Redemption is a word that covers a lot of theological and interpretive ground. Since this is simply a “blog” post, I won’t go into all the various ideas and nuances of what can be represented in the word redemption. For my purpose, as it implicates my title question, we’ll look at one aspect of redemption, though I believe it is the crucial and often overlooked and misunderstood aspect: Life out of Death.
For those of you who have been here for awhile, you know (whether you agree with me or not) that I believe redemption to be universal in scope. I don’t believe that every human being will be “saved”, but I believe that Christ’s Person and Work takes everything into its grasp and leaves no area of creation untouched. Redemption is cosmic—Christ came to redeem the entire creation and recover Sacred Space (see previous posts on Sacred Space and SGCC sermon series--God With Us). Everything that has been affected by the curse, which is…everything, will not simply be restored, but fulfilled to its created design and purpose. Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying that every human being will experience the salvation that is in redemption; there will be countless people experiencing an eternity of estrangement from God in hell. I’m simply saying that God’s redeeming work in Christ extends beyond merely “man” to take in the entire Cosmos that has been cursed due to sin. Christ didn’t come merely to redeem “man”; He came to redeem Creation, to recover Sacred Space in full!
Hoekema puts it this way in his excellent work, “The Bible and the Future”:
To fully understand the meaning of history, therefore, we must see God’s redemption in cosmic dimensions. Since the expression “heaven and earth” is a biblical description of the entire cosmos, we may say that the goal of redemption is nothing less than the renewal of the cosmos, of what present-day scientists call the universe. Since man’s fall into sin affected not only himself but the rest of creation, redemption from sin must also involve the totality of God’s creation (p. 32).
Hoekema goes on to quote Ridderbos: “This redemption (wrought by Christ)…acquires the significance of an all-inclusive of a divine drama, of a cosmic struggle, in which is involved not only man in his sin and lost condition, but in which are also related the heavens and the earth, angels and demons, and the goal of which is to bring back the entire created cosmos under God’s dominion and rule” (Ridderbos, “Paul and Jesus”, p. 77).
And this ‘redemption” in its most fundamental and powerful expression, especially in reference to man, is: Life out of Death. We see this paradigm as early as the creation itself. In the very act of Creation, we begin to understand the paradigm of “life” out of “death”. When God “created the heavens and the earth”, we’re told in the first chapter that the Spirit was “hovering” over the “formless void” of the dark “waste” or emptiness of Creation. In a very real sense, God created the heavens and the earth in the context of “darkness” and “death” and in His six days of “work” the Spirit brought “light” and “life” to the Created Order. Then the Spirit went about “ordering” the universe by establishing “realms” and “rulers of realms” culminating in the creation of Man as God’s vice-regent and supreme (created) ruler over the works of God’s hands. Man, as with every aspect of the Created Order, was created out of “death”, as it were.
The paradigm of “life” out of “death” (as well as the concepts of “light” and “darkness”, which I’ll leave for a future post) as seen in the original creation is recapitulated throughout the Scripture and culminates in the New Creation in Christ. After “The Fall”, not only Man but the entire created order was cursed and now all things exist in the context of “death”. Where once Shalom and with it, “life” and “light” characterized the created order, now estrangement and with it, “death” and “darkness” mark all things. But God doesn’t leave His creation in the state of “death”—He redeems! God in His mercy and for His glory brings “life” out of “death”.
Immediately after The Fall, our parents attempt to cover themselves with fig leaves. They recognize their nakedness, their “death” (estrangement) and attempt to hide themselves from themselves while also attempting to hide from God. But God, being rich in mercy, will have none of that! Death will never win out over Life! Out of “death”, He clothes them again and proceeds to promise the restoration of “life” in the Seed to come from the woman. Adam, confident in the promise of his Maker, once again takes up his role and “names” his wife “Eve, for she is the mother of all the living.” Out of the context of “death” comes the promise of “life”.
We see again this paradigm of life out of death in the story of Noah. There are many typological aspects of Noah himself and the story of the flood; we’ll consider the typology of the New Creation. When God determines to destroy the world and start over, He does so through one man—a man who God calls “righteous”. God will “re-create” the world, saving it through the righteousness, so-to-speak, of one man. All who would participate in this New Creation must do so in connection with (by joining themselves to) the “righteousness” of the one man. They must exercise faith in God by heeding Noah’s warnings and enter the Ark with him. “Life” is brought forth in the context of “death” as God destroys the world and brings a New Creation.
Life out of Death is again in view as we see the promise of a son to Abraham. Not only are Abraham and Sarai too old to have children (Abraham considered his body as “dead”—Rom. 4:19), but Sarai had a “dead” womb! Yet, in God’s mercy and according to His promises, He determines to bring “life” out of “death”. Isaac is born! But again, lest God not be clear yet about how He determines to “save”, Abraham is commanded to kill the “promised seed”. How can God keep His covenant with Abraham if his only begotten son is to die? Abraham’s faith never wavered (and it was reckoned to him as righteousness) for he was fully persuaded that what God had promised He was also able to perform—even if that meant raising Isaac from the dead!
Time won’t allow me to bring up every example of this principle, but we can see it throughout the Scripture as time and time again the promise of God is in jeopardy. His promise to bring forth the “Seed who will crush the serpents head…” who is also the “Seed of Abraham” who will become a great nation is constantly in danger—not only from the “seed” of the serpent (remember the enmity between the two “seeds”), but from God’s people themselves. The “death” of God’s promise always seems near. Abraham tried to give Sarai to Pharaoh…then to Abimelech. And Isaac followed in his father’s footsteps! After “Israel” is “born” through God’s deliverance from Egypt (“life” out of “death”), the nations was in constant danger of being wiped out completely (remember especially Esther and the Babylonian captivity). Moses himself, while not in the line of Messianic descent, is also an example of God’s principle of life out of death as he was hidden and then rescued when his brethren were being killed upon birth. The nation of Israel itself, as previously mentioned, was “born” out of “death” again as they were delivered from famine as Joseph preserved them and then yet again as they were delivered from “death” in Egypt to be consecrated as God’s “son”.
The point is: from the beginning of creation, God’s principle in redemptive history is of a redemption that is “life” out of “death”. And this principle culminates in the resurrection of Jesus as He gives Life based on His redemptive work on the cross. He died and rose again to give life to those who are dead. Those who come to Him by faith were once those who were “dead in (their) transgressions and sins” but are granted Life as those who, after having been “crucified with Him” and “buried with Him” and “baptized into His death”, have now been “raised to walk in newness of life”. For those who’ve come to Christ by faith, they have “died…but their life is hidden with Christ in God.” Life out of Death is the paradigm of our redemption! Life is the participation of the New Creation in Christ—a New Creation that extends beyond "man" to incorporate all things (the entire created order) in the consummation through the “summing up of all things in Christ”!
So what’s the point? The point is…(coming soon in Redemption, Part-2)