Tag Archives: New Earth

Review: Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel

Posted by: 
Book Reviews

I’m pro-marriage. Coming from someone who’s been single for 33 years, that might sound a bit weird, but it’s true! I’m passionate about marriage because I’ve learned, through the teaching of the Bible and the wise men who expound it, the real meaning of marriage: it’s a metaphor for Christ and his people. A living picture of the gospel. That’s something to get excited about! But sadly, it’s also something many people have forgotten — not only in the world, but also in the Church. We’ve dwindled marriage down to companionship, lovemaking, and childrearing. Of course, marriage is all of those things, but it MEANS so much more. God designed it and gave it to mankind as the most vivid way to proclaim the gospel and live out its principles.

Ray Ortlund wrote Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel in hopes of recovering “joyful confidence in marriage as God originally gave it to us.” Although this book can be read in one sitting, it’s not “theology lite.” Ortlund’s writing is serious and poetic, with tightly packed truths that demand our attention. The book is divided into four sections that paint a sweeping portrait of marriage from Genesis to Revelation.

Marriage in Genesis

The first book of the Bible reveals both “the glory of marriage and the brokenness of marriage.” Eden was the scene of the world’s first wedding, where the crown jewels of God’s creation became “one flesh.” Ortlund spends a good chunk of time talking about the beauty of complementarity, which is not only a major theme in the creation account, but also a necessity in marriage. Knowing our modern sensibilities when it comes to gender issues, Ortlund wants us to recognize and rediscover the “stroke of divine genius” in God’s design for husband as head and wife as helper — the framework for marriage that remains to this day. He also stresses how the fall in Genesis 3 wrecked the dynamics of this first marriage (and all marriages after it) with man seeking to dominate his wife, and woman seeking to subvert her husband. But Genesis 3 also comes with a promise of restoration, not only between sinners and God, but also between husbands and wives.

Marriage in the Law, Wisdom, and Prophets

Ortlund first discusses how the Mosaic Law sought to repair the damage done to marriage after the fall. Some of the laws that seem odd or downright unethical to modern readers (think levirate marriage) were actually quite civilized, especially compared to other Near Eastern cultures. He’s also quick to note that stories of polygamy and other deviations of marriage in the Bible are descriptive, not prescriptive; the original design of marriage still stood, even when God’s people got it wrong. But despite the struggles that come with marriage post-fall, the biblical writers want us to remember its original glory. Proverbs and the Song of Solomon celebrate marital love and sex, and offer warnings to protect marriage from sexual sin, which further proves how important the metaphor is to God. Ortlund then touches on the prophets, where the true meaning of marriage begins to unfold. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea “retell the whole of Israel’s history in a new way — as a tragic romance,” with God as loyal husband and Israel as unfaithful bride. Human marriage points us to a “super-reality,” as Ortlund says; that is, God’s faithfulness to his people, and his resolve to see this divine marriage through to eternity.

Marriage in the New Testament

Enter Jesus, our bridegroom. Seeing as he’s the ultimate reality to which all marriages point, what did he think about marriage? When asked about divorce, Jesus went retro, reaching back to Eden to affirm the original design of marriage: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Although Jesus fulfilled the law, eliminating civil and ceremonial customs, one thing that remained unchanged is marriage: one man, one woman, for life. The apostle Paul, too, used Genesis 2:24 as the standard for marriage: once in 1 Corinthians 6:16, and more famously in Ephesians 5 (a passage often recited at weddings), where he explains how marriage reflects Christ and the Church. Paul reiterates the “dance of complementarity,” as Ortlund calls it, between husband as head and wife as helper that was first established in Genesis. Finally, Ortlund takes us to Revelation, where the institute of human marriage comes to an end and the better reality to which it pointed all along begins: the marriage supper of the Lamb, where Christ and his people are united forever. Ortlund notes that God made the heavens and earth for the marriage of Adam and Eve, but he will soon make a new heaven and new earth for the ultimate marriage of Jesus and his bride, the Church.

Marriage in the World Today

Ortlund ends with a sober reminder from Scripture: “Let marriage be held in honor among all” (Hebrews 13:4). Especially now, in a culture where people “don’t believe in marriage” or seek to redefine it, we need to “build a pro-marriage counterculture, where faithfulness and beauty and lasting love point the way not only to a better human society but also, and far more, to the eternal love of Christ.” Because the one-flesh union of man and woman is such a vital and vivid representation of the gospel, Christians have every reason to protect marriage, both their own and in general. Every departure from God’s design for marriage is a departure from the gospel; thus, Ortlund encourages Christians to defend God’s vision for marriage and sexuality with confidence and humility.

If I may have the final word: Marriage is not the gospel, but it is God’s chosen metaphor for the gospel, a motif that runs through the veins of Scripture from the very heart of God, giving us insight to his fierce love and devotion toward his people. That’s why I love marriage! And that’s why I recommend this book. I hope it will encourage married couples to take seriously their role in displaying God’s love to the world, and inspire single people to cherish marriage, knowing it holds the mystery of the gospel for them as well.

Review: Home

Posted by: 
Book Reviews

Home, for me, is Utah. My happiest memories were made in this valley just west of the Wasatch Mountains — a stone’s throw from my favorite hikes, hangouts, and loved ones. This year I’ve had an opportunity to travel to some of the world’s most beautiful places, but nothing beats coming home. On the other hand, Utah is smoggy, always under construction, marred with temples built to false gods, and the winter can overstay its welcome. Utah is simultaneously not my home. Its best qualities are glimpses of my future home on the new earth and its worst qualities keep me hungering for more — something better.

