Therefore, since you have been raised with Christ, strive for the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4 BSB)
Paul explained the Christian life in three tenses: the past, the present, and the future. Though life can only be lived in the present, it is lived with an awareness of yesterday and of tomorrow.
Who Jesus of Nazareth Is
An important part of biblical theology is often ignored, or not considered at all by some today as truly important. But if we will be biblical, and logical, then we will realize that this is an essential matter to understand and to keep in mind in all things related to our salvation, and that is who Jesus is.
Both Paul and the author of Hebrews (whom many suspect was Apollos, Acts 18:24-28), first laid the foundation of the divinity of Jesus Christ, of His credentials to be the Savior of the world, before they dealt with the effect of His sacrifice. Jesus was not just a man who decided on his own to die for the sins of the world. No mere man can do that for others and, thereby, his act would be considered as effective for us to believe in for our salvation. God Himself must send the Redeemer.
In Hebrews the credentials of Christ are dealt with in chapter 7. He stated that Jesus was different from all the priests who came before Him.
Now there have been many other priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office. But because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest truly befits us—One who is holy, innocent, undefiled, set apart from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. (Hebrews 7:23-26)
This is an essential factor to understand, that Jesus was sent by God into the world to die for our sins. And because He is eternal, His death has eternal results, “since He always lives to intercede.”
Yesterday we died with Christ
Because of who Jesus was and is, His death on the cross was not just another event in history. It was the unique work of God to deal with sin. One of the most central messages that is repeatedly demonstrated and taught in Scripture is that only through the shedding of blood is sin dealt with (Heb. 9:22). In the earliest days of recorded human worship, the offering of a slain animal for forgiveness was central. And in the Mosaic Covenant, the sacrificing of animals declared clean was commanded with clarity.
John the Baptist called Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He was referring to Isaiah’s prophecy who wrote that the coming Messiah would be the sacrificial lamb sent by God to die for our sins.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 5:5-6)
The use of the past tense by Isaiah, though he prophesied hundreds of years before Jesus died, was used to show the certainty of the prophecy’s fulfilment.
The author of Hebrews explained that Jesus’ death was the real sacrifice of God for our sins, and that all the others that had been previously given were merely symbolic of His. “He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26).
You and I, believer, died with Christ, our old life that is. “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). Something happened in the past that has an impact on our today, that in the death of Christ for our sins, and through our faith in Him, we died with Him. There was an end to our old self, to the sinful life, to the life filled with selfish ambition and jealousies, to the life of pride and anger, but also to the life of shame and moral defeat, of discouragement and hopelessness. All of those things associated with the old sinful self died with Christ.
Today we live in Christ
The body of Christ did not remain in the ground, but “death could not hold Him” (Acts 2:24), and He rose from the grave. Christ died for us but He never claimed to be “death” itself. Instead He said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). We “have been raised with Christ” (Col. 3:1), and we have a new life in Him, in the reality of His life.
We will get to the future in just a second, but we can see at this point a faulty thinking of many weak Christians. They only think that Christ came so we can go to heaven when we die. While that was one of the aspects of His coming and of our salvation, it is not the main thing that the Bible speaks of. Christ came “to destroy the work of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Christ came that we might have life and have it to the full (John 10:10b). Christ came to save us from our sins — and that means not just to rescue us from a fallen world and deliver us into a perfect heaven, but it means to deliver our souls and our spirits from spiritual death, and to make us alive inwardly.
Christ is our life!
The same power that brought Jesus out of the tomb, that brought life and immortality to His body, is at work in our lives today. Our lives are “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3), and now it can be said, “Christ, who is your life” (Col. 3:4). “”Hidden” is a strong word that describes a mysterious union with God in Christ. I believe the word is meant to convey three thoughts: a new spiritual reality, eternal security, and a spiritual mystery.
There is something parental on the part of God in these words, and we like children who do not understand all of the realities of what it means to belong to a family, can simply accept the truth and live out its reality in our lives. We see childlike faith leading to childlike assurance and a childlike sense of family identity and loyalty. Because I am part of God’s family, then I should be comforted, assured, and live as the Father would have me live. But there is more than an “ought to” here — there is also simple identity. This is who I am!
The future with Christ
For the Christian, life just keeps getting better, or it should. For the believer, the best is always yet to come. Sometimes when life is hard, we wistfully think of heaven — there it will be good, peaceful, and perfect. All of this is appropriate, for the Lord gives us many such examples in scripture of death bringing peace to the believer.
But we do have the privilege of experiencing a taste of heaven today. We know the One who is the Resurrection and the Life. We have Him living in us, and we can say, as Paul did, “for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). To think of heaven is not an exercise in escapism, but rather it is the anticipation of all that God has promised us in our redemption. There our inner transformation will be completed (1 Thes. 5:24), and we shall see Christ as He truly is (1John 3:2).
- What aspects of your old nature seem to try and exert themselves in your daily life? Pride? Lust? Guilt? Shame?
- Selfish ambition and envy are a deadly duo in our lives (James 3:16). Do these show up in your heart?
- “Hidden with Christ in God” — what do these words mean to you? How does this thought give you hope and assurance today?
- “Christ, who is your life” — is Christ your life today? Can you say truthfully, “For to me to live is Christ”?
- Are you more likely to think of heaven as a perfect place, where you see old earthly loved ones, or as the home of God, where you will see your Redeemer, and where you will be fully transformed into His image?