It’s Not Over Yet

On December 16, 1944 German launched its final offense of World War II. The Allied forces had successfully invaded “Fortress Europe” on D-Day in July of that same year and were marching towards Berlin. The offensive lasted until January 25, 1945 and left the German army depleted. But during that offensive, now known as the Battle of the Bulge, the Allied forces were hit hard and their lines nearly broke. The march from Normandy towards Berlin moved so fast that the Allied armies stretched their supply lines thin. Supplies were so low during the battle that one Allied force was to use only ten artillery rounds per day.

One of my favorite HBO series focused on Easy Company, 501st Battalion, 101st Airborne, US Army, called Band of Brothers. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. It’s a masterfully done series that, in m opinion, makes Game of Thrones look like child’s play (Get it? The king is a child?). One of the most gripping scenes of the series comes from the Battle of the Bulge and the 101st Airborne’s occupation/defense of Bastogne. The following is a 9:00 clip from the show’s depiction of the German artillery barrage.

Many theologians like to compare the time of the church to this Battle of the Bulge, and with good reason. Jesus’ ministry in his incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension broke open the doors of sin-occupied creation. In Christ’s work God broke down the walls of sin and darkness and flooded his creation with mercy, grace and light. The church now advances in light Jesus’ invasion. Satan is countering with his own attack upon the Christian advance. Hence the comparisons. We are surrounded in “Fortress Evil” by the forces of Satan, tempted at every turn.

In the first session of Matt Chandler’s The Explicit Gospel, the pastor talks about how the gospel is not just a message for non-Christians, but it’s for Christians as well. To do this, he enlists Paul’s explication of the the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4,

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you,which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (NIV)

.Paul is reminding the Christians in Corinth of the gospel that he preached to them, specifically highlighting the resurrection as he is going to talk in great detail about it in this chapter. But Paul talks about standing in the gospel. And Chandler said that Christian need to be reminded of the gospel because they stand in it. It’s still for them.

There’s more to Chandler’s point that he doesn’t bring out–whether for time or audience considerations I don’t know. Look at the phrase “you are saved.” I like how the ESV translates this a little better, “you are being saved.” The Greek term is sozesthe (σῴζεσθε). It is a present tense, passive verb. This tells us two things. 1.) The Corinthians weren’t the one’s active in their salvation; it was coming outside of themselves. 2.) The salvation activity was ongoing; it hadn’t ended yet.

To put these two points together we see that God hasn’t finished saving us yet. That sounds like blasphemy or heresy but it’s true. Unfortunately, by stopping his quotation at 15:4 Chandler did not give all of Paul’s gospel in 1 Corinthians 15. It continues on in 15:5-9, pauses in 15:10-19, and picks up again in 15:20-28. So that the gospel that Paul delivered to the Corinthians looks more like this

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also,as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God…

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the deadcomes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

What we see is that the gospel doesn’t end with Jesus’ resurrection. The story is still being told. He is presently reigning until he has defeated all his enemies, death being the final enemy. The story only ends when he has handed his kingdom over to the Father and is “all in all.” That happens only after we, Jesus’ kingdom people, have been resurrected in the same manner Jesus has–physically.

And so we live under Jesus’ reign in enemy territory. We need the gospel. We need to remind ourselves daily that Jesus has defeated the enemy. That our victory is assured because Jesus is victorious–he reigns. Jesus has begun our salvation, but he has not completed it. It’s what theologians call the “already-not yet” tension.

Living as the “battered bastards of Bastogne” (a reference to the 101st Airborne after the Battle of the Bulge) is not easy. Only through the gospel does God’s power to save come into our lives. We must remain there, both individually and as a corporate entity, in the gospel, we have any hope to survive. We must fight to believe the gospel every day. If we don’t, we die.

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~ by hankimler on September 19, 2013.

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