nor will he compromise his perfect holiness for anyone, not even the crowns of his creation-Adam and Eve. And because God’s commands reflect his holiness, any sin be it a greater or lesser one, are all mortal and all are punishable by death. The book of James bears this out when he states:
“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”
As such, God’s penalty could not be rescinded since he spoke it as binding Adam to Himself as a responsible caretaker of God’s creation and subject to His law-word. Therefore, when God issued one prohibition, which was to not eat of the fruit of a particular tree, He was bound by His own word to meet out the consequences which He himself put in place. The bible tells us that Adam disobeyed and broke God’s single command. If Adam knew anything, it was this: He was going to incur the penalty for his sin: death.
At this point we may ask. Was God under any obligation to redeem Adam and Eve, and future humanity from the sentence of physical and spiritual death? The answer is: Not at all. He gave to Adam the instruction and its prohibition as well as the consequence, but the Lord never spoke, at that time, of any act of grace should man fail. God could have allowed the human race to continue with no one ever receiving his grace of reconciliation. For example, the bible says nothing of angels receiving salvation after many followed Lucifer into rebellion against God. Redemption and forgiveness for sins done by angels were not part of their God ordained destiny. No redemptive plan was in place for angelic beings. However, humanity would be the recipients of a special grace. A grace that had been planned before the creation of the world. A look at some verses of scripture reveal that God was not caught off guard by Adam and Eve’s sin, but had already in place a redemptive plan for fallen man long before they or anything else were in existence.
It is only after hearing Adam and Eve’s excuses for their sin that God discloses his plan of redemption.
The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:14,15)
Genesis 3:14 and 15 is known as the proto-evangelium, or the first gospel. It is the first time that the good news appears in scripture, and it is spoken by God. The Lord speaks of a person who will be an adversary and who will come from the offspring of a woman. He is to be the enmity (adversary, hatred) which will be placed by God between the devil and fallen humanity. This person will be God’s holy hatred against the Devil for the deceptive lies he spoke to Eve. God’s enmity, this adversary or holy hatred, was not against Eve or Adam but against the lying serpent. This enmity or person, however; would have to suffer to restore the souls of the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve. The devil would bruise his (the enmity’s) heel but he shall bruise the devil’s head. This person, the enmity is speaking of, is none other than the foretelling of God’s coming redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. He would suffer a bruise to the heel by the devil, a non-lethal agony with allusions to the sufferings of Christ on the cross; but the devil would be given a death blow to the head. Christ will accomplish redemption but not without suffering. However, his victory will be the crushing of Satan’s power and deception upon mankind. The Gospels as we are familiar with them in the New Testament are testaments to the good news. The good news is that Jesus Christ, the long foretold enmity, has come to destroy the works of the devil (1John 3:8) and liberate believing men and women from their sins (Luke 4:18,19).
The proto-evangelium may be the first time we hear about the plan of redemption but what is more amazing is to realize when this plan was first devised. We must look at two scriptures to more fully comprehend this magnificent Trinitarian design for the redemption of repentant souls.
But before we look at these verses, it is good to ponder for just a moment on the wonder of God’s redemptive plan as a Trinitarian plot. As a fore-planned mission to redeem those in Christ, it was itself a covenantal pact between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit which goes far back in the eternal past. A divine strategy per se or borrowing the words of one Christian author, a kind of Divine Conspiracy.
A divine conspiracy whereby the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit foresaw from ages past the fall of mankind into irreparable sin. This pre-cosmic, salvific conspiracy was to unfold in a succession of covenants. The first covenant, known as the Covenant of Redemption was a type of allied pact within the Godhead where the covenant itself would be administrated and performed by all three persons of the Trinity. Since the area of biblical covenants is a lengthy study in and of itself, let me set forth in brief how each member of the Trinity participated in a respective role in the Covenant of Redemption.
- The Father set forth the stipulations in the covenant of redemption (Genesis 3:15)
- The Son is the operative mediator in the covenant of redemption (Matthew 26: 26-29)
- The Spirit is the guarantor in the covenant of redemption (Ephesians 1:13,14)
Now that we have looked briefly at the Trinitarian involvement of the redemptive covenant, let’s look at the first of two scriptures which support that it was a pre-cosmic plan. Revelation 13:8 reveals the mystery of redemption of a Lamb who would be slain before there was anything yet created.
