1 Corinthians 15:20-34
My life is a frustrating and confusing one. God loves me and has redeemed me and even sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in me – and yet I still sin. I have been raised with Christ to everlasting life, and yet my body will still see death. When saints in Christ whom I love die, I rejoice that they are with the Lord, and yet I grieve as well.
All of these are pictures of the spiritual reality of this life that Christians have been raised from the dead with Christ, but not yet. When St. Paul says in verse 22 “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive,” he is proclaiming that Christ is the firstfruits of those who have died. Christ died for us, but He was also raised from the dead for us. There is, therefore, a future element of this promise, for I have not yet physically been resurrected (Jackie and the kids will be relieved because in order to do that I’d have to die first!) And yet in another sense, I’ve already been raised from the dead.
For the Christian, eternal life begins on the day of salvation, and not when our physical bodies die. Stupid sin has gone and messed things up so much that life gets very confusing and what appears to be is not always the case. No WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) in this world.
But both my death and my resurrection are here now, but not yet. The Old Man in me has already died in me, when I was baptized, and Christ was put on me, as I was raised with Him. And yet, having already had the Old Man put to death in baptism and Christ put on, I must also die to self every day that I may be raised in union with Christ, because God’s work in me is not yet done. I’m already raised with Christ to the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), but it sure doesn’t feel like it, and I’m also stuck here on earth.
Let me begin with the end. Where is all of this heading? What will the end of things look like for the Christian? If I know that, then I can make more sense out of my frustrating and confusing life that is here and now. Paul teaches that at the end, there will be a resurrection of all, following Christ, the firstfruits. All human rule will be put to an end, and the kingdoms of this earth will perish along with their kings. All of Christ’s enemies will be destroyed, including Satan, sin, and death, which is the last to die.
In heaven, God will be the end of all desire. This isn’t true in the Buddhist sense of Nirvana, where all desire is extinguished (“ended”) but in the sense that God is the goal, the target, the object of all desire in which the subject and object are united. In heaven, God is both our hunger and the bread that feeds that hunger perpetually.
Origen said: “God will be all things in each person in such a way that everything which the reasoning mind can feel or understand or think will all be God. . . . That mind will think of God and see God and hold God. God will be the mode and measure in every movement.”
to which St. Jerome added: “God will be all things in all, so that there will not be only wisdom in Solomon, meekness of soul in David, zeal in Elias and Phineas . . ., zeal of preaching in the chosen vessel [Paul], and two or three virtues each in others. But God will be completely all in all. The whole number of saints will be glorified in the whole choir of virtues, and God will be all things to all.”
and St. Augustine concluded: “We shall be filled, but it will be with God. He will be for us all those things which we here look upon as being of great value.”
and St. Erlandson contributes: “It’s not so much that the things we love will be abolished so that only God remains, but that steak and chocolate, Bach and the Beatles, Guinness and espresso, cats and dogs, orchids and praying mantises will all act as sacraments that remind us of God and become ways of participating in the joy of His presence.”
If the saints are right about the nature of heaven, after our bodily resurrection, then we should begin seeking God in all things even while still here on earth. What God has promised and is in the process of completing are the very things we should be seeking in this life. Knowing that all things will be subjected to Christ in due time, I should seek to subject my kingdom – everything in my sphere of influence – to the King of kings and Lord of lords. Knowing that I have been raised with Christ, I should seek to participate in His Resurrection every day. We will all have the best reminder of all in less than 2 weeks: Easter. And every Lord’s Day we are reminded of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and our participation in Him, even in this life.
St. Keble wrote the following for Easter Day:
“Oh! day of days! shall hearts set free
No ‘minstrel rapture’ find for Thee?
Thou art the Sun of other days,
They shine by giving back thy rays:
Enthroned in thy sovereign sphere
Thou shedd’st thy light on all the year:
Sundays by Thee more glorious break,
An Easter Day in every week:
And week-days, following in their train,
The fullness of thy blessing gain,
Till all, both resting and employ
Be one Lord’s day of holy joy.
But since the fullness of the Resurrection is not yet here, we must still die, and so Paul says “I die daily” (verse 31.) If we participate in the joys of the Resurrection of Christ, we must also first participate in the sorrows of His Cross and Passion. Every day we experience a kind of death and a kind of resurrection in our daily ritual of dying and rising known as sleeping and waking, which is meant to remind us of the Resurrection. And every morning, I must put take off the Old Man (who, like a set of demonic pajamas, has put himself on me overnight!) and put on Jesus Christ again.
Paul faced the wild beasts of Ephesus and died to self in many other ways (look at 2 Corinthians 6 and 9). The question for you today is how will you die to self and be raised with Christ? What thorns in the flesh has God given you in order to draw you closer to Him, so that you might carry the Cross of Christ, die with Him on the Cross, and then be a partaker of His Resurrection? Knowing that in the end all things will be subject to Christ, to whom you will have to give an account of how you lived, how should you start living now? What firstfruits of the joys of the resurrection has God given you in this life already?
Likewise, since, in the end, all things will lead to God, we should begin living and thinking and sensing as if all the world were a sacrament of God (for, in fact, it is!)
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which means the resurrection of you, is not some esoteric point of theology. It is the theology.
Prayer: O God, Who for our redemption didst give Thine only begotten Son to the death of the Cross, and by His glorious resurrection hast delivered us from the power of the enemy: Grant us so to die daily unto sin, that we may evermore live with Him in the joy of His resurrection; through the same Thy Son Christ our Lord. Amen.
Point for Meditation: Meditate on the things of this earth that you love. Meditate on their goodness and blessing to you, and practice seeing God through them.
Resolution: Since we are still in Lent, I resolve to find one way today to practice dying to myself that I might live for Christ.