The Risen Christ: On Hope and the Death of Death

A chapter from a manuscript that I’ve worked and reworked for the past 7 years (and drastically changed as writing this is what sent me in the direction of Orthodoxy). No idea on when or if I’ll ever publish it, but I find this chapter extremely appropriate considering the celebration of Pascha (Easter). 



What is hope? It seems that in our modern world there is quite a bit of talk concerning the idea of hope, but there’s not a lot of explaining what hope actually is. To some, to “hope” is to wish that things will get better at some point. We hope our team will win the Super Bowl. We hope the economy will improve. We hope our situation will get better. But with such hope, there is never an assurance that such hope will be fulfilled. The hope is not authentic and cannot be authentic, because such hope can let us down, and a hope that can fail is no hope at all.

This lack of authentic hope is the position the disciples found themselves in the morning after the death of Jesus. They had dedicated their lives to this rabbi, but He was now dead and buried. He did not swoon, He did not fake His death; He was dead. If He were attached to modern medical equipment, all signs would indicate that He had died on the cross. This left the disciples depressed (Luke 24:21). They had “hoped He would redeem Israel,” but now He was dead.

Though Christ had prophesied His resurrection, the disciples had not paid attention. It is not as though they sat around waiting for Christ to resurrect. They honestly and truly believed that Christ had died. And who could blame them? They knew that Jesus had been placed in the tomb. It’s not as though they lived in a primitive culture that lacked an understanding of death; they were sitting around in the upper room because they knew Christ had died and they, like us, knew that the dead don’t come back.

Death is Consumed Continue reading

On Pascha (Easter), or the Hope of Things to Come

Icon of the Resurrection

Icon of the Resurrection

Once in the Garden of Eden, at the beginning of our sorrows, the pre-incarnate Christ walked within the Garden looking for Man and Woman. He knew what had occurred. He knew His creation had rebelled. He knew the pain and suffering that was to come.

We can almost hear the pain as we read the most overlooked, but painful words within the entire Bible, “And the LORD God said unto them, ‘Where are you?’” God knew where they were, He knew where they were hiding; His question was a rhetorical one. Man answered and admitted to his rebellion and Woman confessed what she had done. The march toward Calvary had begun.

In a small insignificant town in the Roman province of Judea, the Christ child was born. God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, Son of God who was present at creation and the Fall, had come to fix what was broken.

We cannot begin to fathom what the world looked like through the eyes of Christ. For Him to walk in human flesh amongst His creation, to see the effects of sin on His world, what did the incarnate God feel? “Where are you?” He must have uttered to creation as He walked through the various towns of Judea.

God asked Man and Woman where they were, but He did not wait on them to come find Him. He instead went into the world to find them.

God incarnate, who cursed Man for his rebellion, who sought after Man in the Garden, hung upon a cross. The crafty serpent of old thought he had defeated God, but Christ arose, solidifying His solution. The serpent had bruised His heal, but He had crushed the head of the serpent.

“Where are you?” His question echoes throughout human history up to the present age and all the way to when He returns. “Where are you?” As He watches humanity rip itself apart, as He watches humanity turn against Him on a daily basis, He must be asking, “Where are you?”

In the first garden man was cursed with death. In the resurrection the curse on man was lifted. In the first first garden man tore himself away from God. In the garden of the resurrection, God united Himself to man. In the first garden we were cursed because of the fruit from a tree. In the garden of the resurrection, we were saved because of Who died upon a tree. The first garden was a paradise after creation and cursed in the fall, the second garden was cursed but was made paradise because of God’s recreation. In the first garden Man was lost, but in the second garden Man was found.

Yet, in this rebellious world there are those who are covered by His Son. Just as Man and Woman needed a covering to hide their nakedness, their shame, we too have a covering to hide our wickedness, our shame. Our covering is Christ. There is a future hope, an end to our suffering, a time where we will not sin, where we will be done in our rebellion.

