Before I was married I tried my hand at painting. I had a couple of room mates at the time who were very talented painters. Since I had little experience and no training in painting I asked for pointers often.
One thing that both of my friends told me was that it was important to start with the big picture, and then take time to add the details. They both assured me that this was the best way to accurately paint something that would be understood the in way that you wanted it to be. After my first few paintings I found this simple advice to be extremely helpful! It was helpful to me as the painter to systematically portray everything I wanted to portray, but it was ultimately very helpful for others observing the painting.
One thing I have found in studying the Scripture is that God does things this way. As mentioned before, God is a masterful story teller. Not only is He masterful at telling the story, but since He is the Creator He can actually tell the story in history through the creation of events and story lines.
When God began to lay out the story line of the Scriptures He started with a really basic timeline – the details were filled in later. The basic framework established in the Bible is a chronological framework of this age followed by the age to come. This age became characterized by the curse upon creation because of the sin and pride of man. The age to come is characterized by the universal (not slow and progressive, but abrupt and absolute) removal of the curse, and the absolute dealing with the sin and pride of man.
Pretty simple, right? Well, the authors of the Bible thought so. This simple timeline was not just the framework by which they processed new information, but it was the foundation of their hope. How do we explain evil on the earth? Paul affirms several decades after the resurrection of Jesus that we are still in the ‘present evil age’ (cf Gal. 1:4). This wasn’t a 5-point sermon proving to anyone that this was not the age to come. The Gospel message itself makes pretty clear when this age, and when the age to come are. (cf. Mt. 12:32; Mk. 10:30; Lk. 18:30; 20:34; Rom. 8:18; 1 Cor. 1:20;2:6ff; 3:18; 2 Cor. 4:4; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 1:21; 1 Tim. 6:17; Tit. 2:12; Heb. 6:5)
Is providing for your family hard? Oh, then it is not the age to come. Do you know someone whose body is sick? Anyone who has died recently? Anyone who is oppressed by someone else? Or has anyone seen the promised Messiah physically reigning on Mt. Zion? Or perhaps all of those lost loved ones who have died in Christ, have they come out of the grave yet?
Well then, what about healing? What about prophecy? Raising the dead? These are all, by simple definition a part of this age. Who needs to be healed if they have a glorified body? Who needs an impression from the Spirit on your heart when we will all know Him from the least to the greatest?
How then do we understand why the power of the Spirit is given, and what purpose it serves? Hebrews 6:5 calls the power of the Holy Spirit the ‘powers of the age to come‘. This simple phrase helps us understand a lot. First, we know that they are to be understood within the simple timeline. They are native to the age to come, but they are given now in a ‘down payment’ form (cf. Eph. 1:13, 2 Cor. 1:22, 2 Cor. 5:5) in order to bear witness to the age to come.
So, as the Spirit’s power (the Lord knows how desperate I am for the Spirit’s power) is given in our midst it is to bring us back to the simple timeline of the Gospel. We are in this present evil age, but the age to come is certainly coming. We are assured all the more as we see the powers of that age being demonstrated now by the very ones who have been qualified to participate in the age to come by the blood of Jesus.
My encouragement to you is to not be lead astray from the simplicity of the Gospel. All of the cunning and inspiring language – however sincere – should not distract us from the simple expectation that kept the Apostles in eager hope for the age to come when wickedness, tyranny, death, and sin will be abolished. Until then, bear witness of that age by the Holy Spirit’s power and by your conduct. It truly will come. It is our blessed and only hope.
13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1Pe 1:13 NASB)
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, (Tts 2:11-13 NIV)
Grace and peace to you all as we continue to meet together, encouraging one another to steadfastness all the more as we see the day drawing near.