July 25: Death as Glory.

1 Corinthians 15:51-53. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 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. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 

Is eternal life a glorious thought to you? I hope so. If it isn’t, it may be possible that you are still thinking of eternal life as this life going on forever. And of course, you would be right- that is not a glorious thought.

But the truth is this great mystery: we will all be changed! All of us who are in Christ will experience this same transformation, instantly. A transfiguration into the spiritual body. A body incapable of decay or death. Do you remember Jesus’ transfigured self?

Matthew 17:1-2. And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 

There’s not a lot of detail in the transfiguration story, but it still sounds pretty amazing doesn’t it? Changed from glory to glory. That is our future and hope.

This change is also our necessity. We have to be changed physically. Yes, because we are in Christ, and Christ is in us, we are spiritually heaven ready. No need for any further transformation of our spirit. But our bodies are a different story. They are still corruptible material. Our bodies must be changed in order for them to overcome death. The mortal body must put on immortality.

Paul is describing what everything in the Bible has pointed to- the great day of final victory for God. The trumpet sounds and he wins! We go to be with God forever. Every enemy is finally crushed by the heel of Christ. This is God’s redemptive plan fulfilled forever in Christ and in us.

How do you view death? Is it defeat? Or is it victory? Is it an ending to you? Or is it a beginning? Will our eternity be static? Or is it a reversal? Rather than a march toward entropy and death, could it be an ongoing march toward greater and greater glory?

“To live is Christ” makes this march toward glory an eternal reality. And death is the doorway to this incorruptible life. The life God has planned for us since the beginning.

Are you able to see death as glory? How does your union with Christ allow us to re-think how we see death for ourselves and those who are in Christ? Are you able to get excited about an eternity of moving into great and greater glory? How can this truth impact how you live today? Think about how we try to gain glory now in this life- all the ways that are really unnecessary and possibly even harmful.

July 24: Bearing Christ’s Image (our only hope for Heaven).

1 Corinthians 15:49. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Do you remember the creation of humanity in Genesis? We were made to image God.

Genesis 1:26-27. Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

God made man in his image, but Adam and Eve marred that image with their rebellion. The story of God, and the story of the Bible, has been the restoration of that image to humanity. We are the image bearers of God. Idolatry is wrong because only humanity and nothing else should image God as an idol. Anything placed above God, or in between God and man, is doomed to disappoint us and fail us. Christ, in his humanity, has bridged God and man. He has restored humanity to image bearer of God.

It’s important to see that Jesus took on flesh in order to restore the image of God. The physical is not inherently evil while the spiritual is good. It’s all good. Some Jews and Greeks believed that God made two Adams. A bad physical one, and a good spiritual one in Heaven. Our goal then is to escape the physical and achieve the spiritual. But Christ embraced the physical and united the physical and spiritual in his person. He now promises us a renewed physical yet spiritual body. Restored humanity is both physical and spiritual. This is why what we do with our bodies matters so much.

Further, as we saw yesterday, Christ is the source of all spiritual life, but beyond this, Christ is also the standard of spiritual life. He not only gives spiritual life, but he also IS that spiritual life. His life is the quality and character of that life – we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. We don’t just live forever. We live forever in Christ’s image. His love. His joy. His peace. His patience. His kindness. His goodness. His gentleness. His faithfulness. His self-control. The very character and nature of Christ are ours.

This is crucial because without bearing the image of Christ we could not inherit Heaven.

1 Corinthians 15:50. I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Paul does not mean that we will not have a physical body in Heaven. He is speaking more of the sinful nature of our earthly selves. We need a non-perishable body, the spiritual body, with all sin and selfishness removed, in order to live with God forever. And we will have this by and through the resurrection of the dead. “This is not a distortion of our original humanity, but will be the very thing we were made for in the first place” (N.T. Wright, 1 Corinthians For Everyone).

“To live is Christ” means that the Spirit will clothe us with the image of the Man of Heaven in all of his holiness, righteousness, and purity. This will allow us to not only live forever, but to live forever with God, in his glorious presence face to face. This is not something we achieve, it is a gift from God. It is grace. Have you received it?

