Continuing my read through A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology by J. Richard Middleton and I cannot recommend it highly enough. In chapters 7, 8 he offers important, practical insights on the resurrection of Christ in relation to the scope of redemption.
In “The New Testament’s Vision of Cosmic Renewal” (chapter 7) the conclusion (and thesis) of the chapter states
From the beginning, God’s intent for human life was centered on the royal status of humanity and our commission to image our creator in loving and wise stewardship of the earth, which has been entrusted to our care (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15; Ps. 8:4-8). This is the cultural mandate, our sacred calling to develop earthly life in a manner that glorifies God and reflects his intentions for a world of shalom…God’s intent was for the holistic flourishing of embodied people in the entirety of their earthly, cultural existence. Since resurrection is God’s restoration of human life to what it was meant to be, it naturally requires the fulfillment of the original human dignity and status, which have been compromised by sin. Resurrection, therefore, when biblically understood cannot be separated from the fulfillment of the cultural mandate.
Middleton supports this thesis in detail. Discussion around various OT texts (Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel), extra-biblical texts (1 Enoch, Wisdom of Solomon), and NT texts (1 Corinthians 6, Philippians 2, Hebrews 2, Ephesians, Colossians, Revelation) shows a careful and keen analysis that demonstrates an “earthly reign” is God’s original and redeemed intent for humankind via the resurrection of Christ.
Chapter 8 “The Redemption of All Things” focuses upon one question, namely, “Does Scripture teach the redemption of creation?” To answer this, Middleton begins with five NT passages (Acts 3:19-21; Eph 1:9-10; Col 1:19-20; Rom 8:19-23; 2 Pet 3:10-13) showing they contain a “unifying strand” or “pattern” comprised of two elements: first that “salvation is conceived not as God doing something completely new, but rather as redoing something, fixing or repairing what went wrong.” And second, “this restorative work is applied as holistically and comprehensively as possible, to all things in heaven and on earth,” thus contradicting the notion that an immaterial “heaven” is the “ultimate dwelling place of the redeemed” (p 163).
Remaining sections of this chapter detail 1) God’s intentions for the cosmos as his “cosmic temple,” 2) God’s intentions through Israel, 3) God’s image and presence in Jesus and the Church, 4) the “central locus of God’s presence” as God’s cosmic temple, and 5) the cultural mandate consummated in God’s redeemed people.
Middleton concludes chapter 8 with these words.
Those being renewed in the imago Dei are called to instantiate an embodied culture or social reality alternative to the violent and deathly formations and practices that dominate the world. By this conformity to Christ—the paradigm image of God—the church manifests God’s rule and participates in God’s mission to flood the world with the divine presence. In its concrete communal life the church as the body of Christ is called to witness to the promised future of a new heaven and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells (2 Pet. 3:13).
The practical side of things are abundantly clear. Redemption involves far more than merely human souls and human bodies. God’s intent to redeem all things is all-inclusive in scope and in scale. Instead of destroying the cosmos and giving humans some other-worldly destiny, God has redeemed the entire cosmos and his Church is meant to reside in it, not in some ethereal place called “heaven.” Redemption is comprehensive. But, most importantly, it is the resurrection of Christ that embodies (every pun intended) this reality of things to come. For,
[Christ] is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death.”
Soli Deo gloria!
“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”