The Kingdom of God (part 5)

For the last time, we have dealt with how the complex truth and reality of the already existing but not yet finished kingdom of God, some Christians erroneously led to triumphalism, others to quietism. In this article, we take a different approach to believing in this complex truth.

Participation in Jesus' ongoing work in the service of the Kingdom of God

Instead of clinging to triumphalism (the kind of activism that aims to bring about the Kingdom of God), or to quietly abandoning Quietism (the passivity that stands for holding it out to God), we are all called to live a hopeful life giving shape to the true sign of the future kingdom of God. Of course, these signs have only a limited significance - they neither create the kingdom of God, nor make it present and true. However, they refer beyond themselves to the coming. They do something in the here and now, even if they can not influence everything. They make a difference, not a difference. This is in line with God's message concerning the Church in this present, wicked world time. Some who are more attached to the triumphalist or quietistic way of thinking will contradict and argue that it is hardly or not worth mentioning to refer to signs that merely refer to the future kingdom of God. In their view, they are not worth it if they can not bring about a sustainable change - if they can not improve the world or at least bring others to believe in God. But what does not take into account these objections is the fact that the implied, provisional and temporary signs that Christians can set in the here and now are not to be considered detached from the future kingdom of God. Why not? Because Christian action is part of the constant work of Jesus, by virtue of the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit, we are able to join the king in his reign in the here and now, even in this present evil world time - a time to be overcome. The Lord of the future kingdom of God can intervene in the present age and make use of the implied, provisional and temporally limited witnesses of the Church. These bring about a relative but noticeable difference in the here and now, even if they do not bring about the decisive change that accompanies the completion of the kingdom of God.

The light of the future kingdom of God reaches us and lights us on our way in this dark world. Just as the starlight illuminates the darkness of the night, the signs of the church, present in word and deed, point to the future kingdom of God in full midday sunlight. These tiny points of light make a difference, if only in hint, temporarily and temporarily. Through the gracious work of the Almighty, we become tools with our signs and testimonies, guided in the action of God's word and Holy Spirit. In this way we can touch people and accompany them with Christ towards their future kingdom. God himself is active in the here and now before the kingdom reaches its perfection. We are ambassadors to Christ; because God admonishes through us (2, Kor 5,20). Through the preaching word, as it is harnessed by the Holy Spirit, God already makes it possible for man, through his faith, to become partakers of this kingdom in the spirit, as a citizen of the future kingdom of God (Rom 1,16). Any simple cup of water given in Christ's name will not be unrewarded (Mt 10,42). Therefore, we should not dismiss the signs or testimonies of the believers of God's Church as fleeting, pure symbols or gestures referring to something non-present, not yet real. Christ blends our character-setting work with His own and uses our testimony to bring people into a personal relationship. Thus, they feel the presence of his loving dominion and experience joy, peace and hope through his righteous reign of love. It is clear these signs do not reveal the whole truth of what the future holds for us, but merely point to it. They point - both into the past and into the future - so point Christ, who in his life and ministry on earth became the Redeemer and King over all creation. These signs are not mere thoughts, words, ideas or individual , original spiritual experiences. The Christian signs of faith bear witness over time and space, in flesh and blood, as to who Jesus is and what his future kingdom will look like. They require time and money, effort and skill, consideration and planning, as well as individual and collaborative coordination. The Almighty can use them through His Holy Spirit, and also do so to fulfill their purpose, an introduction to God in Christ. Such an introduction bears fruit in the form of a change that comes into repentance (repentance or change of life) and faith, as well as in a life full of hope for the future kingdom of God.

So we put our time, energy, resources, talents and free time for our Lord to use available. We fight the needs of the needy in our present world. We help with our actions and our active engagement, which we share with like-minded people inside and outside our parishes. The shaping of worldly concerns is also carried out in cooperation with those who do not (yet) belong to these communities. Our testimony of faith that we place in the light of this may be personal and verbal, but it should also be put into action publicly and collectively. In doing so, we should take advantage of all the resources available to us. With all that we have, do and say, we send out the same message in all ways that are open to us, who proclaims who God is in Christ and that his rule will be certain for ever. We live in the here and now, even in the sinful world, in communion with Christ and in the hope of the perfect consummation of His dominion. We live filled with the hope of a new heaven and a new earth in the future world time. In this time, we live in knowledge so that this world passes - because, thanks to Jesus Christ's Word and His intervention, it is really so. We live in the certainty that the kingdom of God is approaching completion - because that is exactly how it is!