There will be a time when those who suffer from physical ailments, from these disease-ridden bodies, shall be given new bodies where such pain is gone. The blind will look into the eyes of Christ and see the wondrous acts of His love. The deaf shall hear with clarity the songs of the angels praising God almighty. The hungry will feast with the Lord at the great banquet table. The orphans shall feel the loving embrace of their Heavenly Father and no longer feel the sting of loneliness.

There will be a time when the oppressed shall experience freedom in the presence of the Spirit. Those who are bed-ridden, those who are diseased, those who suffer constant pain will walk amongst God’s beautiful creation, dancing and leaping across His land with Christ by their sides.

But all of this pales in comparison to the reconciliation we will have with Him. We will no longer offend Him. We will no longer contradict Him. We will be in perfect union with the Father as we fall down and worship Him eternally. We will no longer have to hear those painful and cursed words, “Where are you?” We shall instead hear His soothing words of grace; “I have found you.”

On Lent and Pascha or, Lent As an Icon

IMG_0482The Western Church has already entered the Lenten season and the Eastern Church has just begun its journey, yet in many ways the congregants have been on a Lenten journey their entire lives. If we boil it down, Lent is an icon for our present life. Lent requires us to sacrifice certain aspects of our dietary preferences to instill a type of self-discipline. At the same time, Lent works to focus our attention on our sin and guilt before God, all in preparation for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection (Easter or Pascha).

The ancient Israelites held to a strict diet to reflect that God chose them. Contrary to popular belief, this diet doesn’t really have many health benefits (it does compared to modern dietary habits, but that’s mostly due to everything being real food as opposed to chemically enhanced and genetically modified food). The dietary restrictions existed as a type of self-discipline, as something small to be faithful in so that they could be faithful in bigger things. The Mosaic dietary law, or the pre-Christ fast, lasted up until Christ. One Christ fulfilled the Law there was no need for the dietary restrictions; Christ had come into our world and redeemed everything. We were set apart and chosen as God’s adopted children through the sign of the cross and by partaking in His blood and body. We could celebrate by eating all that God put before us.

Of course, if Christ ended the Hebraic fast then why do we continue with a Lenten fast? Because just like the Hebraic fast, the Lenten fast is not solely for self-discipline. Rather, both bring to mind the idea that while we are on this earth, we suffer. In other words, this present life is a type of Lent, one in which we must work to obtain self-discipline, but one that also begets suffering. Thought Christ is risen from the dead, we are not, at least not yet. We fast as a reminder that we are still enduring a Lent. That’s the beauty of Christianity, it is steeped in paradox; we ended the Hebraic fast because Christ came, we fast in self-discipline now because Christ is here, and we fast as a reminder of suffering because Christ will come.

In the course of life, we are birthed from two wombs. One womb is that of our mother. We grow in her and eventually come into this world. The second womb is the earth; we all die and eventually find our way back to the earth (whether through burial or the spreading of ashes). At the resurrection we escape the womb of this earth into the eternal life to come. Lent, therefore, serves as an icon for these wombs and preparation for them.

In the first womb, a fetus will kick his legs, move his arms, and even move his mouth. None of this is vastly beneficial within that womb. However, it prepares the fetus for birth, it prepares him for skills he will need once he is in this world. Within this world, as he grows, he learns certain ethical standards. Many of these standards help him to get along in this life, but others don’t bring vast benefits within this life. These commands, however, prepare him for the life to come. While he is in the womb of the present, he learns the self-discipline necessary that will benefit him in the life to come. Lent serves as an icon for this struggle in that it teaches us to obtain self-discipline by abstaining from certain foods; the foods aren’t evil, but the practice benefits us.

It is what comes after Lent, the celebration of Pascha, that also prepares us for the life to come. The feast that we engage in isn’t just for the now, isn’t just so we can enjoy meat and wine after not tasting it for a few weeks. It’s to prepare us for the ultimate feast, where we will no longer suffer under the Lenten season that is life, but instead shall bask in an eternal celebration of Pascha. Lent is an icon of our present life, while Pascha is an icon of the life to come.

