As It Was
As a kid, I developed interest in old things. My uncle, a carpenter, taught me to refinish, rebuild, and restore antique furniture. Later, I happened on some magazines the library was throwing away. They were full of stories of tractor and hit-and-miss engine restorations. Starting with “the find” in an old barn or back in the timber, the writers told how they brought their equipment back to new condition, piece by piece.
I was hooked. Over the next several years I accumulated quite a pile of old engines, pump jacks, a garden tractor, mini-bikes, chainsaws, and other miscellaneous junk that I crammed into my parents’ garage attic. I wanted to bring it all back to its former glory. My parents tolerated my obsession, but soon after I got married and moved from their home, they began making plans for an “attic cleaning.” I got the impression they expected my involvement.
I was excited to find in Scripture that I’m not the only one who cares about restoration. So does God. In the book of Jeremiah, He speaks to the broken and desolate land of Israel, a nation living under judgment for their sin, with siege ramps still standing as reminders of their disobedience: “’For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 33:11b, NIV throughout). In spite of all Israel’s sin, the desolation of the land, and how bad things had become, God continually offered Israel the hope of restoration.
Humanity wasn’t always broken. At the beginning of time, God saw everything He had made and called it “good.” Before sin entered the world, before the first murder, before man worshipped creation and the works of his own hands, there was a time of perfection. Man walked and talked freely with his Creator, lived in harmony with animals and nature, and experienced no fear, shame, or guilt. The future was ripe with possibility. But sin ruined that perfect world. Hope was lost.
Working as a chaplain and rural church pastor, I’ve seen many situations where loss of a loved one, a broken marriage, or the daily pressures of life all but destroyed hope for the future. How do you face tomorrow after losing both your children in a car wreck? How do you find peace when your spouse walks out the door? Where is the justice for victims of abuse? Where is the excitement and wonder we viewed the world with when we were young?
But hope is not lost: A change is coming to humanity! The Bible speaks of a day when broken bodies will be clothed in immortality (1 Corinthians 15:50-57), when all the dead in Christ will come to life (vv. 20-23), and of a new world where only righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13). This doesn’t sound like what I watch on the news!
I recall hearing people say that the kingdom of God will be one long church service where we walk around in a city of gold, sing hymns, and never sleep. To be honest, I didn’t feel very drawn to an eternity like that. I’m not even sure where these ideas came from.
Looking at Scripture, I find not an eternity of “going to church” but a new world without the scars created by man. I look forward to a reunion of families, a beautiful land of rivers and trees, and a city where the nations of the world bring their honor and best earthly achievements. I read of a day when the glory of God is all that is needed for perfect healing and wholeness, a day when He will wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:1-5, 22-27; 22:1-5).
For the believer, restoration becomes a natural part of who we are. We live and move with an expectation. This isn’t the end. The pain won’t last, and separation is only for a moment. This is what sustains us through loss and disappointment. This is what helps us believe that there can be a future beyond our past.
Sometimes we need to look back at history to a time when all things were new, to God’s continual promise to restore, and finally, to a day when God puts all things right — “As it was in the beginning. . . .” Let us comfort each other with these words
(1 Thessalonians 4:18).
— Tim Steinhauser,
At the edge of Oregon’s Pacific Coast Range, on the first small hill about six miles west of Junction City, is a beautiful evergreen-lined cemetery. It is not large — perhaps two hundred yards square — but it’s a precious place to my wife, Sandra, and me. When the time comes, this is where I wish to rest, waiting for Jesus’ return and the resurrection to eternal life.
Why this cemetery? With our hope and faith in the promise of resurrection, wouldn’t any piece of ground do as well? Of course! It’s not where or how we’re buried — in a casket and vault, ashes in an urn, or on an ocean bottom. The critical thing is faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.
But this specific cemetery is special to me. Laid to rest there in Rest Lawn Memorial Park are my father and mom, a brother-in-law, and a nephew. There also are Sandra’s dad, mom, and grandmother. Our families rest together, so this place holds precious people and precious memories for us. That’s why I wouldn’t mind resting there and waiting for the call of the Lord to the first resurrection, to a new body and a new life. Job’s hope is ours:
I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes — I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27, NIV throughout).
