I concluded yesterday’s post by saying that “healing is in the atonement, but not in the same way that forgiveness of sins is.” I want to explain that.
All the blessings and benefits that God has ordained for us come to us through the mediatorial work and merits of Christ Jesus alone. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone. Healing for our bodies, when it happens, is not earned by religious works. It’s a gift that comes to us through Christ’s mercy. Paul said it like this, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us. As it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’ So that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through faith…” (Galatians 3:13-14)
Through Jesus’ substitutionary work on the Cross, we’ve been moved into an entirely new standing with God. We’re not under a curse, but a blessing. We’re no longer enemies and aliens, but sons and daughters of God and co-heirs with Christ.
Some have referred to this reality as “the finished work of Christ.”
As Jesus was breathing His last, He said, “It is finished.” The veil in the temple was rent at that moment: huge spiritual implications! And there was an earthquake too: huge physical implications. The atonement changes things BIG TIME.
But does this mean that all of what God has planned for our salvation has already been fully accomplished in Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension? Does “Christ’s finished work” mean that there is nothing more that He has to do? Many charismatics and Pentecostals believe that any failure to live above sickness in this life is due to unbelief and betrays our inheritance as sons and daughters of God.
This is what I call the error of “triumphalism“. It could also be called an “over-realized eschatology.” Some folks prematurely expect the fullness and perfection of our victory over sickness in this life. While our spirits have been reborn through faith in Christ, and our mind, will, and emotions are in the process of transformation, yet our bodies await the day when Christ returns and we are given new bodies. When Christ returns, He will not improve upon our forgiveness of sins, nor will He change our “spirits” – for this has already happened (the “finished work”). Our bodies, though, will be changed and improved upon when Christ returns. So there is an aspect of Christ’s salvation that is yet to come. That is, there is a “unfinished” aspect of salvation. We long for this final aspect of salvation – even though we are able to experience the firstfruits of it now.
Expecting absolute health in this age, before Christ returns, is therefore expecting now what is only promised in fullness later. Again, I delight that divine healing does occur in this age and admit that it can be hindered now by our unbelief. Yes, we must realize that the kingdom of God has come now, but we must realize that is has not come fully. It’s both already and not yet. (Do you sense the tension and mystery?)
Today we live between the two ages, experiencing a mixture of both. We’re not slaves to sin or sickness, but we are not fully immune either. We must live in the tension. That means we must avoid unbelieving fatalism on one side and hyper-spiritual triumphalism on the other.
Most of my readers will tend to err on the fatalistic side more than the triumphalistic side. Can you be accused of expecting too much from God in this age? James said, “You have not because you ask not…’ We need to truly live in the tension in the middle. That means that we cannot be passive about Bible promises relating to divine healing now. But at the same time, we must realize that healing will not always come in this age. And people in our churches should never be made to feel second-class if they fail to receive immediate healing.