Already, but not yet – Part 3

We were supposed to be stewards.

That is why we were created. In the very beginning, back when God made everything out of nothing, the pinnacle of that creation was man. Man was made in his image and was to rule in his stead. In essence we were stewards, entrusted with overseeing all that God had created. Our creation was intrinsically tied to responsibility. We were made with a task.

But we blew it.

In the fall, that responsibility was shattered, and the man created to steward God’s creation was put at odds with it. Our relationship with God and our relationship with all he had created was turned on its head.

The coming of the kingdom of God is the reordering of everything. All that was messed up will one day be made right, and it will happen through the person and work of Christ. When we speak of kingdom come, that is what we mean.

However, as I mentioned in the last post, in one sense, the kingdom has already come. In that post, I mentioned a few popular definitions of the kingdom of God that fall short from the Biblical description. Yet, if we misunderstand the kingdom, we misunderstand our primary responsibility as Christians.

If we miss the kingdom, we miss the boat.

In fact, Jesus’ message about the kingdom is not simply descriptive of his reign but prescriptive of our task as well. The kingdom is more than some realm. It is more than heaven, and it is more than the church, and it is definitely more than America. It is the reign of God over all creation, and it is the radical reordering of all things to once again line back up with God’s ideal design. It is all things being made new. Ultimately, it is a new heaven and a new earth, where Eden is reborn and man dwells again in perfect harmony with God.

But do not be deceived, this work of making all things new has already begun! That is the message of Jesus in the gospels. With his coming, with his birth, life, death, and resurrection, Jesus announces that this process of making all things new has started.

In Matthew 13, Jesus tells several parables about the kingdom, trying to describe it’s nature to his disciples. Among those are parables comparing the kingdom to a mustard seed. According to Jesus, the kingdom is like a little mustard seed. It starts out small, so small no one would really notice it, and then it grows and grows until it is larger than all the other herbs. The kingdom, when inaugurated, was small. But over time, God is growing his kingdom and it will one day completely overwhelm all of creation.

For the Christian, this should excite us to praise. God has promised to make all things right with his strong hand and outstretched arm. Furthermore, it is already happening all around us. We live between the times, in that moment after Christ first appeared and inaugurated his kingdom and before that moment when he shall return in glory to claim his kingdom as Lord and usher in a completely restored creation. All the while, that kingdom is growing and Christ’s reign is being established over creation.

But that is not the whole the story. Jesus did not simply say what God was doing with his kingdom, he told us how he was doing it. The task is the kingdom; the means is the church. At the very center of God’s great plan for the ages is the church created through the sacrifice of his son.

The message of the kingdom is the mission of the church. In Matthew 16, Jesus tells Peter that he is giving the church the “keys to the kingdom of heaven” and that it will be their task and that the gates of hell will not prevail against them. Finally, as he ascends to heaven he leaves them with parting orders to make disciples of all nations.

Jesus is clear. We have a job to do.

But what does it actually mean to advance the kingdom? We will finish this up in the final post next time. Stay tuned.

2 Comments

  1. Lucas Dawn said:

    When Jesus gives Peter the keys of the kingdom in Mt. 16:19, it is associated with “binding” and “loosing.” Similarly, in Mt. 18:17-18, this binding and loosing is associated more broadly with “discipline” in the church (including or excluding a “brother” who sins and refuses to repent after being confronted several times). So Jesus’ kingdom (of disciples) does include church members, but not all (or even most) members are true disciples.

    June 10, 2013
    Reply
    • Keelan said:

      Great observation! It is certainly true that the statement in 16:19 has to do with binding and loosing. The mention in 18 narrows that focus to discipline, but I would say it is for the particular context of what Jesus discusses in chapter 18. In other words, one way in which the church binds and looses things is through discipline. Jesus gives us that example in 18. Nevertheless, that does not mean the “keys” mentioned in 16 only deal with loosing and binding in one way. More likely, Jesus seems to be tasking the church with its special mission of bringing about the kingdom in his absence while awaiting his return.

      The kingdom of God is about more than conversion or people being “in” or “out.” It is certainly about the creation of the church through God bringing a people to himself, but it is even more. It is about a new heaven and a new earth, one that was inaugurated with Christ’s first coming and will be consummated with his return. We live in between those times and have a responsibility as the church in the meantime.

      Thanks for your addition to the discussion!

      June 10, 2013
      Reply

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