This is a guest post from Mike Wilkerson, a pastor and Director of Biblical Counseling at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, and the author of Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry.
Which sort of vacation sounds more like “rest” to you: two weeks reclined under a beach umbrella, or two weeks backpacking through Europe? When we hear that God promises rest for his people in the new creation, does one of these vacation fantasies shape your expectations (Rev. 14:13)? Recently, while re-reading C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia to my kids, I caught a surprising glimpse of what the experience of rest in the new creation might be like.
In the final chapters of The Last Battle, amidst that final battle in front of the barn around which much of the story revolves, the children passed through the barn door. They went in expecting death, but, on the other side, they found a new world instead. It was beautiful, unlike anything they’d seen, and yet at the same time it was familiar. Eventually they recognized it: this was in fact Narnia, the real Narnia, remade into what Narnia was always supposed to be, only somehow more real and more beautiful.
A unicorn beckoned them explore—“Come further up, come further in!”—and then sprang forward in a great gallop. They followed in amazement and delight. And then, “the most strange thing happened.” They all found that they were running—fast enough to keep up with the unicorn, without tiring! And so they ran, exhilarated, through one gorgeous vista after another.
When I read this something in me shouts: “Wait! Slow down and enjoy this! Rest already!” If you’ve ever watched children on Christmas morning, you might have felt a similar apprehension as they tear feverishly through their presents. In their excitement, they can’t seem to slow down. But you know there will soon come an end to the presents, and the faster they go, the sooner that end will come, and then will come, perhaps, some disappointment that it’s all over.
But running through the new Narnia, the children found that, rather than coming to an end, it began all over again, only more beautiful than before. A Faun explained: “The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside…like an onion: except that as you continue to go in and in, each circle is larger than the last.”
They had entered a world of ever-increasing splendor, and they had entered it with new bodies capable of taking it all in at top speed. How’s that for an unexpected picture of rest? Running through a never-ending paradise, never growing weary.
You know how inaugurated eschatology works, right? The end that is not yet has already begun; the next age overlaps with this present age; some of that new world already breaks into this one, especially through the lives of those who have already been made part of that new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). So we might ask: if this is a picture of what it will be like in the end, then how does it break into our lives today?
When Paul says in Ephesians 2:10 “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works”, he has new creation in mind. In fact, our wordpoem may come from the Greek word poiema, translated here as “workmanship”, and it carries some similar connotations. We are God’s work of art or fine craftsmanship, and we’ve been handcrafted, made part of the new creation in Christ, designed for the accomplishment of these good purposes. We’re no longer enslaved: dead in trespasses and sins, following the course of the world, living in the passions of our flesh (Eph. 2:1–3). We are on our way to an experience somewhat like those children in the new Narnia, running at top speed through paradise and never tiring, doing exactly what we were designed to do, all the time, at full capacity.
For the Christian, there is rest already in simply being God’s workmanship in Christ, and doing what God has designed us to do. And there is still more to come, when the hindrances of the world, the flesh and the devil pass away forever, and we run into our final rest—and keep running.
About Mike Wilkerson
Mike is a pastor and the Director of Biblical Counseling at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, serving all Mars Hill churches by leading the counseling ministries, with a focus on Redemption Groups which represent the most prominent expression of biblical counseling at Mars Hill; these are intense, short term small groups for those stuck in addictions, wounds from of abuse, and assorted troubles of all kinds. Mike is the author of Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry, published by Crossway; this book serves as the curriculum for Redemption Groups. Having formerly led Mars Hill’s Community Groups, he also helped design and champion Mars Hill’s discipleship strategy, which aligns Community Groups, Redemption Groups, and biblical counseling together under the leadership of Mars Hill’s preaching ministry. Before joining Mars Hill’s staff as a pastor, he worked as a software engineer in Seattle’s tech industry. Mike and his wife Trisha have four young children.