Remember how the writer to Ecclesiastes bemoaned the fact that life appeared futile and kept repeating itself. “Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new’?” (Eccl. 1:10). Today, I wish to conclude this series on harbingers by considering two new things.
The Resurrection of Christ
It is not unusual for people to seek to divide up history into eras, ages, periods, epochs. Those who believe in biological (macro) evolution certainly seem to enjoy doing so.(1) Christians like to do so too based on Biblical history as they understand it. One such breakdown delineates seven major periods or dispensations,(2) beginning with the age of innocence. If I might simplify things even more, I suggest we could divide up human history into two major periods: the old creation and the new creation.
The old creation, of course, began when God created the heavens and the earth in six days as described beautifully and succinctly in Genesis 1. But after a period of Edenic bliss, that age of innocence was disrupted by the fall. The corruption of creation ensued (Gen. 3, Rom. 8:20, 22). The entire physical universe began to wear out, to break down (Heb. 1:10-12). It’s getting old.
I mentioned in my third post in this series that when the Son of God was crucified, mankind reached the bottom of the barrel. It was the most despicable thing that man could do, killing the only sinless person to ever walk the earth. But we all know that that was not the end of the story. Something new happened three days later that marked the beginning of a new creation.
People are people. They tend to be skeptical of that which they’ve never seen before or heard of before. Thus, some of the most learned people of the first century living in the Greek culture prided themselves on their wisdom (I Cor. 1:22), and mocked the messenger when he preached to them the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We read in Acts:
A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some
of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems
to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the
good news about Jesus and the resurrection. (Acts 17:18)
The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave three days after His death is the foundation of Christianity. It’s also the hope of the world, regardless of the skepticism that people have had and continue to have concerning it. If God can make the entire universe out of nothing (Heb. 11:3), then He can miraculously bring a dead body back to life again. In fact, some people had already been raised from the dead even in Old Testament times (see I Kings 17:17-22; II Kings 4:32-35; 13:20, 21), but they eventually died again. By contrast, Christ’s resurrection was so new that He was raised up in a glorified, imperishable body, never to die again. Now that’s new!
It was also the breaking in of the new creation into the old, a sort of overlapping of the two great ages. While this current creation still exists and continues to decay and wear out, God in His goodness has interjected a harbinger of the future which is almost beyond belief. Someone has overcome death in an ultimate sense and thereby provided the hope that all will not finally end in death and destruction. This old creation will pass, and our mortal bodies with it. Plus, the wicked will be wiped off the earth (see Part 1-3 of this series). But a new humanity will arise modeled after the resurrection of Christ. Consider these verses:
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who
have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the
dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be
made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then when he comes, those
who belong to him. (I Cor. 15:20-23)
For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
(I Cor. 15:53)
Friends, this is good news, unless you have a particular fondness for death. The term, “firstfruits,” refers to the idea that the first fruit picked after planting and waiting is the promise or guarantee of a harvest of fruit to come. Christ’s rising from the dead is the promise or guarantee of others rising from the dead later on. That we can have life after death --- not just soul life, but physical life --- is amazing. And it is guaranteed to be so because of that glorious harbinger of the future given to us by God in the bodily resurrection of Christ.
Finally, I want to talk about the harbinger of Eden itself. What is Eden? It is that garden of beauty and joy where God placed our original parents, Adam and Eve, so they could enjoy Him and their life experience on the planet made for them. What was it like? Consider these verses:
Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put
the man he had formed. The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the
ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of
the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
A river watering the garden flowed from Eden . . . The LORD God took the man
and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Gen. 2:8-10, 15)
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking
in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8)
Of course, God also made the creatures for mankind to enjoy and gave him dominion over the earth. It was an idyllic environment. God and Adam and Eve enjoyed close communion. But sin ruined it all. Nevertheless, Eden was not forgotten. The beauty and joy of that place would be restored someday in the mighty redemptive plan of God. We read of the new earth in Revelation and hear echoes of what was long ago:
Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with
them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their
God . . . (Rev. 21:3)
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing
from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the
city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit,
yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the
nations. No longer will there be any curse . . . They will see his face, and his name
will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night . . . And they will reign for
ever and ever. (Rev. 22:1-5)
Eden will be restored and be more glorious than it first was. The paradise that was lost, as John Milton poetically wrote about, shall be regained. What was will be.
I began this series of five blog posts with the thesis that “God is good by giving us a record of past events that act as harbingers of future events, thereby helping us to prepare for them.” There are other similar harbingers I have not spoken of. But I trust that these nine I’ve discussed will suffice to support my thesis. These harbingers were: the days of Noah, the days of Lot, one language, the routing of the Canaanites, the glory of the nations, the antichrist, the coming of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and Eden. These past events act as forerunners or previews of yet future events. By taking serious note of them, we have time to prepare ourselves spiritually with repentance and faith in Christ before these events overtake us --- “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance” (Rom. 2:4). Finally, God is not only good but also very great in order to be able to orchestrate history and carry it out as planned. Because of this, what was will be.
(Bible verses quoted are from the NIV.)