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The Days of the Son of Man in Luke 17

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Luke 17:20-37 is... apocalyptic. That is true literally (the word apokalypto is used in v. 30) and it is true literarily (it shares features of a genre of literature bearing the same name) and it is quite possibly true in the popular sense of the term as well (that being that apocalypse refers to the end of the world). All of these uses are of course related. Let’s explore. So the word apokalypto means “to reveal” and when used of God, it often carries with it sudden demonstrations of His power and might exercised in this world. Apocalyptic literature was a type of writing that centered around God’s sudden in-breaking into the world, to turn it upside down (or right side up if you’re on God’s side of things). In this literature, God’s people are pictured as being in bondage/oppression until they are liberated and their enemies are defeated at God’s revealing. When God did this, it was pictured as the end of one age and the beginning of a new age, and thus upheaval is pictured on a cosmic scale with fantastical imagery. Finally, the popular notion of apocalyptic is the idea the God is going to destroy the world and deliver His people once and for all. All of these are grossly simplified but serve our purposes well enough. 

In Luke 17, Jesus is talking about the kingdom of God (as we have noted several times over this is often best understood in the dynamic sense of reigning or exercising dominion). The religious leaders want to know when it is coming and Jesus reveals two truths about the kingdom, it doesn’t come in the observable ways they were expecting with the pyrotechnics, clashing of symbols, and a Jewish king taking the Roman Caesar by the ear like a bothered grandmother at a family reunion. In fact, it was already among them in nascent form, but the religious leaders, by and large, missed it. This is the second thing Jesus reveals about the kingdom here. It had already been inaugurated in the incarnation of Jesus, as God came into this world, albeit in a backwards, backwoods son of a carpenter from Nazareth sort of way. (That this is the likely interpretation of Jesus’ saying here rather than the alternative interpretation that “the kingdom is within you - as in, within your hearts” is probable for three reasons 1) Jesus has already claimed that the kingdom was here in His own person as He cast out demons 2) while it is true God reigns in our hearts, nowhere else is the kingdom spoken of in this way 3) Jesus is addressing the Pharisees who were interrogating him, the one group of people whose hearts by in large the kingdom was not in). So the kingdom was here, just in an unexpected, less than ultimate way.

But then the language changes. Jesus begins talking about something that would happen in the future (at least future from His standpoint, though possible from ours as well, keep reading), and He uses apocalyptic language to do so.

Three contexts are necessary:

The Day of the Lord

When we think of the day of the Lord, we tend to think singularly of the ultimate and final day when God’s might would be revealed, all His enemies judged and His people delivered to live with Him in eternal bliss. We associate this day with things like the “Second Coming” of Jesus with all of the notions of the apocalyptic mentioned above. To be sure, the Bible speaks of such a day but before we get there we must take a step back.

The Day of the Lord was not just one day. In fact, there have been multiple Days of the Lord which have already happened. There are way too many passages to reference here concerning these days but consider a few from the book of Jeremiah: Jer. 46:10 speaks about the Day of the Lord against Egypt, Jer 49:22 is foretelling of the coming day against Edom, and so with Assyria Jer 49:26, Moab Jer. 48:41, Philistia Jer. 47:4; and Babylon Jer 50:27, 30, 31; 51:2. These are references to the destruction of various nations, which occurred in history. Other Day of Lord texts group multiple, sometimes all, nations together in judgment (Isa. 24:21; Jer. 25:30-33; Ezek. 30:2-5; Joel 3:11-14; Obad. 15-16; Zech 12:3–9; 14:12–13; Ezek 38:17–39:8). Many of these texts describe this Day, or these Days as “near” Ezek. 30:2-5, Obad. 15-16; Isa. 13:6-13.

However, the Biblical authors do not reserve these days just to refer to judgment against foreign nations. Notably, the Day of the Lord was coming against God’s people. Thus, Amos warns God’s people, many of which who were hastening the Day to come, that it wouldn’t be what they expected Amos 5:18-20. Again there are way too many texts to treat here but consider God’s judgment against Israel (Amos 2:13-16; 3:9-11) and Judah (Joel 1:15; 2:1-17; Zech. 1:4-18; 2:2-3). Many of these texts use apocalyptic imagery of cosmic upheaval like the shaking of the heavens and fail of stars and which is accompanied by fires, wars, and darkness.