Thus, our testimony that we bear as Christians is so imperfect, makeshift, and limited in time, truly in the sense that it influences our present situation and all our relationships, even though it itself is the future kingdom of God in the world Here and now is not perfect, not reflected in its whole reality. It is true, in the sense that, thanks to the grace of God, we partake, as it were, of mustard seed, of what the Almighty is doing through the Holy Spirit in order to point people to Jesus Christ and his future kingdom. We can participate in the divine will, both in the personal and social framework of our life, some of the blessings of Christ's reign and kingdom.

The truthful revealed

To clarify this a little, let us point out that our actions do not justify or justify the reality of Christ's reign. God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit have already done that. The future kingdom of God is true and has already become reality. His return is assured. We can count on it. This fact does not depend on us. It is a work of God. So what do we accomplish with our testimony, the signs given by us, when the kingdom of God is neither realized nor augmented in reality? The answer is that our signs that we set are a fragmentary manifestation of the coming kingdom of God. Our present task-our privilege-is to witness, in word and deed, the reality of God's Kingdom.

What will then bring about the end, the second coming of Christ? His second coming does not give the kingdom of God ultimate reality, as if until then it had only the necessary potential. It is already a perfect reality today. Jesus Christ is already Lord, our Redeemer and King. He rules. But the kingdom of God is still hidden at present. The full implications of his reign are not fully realized in the present, wicked world-time. When Christ returns, the kingdom of God will be revealed in perfection, with all its effects. His return, or re-appearance (his parousia), will be accompanied by a revelation (apocalypse) of the truth and reality of who he is and what he has accomplished. At that time, the actual truth becomes who Christ is and what He has revealed to all of us, for the sake of our salvation. It will ultimately be revealed what constituted the person and work of Jesus Christ. The glory of all this will light up everywhere and thus unfold its full effect. The time of merely suggestive, provisional and time-limited testimony will then come to an end. The kingdom of God will no longer be hidden. We will enter the new heaven and the new earth. It needs no more testimony; because we all face reality itself. All this will happen at the second coming of Christ.

So in a Christian's life, it's not about giving effect to the potential of the kingdom of God. It is not our job to close the gap between the reality of the sinful world and the ideal of God's kingdom on earth. It is not through our efforts of the Almighty that he removes the reality of the broken creation, which defies it, and replaces it with the ideal of the new world. No, it is rather that Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and his kingdom, though still hidden, really and truly exists. The present, evil world time will pass. We now live in an unreality, in a corrupt, distorted, distorted manifestation of God's well-made creation, which Christ has regained by bringing them back on the right track, victorious over the forces of evil. So it can live up to its original purpose of realizing God's ultimate plan. Thanks to Christ, the whole creation is freed from their bondage and their sighing is at an end (Rom 8,22). Christ is redoing everything. That's the all-important reality. But this reality is yet to become fully apparent. Already, inspired by the Holy Spirit of God, we can testify in all areas of life, suggestively, for the time being and for a limited period of time, with regard to that future reality. And in doing so we do not testify to a mere possibility, let alone none, that we realize, but Christ and his kingdom, which will one day be revealed in perfection. This reality is our legitimate hope - one in which we live today as every day.

The bourgeois and political environmentWhat does this mean at the bourgeois and political level for Christians who recognize Christ's rule and live in the hope of the coming kingdom of God? Biblical revelation does not support the idea of ​​a Christian "takeover" of a political party, nation, or institution outside of the worshiping community. But it does not call for non-interference - which is expressed in the term "separatism". Christ preached that we may not live apart from this sinful and corrupt world (Joh 17,15). The Israelites were commanded to exile in a foreign land to seek the good of the cities they inhabited (Jer 29,7). Serving God in the midst of a pagan culture, Daniel ministered to them while faithfully devoted to the God of Israel. Paul exhorts us to pray for the authorities and to respect human power that promotes good and prevents evil. He instructs us to preserve our good reputation among those who are not yet believers in the true God. These words of admonition imply contacts and interest, up to the assumption of responsibility as a citizen and within the institutional framework - and not perfect isolation.

