Bringing the future into the present

By Keith Bassham

Over the years, I’ve learned that if you can master a few basics in just about any area of activity, you can do most anything that activity requires. Take football you run with the ball, throw the ball, or kick the ball. Learn how to do that, and you can play. The same is true with language. Learning a relatively small vocabulary and a few grammatical rules, and though a mastery is not there, basic comprehension is possible. Conversely, I have also learned that skipping the basics is not a good practice, no matter how simple something looks.

The same is true with my Bible study. I find myself so often going back to basics, and in this stage of my life, I tend to spend more time in Genesis and the theme of Creation. It seems to pop up everywhere, whether we are talking soteriology or sociology, understanding what God was up to in Creation gives you a running start.

Even when we look at Easter, Creation comes up. And why not? Resurrection and New Creation are inseparable. In the future God has planned for us, He recreates the world (a new heaven and a new earth) and populates it with renewed people (new creatures). The older Creation groans, longs for this event, as we are taught in Romans 8. What is the event that gets the whole ball rolling? It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, without which we could not be re-created (born again, to use Jesus’ language in John 3) in the image and likeness of the resurrected Son of God (Romans 8:29).

Therefore, knowing the future God has planned, we are told to “walk in newness of life,” (Romans 6:4) and to give ourselves to God “as those that are alive from the dead” (Romans 6:13). But the good news here is how God has given us a running start on that resurrection and new creation experience in the future.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, we read that when we are saved and accept Christ, we become new creations. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature,” or a new creation. In other words, what God is doing when He saves us as individuals is to bring His future will and purpose back to right here in the present in bits and pieces. This is the language N. T. Wright (all of whose views I cannot espouse) uses to describe what God is doing today, but I think he is right on this particular detail. We have, after all, been given a taste of “the powers of the world to come” (Hebrews 6:5), and while no human or group of humans has the power to build the ultimate kingdom of God on earth, you and I, having tasted what God is going to do, can bring bits and pieces of that future kingdom into our homes, into our families, our churches, and our communities. Perhaps those around us will begin to hunger for what we have tasted by embracing the resurrected Son of God and the life he offers.

So, I anticipate the future, and I hope to take people with me on that journey.

Richard Baxter, the nonconformist author of The Reformed Pastor (it’s not what you think, by the way) from the 1600s, echoes a similar sentiment in the last section of his Saint’s Everlasting Rest.

O my Savior, hasten the time of thy return; send forth thy angels, and let that dreadful, joyful trumpet sound!

Delay not, lest the living give up their hope; delay not, lest earth should grow like hell, and thy church, by division, be all crumbled to dust; delay not lest thy enemies get advantage of thy flock, and lest pride, hypocrisy, sensuality and unbelief prevail against that little remnant, and share among them thy whole inheritance, and when thou comest, thou find not faith on the earth; delay not, lest the grave should boast of victory, and, having learned rebellion of its guest, should refuse to deliver thee up thy due!

O hasten that great resurrection day, when thy command shall go forth, and none disobey: when ‘the sea and the earth shall yield up their hostages, and all that sleep in the grave shall awake, and the dead in Christ shall rise first;’ when the seed which thou sowest corruptible, shall come forth incorruptible; and graves that received rottenness and dust, shall return thee glorious stars and suns!

Therefore dare I lay down my body in the dust, intrusting it, not to a grave, but to thee; and therefore my flesh shall rest in hope, till thou shalt raise it to the possession of everlasting rest.

‘Return, O Lord, how long? O let thy kingdom come!’ Thy desolate ‘bride saith, Come’ for thy Spirit within her saith, Come; and teacheth her thus to ‘pray with groanings which cannot be uttered; yea, the whole creation saith, Come, waiting to be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.’ Thou thyself has said, ‘Surely I come quickly; Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

“Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel.” (2 Timothy 2:7-9)