Dr. John B. MacDonald
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If you knew your future, wouldn't that change your present?

Recently, I was chatting with some Christians when the topic of future events came up. These future events were unfulfilled prophecies in the Bible, also referred to as eschatology, or events of the last days.

The comment was made that they weren’t interested in these unfulfilled prophecies and didn't see them as relevant to their lives.

I can understand how disinterest or irrelevance results from arguments about end times aimed at satisfying curiosity or proving a point.

But, what if God has a purpose in these disclosures of the future designed to impact your present life?

God has a reason

God does not disclose the future without a reason.

A. Berkeley Mickelsen writes:

Any disclosure of the future was given to influence present action.”

Here’s the example I used in the discussion.

We read 1 John 3:1-3 together.

The end of verse 2 discloses something of the future, stating “… we know that when [Jesus] appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

Every person in Christ will immediately and ultimately be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ when he appears at the moment of his return.

Yeah, I get it. So what?

John then tells us how this influences present action (3:3):

“Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”

The disclosure of our complete transformation at the moment of Christ’s future return has been given to motivate us to an urgent present ethic of purity.

God has a reason for disclosing the future to us.

Another cluster of ‘spirit’ words

We’ve been identifying clusters of the words “Spirit” and “spiritual” in the Corinthian letters.

Our goal in this is to discern how we can cooperate with the Spirit in his process of transforming us into the likeness of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The next cluster of these words occurs in 1 Corinthians 15:42-49 – a chapter about resurrection of the human body. Here are the specific statements (15:44-46):

[the body] is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.

 First, let’s observe a few things about this text:

  • “Spiritual” is not contrasted with physical, it’s contrasted with natural.
  • Adam and Jesus are contrasted. Adam is a “living being” (Genesis 2:7); Jesus is “a life-giving spirit.”
  • An agricultural metaphor is used – burial of a dead body is portrayed as sowing a seed. A seed generates a new life.

Second, let’s remind ourselves what the word “spiritual” means. Here’s what Bible scholar, Gordon Fee, writes:

“… spirituality is defined altogether in terms of the Spirit of God (or Christ). One is spiritual to the degree that one lives in and walks by the Spirit; in Scripture the word has no other meaning, and no other measure.” 

What does this mean?

There’s a lot in 1 Corinthians 15. Here are a few brief conclusions about 15:44-46 and their context.

1.       The historical event of Jesus’ physical resurrection is God’s proclamation that death is not the end.

2.       Since Jesus was resurrected, all “in Christ” will be resurrected at some time in the future. Jesus is “a life-giving spirit.”

3.       Your resurrection body will not be a fresher version of your current “natural” body – it will be different. Your resurrection body will be a physical body like Jesus’ resurrection body (Philippians 3:21); a physical body prepared by the Spirit for the life you will live after your resurrection.

So what?

God is disclosing something about the future of those who are “in Christ.”

We recall that “any disclosure of the future was given to influence present action.”

How is this intended to influence your present action?

Here’s how Paul concludes (15:58):

Therefore, my dear brothers [and sisters], stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Disclosure about your future resurrection body is meant to motivate you to “stand firm” – to be firmly or solidly in place – in your present way of life “in Christ,” and to fully engage now in doing what the Lord has given you to do.

And so, for my friends who see no relevance in the Bible’s unfulfilled prophecies, I encourage you to listen to these disclosures of the future with care. They are intended to influence your present action.

Align your current thinking, planning, and living with God’s future.

Aligning your future with God’s future is one way in which you cooperate in the present with the Spirit in his work of transforming you into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

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Photo credit: ndaporta via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

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