Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Life & Immortality & Light

…and which has now been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, Who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel – 2 Timothy 1:10  (ESV

Our Savior.  Our Christ.  Jesus the Messiah.  This is the One Who had taken the Apostle Paul into His grip and set him upon the mission which would consume the totality of his being until he breathed out his very last breath.  As we read those titles, especially that of Savior, let us always bear in mind that these were risky claims that Paul and his fellow Apostles and saints were making on behalf of Jesus.  There was insurrection and revolution in these words, as it was Caesar that also bore the title of “Savior” (soteros here in the Greek) in that day.  It was Caesar, through the power of Rome, that was recognized and roundly worshiped as the man responsible for bringing the world out of the crushing darkness of barbarism, into the marvelous light of the glory of Rome, bringing life to all through its “Pax Romana” (Roman peace), and through the immortal empire that was never to fail or fall. 

Paul made such claims about Jesus, saying that it was through the Gospel---that message that Jesus was Lord of all (rather than Caesar), with at least partial evidence of this being that He was raised from the dead (and the judgment of the world’s powers)---that Jesus brought life and immortality.  It was through the appearance of Jesus that eternal life (the life of the age to come) was manifested, and not merely as something to be expected after death, but as something that is present in the world through all who are brought to believe in these factual claims about Him.  Rome expanded its empire and extended its power in the same way that all empires before it had done, which was through the bringing of death.  For Rome, the cross was the symbol of its power over all who dared stand in opposition to its claims.  By undergoing death upon this dreaded symbol and then rising to new life, Jesus asserted His mastery over death and informed all principalities that all power belonged to Him.  In the Resurrection that followed His dying upon Rome’s symbol of death and power, Jesus abolished death and brought new life to those that were going to be His people.      

It was because Jesus was raised from the dead as the firstfruits of those who would also be raised from the dead, that Paul could speak of immortality; and indeed, in his great passage about the Resurrection in the fifteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of that which is mortal putting on immortality (15:53) because Jesus also put on immortality.  This was not merely a spiritual immortality, but a literal, physical immortality, sharing in that same type of imperishable and immortal body in which Christ walked His very creation after His Resurrection, before ascending to heaven to symbolize (among other things) the overlapping of heaven and earth in Him.  Together with that, though the Roman empire was spoken of as an empire without end, with Rome itself fancied as the eternal city, Jesus Himself spoke of a Kingdom, the one over which He sat as King, which was an everlasting Kingdom that would indeed never come to an end.  This would be a truly immortal Kingdom, and it would be inhabited by those who had been thrust into immortality by their allegiance to Jesus.

Paul informs Timothy that it was for the proclamation of this message that he had been “appointed,” by the Christ Himself no less, as “a preacher and apostle and teacher” (1:11).  He goes on to tell Timothy that the telling of this message, in the face of all threats, intimidations, persecutions, and indications to the contrary (the message of the cross being foolish and weak, conveyed in a foolish way by foolish men), “is why I suffer as I do” (1:12a).  Why did he suffer?  He suffered because he challenged the entrenched power structures of his day with this message of a King above all other kings, Whom all must acknowledge as supreme, and to Whom all must bow the knee. 

This gained the Apostle beatings, rejections, stonings, dismissal by his own people, mocking from those that were not his people, and imprisonment.  Nevertheless, Paul says “I am not ashamed” (1:12b).  Why was he not ashamed in spite of all these things?  He says “for I know Whom I have believed” (1:12c).  He knew the One He served.  He knew that He had died and then came out of that tomb.  He knew that He had been shown forth to be the true Son of God in power.  He knew that He was King of kings and Lord of lords, with all principalities and powers in ultimate and final subjection to Him.  Paul knew that eternal life and Resurrection power had been shared with him, and that he was empowered by the same power, at the hands of the same Spirit that rose up Christ from the dead.

Paul knew that he had been entrusted with a message to proclaim to all the world---to all who had been appointed to eternal life as manifested by their belief in Jesus as King.  Paul knew that He had a King that would never fail, would never pass away, and Who would always guarantee and remain faithful to His Word.  Paul told Timothy that he was “convinced that He (Jesus) is able to guard until that Day what had been entrusted to me” (1:12d).  Paul was convinced that Jesus would always maintain His claim as Ruler and Master and Savior and Lord, so that Paul would not have run the race in vain, nor, having been entrusted with this message of the Gospel, would he ever have a reason to be ashamed of the claims that he had made on behalf of the risen Messiah.         

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