Thoughts on the Kingdom of God: Kingdom and Church

After Jesus told his disciples of his return to earth in glory, he told them a parable concerning what would happen before his second coming. It had to do with the kingdom of God and goes thus “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near” (Luke 21:29-31, NIV).

What is it in our lives that could look like the vigorous growth of fig leaves and the coming of summer? John in his greeting to the seven churches, Revelation 1:6 tells us Jesus Christ “has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen” (NIV). This is speaking of the then present situation of John and the Christians of his day. Later in Revelation, as the Lamb is about to begin opening the seals the elders and living creatures sing a hymn of praise that includes the words “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:10, NIV). The opening of the scroll is an unfolding of history. It seems clear from Revelation that the kingdom of God is now always present on earth and that it is intended to be a powerful spiritual reality. You may think or have been led to believe, that your church is the manifestation of the kingdom of God on earth. However, this cannot be true for several reasons.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians “I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:50, NIV). Churches are assemblies of flesh and blood people and cannot be otherwise by their very nature. They are meant to be servants of the people of the kingdom of God and to have a very important role in enhancing spiritual growth but they are not the kingdom God.

Another reason churches cannot constitute the kingdom of God is that the kingdom of God is a unity of all who are in Christ. If you look at the yellow pages in the phone book you can see there is no ecclesiastical unity wherever it is that you live. Ecumenical unity has never been achieved on any significant scale since the conflict between the churches of Jerusalem and Antioch that is described in Acts 15:1-35.

Just as the kingdom of God does not find its fulfillment in the churches so it is not completed on earth. Its final place will be in heaven. As Paul told the Corinthians “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24, NIV). We find in Revelation 11:15 (NIV) that this kingdom that is handed over to God is that of the world. “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.’”

A little further on in Revelation we learn that there is joint rule in heaven by both the Father and the Son. “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down’” (Revelation 12:10, NIV). Hebrews 1:8 (NIV) makes it clear about Christ’s eternal authority. “But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.’”

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What I Believe: One in the Holy Spirit

We are told in many places and in many ways that Christians are one in the Holy Spirit. None the less I am a pragmatist. That is a person who when he or she sees a “Wet Paint” sign wants to determine the truth of the matter by touching the painted surface. How can this tendency work in spiritual matters? I think I have found an example.

When I started this “What I Believe” series of posts it was to provide me motivation to work on a personal project. That project was for me to examine what I did believe as a Christian. The framework was a statement of doctrine prepared by a candidate for ordination as a minister. The series has been good for me and the “what I believe” posts, not surprisingly, have had a mixed acceptance among those who chose to view them.

What did surprise me was the wide personal and geographical range of viewers who responded to my posts. There were people of different ages, different nationalities, and different understandings of Christianity. The only thing all of us share is our common humanity and our redemption in Christ. That leads me to believe that what I found in connecting with these viewers, in addition to an intense wonder that I should be so honored to share a small part of their lives, was a real sense of our unity in the Holy Spirit.

There is a song that has the words “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord…” and I think I have found the truth of that. Thank you all for that blessing.

Electronic Christianity Six

A couple of days ago I suggested to a friend he might go to my blog to see some of the posts I have put up. A day later I thought “Wait a minute, he’s going to first see my posts on eChristianity. What am I going to tell him about it.”

This turns out to be a good time to consider what I should tell you and him about eChristianity.

What started me off in thinking along the lines that led to the concept of eChristianity was my finding that are many serious, devout and thinking Christians on the Internet who are exploring their relationships with one or more Persons of the Holy Trinity without any acknowledgement, except from their followers, that they were doing so. Thus, it struck me that there was something important going on that was without identity or recognition.

When I thought about a name for this, I thought “how about eChristianity.” My next thought was that eChristianity seemed possibly trite and probably already used by someone. However, when I Googled it I got no results so I decided I would use the term in writing about what I had in mind.

And what did I have in mind? I think it was triggered by something I heard or read about the unity of Christians. This is not surprising since it is in the New Testament a lot. However, when unity is mentioned now, it is sometimes institutional unity and sometimes unity within a local church. It never seems about the spiritual unity of the body of Christ.

Paul wrote about the body of Christ having many different members each with a different function but all necessary if the body is going to function as it should. I think that is what eChristianity is about. We are people of Christ’s body with electronic as well as spiritual connections and we are as important to the work of God as the other Christian institutions, organizations, parachurch ministries and all the rest. We have just not had an identity or a name. Now we do.