It’s still Easter, the 50-day-long season lasting for the 40 days that the resurrected Jesus was on earth, covering also His Ascension, and ending on Pentecost. So we should continue to celebrate His resurrection and contemplate what it means.
I came across a fascinating and provocative article by the Catholic theologian Brett Salkeld entitled The Beginning of the End of the World.
It discusses the concept of resurrection (as opposed to resuscitation) as held by the ancient Jews, the resurrection of Christ, and the resurrection of the dead in the last days.
The author then ties all of this in to the Sacraments:
If the resurrection is the inauguration of eternity, then we begin to participate in eternity as soon as we begin to participate in Christ’s resurrection, that is to say, when we are baptized. For surely, Paul teaches us, if baptism unites us with Jesus in a death like his, it also joins us to his resurrection (see: Rom 6:5). . . .But baptism is only the beginning of our participation in eternity.
He then quotes the German Catholic theologian Gerhard Lohfink, from his book Is This All There Is?: Resurrection and Eternal Life:
In baptism Christians have died with Christ and been raised to the communion of the saints. The real “location” of present eschatology is in the sacraments. Every baptism immerses someone in the fate of Christ and the communion of believers. Every reception of the sacrament of reconciliation means placing oneself even now before the Last Judgment, and in that judgment, through the mercy of God, being set free. Every reception of the Eucharist is participation in Jesus’s Last Supper, and the bread that is broken and eaten is a participation in his death, the breaking of his life, his self-surrender. At the same time, the eucharistic meal is the beginning of the eternal wedding feast with God (253).
These thoughts are from a Catholic perspective, but I think that Lutherans and perhaps some other Protestants can agree.
The baptized have been joined to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5). So they picture the resurrection of the dead at the end of time. And they are numbered with the “communion of saints” already in Heaven.
In an ordinary Divine Service, we confess our sins and are forgiven, an enactment of the Last Judgment, in which–because we are united to Christ by faith–the verdict will be “Not Guilty.”
And Holy Communion, in which the resurrected Christ is present for our forgiveness, is also an anticipation of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, as the joys of eternity are described as a feast that He has prepared for us (Revelation 19:9).
So the End Times have already started, and we are already participating in them. And the Sacraments, among other things, are thus, as we sing, a foretaste of the Feast to come.
Illustration: “The Last Judgment” by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons