“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3
When grime, dirt, and lichen mar the faces of Mount Rushmore, equipment and experts get hauled in. The LA Times gets called in. There’s a similar to-do when dirt and candle smoke darken the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Restoring these masterpieces always causes a stir, perhaps because of the scaffolding it requires or bureaucracy it involves, but most likely because of the monumental worth at risk. The restoration of humanity also caused quite a stir. It required the scaffolding of a cross and involved conflict with political and religious bureaucrats. God makes headlines in bringing His masterpieces—humans—back to life.
After the disciples stooped inside the emptied tomb and placed their fingers on Christ’s wounds, they understood more of the gospel and the beauty of restoration weaving through it. They saw Jesus, “the resurrection and the life,” who promised, “whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25–26 esv).
Scripture records several resurrections, but Christ alone is raised into a glorified body (2 Kings 4:32–35, 13:20–21; John 11:1–44; Acts 20:9–10). He goes before us, navigating the resurrection we will experience, to reveal the continuity between this world and the new. We look forward to the day there will be a new heaven and a new earth, the day when the earth is no longer disordered and diseased. God will bring complete restoration, and sin and death will be no more. Like the process of pressure washers cleaning the stone of Mount Rushmore, all that is vile will be removed.
To envision the new creation, we look at Jesus. He is the “eschatos,” the end of things.21 His resurrection narrates the story of redemption and also shouts the anthem of restoration. The cross and empty tomb confirm that Christ brings “the whole of ourselves (and also our world) back into alignment with the way God intended. This is a healing. This is a rescue. Salvation, then, is not only on the cross but also a reparation, a restoration to health that is progressively taking place.”
Though Christians have eternal life, physical resurrection remains in our future (John 5:24). We experience rebirth as new creatures in Christ, yet we still sin (2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 1:8–9). Though “we are children of God . . . what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Christians live in the tension of already not yets. We experience the “now” of forgiveness, adoption, and freedom in Christ. Yet we cannot see everything clearly; the glass mirror remains dim (1 Corinthians 13:12). Even when we do not see the restorative hand of God working from visible scaffolding, we believe He is bringing masterpieces to life.