All of this contributes to our understanding that The Day of the Lord, is often a day of God’s judgment (though see the parenthetical comment at the end), that often times, does not refer to one single event at the end of history, but has referred to multiple events throughout history. Applying this to the Luke 17, we are prepared for the possibility that the “day/days of the Son of Man” might refer to the end of everything but also for the equally plausible possibility that something less than the final end is in view.

The Son of Man

The next relevant context is the Son of Man language. Generally, this phrase was just an expression to refer to a human being (cf. Num. 23:19; Job 25:6; Psa. 8:4). However, this took on a Messianic connotation in the book of Daniel and referred to the one “like a son of Man” that God would raise up and establish as king over His people. This king would destroy the wicked nations who oppressed the people of God (see Dan. 7:1-28; esp. vv. 13-14). Jesus uses this term often to refer to Himself. Notably, in Lk. 21; Matthew 24; and Mark 13 the Son of Man is pictured as coming in judgment against Jerusalem, the city that rejected Jesus and would go on to be a major source of oppression against God’s people in the book of Acts.

Luke’s Gospel

This brings us to our final context, Luke’s Gospel itself. By the time we get to Lk. 17 Jesus has been traveling toward Jerusalem (Lk. 9:51-53) where he would face rejection and death (Lk. 9:21-22, 43-44). Significantly, as Jesus makes his way toward Jerusalem laments over its rejection of Him, which would result in their house (likely a reference to the temple) being left desolate (Lk. 13:31-35). Similarly, He will weep over it as He enters the city because they would reject him and Jerusalem would be destroyed (Lk. 19:41-44).

So taking all of this together, the Day of the Son of Man must be referring to the destruction of Jerusalem, right? Well… maybe. Indeed, Lk. 17:25 foretells Jesus’ rejection by the current generation. And the language of not entering the house or not turning back for one’s possessions and is repeated from Mt. 24:17, 18 and Mk. 13:15, 16 which in those contexts clearly refer to the destruction of Jerusalem (note it would happen in that generation Mt. 24:34; Mk. 13:30). And there may even be some tacit symbol for Rome invading Jerusalem when the “vultures”, also the word for eagles (the ancients thought of vultures as a type of eagle) which was a well-known icon of Rome, gathered at the corpse. And yet, Jesus’ teaching here has a level of ambiguity not found in Mt. 24 or Mk. 13. Jerusalem is not specified in this context. Also, if this is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, why would Jesus repeat Himself in Lk. 21? We must keep in mind the context here. It begins with a question from the Pharisees about “when” all of this would happen. Jesus’ answer is that it is the wrong question. He responds, now to His disciples, who also needed to hear this message saying, it would appear suddenly, like lightening (Lk. 17:24). If their approach was, “I will wait for a sign of the kingdom to come before I get my priorities right,” they had the wrong approach. They needed to be ready now. They should not be so tied to the things of this life that they were unprepared (Lk. 17:26-33), when God broke suddenly, powerfully, and apocalyptically into this world to destroy Jerusalem. So while I do believe this refers primarily to events that transpired in 70 AD, the openness and ambiguity of this passage is intentional and instructive for us. Ultimately, this Day of the Lord, like so many before it, points forward to the final Day of Lord in which God’s enemies will be destroyed, His people delivered and the present heavens and earth are first destroyed and then renewed 1 Thess. 5:1-11; 2 Pet. 3:8-13; Rev. 20:11-21:1ff). Therefore, let us stay ready, loosen our grasp on the things of this world, and encourage each other for the final Day of the Lord that will come like a thief in the night. Thanks be to God that we are not of the night for that day to surprise us.

(While it is a bit beyond the bounds of our present discussion the is another reference to the Day of the Lord of great significance. Joel 2:17-27 begins to shift from the Day of the Lord’s wrath against Judah to a day of His mercy toward His people also described as a Day of the Lord (Joel 2:28-32). Notably, Peter takes this text and applies it to the events of Acts 2. Thus, when the Spirit was poured out on mankind and the message of deliverance preached, God was breaking powerfully into the world, turning it upside down, and delivering His people. It was properly a Day of the Lord.)

(Just for reference Rev. 2:5, 16; 3:3 also picture Jesus coming in judgment against particular churches, thus any discussion about “The Second Coming of Jesus” probably needs to be more nuanced. Jesus “comes” many times before His “Second Coming”.)

