Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Russell Moore: Why Jesus Doesn't Promise Us an "Afterlife"

There is a great article in Christianity today by Russell Moore called "Why Jesus Doesn't Promise Us an 'Afterlife'".

Take a few minutes to read it all but here are a couple good quotes:
"Often we Christians start our gospel proclamation with triumph over sin. Fair enough: The gospel of Christ is indeed the reversal of sin, and of death and hell. But without a broader context, such teaching can treat Christ as a means to an end, a step from the alpha of Eden to the omega of heaven. In a truly Christian vision of the kingdom of God, though, Jesus of Nazareth isn't a hoop we jump through to extend our lives into eternity. Jesus is the kingdom of God in person. As such, he is the meaning of life, the goal of history, and the pattern of the future. The gospel of the kingdom starts and ends with the announcement that God has made Jesus the emperor—and that he plans to bend the cosmos to fit Jesus' agenda, not the other way around."
"Our preaching isn't just information sharing; it's the voice of Jesus through his kingdom assembly, clearing the way for the new regime (2 Cor. 5:20). If you want to know how the kingdom works, look at how we care for and honor the poor (James 2:5). If you want to see our "platform" for how we'll run the universe with Jesus, watch our congregational decision-making meetings (1 Cor. 6:1-8). Even our "spiritual gifts"—so misunderstood in contemporary times as means for "plugging people in" to programs—are kingdom resources. Your gift—whether mercy, hospitality, teaching, or encouragement—is a "spoil of war" (Eph. 4). Jesus is "staffing up" his kingdom now, like a presidential transition team establishing a shadow government between Election Day and Inauguration Day."

"If the kingdom is what Jesus says it is, then what matters isn't just what we neatly classify as "spiritual" things. The natural world around us isn't just a temporary "environment," but part of our future inheritance in Christ. Our jobs—preaching the gospel, loading docks, picking avocados, writing legislation, or herding goats—aren't accidental. The things we do in church—passing offering plates, cuddling crack-addicted babies, or fixing the "pop" in the sound system—aren't random. God is teaching us, as he taught our Lord, to learn in little things how to be in charge of great things (Matt. 25:14-23)."

"Perhaps we dread death less from fear than from boredom, thinking the life to come will be an endless postlude to where the action really happens. This is betrayed in how we speak about the "afterlife": it happens after we've lived our lives. The kingdom, then, is like a high-school reunion in which middle-aged people stand around and remember the "good old days." But Jesus doesn't promise an "afterlife." He promises us life—and that everlasting. Your eternity is no more about looking back to this span of time than your life now is about reflecting on kindergarten. The moment you burst through the mud above your grave, you will begin an exciting new mission—one you couldn't comprehend if someone told you. And those things that seem so important now—whether you're attractive or wealthy or famous or cancer-free—will be utterly irrelevant. "

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