When Liz and I visited her family for Christmas in Slidell, Louisiana, we attended her home church, Grace Memorial Baptist. What impacted me most during the service was not the intended message of the sermon, but rather something that the pastor said toward the end that was thought provoking to me. I would like to think it out in this blog post.
“This world will fall. We have two options: either be raised with Christ or destroyed with the world.”
Revelation chapter 13 speaks of “fallen Babylon”. This is John’s way of referring to the world of man-made empires that will not last. Throughout history, sinful man has tried to glorify himself by boasting of crowning achievements and gaining what he perceives to be control. Babylon is such an example. Rome is such an example, but at the time that Revelation was being written John’s audience had yet to see this proven. The Kingdom of God, however was established before the foundation of the earth. This Kingdom is not one of trivial pursuit, perverted desire for control, or a temporary illusion of power. It is eternal and unavoidable. It is here and will come. “This world” as it refers to such godless grasps for power and control “will fall” as we have seen happen throughout history with the tower of Babel, with Babylon, and with Rome.
Believers who take part in the resurrection of Christ are raised from death and saved from the world. It is interesting to me to think about the similarity, and yet the difference between these two. Death is permanent. If you die and are not raised, life ceases for you. This is an unfortunate reality for all of us. The world is temporary in the sense that the material will pass away, and that is something that we would naturally need saving from. At least that’s what we’ve been taught. Though one thing I’ve been wrestling with for a while now is how God’s plan of restoration and redemption will take place, what it will look like. Will God rapture us away to heaven up there and beyond? Or will God actually salvage, no, completely restore, “set to rights” (N.T. Wright) the fallen world that we have known. Will the dying trees be given everlasting life? Will faded grass, suddenly project a hue that we have never known? Might Heaven actually come to earth instead of the earth being destroyed? Could the New Jerusalem that John wrote about in Revelation in fact be an Old Jerusalem transformed? Could rapture mean something that happens to the heart of the sinful person who allows Christ to change him or her, a spiritual relocation from being in and of the world to being “in the world but not of the world”? What if instead of being raised with Christ to ascend from this broken world into a heaven far away, we are raised from death and the sinful world (not earth itself) that will be destroyed in a way that actually brings heaven to earth? Even more amazing, what if the church, believers, the body of Christ as it were, are literally meant to embody heaven on earth until the day the two are combined permanently?
Of course, Heaven could not contain the present evil of this age. It could not be a place where God and sin dwell simultaneously, not without barriers anyway. John describes the New Jerusalem as a place with no barriers. So, when the New Jerusalem does “arrive,” when the Kingdom is fully consummated on earth, something will be destroyed. Sin, evil, brokenness, hurt, and all other results of the Original Lie will be no more.
“This world will fall. We have two options: either be raised with Christ or destroyed with the world.” This world will fall, but we must make sure we know what is meant by “world”. I’m not sure I fully understand yet. But one thing I am coming to understand – it is all about resurrection. This is what makes Jesus different from all other central figures of religion or faith. In Him, through Him, and after His example we are to be raised from death to life.
The pastor at Grace Memorial said, “If you are not raised with Christ, when the world falls, you will not be left standing.” This may sound harsh or maybe even arrogant, but there is a humbling truth in it. It reminds me of a verse that most Christians know – “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” ~ Philippians 2:10-11. There is no hope for withstanding the fall of world (perhaps better termed “the remaking of the world”) apart from Christ. The world will not crumble around the one who is not in Christ. Paul said of himself and other believers in Christ, “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life…” ~ 2 Corinthians 2:15-16.
My prayer for you today is that wherever you are, you will realize that God’s grace is sufficient for you, for His power is made perfect in weakness (Cor 12:9a). God bless.