“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
This amazing scripture reveals the fact that from the foundation of the world, a sacrificial lamb was envisioned as having already been slain. This thought is staggering! God’s lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:29), had voluntarily offered himself, before the world was in existence, to take away the sins of the world. Commentators Jamieson, Fausset and Brown add this comment, “He was slain in the Father’s eternal counsels.” That the Son of God was fore-planned before the world, becomes more obvious to us when we read from St. Peter’s first epistle:
“…but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” 1 Peter 1:19-21
What comes to light from these scriptures is mind boggling. The covenant of redemption was a fore-planned act of grace before anything had yet been created, which was announced in Genesis, fulfilled by Christ’s death on Calvary’s cross, and made effectual for those in whom the Spirit of God would regenerate and dwell within.
For the Christian to better appreciate what it means to be redeemed, three Hebrew words reveal how Jesus, our Lord, became the fulfillment of the Old Testament picture of a redeemer.
Pada: This Hebrew word is used to describe the substitutionary aspect of redemption. It was a legal term and sets forth the means whereby a person could be redeemed from a debt they owed. An animal or in some cases money was was used in exchange for a debt owed. In addition, the substitute had to be the firstborn. When used to describe an offering to the Lord, the sinner was redeemed from a sin debt by a pada sacrifice; it served as the substitute as required by Mosaic law. The Savior was the perfect redeemer. The perfect substitute. And he fulfilled the requirement of God’s law because he was the firstborn, which was through the miracle of the incarnation (God’s only son John 3:16). If an animal was sacrificed as a substitute for redemption it had to be without defect. This aspect of the pada sacrifice mirrors the Son of God as the sinless, unblemished and perfect substitute for sinners.
Gaal: This too was a legal term for freeing people from servitude or buying back property that belonged in the family estate.The only person permitted by Mosaic law to engage in this type of transaction had to be the next of kin. This person was called the Goel and performed the legal duties as the “kinsmen redeemer”. This aspect of redemption is illuminating in regards to the Lord Jesus. In order for Christ to legally fulfill this role as the “kinsman redeemer” he had to be a member of the human family. The genius of this action is understanding the importance of the Incarnation.The incarnation of Jesus miraculously gave him two natures: Divine and human. By virtue of his humanity he was able to qualify as belonging to the human race and thereby qualified him to purchase back those whom he came to free from sin. (Luke 4:18,19)
Kapar: This Hebrew word means to atone by sacrifice. It means to expiate or cover, and carries with it the added meaning of a ransom. Jesus became the atoning sacrifice for our sins. He paid the ransom to release us from sin’s bondage. He expiated and covered the payment for our sins. The debt for our sins was beyond our ability to pay. No amount, by human means would suffice. But a ransom was offered for our release from sin’s debt by the Savior (Mark 10:45). Jesus paid our debt with the shedding of his blood. Perhaps in a human court, a person could be set free if enough money could be paid to settle the crime against the offended party. But in the court of heaven, not a person on earth could ever pay enough to satisfy the justice of God. No earthly amount would do. Even if someone was able to bring a wealth of gold and silver to pay for their sins, it would never be sufficient for the ransom of their soul. St. Peter explains to the first century Christians that they were not ransomed with gold or silver but by the precious blood of Christ.
1 Peter 1:17-21
“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
The salvation of the redeemed was paid by one person who alone was able to meet all the requirements for a heavenly acquittal. That person was Jesus Christ. From before time began, the Trinity looked down the corridors of time to a hill just outside the city of Jerusalem. They agreed that it would be there, on the altar of Calvary, at a certain time in history, that God’s paschal Lamb would break the shackles of sin and rescue those whom they loved and whom he came to liberate. Therefore, the cross of Christ is the signpost of redemption. It is the place where all the hope of mankind rests. It is there where the destinies of faith-changed men, women, and children are forever altered. Two thousand years later, the cross still changes the lives of people. That is the power of the cross! And his redeeming triumph will continue to rescue and save those until he returns. And when he comes in all his majesty we will then enter into a glorious future, a future where we ourselves will be renewed in all aspects to a glorious eternal state. What will that future state be like? We will explore that in our last foundation, in the doctrine of glorification.
