25 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; 26 men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” (Luke21:25-28NKJV)
Jesus is referring in this passage to the “tribulations” that proceed the end of the age. Rather than be distressed by these things, the Lord urges His followers “lift up your heads for your redemption draws near”. For what it’s worth, my assessment is that the tribulations are now starting in earnest but that is not the focus of this short post. What intrigues me is Jesus’ reference to “redemption” (Greek: ἀπολύτρωσις) in this context. The word literally means to be freed or delivered from something by means of a payment. Most Christians would understand that they had already been redeemed, and in a sense they have. Paul affirms this when he writes that Christians, being those who have faith in Christ in advance of His coming (Eph1:12 Greek: προηλπικότας) – have already been sealed with the Spirit as a down-payment of their glorious inheritance. He affirms also that this pertains to “the ἀπολύτρωσις (redemption) of the purchased possession” (Eph1:14). We know the price paid – it is the Saviour’s blood, no less. As to whom (if anyone) the payment is made, that is another mystery which may feature in a later post. What I’m concerned with here is what is to be redeemed and when it will have been accomplished.
For like Jesus, Paul also refers to an aspect of the Christian’s redemption that is yet to occur. He is more explicit about the matter in another passage where he writes: “ We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the “ἀπολύτρωσις” (redemption) of our bodies” (Rom8:22-23 NRSV). And in the same epistle when speaking of the inner struggle we face between the desires of the flesh and the nobler aspirations of the God-given spirit, he writes “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Rom7:23-24NRSV). I believe Paul to be saying** that it is the procreated intellectual vessel our soul inhabits at birth that is the source of man’s problem with sin – not the soul itself, having been planted by God, hence “who will deliver me from this body…”, the “me” being the soul/spirit that returns to God when the body and brain dies. Yet the soul being pliant is itself liable to corruption, for which reason Peter urges Christians to “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul”. Christians are a people called out from the world, elected through unmerited grace to serve the living God in spirit and truth whilst still within this “body of death”. To do so they need to be spiritually regenerated, cleansed through the Blood and empowered by the Spirit.
Yet, Paul is saying, even this is not the end of the story – what will ultimately be needed is a new body. And for those who are joint-heirs with Christ and are to inherit the kingdom in the age to come (cf. previous post) this will be provided: “those who eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself (Phi3:20-21). Only then will the Christian’s redemption be complete.
** All this is worked out in detail in my book – a free PDF is available HERE