In our current Lent, we are forced to abstain from life. We suffer from disease, deformities, and a whole host of ailments. Our sin forces us into this fast from true life. We war with each other and even against our own nature. We must take on a somber attitude in many places because of how fallen our world is.

We await the Paschal feast, the one that shall never end. We await the day when Lent is no longer necessary because we have been birthed into the new life. We await the day when the disabled must no longer partake in the fast of this life, the fast that prevents them from wholeness, but instead shall run to the eternal Paschal feast. We look forward to the time when the hungry will feast, the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the poor shall be rich, the oppressed shall be liberated, the fatherless shall have a family, the rejected shall find acceptance, and the sinner will be made a saint. Just as we look forward to the Pascha feast throughout our Lenten season, let us be reminded that though we are in the Lent of life, we should also look forward to the eternal Pascha that is to come.

The Problem of Evil and Pascha (Easter)

Icon of the Resurrection

(Apologies on the long post, but the Resurrection warrants it. Feel free to bookmark this post and come back to it if time is needed to read it. This is also partially an excerpt from a yet-to-be-published manuscript I’ve written [if anyone is interested, let me know], so I hope you enjoy)

It may seem an odd time to write about Easter, considering it’s nearly midnight (EST United States) and that Easter was a week ago. However, for those who don’t follow the Western calendar, Easter, or better known as Pascha in the East, will begin tonight at midnight. The Pascha service is always celebrated a week after Passover for the very simple reason that this is how it occurred in the Bible.

That being said, as some may note I recently wrote about the failure of Greater Good Theodicies. As for a workable solution for the problem of evil, tonight’s celebration serves as both the explanation and the solution for the problem of evil. While philosophers have debated as to how an all-powerful, all-benevolent God could allow evil to exist for centuries, that all-powerful, all-benevolent God answered these philosophical inquiries by dying on a cross and raising from the dead.

How is it that evil exists within this world? Sadly, it exists because we allow it to exist. When we talk of “good” and “evil,” we must remember that we are talking about substance vs. non-substance, that is to say that “good” actually exists whereas evil is simply the privation of that good. What is good? Goodness is an attribute of God, thus God is good; God is present and active in all the acts of goodness that we see. Thus, when we choose evil, we are choosing to work against God. Since we were endowed with free will (which deserves another post on why free will creatures who can sin are better than determined beings who cannot sin), we can actively choose to limit God’s interactions with this world. While this doesn’t limit His presence and while His sovereignty is not infringed (as He can act against our actions, though not in an overbearing way as to negate free will), it does mean that God allows us autonomy. In fact, that is the root of all sin, that we desire autonomy from God. God grants us this autonomy, and the consequences of our desires is what we call evil. We are the cause of evil.

But what of natural evil? What of tsunamis and tornadoes? What of animal suffering? The answer to this goes back to creation; as we were created in the image of God to hold dominion over the earth, our actions were tied to the outcome of creation. In our sin, we negatively impacted creation and subjected it to sin. While we in the West love individualism, we must understand that individualism is not an accurate picture of life. We are tied to each other and creation. While we are each individuals, we are not autonomous individuals. Tomorrow when I eat carrots and green beans, my choice in that impacts those who canned the food, picked the food, grew the food, and even impacts the land itself. Thus, in our choice to sin and choose autonomy from God, it only follows that nature would also be impacted. (All of this deserves an academic approach, and one is coming within the next months; suffice it to say, however, that this post is not meant to be academic).

The new atheists have taken this argument of evil up as their rallying cry. “God is not great,” they explain. “He’s evil because He allows evil, therefore He doesn’t exist.” All of this, however, only shows unwillingness on the part of the atheists (and other critics) to explore the Biblical reason for evil. The Bible is clear that God is very aware of the evil in the world, but He uses it to display His love. Sometimes He takes what was meant for evil and turns it into good (Romans 8:28). While this doesn’t deny gratuitous evil, nor am I saying that every instance of evil is allowed because it will cause a greater good, I am saying that the ultimate reason for allowing evil is because He created us with free wills, wills that are free to choose Him or deny Him.

