The People of the Future

My favorite movie of all time is unashamedly Back to the Future (and for the record, I consider all 3 movies to be one continuous film). 

For those of you who have been living under a rock since 1985, Back to the Future is a story about a teenager named Marty McFly (played by Michael J Fox) who time travels in a DeLorean with the help of scientist Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown (played by Christopher Lloyd). The movie is filled with time traveling adventures to the past as well as to the future. One minute Marty could be sitting in a 50’s diner with the younger version of his parents, and the next he’s flying on a hover board in the year 2015 to save his future children.

I’ve often wondered why stories about time travel seem to resonate so deeply within the human soul. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that, in the grand scheme of time, we only get a little piece to be a part of. Like a child who throws a tantrum because he or she has to go to bed early, we feel like we’re missing out. 

I don’t know about you, but I HATE missing out... 

You leave the room for one minute only to return to the eruption of laughter, because you missed the joke that you just “had to be there” to understand... 

You look away from the game for one second, and you just so happen to miss the play of the year…

You’re busy at work while your first born child decides to take her first steps…

We hate missing out…but we love the idea of time travel. 

Time travel means we never have to miss out ever again. It means we don’t just witness the events of our lifetime, but we can see those things which have happened long before we were here: a Shakespearean play, the construction of the pyramids, a journey through the Renaissance or Reformation, maybe an interview with Billy the Kid, Socrates, or Abraham Lincoln (ok maybe this is sounding a little too much like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but you get the point). 

Even better than traveling backwards, what if we could travel forward into the unknown future? Now that’s different isn’t it? To me, the future seems to be way more of a sensitive subject than the past. At least we can read about events before our time in history books. Maybe it isn’t the past that makes us feel like we’re missing out. It’s the future we’re concerned about. That’s why kings and queens of old built monuments or even fought wars; hoping they could save up some form of glory that would carry their legacy into the future. Still, our time is limited. And while some of us may be remembered, no one gets to see it all. That’s why we hate death. 

No one wants to die. Dying means we miss out. 

But what if there’s a legitimate reason why stories of time travel are so visceral? so connected to the core of who we are? What if we are suppose to be a people of more than the present? Maybe we are suppose to be a people of the future. 

A people of the future? 

Too often, Christians have made the mistake of thinking of the future as Heaven and Heaven alone. When I read Revelation 21 and 22, I see something more…

Not just Heaven...

A new Heaven…

A new Earth…

A brand new Creation...

In the Biblical Scriptures, Jesus’ resurrection caused a collision between the past, the present, and the future. There was a sort of overlap between Heaven and Earth; God’s time and our time; God’s future and our present. I know this sounds confusing, but I like to think of it this way…

Whenever my family rings in the New Year on the east coast, my brother always insists on calling our family out west (in a different time zone) to tell them “Happy New Year from the future!” Similarly, as a new day dawns in the east before the west, Jesus’s resurrection marked a new day. And while Jesus was the first to awake in this new reality, he is calling all of us who are “out west” to wake up as well. We are no longer a people of the present day. Those who have risen with Christ have been baptized into a new day. We are a people of the future and we must begin living like it. 

Now the question remains: What does it look like to live as a people of the future? 

Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. In other words, the future is at hand. If all we ever believe is that the world will burn while we wait for our future in Heaven, we’re doing way more harm than good. The way we think about our future dramatically effects the way we live in the present. Our eschatology matters. So, we must begin with the end in mind.

NT Wright says it this way in his book “Surprised by Hope,” 

The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.

So for those, like me, who hate to miss out...

We may never time travel like Marty McFly, but if we long to see a day in the future where every wrong will be made right, where beauty will rise from the ashes, and every tear will be wiped away, let us live like that new creation now…because we are a new creation in Christ Jesus. In this present world full of injustice, depression, and destruction, let us be a people of peace, hope, and reconciliation.  

Let us be a people of the future.