On resurrection day, what a joyful reunion will take place as family members and dear loved ones rise together, grinning and clicking their heels in an airborne dance of joy, hugging each other in ecstasy as they rise to meet Jesus.
From every continent and nation, the earth will open and release all the faithful in Christ. Each of you reading this has your own list of precious family and friends you’re thinking of now — people who were faithful and impacted your life. Enjoy the memory of them and anticipate the joyful reunion!
I look forward to a joyful reunion with a young man who died too soon, a victim of muscular dystrophy. Davey will get a brand new body, and his contagious grin will be part of the joyful celebration with his family and many more.
For Sandra and me, the same joyful reunion will take place with dear saints from churches we’ve served in San Antonio, Texas; Shawnee, Oklahoma; Lodi and Visalia, California; and Redmond, Oregon. All of these and more will rise to joyful reunion with their faithful loved ones, and together they will see the face of our living Redeemer!
In Jefferson, Oregon, there’s another tree-lined cemetery, with rows of families who were faithful to their Lord Jesus and to their local church. They had the sure hope of the resurrection in their hearts. Dozens of gravesites in this place will burst open in one instant. So many will rise up that this cemetery may look like a bomb went off!
As you read this issue of the Bible Advocate, you can know without a doubt that this hope of the first resurrection is a promise of God and Jesus Christ, who never fail on a promise: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25, 26).
If you believe this, get ready for a joyful reunion. And be faithful in the meantime!
— Ken Lawson
Cottage Grove, MN
In the present era, we experience hard times in all aspects of life. People are restless and rebellious. Humanity bleeds, with cut veins everywhere. Cries from innermost beings are heard daily for someone to intervene before the situation becomes unbearable.
Pain, sadness, and tears are heard and seen all around until softly, like a fantastic vision, hope for a better world emerges.
For Christians, this hope transcends — from chaos to order, from mortal to immortal, from the provisional to the eternal. In Scripture, it is expressed in the coming of the Lord in the clouds with great glory, bringing change in which there will be no more tears or pain, but this exclamation: “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54).
Such has been the great desire of God’s children through the centuries — the anchor that has held them in persecution, in adversity, and in challenge.
Brethren in Thessalonica had the same hope, but restlessness had returned. They worried for those who had died, not sure they would participate in the glory when God’s Son returns. Paul encouraged the church, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope”
(1 Thessalonians 4:13, NIV throughout).
The passing of a loved one brings sadness and pain, but not everything ends there. Paul encourages believers to comfort others with the hope of resurrection when the Lord returns. This hope has two fundamental aspects:
- Our faith. “We believe that Jesus died and rose again . . .”
In contrast to the hopelessness and confusion in Thessalonica and in the world today, Paul makes this simple, firm declaration, familiar to every believer: Christ died and resurrected!
All hope has a foundation, and ours is founded in the glorious fact of Jesus’ resurrection. If to believe and accept the death of Christ for sins erases our past, to believe and accept Jesus’ resurrection from the dead illuminates our future. That is the second aspect:
- Assurance springing from our faith. “And so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (v. 14b).
Having established that Jesus died and was resurrected, now Paul declares that God will raise those who died with belief in Him. Therefore, brethren, don’t be sad like those without hope. God will not forget His children. He will snatch them from the power of the tomb and bring them with Jesus, who bought them with His blood. These words are true and faithful.
There is a mystical bond between Christ and Christians. The destiny of the One is the destiny of the others. The head has been raised, and the body will be also: “Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him” (1 Corinthians 15:23). The firstfruits give assurance that there will be a final harvest at the Son’s return.
All Paul said about the resurrection served to encourage the brethren of that time. Let us strengthen our hope with the assurance God gives us through His beloved Son, and share this great blessing with our troubled society.
— Gustavo Guerrero