We have been writing about God’s story that is what we call the Bible. With this article we will begin to draw this lengthy series to a close. The ending portion of a story such as a novel is called the resolution. The ending most people like is the classic fairy tale ending where the villain gets his comeuppance, the handsome prince and his lady love marry and everyone lives happily ever after. That is really not so far different from the ending of the Bible story! It ends with a victory, a wedding and a happily ever after!
From the beginning of the Bible it is obvious that the action is leading somewhere. From the fact that God gave man work to do in the beginning clues us in to the fact that that work had a definite goal – a design to be fulfilled. God had a project to accomplish and human beings were to be his agents in the achievement of that end. The story of man after the fall is the story of man’s failure to achieve God’s purpose on his own. The plan of redemption is God’s response to the problem of sin, not only in that it deals with the individual sinner, but that it was the way God chose for mankind to return to and participate in the fulfillment of the original purpose for creation.
We have emphasized over and over that the action from the time of Satan’s deception of Eve and the consequent fall was all looking forward to the climax of the story when the results of sin would begin to be reversed and God’s project could go forward to its intended fulfillment. Events along the way to the climax underscore the problem of sin and that God had to renew and redirect man toward the climax – the coming of the Messiah. The flood that destroyed the wicked world in Noah’s day and the judgment against Egypt with the deliverance of Israel from slavery were each beginnings or new creations pointing to the new creations that were to come.
With the coming of the Messiah, the promised deliverer of the whole human race, the story reached its climax. Following Jesus’ death and resurrection another new beginning – a new creation – took place and the eternal plan of God again was moving toward the ultimate end. We do not yet live in a world where God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven, that is, it is received and obeyed willingly by human beings. The time since the new creation began and its ultimate, intended end has been characterized by strife, division and unbelief. God’s people are divided into warring factions and deceived by demonic doctrines all to the end that even though God has made plain what his intention for his creation is and the role he intends for those who come to him in faith are intended to play in his purpose, many, many believers have no idea of what is in store for those who love the Lord.
Where is it all leading? What does God have in store for his creation – especially his new creation? In other words, what is the hope of the people of God? What difference does our perception of God’s ultimate purpose make in the way we live our lives and how we relate to others and to the world about us? These are very important questions.
It is highly unfortunate that the perception of many of what lies ahead for us in God’s future plans for man is a sort of ethereal existence where we float around on cottony clouds plucking on a harp and eating fruit flavored cream cheese on bagels as in recent commercials. Or in the words of a popular, much recorded song from 1949, “That Lucky Old Sun” by Beasley Smith and Haven Gillespie…
According to the Bible this is not the future that awaits the people of God. There is a glorious future awaiting, but it hardly resembles the classic concepts of the “Sweet By and By” where we have anything from a mansion to just a “Cabin In The Corner Of Gloryland” as depicted in our hymnody.
All throughout the Bible in both Old and New Testaments, God has depicted his purpose for his people in language that stirs the imagination and creates a longing in those who believe in him and hope for the fulfillment of his purpose for his creation. In the Old Testament, many of the prophecies have, no doubt, a double application. For instance, Isaiah, in prophesying of the return of enslaved of Israel and Judah from their captivity uses language that is echoed in the Revelation in words that relate to what God is seen doing in the ultimate new creation.
Isa 35:10 “And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
Rev 21:4 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
In the first verses of this same chapter of Isaiah there is the depiction of the desert land being restored to a garden. That this is figurative makes little difference. What matters is that there would be a revealing of the glory of the Lord and people would see his majesty.
Isa. 35:1-2 “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.”
God’s true people – those who delight in him and in doing his will – grow weary of the wickedness and oppression, the unfairness and exploitation of the poor and defenseless and of the crime and immorality of the godless. They know these things should not be and should not be allowed to continue. Like the martyrs they cry out to the Lord for justice to be done …
Revelation 6:10 “They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
God has promised to judge the world. This is the world of men – sinful, wicked, unrepentant men whose lives and actions are destructive to themselves, their fellow men and to creation. These have in their self-seeking polluted the earth, destroying the beauty and harmony it was intended to possess, creating not just an unpleasant situation, but in many ways and for many people, a kind of hell on earth. They shall receive from the Lord what is due them.
Psalm 97:3 “Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around.”
Romans 2:5 “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”
God is entitled to do this because he reigns. He is ruler over all his creation. He knows how it is supposed to operate and he knows when things go wrong – and why. He is entitled to set right that which is wrong – and shall.
Peter, in reminding his readers… “that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles” speaks of the scoffers who would come making light of the judgment and the end of all things as they knew them. He reminds them that the Lord has promised the destruction of the wicked world by fire and exhorts them…
“…what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:1-13).
We today are in a place very similar to that of the Christians of the first century. We live in a wicked world in which the forces of evil under Satan continue to usurp God’s place as ruler over all things. But the day is coming, and may not be very far off, when God will exercise his prerogative as the ruler over all creation and bring this whole sorry, sordid scenario to an end. In the meantime God’s people do not have a moment to lose.
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile” (1 Pet. 1:13-17).
Why should the Christian care when the Lord comes? If he is prepared to go when the Lord comes, why should he not just sit back and wait for that blessed day?
When Paul wrote in his first epistle to the Corinthians he devoted almost a whole chapter to the subject of resurrection. He pointed out that the resurrection of Jesus is a vital part of the gospel by which we have been saved and that his resurrection is the very foundation of our hope. At the conclusion of that chapter he urges Christians…
1 Cor. 15:58…”Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
Until that day we have work to do. There is no time for relaxation – for letting down our guard – for ignoring the great work God is doing and to which we are contributing. Peter said in the text above that we should live holy and godly lives while we are awaiting our Lord’s returning (2 Peter 3:1-13). Our holiness isn’t just for ourselves, it is to be for God’s glory.