The experience of fallen humans in a fallen world is precarious to say the least. We are vulnerable to disease and deterioration in our bodies because, as the Apostle Paul has aptly stated, “death is at work in us” (2 Cor. 4:12). But as humans, we are not just physical; we are living souls. We have thoughts, affections, and emotions. Just as the fall is evidenced in our physical vulnerability and deterioration, so it is also evident in what can be described as our inner selves. Fear, anxiety, and frustration are the inner responses to what happens to our physical bodies, what we anticipate will happen to our physical bodies, and what we experience in the fallen world around us.
The promise of the gospel is the reversal of both the physical and spiritual consequences of the fall. The Apostle Paul reminds us that “our outer self is wasting away” (v. 16) but also that “if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling” (5:1–2). Faith in the gospel assures us of a physical existence not marked by disease, deterioration, and death. As the Apostle declares:
For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:53–55)
But while the gospel assures us of this greater physical existence, it announces spiritual benefits that we presently possess: “Therefore since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through Him who called us to His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:2–3). These passages are true for all believers, because saving faith attaches us to the person and work of Christ in whom is the totality of God’s saving grace. So, on the one hand the gospel assures us of a physical existence beyond our present experience, and on the other hand the gospel also grants us spiritual privileges that we presently possess.
The reality of our day-to-day experience does not always seem to match what we possess by faith. The gap between what we possess by faith and what we experience both outwardly and inwardly is what theologians call the tension between the already and the not yet. The reality of this continuing tension is one of the many reasons Christians need the gospel placarded before them and poured into them on a regular basis. The gospel is the anchor for the soul that steadies us in the face of our outward perishing and internal vacillations. God guarantees the grace of the gospel with the integrity of His character and the wounds of His Son.