Here we are at the beginning of a new year, and its usually at this time that everyone comes out with some of there predictions for the future, both for the next year and maybe some even more long range. Here (http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2016/12/us/2017-predictions/) CNN looks into its crystal ball, predicting things such as Donald Trump approval rating and who will win the world series. Or, here (http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/2016-year-in-review/11-surprising-predictions-2017-some-biggest-names-science-n701136) nbcnews offers 11 surprising predictions from the biggest names in science. So yes, were often bombarded with stories at the beginning of each year with bold predictions for the next year, but also, people are thinking more broadly, like this story (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/mathematician-humans-extinct-2017-apocalypse-fergus-simpson-doomsday-argument-a7426451.html) about whether or not humanity will go extinct any time soon. Whether it is clickbait just feeding our worries or an actual existential threat, people are interested in the future of humanity. Broadly speaking, you can see two general questions emerge. Question #1. Is there a future for humanity? Will we make it? Will we survive? How long? Question #2: What sort of future is in store for humanity? Artificial intelligence, gene editing, new mind and body drugs and technology that will get the most out of our potential. Can we stop the aging process? Eradicate genetic deformity and diseases?
My predictions. Actually, these are not my predictions, these are simply the truths the Bible proclaims about our nature.
- Humanity will continue to be fruitful and multiply.
- Humanity will continue to naively assert their autonomy from their Creator.
- Humanity will continually underestimate their moral and intellectual depravity.
- Humanity will continue to suffer and die
But it is not the full picture. What is the future of humanity. Well, the paper are correct in their morbid focus on survival, for it is unavoidable that the human experience is death
This should not surprise us as it is our universal experience. What might be surprising to us is how the Jesus defines death and how He overcomes death, and what it means for the future of humanity.
John 5:25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
Spiritual Death Overcome By Salvation Call
What we see first here is that Jesus affirms the reality of spiritual death, that it is our primary concern, and that He has come to raise us to spiritual life. Notice that He is not speaking of some future resurrection of the dead: “An hour is coming and is now here”. Jesus is speaking of something that happens in the present. Notice these are the living dead: “the dead will hear”. And that the live Jesus offers is found in Him, through the hearing of His voice - the call to salvation. We human beings are preoccupied with physical death, the moment we take our last breath. All advances in health science, whether in behaviour modification or technological or medical advances, are concerned with physical death. Yet the reality of the scriptures which Jesus is assuming and affirming here is that death is primarily spiritual. God was not lying to Adam when he warned him: “In the day you eat of it you shall surely die.” They indeed did die. Not physically, immediately, but spiritually. For God is the source of all life, not merely the origin of life in creation, but in the sustaining of life through His power. He has life in Himself, He is the self-sustaining One and every other creature in the universe is dependent upon His sustenance. In cutting ourselves off from God through our rebellion and rejection of Him, we have cut ourselves off from life. This is spiritual death. Yet Christ has come, light into darkness. His words are the words of eternal life. The Son has life in Himself and has been appointed to proclaim life to all who will hear and heed His voice. The word of the Gospel that Jesus proclaims has the power to raise the spiritual dead to spiritual life.
2 Cor 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
What is spiritual death? if it something you feel? I mean we use the expression, “i feel dead inside” and if we’re honest, we all go through period of times that we just don’t feel anything at all. And (to be really honest) sometimes we don’t necessarily even feel anything toward God. These are hard times. Be careful here. Evangelicalism in our age is very affected by Freud and pop-psychology. When we read that Jesus came to bring us life, we think that Jesus came to give us the “good feels”. Now, in coming to life from Spiritual death, i believe that you will have experiences of joy, of peace, of close communion with God, moments when you are overwhelmed with the presence of God and the Spirit calls out Abba! Father! But how does Jesus describe this spiritual life? 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Those who are spiritually alive have a sensitivity to and a gracious reception of Jesus and His Word. So the emphasis is not so much on emotion, but on reception. Spiritual death was a rejection of God and His Word, cutting us off from him; spiritual life is a reception of God and His Word, communing us with Him.
Physical Death Overcome by Resurrection Call
Jesus moves on from speaking of spiritual death, to addressing physical death. In verse 28, he speaks of those who are “in the tombs.” While, this is our great concern, is a secondary concern to Jesus. to understand physical death, we again have to go back to who we are as human beings created in God’s image.
Gen 2:7 then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
The dust of the earth signifies the physical or material part of our make-up as humans while the breath of life signifies our spiritual or immaterial part of our make-up. This is what makes us human, the immaterial and the material together, the inner and outer man; spirit/soul, body. Now we think of physical death as cessation of life, but what death actually is a separation of soul and body.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
This is why it is so uncomfortable to be around death - even if the deceased is Christian. Because it is an unnatural state, to see the lifeless human, devoid of the animating soul within. The Greeks thought that this was the point. That the material world was lesser, soiled, unwieldy and that at death the soul would be freed and leave the shell behind. That’s not the Christian worldview. We don’t see matter as evil, we recognize it as corrupted, but it cannot be evil, for God is the Creator of all things and called it good. Understanding this is death, the separation of soul and body, then resurrection is the reunion of soul and body. And so Jesus speaks to the resurrection of all people, both good and evil. That just as God first called the world into existance, Jesus will extend another call, which will raise the dead to life, and call us to account. That’s the future of humanity. Resurrection. Resurrection to bodies fit for eternity. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:42:
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.
Yet Jesus here is not concerned with how we are raised, but what we are raised to. We’re concerned with the question, “Is there life after death”, Jesus is concerned with proclaiming to us the type of existence we will experience after death and he reveals that there is not just a destiny for us, but there is a destination. There is a resurrection to life and a resurrection to judgement.
The resurrection to judgement is described in Revelation 20:11-15
Rev. 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Here is the terrifying thing: there is no resurrection corresponding to the second death. This is why Jesus warned us: Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Christians, we sometimes are criticized for and feel embarrassed that we spend so much time “obsessing” over the afterlife, but this was a primary part of Jesus’ teaching. You university students, no one faults you for taking a couple of years to prepare for your future, its seen as a wise thing to invest a small amount of preparation for a lifetime of work. Again, you workers, no one faults you for preparing for retirement - you devote a portion of your focus and resources to ensure that you are taken care of when you reach a new season of life. So why is it odd that, we would heed the words of the one who raised from the dead, the one who knows our humanity and the future, and take time now to prepare our souls for eternity? Only a fool would show up for a job interview for which he has not prepared, or expect to take out of a retirement account in to which he has not invested. Jonathan Edwards: “It becomes us to spend this life only as a journey to heaven . . . to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labour for or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end and true happiness.” Heed the salvation call, so that when the resurrection call comes you might not be raised to judgement, but to life.
Rev. 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Rev. 21:5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
That’s the future of humanity. I am going to let you in on a little secret, and it may possibly rock your world – there is no “heaven” – at least not how we normally conceive it. The end of the bible, in talking about our eternal home, does not speak of a spiritual home in the clouds, in which we fly away to be with God. We think of heaven as where God lives – and so when we die, we leave earth to go to live with him. The bible teaches the exact opposite. At the end, God moves in with us (Rev 21:1-3). The place he is preparing for us now in heaven, will come down out of heaven and be located on the new earth, in which we will live forever. The future of humanity is not that we are disembodied spirits floating on clouds in heaven, but that we are raised to incorruptible bodies, dwelling with God together on an uncorrupted, spotless earth. We’ve never experienced this humanity