In the previous post, we saw the end the world created good by God but corrupted by humanity’s sin. Now, under the reign of sin, the ‘world’ means “humanity as it is dominated by the darkness of false loves, false values, and false knowledge.” It is our enemy as we fight to live a life of godliness before God. In this post, we want to see the future of the world as it will be redeemed from sin, and why the world now poses such a problem for God’s people.
The World Redeemed from the Fall
God has purposed to redeem the world from its sinfulness. Again, this is part of what makes the incarnation so amazing! Think again about all that the word ‘cosmos’/world means, and consider this famous passage again – John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Realize that it’s not about breadth – the number of people God loves. It’s about depth – the deep level of sinful depravity that God has mercy on and chooses to redeem to reveal his glory. Previously, we said that the New Testament uses the phrase ‘this age’ and contrasts it to the ‘age to come.’ Jesus inaugurated, or began, the age to come with this first coming. The kingdom of God broke into this present evil age. All of the promises in the Old Testament of the messiah and his reign over God’s enemies, the peace and prosperity he would bring, the rest he would win for his people, the coming of the day of the Lord – all of these things have begun to be fulfilled in the coming of Christ.
However, though Christ initiated these things, he did not bring them in their fullness. This he will do upon his second coming. Scholars call this the already/not yet tension. It is the tension brought about by an overlap of the ages – this present age and the age to come. This is what makes living now as a Christian so difficult. We are pulled in two directions. We are a new creation in Christ, part of the age that is to come, but it has not yet come in its fullness. We still live in this present, sinful world.
Although we are already new creature (2 Cor 3), we have not yet arrived at what we will ultimately be (Heb 10). Though, God is presently making us holy (John 17). In the already/not yet tension, we are living between the ages. We have already died to sin, but have not yet had the sin destroyed from our bodies. We still have to fight the world, sin, and temptation (1 John 2). When Christ comes to retrieve His bride, the process will be completed and we will be perfectly sanctified (1 Thess 5).
Eventually the present world order will pass away to be replaced by the kingdom of God, which will extend over all creation (Mark 13:31; 2 Pet. 3; Rev. 21). The logical and appropriate consequence of one God’s provision of salvation through one human is one world confessing this God to be Lord (Phil. 2:10-11; cf. Is. 45:23). Then the three parts of creation, that is, heaven, earth and netherworld, will again fully belong to the one from whom they came (Phil. 2:10 cf. Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:20). This will truly be a new creation. In Christ, we already participate to some extent in this new creation and are challenged to live according to the values of this new world (e.g. in Col. 3:1-5).”
Because the age to come has not yet come in its fullness, we must constantly resist the downgrade of our affections and actions. We must constantly resist the pull of this sinful age on our hearts and minds. Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2).
There is tremendous pressure to simply go along with the flow. But God calls us to give our affections to him and not the world. To allow our minds and hearts – the very way we think about the world and how we are to live in it – to be shaped by his word and a love for him. It’s not easy and it may seem as if it’s a futile endeavor sometimes. But we must remember Jesus words to his disciples; words that can still encourage us today – “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).