In His perfect knowledge, God allowed evil to occur so that we might experience His love in a fuller way.[1] While the Fall wasn’t necessary for us to feel God’s love perfectly, it does allow us to see that God loves us via sacrifice. The Fall opened the doors for God to sacrifice by sending His only begotten Son to live, suffer, and die on our behalf. While the Fall was not necessary, our sinful action(s) necessitated a loving response from God.

Thus, God allowed evil so He could experience evil and in so doing we could experience His love. We all endure evil, but how quickly we forget that God has experienced evil greater than any of us could fathom. He has been the victim of His creation. Furthermore, when He took on human flesh He participated in our sufferings. The same flesh that is destroyed in genocide is the flesh that Christ took on. It is not as though God allowed evil and then removed Himself from the experience; rather, He allowed evil and then put Himself at the center of its suffering.

We look into the Garden of Eden and see God allowing humanity to fall and ask “Why?” God points to the Garden of Gethsemane and says, “This is why.” The Son took on all the sins of the world and was separated from the Father. What greater evil is there than for an innocent to suffer for the sake of the guilty? Yet Christ did this out of His love and His own willingness. Though we experience evil, evil that we think others could never fathom, God has suffered much more. This is not so He can brag or say, “Tough it out, I’ve had it worse,” but instead so we know that He can truly sympathize with us and that we can trust Him to get us through an experience of evil.

It wasn’t just the physicality of the cross that was the greatest evil – because others have suffered more – but the spiritual nature of the cross and what was occurring on the cross that none of us have ever experienced that makes it the greatest evil to have ever happened on this earth.

Imagine a child walking with her father while eating her ice cream. She trips a little and the ice cream falls off her cone. To her this is a great evil, but the father, being older, has experienced much worse. She can sit there and wonder, “Why would my father allow me to trip and lose my ice cream?” or she can trust him. She can turn to her father, she can cry to him, she can reach out to him and beg for him to hold her since he too has experienced evil. And being a loving father who has experienced far greater evil, he can sympathize with her and help her through it.

Or we can think of when we lose our parents to a disease. For many, the loss of a parent comes after we’ve become adults and experienced some life with them. But the evil that befalls us pales in comparison to those who lose their parents at a young age or to those who have their parents abandon them. We all experience personal evils on a different level. We all react to those evils differently, so it’s hard to say that one evil is worse than another. But we can look to the cross and say that, without a doubt, the greatest evil to ever occur on earth occurred on the cross when the creation murdered the Creator, the guilty crucified the innocent, the perpetrators of evil destroyed the Good.

Yet, while the cross is the greatest act of evil, it is also the cure to the problem of evil. On the cross we see evil try to reign triumphal, but it had been defeated without knowing it. The empty grave of Christ stands as a testament to the defeat of evil.[2]

While we experience actual evil and suffering from it, we must remember that the love of God can overcome any evil. When we come before the Lord on our knees and cry out, “Dear Lord, why has this befallen upon me,” He doesn’t chastise us, He doesn’t turn His back to us, He responds, “My child, I love you and I have endured it as well; come and lay your weary head upon my chest.” Rather than questioning God’s very existence because of evil, we should humbly and lovingly turn to Him for comfort, for He has already endured our pain and so much more.

Christ wasn’t bashful concerning the problem of evil, rather than attempting to explain it away by some complex theodicy He offered Himself as a theodicy. In Matthew 11:28-30, He says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Thus, God does not shy away from the problem of evil, but instead He answers it by telling us to come to Him. Only within the Christian faith does the problem of evil have a real solution; in some other faiths (or lack of faiths) the solution is to explain that evil doesn’t really exist, or that we must appease some totalitarian god. In Christ we learn that we are the cause of evil, but that He is the solution, not through appeasement, but through rest.

