Part of the challenge of the Christian life is understanding that God has in fact begun to save his people from the corruption and decay of this world, but he does not save all at once.
The apostle Paul describes this tension as a “wasting away” while simultaneously “being renewed:” “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16).
Before getting into this tension, however, we must remember that one aspect of salvation does happen all at once: Jesus saves his people from the wrath of God and from the punishment for sin. This aspect of the believer’s salvation is not a process, for Jesus acts once for all to take away our guilt and give us a new, perfect record before God. Jesus also saves us from the corruption of sin and its effects upon the world, one of which is disease. However, this aspect of salvation is not immediate. Saved Christians still suffer diseases, natural disasters, persecution and oppression, enslavement, and many other evils. The pain of our physical bodies often threatens to drown out the truth of the promise of the believers’ renewal and salvation. How can we say Jesus is saving even our physical bodies?
Despite the decay, corruption, and breakdown we see in our bodies, God is working renewal in our lives. He has given us his Spirit to make us a new creation. While this is not immediately obvious, our renewal is taking place in the increase of joy, the increase in godliness and good works that evidence the life given to us by Christ. Paul writes, “we are always carrying in the body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (emphasis added).
We must look to the way of the cross and the way of humility, and weakness that to the world seems foolish but in reality are the very avenue God uses to proclaim hope to a dying world. God is the one who is, who was, and who is coming. He is in the process of coming right now by the work of the Holy Spirit, bringing people into his kingdom, renewing them in his image, and preserving and protecting his church. He rules over his enemies by keeping his people from losing hope, by protecting them from the onslaught of the devil. The Holy Spirit gives perseverance, faith, and hope to the believer who rests in Christ for salvation. If you suffer from depression, you have hope even that your body will be renewed and that even in the sufferings of this age, the life of Christ and the new life you have in him continue to unfold.
At the second coming of Jesus, it will all be finalized. Physical bodies will be transformed to be like his. At the resurrection, the dead will be given new life and all things will be made new. The hope of the sufferer is that a day is coming when the renewal of things will be completed and the corruption and decay and death of life will be once and for all removed from the world.