Continuing to look at The God I Don’t Understand by Chris Wright. This time, chapter 10 ‘The Great Climax’ – the return of Jesus which Wright calls the ‘grand finale of all the work of God in history.’ This chapter packs a lot in, so I’m summarising hard.
Following a well established pattern, Wright says that three things will characterise this return. It will be:
– PERSONAL: ‘This same Jesus’ will return [Acts 1:10-11]
– VISIBLE: a public, universally witnessed event
– GLORIOUS: in contrast to the hiddeness and humbleness of his first coming, his return will reveal the glory of the risen Lord
In effect this encourages believers in the present that:
– Christ reigning: in the midst of ambiguity and suffering, Christians have a firm hope in the present reign of Jesus
– Christ returning: his return offers hope of justice, healing and restoration of all that is ugly and broken in this world
– Christ redeeming: similiar to the point above – our longing for a world put right will at last be fulfilled
Tied into this great climax are two climatic events:
The RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD
All the dead are raised, those ‘in Christ’ and those not. This of course is outside our understanding or imagination, but the Bible affirms that death is only the end of a person’s involvement in this life, it is not the end of the person himself or herself. This resurrection will bring all personally before God himself.
The FINAL JUDGEMENT
So often judgement is seen as unfair or awful. Wright wants to affirm first that it is good news. Justice is good news. At last all injustice and evil will be confronted and eradicated for good. Judgement is an act of rectifying all wrongs, putting right all relationships and establishing peace and harmony.
Such judgement belongs to Jesus and will be completely just – in contrast to so much imperfect human justice.
Such judgement will be according to the light that we have received. This is how he puts it:
nobody will be condemned for what they did not know or could not do. Rather, we will be judged by how we responded to the light we received – whatever measure of truth and revelation God enabled us to have, by natural or human witness. We wil be judged by what we did or did not do, in response to what we did know.
Judgement will also be according to the lives that we have lived. Now at this point I can hear evangelicals pricking up their ears and saying ‘But that’s works!’. Well, yes. We will be judged according to our works. A good evangelical should be able to agree with the Bible on this one [Rev 20:12-13; 2 Cor 5:10; Mt 7:21-23 for example]. As James says, faith without works is a sham. They reveal the authenticity of faith.Christians are justified through faith in Christ and can have assurance for the future because justification rests on what God has done. But genuine saving faith bears fruit.
Wright uses 2 Thes. 1:8-10 summarises the fate of those who have rejected God: condemnation, exclusion and eternal destruction. This is the awful reality that gives the good news added urgency and infinite importance.
The final chapter turns to the new heavens and the new earth – the ultimate goal of the redemptive Mission of God.