This devotion is not about passive waiting, as you might do in a doctor’s office for an exam, diagnosis, or treatment plan. Although we’ve been examined and found lacking, in need of healing and the diagnosis is total depravity in every part of our being, we have great news. The treatment plan will provide for something beyond anything medicine can do—a perfect body, soul, heart, and mind one day. Our responsibility is to take the medicine daily—the gospel of Jesus Christ—and strengthen our faith by its daily application to our lives. The gospel is God’s sovereign plan for eternal shalom and has been delivered to us and published publicly. By it, we know God’s sovereign plan for our health when our Savior returns. Whether our physical or spiritual home will be in heaven or on the new heavens and the new earth—it will be a home of utter and complete peace. In this world, everything is in the process of dying from the moment of birth. However, one day, there will be no death and no decay—only peace, health, safety, and joy.
Some people avoid going to a doctor because they don’t want to hear that there is something wrong with their bodies. As we all know, pretending that there is nothing wrong won’t change the fact of a medical deficiency or illness. Ignoring a problem will usually make it worse. We have a promise of complete healing, but the remedy is only partial in this world. The treatment begins now, with the gospel, but won’t find it’s perfect result yet. This devotion will continue to draw on our Scripture from the past, Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Our peacefulness here depends on our appropriate application of this truth for the end of the age. “Christians are squeezed between the ‘already’ of what has arrived and the ‘not yet’ of what is still to come. Let me give you some examples: we already have the forgiveness of our sins, but we do not yet have the consummation which Christ’s death and resurrection have secured. We already grow in sanctification, but we have not yet been glorified…the last hour of this age which is decaying and will pass away. But it has not yet passed away, and the new heavens and the new earth have not yet dawned.” (1) In their book, Phillips and Fluhrer discuss and explain the problems of over-realizing and under-realizing biblical eschatology. “Over-realized eschatology leads to a kind of triumphalism that seems to think that everything that you are going to get in the future you get right now…Healing, transformed personalities that approach sinless perfection, perfect love, perfect marriages, perfect wealth, perfect satisfaction, perfect contentment—it’s all yours right now! Name it; claim it! After all, Christ has secured it.” (2) Those who “claim” victory now live as if the cancer of sin has been eradicated, rather than being in daily treatment with soul-chemo through the gospel.
The Bible reaches into the core of the believer’s being, like a super-CT scanner, to expose the virus that needs the gospel’s attention. As the gospel is applied, a little bit of that sin-virus is destroyed, and his health is so much better! He can live freely, knowing the disease isn’t fatal to his soul; but the effects of the sickness are not completely gone, yet. The Bible is our source of good news, along with the bad. Warnings against idolatry, rebukes for neglecting and forsaking God and his commands, and the apostasy of Israel and Jesus’ neighbors point to the diagnosis of sin in us. But the treatment is a sure cure. The patient heartedly proclaims, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’ The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the Lord to Zion.” (Isaiah 52:7-8) “The longed-for message of peace . . . good news of happiness . . . salvation is summed up in one glad cry: Your God reigns—the victory of God over every oppression is now a reality…As the lone messenger approaches the city of God, the watchmen on the wall shout the good news that the King is returning.” (3) Who wouldn’t be glad and have a more exceptional experience of peace, knowing that Christ is here with his omnipotent, sovereign rule to establish justice? Why shouldn’t we be rejoicing, having been pardoned by the blood of the King, justified by his righteousness, and able to enjoy increasing goodness of God’s grace?
And yet, some of us do not experience the joy of our returning King to the full extent of the treatment offered to us. In the medical analogy, we avoid the doctor and his medicine, or the physical therapist and her work. We would rather mope around with the sickness, limited by its influence, and enslaved by its untreated presence. If this describes you, “…you have an under-realized eschatology, [and] you will fail to appreciate what you actually have in Christ Jesus now. You not only have the forgiveness of sins and the joy of being once and for all declared just before God because of what Christ has done, but also have ongoing cleansing from sin! What a blessed relief that is for God’s people day by day. He has poured his Spirit out upon us, so that we begin to love what we didn’t love and hate what we didn’t hate. Our personalities are changed, our goals are changed, our values are changed, and our direction is changed. All of this is because the gospel is the power of God for salvation to those who believe (Rom. 1:16). It is not merely some declaration of a status…It is also power.” (4) At the risk of using another analogy, it’s as if, once on vacation, we only think of the home we’ve left rather than the destination—did I turn off the water? Will the cat be ok? Will my neighbor remember to get the mail and feed the cat? Did I forget anything? But, we are our way; treatment has begun, there is hope based on our sure future with Christ and we can look forward to our destination.
I confess that I err as an under-realizer or God’s promise for our complete healing from sin. But, “These Last Days” has been a great source of encouragement to me, and I hope to you. Perhaps quoting from “How God provides for partakers in the age to come” will help you as it has helped me. (I also recommend that you download the chapter from the cited website of The Gospel Coalition.) Here are six ways that the Lord is providing for believers as we actively wait, with hope, peace, and assurance, for the day to come, based on Ephesians: (5)
- “God provides for our utter transformation out of sheer grace, received through faith alone. This whole salvation is itself a gift from God…he transforms us into those who do good works.”
- “All kinds of cultural barriers between the two have existed, but now one new humanity has been brought into existence…We are given a panoramic view of the ultimate new humanity, with men and women drawn from every tongue and tribe and people and nation. All gather around the throne on the last day.”
- “…He discloses his concealed purposes in anticipation of the end…what God has kept secret in the past, but has now revealed.”
- “…God does more than we ask or imagine and thereby elicits prayer from us in anticipation of the end…God would work in us to make us grow in holiness and in depth of appreciation for his love for us, because we cannot be mature without such increasing depth of appreciation of his love for us.”
- “…God builds truth and unity into his body in anticipation of the end…how you live, how you speak, how you love, how you deny yourself—all of this is in anticipation of what will be on the last day.”
- “God equips and arms his people in anticipation of the end…[with the] full armor of God, which he so richly provides to his saints, as he equips and arms his people in anticipation of the end.”
As we actively apply the treatment of the gospel to ourselves and others, between the “already” and the “not-yet” of our salvation, we are encouraged to press on with greater security, peace, and joy, knowing that the best is yet to come. As you wait for that day of utter shalom, are your feet beautiful, with “…shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace?” (Ephesians 6:15) How does your life demonstrate your trust in God’s sovereignty now and your ultimate possession of holy shalom with him? Will you remember that “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’” (Isaiah 25:8-9)
(1) Phillips, Richard D. Phillips and Fluhrer, Gabriel N. E., eds.“These Last Days: A Christian View of History–Partakers of the Age to Come,” Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2011. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/these-last-days/
(3) English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Isaiah 52:7-8, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
(4) Phillips and Fluhrer, ibid.
August 16, 2016