Summary: Three consequnces of living between Christ’s first and second coming.
Several years ago my mom and late stepfather were hiking back from some hot springs in the desert when they decided to take a shortcut back to their car. That shortcut ended up getting them hopelessly lost in the desert. With the blazing heat beating down on them and with no food or water, slowly they started getting dehydrated. Eventually they couldn’t go on anymore. In the hot afternoon sun, they sat in a patch of shade, as the signs of serious dehydration started taking over their bodies and they started slipping into shock. All they could think of was water…cold, clean, refreshing water.
Well, after several hours of exposure they were rescued, but the only thing their rescuers had to quench their thirst was warm beer. Somehow after longing for fresh water, warm beer seemed to be a huge let down.
Isn’t that what life is like? We wait for things with hopeful, eager expectation, and when we finally get what we were eagerly looking forward to, it’s more like warm beer. As kids we eagerly look forward to Disneyland, yet as fun as Disneyland is, it doesn’t quite live up to our hopes. We look forward to going off to college, to getting married, to having kids, to moving up in the world, to retirement, yet none of these things deliver all we hoped they would. We spend all our time and energy climbing the ladder of success, but when we reach the top we find that the view isn’t nearly as wonderful as we’d once thought it would be.
There’s a restlessness behind our yearnings that nothing can seem to satisfy. Almost sixty years ago, the Christian author C. S. Lewis preached a sermon called "The Weight of Glory" that addressed this very issue (Lewis 361-70). Lewis claimed that the true longing behind all our earthly longings is a longing for heaven. Lewis said, "Our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside" is really a hunger for God himself (368).
We’re like the Neo in the movie The Matrix. Neo knows that life is more than what he’s presently experiencing, and he yearns to know more, to experience more, to break out of his current circumstances and embrace real life. The Matrix is a kind of postmodern parable of the human condition C. S. Lewis talked about.
This experience is especially true of people who’ve become followers of Jesus Christ. You see, Christians live in between two ages, in a tension between the "already" and the "not yet" of God’s Kingdom.
On the "already" side, Jesus Christ has already lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, and risen from the grave to vanquish death. Jesus claimed that his life, death, and resurrection established God’s rule and reign. Yet creation is still dominated by sin, and despair continues to persist, even though God’s new creation realm is invading the old creation.
On the "not yet" side is the future second coming of Jesus Christ’s at the end of the age. We’re still waiting for the final curtain on history to fall, when God’s kingdom is consummated in power on this earth. We’re waiting for that time predicted in the book of Revelation, when the kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah Jesus (Rev 11:15). We’re waiting for the new creation, that time when suffering is alleviated, grieving is soothed, when death is swallowed up by life.
Even though we live in between the "already" and the "not yet," the follower of Jesus Christ belongs to the new creation, to the future. The moment we trust in Jesus and become his follower, we become part of God’s new creation. That’s where our true home is, where we truly belong. We’re like Marty McFly in the old "Back to the Future" movie, stuck in the past but truly belonging to the future.
And because we live in this tension, it’s not always easy to live the spiritual life of following Jesus Christ. Today we’re going to look at three results of living during this in between time.
1. Creation Yearns To Get Back to the Future (Romans 8:18-22)
Let’s look at verses 18-22. Paul is contrasting the old age of Adam with the in-breaking of God’s future kingdom that was established by Jesus Christ. The old age is characterized by glory concealed, while the God’s new creation will be characterized by glory revealed. C. S. Lewis thought this glory was receiving recognition from God, as a proud father recognizes and praises his son (Lewis 366). It’s hearing, "Well done, well done, well done" from the God who made us.