The Kingdom of God <abbr> (part 4)

In the last episode, we examined the extent to which the promise of the imminent kingdom of God in its fullness can serve as a source of great hope for us believers. In this article, we want to delve deeper into how we stand for that hope.

How we stand for the future kingdom of God

How should we, as believers, understand our relationship with an empire that the Bible says is already present but is yet to come? I mean we can do it based on Karl Barth, TF Torrance and George Ladd (Others could also be mentioned here) describe as follows: We are called to share in the blessings of the coming kingdom of Christ and testify in a provisional and temporary manner. Just as we are currently perceiving and reflecting the Kingdom of God in our actions, which are in the service of Jesus' continuous work by virtue of his Holy Spirit, we are eloquent witness to what the future may look like. A witness does not testify for his own sake, but to testify of something of which he has personally gained knowledge. Similarly, a sign does not refer to itself, but to something else and more important. As Christians, we bear witness to what is being referred to - the future kingdom of God. Our testimony is therefore important, but is subject to certain restrictions. First, our testimony only partially serves as an indicator of the future empire. It does not hold all of its truth and reality, and this is not possible at all. Our actions cannot fully reveal Christ's kingdom, which is still largely hidden, in all its perfection. Our words and actions can even disguise some aspects of the empire, while highlighting others. In the worst case, our diverse testimony files can appear to be completely inconsistent, perhaps even contradict each other. We may not be able to achieve a complete solution to every problem, however sincerely, committed or skillfully we try to do so. In some cases, each option that comes up can inevitably be as beneficial as it is detrimental. In a sinful world, a perfect solution is not always possible even for the church. And so the testimony she has given will only be incomplete in this current world time.

Second, our testimony gives us only a limited view of the future, which only gives us a glimpse of the future kingdom of God. In all of its reality, however, it is currently unable to grasp us. We see "only an unclear picture" (1 Corinthians 13,12; Good News Bible). This is how it should be understood when we speak of a “provisional” view. Third, our testimony is time-bound. Works come and go. Some things that are done in the name of Christ may last longer than others. Some of what we testify with our actions may only be fleeting and not permanent. But understood as a sign, our testimony need not be valid once and for all to refer to what is really permanent, the eternal reign of God through Christ in the Holy Spirit, so our testimony is neither universal nor complete, exhaustive or indisputable, although it is of great, indeed indispensable value, since it gains it from the relationship to the future reality of the Kingdom of God.

Two false solutions regarding the complex theme of the already existing but not yet completed kingdom of God. Some may ask, "What is our presently gained experience and testimony worth if they are not aimed at the realm itself? So why bother with it? What use will it have? If we can not bring out the ideal, why should we invest so much effort in such a project or spend so much resources on it? "Others may answer," We would not be called by God to do anything less than to do it Achieving an ideal and the completion of something perfect. With his help, we can constantly work toward the realization of God's kingdom on earth. "Reactions to the complex issue of the" already existing, but not yet completed "kingdom have in the course of church history mostly as different answers as those cited above, produced. And this despite ongoing warnings regarding these two approaches, which they identify as serious mistakes. Officially, there is talk of triumphalism and quietism in this regard.

triumphalism

Some who do not like being reduced to the perception and realization of signs insist on being able to build the kingdom of God themselves, albeit with God's help. For example, they can not be dissuaded that we could actually be "world changers". This would be the case if only enough people would wholeheartedly commit themselves to the cause of Christ and would be prepared to pay the necessary price. So, if only enough people tirelessly and sincerely strived and, in addition, knew about the right procedures and methods, our world would be transformed more and more into that perfect kingdom of God. Christ would then, when the kingdom gradually approached its completion through our efforts, would return. All this, of course, can only be achieved with God's help.

Although not openly stated, this view of the kingdom of God assumes that what we have realized is due to the potential that Jesus Christ made possible through his work on earth and his teachings, but did not actually do so. Christ in the form of the victory has won, that we can now exploit the potential it has made possible or realize.

The triumphalist's response tends to highlight in particular those efforts that promise to bring about change in the area of ​​social justice and public morality, as well as private relations and moral behavior. The recruitment of Christians for such programs is usually based on the fact that God is in a sense dependent on us. He is just looking for "heroes". He had given us the ideal, the preliminary design, even the plan of his kingdom, and it was up to the Church to put it into practice. We are therefore given the potential to realize what is already given in perfection. This will succeed if we are only convinced that this is so, and truly and truly stand behind showing God how truly grateful we are to Him for all that He has done, so that we can realize the ideal. Accordingly, we are able to close the gap between the "real" and God's ideal - so let's just tackle it!

