The Promise Of Resurrection And The Problem Of Evil

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It is written:

Romans 8:18-22-For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19  For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21  because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.

We travel through this life, and we groan in pain from the various trials that we face.

Sometimes we wonder why God doesn’t “do something.”

We despair, and we hurt.

However, the Word of God brings us hope. The Scriptures look to the resurrection of the dead as a promise that God WILL one Day repair all the things which are wrong, and usher in New Heavens and a New Earth.

One author, Jon D. Levenson, wrote a book defending the ancient roots of the teaching of the resurrection in the Jewish Scriptures (i.e., the Old Testament). It is a remarkable study!

At one point, he writes about the resurrection of the dead and God’s work in the world on that greater Day:

“What it affirms, in other words, is not that we can rely upon God to prevent our falling, illness, imprisonment, and death but that he has the power to reverse these painful conditions and will eventually prove faithful to his promise to do so. That he has indeed made a promise to the dead and can be trusted to keep it becomes evident from the two instances of the root ‘amen in the benediction. The first, reflecting the language of the eschatological resurrection predicted in Dan 112: 11-3 (a text to which we shall devote much attention),’ speaks of God’s “faith with those who sleep in the dust.” What is new here, over against the scriptural base, is the affirmation of God’s faithfulness (’emfinato ). Here, the pronominal suffix is not objective but subjective. It refers not to the believer’s faith in God but to God’s faithfulness to raise to life those who, as Dan Iz:z puts it, “sleep in the dust of the earth.” The same idea appears in the penultimate affirmation that “Faithful [ne’eman] You are to revive the dead.” Here again, the persons praying are only indirectly rectly affirming their own faith that the omnipotent Deity will perform an act of resurrection. That which they directly affirm is God’s fidelity or faithfulness to do so. God can be trusted to keep faith even with the dead. In sum, Gevurot, the second benediction of the Amidah, affirms simultaneously ously the cold, hard, unavoidable reality of death and the unshakable trust that God will revive the dead in the eschatological future. It thus stands among the multitude of texts in the Hebrew Bible (whose language it continually adopts) that maintain that although bad things do indeed happen to good people, they are not the last word. The last word, rather, is a good thing, in this case God’s miraculous intervention into history to grant the dead of all generations new life as he finally secures his triumph over evil and suffering and establishes on earth the kingdom over which he already reigns in the higher realm.’ In this view of things, death does not lose its reality or its grimness, only its finality. Its continued existence constitutes a standing reproach to the God who “keeps faith with those who sleep in the dust” and yet allows them to do so, having (to all appearances) quite forgotten his promise to revive them. In this way, death must be seen as an opponent of the living God whose faithfulness to his promises will not be perspicuous until death is vanquished and eliminated.” (Jon D. Levenson, Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life, 165-179 (Kindle Edition); Yale University)

This hope of resurrection and the glorification of the universe is one of the great themes of the Bible. God reminds us that there will one Day be a new heavens and a new earth:

Isaiah 65:17-For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.

Isaiah 66:22-For as the new heavens and the new earth Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the LORD, “So shall your descendants and your name remain.

2 Peter 3:13-Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Revelation 21:1-Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.

This is what the Apostle Peter preached about in the Book of Acts:

Acts 3:19-21-Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20  and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21  whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.

In describing the “restoration of all things,” Dan Chambers has well commented:

