What is the point of the cross? Probe this further: What is the goal of the cross? As in, where does the cross take us?
Asking the question with goal and destination in mind aligns our focus on all that Christ died to purchase for us, and how all of that will become a reality because Christ is risen.
Therefore, the goal of the cross is the resurrection of all things to new life, which includes us, and also, our entire cosmos, forevermore!
This is an absolutely staggering gospel truth claim.
Let us, then, walk through three passages that greatly broaden our grasp of the implications of this staggering claim. While each passage speaks to the broader redemptive picture, each narrows to a particular aspect of that broader picture.
The first is Romans 8:18-25, which speaks with an eye to our collective and individual human experience. Slowly read through this passage.
The Book of Romans brings our gospel hope to a climax in these verses. The fallenness of creation is set in the light of the glorious future God has for his children, and thus, all creation. Moreover, our sufferings, which are due to our fall in Adam and Eve, are trivial in comparison to the glory that will be revealed. Thus, we can eagerly wait for it!
However, until that day of final revelation of Christ in all his glory, “the created world” remains subject to the futility—emptiness, vanity, folly, powerlessness, this is the futility that was—introduced through the fall into the whole of our human experience, individually and collectively. We still have to endure the tragedies caused by human atrocities and cruelties of nature, though none of that has the last word. For we hold to the promise of him who does not lie and cannot be thwarted:
Isaiah 65:17 For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. (We will not hurt and groan any longer.)
We are looking forward to a world where the groanings of our present world are utterly left behind. Our world will be liberated with us, the children of God in Christ, “free from frustration and blight, from death and decay, from sorrow and sighing.”
Furthermore, we have the deposit of the indwelling Holy Spirit, who does not suppress the groanings so as to pretend they aren’t there but who intensifies them into an unwavering longing for what Jesus has for us in his glory with him. Our hurting, dying bodies will be redeemed, our hurting hearts will be redeemed, sin will be no more, and our world will be all that it was meant to be, and so much more. Yet, until the promise is completely fulfilled, we groan.
Yet, because Jesus died on the cross, the fall must give way to resurrection. Keep in mind, though, we don’t see everything, not even close. But that is okay, for we will see at the appointed time—this is the beauty of hope, especially in our sufferings and groanings (8:24-25). Draw perspective from the Book of Ecclesiastes.
The second passage is 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, which speaks with an eye to the rule and authorities of our world. Have a careful read through this passage.
While it is most certainly true that Christ is risen from the dead—the very answer to our #1 problem, which is death—we must persevere by faith during the temporal interval and temporal implications preceding our guaranteed resurrection in Christ.
The major implication in these verses is that Christ is currently reigning until all his enemies are brought under his feet, which includes all the rule and authority of the earth—every king, president, prime minister, dictator, you name it, including Satan and every other fallen angel, culminating in our greatest enemy and tyrant, death.
Psalm 110:10 The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
When Jesus has completed this process then he will place all things in subjection to God, himself included as the last Adam, and God, our good, good Father, will forever be all in all.
How do you feel about our world leaders? Are they leading for the glory of God? Are they fulfilling their divinely appointed position and role for his namesake and thus for the good of all? Could you or I do a better job? Absolutely not! There is only one King who is able, who is capable, who is perfect, and who carries the government of the world on his shoulders. He is, Jesus.
On that day when this process is complete the world, all creation, will forever be under the perfectly holy and loving lordship of Jesus for the glory of God and the good of all. Politics, economics, social life, and our natural environment will be a sheer delight (lol)! Can you imagine that? I can’t, but I believe Jesus can do it.
The third passage is Revelation 21:1 to 22:5, which speaks with an eye to what the whole of our cosmos will be like when resurrected to life. Prayerfully read through it, looking for the meaning of the symbolism.
Coming through the dark terrifying, overwhelming chaotic battle of a fallen rebellious world, bound and driven by Satan, and the absolutely staggering scale and resolution of the final divine judgment—like coming through dense brush and trees as you crest a mountain to a breathtaking view, so—the Revelation vision just opens to a beautiful, gloriously new and everlasting creation (21:1; cf. Isaiah 65:17; 66:12; 2 Peter 3:10).
