Friday, October 7, 2022
Everything is dying. Your phone’s battery is draining and will need to be recharged. Your phone itself will someday give out or become so slow or outdated that you’ll need a new and shiny one. But that one will die too. Your car will get you places…until it doesn’t. Your body itself will eventually lose its ability to sustain the delicate balance known as life, and will stop functioning altogether. This will happen to you, everyone you know, and everyone you don’t know.
The human race and life on earth are in deep trouble if the wrong supervolcano decides to erupt or if a very large random rock hurtling through space collides with earth. Our existence is a very delicate thing.
Even the sun as we know it is dying. It’s said that in somewhere around 4 to 5 billion years, our sun will eventually begin to die as its hydrogen fuel runs out. It will swell to a red giant and swallow at least Mercury, Venus, and our own planet before becoming a white dwarf.
It’s predicted that eventually the universe itself will expand hopelessly into a cold and dark nothingness of no usable energy. It’s called “heat death” and is a lot like winter, but much worse.
That’s a lot to take in all at once. The realization that everything we know is fading away can lead us to a dark place. It may remind you of Nietzsche’s caution that “if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” What gives? Is there anything that lasts?
“For ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord endures forever.’ That word is the good news that was announced to you.” (1 Peter 1:24-25 NRSV)
Not everything dies and fades away. Peter is telling us that the good news you were given—the word of God—endures forever. To us, the phrase “word of God” can often mean the Bible, but the way the Bible uses it is so much more broad and rich. I tend to think of it as something like God’s life-giving wisdom, through which he created everything. In John 1 we can read about how Jesus, through his life and ministry, became the perfect embodiment of that word among us, carrying on another chapter of something that was always there.
That chapter seemed to come to a close when Jesus was executed. To his followers, it must have felt like all hope was lost. But we know how that story ends up! We are shown there is more to come when Jesus is resurrected. It’s another chapter of this everlasting word.
As there was more to come for Jesus, there will be more to come for us. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we are given hope and an inheritance that won’t fade away. Jesus is said to be the “firstfruits” of the resurrection, meaning his was the first resurrection, and we’re given confidence ours will be yet to come.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that through resurrection, the dead are “sown” perishable, but raised imperishable. Resurrection transforms things that have perished (or would perish) into things that can’t perish. It transforms the dust of the ground into something new and alive and beautiful. Remembering that Jesus was transformed from a dead man into some kind of mysterious, eternal, resurrected being, we embrace the living hope that someday we’ll experience the same transformation.
As we reflect on how resurrection will transform us, there are hopeful rumblings that it will transform all of creation into a new heaven and a new earth. How mind-blowing is it to think of an entire universe raised imperishable? What does that even look like? That’s such an amazing mystery to think about!
There’s no way for me to know how long I’m going to live, or how long there will be an earth or sun or universe. I do, however, know that God outlives all of those things! If God is around, there is always more to come. There is always another chapter of the word.
So let’s not grasp at the things that are going to die and fade away. Instead, let’s keep our hope in what will last forever—what Peter calls “the living and enduring word of God.”
Questions to ponder
1. What might Peter say our response should be now that we’ve heard the good news (hint: verses 13-16 might offer a good start)?
2. What other things besides the word of God do you think are “imperishable”?