Alright, if you've stuck with me this far, I hope you can see how resurrection really relates to life in the New Covenant and is not something that we have to wait until death to receive. This article is less exegetical like the previous and more practical. It is a call-to-action, so to speak.
When we postpone resurrection life to sometime in the future, whether it be our death or an imagined third coming of the Lord, we postpone the reality into which God has called us. This is dangerous because we limit the power of the gospel to some future point, so it loses its ability to bring about extraordinary, transforming change in our lives and in the world around us now.
When we limit access to the tree of life to a postmortem reality or to the future in whatever way, we are denying needed healing for the nations today.
If the world is going to end in our near future, what obligation do we have to care for our planet?
If the gospel is really just about getting people to Heaven where everything will be better, what obligation do we have to caring for the poor or needy to make this life better?
If we can only reach our fullest potential in Christ after this life, then what motivation do we have to being more Christ-like here?
I believe the world is in as bad a state as it is because of this “this world is not my home” mentality of most Christians. When the Christian life is just about avoiding Hell and “flying away” somewhere, it takes the pressure off of us to radically transform our lives and the world around us. After all, “all it takes to get to Heaven is faith,” so there is little-to-no demand to “work out your own salvation.”
Looking at salvation from a dualistic perspective also has this negative effect on Christianity: you are either saved or not saved, in or out.
This is true at one level, but salvation is a process. It is about growing up in Christ and becoming aware of the blessings that you have. It's not so much “in or out”as it is “in, further in…and further in, or out.” This is why so many Christians don't experience the peace that passes understanding or rejoice evermore. They think that they just get those things at the point of conversion, which they do, but there is a difference in having all spiritual blessings and being conscious of the blessings you have (Ephesians 1:3). So many things that we have been taught about God keep us from seeing the blessings we have. There is a lot of unlearning that needs to be done.
I believe this is why the doctrine of the resurrection has been given a definition that fits within a binary choice: physically dead or physically alive.
It takes all of the responsibility away from us. We just have to sit around in a waiting place waiting for the trumpet to sound, then we have perfection.
While it is not on us to “earn our salvation” as I've written much about, it is on us to crucify ourselves with Christ, “die daily,” and respond to the love God has shown towards us in action.
Athanasius of Alexander called this “the daily martyrdom of conscience.” The reason why Paul chose the symbol of the cross to talk about conversion is because it isn't an easy process. It takes years of crucifying yourself to the world and to all you hold dear in order to truly understand the freedom you have in Christ. But this isn't a process to be feared. It is one that has many rewards, and it allows us to be blessings to those around us. This isn't a short-coming of the gospel but is due to ways that the gospel has been hijacked by fear-mongers, legalists, and authoritarians. We need to die to these corruptions of the gospel so that we can have freedom in Christ.
When we postpone resurrection, we cut ourselves short. We do a disservice to ourselves, our church, and to the world around us.
To end, a passage from the extremely controversial book by Rob Bell Love Wins:
So is it true that the kind of person you are doesn't ultimately matter. as long as you've said or prayed or believed the right things? If you truly believed that, and you were surrounded by Christians who believed that, then you wouldn't have much motivation to do anything about the present suffering of the world, because you would believe you were going to leave someday and go somewhere else to be with Jesus. If this understanding of the good news of Jesus prevailed among Christians, the belief that Jesus's message is about how to get somewhere else, you could possibly end up with a world in which millions of people were starving, thirsty, and poor; the earth was being exploited and polluted; disease and despair were everywhere; and Christians weren't known for doing much about it. If it got bad enough, you might even have people rejecting Jesus because of how his followers lived.
That would be tragic.Rob Bell (Love wins, p. 6)