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13
Creation – The Fall – Redemption – Glorification
The fourth and final foundation of redemptive history looks ultimately towards the future. It is the doctrine of glorification and refers to the entire physical and spiritual change which will occur in every redeemed child of God. Because of this future glorification, and what it means for all those in Christ, it is one of the most anticipated and miraculous works of God that a Christian looks forward to. It is the final transformation from our present body of corruption to a body fit for heaven and eternity. A body that is both incorruptible and immortal.
1 Corinthians 15:53 esv
“For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.”
This is a reality that is way beyond our finite minds. We are, someday in the future, to become immortal; that is, to have a bodily existence that can live forever. And though immortality speaks of a condition wherein time has no effect on the body, glorification speaks more in regards to the quality of that condition. Glorification speaks of a completely new state of being; one that is free from the pangs of sin and where death can no longer touch us. This may sound incredible, but the scriptures are replete with statements that affirm this miraculous bodily change. Let’s look at a few of these verses but first let’s consider the previous scripture from 1 Corinthians 15:53. The word immortal means not mortal. This is hard for us to imagine because all of our lives that is all we have known, our mortality. When we are in pain, or illness, or dying we are reminded that we are but fragile jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7). But we are promised in God’s unfailing word that we will one day shed this mortal body of flesh and sin and undergo a marvelous change. St.Paul emphatically says that we must put on the imperishable and immortality because flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50). A supernatural change must take place in order for believer’s in Christ to dwell in the heavenly realm. Our present perishable bodies will eventually die and turn to dust, which can never enter the glories of heaven without a God-causing change. Now, when Paul uses the expression “flesh and blood” he is referring to our present physical state of corruption. This does not mean that in heaven we will be ghost-like, without a body. It means that our bodies will be changed. The scriptures reveal that we will occupy heaven with a transformed, spiritual body that will have tactile, mental and emotive properties. Jesus demonstrated these tangible, yet changed bodily features to the apostles shortly after his resurrection. His new body, which was constituted with new tactile properties was capable of inhabiting both the physical world and the heavenly world, as well as cross them at will (Luke 24:51 and John 20:19,29). He demonstrated to the apostles that his glorified body was not a spirit or ghostly entity but was indeed transformed flesh and bone.
“And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.” Luke 24:38-40 esv
As we move through our study on glorification I hope to make, from the scriptures, these features about a bodily change something that will give cause for great expectation and joy.
Before we look further into doctrine of glorification let’s have a look at a passage of scripture that speaks specifically about our present state and the future hope of glorification.
Romans 8:18-23 esv
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
We live in a world of suffering, from toothaches to heartaches, and Christians are not exempt from the devastating consequences of the fall that have thrown this world into evil and suffering. Some will suffer more than others but no one will get through this life without some degree of pain. And for some the suffering could last throughout their lifetime. These are what the bible calls groanings; the inner and outer aches of living in a fallen world. We want the pain to stop and we’ll do all we can to make it so. Groaning is the expression of our deepest hurt, be it emotional, physical, or spiritual. It is in Romans 8 where the apostle turns the eyes of groaning Christians towards the future. He weighs the sufferings of this life against a Christians’ future glory. To him there is no comparison. Even the worst possible suffering and pain that one could go through is not worth comparing to what awaits those who will be glorified with a body that will no longer be subject to pain or suffering of any kind.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” esv
What I find helpful is that Paul does not believe that all suffering is a punishment from God, nor does he suggest that all that was needed was for these Christians to pray themselves into a more pain-free and trouble-free state of affairs. Paul makes no such claims knowing that God makes no such promises! But what he does do is point them to the coming glory- “…the glory that is to be revealed in us.”
A glory that not only affects us, but that which even creation longs for. Paul also sees every created thing as groaning and waiting for the revealing of the sons of God. The sons of God are all believing men and women, in the old or new covenant periods who put their faith in God’s redeeming Messiah. For when the sons of God are revealed then all creation will once more be delivered from the bondage of corruption, because the creation, which is everything from plant life to animal life and cosmic life, is in the agony of pain and in the throes of death. The glorification of the sons of God will signal a harmony between every created thing. When the redeemed are glorified- sin, suffering and death will be a thing of the past.
Revelation 21:1-4 esv
”Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
The Golden Chain
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Romans 8:29,30
These verses are a vein of gold in the bible. They hold some of the richest truths that I have come to appreciate. So rich in precious truth, they are called by some bible teachers as The Golden Chain. It is a chain of five words linked together to form one single view of God’s sovereign action in the design and work of redemption. It begins with a link to the eternal past with the final link looking to the eternal future. If your looking for gold-here it is!