The answer to the problem of evil isn’t found in a clever syllogism or in a preacher’s aphorism, rather the answer is a Man; the ultimate answer to the question of evil, the best theodicy one can give, is a bloody cross and an empty tomb.

He is a God who can be trusted. We know why He allows evil to exist on a grand scale, but why specific evils? Why does He allow pain and misery to come upon our individual lives? Job asked this same question and only God could provide an answer. His answer was, “Trust Me.” After all, who are we to find fault in God (Job 40:2)? He is perfect and we are imperfect. His ways are not our ways and His knowledge is infinitely more than our own (Isaiah 55:8-9). God is good because God is love, so in times of evil He is all we have to rely on.[3]

The critics of God would have a point about evil if God allowed evil and left us there. If God allowed evil to enter the world and offered no way out of this world, then truly He would be cruel. He would be no better than a child burning the antennas off ants. But that is not the God we worship. God has offered a way out of this evil world; He has offered a way that defeats evil. The ultimate answer to the problem of evil is Jesus Christ; He faced evil on the cross and defeated it when He rose from the grave. Evil has already been defeated, we are merely waiting for the fulfillment of this defeat (Revelation 20:10, 14).

God is Love

The explanation to the problem of evil – God’s love – might seem a bit weird, but we cannot forget that love is behind everything God does. While He does do everything for His glory, it is equally true to say that He does everything out of His love. We cannot separate the attributes of God, thus everything He does displays both His glory and His love.

God created everything out of love. He created because He loved the Son and wished to honor the Son, but the Son wasn’t sitting on the sidelines. The Father spoke everything into existence through His Word (Jesus Christ) in the power of the Holy Spirit. God accomplished this out of love for Himself, with the Persons of the Trinity working in perfect harmony. But He also created simply for the love of creation. He is an artist. We look at certain things in nature and wonder, “Why would God do this?” But when we look at a painting, very rarely do we go, “I wonder why the artist did this.” We simply sit back and enjoy the art. It is the same with creation. We don’t have to ascribe a pragmatic purpose to everything; we can simply sit back and enjoy the artistic display of our Lord. Creation is art painted by the love of God.

God then created humans out of love. He didn’t have to create intelligent beings who were capable of having a relationship with Him, but He chose to. He did this out of love for us. He created us as a display of His perfect love; we are to love His creation, love each other, love ourselves, and love Him.

In all of this, He allowed us to fall. It is His love that allowed us to fall, for how loving would God be if He forced us to follow Him? Contrary to recent claims, God is no tyrant. When Adam and Eve rebelled, He didn’t kill them and start over. God didn’t create little robots that would follow His every command. Some people post the question, “Couldn’t God have created free beings who just didn’t have the capacity to rebel?” Common sense would dictate that if we never had the capacity to rebel then we wouldn’t truly be free, at least not if that was our starting point.[4] No, God gave us the freedom to rebel because He would rather have a willful servant than a mindless slave (Isaiah 1:18).

He allowed us to rebel because He knew it would allow Him to display His love. He knew that in our rebellion He could display the ultimate sacrifice – the giving of His only begotten Son. He wanted to display His love for us that even while we rebelled against Him, He would die for us (Romans 5:8). Even while we spat in His face, even while we hurled insults, even while we mocked Him, even while we questioned who He was, He loved us so much that He would sooner remain on the cross than come down and destroy us.

He took on the form of a man out of love. The Son emptied Himself of His divine attributes so that He might experience life with us. He is not some transcendent God without immanence, some unloving God who refuses to experience life as we do. Rather, God “got His hands dirty” by taking on flesh, but He did this out of love. He experienced our pain. He blistered under the heat. All that it is to be human, He did so, but without sin.

