We are blessed people because God is active in the world he has made. Before I gave my life to Christ, I thought God was some old grandpa sitting in heaven twiddling his thumbs and watching reruns of Little House on the Prairie. But the truth is that God is an Eternal Being and involved in his creation. God has a vision and a clear picture of what he wants the end of all his activity on his earth to result in, and it isn’t just to see Nellie Olsen get her come-uppance. God is busy reconciling people back to himself, and to each other; and, restoring the entire world back under the lordship of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10). So, in order to accomplish this, God has initiated and given us, the church, the spiritual blessing of “election.”
Even before the creation of the world, God had the conclusion to his story in mind and began making divine decisions about how to have the result he desired. This, by the way, is how we are to approach ministry in the church. That is, we begin with an end in mind of what we want to accomplish; then, we gather the people and begin making the decisions we need to make in order to see that end purpose realized. Too often, churches begin with a group of people and wonder about what they should do – that is completely backwards from how God operates.
In eternity past, in love, God predestined us to be adopted as his children (Ephesians 1:5). Believers are so loved by God that we became special to him before we were ever born! Election means that God has a purpose for us. On our human level of operation, we elect political candidates not for the end purpose of merely winning an office, but so that those elected officials may serve the common good and put their energies into accomplishing some noble cause. So it is with God. We were not elected by God simply to go to heaven when we die, and sit on some celestial couch eating popcorn with Jesus, and maybe Michael Landon. The reason we were chosen by God was so that we would be holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4), and might be for the praise of God’s glory (Ephesians 1:6, 12). In other words, we are not in some sort of holding pattern here on earth simply doing whatever we want with our time while we wait to die. No, we are to be busy accomplishing God’s purposes in election.
We are receiving an inheritance from God. It will be put into effect when God’s timing and purpose is accomplished: to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, Jesus Christ. The chosen and redeemed of God will one day die; after death they will go to be with Christ; but that is not yet the end. It is not yet the end because the entire world still needs redemption. This is why the writer to the Hebrews could say about the great heroes of the faith: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39-40).
In other words, there is not just life after death; there is, as New Testament scholar N.T. Wright puts it, “life after life-after-death.” All those people of faith, including our friends and relatives who have gone before us to be with Jesus, are waiting. They, along with us, have not yet received all the promised blessings of our inheritance. And what we are waiting for is the reconciliation and restoration of all things, a new heaven and a new earth in which we will all together be sons and daughters in the kingdom of God with Jesus as King over us. The possession of the Holy Spirit is the guarantee that this is the case, and it will happen (Ephesians 1:12-13).
Let us, then, live into the election we have received by engaging in ministry that is concerned for the restoration of all things. That is a worthy resolution no matter what time of year it is.