The End is the Beginning

The End is the Beginning March 15, 2021

From here we read:

“In contrast, whenever the New Testament speaks of the universality of God’s salvation in Christ (47 times by Hart’s count) it does so in bald theological assertions (as in 1 Corinthians 15:22: “For just as in Adam all die, so also in the Anointed all will be given life”) which can be taken in no other way but literally.”

Everything about modern, Western, enlightened, mathematical, and mapped out Christianity is linear. We have timelines. We start at a beginning and move to an end. How many times have we heard in a detective-oriented television show or movie the phrase, “Let’s start from the beginning…”?  We are entirely oriented this way. Think of tracks in the snow or sand. Where do they start? Where do they end? Those are the only questions. If answered correctly, we will find our missing person.

And yet, such isn’t really the best or most sound way to read or understand the Christian narrative. From the same site, we read:

“‘In the end of all things is their beginning,’ Hart argues, ‘and only from the perspective of the end can one know what they are, why they have been made, and who the God is who has called them forth.’ What Christians mean by the imago Dei is not immediate, Hart claims, borrowing from Gregory. Creation is, in fact, inseparable from what we call sanctification. God’s ‘Let us . . .’ does not refer to the events of day six of creation but names the plot of the entire salvation story. As Gregory saw it, we can only truly say that God created when all of creation finally has reached its consummation in the union of all things with the First Good. Belief in an eternal hell, in which some portion or multitude of humanity is forever lost, forsaken, or annihilated, contradicts belief in creation from nothing, for if God’s promised aim is that in the fullness of time all of humanity will bear his image, the promise can never be consummated without all of humanity included in it.”

There is a lot bound up in that understanding but perhaps it might apply, in some small way, to how we think about Adam and Jesus.  We normally start from Adam because Adam is in Genesis—the beginning. However, we should probably start with Jesus. We don’t read Jesus (who came later in the timeline) through Adam (who came first), but Adam through Jesus. We have to read backwards. Christianity has to be understood backwards, starting from the ending.

I can almost see the raised eyebrows and the mental surmising… “Oh, it’s backwards alright…”

Adam doesn’t get the last word simply because he is first. If Adam gets the last word, here it is: “…in Adam all die.” Who is “in” Adam? Everyone. All. It includes every person who has ever been born, exists now, or will be born until Christ comes again.

The Christian biblical narrative is that Christ gets the last word, even though he comes later in the timeline. Of course, there is no timeline. Christ was before Adam. However, there is a material/spatial/physical- historical timeline as to the Incarnation, as to the appearance of the human called Jesus of Nazareth in Palestine in the period we know as zero, before (BC and A.D. or Common Era) and after, Christ. The appearance of this human actually changed the calendar—the measuring of time. We date his appearance as two thousand, twenty-one, years ago or 2021. Yes, every time we date something, write a check, send a letter or email, we recognize this measuring, this life. For Christians, that life measures all things. It is the measure.

What is the last word Christ gets: “…so also in the Anointed [Christ] all will be given life…”

If we are going to make “all” humanity as lost and dead in Adam, born into such, with no choice of their own, then don’t we have to make “all” the same as to Christ and his life?

I realize there are other interpretations of this verse and passage. However, I find most of them wanting, especially those bending over backwards to make sure it can’t mean a universal salvation. Maybe it doesn’t mean such. Perhaps it means only a universal resurrection, wherein one’s “eternal” fate is still to be decided.

Of note, looking at the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul begins by speaking of the gospel (so kind of important). And a key aspect to that gospel is the resurrection of Christ. Significantly, though, is what that resurrection means for humanity.  Here is the key passage for our purposes:

“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” 1Cor 15:20-23

Christ is the first of those that will come later. Thus, “at his coming,” which we assume means the Second Coming, “those” who belong to Christ will also be raised. The question then is who are “those” people? Who belongs to Christ?

Now, many will say those who belong to Christ are those who have been baptized, or those who have publicly, “confessed” Christ as savior or been “born again.” Well, one of the problems with those conclusions is…Adam (Adam is always the problem, right?).

If we are going to follow logically the analogy drawn between Adam and Christ, then we must ask: Who are those who belong to Adam?  Are any left out? Are there any who do not belong to Adam as the representative of fallen humanity?  Most Christians, Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox would answer: No

Well then, why doesn’t the same answer apply to Christ, the Second Man who represents humanity, but without sin?  If the penalty (or consequences) of dying in Adam are both physical and spiritual, then why aren’t the consequences of being raised with Christ both physical and spiritual?  If “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” applies to every person in Adam, then why doesn’t the remedy (Christ, his life, death, and resurrection) apply to everyone? If we don’t limit the reach and results of the fall, why do we limit its cure?

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