A New Creation
1 Corinthians 15:20–26, 42-49 (ESV) But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death....
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
Given the promised perfection of heaven, there is a danger that we can become “so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly use.” On the other hand, there are some liberal theologians who attempt to portray Christianity as totally focused on trying to effect change in the world.
St. Paul helps us avoid the extremes of Christians either withdrawing from the world or becoming worldly. He argues that we must have hope in Christ in this life and in the world to come, otherwise we would be the most pathetic, deluded people on earth. But since Christ is raised from the dead, we have hope now and forever, since God has given us “the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” On this basis, Paul also urges steadfastness and diligence in the daily labors of our vocations, confident that our labor is not in vain but is God-pleasing and beneficial to our neighbors.
Nonetheless, Christianity’s primary message always has to be the Gospel of eternal resurrected life. While we face many literal or figurative enemies in this life, St. Paul identifies Death as Enemy #1 in 1 Corinthians 15:26. Death is our greatest enemy, ever since Adam’s sin. Christ has conquered death Himself already, and on the last day He will abolish it for good, for all who are made alive in Him by faith.
After death is destroyed, there will be nothing left but a new and perfect creation. In Isaiah 65:17, the LORD says, “I create new heavens and a new earth.” We do experience a “new creation” in a sense right now, since “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). But God’s work of recreation will only be complete in the final resurrection, as St. Peter says: “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13).
The righteousness that dwells there will be the perfect righteousness and holiness of God. Revelation 21 provides a beautiful image of the new creation. Especially note how heaven is not merely spiritual but gloriously tangible, with no shred of the sin and sorrow of the present creation:
Revelation 21:1–5 (ESV) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 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.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Prayer: Lord Jesus, when You were lifted up on the cross, the entire world experienced birth pains as the cosmos was rocked as Your death gave birth to a new creation. Focus our eyes on Your holy cross that we may see it as a tree of life preparing us for Your final coming in judgment as the Son of Man; for You live and reign with the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Prayer requests: for the family of Jeri Gruetzner, who was laid to rest on April 13; for Bessie Mahaffey and Alma Gause, under hospice care.