The Christian Hope of the Resurrection (1)

In the New Testament every single Christian is referred to as a ‘saint’, including the muddled and sinful ones to whom Paul writes his letters. The New Testament language about the bodily death of Christians, and what happens to them thereafter, makes no distinction whatever in this respect between those who have attained significant holiness or Christ-likeness in the present and those who haven’t. ‘My desire’, says Paul in Philippians 1:22, ‘is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.’ He doesn’t for a moment imply that this ‘being with Christ’ is something which he will experience but which the Philippians will find terrifying and want to postpone. His state (being with Christ) will indeed be exalted, but it will be no different, no more exalted, than that of every single Christian after death. He will not be, in that sense, a ‘saint’, differentiated from mere ‘souls’ who wait in another place or state.

Nor does Paul imply that this ‘departing and being with Christ’ is the same thing as the eventual resurrection of the body, which he describes vividly later in the same letter (3:20-21). No: all the Christian dead have ‘departed’ and are ‘with Christ’. The only other idea Paul offers to explain where the Christian dead are now and what they are doing is that of  ‘sleeping in Christ’. He uses this idea frequently (1 Corinthians 7:39; 11:30; 15:6, 18, 20, 51; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15), and some have thought that by it he must mean an unconscious state, from which one would be brought back to consciousness at the resurrection—so much so, perhaps, that it will seem as though we have passed straight from the one to the other. The probability is, though, that this is a strong metaphor, a way of reminding us about the ‘waking up’ which will be the resurrection. Had the postmortem state been unconscious, would Paul have thought of it as ‘far better’ than what he had in the present? This picture is further confirmed by the language of Revelation. There we find the souls of the martyrs waiting, under the altar, for the final redemption to take place. They are at rest; they are conscious; they are able to ask how long it will be before justice is done (6:9-11); but they are not yet enjoying the final bliss which is to come in the New Jerusalem.

—N.T. Wright, For All the Saints

If you cannot find hope and joy in this, I don’t know what can bring you such.

A Prayer for Our Nation

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Augustine on the Trinity

Is not the Trinity for even greater reasons, but one God? If the love of God poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is given to us, is able to make of many souls but one soul and many hearts but one heart, how much more are the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit but one God, one Light, one Principle?

Tractates on the Gospel of John 39.5

Love Made Manifest

At all times it is works and actions that we need, not a mere show of words. It is easy for anyone to say or promise something, but it is not so easy to act on that word or promise. [Jesus said], to love me is to obey these commands and submit to me, your beloved.

—John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of John 75.1

Thoughts on Jesus

Our Life himself came down into this world and took away our death. He slew it with his own abounding life, and with thunder in his voice he called us from this world to return to him in heaven. He departed from our sight, so that we should turn to our hearts and find him there. He departed, but he is here with us. He would not stay long with us, but he did not leave us.

—Augustine, Confessions 4.12.19

Notable and Quotable

It is written that Yahweh, ‘whose name is jealous, is a jealous God’ (Ex. 34:14). Now jealousy is the resentment of rivals, and whether it is good or evil depends on whether the rival has any business to be there. To be jealous of someone who threatens to outshine us in beauty, brains or sport is sinful, because we cannot claim a monopoly of talent in those areas. If, on the other hand, a third party enters a marriage, the jealousy of the injured person, who is being displaced, is righteous, because the intruder has no right to be there. It is the same with God, who says, ‘I am the LORD, that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols’ (Is. 42:8). Our Creator and Redeemer has a right to our exclusive allegiance, and is ‘jealous’ if we transfer it to anyone or anything else.

—John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts

Real Friends?

In heaven all the “thoughts of our hearts” will be out in the open, but now they are hidden. Someone is considered to be an enemy but perhaps he is a friend. Someone else looks like a friend but is possibly a hidden enemy. What darkness we live in! This one roars at us and he loves; this one whispers “sweet nothings” in our ear and he hates. Judging by their words, I should flee from a friend and cling to an enemy.

—Augustine, Sermon 49.4