In her new book, Home, Elyse Fitzpatrick calls this hunger “homesickness.” It’s feeling restless, nostalgic, and unsatisfied in our own home, knowing we’re made for some other place — namely heaven. Fitzpatrick, aware of the glaring limitations, does her best to describe this place — not by giving overly speculative details, but by exploring sweeping themes in Scripture.

One of the major themes is resurrection. Fitzpatrick challenges us to reimagine heaven as a REAL place — physical bodies on a physical earth. None of this bodiless, harps-on-a-cloud business. The Bible gives a better picture: the resurrection of Jesus guarantees our own resurrection, which means we’ll live with God and our fellow saints in time and space. Heaven isn’t just the place we go when we die, where our spirits await reunion with our bodies; ultimately, heaven will be right here on a redeemed earth, when everything is made new. (She actually spends a good chunk of time talking about the meaning of “new” and how amazing it’ll be to live in a place where nothing gets old.) The new earth will not be completely unrecognizable, in the same way that Jesus’ resurrected body shares similarities with his old body. This continuity gives us a lot to imagine in terms of what we’ll know, love, and remember once we get there — not to mention the countless new wonders we can’t even begin to imagine!

And then there’s this awesome chapter on the city of heaven. Fitzpatrick lingers here because of how many people imagine heaven being this sort of farmland — spacious and rural. John the Revelator makes it pretty clear that heaven is a city, not only in terms of architecture (think the enormous cubed metropolis described in Revelation 21) but also as the hotbed of culture and, most importantly, the gathering of PEOPLE. Of course, this will be unlike any city we’ve ever known, completely free from the sinful things that drive us away from cities today. But she wants us to really think about the “garden city” God himself describes in his Word. As someone who enjoys escaping into the mountains, Fitzpatrick did a good job of helping me look forward to life in the big city.

I really appreciate the chapter on suffering, which is a recurring theme throughout Home. Fitzpatrick admits she wrote this book following a time of intense personal and ministerial troubles. She needed a reminder of her future home. But because she feels like her sufferings pale in comparison to fellow believers in Christ, she includes testimonies from those whose faith persevered through various trials — including disease, divorce, and the death of loved ones — as they held onto the hope of heaven. The theme of suffering reminds the reader that life isn’t always rosy… but heaven will be.

Another treasure was chapter ten, which describes how the Church is a foretaste of heaven. If we’re doing it right, “the church should be a place where we get glimpses, whiffs, whispers of [heaven] from time to time.” Jesus speaks to us through his Word, the sermon, and becomes “accessible to our senses” through the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. I’m so thankful to be part of a church family that affirms that truth: each week foreshadows a greater communion to come, when we gather together with saints to worship God — only then it will be unhindered by sin.

For Fitzpatrick, writing this book was a reminder — the expectation of our future home. I think we all need that. We need books and pastors and friends to keep our eyes fixed on the horizon of heaven. We need to know SOMETHING of the place we’re headed — not only for ourselves, but also for the people looking for hope in all the wrong places. In either case, I think Home will help.

Home Is Where We’re Happy

Posted by: 
Uncategorized

I’ve got a robust imagination when it comes to envisioning Heaven. Ask my friends: they’ve heard all my crazy theories about our future home — from how old we’ll look to what kind of dinosaurs we’ll ride. Looking forward to Heaven is one of my favorite pastimes, and a not-so-secret way to be happy in Christ.

Jesus told his disciples he was going to prepare a place for them. Maybe with his own hands! He was a carpenter, right? I’ve heard some people say he was a stonemason. Either way, he’s qualified. He made the universe, too, so I have no doubts about this house:

In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and I will take you to myself, that where I am there you may be also. (John 14:2-3)

How could we not wonder about this house? Did he design it room by room? Did he consider our tastes? That’s what a good designer does, after all, and Jesus is the best. Did he build the frame, hang the molding, lay the carpet? Does he keep the light on in the hallway?

I love to imagine!

Rooms with beds as real as the one I’m sitting on right now, as I type. Rooms where we feast, hold hands around the table. Rooms where we meet at the piano, sing, and try to write music that hasn’t already been written. Rooms where we gather by the fireplace and talk into the early morning hours, maybe about some of the stupid things we did. The foolish things we believed.

This is the stuff of happiness.

Where does your imagination take you? Will you live close to me? To Jonah? To Nicodemus? Are pets allowed? And if so, will my room be big enough for a stegosaurus? Maybe the walls will be made of paper, like in Japan. Or maybe they’re stucco, coated with bright colors, like in Mexico. Some might be lined with logs, like a cabin in the Rockies. I think there will be hints of every culture throughout the house to reflect the diversity in which God delights. Especially if it’s going to be a house for those “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9).

This house isn’t a symbol. It exists in time and space — made from matter. It’s where we’ll live with the saints and God himself, when Heaven and Earth become one — the thrill of the new, fused with the familiarity of the old. Even better than Eden. I can’t imagine, and yet I still try.

But no matter what it looks like, no matter how he designs and decorates it, and even if I don’t know for sure whether we’ll be able to teleport, or fly, or walk through walls, I know the most important thing: Jesus will be there. “That where I am there you may be also.” For that reason, the house will feel like home — and home is where we’re happy.