Do you see yourself as bearing the image of God? Do you see others as image bearers? How could this change how you treat others? Do you celebrate your humanity? Do you also look forward to complete holiness? How does union with Christ help you to understand both your humanity and holiness?

July 23: Christ – The Life Giving Spirit.

1 Corinthians 15:45. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being [psyche]”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit [pneuma].

Today, let’s talk about some core theology. This verse is a theological master class explaining the “how” of everything we have said over the past 200+ days about our union with Christ. Christ, the last Adam and the new humanity, is the giver of eternal life. He is the life giving spirit. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ is able to give new life to our spirits through mystical union with his spirit- he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him (1 Cor. 6:17).

Just as Adam passed on his nature to all humans through the psyche (the soul), Christ passes on his nature through the pneuma (the spirit). He is the source of all eternal, zoe life. We have eternal life both spiritually and physically because Christ is the life giving spirit. Just as Adam is the representative head of the physical race, Christ Jesus is the representative spiritual head of the new human race, the Church. This reality is the core truth behind us being in Christ. Because we are in Christ, Christ is our representative head.

How did Jesus Christ become the life giving spirit? By his own resurrection and ascension. In John’s gospel, Jesus explained to his disciples that he must leave so that the Holy Spirit or Comforter might come. Upon Christ’s resurrection, after 40 days, he ascended back to the Father. He had to ascend so that he might become the life giving spirit and the Holy Spirit could come to carry on the ministry of Christ. How? By indwelling all who trust in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus for forgiveness of sins and the imputation of his own life into theirs:

John 3:36. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

There will never be another like Christ. He is the last Adam. Not the new Adam. Or the next Adam. There is a finality and exclusivity to what he has accomplished. You can stop your search at Jesus Christ. There is no other human savior. This includes yourself. If Christ is the source of all spiritual life, as this verse claims, then that means that we will never be the source of our own spiritual life. It means that eternal life will always be by grace through faith. Christ’s defeat of all death and sin is so complete that it needs no help from you. He is the life giving Spirit. There is no other option for eternal life and goodness. And thus, there is no other option for meaning in this life, for all ultimate meaning is found in eternal goodness. And God alone is both eternal and good.

“To live is Christ” offers us the life giving nature of Christ. His eternality and his goodness are given to us by the Spirit by grace through our faith. We now share in the divine nature. We have life. Abundant life. Forever.

But we must never forget that the life that Christ gives is HIS life, the life of the actual historic Jesus. Not just a nice easy life. Not just a good life in a worldly sense. The abundant life is the crucified life. The sacrificial life. The life under the cross. This is the life that the life giving Spirit has placed in us- a life of suffering that leads to glory. A life of dying that leads to resurrection.

Is there any part of this theology that confuses you? Inspires you? Have you received the life of Christ? In what ways can you identify the life of Christ at work inside of you?

Here’s proof that if you look hard enough you can find a song about almost any scripture. Feel free to sing along.

July 22: Our Spiritual Body (the same only better, much better).

1 Corinthians 15:42-44. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

OK, so I believe there is a resurrection. But what does that mean for me? What is the nature of this resurrection? Is it bodily? Or is it just a spiritual resurrection? If there’s a body, what is it like? These are the questions Paul is addressing for the Corinthians and for you and me in this part of the letter.

Because we are in Christ we will see our bodies transformed from a natural body to a spiritual body. This language can be quite confusing. It can make us think that we are going to be turned into ghosts or angels. But that is not what Paul means at all. Our body will be changed, but it will still be physical.

Think about Jesus’ resurrected body. Was it still physical? Yes. Was he a ghost? No. He still ate fish, and he could still be touched and hugged, and high fived. He still had the wounds from his death. And yet his body was changed. It was different and supernatural.

When Paul says we will have a spiritual body he means that our re-created body will be fully controlled by the Spirit. No more indwelling sin. No more physical suffering. No more sensory temptation. No more corruption, shame and weakness, only immortality, honor, and power.

And at the same time, our spiritual body is not a completely new body. It is still our body.

