Saturday, March 27, 2021


I'm no great hunter, but I very much enjoy hunting. I'm enthusiastic rather than skilled.  Last year, I was trying to get a clear shot at an elk who walked down into a gully, out of my sight. Not wanting to lose a chance at him, I climbed down from  the tree stand and started making my way carefully down the hill after him. When I gave up and turned to go back for my pack, I saw two black, furry ears peaking out over a bush extremely close to where I had left my pack. I was so intent on the elk I was stalking, I had completely missed the bear that was much closer.

We all have trouble with tunnel vision. We all tend to focus so much on one thing we can't see anything else. One of the issues I have with a whole lot of ministry by "brethren" is precisely tunnel vision: a focus so intent on one issue, they are oblivious to all other issues. But I am just as bad as any of them.

One area where I've had really bad tunnel vision has been the whole area of New Creation.  The Pauline epistles bring New Creation into view sharply, front and center. "For [in Christ Jesus] neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision; but new creation" (Galatians 6:15). God isn't looking for us to improve what we are by nature in Adam, He is looking for something entirely new, what we are in Christ.

But the equal and opposite truth is, New Creation isn't some ethereal, vague place. It's not nirvana. We know this, because the Lord Jesus, having been raised from the dead, was as much a physical Man as any of us are. John 20:26–28 tells the story of Thomas not believing the Resurrection. So the Lord appears to the disciples, and invites Thomas to touch the nail marks in His hands and the spear wound in His side. Notice it's a physical touch that the Lord offers as proof. This isn't some discorporeal apparition, it's a real Man, with a real body.

And 1 Corinthians 15 brings both these truths to equal light and importance: the core of our faith – the single most important thing we believe – is that Christ has been raised from the dead in His physical body. If we don't believe in the bodily Resurrection of Christ, we're not Christians, period. This isn't negotiable (1 Corinthians 15:11–17). And Christ being raised from the dead, we shall also be raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:19–28). That's one truth, the bodily Resurrection.

The other truth is that Resurrection changes us (1 Corinthians 14:42–45). We won't be raised exactly like we are now, we'll be raised into incorruptibility. Our bodies will be changed to be like His. Not new bodies, but changed bodies, certainly. That's what we're waiting for: the Son of God will come from Heaven to transform our bodies (Philippians 3:20–21).

I have trouble keeping both these things in mind at the same time. I tend to think about the Lord coming to transform my body in such a way that I forget it'll still be a human body. I tend to think lose sight of the truth of bodily resurrection when I am thinking about the truth of our being raised into incorruptibility.

But the reality is that the end goal isn't for me to be any less human than I am. I'll be transformed, certainly, but not less human for all that. Francis Schaeffer might argue I'll be more human. I'm not sure I really buy that, but it's worth thinking about.

Or to put it another way, New Creation is still the sort of thing where we wash dishes and learn to play guitar. It's not a place where we sit around like a cartoon parody of Heaven, with gentle background music and harps and clouds. Ellis Potter points out that the Lord baked bread, build a fire, and roasted fish after His Resurrection. So New Creation definitely doesn't exclude mundane tasks.

There's a lot more to be said, but I think this is a good place to stop for now.


Rodger said...

At the end of his very thorough study, “The Greatness of the Kingdom,” Alva Mcclain has an appendix entitled, “The Spirituality of the Kingdom.” It is well worth reading, especially because it is from a premillennialist perspective. Here are the closing words:

“It is true that occasionally the New Testament uses “spiritual” as a contrasting term to that which is either “natural” or “carnal.” Thus Paul speaks of the “first man Adam” as “natural [psuchikon],” and the “last Adam” as “spiritual”; but the contrast here does not exclude the factor of materiality, for both Adam and Christ had bodies of flesh (1 Cor. 15: 45-46). In verse 44 Paul applies the same contrasting terms to the two bodies: the present body is psuchikon, while the resurrection body will he pneumatikon. But here again the idea of materiality is not excluded, for the resurrection body of Christ had “flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39). The real contrast is between the respective energizing principles of the two. Even where the contrast is between “spiritual things” and “carnal [psuchikon] things” (1 Cor. 9: 11), it is not invidious.* For both classes of things here are good, originating with God who is the Creator of all; although, of course, the one is superior to the other.

In the Old Testament, spirit and matter are never absolutely opposed to each other. The Spirit of God comes upon men to work wonders in a physical context: upon Bezaleel to give craftsmanship in metal and wood (Exod. 31: 1‑5); upon the judges to give skill in military affairs (Judg. 6: 34); upon Samson to bestow great physical strength (Judg. 15: 14). Even in the much quoted passage from Zechariah - “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit” - the physical factor is present. For the tasks to be accomplished here were the rebuilding of the temple and the overcoming of foes who were obstructing the work (cf. Zech. 4: 6, 9 with Ezra 4: 1-4).”

Rodger said...