Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Say What You Mean- The Trap of Jargon.Part III: The Kingdom of God

In continuing our ‘journey through the valley of jargon’, we come to the monolithic
mystery of the Kingdom of God. The reason I say mystery here is that even when Jesus gave us information through the parables, the explanation was not always crystal clear. We are tempted to conclude that perhaps it was not meant to be fully explained. Yet, in the Bible there are clear descriptions of what exactly it is. With that said, it is still perhaps the greatest mystery in the Bible. This is true because it involves Jesus and the mysterious union of Christ with His Body, the eternal Church. This in itself gives many grounds for elaborate constructions of what it is from one’s vantage point. In fact with some, it is so elaborate that it includes everyone (the universalist) or excludes everyone but their particular group (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses even some denominations and particular splinter groups). Here is where the principle of Occam’s Razor is very useful. The principle states: ‘usually the simplest explanation is the best’. So when we are receiving teaching on the subject of the Kingdom of God, we must ask the simplest of questions: ‘What is the Kingdom of God?’ You will be amazed at the answers you will receive. Secondly, ask the question: ”If I have repented of my sins, and accepted Jesus as Savior, am I in the Kingdom?’ Finally ask the third question as a follow up to question two: “Are there any believers that are not included in your definition of the Kingdom of God?” If the answers are not simple or require ‘revelation’ to see the full answer, then most likely, what is being described to you is not the Kingdom of God but a dogma held by the person or group. Jargon reigns supreme when it comes to the topic of the Kingdom of God concerning some groups. Why this happens is because of the lack of proper focus. Many construct an elaborate economy when it comes to the Kingdom of God especially on this side of heaven. Let’s take a clue from the New Testament. In the New Testament we are given the basis for the Kingdom of God: In the Book of Revelation there is a simple definition of it. In the NASB, this reads as follows:

5: and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
There are three very key words here:

In Verse 5, the word released: First, the tense of the verb here is Passive Present. This means that its object is the receiver of an action ( for verse 5, that would be ‘our release’). The verb released here means: to loose or break apart or set free. To shatter what is whole. This refers to the breaking of a covenant’s power over us due to sin (the Old Covenant, the Law). How are we released? Look at the scripture, by His blood!

In Verse 6, the conjunction and: In classical Greek, the usage of ‘kai’ (and) is to conjoin an independent clause to a dependent one. However in the Semitic usage of Greek (the way the Hebrews used it), it usually conjoins independent clauses. What is the result here? While the actions are separate, they are to be viewed as a continuous action and so need to be viewed as single event or progression of related events that should not be unlinked because they define the entire intended action or event.

In Verse 6, the phrase has made: First, the verb’s tense is the aorist tense. This tense is to indicate a continuing action and is used to show a completeness to the action being performed. It is a ‘once for all time’ tense – not to be repeated or meant to be repeated. It means to produce, construct, form or fashion. So, we are being formed from what He has broken (v5) into the Kingdom, that is priests - ministers to God the Father. How are we formed after broken? By His Blood!

This breaking and then forming is very much akin to the concept of re-creation that is being made new. In its essence, this is a corollary to John 3:6 that is: being born again. What is truly remarkable here is that it is the application of the Blood of Christ that releases us and makes us the Kingdom of God. The repentance and application of the Blood is the completed event that causes one’s transformation into the Kingdom of God.

So, the Kingdom of God is the work of Christ that by His Sacrifice and life, WE are made the Kingdom of God. In other words, there is no one else or nothing else that does so. But oh, what a twisted web that we weave when it comes to HOW Christ does so! Many say that without ‘proper’ water baptism or spirit baptism (or both!) according to their interpretation and perspective, a person cannot be in the Kingdom of God. To this we must respond with the truth of Rev 1:5-6. In the scripture passage the kernel of the power of God is revealed. What can we conclude? The blood is the key element into the transformation of man into literally being the Kingdom of God. We are not subjects in the sense that we are ‘in’ the Kingdom: we ARE the Kingdom. This is consistent with the messages of Christ that when He spoke of the Kingdom, He was speaking of Himself as its entry point. What does this fact do to those who would obfuscate the simple message of the sacrifice of Christ and its resultant creation of the Kingdom of God by claiming other events as the entry points (e.g. Water baptism and/or Spirit baptism)? It takes the Kingdom and divides it. Moreover, these stances require elaborate genuflecting to explain the ‘incompleteness’ of those who do not have experiences such as those who hold to subsequent events as the true entry point. Let us understand. If the blood of Christ is not sufficient but only necessary, worlds of speculation are busted wide open. For instance, if water baptism or spirit baptism according to strict definitions of those who are convinced that they are essential regarding the entry into the Kingdom of God, what is the state of one who has simply repented – i.e. had the blood applied? Are they in the Kingdom? If they are not, then the blood of Christ is of none effect and violates the action presented in Rev 1:5-6 – that cannot ever be so. Either one is in the Kingdom of God by the Blood or they are not. If they are not, this must be explained since the blood of Christ was shed at Calvary for that very purpose.

Let us not mince words here: the Kingdom of God is Christ, it is established in His Blood and by the power of the blood the Holy Spirit engrafts us. If we separate the work of the Spirit from the work of Christ, we separate the indivisible: the Holy Trinity, this cannot be done. If we must wait until proper water baptism, then the blood of Christ is put on hiatus until the dunking, it cannot be.

Let me be clear here: The Kingdom of God is Christ, once the blood is applied, the person is made into the Kingdom. This is the only consistent rendition of the text. To interpret or apply it otherwise requires whole economies of classes of people to be explained. Finally, we must understand the when a covenant of God is established it is all-encompassing and complete. If we are to say that the blood of Christ is the striking of the New Covenant (and so the obliteration of the Old Covenant), then we need go no further. We must view other events as what they are: events. To integrate them into the covenant work of Christ is to take it too far. I personally believe there are many experiences a follower of Christ can experience, but to classify those who do not have a like experience as sub-normal or to view them as incomplete, I must disagree. Going back to the Cornerstone (our Lord), when He called and applied His own blood to the sinner, it ought to be enough for us to shut our mouths and gaze in wonder at such a miracle. Christ is not divided. The Trinity is not divided. The Kingdom is not divided, it is our own pride, ignorance or spiritual blindness that makes us see the Kingdom as divided, it is not and never will be. It is the Christ and who He has personally set into His Body by His marvelous and complete work.

Post script: After thinking about the implications of Rev 1:5-6, it has caused me to re-visit the parables. Think on this. If Christ makes us the Kingdom of God then the more common applications of the parables may be reversed. For instance, the Pearl of Great Price could be interpreted as Christ the Merchant, finding the pearl of great price (His sacrifice for us) and going and selling all He has to purchase it. This application is very much in line with Rev 1:5-6. We are the pearl of great price and it is Christ who has given up everything He is in order to purchase us back from sin. This could be applied to the parable of the lost coin, the mustard seed, the fish upon the beach and the Sower. In each case the subject is Christ (the Merchant, The woman, the Angels, the Sower) and we are the pearl, the lost coin, the fish and the ground…well, it is something to ponder anyway.

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