Tuesday, January 22, 2008

kingdom-church

So many of you may wonder what kind of issues of theology run through a seminary student's mind. Well I posted an email to one of my good friends who actually is interested (or acts interested! :) in my ponderings on God's word. This will help you see what runs through my mind as I delve more deeply into God's word.

God has been speaking to me recently, as I have already shared to you, of the distinctness of the church and the kingdom of God. The church is not all of the kingdom of God, but is part of it. I have encountered it in this way in my studies of missions, "God's mission, however, is broader than the church; it is everything God himself does in establishing his kingdom on earth." If we think about this for a minute, this is profound. We realize that we are mere participants in the missionary God and his works and one with him and his mission through Christ. So often we hear how Christ "handed" the church all authority to carry out missions with the implication that he just watches us from heaven. But the truth is that we participate with the Father through Christ by the Spirit in HIS work of establishing his kingdom in the lives of all peoples. Therefore, we see the church as distinct from the kingdom. Afterall, how can you enter into what you are? It would be like saying that I am a house...I enter into a house therefore I am a house. But this is wrong....so what is the implications of making this distinction? Well for one, we must still remember that the church is to be the divinely appointed representation of the kingdom, but the implications are this (for me):
1. We view missions as God-centered, not church centered or people centered like in times past
2. Making this distinction disallows this amillenial view of making the peaceful millenial reign NOW. Partly I realized this from Hebrews 2:8 where he says, "now we see not all things put under him[that is Christ]." This alone indicates that there will be a time where we will SEE physically all things put under him; I believe that is when he will openly reign on this earth.

One last thing that I am still trying to figure out is in what nuance was the kingdom of God being inaugurated by Christ. Surely the kingdom of God as the dominion and authority of God on earth was made manifest THROUGH Israel .....I think this OT truth is made more amazing by realizing that Israel became impersonated by Christ so that the NT kingdom of God is much the same (but not in every way, of course) except THROUGH ISRAEL became THROUGH CHRIST (this is also seen through the messianic prophecies is Isaiah called the servant songs where the Messiah and Israel are closely interwoven). The kingdom of God was to be manifest in the latter days BY GOD in the form of ISRAEL (humanity). Therefore, we see this unity of scripture, where the kingdom of God was never non-existent before Christ, but rather it was manifested through God's shekinah glory and blessing to Israel in the OT, which was the preparations for the Son to inaugurate the same kingdom more fully realized in the person of Jesus Christ (in other words he was inaugurating the kingdom in the sense of the ETERNAL kingdom promised to Israel and ultimately the nations), and the kingdom will be ultimately realized by both believer and unbeliever at his second advent, where in this age it is only acknowledged by believers. I guess if there is a difference between the OT kingdom of God and the New it is in the scope of election. In the Old, it was the election of Israel and some Gentile proselytes. In the New, it is the election of Gentiles and the Jewish remnant. Then, in the last days, the election will sway back to Israel as she looks on Him to whom they have pierced. (For my non-reformed brothers, you can just read the 'response of peoples' in place of 'election' ;)

But this is where I am now, and ultimately I will probably have to modify my views according to scripture. I think it is interesting to note how Christ is said to be slain before the foundations of the world (Rev. 13:8). This surely makes people who say people were saved by works in the OT--TOTALLY WRONG. God has always been the same in his soteriology...it is grace through faith...both in the Old and New Testaments.

Just Meditating.

Grace and Peace,

Chris

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