David Bryant writes of the "Consummate Decree." My take on that decree is this: I am a new creation in Christ Jesus (you are too), behold all things have become new and old things have passed away. The "Consummate Decree" is that you are (or can be) Saved! Christ, the innocent God-man, was crucified to death that we can exchange our dead nature (a nature separated from God) for a living nature. When Christ arose bodily from the grave, if we have faith in that occurence, our dead natures become exchanged. In Christ’s new life, we have new life. Share that good news with all you know!
A New Creation: Approximations of the Consummate Decree (Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7)
By David Bryant
It’s a curious thing. Throughout the book of Revelation each one of God’s decisive judgments explodes on the world scene amid hymns, doxologies and acts of worship. Singing and supremacy surface together. But believers are invited into similar celebrations every day. That’s because in union with His Son we have already passed through the Final Judgment. Already we stand victorious on the other side of His Reign of Fire. How did this happen?
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How Has God Applied the Future to Our Relationship with Christ Today?
He picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah. Now God has to where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus …. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! (Ephesians 2 — The Message)
Despite the dramatic increase in life expectancy over the past one hundred years, no one has yet made claims to immortality — except One. Nonetheless, people in every culture continue to seek it. Some have their bodies frozen at death, ready to be reactivated when a cure for mortality is found. Others grasp for a place in eternity through mystical convergences with a Higher Power.
But to Christians, Romans 5 declares that “just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness, to bring eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord” (vs. 20-21), meaning that even in this world believers are declared “immortal” already and called to live like it! Throughout the New Testament Christians are identified as those currently dead, alive and ascended with Christ (Rom. 6; Eph. 2; Col. 3). It is as if we were already transported to the time of the Consummation, strolling through the New Jerusalem.
Obviously, something unusual has happened. It has to do with the positioning of believers even before the Consummation. Surrendered to our Sovereign, entering into an intimate union with Him, we have a solidarity with Him that replaces forever our identity with fallen Adam and his race. The Old Creation has been disqualified. God decrees that we now have an exclusive identity with the Son, allowing the Father to label us as His New Creation (Rom. 5 and 2 Cor. 5).
Christians aren’t simply on a road to “the sweet by-and-by”. Instead, the Bible invites Christians to reckon themselves ascended into Heaven, serving Christ in the power of His Spirit as re-created beings. In other words, God invites us to act as if we currently stand on the other side of Judgment Day. Jesus assured all believers, we will never come into judgment because we have already passed from death to life (Jn. 5 with 1 Jn. 3).
The moment I was born again (as a freshman in college), God decreed me to be eternally alive. Christ’s future has become my future. The Father was free, in His justice, to treat me as if I were already raised and reigning in the Consummation. This was His consummate decree. As far as He was concerned, from that moment (and even long before that moment) I was not only foreknown, called and justified, but also glorified (Rom. 8). All of it was as good as done.
If I may borrow Luther’s words: God created a “happy exchange”. This placed me, in His eyes, within the Consummation drama as if it were unfolding here and now. This exchange transpired when Christ took upon Himself who I was in my sin and bestowed on me who Christ is in His righteousness. In response to the Gospel, I was united to Christ by faith, as both Savior and final Judge-of-all. Heaven’s Supreme Court decreed that everything Christ is and has — as well as everything He experienced by His own death, burial, resurrection and ascension — was now transferred to me. From that hour, the Father has treated me as if Christ is me and I am Christ.
Separated from Him eternally, dead to God in my sin, at one time I faced no other prospect but His dreadful wrath. It rendered me hopeless. Only if someone else could bring me alive from the dead, therefore, setting me free from the charges against me, could I ever hope to see my precarious condition reversed. No religion, no philosophy, no moral resolutions of my own could ever avail.
Then one day, the Gospel came. I believed. Immediately, from God’s perspective, I was raised with His Son from the dead. My destination became identical with His. God reckoned me to be crucified two thousand years ago with Jesus, at the very time He bore the judgment for my sin (and for all sin) on Calvary. That way, the judgment my Lord experienced became my primary judgment, too.
Since I am permanently abiding in Him (Jn. 15), I could be disqualified only if Christ Himself could ever be disqualified from full participation in the Age-to-Come (which will never happen). There is no future judgment that will ever expel me from the glories of the New Jerusalem. In the most profound sense, my “day in court” has passed. The Cross was it. The Cross was final. The Cross put behind me the life-threatening consequences of my incalculable rebellions against the Almighty One.
Long before a New Heaven and Earth ever takes center stage, God has already decreed that I may walk before Him as if I were Christ Himself, and thus as if I were a fully resurrected inhabitant of eternity. Therefore, at no time should I ever be surprised that my life in Christ incorporates many other kinds of “approximations” of the impending Regeneration of the universe. Such foretastes may be preliminary, but they are substantial. They create genuine experiences of what it will be like when His supremacy has final sway.