Cultivating a Habit of Prayer

Monday, May 04, 2020

Stretching Sunday’s Sermon:
We have endeavored this year to become a mission minded people. A people with a culture of speaking, showing and sharing the truth in love. Our mission is to bear witness to God’s work in this world and in our lives and testify to others the work He wants to accomplish in their lives as well. We mentor and model what it means to be a follower of Jesus. We call this process discipling. The heart of discipling however, is discipleship. We must first be people who are following after Jesus ourselves, learning from Him, coming to know Him and becoming more like Him in the process. The Apostle Paul gives a great insight into what discipleship looks like in Phil. 3:3-16, a never ending quest to know Jesus intimately, relationally, and experientially, never being satisfied with where he was and always longing to know him more. May that be our goal as disciples as well. Discipleship is not a destination, it is a direction. A never ending journey with Jesus to new heights of glory and awe. Our personal journey with Jesus is the platform from which we can invite others to travel with us and thus, discipleship is the heart and engine of discipling done well.

So how do we continue to grow in this relationship and become more and more like Jesus? One point we made yesterday was that relationships don’t grow when there’s no communication. If we want to know Him more we must be in constant contact and communication with Jesus. Part of how we do this is poring over the Word. When I see Jesus/God at work in Scripture I come to understand, to appreciate, and to love Him more. This is the primary reason why God has given us His word, not to prove ourselves right and others wrong, not to learn some facts of Biblical trivium, but to see God at work in this world and to be drawn in to Him.  And so we must be in the Word to see the God who is behind it, in it, through it, and its end or goal. This is what we looked at primarily yesterday, particularly with a view towards creating a habit of Bible reading.  To do this we applied some well-worn principles and wisdom about habit formation and behavior modification from James Clear, someone who has become something of an expert in this field, and who has aggregated the best ideas about habit formation in a book called Atomic Habits.

Every behavior we do is trying to solve some problem, fix some issue, fill some void. Many of these become habits whether consciously developed or not. Focusing on the cycle of behavior of “cue, craving, response, and reward,” Clear suggests one overriding principle and four laws of habit formation. The principle is that we must shape our identity. Who are we? Who are we trying to become? What type of person do we want our habits to reflect? Similar to Paul’s approach, in 1 Corinthians and some of his other writings, the gist is “become who you are.” Set your identity, and then form your habits in light of that. So for instance, “I am a disciple, someone who is in relationship with Jesus therefore, I will read to grow closer to Him each day.” The four laws that correspond to the cycle of behavior are: 1) Make it obvious 2) Make it appealing 3) Make it easy 4) Make it satisfying.

This morning I want us to apply these things to prayer. Not only must we as disciples pore over the Word, we must also pour ourselves out in prayer. Prayer is the other side of the communication bridge and a necessary part of developing our discipleship. Prayer helps us to be dependent on God (Matt. 6:11-13), helps shape our will to His (Matt. 6:10; 26:42), and if done right, gives us a window into our own hearts (consider the right way and the wrong way to pray in Lk. 18:9-14). All of this helps us to build our relationship and become more like Him.

So how can we applies the information about habit formation to prayer?
First, we must shape our identity. We are in a relationship with Jesus, we have come to know Him and He certainly knows us. Because of that we will regularly communicate to Him. We will share with Him our joy, our thanks, our love, our passion, our wants, our fears, our doubts, our anxieties, our days, our plans, and so much more. Try not talking with some people with whom you are in relationship. See what happens. (Entirely rhetorical, do not try this at home unless you want your relationships to fade/falter). I for one need to develop a more robust prayer life. It not that I never pray, but I could certainly do it more. Let’s grow in this together!

Applying the Laws:
1. Make it obvious: Have a specific and regular time and a place where you pray. “At X time I will pray,” “when I enter into Y location I will begin to pray.” This could be when you wake up, when you get in your car, as you’re walking from your car to your office. The possibilities are endless and determined ultimately by your context and circumstances. To that end we must shape our environment to fit our habit. If your plan is to pray while you drink your morning coffee, make sure you are doing that in a quiet place where you can focus. Don’t choose a time or place where you will have lots of distractions. One helpful way to make it obvious is to tie it to an obvious cue, like getting your coffee. “When I get my morning coffee I will pray,” “when I start my car I will begin to talk to God,” “when I turn on the shower I will bow my head,” etc. By tying it to a habit we are already doing we create an obvious space and cue that will help us to preform the habit on a regular basis.

2. Make it appealing: We might have a million and one reasons why we are too busy to pray right now. Too much to be concerned, with too busy, too much going on. Each of those is actually a reason to pray. I know it can be overwhelming at times to add one more thing to the plate. And when prayer becomes just something else in the long list of the things we have to get done today, it becomes a stressor rather than something we look forward to. We need to reframe the situation, instead of “I have to pray today…,” our disposition should be, “I get to talk to God today!” Instead of one more thing to get done our approach to prayer should be, “this is the one thing that sets up everything else I do today.” Instead of it being a source of stress, we should view it as an opportunity to release.

