Anyone who reads Scripture carefully can discern a division of human history into two main epochs: the present era and the age to come, each having fundamentally different characteristics. The present era, the time since Adam’s fall, is an age marked by sin, disobedience, and death. During this period, the thoughts and intents of unregenerate people are self-serving and evil from their youth, and wickedness has great power across the universe (Gen. 8:21). The age to come, on the other hand, is an everlasting era of perfect righteousness. Those who have trusted in the one true God and covenant Lord of Israel will shine brightly and purely like the sun as they live in a renewed creation where righteousness dwells (Dan. 12:1–3; 2 Peter 3:11–13).
Even though the world is waiting for the age to come to arrive in all its fullness, part of the good news of Christ Jesus is that those who love Him will even in this present fallen era experience in part the life of the future era. The coming of Jesus has brought the future into the present for the believer, and we have the Holy Spirit, who keeps us from submitting to the desires of the flesh as we walk by His power (Gal. 5:16). Walking by the Spirit is not a mystical experience for a select few but occurs as we recall that we have died and risen with Christ, shaping our lives after the pattern of kingdom living that He exemplified for us (Col. 3:1–2; 1 Peter 2:21–25).
The world, caught up with chasing after its own version of a future golden age, perpetually ends up repeating the same wicked mistakes of the past. It denies that kingdom ethics — faith, hope, and love — are the ethics of the future, viewing them instead as relics of the unenlightened past. Because the church’s true identity as those who inherit the earth in the age to come is hidden with Christ in God (v. 3), non-believers are blind to God’s true purposes for creation; they cannot see that life in the future will fulfill the Lord’s unchanging standards of righteousness. Apart from divine grace they will always view Christians as hopelessly backward. The key for us, then, is never to adopt, consciously or unconsciously, this attitude but to remember that the future does indeed belong to those who take up the cross and follow Jesus. For when Christ returns, our status as those to whom the future belongs will be revealed for all to see, to our glory and to the shame of those who love their sin and not the Savior (v. 4).
The world sees Christians as ignorant, backward, and even evil because God has concealed our identity to all except those who trust His only begotten Son. Because of the sin that still clings to us, however, sometimes we cannot see that God’s ways alone make up the future and are tempted to compromise. Let us recall that our true identity is hidden in the Lord and that goodness, as God defines it, will last forever.