The final link in the golden chain is the word glorified. But how are we to understand what this word glorified means? It’s helpful to see what the root word glory means in order for us to gain a biblical understanding. The following verse in the book of Psalms gives us a start. The psalmist uses the word ‘glory’ to express the nature of God.
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1 esv
The psalmist turns to creation to aid us in our understanding of God’s glory. As the heavens declare the glory of God, in that they show to the person who ponders and meditates on the splendor and wonder of its expanse and beauty; they recognize that if such an awe-striking vision staggers the one beholding it, how much more the stunning glory of the One who created it. The heavens therefore, are reflecting something of who God is. In this reflecting, the cosmos are declaring by it’s glory the glory of God.
God created the heavens to declare, reflect or image his glory. So too, he created humans to do the same. But as we have seen, the glory (as image bearers of God) was severely diminished by the Fall and likewise by our own sin. Christ redeems us, and so begins the work of the Holy Spirit to restore that reflective glory in and through us. It is an inner work of transformation which takes place in us, in degrees or from glory to glory throughout our Christian journey.
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 3:18 kjv
Our walk with Jesus is transformational. What I mean is we are becoming more and more as a living declaration or reflection of the beauty and excellence of God. The unbelieving world, with wonderment and curiosity, may see by the luster of our lives, a display of something beautiful and grand that manifests the glory of God. Without a word, the way we live our life should speak volumes about a loving, holy and majestic Creator. As the sanctifying work of God’s Spirit cuts away the old sinful nature, what emerges is more of the character of Jesus. And as we imitate more of the person of Christ we display more of His glory. Every day we are moving, in degrees of glory, by the sanctifying and powerful work of the indwelling Holy Spirit, towards our final glorification. As we are changed into His image from glory to glory, this brings about true, vibrant Christian transformation which glorifies God and takes us further down the path of godliness, which reflects His glory in and through us. This ongoing step by step process of imaging us to reflect His glory is ongoing throughout our life, but will culminate in our future and final glorification.
The Golden Chain shows us five specific links:
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
1- He foreknew us
2- He predestined us
3- He called us
4- He justified us
5- He glorified us
When reading this verse one cannot but notice the central figure that connects each link- it is God. He does it all. We had nothing to do with this grand scheme of redemptive history. It was his design from start to finish, and it is accomplished by his working, and will be finished by his re-creative power.
A Spiritual Body
So what will our new body be like? This is the very question the members in the first century church at Corinth had asked the apostle Paul.
“But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come.” 1 Corinthians 15:35 kjv
Paul’s answer is astounding.
“So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 kjv
Though we know that flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50), Paul still calls this spiritually transformed being a body. This new body will not simply be the reconstitution of our flesh and blood but will even supersede the perfect earthy body of the first couple. We know this because the body that Adam and Eve were clothed in was capable of sinning. The new heavenly body will not be able to sin. How do we know that? Because the design of the new body will no longer bear the Adamic image, but it will bear the image of that body which Jesus had after his resurrection. And if this new heavenly body is imaged after the post-resurrected body of Jesus, then there is nothing in it’s constitution that would make it prone to sinful actions or thoughts.
“And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” 1 Corinthians 15:49 kjv
As incredible as it is, our glorification will give us a body just like that of the risen Christ.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2
This astounding transformation from sinful flesh to sinless glorification takes us from the limits and imperfections of our earthly Adamic nature to a spiritual body, just like the one Jesus now has, which is fit for heaven. And if, as the scriptures say, we shall be like him, then there is nothing in this new heavenly body that would cause us to sin, much less think about sin. Once death has been swallowed up by reason of the resurrection of our bodies in glory, sin will be a thing of the past. We will be free at last! Look at the caterpillar. Just as a caterpillar crawls on the leaf and looks up at the birds, it could never imagine that it could fly-it knows it’s is earthbound. But when it dies, (the caterpillar digests itself - dies to self?) it’s body undergoes what can only be described as a miraculous change. It is only then that it realizes that was once thought impossible is at last really possible after all!
“I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 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 shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?”
“O death, where is your sting?” 1Corinthians 15:55 esv
For the Christian, the grave is but the cocoon from where once we are changed, are raised in glory- we realize the impossible and soar to the heights of heaven!
1- Scientific American Aug 10, 2012.
copyright © Steve Covarrubias October 2014