He became human so that He could ultimately die for us. Once again, love is the motivating factor. Out of love, Christ stood before Pilate falsely accused. Out of love, Christ bore a crown of thorns and was whipped. Out of love He marched up to Golgotha to hang on a cross. Out of love He let the soldiers put nails through His hands. Out of love He bore our transgressions. Out of love He was forsaken on our behalf. Out of love God came down to this earth and died for His rebellious creation. Out of love He rose from the grave. And out of love He bestows the effects of His actions onto us.

The Father’s love for the Son is what moved the stone away from the tomb. It was their love for each other that Christ raised physically from the dead to sit at the right hand of the Father. It is out of love that Christ’s resurrection is our way to salvation, the way to perfect reconciliation with the Father. God didn’t have to offer this to us, but He chose to because He loves us.

Because God loves us, we too are supposed to love others. He calls us to be representatives of His love this side of eternity. We are to love everyone. It is easy to love the lovable, but we are called to love the unlovable. We are a parent to the orphans. We are a liberator to the oppressed. We are a friend to the lonely. We are a comforter to the criminal. But we are also to love the corrupt CEO who fires employees so he can make a profit. We are to display love to our oppressors. While we must fight against the corruption of this world, we must never forget that we are still called to love our enemies. We are a lover to all, from the highest of society to the lowest, from the most virtuous among us to the darkest criminals in the deepest cells. To all, we are an example of God’s love on this earth.

It is love that compels God to bring us into eternal fellowship with Him, into the Divine community of the Trinity. How kind it would be of Him to merely destroy our souls once this life is over. How justified He would be in such an action. But he invites us into a perfect eternal fellowship with Him where we will forever love Him. Love is the focal point of every action of God. Everything He does, from His justice to His creation, from His revelation to His transcendent nature; every action of God is tied up to His love. If love is the focal point of God’s actions, then it should be the focal point for our actions as well. Though we will fail at this – because who can love like God? – we are to strive toward loving others as Christ has loved us.

An Eternal Love

God is the purpose of life. When we wander around, wondering what our purpose on this earth is, we can realize that He is everything. He is our end and everything else is a means. He fulfills us, He gives us rest from this weary life. Christ calls out to us, to us sinners, and says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” It is a comforting thought that God would care for us so much that He would make such an invitation. It is easy to feel overwhelmed in this world. All of us have our hearts clouded by sin and by pain; to this Christ makes the invitation to come and rest in Him.

The invitation of Christ isn’t an invitation into a bunch of “do’s” and “do not’s,” but rather an invitation into a relationship. We enter into a relationship with Him and with His body, the Church. In so doing, we begin to live as though the Kingdom has come. This relationship is more than the following a moral code or saying a prayer for the forgiveness of our sins and then hoping for Heaven; certainly these are a part of the relationship, but they do not summarize the entire relationship. A honeymoon is only part of the married life; it is an important part, but not the entire thing. Likewise, asking Christ to forgive us our sins and walking the “straight and narrow” is a part of being a Christian, but not the entire thing. We obey Christ out of love, not out of obligation.

God’s love for us transcends time. He loved us before He created us (1 Peter 1:18-20). What sinner would dare dream of a God who would love us before we even existed? God is what sinners dare not dream. Everything in Scripture points to God’s working toward the fulfillment of His love in Christ on the cross. His plan is what we could never fathom. His love is eternal and we can never be separated from it. What better way to conclude with a passage from Paul (Romans 8:18-39):

 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

May it be so as we pursue the Eternal and seek to be with Him unto ages of ages. Amen.

[1] One could make the argument that God could display His love in a perfect fashion even without the Fall. This is a view that I agree with, that is to say, the Fall was not necessary in order for God to perfectly display His love. Rather, God allowed the Fall so as to not inhibit our free will, and in so doing found a way to perfectly display His love in a fallen world.

[2] When I refer to evil as an actual substance, I am merely doing so for the effect of writing. Evil is really the lack of good and has no substance of its own; philosophically speaking it is an accident, lacking a property or substance.

