Thursday morning, July 2. Just before Paul Hartog delivers his final message of the 2015 conference, Mark Cizauskas leads the audience in a rousing rendition of S. J. Stone’s classic hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation.” The assembled 267 voices swell to a thunderous crescendo on the final verse:
Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation of peace forevermore,
Till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blest,
And the great church victorious shall be the church at rest.
It is a perfect segue to the morning message, “Union with Christ: Our Future.” Preaching from the third chapter of Colossians, Hartog reminds his audience that believers have a secure position in that their lives are hidden with Christ (3:1, 3), a sure promise in that they will appear with Him in glory (3:4), and a settled perspective as they set their minds on things above (3:2). This is a message endowed with penetrating, reassuring, life-transforming power. In a world filled with so much uncertainty and fear, what greater assurance could there possibly be than the settled conviction that the creator of the universe holds our future—firm, secure, and permanently established—in Heaven?
The theological ground of our assured future is nothing less than union with Christ. “We died with Him, we’ll be raised with Him, we’ll ascend with Him, and we’ll return to reign with Him,” Hartog says. And this felicitous certainty provides a powerful impetus for holy living here are now. “Through union with the life of Christ, we have received newness of life. The irresistible power of sin is overcome by the inestimable power of the Son. As Christians, we are to become what we are. We are already declared righteous; now we are to live righteously. As Christians, we are also to become what we shall be. ‘We shall see Him as He is; therefore we are to purify ourselves even as He is pure’ (1 John 3:2–3). Our life is hidden with Christ, which shall be revealed in glory, and that is to be reflected in our conduct.”
This line of Scriptural reasoning also bears significant fruit for our understanding of the eschatological order of events. Given our union with Christ, and since Jesus ascended to Heaven between His resurrection from the dead and His coming return to rule the nations, it stands to reason that we, too, will ascend to Heaven before returning to earth to co-reign with Him. This renders post-tribulationism untenable. “Don’t pretend that we have the mere crumbs of theology,” Hartog urges his pre-tribulational audience. “Celebrate the feast of the doctrinal statements of this fellowship and of this church! Banquet at the table of your union with Jesus Christ!”
Truly, the believer’s union with Christ is one of the most important—and one of the most frequently neglected—aspects of New Testament soteriology. Concluding his series, Hartog says, “Through union with Christ, we have freedom. Through union with Christ, we have fellowship. And through union with Christ, we have a future.”
Hear the sermon audio below: