Sin & the Fall 7
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death for ever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.’
He has founded his city on the holy mountain. The Lord loves the gates of Zion ... Glorious things are said of you, city of God
Already in our experience of redemption, even in the context of this age, we have begun to appreciate something of the enormity of what is achieved through the cross. And yet truth be told, we have barely begun to lift our eyes toward the horizons of all that’s accomplished in Christ’s death. At a personal level we have only enjoyed the foretaste of what salvation means, and so much of the benefit we do currently enjoy is beyond our capacity to experience in any meaningful way. We live, after all, by faith, not by sight (II Cor.5:7). As intimated at the end of our last study, we can barely imagine the impact of the cross in resolving the complex inner turmoil sin has created in the life of the Trinity.
And yet throughout this series we have consistently run up against the tension that is born out of the ongoing existence of sin and a fallen creation, of an enduring history lived in rebellion against the Lord. In so many ways we are waiting for our experience of the cross to catch up with what has in fact already been attained. It is perhaps comparable to the delay we perceive between a flash of lightening and the crash of thunder… we have seen the flash of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension; we await the crash of the consummation of the New Creation, the Kingdom of God in all its fullness, established through His own resurrection from the dead.
Again this is true for us at a personal level. ‘By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy’ (Heb.10:14). Note the tenses we live between. On the one hand, ‘He has made perfect’. This is a great example of where a chasm opens up between what has in fact been accomplished by the Cross, and what is experienced by us of that accomplishment. Yet that experience is growing, for on the other hand ‘[we] are being made holy’. Through the Cross the Holy Spirit is at work in us transforming us into His image (II Cor.3:18). Paul alludes to the same tension, ‘Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day’ (II Cor.4:16). That tension will only be resolved in our bodily resurrection.
And again, what is true for us personally, is true for this passing age, this fallen tragic world of sin and death. It too is ‘wasting away’. Decay and degeneration lead inexorably to death, yet it too awaits resolution in resurrection. Creation too lives in the tension between what has been accomplished and what waits to be experienced (see again Rom.8:18-25). And in that tension, it too knows the ministry of the Spirit, slowly, at times imperceptibly, reclaiming facets from the fall. But as for us, that tension will only be fully resolved through a resurrection.
Creation will go through the ravages of death; it will be purified, having all vestiges of the curse stripped from it, all scarring of sin, all shadow of death and decay. The structures of evil that are so deeply embedded will be utterly dismantled, and creation itself will endure a cosmic destruction. In the same way as our bodies are destroyed in death, creation is destroyed, laid bare (II Pet.3:10). Like a garment taken off to be washed, it is cleansed and changed (Heb.1:11-12). It is hard to overestimate the work of renewal that needs to be done, the cataclysmic dislocation between the ages. For us this world is normal. We are so accustomed to sin and death, sorrow and decay. We may not like the cruelty and brutality of this world, but neither have we known anything different. But the LORD God knows this isn’t ‘normal’. He knows that there is a different life, a life without death, or mourning, or crying or pain. He knows that everything needs to be made new. This whole order of things needs to be done away with (Rev.21:1), and all things renewed (Matt.19:28), before the fullness of the accomplishment of the cross will have been revealed. Then all things will indeed have been reconciled to Him, ‘whether things on earth, or things in heaven … through His blood, shed on the cross’ (Col.1:20).
Does it surprise you that ‘things in heaven’ also need to be reconciled to God through the cross (Col.1:20)? Why do you think this is the case?
Do you think God is in control of sin, death, evil and suffering? What makes you think what you do?
I promised we’d come back to this question at the end of the series to see if we have changed our thinking as a result of our studies together?
…and more generally, has your thinking about sin and the fall changed over the last few weeks? In what ways?
Read II Peter 3:3-15
What do we learn about the end of the age from the history of Noah (vv.5-6)?
What is the significance of the fact that at the second destruction, the means will be ‘fire’ rather than ‘water’?
How does v.9 & v.15 sustain our commitment to evangelism and outreach, both individually and as a Church at MIE?
What does the image of the ‘thief’ (v.10) convey in this passage? How should it affect us, and shape our thinking about discipleship?
Peter argues for our growth in holiness both from the destruction of this present, old creation (v.11), and our anticipation of the future, new creation (v.14). Which of these do you find more compelling? Why?
A defining characteristic of the ‘new heaven’ and the ‘new earth’ will be that it is ‘where righteousness dwells’ (v.13). That stands in sharp contrast to this old creation which is of course where sin dwells. How do you think this will affect life in the New Creation?
I know this is an immense question - but have a go! You might be surprised at what you come up with…
Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
For further reflection:
The tragic irony of the fall - and of our whole subsequent history - is that what we strove to acquire in it was already our destiny. Satan (who is a liar and the father of lies, Jn.8:44) promised we would be like God. Aside from the fact that we had already been created in His image and likeness (Gn.1:26, and it is worth remembering that it was in fact Satan who wanted to be like God, Is.14:13), it is perhaps worth pondering what knowledge we thought we would gain.
To be ‘like God, knowing good and evil’ (Gn.3:5). I’m not sure that sentence even makes sense! God did not know evil be experiencing being evil. And besides we already knew evil the way God did… He had told Adam what evil was: to disbelieve and disobey him, and plunging creation into death. Humanity actually ends up being utterly unlike God, and knowing evil in a way God never did.
If Adam and Eve had resisted this temptation, recoiling in horror (as they should have done from one who could dare insinuate that the Lord who is Truth could have lied, Gn.3:4), humanity would have remained God-like in every way we were designed to be. If they had retained their humility we would have been exalted, but as it is they sought self-exaltation and were debased. They sought freedom and autonomy, and were enslaved and cursed. They sought life and tasted only death. They sought vision and knowledge and found only darkness and ignorance instead.
It’s probably worth remembering that the next time we are faced with temptation. In spite of all its fleeting pleasure (Heb.11:25), sin is always rooted in deceit. Not only does it never deliver what it promises but it always robs us of something God has already graciously and generously given us.