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The End of the World as We Know It

My post on the Sola Panel today:

Today, millions of Christians across the globe will join together to celebrate the end of the world as we know it. I’m talking, of course, about Good Friday—the celebration of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This is an event of cosmic significance—an event in which the world as we know it came to an end and the new creation came into being.

Do you see it?

Jesus did. As Jesus was about to die, he started speaking about the end of the world—the sun and moon being blotted out, the stars falling from heaven, the coming of the Son of Man in clouds with great power and glory (Mark 13:24-27). In John’s Gospel, Jesus teaches that the event of his own crucifixion is the judgement of the world as we know it (John 12:31-33).

Paul saw it too. He believed that Jesus’ death was the reconciliation and renewal of the entire cosmos:

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Col 1:19-20 NIV)

It doesn’t necessarily feel like the world has ended, does it? The world as we know it is a world of death, sickness, bushfires, wars, struggles against deeply ingrained sin, pain, and frustration in our relationships and work. Where is this new world? In one very real sense, it’s in the future. There is a time at the end of history when this cosmic reconciliation will be fully revealed for all to see (1 Thess 4:16-17). Death will be reversed, and we will live with God forever. But the reason that we can be confident—that we can encourage one another with these words (1 Thess 4:18)—is because this future hope isn’t just a vague wish that God will do something in the future. It is, rather, a physical revelation of a reality already achieved in Jesus’ death and resurrection (1 Thess 4:14).

Why? It’s because, of all those things that are wrong with our world (wars, abuse, sickness and even death), for those who trust in Jesus Christ, the most terrible, horrible aspect of that old world has been done away with. In Jesus’ death, God’s judgement on sin has come and gone. Jesus has taken the penalty for sin. And as we trust in Jesus through God’s Spirit, our own judgement is complete, done, over. His death for sins has, in the most fundamental sense, rescued us from the present evil age (Gal 1:3-4).

Physically, we still live in this unrighteous and death-bound world. Horrible things still happen. We still cry out for justice to be done. We still sin, we still need forgiveness, and we still struggle to live in trusting obedience to God. But our fundamental reality, by faith in Jesus Christ, is that we are already living in a new creation. We don’t look forward to a fearful expectation of the judgement to come. Instead, we look back—back to the new world that has come—the righteousness that is in Christ (1 Cor 1:30), the judgement on sin that he has already suffered, and the forgiveness that is thereby secure and complete. And we also look forward to that future where our salvation from God’s wrath will be fully revealed, where our physical natures will catch up to our spiritual reality, and where the new world in Christ will be seen for what it is. So now we cling to Christ and keep looking back to the end of the world.

Have a joyful Easter and a Great Friday.

Published inAtonementEschatologyPaul

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