Biblical teaching indicates that we are citizens of this world time. But at the same time it proclaims that, more importantly, we are citizens of God's kingdom. Thus Paul states in his letters: "So you are no longer guests and strangers, but fellow citizens of the saints and God's housemates" (Eph. 2,191) and says: "Our civil rights, however, are in heaven; whence we also await the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ "(Phil 3,20). Christians have a new citizenship that undoubtedly takes precedence over the worldly. But it does not erase our old civil rights. During his imprisonment, Paul did not deny his Roman citizenship, but took advantage of it to obtain his release. As Christians we see our old civil rights - subject to the reign of Christ - radically relativized in its meaning. Again, we come back to a complex issue that could lead us to a premature solution or a simplification of the problem. But faith, hope, and love guide us to endure the complexity of our testimony, the kingdom, and the reign of Christ.

Double citizenship

Following Karl Barth's synopsis of biblical doctrine and mindfulness of the doctrine of the passage of time, it seems that those who belong to Christ and his kingdom in this present world time belong to two very different communities at the same time. We have a double civil right. This complex issue seems inevitable, because it goes hand in hand with the truth that there are two worlds that overlap, but ultimately only one, the future one, will prevail. Each of our civil rights carries with it indispensable responsibilities, and it can not be denied that they can be in conflict with each other. In particular, it is not guaranteed that in view of the obligation to both, not a certain price is payable. So Jesus points out his disciples: "But you look forward! For they will deliver you to the courts, and in the synagogues you will be scourged, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake, to them as a testimony "(Mk 13,9). Similar situations that reflect what Jesus himself committed are traced throughout the book of Acts. Conflict can therefore arise between the two civil rights, which can hardly be resolved, if at all, in this present world time.

To combine the dual duties with the one true center

It is important to recognize how these two sets of responsibilities are appropriately related. It is usually not helpful to consider them as competing, even if they sometimes come into conflict with each other. Nor is it helpful to see them hierarchically ordered, with one priority and then weighting, resulting in a second or third action or decision to take effect only after the priorities receive full attention to have. In this case, it comes down to the fact that many, if not most, of secondary responsibilities are ultimately neglected and neglected.

Moreover, it does not make sense to choose a slightly modified, hierarchically ordered procedure according to which secondary, as it were, detached from the priorities, is done. According to this system, we take care to accept the primary duties within the parish, in order to do justice to the second-rate within the citizen community, as if they were relatively independent and follow their own norms or standards, purposes or objectives that determine how responsibility within the out-of-church area looks like. Such an approach leads to a subdivision that does not do justice to the fact that the kingdom of God has already entered into this world time and thus we live as it were overlapping between the times. The perception of the priority duties of church witnessing always has an impact on how we approach the secondary, our secular community. The two sets of duties overlap, with our hope for the future kingdom of God and our testimony, all of our doing, be it as a matter of priority, the kingdom of God, no longer remaining hidden from us or secondary nature. In the face of Christ's reign and the unity of the destiny which God attributes to all creation, and the perfection of all things under Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords, the Almighty determination of assignment is at the center of all reality - in the center of both communities to which we belong. 2 All human action should be in the service of this central point, structured, and designed, even apply to him. Consider the Triune God in the focus of a series of circles, all sharing the same center. Jesus Christ with his future kingdom is this center. The Church, which belongs to Christ, knows and venerates him alone and stands in the center of the circle surrounding the center. The church knows this center. She knows about the characteristics of the future empire. Her hope is grounded in certainty, and she has a good idea of ​​the essence of love, from righteousness to true fellowship of people in Christ. Their ministry is to make this center point visible and to call others to enter that central circle because it is the source of their lives and their hope. Everyone should be a member of both communities! The center of their existence is at the same time also the center of the ecclesiastical existence, even if their faithfulness applies solely and above all to the citizen community in the broader sense. God in Christ is, according to his purpose, the center of all creation and thus of both communities. Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of all creation - of all power and authority, whether or not she is aware of it.

