Lesson 10: Hope 1

Let’s take a look at “hope” as we continue our study of the triad used to describe the Christian life. For what do we hope? A quick word search finds the object of Christian hope is usually our own resurrections or our sharing in the glory of God, two ways of saying the same thing.

So let’s turn to I Corinthians 15, the most important passage for examining resurrection. I think it presents a far better understanding than most of the silly theories we hear. The chapter starts with our earliest account of Jesus’ resurrection appearances and goes on to claim what happened to Jesus is what will happen to us. Christ’s Easter resurrection is just the first event in a process that includes all. Jesus’ resurrection might be a singularity now; in the end all his people will participate.

When Paul talks of resurrection, he does not mean simply being restored to life. To be resurrected is to be transformed into another kind of existence. In fact, you do not need to die to be resurrected. I Corinthians 15: 51proclaims, “We will not all die, but we will all be changed”.

He says we are transformed into a new glorious body. Just as Jesus was raised in glory, so we shall be. First, be aware he is not talking about an eternal soul being taken from a finite, physical body and placed into an eternal, spiritual one. It is better to translate “body” as “person”. Second, notice we are not being raised for a Last Judgment. To be raised is to be raised as a person sharing God’s glory already. I John 3:2, 3 proclaims, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him”. I Thessalonians 4: 13- 5: 11 also pictures us being raised already transformed. (It is especially important to read the Thessalonians passage carefully, as it is used incorrectly to support the crazy Rapture theory. It and I Corinthians 15 might better point to universal salvation.)

This forces us to ask what “glorified body” means. Paul speaks of the glory of animals, birds, fish, sun, moon, and stars a well as humans. Their glory refers to their proper roles in God’s creation. Resurrection is to restore all to what was intended in God’s original good creation. In fact, some like to translate “resurrection” as “recreation”. The glory of humans then is to be restored to the image of God. We shall be all we can be, all we should be.

Our hope is that the promise of Jesus’ resurrection will be fulfilled. Ahead of us is an Age of Righteousness when all shall be put right. All shall be in a right relationship with God, other people, and the creation. All shall know justice, all shall live in love. As Paul says this hope removes our fear and enables us to confront life’s challenges with courage. “Faith and love spring from hope” ( Colossians 1: 5)

If we are preparing ourselves and our world for this future, we have to translate this early concept of resurrection into 21st century terms. Let’s tackle that one. What does all this mean for you?

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