Space will not allow us to explore key doctrines emphasized in Scripture (and by Christian theologians of all persuasions) that describe various dimensions of our current participation in this consummate decree of God. Maybe you’ve heard some of the concepts, such as:
Lumped together, these terms constitute two great realities about our hope in Christ. They speak about our destiny in Christ. They speak about our identity in Christ. Consider:
Destiny refers to our future. One day soon we will stand vindicated, with absolute confidence, before a just and holy God. When the Consummation breaks upon us, we will face it unafraid, alive with every promise in Jesus, because our final judgment climaxed at the Cross long ago (Jude 1). That’s our destination under His consummate decree. This is one _expression of Christ’s supremacy in our lives.
Identity, on the other hand, has to do with our current status before God’s Throne. As we’ve just seen, today all believers can live as if the Day of Judgment had come and gone. Our sins have not simply been disregarded for the moment. They have been permanently eliminated by the blood of Christ. God’s wrath for us fell on Him instead. Because we abide in Him, from the moment of salvation forward God decrees us newly created. We provide a preview of how He will renovate the heavens and earth at the Second Coming (Rev. 21). Now, all we need to do is take the initiative to reckon (decree) for ourselves what God proclaims (decrees) about us (Rom. 6). This, too, expresses how Christ’s supremacy touches us everyday.
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What Does the Word “Justification” Tell Us about the Fullness of Christ’s Supremacy?
Using one of the more technical words listed above, justification, let’s take one example. Theologians call justification a “forensic” work of God. This means that by divine decree (as described in His Word) God has thrust His decisions about our final fate into the present. He declares Himself fully satisfied with who we are in Jesus. He accepts us point blank as His own children.
In the same way that the Father raises the dead and creates life, so does the Son. The Son gives life to anyone he chooses. Neither he nor the Father shuts anyone out. The Father hands all authority to judge over to the Son so that the Son will be honored equally with the Father. Anyone here who believes what I’m saying right now and aligns himself with the Father, and has in fact put me in charge, has at this very moment the real, lasting light and is no longer condemned to be an outsider. This person has taken a giant step from the world of the dead to the world of the living. It’s urgent that you get this right: The time has arrived — I mean right now! — when dead men and women will hear the voice of the Son of God and hearing, will come to life. (John 5 — The Message)
Biblically speaking, the idea of being justified has always included the sense that God treats me “just as if I’d” [justified] already entered into the Consummation. To my utter amazement, Scripture teaches that the Father declares I have an intimate relationship with Him, right now, that mirrors what His eternal Son has enjoyed with Him from ages past and will enjoy for ages to come. He assures me unlimited, unhindered access into everything Christ has for me at this moment. On more than one level, I can start enjoying immediately many blessings of the Kingdom-That-Waits-to-Appear.
As Paul shows us in 1 Corinthians 1, we are not simply made wise or righteous or holy through Christ. Rather, Christ has been made for us all the wisdom, and righteousness, and holiness we will ever need. That means we do not just take His help for where we have failed. Rather, we take Him. We also take all that He brings with Him. He encompasses the everlasting favor of God toward us. In Him, the Father forgives our sins, sets aside His wrath and treats us brand new.
So it follows: Justified, I can rightfully claim to be liberated from all fear toward the Righteous Sovereign, released to start life all over again before His face. Justified, I can act as if there never was a reason for His holy fury, at least where I’m concerned. Justified, I am as fully vindicated as Christ was the day God raised Him from the dead. Justified, I remain accepted before the Judge of the universe, forever, because of my unassailable union with the Judge’s Son — with Who He is and with all He inherits. Justified, I’ve become partaker of His holy nature (2 Pet. 1). This includes being incorporated into a people born again by His Spirit (Jn. 3). All of this is an approximation of the Consummation.
When the Last Day finally arrives with unquenchable fury for unrepentant sinners, all will find that long ago Christians passed through the same examination. It happened when, by faith, we were decreed to have been crucified and buried with Christ, and then raised and ascended with Him. Long before Christ returns in eternal glory, every believer draws from His well of eternal life. Our life in coming ages will essentially be the same life God invites believers to share in right now. At both points in time, the sum total of our existence takes its cue from the person of our Savior, supremely sufficient for all the saints, “world without end”. With Him as my hope, the Father treats me “just as if I’d” exited the tomb and was currently walking the streets of gold! Talk about experiencing the fullness of His supremacy!
Oxford University theologian and author Alister McGrath puts it concisely for us when he concludes: “Justification language appears in Paul with reference to both the inauguration of the life of faith and also its final consummation. It anticipates the verdict of the final judgment, declaring in advance the verdict of ultimate acquittal. The believer’s present justified experience is thus an anticipation, an advance participation of deliverance from the wrath to come, and an assurance in the present of the final eschatological verdict of acquittal” [emphases mine] (Rom. 5:9-10).
That’s a mouthful! But it deserves careful reflection. Are you a follower of Jesus? Is your hope in Him based on His supremacy over all things? Then McGrath is talking about you. He’s describing one facet of the fullness of life that Christ’s reign guarantees to you today.