In the wondrous vision John “sees the new Jerusalem” the final piece of this grandest of visions “descending from heaven” as a bride prepared and adorned for her husband (21:2; cf. Isaiah 54:5-6, 11, 61:10). This is the church, the people of God who inherit the earth.
What we are seeing in 21:1-2 is an ultra-upgraded version of what was supposed to follow from Genesis 1-2, but now through Jesus. This is saying to us that God’s covenant purpose, throughout the entire scope of salvation history, is at long last perfectly fulfilled by, in, and through the resurrected Christ (the last Adam).
God is fully with his people forever and the world is what it’s meant to be, per 21:3-8 (Leviticus 26:11-12; Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 37:27; Isaiah 25:8, 30:19; 35:10).
As one commentator wrote: “Just as Jesus cried at the cross, “It is finished” (tetelestai, John 19:30), so now the one who sits on the Throne—the sovereign God of the ages” says to “tell John, “It is done” (gegonan, 21:6).””
In 21:9-22:5 John, once again in the Spirit (21:10; cf 1:10), elaborates with the best language and imagery he can muster, bringing to a most appropriate closure, the grandest and most epic of visions, “the splendour of the celestial city, the eternal destination of the followers of God and his Christ” as he is wed to his bride and they take up residence in their new home.
This is astounding: The “description of the new Jerusalem as Christ’s bride symbolizes the union of Christ and his church in the form of a wedding and marriage.” This shows us that what “started out as a union between the first man and the first woman in the book of Genesis is now consummated as a spiritual union between Christ and his bride, the church” (Ephesians 5:22-33).
So we are not surprised, though we are awed, that the “new Jerusalem is described in resplendent, glorious terms (cf. Isaiah 6:1-4; Ezekiel 43:2-5)” and I would add, the glory for which we hope, the glory which makes our current sufferings seem as nothing (Romans 8:18).
But here is the most important gospel truth of this entire vision, which we find at the start and at the finish of this vision (21:3, 22:4):
In their heavenly dwelling, believers will see God’s face, indicating that the divine human relationship has now been fully and irreversibly restored. His name will be on their foreheads (i.e., they will be completely his), and they will reign with him forever (22:4-5).
This is what it’s all about folks! Strange, though, how most of us never meditate on these apocalyptic passages for the rich blessings they contain.
We seldom think about eternity in our daily lives, but one day the new heaven and a new earth will be very real and palpable, and the things of this world will be passed. The book of revelation holds up a beautiful vision of life forever in the presence of God in Christ that should serve as an encouragement and incentive to continue to follow Christ even in the midst of adversity and opposition. (Andreas J. Köstenberger, “Revelation” in the Handbook on Hebrews through Revelation, 257-60).
The Lamb and his Bride, Jesus and his Church, are portrayed as newly weds stepping into their first home together as they move from betrothal to consummation of their marriage. Isn’t that exciting!
Think also about all your fears and frustrations in this broken, corrupted, and exploited creation. You’re heart’s desire will be fulfilled, the world will be perfectly balanced between green space and development, it will be “the garden city” of abundance and fulfillment. Moreover, all of your tireless, tiring efforts to reach people, to serve them that they may know Christ, and to improve and protect the environment, all of that is a foretaste of what is to come for which your efforts will be greatly rewarded beyond your wildest imaginations. Nothing is in vain in light of the resurrection of Christ Jesus, so press on (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Perfect fulfillment and complete resolution! Just think of the best holiday you’ve ever been on, where you experienced full rest and enjoyment, and times that 100, and you might have a small glimpse of what we who are in Christ are headed for.
Therefore, embrace the cross! This is the only way to that which is to the goal of the gospel. As you think of the kind of world that is to come, the kind of universe that will be, and the kind of people who are going to populate it: Keep serving! Keep denying yourself, keep taking up your cross daily and following after Jesus into resurrection glory! Amen.