Advertising for the triumphalist's program is often fueled by the following criticism: The reason for this is that non-believers do not join the program and simply do not become Christians or follow Christ. And further, that the Church was not doing nearly enough to make the kingdom a reality and thus to give perfect space to God's life in the here and now. The reasoning goes even further: There are so many nominal Christians (i.e. only by name) and true hypocrites within the Church who, just as Jesus taught, do not follow love and strive for justice, so that unbelievers refuse to join - and this can only be said with full right! It is further alleged that the culprits for the fact that non-believers do not become Christians are mainly found among the half-hearted, weak-faith or hypocritical Christians. This problem can therefore only be solved if all Christians are infected by the enthusiasm and become truly convinced and uncompromising Christians who know how to implement the Kingdom of God perfectly in the here and now. The Gospel of Christ will only convince others if Christians implement God's will and the way of life he promotes in an exemplary manner to a much greater extent than before, because in this way they will recognize and believe in the glory of Jesus Christ. To reinforce this argument, one often uses, here incorrectly, Jesus' words: "This will tell everyone that you are my disciples if you love one another" (John 13,35). From this it is then concluded that others do not come to believe, and indeed cannot do it, if we do not have sufficient love. Your path to faith depends on the extent to which we, like Christ, would treat each other in love.

These words of Jesus (John 13,35) does not mean that others come to believe through it, but only that they will be recognized as his own in the following of Jesus, because they, like him, practice love. He thus points out that our cooperation in love can serve to refer others to Christ. That's wonderful! Who didn't want to join? However, it is not clear from his words that the faith / salvation of others depends on the extent to which his disciples love one another. Relying on this verse, it is logically wrong to draw the opposite conclusion if those who follow Christ lack love, others cannot recognize it as such and consequently do not believe in him. If so, God would not be more faithful than we are. The words "if we are unfaithful, he remains faithful" (2 Timothy 2,13) would then not apply. All those who came to faith have recognized that the Church as a whole, like its individual members, is caught up in contradictions and imperfect. They trusted their Lord because at the same time they recognized the difference between the one who praised and those who praised him. Just question your own belief and see if it doesn't. God is greater than our testimony of himself. He is more faithful than we are. Of course, this is not an excuse to be faithless witnesses of Christ's perfect love.

quietism

At the other end of the spectrum, where we find the answer of Quietism, some have addressed the complex problem of the already existing but not yet completed Kingdom of God by asserting that at present one can not do much. For them, glory lies only in the future. Christ would have won the victory in the course of his ministry on earth, and he alone would one day bring it to fruition in all its perfection. We are simply waiting for the return of Christ to carry us to heaven, perhaps after some years of earthly reign. While Christians in the here and now would receive some blessings, such as forgiveness of sins, creation, including nature, has fallen prey to all social, cultural, scientific, and economic institutions of corruption and evil. All this can not and will not be saved. With regard to eternity, there is no provision for the good of all this. Only damnation can be given over to the wrath of God and brought to its absolute end. For the most part, people would have to be removed from this sinful world so that they can be saved. Occasionally, this quietist approach is taught a form of separatism. Accordingly, we must renounce the worldly aspiration of this world and keep away from it. According to other Quietisten, the hopelessness and helplessness of this world, the conclusion that one can hold on her harmless in many ways, since it was irrelevant, ultimately, because ultimately anyway everything will be handed over to the court. For others, a passive, quietistic approach means that at best Christians should set an example for themselves or within the community, set apart from the rest of the world. The emphasis here is often on personal, family and church morals. However, direct efforts to exert influence or to bring about change outside the Christian community are largely regarded as believable, sometimes even condemned. It is argued that the direct involvement of the surrounding culture, which has fallen into disbelief, will only lead to compromise and, ultimately, failure. Thus, personal dedication and moral purity are the dominant themes.

Often this reading of faith, the end of history, is considered as the end of creation. She will be destroyed. The existence of time and space then no longer exists. Some, the faithful, would be relieved of this process of dissolution and be brought to the perfect, pure, spiritual reality of an eternal, heavenly existence with God. These two extremes are representative of tendencies. In the church many variants and intermediate positions make school. But most of them move somewhere within this spectrum and tend to either one side or the other. The triumphalist position tends to appeal to people with an optimistic and "idealistic" personality structure, while the Quietists are more likely to find their greatest support among the pessimists or "realists". But again, these are rough generalizations that do not address a specific grouping that would suit the one extreme or the other. These are tendencies that, in one way or another, are indeed trying to simplify the complex problem of the already existing but not yet fully apparent truth and reality of the Kingdom of God.

An alternative to triumphalism and quietism

However, there is an alternative position more compatible with the biblical as well as the theological doctrine, which not only circumvents the two extremes, but alone considers the idea of ​​such a polarization wrong, since it does not do justice to the biblical revelation in its full extent. The triumphalist and quietist alternative, as well as the discussions between their respective opinion leaders, assume that the complex truth of the Kingdom of God requires us to take a stand on the controversial issue of position. Either God accomplishes everything alone or it is up to us to realize it. These two perspectives give the impression that we either have to identify ourselves as activists or take a relatively passive role if we do not like to settle somewhere in between. The biblical position regarding the already existing but not yet perfected realm of God is complex. But there is no reason for any tensions. It's not about balancing or making any intermediate position between the two extremes. There is no tension between the present time and the future time. Rather, we are called to live in this already fulfilled but not yet perfect here and now. We are currently living in a state of hope which, as we have seen in the second part of this series of articles, can be figuratively reproduced quite well with the concept of heritage. We are currently in the certainty of being in possession of our heritage, even though we are still denied access to its fruits, of which we will in the future fully participate. In the next article in this series, we will go into what it means to live in the here and now in the hope of the completion of the future kingdom of God.

from dr. Gary Deddo


pdf The kingdom of God (Part 4)