If you had asked the apostle Paul to say who you are he probably would not have looked to your origins and your past, but to your future. After all, who you will be eventually is a statement about who you are now. “What we shall be” really excited Paul and those first Christians. For Paul, our sharing in the risen Christ’s life was so real that he could say we have been “raised up and given a place with him in heaven” (Ephesians 2:6).
It is our present lives that are different because of this. Think of those moments when you have looked out on the world and experienced profoundly and intimately the joy of being alive; or glimpsed the beauty of nature, the love of a friend, the bonds of family, or the marvel and mystery of life itself. It’s precisely these things - and therefore our present lives - that would be empty and futile if in the end they come to nothing. Trying to live with that, and powerless to make any difference, is what Scripture calls the “crippling power” of death.
By rising from the dead, Christ has taken our human nature, made from this creation, into a glorified existence. The whole of creation, through its union with Christ, is now linked with the life of God.That is precisely what Jesus’ resurrection changes. He hasn’t exempted us from the experience of death; he has destroyed its power over us. He has turned it around on itself, changing it from being the end of our hopes to being the reason for our hope. Everything and everyone dear to us has been restored to us; every joy, love, and hope has become worthwhile and purposeful and wonderful, because so is our future.
The whole of creation is being re-created, and it is God’s doing:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.” The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”… He went on to say: these words are already fulfilled. (Revelation 21:1-6)
Christ, in person, is the new creation, and we become part of that new creation through our union with him. At his conception he became, forever, united to the created world. By rising from the dead, Christ has taken our human nature, made from this creation, into a glorified existence. The whole of creation, through its union with Christ, is now linked with the life of God.
Let us give thanks to the Father for having made you worthy to share the lot of the saints in light. He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his beloved son. Through him we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creatures. In him everything in heaven and on earth was created, things visible and invisible. All were created through him; all were created for him; he is before all else that is. In him everything continues in being. It is he who is the head of the body, the Church. He who is the beginning, the first-born of the dead, so that primacy may be his in everything. It pleased God to make absolute fullness reside in him. And, by means of him, to reconcile everything in his person, both on earth and in the heavens, making peace through the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:12-20)
Living the Christian life means putting into practice your identity as someone already “raised up and given a place with Christ in heaven.” You do this not by being “other-worldly” in a way that makes you indifferent to the world around you, but by bringing your true dignity to bear on the world around you and letting it make all the difference. When the time comes for your “mortal nature to put on immortality,” this will be the time for you to live more deeply than ever! Just as your life was a gift and a calling in the first place; and just as being united to the risen Christ is a gift and a calling, so, too, passing into everlasting life is a gift and a calling, not something we can just take or demand.
To wait for your death is to wait upon the One who wants you to have everlasting life, but never owed it to you. So we await it as we would await a gift. Death is the threshold we cross over, when called. Waiting is the time for living this important part of our journey, in union with Christ and with the confidence this gives us. This is to die with dignity.
Age to age shall proclaim your works,
shall declare your awesome deeds
shall speak of your splendor and glory,
tell the tale of your mighty works.
They will speak of your fearsome deeds,
recount your greatness and might.
They will recall your abundant goodness;
and joyfully sing of justice.
The Lord is kind and full of compassion,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
How good is the Lord to all,
compassionate to every creature ...
The Lord is trustworthy in every word,
and faithful in every work.
The Lord supports all who call
and raises up all who are bowed down.
Psalm 145:4-9, 13-14