GOD’S ANSWER TO INJUSTICE IS THE RESURRECTION
The church in the New Testament experienced all sorts of injustice in the form of persecution. Yet they did not question God’s goodness or justice. This is because they had a firm belief that God would ultimately distribute justice to everyone at a future time. This time was called “the Day of the Lord” in Jewish theology—the day when God would right all wrongs, bringing punishment and reward. Christians believed that the Day of the Lord should ultimately be interpreted as the day of the Lord Jesus’ return, which would include the resurrection of the dead. Whether or not a believer received justice and reward in her lifetime, she would be vindicated when her body was resurrected and glorified for eternity.
And not only believers. Jesus taught, “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29, ESV). Death will not forever veil the atrocious secrets of unjust men and women. All will receive their just reward (for better or for worse).
When Paul was recounting the many injustices he had endured for the sake of Christ, he made a fascinating statement. “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. … But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10, ESV). Even though Paul believed that God delivered him and would continue to do so, he states that the Christian hope is not in immediate deliverance, but ultimate deliverance at the resurrection of the dead. It is true that Christ came to give us abundant life and that through him we experience provision, healing, protection, etc. But it is also true that we do not get to dictate when and how these benefits are manifested in our lives. If I am healed, that is a gracious “sneak preview” of the ultimate healing I will receive at the resurrection. If God miraculously provides, that is a gracious glimpse of my ultimate portion in the new earth.
Paul goes on to boldly assert, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:20-22, ESV). Even if we do not see justice, provision and healing right now, we have an “Amen” of faith in our spirits, believing that every promise will be fulfilled, if not now then at the Day of the Lord. Notice how Paul says that we have been sealed by God? This means that God is preserving us for a future day. And notice how Paul says that we have been given the Spirit as a guarantee? This means that our wonderful experience of the Spirit in this life is only a down payment guaranteeing the fullness of what we are promised in the next life.
The Christian hope is not in the God who brings justice now. It is in the God who raises the dead! Yes, we rejoice when we get to see it now. We seek it now. We pray for it now. But our hope is in the God who raises the dead.
TWO REASONS CHRIST DOES NOT END ALL INJUSTICE RIGHT NOW
- HE IS SAVING PEOPLE. Christ is giving people the opportunity to turn from their sin as they put their faith in him. Peter teaches, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:9-10, ESV). The day when God brings justice will come suddenly (like a thief). But until then he is giving people the opportunity to repent. If we question his timing, James reminds us, “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:7-8, ESV). Jesus is a wise farmer waiting for the full harvest before he reaps it. In other words, he is waiting for the full amount of souls who will respond to him. We should trust his judgment and timing.
- HE IS JUDGING THE ENEMY. Christ is currently conquering his enemies through his Body, the Church. Paul says, “For [Jesus] must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:25-26, ESV). The resurrection is delayed because Christ is in the process of conquering his foes. In one sense he has ultimately conquered them through his cross (Colossians 2:15); but he is enforcing that victory now through us. Romans 16:20 makes it clear that God wants to use the Church to judge Satan. We get a glimpse of how the Church will do this is in Ephesians 3:10-11, where we read that it was God’s eternal purpose to use the Church as a display of his wisdom, even to rebellious angels. Perhaps this is why Paul was so insistent that the Corinthians be holy, for “do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” and “Do you not know that we are to judge angels?” (1 Corinthians 6:1, 3, ESV). Not that we will go about actively judging wicked angels and people; but in the end the Church will stand as a shining example of God’s glorious wisdom—a standard against which all will be judged, even angels. In summary, Christ will rule from heaven until his righteous reign has been perfected in the Church on earth. Then death will be destroyed as he returns in resurrection power.