3. Make it easy: Well formed habits enable us to do difficult things easily and automatically. When something becomes habitual to us, it does not require near the amount of effort as trying to accomplish the same task by sheer willpower. Having said that however, hard habits must be formed. This takes intentional time and dedicated effort. Too often we start with where we’d like to end and get overwhelmed. If you have a goal of doing 100 pushups a day but haven’t done 100 pushups in your life time, you are going to need to start somewhere much lower and build up. Perhaps that means doing one pushup a day well until you’ve mastered the form. Perhaps that means starting on your knees. Doing one pushup every hour for 10 hours. We’ve all got to start somewhere. The same is true of prayer. We see Jesus praying all night, for hours and hours at a time. That’s where we’d like to be, but it’s not where we should start when we are trying to build a consistent habit. Start with 2 minutes of thought out, intentional prayer each day. Again this will vary from person to person depending on where you are at in your own prayer journey.  Besides starting smaller there are are a couple of other things we can do. We can prime our environment. This takes it one step further from the point we made about shaping earlier. For prayer this likely means getting mentally prepared. Perhaps we could use a prayer journal with some notes about the things we’d like to pray for, or writing out our prayers to make sure we say what we want to say. This should be an aid not a hinderance and so if the journal adds a level of difficulty that keeps you from the habit you are trying to form abandon it. The last way to make a habit easy that we will mention here is find a community where your habit is a normal and celebrated behavior. We are more likely to do something, if it is integrated in the culture we are a part of. This gives us accountability, identity and thus motivation to keep on doing it. Find a brother or sister that has an active prayer life and ask if you can pray together on occasion (not that I have arrived in this arena in any sense but I am certainly open to those who would like to get together over phone, FaceTime, Zoom, etc. and pray on occasion).

4. Make it rewarding: We are likely to repeat the habits from which we derive some reward and likewise to avoid those for which we are punished. With most good habits, the ultimate reward is in the distant future.  When it comes to working out, dieting, studying, writing, etc. the ultimate payoff is often not immediate. The same can be true with prayer, especially if it is a prayer where we are asking for something. God’s timing is not ours nor is our want always in line with His will. There are prayers we pray where we will never see the payoff we desire. Is prayer then a worthless pursuit? Absolutely not! First of all, there actually is an immediate reward of knowing that we have laid it at God’s feet. The process of pouring ourselves out can be cathartic because we know God is in control and is just, merciful, and cares deeply for us and our needs. We are calmer and more at peace, without even receiving the thing that caused us to pray in the first place. Additionally, we might want to add the habit of tracking our prayers. When we have accomplished our task, and have checked it off, we feel a sense of triumph and our brains actually reward us with dopamine (the reward chemical). It is the same thing that keeps you scrolling on Facebook for 20 minutes when you intended only to spend two, eat 10 Oreos (I can’t be the only one who has done this) when you purposed to eat just 1, etc. Having a streak going that you visible and tangibly check off can be a powerful motivator. These “little” rewards can go a long way into forming a life long habit.

Finally what do you do on a terrible, no-good, very bad day where everything goes wrong and the habit doesn’t get done? These days will happen, and the point is not to overreact and take an all or nothing approach and quit or to let days begin to string together. Your streak ended but you haven’t lost all that you gained. You are much closer to God because of the progress you’ve made. Further you are the type of person who prays regularly, and so you get back on the proverbial horse the next day, and start a new streak.

I hope these thoughts are helpful as we seek to grow in our prayer life, and in our journey with Jesus. 

Combating Partisan Pride

Monday, April 27, 2020

In Jesus God broke into the world to turn the world upside down but he did it in a subversive, topsy turvy way. He did it, not by coming in a way that the world viewed as powerful and glorious, but by means of a carpenter’s son, from a nowhere town, who preached meekness over might, and suffering, service, and submission over status. In the ultimate demonstration of the backward way that God brought about His purposes, He had this Jesus die in one of the most humiliating and shameful ways possible. Though He would afterward raise Him from the dead, the lesson that shame comes before splendor would have been a tough pill to swallow in a culture that was obsessed with status and Sophistry (a form of philosophy that especially emphasized style). Jesus was shaking the foundations of culture and society.

