Thursday, 17 July 2008

ChnMind 2.5 Gradualism and the Kingdom

The Kingdom Comes Gradually, and Therefore Peacefully

The Kingdom of God is both radical and revolutionary.

It is radical insofar as it affects, controls, and commands all reality, all culture, all human acts and endeavour—the entire created order. It is revolutionary insofar as it turns the world of sin and every sinful culture upside down. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. Consequently, whilst the Kingdom has power structures, it does not deal with, nor replicate, the power structures of this sinful world. It is far too radical and revolutionary to accommodate the governing structures of Athens.

This does not make the Kingdom “other worldly” in the sense of being beyond this world or belonging to some kind of platonic upper storey, irrelevant to the realpolitik of the material, tangible world. On the contrary, the Kingdom reflects a restoration of the world as it was created both to be and become in the first place. The Kingdom is not tangential to this world, as if its subjects are transients, passing through to another realm. The only transient element in the world is sin and its effects. Sin is the true transient. Athens, representing and reflecting sin and unbelief, is itself transient; it will eventually pass away from human history as the Kingdom of God comes and replaces it.

This is the prophetic declaration made when Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar's dream. “In the days of those kings,” says Daniel, that is, the days of ancient Greece and Rome, “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.” (Daniel 2: 44) This Kingdom would become a great mountain that would fill the whole earth. (Daniel 2: 35). The prophetic declaration was reified and confirmed when the Lord pronounced the Great Commission: go and “make disciples of all the nations, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 18—20).

Between Athens and Jerusalem there are irreconcilable differences so radical and so revolutionary that any appearance of similarity is just that—an appearance only. But one of the the glories of the Kingdom is that, despite its radical and revolutionary nature, it comes to pass gradually, by degrees. Just as the individual believer, whilst radically born again from above, and whilst (as far as Athens is concerned) being truly revolutionary in his goals, motives and standards, nevertheless is transformed gradually throughout his life from infancy to maturity in Christ, so also the Kingdom of God itself comes gradually upon the earth.

The constitutional documents of the Kingdom talk about individuals “with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (II Corinthians 3: 18). So also, the broader institutions of the Kingdom. One of the realities which makes this so is the promise of God to work across and through generations of Believers. It is generally the case that children of godly parents learn habits and practices from their parents, such that they stand on their shoulders and are able to achieve, in the Kingdom, far more than their parents. They start their Kingdom service from a higher level, as it were. This does not happen randomly, but by the Spirit and power of the Lord Himself.

Over time, as more and more people in a community become Christians, as they walk more faithfully and consistently in Christian truth, their wider cultural influence and power grows, because they are acting with the created order, not against it. The Lord blesses them and they prosper by His hand. The institutions of law and government, justice and judgment, education and knowledge, commerce and charity, become increasingly conformed to the constitutional documents of the Kingdom, reflecting the beliefs and world view of its citizens.

As a cosequence, perverse practices and institutions fade away. They end up having neither protagonists nor customers. Homosexuality, casinos, abortion, and brothels all fall into this category. The notion that homosexuality is an inherited, genetic alternative—when disbelieved and rejected by the vast majority of the populace, and when that rejection is Spiritual, grounded upon the authority of God's Holy Word—fewer and fewer people end up adopting the lifestyle. All the institutions in Athens which currently support and promulgate the sin—school curricula, newsmedia, television and film, the law (to name a few)—eventually cease and desist, and propagate the opposite. Homosexuality, as a result, attenuates and falls away. Even Unbelievers become conformed at least outwardly to standards and mores of Belief.

The same dynamic applies to many “social” evils—they die off, having grown in the first instance less common or influential, in the face of the growing influence of Jerusalem. There are many public and social evils in Athens which it behoves the citizens of Jerusalem not to get too wound up about in the meantime—without ever laying aside the biblical condemnation of such evils. They will die away in due time. They will be dealt to, and with, gradually. Polygamy and slavery are two excellent historical examples of evil institutions which had died out under the influence of the Gospel. (As Athens has regained a temporary ascendancy in our culture, incidentally, both polygamy and slavery have started returning and are becoming institutionalised once again. Now that civil unions have been recognized, polygamy necessarily will come to be protected. More women and children are being trafficked and sold as sexual slaves now than at any time in the last century. This is not to be marveled at. It is to be expected. These perversions are inseparable from the very essence of Athens.) But as the Kingdom comes, these and many more evils will simply die away.

The gradualism of the Kingdom's coming betrays its radical and revolutionary nature. It is so radical and so revolutionary that it can only come gradually. Otherwise it would tear up the very fabric of the creation itself. Time is not master but servant. A thousand years to the Lord is but one day. The wheels of God's truth and justice grind slowly, but exceedingly fine.

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