I am on my way home from Dayton, where I had the pleasure of speaking at a conference hosted by Covenant Presbyterian (OPC). The other speaker was David Van Drunen, a gracious Christian gentleman, who provided fruitful interaction. This post is intended to help address some of the questions that came up between and after the sessions, in the hope of clarifying
The question is this. Taking the phrase from The Last Battle, I believe that no good thing is ever lost. This is susceptible to misunderstanding, and requires further explanation. It would be easy for those of the Escondido mindset to believe that our postmillennialism could have the effect of making us believe that we will enter the final, eternal state by gradations and degrees. In other words, if we believe that everything is gradually getting better, then why might it not do so Is it possible for us to sidle into the resurrection? Well, no.
Let me answer the question first, and then move into a few weird examples. When the dead are raised, it will be the end of the world, and the end of the world is not the kind of thing that will be noted on the evening news. There will be a fundamental discontinuity between life now and the eternal state. While I believe (for various compelling reasons) that we are living in the new heavens and new earth now, I most emphatically do not believe that this is the final and ultimate state.
“When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).
The end of the world will be a cataclysm, but a good one. It will be the eucatastrophe, and the transformations that will occur will stagger us no less than if they all happened tomorrow morning.
So I do believe, for example, that we are going to sing Handel’s Messiah in the resurrection, but I also believe we are going to get it right. The model for everything that is preserved is found in our own resurrection. While it is true that our labor in the Lord will not be in vain (1 Cor. 15:58), and thus we may long for things we do now to be glorified then, that glorification will still be most necessary. Our works — the ones that survive that great eschatological flash — are works that are currently, like ourselves, weak, dishonorable, perishable, and so on (1 Cor. 15:42-43). Water does not rise above its own source, and our works — those that are not wood, hay, and stubble — will undergo as remarkable a transformation as we do. Narnia will be completely different because it will be much more like itself.
Paul argues that there is astounding discontinuity between the seed we are and the plant we will be (1 Cor. 15:49). And yet, there is a line of continuity that can be traced between the seed and the plant that will be. We do not privilege one over the other, but when it happens we will certainly notice the discontinuity more.
Speaking of seed, let me appear to change the subject, but I am not really doing so. We need to consider for a moment the apostle Paul’s teaching that animals will participate in the resurrection.
“And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed it’s own body. For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish” (1 Cor 15:37-39).
If the flesh of animals, the flesh of fish, and the flesh of birds are all different kinds of seed, what is the crop? He says this in the same breath as when he says that human flesh is a kind of seed. That human seed is the seed, and the resurrected body is the crop. There is no reason for assuming that beasts will be excluded from the glory that is coming. Why would they be?
One other thing, in case anybody has not come to the conclusion that I am being weird. If cities partake of this (and I think they do), then this generates a host of interesting questions. I am in Chicago as I write these words, so let’s use Chicago.
Jesus seems to indicate the participation of cities in the judgment, albeit on the negative side of things. Sodom, Tyre, and Sidon were all long gone by the time Jesus spoke His warning to Capernaum (Matt. 11:22-24)., and yet Jesus spoke in a way that indicated that they were not out of the picture. We have the image of converted nations was the kings of the earth bring their honor and glory into the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:24).
So, the Chicago of what era will be there? I raise the question so that I might have the opportunity to cheerfully say I don’t know. I don’t a lot about a lot of subjects, but especially this one. It does not yet appear what we shall be like (1 John 3:2). The creation groans toward this day with inarticulate yearning — but the whole created order is longing for the day when the sons of God are revealed as the sons of glory (Rom. 8:19). The entire created order fell when man fell and the entire created order is longing for the day when we are restored and revealed, for that is the day when everything will be restored.
And this is why I say that everything will indeed be restored, and this is why I say that no good thing will ever be lost. This is why I say that extinction is not forever. And it will be no trouble at all for the divine Wind to remake the Windy City.