What a Glorious Future Awaits Us:
Most folks would have at least heard of – although perhaps not read – the English poet John Milton’s great work Paradise Lost of 1667. And there is also his Paradise Regained published in 1671. The great Puritan writer and intellectual spoke about the Fall in the former, and the work of Christ in the latter.
Two recent incidents have reminded me of this notion of what we have lost because of sin, and what we as believers are to regain as we are united with Christ in faith and repentance. The first is a film which was again aired on television recently: Lucy, a 2014 French science fiction action film starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman.
I have seen bits and pieces of it over the years, and it has appealed to me for two reasons. One, I always like any book or film where justice finally happens: where evil is dealt with and good eventually triumphs. And two, the idea that we can become so much more than we currently are – in terms of the use of our mind and so on – has often led me to reflect on the biblical worldview.
The plot involves a gal (Johannsson) who is forced to be a drug courier, with a packet of synthetic drugs sown into her stomach. But the bag of this very volatile drug bursts and causes her to gain incredible powers. At the same time a scientist (Freeman) is lecturing on how we only use 10 per cent of our brain, and if we could use more, there would be no limit to what we can do.
Lucy goes through this transformation, defeating a bunch of really bad drug runners in the process. But the film always made me think of some biblical and theological themes: what we had lost at the Fall because of sin, and what we might regain one day when we are reunited with our Lord.
Of course the biblical view of the restoration of fallen man (those who come to Christ in faith and repentance in this life, and are glorified with Christ in the next) entails much more than a reestablished and renewed brain. Instead, every aspect of our being and all facets of who we are (our character, our desires, our emotions, our choices, our imagination, our abilities, our thoughts, etc) will be marvellously and radically transformed.
What we lost at the Fall – and much more – will be what we enjoy in the next life. As but one consideration of this, I wrote an article some years ago about my failing eyesight. I had resigned myself to the fact that I would have ever-worsening vision – perhaps leading to blindness – until the next life: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/08/10/eye-has-not-seen/
In that piece I also discussed savants, those with incredibly enhanced abilities, such as memory and artistic and musical abilities (again, the connection with Lucy). But later I found out that I had cataracts as well, and that could be fixed with laser surgery: billmuehlenberg.com/2020/02/22/the-need-for-improved-spiritual-vision/
The results were terrific for a while, but my eyes are now again starting to go downhill somewhat – as they do in old age. So I again look forward to the next life and the new and improved me – including perfect eyesight and perfect everything else.
The second incident that inspired this article was a terrific comment from my friend Kerry on a social media site. She spoke of digging into the 8th (of 14) volumes on Romans by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The opening chapters speak of glorification, and she quoted parts of what he had to say. She also said this:
There is enough in the first chapter to unpack and ponder for days. In this volume Lloyd-Jones is beginning to teach on the doctrine of glorification. He sets the scene by reminding us of what we have lost, but he writes also that the shadow of that loss remains with us, and we are forever seeking that which we have lost. But until we find Christ we seek in the wrong direction, and in vain….
The second thing that has truly arrested my thought this morning is pondering what must be the magnitude of the glory we have lost? Have we ever stopped to think about that? Generally we tend to think of ourselves as very small in the scheme of things when we visualise ourselves alongside the vastness of the universe – as Lloyd-Jones says below, we are but “touching a small part of the hem of the great cosmos.” We have no power or ability at all to influence what happens out there. Yet the creation was all made for us – we were originally made to subdue it… to rule over it. I have been meditating on this all morning – what magnitude of glory did we lose if we originally were made to rule over creation? And, correspondingly, how far we have fallen when it is but the ‘hem’ of the cosmos we can now reach?
Those quotes from him that she shared were enough for me to drop everything, run to my MLJ bookcase, and pull out the relevant volume: Exposition of Chapter 8:17- 39 – The Final Perseverance of the Saints. I see I had highlighted much of what she had. Let me here offer some of what MLJ wrote on this grand subject:
We must always remember that man at the beginning had a kind of glory. … Such was man as God made him. But unfortunately man listened to the temptation of the devil, and he sinned and fell. The terrible result of that fall was that man lost the original position which he had. … We were never meant to ‘come short of the glory of God.’ … Man is not what he was meant to be. This is basic biblical teaching. Man has lost the glory that he originally possessed, and tends to demonstrate his loss in every aspect of this behaviour. This is the essential tragedy of man; this is the real problem of mankind. It is the only way of truly understanding man, the only way of understanding the world as it is today. Man still has a kind of memory and recollection of what he once was, and he’s always trying to return to it and to persuade himself that he is succeeding. But failure dogs his steps. Hence his frustration. Now that is the key to the understanding of the whole of human history, the explanation of all the intense effort which man puts forth as he seeks the glory which he feels belongs to him. But he can never get it, he cannot find it.
Here we find the explanation of man’s restlessness and unhappiness. There is nothing more characteristic of sinful man than restlessness. … What a tragic creature fallen man is! He’s a mass of contradictions. He does not understand himself; he cannot explain his restlessness, this feeling that he was meant for something better. He has no idea how to account for it; hence he so constantly believes that he can achieve it by his own efforts. But he cannot do so….
Man is going to be completely and entirely restored in the Lord Jesus Christ, and as a result of his union with Him. … Man is not only restored to what he was in Adam, he is taken beyond that. … I quote again two lines of Isaac Watts which for some strange reason are omitted from most of the hymn-books:
In Him the tribes of Adam boast,
More blessings than their father lost.
That is a clear statement of truth. Not merely are we restored to where Adam was, we are taken beyond it to the place at which Adam would have arrived had he continued in a state of innocence and obedience. Adam sinned and failed, and thereby lost even what he already had. He could not recover it. The cherubim and the flaming sword were set at the eastern end of the Garden of Eden, prohibiting man’s return. Man has been trying to get past that obstacle ever since. He is forever trying to recapture the glory that he has lost. He cannot do so. But here, in Christ, this very thing that was impossible to Adam after the Fall, and to the whole progeny of Adam ever since, is given to us freely as the gift of God. And so, as we think about glorification, it must be in this way; that man is not only delivered from all the effects of the Fall, and the sin and the transgression of Adam, but granted a far superior blessing, and given something of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
Thanks again for the tip Kerry. This is grand and glorious stuff. And it is so much better than the secular humanist evolutionary pap dished up by Hollywoodians in films like Lucy. This is the real deal, and what a glorious future it will be.