What Has Been Lost – And Can Be Regained

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.

Image of The Final Perseverance of the Saints: Exposition of Chapter 8:17-39 (Romans Series)
The Final Perseverance of the Saints: Exposition of Chapter 8:17-39 (Romans Series) by David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Author) Amazon logo

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.

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9 Replies to “What Has Been Lost – And Can Be Regained”

  1. I love that science fiction (good science fiction) seeks to colour in our dreams of being more.

    But to discover through God’s Word, that He has wrought for us a life the surpasses even the grandeur of those dreams … wow!

    My response is to fall on my face in complete adoration as I hear “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes delight in my ways” (Pro 23:26)

  2. It has been brought home to me again and again recently in preparing sermons and reading the Scriptures together with my wife (and in the teaching of the Children’s Catechism in our services) just how much we lost through Adam’s first sin.
    Thanks for this article – it has reminded me that Paradise Lost is much more than just Paradise Regained, so that I need not only to look back but also to look up and forward.
    How can we ever comprehend the immensity of the blessings brought to us through the last Adam!

  3. Grand and glorious stuff indeed, Bill. Thank you for the reminder, for drawing our (my) attention to it again. “Hallelujah! What a Saviour.”

  4. While the 10% of our brains is nonsense, all parts of our brain get used, I think it can be said with assurance intelligence has been declining for centuries so yes in the restored future we will see intelligence rise. What is now considered genius may one day be simply average. I think space travel will happen and colonization of space. Creation is quite vast! I hope observer time travel will be possible where we can go back and see things in history as they happened but without interacting with the past and thus changing it. Like a holodeck observer mode where those in the program can’t see or hear you.

  5. Bill, I was raised as a Christian and studied theology at a major university. The more I learned of scripture and its origins the more I questioned its truth. Because there is very little evidence that any of it is true. It’s all ancient stories by largely anonymous writers from an era where thousands of gods were believed to exist.

    These days I describe myself as agnostic. I would love to believe in a glorious afterlife where all our frail body parts are somehow replaced with new bits but it all seems rather fanciful. Where is the evidence? Is faith merely wishful thinking?

  6. Thanks Rhonda. I of course know nothing about you so I can only offer a few generic responses if I may.

    One, it all depends on what is actually meant by “raised a Christian”. Simply being born into some sort of religious home is one thing – and means very little to be honest. It certainly does not make one a Christian. Looking carefully into Christianity and making an informed decision about it is another thing altogether.

    Two, it also all depends on what university and what ‘theology’ department we are talking about. Most secular left universities are fully hostile to Christianity and their “theology” courses have nothing to do with a proper look at biblical teaching, but just exist to do hatchet jobs on the faith and to get young people to turn their backs on it. It looks like this one worked pretty well on you, sadly. And perhaps you were far too willing to go along with their assaults on the faith.

    Three, the simple truth is, all the objections you have raised (which are so often raised) have been answered countless times by some of the finest minds in the world. They really are tired old charges easily refuted. Indeed, this site has dealt with most of them over the years. The truth is, did you even bother to look at all the actual available evidence? Or were you just happy to soak up what was dished out to you, looking for an excuse to ditch your ‘faith’ to live as you please?

    Let me be blunt here. I have dealt with far too many folks over the years who make these reckless claims about there not being enough “evidence” and so on. As mentioned, some of the world’s greatest minds of the past 2000 years – philosophers, scientists, scholars, academics, etc – have been supremely confident in the case for Christianity and have argued compellingly for it. To dismiss all them out of hand really is in fact mere wishful thinking, and is actually running from the evidence.

    And evidence we have in abundance. Take just one issue: there is more evidence for the historicity and reliability of the New Testament documents than we have for any other ancient documents, bar none.

    The truth is, most people claiming to have intellectual problems with Christianity don’t really have such problems. What they have are moral and spiritual problems: they prefer to live their own self-centred lives as if God does not exist, and the ‘lack of evidence’ complaint is just a handy excuse.

    But 2000 years ago Jesus told us this was the case: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (John 3:19-21).

    If you really are seeking, and are not just asking rhetorical questions, I can assure you the truth is out there. I am just one of millions who was once a committed enemy of Christianity but have since embraced it. But beware: Jesus never gave straight answers to crooked questions. Only the honest enquirer will find truth, not the one who is really looking to avoid it.

  7. Thanks Bill. My theology studies were at Uni SA but I went on to a PhD in neuroscience at ANU and I now work in brain research studying consciousness.

    I have never found any empirical evidence from either science or religious sources that some part of us survives death. You say “the evidence is in abundance”, but where is it? What are the sources? I am not interested in personal opinions, but hard evidence.

  8. Thanks again Rhonda. But of course you will NEVER find “hard evidence” if you have have ruled out the very possibility of the supernatural and the metaphysical a priori. So no surprises here: it will never be found in that case. If you have embraced a reductionistic worldview that the mind is fully reducible to the brain, and that only matter matters, then of course you will never find the evidence. So too you will never find “evidence” for other non-material realities, eg., love, justice, beauty, etc.

    I can offer many dozens of top PhDs, scientists, philosophers and theologians who are all fully adept in neuroscience and issues such as the afterlife who are also dedicated theists and/or Christians. I have their books. Do you? One wonders if you would even consider checking them out. It appears that you may have shut your mind and are simply not interested in following the evidence where it may lead. That is your call. But if so, then stop pretending there is no good evidence out there. That is just intellectual dishonesty.

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