I’ve been studying for a message I’m giving this Saturday morning on “Christ our Coming King” for Eastbrook‘s monthly men’s breakfast. I came across this quotation from N. T. Wright in his book Surprised by Hope, that captures so much in such a small space that I couldn’t help but share it.
What we have here, with minor variations, is a remarkably unanimous view spread throughout the early Christianity known to us. There will come a time, which might indeed come at any time, when, in the great renewal of the world that Easter itself foreshadowed, Jesus himself will be personally present and will be the agent and model of the transformation that will happen both to the whole world and also to believers. This expectation and hope, expressed so clearly in the New Testament, continues undiminished in the second and subsequent centuries. Mainstream Christians throughout the early period were not worried by the fact that the event had not happened within a generation. The idea that the problem of ‘delay’ set out in 2 Peter 3 was widespread in second-generation Christianity is a modern scholar’s myth rather than a historical reality. Nor was the idea of Jesus’s ‘appearing’ or ‘coming’ simply part of a tradition that was passed on uncritically without later generations really tuning in to what it was saying. As with the ascension, so with Jesus’s appearing: it was seen as a vital part of a full presentation of the Jesus who was and is and is to come. Without it all the church’s proclamation makes no sense. Take it away, and all sorts of things start to unravel. The early Christians saw this as clearly as anyone since, and we would do well to learn from them.
(N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, page 136)
In a recent posthumously published series of lectures, I came across this statement by Lesslie Newbigin on the resurrection. These words particularly leaped out to me in light of our recent journey through 1 Corinthians 15 at Eastbrook Church called “Resurrection Hope.”
Christ gives us the victory because He has broken the power of sin, and in breaking the power of sin, He has broken the power of death. Death is still a fact. In Adam all die. The barrier is still there. What we are assured of in Christ is that death is not the last word, but that God in His mercy is able out of the ruin of corruption and death of men and of man’s social institutions to raise up that perfect incorruptible society which is our true goal. It is the assurance that that goal is in the end to be reached – though we cannot reach it in a straight line by our own power. (Signs Amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History, p. 50)
Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Resurrection Victory,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church, the final week of our series, “Resurrection Hope,” from 1 Corinthians 15, looking specifically at verses 50-58.
- When you hear about the resurrection of the dead, what sort of things come into your mind?
- This week we conclude our series, “Resurrection Hope,” on 1 Corinthians 15. Whether you are alone or with a small group, begin by asking God to speak to you and then read 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 aloud.
- Paul brings together the various parts of his discussion of resurrection here, drawing implications both for those who are alive at the time of Christ’s return and those who have already died. Paul states a basic principle in verse 50 that normal, human bodies cannot “inherit the kingdom of God.” Why do you think Paul begins with this principle?
- The phrase “kingdom of God” is common in the Bible, appearing eleven times in Paul’s letters, four of which are in 1 Corinthians. In general, the kingdom of God refers to the rule and reign of God entering into human existence. What is Paul referring to here in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58?
- In light of the reality that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” Paul says that we will all be changed (once in both verse 51 and 52). What sort of change is he talking about for both the living and for the dead at this time (see verses 42-44, 50-54)?
- What is Paul’s central, high point of celebration in verses 54-57?
- What do you eagerly anticipate at a personal level about the ultimate victory over death at Jesus’ final return?
- You might expect Paul to end with verse 57, but in verse 58 he turns the corner into our everyday lives here and now. What specific areas of our lives should be touched now by the hope of the resurrection? Which of these leaps out as most important in your life now?
- What is one thing God is speaking to you through this study? If you are alone, write it down. If you are with a small group, discuss these things with one another.
These are the sort of questions we delved into this weekend at Eastbrook Church in my message, “Resurrection Victory,” This was the fifth and final weekend in our series entitled “Resurrection Hope” that draws from Paul’s words on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15.
The outline and video file for the message is below. You can view the message online here or listen to it via our audio podcast here. You can now access all the messages from the “Resurrection Hope” series here. You can also visit Eastbrook Church on Vimeo, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.