“Getting the right answer begins with getting the right meaning of restoration, and the basic meaning of that word (apokatastasis) is “restitution to an earlier state,” 1 or “to restore to a previous state.” 2 Since “an earlier state” or “a previous state” basically means “the way it used to be,” if someone were to ask me to put the meaning of restoration into my own words, I’d say, “returning something to the way it used to be.” I’ll assume you’re okay with that. Peter’s sermon in Acts 3 is the only place in the entire New Testament you’ll find this noun (apokatastasis). There is a verb form of it, though, that’s found eight times in the New Testament (apokathistemi), and the basic meaning—returning something to the way it used to be—really comes through in those passages. For instance, Matthew, Mark and Luke all record an episode where Jesus restored a man’s deformed hand (Matt 12: 13; Mark 3: 5; Luke 6: 10). Most translations call it a withered hand, but you’ll also see it described as deformed (NLT), shriveled (NIV), and paralyzed (CSB). Whichever word your translation uses, the point is, this guy’s hand didn’t look like, or work like, a normal human hand. The word restored perfectly describes what Jesus did to that wrecked hand. He returned it to the way God drew it up in His original blueprints for the human body. Jesus made the man’s hand look like, and work like, God’s original model of a human hand. He made it as good as new. That is, He restored it. Mark similarly describes a time when Jesus restored a blind man’s sight (Mark 8: 25). Again, the word restored perfectly describes what Jesus did. He took a broken set of eyes and returned them to the way they used to be. He fixed them so they functioned like the first ones God created. In other words, He restored them to God’s original design. Now that we’ve got a good grip on the basic meaning of the word restoration in Acts 3: 21—returning something to the way it used to be—let’s go back to that text. When Jesus comes back, Peter says it’ll be time for the “restoration of all things” which was predicted by the Old Testament prophets. What he means, then, is that it’ll be time for God to restore all things to a previous state. It’ll be the moment God returns everything to the way it used to be. With that in mind, here are a couple of questions to ponder. If, as some people believe, the entire visible, material universe is going to be completely annihilated when Jesus comes back (with the sole exception of us human beings), what exactly is going to be restored to a previous state at that time? What will be returned to the way it used to be? If every sin-infected thing is going to be banished to non-existence when Jesus returns—again, except for us human beings—what will be left that can be restored to a previous state at that time? What will be left that can be returned to the way it used to be? If non-existence is the destiny of every speck of matter in the created, visible, physical realm—once more, except for us human beings—I simply don’t have a clue what Peter is referring to when he says that a “restoration of all things” is on tap for the second coming. What about us? If, as some think, we human beings are going to be the only things exempt from the coming universal annihilation, wouldn’t that make us the objects of the coming “restoration of all things”? Not if our eternal state is going to be some kind of nonphysical, non-material existence in a celestial realm. If our destiny is to be eternally released from a material body, and be eternally removed from a material world, how could anyone legitimately call that a restoration? That’s not being restored to an earlier, or previous, state. That’s not returning us to the way we used to be. That’s a completely new and different state of existence. If we’re going to get Acts 3: 21 right, we’ve got to take the meaning of the word restoration seriously. So where does all this leave us? Well, if we’re going to take the meaning of restoration seriously, we need to ask if anything else in the New Testament might shed some light on the coming “restoration of all things”? Does anything else in the New Testament suggest that something is going to be restored to a previous state when Jesus comes back? The answer is a resounding “yes.” There are definitely other things in the New Testament that shed light on the coming “restoration of all things.” And what, pray tell, are these other New Testament nuggets? How about two of the passages we dissected in the last chapter: 2 Peter 3: 13 and Romans 8: 21? Notice how a straightforward reading of those two verses mesh perfectly with Peter’s announcement of an end-of-time “restoration of all things”: •Acts 3: 21—Peter announces that when Jesus comes back it will be time for the “restoration of all things” which God’s prophets predicted. •2 Peter 3: 13—Peter announces that Jesus’ second coming will bring the long-promised “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” •Romans 8: 21—Paul announces that our bodies will one day be “redeemed” from sin and “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” When you put all those announcements together, it seems to be pointing straight to the conclusion that the coming “restoration of all things” is, in part, the restoration of all creation to its previous, or original, sin-free state.” (Dan Chambers, BRING ON HEAVEN!: A biblical deep dive into the nature of our forever home, 73-76 (Kindle Edition); Franklin, Tennessee; Faith Works)

Through Jesus, God has already begun to deal with the problem of evil, pain, and suffering. Thanks to Jesus’ resurrection, we can have victory when we (as baptized believers) live in hope of the Return of Jesus.

Romans 6:3-4-Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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