The World To Come

It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless these days.

It seems like everyday we turn on the television, get on the internet or listen to the radio, we are confronted with the latest issues plaguing our world. Whether natural disasters, radical Islamic terrorism, mass shootings, or domestic social/political unrest, one is regularly informed with the worlds ills, tragedies and misfortunes in the news cycle. Sadly it’s become the norm. I wish this wasn’t true, but it’s hard to deny it. I can’t remember the last time a whole week went by when I wasn’t informed about some major crisis this world wasn’t facing.

As a result of all of this, it’s totally understandable for one to question, doubt and even lose hope in a future world that looks any better than the one that we are currently living in. All suspicion seems to be warranted. How could it not? Our basic human instinct is to withdraw from any real sense of hope when things look as grim as they do. Subsequently, our human fragility is at full display. We quickly come to terms with how small and powerless we truly are. Anger, fear and anxiety are soon to follow. The universe suddenly doesn’t look as friendly as it once did when we were children. We quickly become grown-ups and are faced with the hard truth that the world is a cold, unpredictable and unjust place.

What’s left is how we respond to this reality.

One option is denial.

Here we lie to ourselves and pretend the world isn’t what it actually is. We block out the news and ignore the reality “out there.” This is the idea that if it doesn’t directly effect us, it doesn’t exit. So we go along with our day as if nothing bad has happened. We post cute pictures about our life and the world we live in on social media. As far as the denier is concerned, conflict and tragedy have no place in our conversations. Our homes, schools, work places, social media outlets and relationships are restricted from the messy day-to-day ills of society. They become safe zones. There was a name for this game when I was a kid – it was called make believe.

Another option is despair.

Here the cynicism from all the evil and injustice sets in and we are left with existential nihilism. This is the idea that nothing in the world has real meaning or intrinsic value.  Any belief and hope for a better world is written off. To imagine otherwise, would be futile and plain ignorant. For the nihilist, existence itself is unacceptable. In the final analysis, “nothingness” is the highest order. You see, the nihilist believes in nothing, has no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy. The ills of the current world trump any hopes of imagining a good and meaningful world. According to the nihilist, we are in a preverbal malaise with nothing worth living for. As a result of all the ill in the world, anger usually sets in and soon retribution is a viable option to explore. Since this worldview contends that there is no intrinsic meaning in life, moral accountability naturally goes by the wayside. Hence, impulsive actions for grievances are therefore justified with no moral consequences to consider. This is not only unproductive for human flourishing, but it is also dangerous. Once we believe in nothing, we believe in anything.

But we all know neither one of these options are healthy.

So what’s left? Where do we go from here?

There is a third option: hoping for God’s future world to come.

In the story of God, the reader discovers a cosmic battle between good and evil. God is determined to have victory over the forces of darkness, using divine love and justice to bring about the restoration of His good creation. In the grand scheme of things, God has already completed this work in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here we are comforted in Jesus’ words even before his death, as he told his disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (Jn 16:33).” That being said, the full restoration of the created order in human history has not yet come to pass. As some have suggested, God’s complete reign is “already here, but not yet.” Meaning, although God has already acted in human history in the saving work of Jesus Christ, His sovereign reign over all of creation is still actively being manifested throughout history until the eschatological drama is complete, when all things are made new (Rev 21-22). On that last day, Jesus will perform three important functions (1) judge the world, by condemning the wicked and vindicating the righteous, (2) receive homage from the whole creation and (3) hand over the kingdom to the Father so that God will be all-in-all. Meaning, there is an ultimate destiny for all of creation, when the great triumph of God over the forces of evil is made real and the establishment of a new heavens and a new earth is the result. Until then, we will unfortunately suffer the ills of a broken world in need of a full recovery.

But as hard as it may be, be of good cheer, we could be living in the days of the parousia, giving us a heightened sense of confidence and hope that the injustices of the world will finally come to an end, where sickness, pain and death no longer have a stronghold over God’s creation. Consequently, the church becomes a place to celebrate the completion of God’s grand story. Evil has an expiration date. Hence, the church patiently anticipates and welcomes the parousia, the spirit of God and the final judgment, for then and only then, will God be all-in-all.

So let us not side with the false options of denial or despair. We have a better option – we have the promise of God – a future world that is to come, full of restoration and peace. Jesus defeated evil once-and-for-all on calvary and because of his resurrection, those who turn to him, will one day enter and inherit a new world, where sickness, pain and death no longer exist. Here the intended world of God will finally be the only world left for us to see, hear and read about in the news – one that reports the glorious triumph of God, His love for His people and their love for one another.

This is the good news I report to you.

May it come to pass.

In Jesus name.

Amen.

 

 

 

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