All of this comes to head in Corinth, a city that in the days of Jesus and Paul was “more Greek than Rome and more Rome than Athens.” It was a cultural melting pot, with many different expressions of the sorts of value systems, Christianity and its Christ were beginning to subvert. Paul writes to Christians who were in many ways still encumbered with ideas inculcated by their culture. In order to live in line with their profession of following Christ, these Christians needed to climb down from their pillars of pride and divest themselves of status. Especially egregious for Paul was that they were taking a system that status shirking as its foundation and turning it into a system of status symbols. They divided over who had the most sophisticated teacher, who had attained a higher level of knowledge, and whose spiritual gift made them more spiritual.

In order to combat this partisan pride, Paul reminds them of several truths that I think will help us as we evaluate our work, identity, and calling both as individuals and as a community. First, he reminds them that the cross is antithetical to clawing and climbing the social ladder and that Christianity does not exist without the cross. If we could keep the cross in our forefront we would realize there is no place for self-promotion or looking down at others.

Second, he reminds them that the teachers they have rallied around are all merely servants, working toward the same goal. Part of Paul’s strategy in this is to point out the various seasons in the life of a church. Paul came to plant, Apollos came afterward to water. Churches go through cycles, needing something different in different seasons. Different is not necessarily better, though it may be better suited to a particular season. For myself, I am indebted and grateful for the work that brother Jim and brother Earl have done for the group here and I hope that I am building on that well. If we could better see the work done by our fellow brothers and sisters as contributing to our unified purpose of bringing glory to God and growing the community of His people rivalry would dissipate and effectiveness would increase.

This gets the third point and second metaphor Paul gives, that of God’s building or temple. The church at large, Christians of all time, everywhere, together make up the dwelling place for God. This is a great honor as well as a humbling reality. Each of us is merely one part of a much greater whole, thus we must not think too highly of ourselves. Having said that, however, what a great honor it is to be part of the building project that ultimately houses God! Thus, each of us will take great care for how we build upon it, which behooves us to climb down from our pride pillars and get to work.

Finally, Paul uses the metaphor of the body, each Christian being a different member or part. We all have a different role, but each is necessary. Without one part, the body is less than whole and complete and loses an important function. This reality should ground 1) my appreciation for my fellow members’ skills, efforts, and contributions 2) an understanding of my own function in the body and 3) my need to work in such a way to build up the body as a whole. No part works for its own ends or purposes to the detriment of the other (save the guy who only works his biceps at the gym, who is topsy turvy in another way. Don’t be that guy.)

Let us keep the cross ever before us, realize that we and the teachers we follow are all servants together, stones in God’s great building project for His glory, and members of the same body, diverse and necessary to the function of the whole.

Pruning Our Past to Produce at Present

Monday, April 20, 2020

Yesterday we considered the parable of the two sons (Matthew 21:28-32) which reminds us that God prioritizes our production over our position, our past, and our promises. Because God values fruit-bearing above all else, we must endeavor to bear fruit in our lives. This was the biblical way of talking about living a changed life (Isa. 5:1-7; Matt. 3:1-10; Gal. 5:16-26) which had social, moral, and theological consequences.

As we considered this parable we drew out the following principles of production. If we are going to be productive:

1) We must stop being okay with today. Fruit-bearing is necessarily a forward-looking process and thus, we are not contented with today’s position but are preparing to head in tomorrow’s direction.

2) We must cut off our pasts to produce in the present. Like the vine that carries all the cumbersome weight of past growth, our past can be a hindrance to production (more on this below).

3) The final production principle we discussed was that we must shut our mouths and open our hands. God is not pleased with our pretense or our empty promises. He doesn’t want an outward show of compliance, nor does He care for us exhibiting the surface level marks of productivity. We must stop talking about it and be about it. We must stop promising God, others, and perhaps most of all ourselves that we will change and start taking steps toward growth.

If we apply these three principles we will begin to produce the kind of fruit God is wanting in our lives.

Let us return to our 2nd principle in order to stretch the point a little bit further. We must cut off our pasts if we are going to be productive at present. Our pasts can either be a prison from which we feel we can’t escape, as could have been the case with the tax collectors and prostitutes that Jesus commends, or a pedestal as was the case with many of the religious leaders to whom Jesus was speaking. They relied on their pedigree and felt as if that put them in a position that was pleasing to God (Matt. 3:7-10). And so, some pruning of our past life is necessary. But once cut off, is our past completely useless? Can it help us to grow at all? I believe it can. If we can continue stretching the vineyard metaphor let’s think about those dead branches that we cut off. They are no longer weighing down our fruit-bearing branches or leeching necessary nutrients. This is good but they can help us further if we compost them, add them to the soil and allow them to function in a new way. In this way, our past can fuel our growth by:

1) giving us the necessary motivation to change. We are not that person anymore and don’t ever want to be that person ever again.

