I’ve begun advocating for and teaching what I believe is a more robust resurrection theology. Modern Evangelicalism, though well-intentioned, has become obsessed with Heaven. We want to get people into it, talk about it, think about it, write songs about it, and buy lots of books written by little boys who claim to have been there.
Of course, the problem is that the Christian hope for eternity is not an eternity spent in Heaven. Our future hope is all about the resurrection into the then fully established Kingdom of God ruled by Christ when he returns. This is our future hope, but we have settled for disembodied souls existing in the spiritual place we call Heaven. To be honest, this simplified vision of eternity is not very appealing to me. But the idea that Heaven and Earth will be joined together (Revelation 21), and that our destiny is to have a physical and eternal existence on a restored Earth, well, that has real power for me. This vision provides for us both our hope for the future, and a vision for how our lives are to be right now. We are to live in light of this future hope and reality, but if that hope is false, we are the greatest of all fools.
From his book, The Myth Of A Christian Nation, Greg Boyd asks some pointed questions we need to consider.
…rather than spending time and energy defending and tweaking the civil religion, might it not be in the best interest of the kingdom of God to distance ourselves from the civil religion? Couldn’t one even go so far as to argue that it would be good for the kingdom of God if this civic brand of pseudo-Christianity died altogether? Isn’t one of the primary problems we’re up against in this nation the fact that Christianity has been trivialized by being associated with civic functions? Continue reading
In recent years, I’ve gone through what I can only describe as a theological awakening. This change started when I began seeing the Kingdom of God mentioned everywhere in the bible, and I’ve since come to believe that the message of Jesus and the apostles was not salvation, but the establishment of God’s promised kingdom through the presence of His chosen King through which salvation is also available.
Now, I find myself working out the practical implications of this, and it isn’t easy. I’ve thought a lot about how Christians are to act in this world, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the way of Jesus really is radically different from anything else we see around us. I accept that the message of Jesus was the coming of the Kingdom, and that the Kingdom is already present wherever Jesus is. If Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is present among those who follow Him, then the Kingdom is present among them too. If the calling of the Christian is to be like Christ, this means that preaching the message and living out the ethics of the King and his Kingdom are our primary calling. The Kingdom of God looks like Jesus, and the people in the Kingdom should look like Jesus too.
With all the talk about the Kingdom of God lately, I thought I would take a minute to clarify something I might not have said clearly before.
The Kingdom of God is not a place like New Jersey is place. It is any realm where the Sovereign God reigns and dwells. The Kingdom is the sphere of God’s influence. In the New Testament, the term Kingdom of God means to a Jewish hearer “God’s reign come down to earth.” So, the announcement of the presence of the Kingdom was the announcement that God had moved his sphere of influence down to earth. In the case of Jesus, this means that he is bringing in that Kingdom, and that where he is, there is the Kingdom.
So, for the Jewish listener this is good news because it means the fulfillment of their desire for God to dwell among them (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Malach 4:1-5) and be their ruler and King. When Jesus announces he is bringing the Kingdom with him, he announces that he is God come to dwell among his people.
In chapter 3 of The King Jesus Gospel, Scot McKnight begins to make the case for his perspective on the original gospel (good news) message preached by Jesus and the disciples. The early posts in this series covered the argument that the gospel of salvation as it is often preached in evangelical circles is not consistent with the original gospel message, and that it is not useful for making committed followers of Jesus.
For some of you reading this blog, this might be the first time you’ve thought about some of these things. For some of you who’ve known me a long time, you might be surprised to hear me talking about the Kingdom of God so much. You might be wondering why I’ve seemingly become obsessed with the topic and why this blog is going in this direction. You can find much of what I’ll write here in greater detail in the series of posts entitled “Who Stole the Kingdom of God?”, but I want to recount my journey here in short form so my readers can understand where I’m coming from.
In this lecture, Wright is picking up on the same theme as we are discussing in The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight. He believes that we have largely been preaching a truncated gospel. Wright words some things a little differently than McKnight, but the direction is the same. Wright is a huge scholar, and he is worth listening to if you have about an hour.
The January Series of Calvin College – N.T. Wright: January 24, 2012.