1 Corinthians 15:36-38. What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

Kernels become stalks, wheat seeds become grain. They’re the same thing but better. Your body also goes into the ground like a seed and is transformed into something even more beautiful and glorious. Yet you are still the same person. Jesus was still Jesus, but his body was better. The ones you love will still be themselves, only better. You will still be you, only better, much better.

What Paul is describing is the reversal of everything bad:

  • Your current physical body is perishable; your spiritual body will be imperishable – The process of decay will be reversed. All of our bodies are in the process of dying. But the spiritual body will be in the process of growing more and more glorious throughout eternity.
  • Your current physical body is dishonorable; your spiritual body will be glorious – Your body will no longer be used for dishonorable sinning. Rather, it will be filled with the radiant joy of purity and light.
  • Your current physical body is weak; your spiritual body will be powerful. – Subjection to injury, disease, and even the limitations of space and time will be no more. The new body will supply no limits to becoming like Christ himself, with the power to carry out God’s will fully forever.

“To live is Christ” is the hope of this new spiritual body. Because Christ lives in you, your current body is the seed that will be planted in death and then burst forth in glorious life, transformed into Christ’s beauty and glory. No more decay, no more sin, no more limitations. The same, only better. Forever.

Does all this seem too good to be true? Do you believe that God can raise you to transformation as he did Jesus himself? How does it encourage you that you and those you love will be the same only better forever? How does your union with Christ allow this future glory to be yours even starting today?

 

July 21: Wake Up.

1 Corinthians 15:32-34. If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

A popular quote in Paul’s day, especially among skeptics, was “let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.”

If you are a skeptic, and if you don’t believe in a future resurrection, or a currently resurrected Savior King, then by all means go on sinning.

But if you believe. If you are trusting in a resurrected King as the apocalyptic ruler of your life, then you better wake up and sober up.

Numbing makes sense if there is no hope. But if Christ in you has given you an eternal hope of glory, then using food and drink, or sex, or Sunday School to numb yourself is quite short sighted.

It is shameful for Christians to live like atheists.

You can’t believe in resurrection and be an atheist. It takes an all-powerful, imaginative, creative, and faithful God to pull off the resurrection of the church. A resurrection through love’s door into a Kingdom of grace.

So if we believe in these things, why do we live like we don’t sometimes?

And an even more serious question: does living like we don’t believe it prove that we don’t actually believe it?

Wake up. Do we believe it or not? Why do we live like we don’t? Why do we worry as if it’s not all true? Why do we crave acceptance from others as if we aren’t going to live forever in God’s arms? Why do we chase “bucket lists” and hoard our stuff as if we aren’t inheriting the universe with Christ? Why do we ignore our brothers and sisters in Christ and even shun them as if they aren’t eternal? Why do we fear death as if we don’t know the life giver? Why do we chase so many sensual pleasures as if we won’t experience unending pleasure at God’s right hand forevermore? Why do we burn out in ministry as if Christ is not seated on the throne of the universe? Why do we hold grudges as if all things won’t be reconciled in the end? When did we stop caring? When did we stop being zealous? When did we start seeing the church as being for our own needs alone? When did this life become about being comfortable? When did we get drunk on ourselves?

“To live is Christ” is to be awake. Awake to true living. True love. Christ’s sacrificial love alive in us forever. It is a true and right knowledge of God that allows us to see that his eternal goodness makes everything in this life a gift to be enjoyed, and not a god to be worshipped.

Have you been asleep? Have you been drunk? Do you live more like an atheist than a Christian? How can your union with Christ’s resurrection empower you to look at everything you do and believe in a new way? Where will you begin?

 

July 20: The Apocalypse Inside Us All.

1 Corinthians 15:20-28. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him.28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

The resurrection, like the whole life of Christ, is an apocalyptic event. That is, God broke through into human history in an unnatural way, a way beyond what would normally happen in creation. At the incarnation, God broke into history and became the man Jesus. And at the resurrection the man Jesus, became the cosmic Christ.

In Jewish thinking, the resurrection would not happen until the end of days, just before the judgment and the new creation. Jesus’ resurrection proves that he has already been judged and he has already been re-created. The apocalyptic age has begun. And it has begun inside of us. We who are in Christ are already counted as justified and already considered to be the new creation. Christ is the firstfruits, we are the harvest yet to come. How? Because we are in Christ (v.22). We are no longer in Adam. We have solidarity with Christ and each other. We share all of Jesus’ advantages and none of Adam’s liabilities.

