Regeneration and the New Creation

An Introductory Biblical Theology of Regeneration as it Pertains to a Proper Understanding of Inaugurated Eschatology

In contrast to systematic theology, a discipline that tackles doctrines in a neat, organized, systematic, and generally atemporal fashion, Biblical theology seeks to examine Biblical themes through the lens of progressive revelation, that is, in light of scripture’s metanarrative or unfolding plotline. Biblically theology deliberately makes temporal sequence (time development) and Scripture’s broad storyline the grid through which theology, doctrines, and themes are studied and investigated.

The following post will seek to provide an introduction to a Biblical theology on regeneration as it pertains to a proper understanding of inaugurated (already initiated) eschatology (pertaining to “last things”).

If that sounds confusing, that’s okay; it’ll all makes sense in just a bit.

Some individuals break the storyline of scripture (and the storyline of history) into the helpful themes or stages of creation, fall, redemption [initiated], and consummation [of redemption].

A very similar, basically identical, break down can also be presented in terms of regeneration – (1) generation, (2) degeneration, (3) regeneration.

God’s regeneration of His creation does not occur all at once but progressively and in stages.[1] This is why we speak in terms of “already/not yet” in regards to the “two creation orders” or “ages.” The Kingdom, that is, regenerated creation and humanity under His rule, is “already” in the sense that the process of regeneration has already begun. For example, it has occurred in the individual, spiritual regeneration of believers.[2] But the Kingdom is also “not yet” in the sense that the complete regeneration, the restoration of all things, is “yet” to come.

Hence we live in the “last days” (Acts 2:17; Heb 1:2), in an overlap of two ages or eons—the old order and the new order, “this age” and “the age to come” (Heb 6:5)—which explains the practical and “spiritual” struggles we face on a regular basis as Christians in the process of sanctification, sometimes called “the progress of salvation.” Our salvation is “already” (1 Tim 1:15; Rom 5:9) and “not yet” (1 Pet 1:5; Phil 2:12; Heb 9:28).

In Christ, namely in His resurrection, the new order of existence has penetrated the old. Eschatological realities have entered into the midst of history.[3] Those united to Christ by faith share in the eschatological realities of His resurrection existence. In Christ, already believers have died and been raised (Col 2:12, 20; 3:1, 3). We are already raised “spiritually,” but not yet raised bodily–one resurrection, two installments, vast practical implications. Those who are in Christ are “New Creation” (2 Cor 5:17) not merely “new creatures” (KJV), but a part of the New Creation order. Not only so, but they are also apart of the “New Humanity” (i.e., the Church; Eph 2:15) under the headship of the New Adam, the second Adamic figure, Christ (1 Cor 15:21-22; Rom 5:12-21). This New Humanity is being renewed according to the image[4] of its head (cf. Rom 8:29); and therefore, believers are to put off the “Old Humanity” and put on the “New” (Col 3:9-10; Eph 4:22-24).

In the generation of creation, God first created the world and then created the humanity to live within it (Gen 1-2). Interestingly enough, in the regeneration of God’s creation, that is His New Creation (2 Cor 5:17; Rev 21:1; Isa 65:17; and 2 Pet 3:13), God has reversed this order. God has begun with the regeneration of His New Humanity according to this New Creation order of existence. That is exactly what the Church is: the Kingdom people, the eschatological people of God,[5]

the New Covenant community, the unified community of remnant Israel[6] and grafted Gentiles, the true children of the Old Testament promises (Eph 2:11-19; Rom 4:16-18; Gal 3:14, 29; 4:28).

Notes

[1] Please note, the spiritual regeneration of individuals, typically referred to as “new birth,” occurs instantaneously in the life of the believer at the moment of faith. I refer to the “progressive regeneration” in regards to theme in Biblical theology.

[2] This fundamental link between the believer’s individual regeneration and the regeneration of “all things” is seen by the interesting fact that the same word translated “regeneration” in Tit 3:5, παλιγγενεσία, is used once elsewhere in the New Testament in Matthew 19:28 to refer to the universal regeneration of creation, the consummation of the Kingdom, or as the ESV translates, “the new world.”

[3] For example, the reign of the ultimate David King and Messiah (Acts 2:34-36; Eph 1:20-23), the Kingdom of God (Mt 12:28; Mk 1:15; Lk 9:27; Col 1:13), the “poured out” Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33), the New Covenant (Lk 22:20; Heb 8:6-13), etc.

[4] The word “image” in Col 3:10 reflects “Image of God” language in Gen 1:26-27. The same word εἰκών is used in Col 3:10, Gen 1:26-27 (LXX), and some extra Biblical sources (1 Clement 33.4, Epistle of Barnabas 5:5; 6:12) to refer to the image of God. κτίζω (“to create”) in Col 3:10 also has obvious allusions to the creation theme as well. The New Humanity is being renewed according to the one who perfectly reflects what humanity is to be like—Christ (cf. Rom 8:29). This is a restoration of what is the marred image of God in fallen humanity.

[5] What do I mean by eschatological people of God? I mean that the Church is in continuity with remnant Israel and was typologically anticipated by Old Testament Israel. The Church is the fulfillment (“already/not yet”) of the hopes for a restored humanity. This anticipation began with the call of Abraham and further developed throughout the Old Testament, specifically in regards to the nation of Israel.

[6] By specifying remnant Israel I am not excluding the future re-grafting of a massive amount of ethnic Israelites (Rom 11:12, 23-32). I am specifying that the church is in continuity with remnant Israel and is not like corporate Israel, a mixed community of believers and nonbelievers.

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