[3] For those curious in a philosophic answer to this problem, I would encourage two books. The first is God, Freedom, and Evil by Alvin Plantinga and the second is God, Why This Evil? by Bruce Little. Both explore the philosophic reasons and explanations for the problem of evil within the Christian tradition. While I am emphatic that Christ is the ultimate answer to the problem of evil, I do not say this to the exclusion of the philosophical attempts to explain evil. These are important, but it must be recognized that these will always point back to Christ.

[4] In Heaven we will lack the capacity to rebel, but that is because we have chosen such a life. If God created us without that capacity then we would lack free will. But if we willingly choose to become like God through theosis, then we are willfully giving up our sin nature, thus indicating that in Heaven though we lack the capacity to sin, we are still free.

The Centrality of the Trinity in the Hope of Humanity

Too often in evangelical Christian circles salvation is thought of as a pit stop rather than as an invitation into a relationship with the Triune God; the Bible is quite clear that humanity has salvation from Christ on the cross, who died in order to open a way for humans to be adopted by God. Paul lays out an incredible summary of salvation in Galatians 4:3-7. Paul’s summary shows that without Christ both natural revelation and written revelation were inadequate to open a relationship to God. All either revelation did was open humanity up to condemnation. However, since humanity’s sins were committed against God, He sent His Son to become a human, live under the human curse, and serve as a sacrifice. Once Christ raised from the grave, God then sent His Spirit to indwell the new believers, not so that they would be robots, but instead that they would act like children of God. Paul’s intention in Galatians is to show that salvation is much more than saying a prayer (though a prayer is a beginning), but rather salvation is an invitation into a family.

Paul’s summarization of the Christian faith, found in Galatians 4:3-7, reads as such:

In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.[1]

In order to understand the passage, one must first understand the immediate context of the passage in the book of Galatians. Paul was writing to a diverse group composed of both Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians. Galatians stands out as almost unique among the epistles as it was written to an eclectic congregation made up of both Jewish converts and former pagan.[2] The main theme of Galatians, however, was to combat some who were saying that Christians had to be circumcised in order to truly be saved. These false teachers were saying that one had to obey the Law of Moses even after one came to Christ. Galatians 4 serves to combat the belief that the Law was still necessary for salvation, with Paul using imagery of slavery and sonship, indicating that those under the Law are slaves while those under grace are adopted sons of God.

Paul’s concern for the Galatians is found in the first chapter of Galatians, where he expresses how upset he is that some in the church were already turning away (Galatians 1:3). The entire first chapter of Galatians speaks of the dangers of pursuing a Gospel other than the one taught by the Apostles. He follows his teaching by relating a story in the second chapter of how the Apostles had given him the charge to go to the gentiles. What is interesting is that he points out that when Peter and other prominent Christians began to act superior to the gentiles, Paul chastised them for justifying themselves by works rather than by faith. In the third chapter, Paul puts an emphasis on the fact that Christians are saved by faith and not by the works of the Law, with the fourth chapter serving to show more of the dangers of following the Law. Both the fifth and sixth chapters of Galatians state that Christians live in liberty and that though they struggle against their sinful desires, they should still seek to please God by loving Him, avoiding sin, and doing good to others.

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A Confession Poem

Look upon the lonely world and all its error

See how much it is fallen, so lost in despair

Some worship gods, objects made at their own hand

While others make pleasure their only demand

Look upon this fallen world and find it torn

Orphaned, murdered, alone, so depraved we kill the unborn

Some see God’s laws written down, meant to prevent this depravity

But in following this stringent code they place themselves in slavery

What hope do you have, O Sinner, in the mess in which you live?

In our fallen mess, could we dream of a God who could forgive?

