With v19 we come to the great turning-point of this epistle. Up until now the writer has been dealing with matters mainly doctrinal. Now he turns to things primarily practical. Verses 19-21 are transitional: bridging the gap between these two sections of the epistle. Then follow three urgent exhortations: ‘let us draw near to God’, v22; ‘let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess’, v23; ‘let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds’, v24.…
Statistical. In NT times the average life expectancy was 35-40. This didn’t change much until about the year 1850. By 1950 it had risen to 65. Now it’s around 80. Somewhere in the world a person has been born who will live to the age of 150. Over half the people born today will live to the age of 100.
The story of Abraham is the story of a promise. Back in Genesis 12, the Lord had called him from his home in Ur with the promise that he would make of his descendents a great nation, and that all peoples on earth would blessed through him and his descendents.
There’s just one problem: Abraham has no descendents. He and his wife Sarah are both elderly, and she has been childless all her life.…
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Tom Wright (Surprised by Hope, SPCK) places considerable emphasis on this verse, coming as it does after Paul’s great affirmation of physical resurrection. Although I do not think that Wright offers a novel interpretation of this verse, I do think that he draws out its implications more clearly and helpfully than most:-
For Paul, the bodily resurrection does not leave us saying “so that’s all right; we shall go, at the last, to join Jesus in a non-bodily, Platonic heaven”…Belief in the bodily resurrection includes the belief that what is done in the present in the body, by the power of the Spirit, will be reaffirmed in the eventual future, in ways at which we can presently only guess.
Most of us (writes Tom Wright in Surprised by hope, 206-213) take ‘salvation’ to mean ‘going to heaven when you die’; implying that this present body and this present world will be left behind and the ‘soul’ will fly off to some disembodied existence.
But this view scarcely counts as ‘rescue from death’. Rather, it colludes with death by denying that God’s good creation really is good, and that he intends ‘to reaffirm that goodness in a wonderful act of new creation at the last’.…
Some people ask (says Tom Wright in his Surprised by Hope, 201-206), ‘even if Jesus was raised from the dead, what difference does it make?’ Indeed, even Easter hymns can give an inadequate answer by obscuring the fact that Jesus’ resurrection guarantees something more than life in some kind of future ‘heaven’.
But when the New Testament strikes the great Easter bell, the main resonances it sets up are not simply about ourselves and about whatever future world God is ultimately going to make, when heaven and earth are joined together and renewed at last from top to bottom.
We do not subscribe to the myth of progress – the idea, popular in earlier evolutionary thinking, that the world will get better and better. Nor do we believe, with Plato, that we are souls in transit, passing through this illusory world on our way to to something beyond space, time and matter.
The shape of things to come is determined, in biblical thinking, by the threefold story of creation, rebellion, and redemption. We can tell the story of Jesus as the moment all creation has been waiting for:-
Equally, the story can be told in terms of Christ’s victory of sin and death as brought about by human rebellion.…
“We look for the resurrection of the dead”, says the Nicene Creed.
“I believe in the resurrection of the body”, we declare every time we recite the “Apostles’ Creed”.
These ancient affirmations are well-grounded in Scripture, most obviously in 1 Corinthians 15, but also in Romans 8 and other passages. They are also consistent with the teaching of 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21 and 22 that confirms that the future hope of God’s people is not for their bodies to remain buried for ever in the ground of this earth and for their “souls” to fly off to “heaven”, but for bodily resurrection and for future life in God’s new heaven and new earth.…