The citizen community outside the church can be thought of as a surrounding circle, which is located at a greater distance from the inner circle of the parish. She neither knows about the center, nor does she acknowledge it, nor does her mandate given by God consist of making it manifest. Its purpose is not to take the role of the church or to replace it (as tried in Nazi Germany and endorsed by the leaders of the German state church). However, the church should not take over its functions as a larger community. But the civic community settled in the surrounding district shares with it the same center, and their fate is wholly bound to Jesus, the Lord is over all time and space, over all history and all authority. The citizen community, as we know it, is not independent of the common center, of the same living reality that the church recognizes and to which it has the ultimate duty of faithfulness. It is therefore up to the Church, with the individual members who belong to it, who live in both circles, To constantly point out and remind the wider, wider circle of the central reality of Jesus and his future reign. And it does justice to this task by endeavoring, within this wider community, to give shape to schemata of action, forms of being and possibilities of communal interaction, which, albeit indirectly, refer to that common, central reality. These reflections of the way of life, which come to bear in the broader circle of duty, will find their echo in the conduct of the church or correspond to it. But they will only be able to express them indirectly, indistinctly, probably inconclusively, and not without ambiguity. That is to be expected however. The wider community is not the church and should not be. But she should continue to benefit from her because her members seek to be responsible to her as well as to the Lord.

Comparable signs of preservation and protection

The fact that we are moving in this present, wicked world-time becomes especially clear to those in this broader realm of bourgeois existence, who set their hopes for the future world time and know and worship the living center. The theological foundations and spiritual sources of open communion with God, through Jesus' Christ, are neither manifestly nor willingly utilized by those bourgeois activities performed in the service of the surrounding church. But the practices, standards, rules, laws, laws, and manners in that broader realm can be more or less reconciled with the life that God holds for us in Christ, as it were paired with Him. The Christian Influence will be designed to intelligently engage the broader area of ​​responsibility, seeking as far as possible, at each moment present, the organizational patterns, codes of conduct and practices that are best compatible with God 's purposes and ways One day the whole world will be revealed. We can say that the church, the broader community, serves as a kind of conscience. It seeks to prevent the surrounding community from falling further away from God's purpose for mankind and his plan to fall away. And she does this not only by her proclamation, but by personal participation, which is undoubtedly not without having to pay a price for it. By word and deed she serves, as it were, the protector and the guardian, even though her wisdom, her warnings and her commitment are sometimes ignored or rejected.

Indirect signs of hope flow

The members of the Church can enrich their cultural environment - as a kind of creative medium or as a shining example - also with material social benefits, as well as through introduced organizational and production structures that feed on the gospel of Christ. But such a testimony will serve only as an indirect reference that can only support the direct, spiritual work and message of the Church, God in Christ, as well as the present and the coming of His Kingdom. These creative efforts, which serve as indirect signs, should not replace the life of the church or its central message and work. Jesus, God or even the Holy Scripture will probably not be mentioned. The source that feeds these activities will hardly ever (if ever) be named, although the aura of Christ is attached to action or accomplishment. Such, indirect testimonies are limited. They will probably be more ambiguous compared to the direct testimonies and work of the church. The results will probably be more inconsistent than those of the basic, ecclesiastical word and testimony. Sometimes the suggestions made by Christians about the common good are not accepted by the public or private organs of power, spheres of influence and instances, or they are only clearly curtailed. Then, again, they may be implemented in such a way that they have far-reaching implications for the kingdom of God. The ministry of the Prison Fellowship, established by Chuck Colson and involved in state or federal prisons, is a good example of this. However, it can not be estimated how much influence can be claimed. Some achievements can be disappointingly short. There will also be failures. But those given these indirect testimonies, which reflect, albeit remotely, God's will and nature, are in this way referred to the core of what the Church has to offer. The testimonies thus serve as a kind of pre-evangelical preparation.

The primary duty of the surrounding community of citizens is to ensure a good and just order so that the Church can in any case fulfill its essential spiritual mission as a community of faith and live out its members, indirectly testifying within the broader community. It will largely result in ensuring the rule of law, public justice. The goal will be the common good. It is thus ensured that the weak do not benefit from the strong.

It seems that this was Paul's idea, as he described in the Romans 13, the right duties to the secular authorities. It may also reflect what Jesus meant when he said, "So give to the Emperor what the Emperor is, and God what God is!" (Mt 22,21), and what Peter wanted to express in his letter, "Be subject to all for the sake of the Lord, let it be to the king as the chief, or to the governors, as those sent by him, to punish the evildoers and to praise those who do good. "(1., Petr 2,13-14).

by Gary Deddo


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