This article appeared in the March 27 edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle
Probably the most profound ramification of a proper understanding of The Revelation is the realization that there is no cataclysmic event at the end of history designed to usher in the kingdom of God in Christ. According to The Revelation (and the rest of the New Testament), Jesus Christ rules as King right now. Indeed, he has been ruling as King since his death, resurrection and ascension two thousand years ago.1
Although there will be a gathering of Christ's enemies at the end of this age, it is an event designed to reveal the holdouts, those who have refused to receive Jesus Christ as Savior even in the midst of a Golden age of the kingdom. Moreover, a proper understanding of The Revelation makes it clear that the authority of Jesus Christ is realized in this realm through the efforts of his people. This does not mean salvation depends upon us but it means we are called to work out our salvation with fear and trembling as we bring our arena of activity under the authority of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:12-13).
The kingdom of God consists of quiet, long term obedience in faith on the part of the followers of Jesus. According to The Revelation, the obedient lifestyle of born-again believers from one generation to the next will result in the enjoyment of the promised covenant blessings. For some reason this truth rubs many Christians the wrong way. They like to equate it with works salvation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everything we receive in this life is a grace of God. It is by grace we have been saved through faith; not so we can sit idly by waiting for Jesus to do everything for us but so that we might fulfill the good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10). One might even say that this is the essence of the covenant. The whole of the Bible teaches that God's grace precedes man's obedience but man's obedience is a prerequisite for enjoying the full benefits of the covenant relationship. This was true in the old covenant era and it remains true today.
In reality, those who reject this fact tacitly accept the foundational teachings of Darwinian evolution. If the great blessings of the the Western world are not given by the hand of God then they are the best proof available for the dogma of evolutionary progress. True Believers must reject this ungodly point of view. We in the West enjoy great material blessings, health and leisure time not because we are higher on the evolutionary scale then the so-called Third World nations but because our society rests upon a heritage of Christian faith. No doubt about it, we have drifted far from that foundation and are living on the fast dwindling spiritual bank account of our forefathers. Yet the fact remains, the Christian West is what it is today because of God's covenant blessings - blessings that are the result of obedience to God's law.
Another argument against a positive eschatology is the evident decline of the West. No rational person will dispute that we live in a messed up world. However, this is not because it is the destiny of mankind but because Christians have failed to walk in obedience to Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, the reigning King of the universe. For the most part, twenty-first century Christians have refused submission to Jesus the Christ. They have replaced a gospel of self abasement with a message of self fulfillment. They seek after peace on their own terms and consider material blessing their right regardless of the quality of their relationship with King Jesus.
More in two weeks..
1. “We have, alas, belittled the cross, imagining it merely as a mechanism for getting us off the hook of our own petty naughtiness or as an example of some gentle benevolent truth. It is much, much more. It is the moment when the story of Israel reaches its climax; the moment when, at last, the watchmen on Jerusalem's wall see their God coming in his kingdom; the moment when the people of God are renewed so as to be, at last, the royal priesthood who will take over the world not with the love of power but with the power of love; the moment when the kingdom of God overcomes the kingdoms of the world. It is the moment when the great old door, locked and barred since our first disobedience, swings open suddenly to reveal not just the garden, opened once more to our delight, but the coming city, the garden city that God had always planned and is now inviting us to go through the door and build with him. The dark power that stood in the way of this kingdom vision has been defeated, overthrown, rendered null and void. It's legions will still make a lot of noise and cause a lot of grief, but the ultimate victory is now assured. This is the vision the evangelists offer us as they bring together the kingdom and the cross.” N. T. Wright, How God Became King, 239-240.
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