I was forced to ask some tough questions about Easter this year. What exactly are we celebrating when we celebrate Easter? Of course, the answer is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The question goes deeper, though. What does it mean?
On one hand, you have this view:
The content [of the gospel] is that man’s sin is dealt with in Christ and when all of man’s sin is FINALLY dealt with, ONLY then will the creation be restored. Paul never talks about a “process of restoring the creation” but a final reconciliation (Rom 8:18-25) that both God’s people and the creation await. Read that passage. “…then do we with patience wait for it.” We are told that the restoration of the creation will come at the end, and we are to patiently wait for it, putting our own sin to death by the power of the Spirit living within us in the meantime.
In other words, the death and resurrection of Jesus is about dealing with our sin so we can be right with God, and one day enjoy his new creation. Meanwhile it’s a waiting game, while we try to influence more people to get right with God in a world that is doomed. This is probably the most common view.
The resurrection is the coming into being of a new people, recreated in the image of God. It’s about the beginning of a new world breaking into the fallen order. The biblical story is creation.. fall.. new creation. Salvation is so much more than personal, or individual.. it is literally cosmic in scope. On the Cross Jesus defeats sin and death, and when he rises He becomes Lord of all creation. In His kingdom there is no oppression, no sickness, no injustice, no death. He brings peace.. shalom.. as the Prince of Peace. We have eternal life TODAY.. not just in some future state…
In his message on Sunday morning, the old preacher spoke against “the social gospel,” opting clearly for the “spiritual” gospel of salvation. There is no such division in the mind of God NOR in the new covenant. The salvation mandate restores the original mandate to tend the garden the Lord has made, to restore all creation in right relationship to the Creator. Jesus is the second Adam, and Pentecost and the coming of the Spirit are all about the new humanity and restoring the cracked eikons.
It seems to me that the main difference between these two views is not what but when. The first view believes in the social, physical, and cosmic implications of the gospel – but believes that we’ll only ever enjoy those in the new creation. The second view believes in the “already/not yet” tension. The kingdom is here; the kingdom is future. It’s a present reality and a future hope at the same time.
What do you think? What did we celebrate at Easter? A gospel that’s mainly about getting right with God so we can enjoy life after the resurrection, or eternal life and the arrival of the kingdom both now and in the future?