Thursday, August 4, 2011

If Only The Future Were Now

Here’s a no-brainer:
The heavens declare the glory of God; 
   the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 
Together, we stand awed by creation. Stars, mountains, plains, wind, sea and sky: each of them has the power to ravish our hearts and mess with our minds. It’s no less true simply because everyone knows it: all creation sings the greatness and God’s glory.
Even our fallen creation--a world beset by storm and drought--reflects the mind-numbing image of the infinite Creator-God. It doesn’t matter if nature is ‘red in tooth and claw:’ through the veil of sin-afflicted creation we can still catch a glimpse of eternity, and what we see is enough to stagger our footing.
Yet today I’m wondering about something beyond creation. If nature reflects the glory of God, how much more should the new creation? The day will come when all creation is restored to a magnificence beyond the garden of Eden. Revelation describes a paradise/city, given directly from God, occupying the space we call “Earth.” Lions lie down with lambs. The tree of life bears fruit in every season, its leaves healing the nations. The river of God flows to the ends of the earth. It sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Creation will be so glorious that every atom and molecule will itself sing the praise of God.
If only there were some way for the glory of that future world--restored and redeemed, empowered with resurrection life--to declare the glory of God even more fully than the heavens and all of creation in this age. If only.
But wait: I seem to recall something about a new creation among us, in the here and now. Let’s see . . . it’s here somewhere . . . just a moment . . . yes, here it is:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthian 5: 17)
Here is an amazing fact: the citizens of the restored heaven and earth (which is not yet revealed) are being born now. Born from above. And even more staggering: we are the glory of the future age made manifest now.
Is it possible that the majesty of the age to come could be exhibited in us, now? Paul wrote these words to a rag-tag group of believers in the City of Corinth. He had carefully laid the foundation for his amazing statement throughout 2nd Corinthians:
  • In chapter one he reveals that whatever comfort he has received is his to give to others (vs 3-7). In the age to come God himself comforts his people; in this present age his new creation people are here now to comfort others,
  • In chapter two Paul describes an aroma of the age to come (vs 14-16) To some it smells lovely, to others it is the stench of death--but its source is not of this age.
  • In chapter three he reminds us that the Old Covenant was capable of generating a visible glow on Moses' face. The New Covenant is capable of an even greater impact on our physical bodies (vs 12-18)
  • In chapter four we discover that we are vessels of an “all-surpassing power” (vs 7-12). These are the powers of the age to come, which we steward in jars of clay, leaking bits of eternity into this present age.

Paul is trying to indicate that we are the harbingers of the age to come. The cracked and flawed containers so characteristic of the fading glory of fallen creation are revealing the glory of a new creation. It’s not simply a theological position: Paul is describing a reality. Followers of Jesus carry resurrection-life within them. That resurrection-life is given by God at the new birth to glow through us, radiate from us, even fill the room with a fragrance of flowers from paradise. We must choose whether these are mere metaphors, or if Paul is describing the reality of new creation--a new creation implanted within us when we are born from above.
Would it be too mystical for me to tell you I’ve met followers of Jesus who quite literally glow with his glory and smell of eternity? I have. And my contact with such believers stirs in me the desire to live as if the age to come could be manifested in my body as well. They radiate the age to come, and I am filled with yearning for a homeland I've yet to see.

John Mark McMillan expresses the same desire:
I want to shine with the glory of an unveiled face
I want to radiate with the fire of You
I want to shout from the roof what I hear in dark
I want to be dangerous with the truth
I will be Your lamp if You will pour the oil
If You light the incense, I will be Your censer
I will be Your tabernacle if You will be my ark
I will be Your body if You will be my heart
Perhaps we could pray together: “Let it come through me, because I am a part of the new creation.”

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