God's love for us is so evident in his redeeming story that he created. His heart from the beginning was to be in relationship with his creation. When he created Adam and Eve, he had the purest relationship with them. They spent their days together in the garden.
But God's love is not forced to be reciprocated. It never has been. He created us to respond to him, but we have the freedom to choose. And so, Adam and Eve chose to sin. They chose to do so because they were allowed to rebel. Thus, sin entered the world.
But God's love is so immeasurable and everlasting. And he never gave up on his creation. So, he created a way to restore the relationship again. He sent his son to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, to bridge the gap once and for all between us and God. The cross speaks of his grace and mercy on our sins, but the greater purpose was motivated by love--his love that wants a relationship with us, as pure and unadulterated as what he had with Adam and Eve in the garden.
But there is this idea that this "relationship" won't exist until heaven. That we're just hanging out here on earth, doing the best we can, despite ourselves, until that glorious day when we'll all fly away.
We are a body of believers no better than the sleeping virgins who weren't ready when the bridegroom came. In Ephesians 5:25-27, Paul writes, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." Do you think God expects the Church to be holy and without blemish after Jesus returns? Absolutely not! This is clearly about Jesus' heart for his bride, for what he wants to see her look like now: sanctified, cleaned through the word, holy, blameless.
The process of sanctification is like the process of refinement--maybe testing and trials; life will feel heated, but God is shaping you, purifying you, making you holy and set apart.
In Ephesians 1, we're told that we've been blessed with every blessing in heavenly places. And again, we see the sovereignty of the God--who knew his plan from before time, that he would bring restoration to us. It was according to his will that we are accepted in the beloved, that we are redeemed and forgiven. In verse 9, it says that the mystery of his will was revealed--that mystery being his purpose through Christ to "united all things in him, thing in heaven and things on earth."
So we see that the redemption and restoration of all things to himself was not only for eternity. It was for right now. It was for the relationship that God desired to have with his creation. And it was for the sanctification of us as a body, as a bride.
Go to Part 2.