Archive for the ‘Kingdom of God’ Category

Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture

Copyright © 2010 by David VanDrunen

Published by Crossway Books

PRELIMS: This book was provided by Crossway for my personal review.

First off, Dr. VanDrunen is a credible author on the points in which he engages. He is a studied scholar in the realm of divinity and law. Such background is necessary for the topic in which he engages. Secondly, this book is much needed in the “Evangelical” world today as the church struggles and flounders through the murky issues of Christian engagement of culture, politics, etc. Lastly, VanDrunen approaches this work from the rich heritage of the “Two-Kingdom” theory you will find in Augustine, Luther, Calvin (although open to debate), and many contemporary Reformed thinkers.

THE GOOD:

VanDrunen establishes a historical understanding of the issues of how God rules in the world generally and in the Church specifically. He is well aware of Niebuhr’s work on “Christ and Culture” and establishes the framework of the debate judiciously. Before making an inductive thesis in support of the “Two-Kingdom” perspective, he engages critically in modern distortions of the Christians obligation to the world: N.T. Wright and the Emergent Church. His criticisms are insightful and helpful. Read the book for the nitty gritty.

I commend VanDrunen’s covenantal redemptive-historical framework throughout the book. He deals specifically with the covenant with Adam and how it consisted of his tending the garden (priestly duties), as well as governing the land (kingly duties). If Adam and his righteous progeny had succeeded, eternal bliss and rest would have followed, meaning that the “Creation Mandate” had a goal in view. Adam and Eve weren’t to perpetually bear children and work the land forever and ever as the last climatic act in their God-given charge. The priestly duties would have brought about consummated holiness in destroying the serpent and partaking of the tree of life, while the kingly duties would have brought earth under perfect subjection and thus a perfect consummate rest from labor. VanDrunen dedicates an entire chapter in elaborating upon these themes because the rest of the book makes no sense apart from this framework.  VanDruned then dedicates an entire chapter to exactly how Jesus has and will fulfill these charges given to Adam. VanDrunen states the following:

Before the second Adam no one accomplished the task of the first Adam, and after the second Adam no one needs to accomplish it. The last Adam has completed it once and for all. Christians will attain the original destiny of life in the world-to-come, but we do so not by picking up the task where Adam left off but by resting entirely on the work of Jesus Christ, the last Adam who accomplished the task perfectly.

 How did Christ accomplish Adam’s original task perfectly? Jesus did not personally fill the earth with his descendants or exercise dominion over all creatures in his human nature during his earthly ministry. But as considered in chapter 2, Adam was to have his entire obedience in the entire world determined through a particular test in a particular location. So it was for the last Adam. Like the first Adam, the Lord Jesus was confronted by the devil who tried to entice Christ to obey him, and King Jesus resisted the devil and conquered him (Matt. 4:1–11; Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14). Like the first Adam, the Lord Jesus was called to priestly service, and Christ the Great High Priest purified God’s holy dwelling and opened the way for human beings back into his presence (Heb. 9:11–28; 10:19–22). Like the first Adam, the Lord Jesus was to enter God’s royal rest in the world-to- come upon finishing his work perfectly, and this is precisely what Christ did, entering into heaven itself, taking his seat at God’s right hand, ministering in the heavenly tabernacle, and securing our place in the world-to-come (Heb. 1:3; 4:14–16; 7:23–28).

This is absolutely essential for issues of Christianity and culture! If Christ is the last Adam, then we are not new Adams. To under- stand our own cultural work as picking up and finishing Adam’s original task is, however unwittingly, to compromise the sufficiency of Christ’s work. Christ perfectly atoned for all our sins, and hence we have no sins left to atone personally. Likewise, Christ perfectly sustained a time of testing similar to Adam’s: he achieved the new creation through his flawless obedience in this world. He has left nothing yet to be accomplished. God indeed calls Christians to suf fer and to pursue cultural tasks obediently through our lives. But to think that our sufferings contribute to atoning for sin or that our cultural obedience contributes to building the new creation is to compromise the all-sufficient work of Christ.

VanDrunen even pulls out the exclamation mark in reference to how important understanding the work of Christ is for determining our own obligations as a Christian.  We are now heavenly citizens who taste the world to come, but do not in any way bring it about. He states: (more…)

The Millennium

Posted: July 11, 2010 by Greg Burkheimer in Eschatology, Kingdom of God

“Perhaps no doctrine has more divided modern evangelical Protestantism than that of the millennium”Donald Bloesch, The Last Things, 87

            What is it about eschatology (the study of the last things) that either gets people wound up or turns them off? I would place myself more in the latter category. It’s not that I don’t have a desire to learn about last things, I really do, it’s just that there are so many different views out there and it can become very confusing trying to sort it all out. Also, quite frankly, some of those who consider themselves “experts” in the topic are just plain weird, trying to fit every single event that happens into the “grand scheme” somewhere and this is all they talk about. On the other hand, I don’t like that the end times are often ignored and reduced to a level that is not important.   

(more…)

In my last post, I referred to Wilson’s postmillennial view of the Church/Kingdom relationship.  His post explains how he believes the Kingdom of God will come on earth: through the gradual working of the Spirit (leaven is an analogy that he often uses, referring to Jesus’ parable).  Here are a couple quotes:

When kings come to Christ, their glory will grow. When kings die to their own glory, they will be raised in the glory of Another. And incidentally, though I am a minarchist (not an anarchist), and I believe that the kings of the latter glory will largely be ceremonial figureheads, I do not intend this as demeaning or as some kind of a nothing-honor. Why would any of us think that ceremony is a trivial thing? I suspect it will be shown to be the chief thing, far better than the current techniques for lording it over people — to wit, kicking butt and taking names — peace through superior firepower. That is a model that has a certain rough justice about it, but we have to admit that improvements could be made. When the lion lies down with the lamb, it will not be because men with block letters on their jackets are standing over them with automatic weapons.

