The Bible is so real about the devastating effects of sin. It is also full of promise to stir the heart. But how do the two fit together in the now? Do we simply have hope for the future, or is the gospel good news for today as well?
I suspect that others may have the same struggle I have felt with this. It is a glorious gospel, but it can feel so flat at times. Let’s review the problem and the solution, using Paul’s thoughts in Romans 8.
1. Creation Death. In the day they ate of that fruit in Genesis 3, death began its horrific march. Every tree, every animal, every fish, every bird – the creation began to die and has been groaning ever since. It is groaning in anticipation of the “freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
2. Physical Death. In the day they ate of that fruit, death began to creep through every human body too. We feel it, we anticipate it, and if we have experienced the loss of a spouse or close one, we know the agony of death in a way that nobody can understand who has not been through that too.
3. Spiritual Death. In the day they ate of that fruit, they died spiritually, and they died instantly. The Spirit was lost, the heart became hateful toward God and death was felt instantly. They were offered godlike status. They received awareness of nakedness. This is not the body of a “god.” So they started to fig-leaf, and to blame shift, and to hide, and to fear.
But all is not lost:
1. Creation Life. One day, in the future, sin will be wiped away and God’s children will be fully free of sin, even in their environment! But now we don’t experience that. It is still future, but just imagine how wonderful it will be to live in a non-death environment.
2. Physical Life. One day, in the future, we will experience the redemption of our bodies. What a relief that will be! It is still future, but imagine how amazing it will feel to have a body working as God designed it.
3. Spiritual Life. Today, right now, we are able to experience the new creation as we have the first-fruits of the Spirit. First-fruits, because the rest is still to come. First-fruits, because we already have the Spirit now! How amazing that we have the Spirit who is the life and love of God dwelling in us already, if we are Christ’s!
And there we find an explanation for the tension we live in:
We already have spiritual life because we have the Spirit communicating God’s love to our hearts, and searching our hearts to communicate to God what is within us. But creation life and physical life are still to come. We still live in a fallen world where death reigns. We still live in the flesh that is utterly pre-programmed to self-love and rebellion. But praise God, that inclination of the heart, that Spiritual life within, is just the first taste of all that is to come. So Christianity certainly does offer hope for the future, but it also sees that eternal life as beginning right now. I wonder if some of us have settled for mere anticipation combined with certainty of our wonderful legal standing, but perhaps have missed something of the richness of knowing and loving a loving God today?
The invitation is not a mysterious experiential goal, but a warm invitation to pursue God in the Bible and commune with Him by the Spirit. Romans 8 is a great place to spend some time and ponder this three-fold fall and redemption (esp.vv18-25). There is more to come, yet what a foretaste of glory divine to be both washed in His blood, and born of His Spirit, now.