I am amazed at what I ate when I was younger that rotted my teeth and my stomach. One of those gooey treats was the “Now and Later” candy. Anyone persistent enough could enjoy battling these candies down into reasonable bites to swallow, leaving behind small remnants in your teeth to enjoy for hours afterward. I think they called it “Now and Later” because you could enjoy it now but pay the dentist for it later!
Redemption is a bit like a “Now and Later” candy. In a very real way we experience redemption “now”, but the full effects of redemption won’t be experienced until “later”.
Let’s unpack the term. What does it mean to “redeem” something?
To redeem something is to bring out its original value, usually after time has stolen its luster. In theology, redemption is the act of God restoring our hearts, minds, and lives from the ravages of years of sin.
There are three aspects to redemption.
First, redemption is a moment in time.
Redemption begins the moment in time we trust in Jesus. In this very moment, we are “redeemed”.
The Bible talks a lot about redemption, but often uses words or phrases that mean the same thing. Redemption is when we are “born again” (John 3:3, 1 Peter 1:3). It is when the old passes away and all things are made new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Some people call this being “saved.”
When we personally trust Jesus to cover our own sin, the Bible says that we are “redeemed”.
Before we were redeemed, the Bible says we were enemies of God (Romans 5:10), led by selfish rebellion (Ephesians 2:1-3). However, when the moment of redemption occurs, God sees us no longer as enemies, but as His own sons and daughters (Romans 8:14-17). Immediately, we are moved from dark to light, rebellion to worship, brokenness to joy. We are attached to God through Jesus like branches are attached to the vine (John 15:4-5), and He is not letting us go (Romans 8:35-39). We are even called brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ Himself (Hebrews 2:11)! Jesus says this is the moment that causes angels to rejoice (Luke 15:10).
If you are in Christ, you are indeed redeemed!
Second, redemption is a process.
Redemption refers to God’s daily restoration of our hearts, minds, and lives from the ravages of sin.
Though our full redemption lies in the future, God is actively making right today what sin has broken in us. Redemption is taking place now…right here in the middle of our busy lives.
The process of redemption always change you. Old ways, thoughts, and desires are being replaced with new purpose, a pure mind, and a deeper joy. Redemption puts us on a new path to be led by the Spirit of God, love the ways of God, and live the truth of God – even without knowing that it is happening.
God has promised to finish what he started in each and every believer, and this process is called redemption.
Third, redemption is our future hope.
Heaven is not our final destination. Does this surprise you?
Someday, our bodies themselves will be raised from the dead just like Jesus was (1 Corinthians 15:51-53), and we will live here on this renewed earth with Jesus and our loved ones forever. God will burn the sin out of this world (2 Peter 3:10-13) and it will be as it was meant to be, way back in the Garden of Eden before sin infected anything. Redeemed.
The Bible speaks of this “later” as our final redemption. All souls who have surrendered to Jesus will be completely redeemed (Romans 8:10-11) along with the rest of creation (Romans 8:23). Those who follow Jesus get their mortal bodies back and live into eternity with the completed family of God (1 Corinthians 15:50-57). And our eternity is spent enjoying God and His New Creation with Him forever (Revelation 21:1-4).
Life “now” with Jesus is great. It is really the only life worth living. But it is nothing compared to the last part of our redemption journey. It is that “later” part of the redemption plan that gives us incredible hope as we go through this world. It is the anticipation of seeing our loved ones who have gone before us face-to-face. It is when every tear is wiped away and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord together.
In the final book of C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle, the children experience physical death in this world after spending the series periodically jumping back and forth from the Shadowlands (their “now”) to the next world (their “later). Aslan, the great lion who symbolizes Jesus in the series, breaks the news to them that they can no longer return back to the Shadowlands. Concluding this extremely moving moment, Lewis writes:
“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
Christian, you have been, are being, and will continue to be redeemed until the resurrection of the dead! And that will be just the beginning…