Sunday, September 16, 2007

An Ascending Son, a Descending Spirit

If what I have argued is true, and the cross and glory are not antithetical but organically related (the former being the means to the latter), where does that leave us today? Are believers under the New Covenant no closer to glory than those saints who lived on the other side of the cross, under the shadow of Sinai?

In order to answer this question we must remember that the cross was followed by an empty tomb three days later. The resurrection and ascension of Christ play an enormous role in our own sanctification, for it was these events in redemptive history that were the occasion of the Holy Spirit's descent upon the gathered church at Pentecost. Though Jesus prophesied at the feast of Tabernacles of providing "living water," "the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:39).

If the Holy Spirit is the "Spirit of glory" whose proper domain is heaven (I Pet. 4:14), and if this "Comforter" was sent by the now-ascended Christ as a down payment of the future (John 16:7; Eph. 1:13-14), then it follows that the saint on this side of the cross and empty tomb enjoys a fuller measure of his heavenly inheritance than was possible under the law.

To put it differently, the experience of the saint who "draws near" to God according to the "new and living way" that Christ has instituted is characterized by a lot more "already," and a lot less "not yet," than that of his Old Covenant counterparts. That's why it's called "semi-realized eschatology."

After all, we love to yell at the Catholics because their crucifixes all have a dead Jesus on them. But as Protestants, does our boast in an empty cross have ramifications for sanctfication, or only for church d├ęcor?