The resurrection also previews an apocalyptic age yet to come. God will break through again and put all things in subjection under Jesus’ feet. Christ will annihilate every rule and every authority and power. Even death, the last enemy, will be destroyed. This is the final judgment. And this is the great enthronement of Christ. Just as Christ was enthroned and lifted up on the cross, he will be enthroned and lifted up in the last days over all of reality, both seen and unseen. All things will be in subjection under his feet. The destiny of humanity will be fulfilled. Christ, the final Adam, will finally rule the earth and have dominion over creation just as man was created to from the beginning (Gen. 1:26-27). This truth was prophesied Psalm 8:6 and 110:1, both of which Paul quotes in our passage above.

Psalm 8:6. You [God] have given him [man/Jesus] dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,

Psalm 110:1. The LORD [God] says to my Lord [Jesus]: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

We are living in the “already but not yet” of this apocalyptic age. We are living in the process of Christ’s victory. There is still death. There is still evil. There are still authorities and powers, both earthly and supernatural, that oppose the reign of Christ. But the resurrection of Christ proves the final victory of Christ. He will defeat all rulers, authorities, and powers that oppose him, and his love and justice will prevail. The resurrection of Christ proves that God will win, and we will win with him.

“To live is Christ” is our internal proof that Christ has resurrected and God has already won. The apocalypse is inside each of us who trust in Christ for forgiveness and redemption. Christ reigns in our spirits and is enthroned on our hearts. One day, God will turn everything over to Jesus as the judge of all the earth, and then Christ will turn it all back over to God. And we will survive that judgment gloriously and reign with him. How? Because we have already been judged and we have already been made new in Christ. To God be the glory!

How aware are you of the apocalypse inside of you? Do you see Christ as reigning over your life? What might you need to submit to his reign today? How does the resurrection prove the final victory of Christ? How does Christ in you testify to the truth of the resurrection in your heart?

 

July 19: The Resurrection (yes it’s real).

1 Corinthians 15:17-19. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

If there is no resurrection, then this is all a sham. Stop reading. Find something better to do right now! But if there is a resurrection then thinking about Christ’s ongoing life and your union with it will never be a waste of time.

We believe that the gospel is not hollow, empty or futile. We believe that we are not still in our sins. The resurrection of Christ has made his atoning death effective for all who believe. It has brought us into new life- the very life of Christ himself. It unites us to Christ, and identifies us with him. The resurrection won for us the blessings of Christ that he already had- the blessings of forgiveness, justification, reconciliation- and passed them on to us through the substitution of his life for ours. Every spiritual blessing we enjoy, we enjoy because of the resurrection of Christ and our co-resurrection with him.

This substitution also grants to us the victory in this life and the next. The victory over sin and death that Jesus won for us, brings with it a new life of holiness and love that we live by grace through faith. The resurrection empowers us right now, today! We will never live a pitiful life again. We are empowered to live confidently, boldly proclaiming Christ as King and declaring his love and grace to all.

Without resurrection there is no hope for this life. The dead aren’t asleep awaiting awakening. They have perished. And that is a pitiful end to this pitiful existence. No eternal glory. No eternal love. No eternal goodness. Just death. How sad.

But in fact resurrection is our story.

1 Corinthians 15:20. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 

Thank God we don’t have to live in the great sadness. “To live is Christ” means we can live in triumphant joy. We have experienced the reality of the resurrection spiritually; we are alive inside with the life of Christ. And we will also experience the reality of the resurrection of the dead bodily. We will live forever physically, spiritually, soulically (is that a word?), with Jesus and with those we love that have trusted in his imputed righteousness for the forgiveness of their sins. What a glorious story!

Do you believe that this is your reality? That your story begins and continues through the resurrection of Jesus? Do you believe that God is able to raise the dead, starting with Christ? How does union with Christ make the realities of the resurrection yours? How can you begin to live from resurrection power, and stop living from pity?