The true light is already shining
As you are reading this (April 2), I will be receiving my second COVID-19 vaccine shot. This is a hopeful sign that the pandemic might be waning.
This is also the weekend during which Christians celebrate the Easter event Jesus Christ's death, burial and resurrection.
What does optimism about an end to the pandemic have in common with Easter? They are both already and not yet events.
Already, many states of the U.S. are loosening restrictions brought on by a year of COVID-19 quarantine. As numbers of newly verified infections and deaths go down, we look forward to things getting back to normal.
But we have been fooled before. A year ago, the restrictions were predicted to be temporary; but millions of deaths, a troubled presidential election and economies in turmoil later, we are still not out of the woods.
We crave a return to normalcy; health departments warn it is not over yet. Already we are seeing signs of recovery, but we are not yet there.
On the other hand, the accomplishments of Jesus Christ's life, death, burial, and resurrection are permanent.
However, Bible readers have noticed an already/not yet tension throughout the New Testament. Since Jesus, things have already changed, but we have not yet experienced them fully.
We are adopted in Christ (Romans 8:15) yet "we wait eagerly for adoption" (Romans 8:23; we have been redeemed in Christ (Ephesians 1:7) but await a day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30); we stand sanctified in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2) but are not yet fully sanctified (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24); we are already saved in Christ (Ephesians 2:8), still "we shall be saved by him" (Romans 5:9); while we are said to be already raised with Christ (Ephesians 2:6), we look forward to our being raised in the future(1 Corinthians 15:52).
As Paul discovered, the "last days" we are living in is a time between Christ's first and second comings.
After his first coming, Christ is himself physically resurrected and returns to his heavenly Father.
He has accomplished all those things I named above, already. But we have not yet seen his second coming.
That is when we will see him return in power and glory to end the power of sin and death once and for all. This is the Christian hope. We do not yet see it completed.
Maybe, with widespread vaccines, our long COVID-19 nightmare will be over. Maybe.
We are already seeing hopeful signs. But it is not over yet. Certainty during this pandemic has been very hard to come by.
Easter, on the other hand, celebrates what is certain. No maybes about it. He is risen and so will all who follow him.
Celebrating a rare victory in the early, dark days of World War II, Winston Church said, "Ring the bells. This is not the end; it is not even the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps, the end of the beginning."
We are not yet to the end of our world. We still struggle with the effects of sin and death. But Easter spells the beginning of the end of all that is wrong (sin) and broken (death).
It was the end of the beginning and the beginning of the end. We await the end, but it shall surely come. Take heart.
"the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining." 1 John 2:8b
Pastor Gary Brown former pastor at New Zion Evangelical Church in Emlenton serves as associate pastor in Winnebago, Illinois.