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Hope Fulfilled

Anonymous prayer requests can sometimes cast a dark shadow on this world. People put up prayers for their children who have cancer. One mother asked for prayer for her heroin-addicted teenager. One man pleaded for prayers over a broken marriage and a wife that was cheating on him. Another man spoke of how he didn’t know whether or not his three-year-old daughter was going to live. Prayer requests made by strangers are sometimes more open than the “unspoken” prayer requests made in Sunday school. The reason is that some of the requests come across as hopeless.

I have worked with students who have grown up in poverty. They see no hope. I worked in a high school where one student drank her nights away because she had a debilitating disease, a disease that would inevitably take her life. She saw no hope.

To the burdened down, to the trial weary, to the restless, to those without hope, I beg of you, look in the empty tomb. The nothingness of the tomb of Jesus is full of everything you need.

Jesus Christ, God incarnate took upon our sins as a propitiation for what we deserve. He offered His life as a ransom. He took on our pain and suffering so that He too might be made weak like us, so that He might endure what we endure. But it is in this tomb, this beautifully empty tomb, where we see Christus Victor, Christ victorious! In His resurrection He gained victory over everything laid upon Him on the cross.

Look into the empty tomb, those without hope, and in the emptiness find your hope. In His resurrection He has gained power over that which holds us back. All the evil of the world has been defeated and will one day come to an end.

For those who feel bogged down by their sins, see them upon the cross and see their defeat in the tomb. See that you are forgiven and can live life victoriously. To those tormented by demons, see that they hold no power over you, for they could not keep Christ in the grave.

For those who have no hope, look upon this empty tomb and see that He has given you hope, a hope beyond hope, that you will one day be resurrected. To those who live in poverty, peer into the richness of the empty tomb and see that your wealth is not found in the things of this world, but instead is found in Christ.

To those afraid of death, look in the tomb and realize that death is dead because Christ is raised. To those with physical ailments, look beyond the tomb, look to the risen Christ! As He is so shall we be, with new bodies that do not fail us.

To the blind, fall before the risen Christ and look up to Him with the sight you shall receive. To the deaf, listen to the beautiful song the resurrected Christ has written for you. To the terminally ill, fight death and laugh at it, realizing that death holds no power over you because Christ has already defeated it.

To the weak and paralyzed, run to our risen Lord and collapse in His arms, feel His strong embrace. To the hungry, go feast with the living Christ, who died for our sins, but has been raised by the Spirit of God, the power of God, to victory!

Look upon this resurrection, this very real resurrection that took place in time and space. Look upon the victorious Jesus. Look upon Him, oh weary and trodden down, and have hope; for Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!

The trials of this world mean nothing for our hope is in Him. He is our only hope. When the trials of this world become too much, when the seas begin to rise an the earth shakes, when all comes tumbling down and the darkness will not cease, we take comfort in this; Christ Jesus died for our sins, our struggles, took them to the grave, left them there, and was risen in victory. In His victory we seek comfort from the ravages of this world.

We hide in the power of Christ from the heaviness of this world. When we struggle, when we are hurt, when all of life makes no sense, we can turn to Him. This is not some distant deity we worship. He is not some subject to be studied. He is the personal God, resurrected.

We live in power now because of Him. We live in victory. We live moment by moment for Christ. It is the power of the resurrection that transforms us; we die with Christ and are raised to Him, our old nature being destroyed and our new nature being created.

Take heart in the dark times of life and have hope in the resurrection to come when we shall all join Christ. Oh what a glorious day that will be! Can you imagine, oh sinner, what it will be to look upon the face of the One who died for you? Can you imagine looking at God, a God none of us are worthy to see, and instead of feeling His righteous wrath, to feel His warm embrace? Actually feel Him, for Jesus is truly resurrected!

This is the hope of all Christianity, that we will one day be as He is. We will one day be resurrected. We will be in perfect fellowship with Him. The hungry will feast with Him. The oppressed will be liberated. The orphaned will find their Father. The sinner will be made righteous. The impure will be made pure. Find hope in the resurrection of Christ, for the resurrection is what sinners dare not dream, it is hope fulfilled.