Secondly:

So the Church is not gathered into the State, with ecclesiastical functions delegated to some part of the bureaucracy. Rather, I see the nations gathered to the Church, with the remaining civil functions distinct from the Church proper, but subordinate to it. The honor and glory of the kings really is honor and glory, and that honor and glory is really brought as tribute to be laid on the altar. In other words, I don’t see the nations gathering the Church, but rather the Church gathering the nations. (more…)

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Sweeney, M.A. (2000). The Twelve Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah (vol. 1). Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

M.A. Sweeney (2000:174) likens the outpouring upon Israel as a reconstitution of His people of sorts, hearkening back to creation and the work of the Spirit amidst the cataclysmic events:

Indeed, the image of the Hamsin/Sharav appears to underlie much of the imagery of cosmic transformation in this passage, but it is combined with the imagery of prophecy once again to demonstrate the interrelatedness of the natural and the human worlds in the book of Joel….The list of persons involved, sons and daughters, elders, young men, slaves and maid servants, is intended to be comprehensive. This phenomenon appears to project a return to a much earlier or ideal time prior to the establishment of Israel as a nation ruled by a king in its own land, such as the Exodus and wilderness period when the seventy elders of Israel began to prophesy when the “spirit” of G-d descended upon them (Num 11:25) or the period prior to the time of Samuel and the emergence of the first king, Saul, when 1 Sam 3:1 states that the word of YHWH and visions were rare at that time.

Sweeney (2000:174) adds the following:

To a certain extent, the passage attempts to portray a return to a state prior to creation, either of the natural world order or of the nation Israel, which of course enables both YHWH and Israel/Judah to start all over again on a new basis. The portents in the heavens and on the earth recalls both the use of heaven and earth as the comprehensive designation for all creation (Gen 1:1; 2:1,4) and the actions of YHWH in the Exodus narrative that forced Pharaoh to free the Hebrew slaves and that prompted the creation of Israel as a nation and its covenant with YHWH (Exod 6:1-9; 7:1-7).

Sweeney (2000:175) continues:

The images of “blood, fire, and columns of smoke” appear to be destructive at first sight and suggest the motif of YWHW’s battles against the nations that oppress Israel in the following passages. But these images are also the images of the altar at the Jerusalem Temple….Once the animal is slaughtered and prepared for the altar, it is set on fire and consumed entirely, resulting in a thick column of smoke that will stand over the site of the Temple complex. Although the imagery is destructive, it is also constructive in the sense that the Temple sacrificial ritual is intended to maintain or restore the order of the created world. In a similar manner, the Hamsin or Sharav that darkens the sun and causes the moon to appear red as blood is both destructive and transformative in that it marks the transition from one season to another; one reality is destroyed as another emerges. Altogether, such transformation in both the natural and the human world is labeled as the coming “Day of YHWH” in verse 4 [NRSV:31].

Pentecost therefore marks the commencing of judgment on the “old era”, which is passing away, and the inauguration of the “new era”, which is ever closer to its full consummation.  The signs and wonders surrounding the crucifixion, ascension, Pentecost and the eventual destruction of Jerusalem on 70 A.D. also marks a destructive work on the “old Israel” and the constructing of a “new Israel” that will bear fruit in keeping with repentance. The “last days” as a whole also have cosmic consequences as the “old earth” is literally passing away and is yet being renewed.

I know this is a bit choppy, but I made it for my personal use and it might not be reader-friendly. This is a condensed commentary on Matthew 5:4 for the homegroup I am leading right now. We are going through the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”

–          This beatitude connects to the previous one in that “being poor in spirit” acknowledges one’s poverty and need for help. Important to note that the Sermon on the Mount doesn’t advocate “works righteousness”, nor is “law” for Jews only. It begins with our poverty and need of grace.

–          Being “poor in spirit” will manifest itself in mourning.

  • Our faith is a “crying one”:
    • “We need, then, to observe that the Christian life, according to Jesus, is not all joy and laughter. Some Christians seem to imagine that, especially if they are filled with the Spirit, they must wear a perpetual grin on their face and be continuously boisterous and bubbly. How unbiblical can one become? No. In Luke’s version of the Sermon Jesus added to this beatitude a solemn woe: ‘Woe to you that laugh now.’1 The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them.”[1]

–          “I fear that we evangelical Christians, by making much of grace, sometimes thereby make light of sin. There is not enough sorrow for sin among us. We should experience more ‘godly grief’ of Christian penitence, like that sensitive and Christ-like eighteenth-century missionary to the American Indians David Brainerd, who wrote in his journal on 18 October 1740: ‘In my morning devotions my soul was exceedingly melted, and bitterly mourned over my exceeding sinfulness and vileness.’ Tears like this are the holy water which God is said to store in his bottle. Such mourners, who bewail their own sinfulness, will be comforted by the only comfort which can relieve their distress, namely the free forgiveness of God” (Stott, John).

What is Godly grief? (more…)

I returned from a two-week trip to Uganda on July 25. I did not have time to post updates while I was there, so I’m catching up now that I’m back in the U.S. The first update can be found here. New updates here.