This singular and passionate focus on the future consummation, which Paul clearly intends as paradigmatic, often gets lost in the church — for a whole variety of reasons: in a scientific age, it is something of an embarrassment to man; in a world ‘come of age,’ only the oppressed think eschatologically, for reasons of weakness we are told; in an affluent age, who needs it? But Paul’s voice should not be muffled so quickly and easily. For a race who by their very nature are oriented to the future but who have no real future to look forward to, here is a strikingly and powerfully Christian moment. The tragedy that attends the rather thoroughgoing loss of hope in contemporary Western culture is that we are now trying to make the present eternal. Hence North Americans in particular are the most death-denying culture in the history of the race. How else, pray tell, can one explain cosmetic surgery having become a multi-million dollar industry?
In the midst of such banal hopelessness the believer in Christ, who recognizes Christ as the beginning and end of all things meaningful, needs to be reminded again–and to think in terms of sharing it with the world–that God’s purposes for creation are not finished until he has brought our salvation to its consummation. Indeed, to deny the consummation is to deny what is essential to any meaningful Christian faith. Paul finds life meaningful precisely because he sees the future with great clarity, and the future has to do with beginnings–the (now redeemed) realization of God’s creative purposes through Christ the Lord. There is no other prize; hence nothing else counts for much except ‘knowing Christ,’ both now and with clear and certain hope for the future.
Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum et vitam venturi seculi. Amen.