2) reminding us of how far we’ve come, or perhaps better how far God, the master gardener, has brought us.

3) steering us away from the unproductive paths in which we once walked and guiding us to new ones in the future (the composting metaphor probably starts to really break down at this point but you get my point, the past can still be useful when rightfully applied!)

Let us prune our past so that we might use our pasts in order to be more productive for the Father!

The One Thing that Changes Everything

Monday, April 13, 2020

The resurrection of Jesus changes... everything. It is the climax to the great drama of the Bible and key to unlocking what God has been up to in the world. It was not plan B, C, or Z in God’s story, it has been plan A all along. Everything started with a good creation, where God blessed man and purposed to dwell with man forever in the garden. But God in His infinite wisdom and foreknowledge knew that the story would run amuck quickly and prepared beforehand to set right what had been made wrong. It is in the resurrection of Jesus that God overcomes the story of division, disobedience, depravity, and death with the story of light, of love and of life. In the resurrection the path has been paved for all to be reconciled back to God, sin has been dealt with as have the powers and forces that drive us toward disobedience and depravity. The fatal blow has been delivered to death, and it will be finally defeated in the end as we all receive resurrected bodies crafted and created by the creator to live immortal eternal with our God. Not only this but creation itself (often expressed in terms of the heaven(s) and earth) finally sees the end to corruption and decay and looks forward to its own restoration that will be analogous to that of our bodies in the new heavens and new earth. Thus the theological, relational, spiritual, personal, ecological, and eschatological (referring to what happens in the end and thus our hope) consequences of the fall are dealt with in the resurrection. The first Adam brought the story of death and darkness to the old creation, the new Adam (Jesus) introduces the story of light and life to the new creation. As has been hinted at, however, Jesus' resurrection is just the beginning. He is the firstfruits of the harvest and His resurrection anticipates a much greater harvest to come. All of this should give us great hope about our future, great consolation about past and great purpose for our present. Here are three practical takeaways of all of this for our present: 

  1. Our future hope of the glory to come should cause us to reinterpret our present suffering. Rom. 8:18 and 2 Cor. 4:17 both look at the present suffering in light of the future hope, 2 Cor. 5 goes on to describe this hope as being clothed with a more permanent building versus the tent (body) that we currently have. Whatever pain, shame, affliction, etc. we face in this body is light and infinitesimal when seen side by side with our hope for a future resurrected body. We may groan now, but it will all be worth it in the end.
  2. This leads to the second point. What we do in our body now matters and affects our future hope. Part of the significance of the resurrection is that Jesus is able to sit as judge over all things and this we will stand before Him in judgment for what we have done in our current body (2 Cor. 5:10). While this might seem daunting, judgment has always been something that God’s people should hasten because it means that He is setting right what is wrong in the world and vindicating His people. It is interesting that those who are pictured as currently dwelling before God in heaven in a disembodied state are discontent (Rev. 6:9-11). Isn’t this what Christians are supposed to look forward to? Our spirits floating before the throne/altar of God for eternity? This is the popular view of Heaven/the afterlife, but even in context, it is seen to incomplete, inadequate, not final. What’s left out of this picture and thus what is longed for by these individuals in Rev. 6 is vindication and victory, judgment, and justice. This is what the resurrection of Jesus promises and the resurrection of everyone provides, the righteous to the resurrection of life and the wicked to eternal torment. The other side of all of this is that because what we do in the body matters and judgment is coming is that our labor is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58) our good works that we have done in the body will be recognized and not burned up (1 Cor. 3:12-15) and we will receive commendation/reward from God (1 Cor. 4:5). What we do here matters and so we make it our aim to do good and please God always. 
  3. Finally, Jesus’ resurrection means that the forces which once had power over us, have that authority no longer (Eph. 2:1-6). Paul prayed that the Ephesians might recognize that the power at work in them is the same power by which Jesus overcame the grave and no presides over the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:19-21). Indeed through this power, we are able to gain victory over these forces (Eph. 6:10-18). Rev. 12:1-17 gives us a beautifully composed mental image of this victory. Jesus has been raised, Satan has been cast down, and the saints are victorious even in death, precisely because death is not the end. 

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