The Gospel in 5D: Present and Future Hope
This is the fifth post in a series exploring that age old question, what is the gospel?
Present and Future Hope
Good theology is often about the willingness to sit in tension.
The bible does not tie a neat bow around a bunch of answers and lay it at our feet. Nor does God provide quick fix solutions to our problems. That is not really what he is about.
He is about gaining worship and a people whose righteousness and unity collaborates with his work for justice. And he is willing to see these things played out over the long run. He does not do his work all at one time or rush the results. That would not be in the best interest of cultivating the kinds of relationships he is after.
What all this means is that the work of the gospel and its effects fall across the spectrum of history. There are things that have already been done and things that remain in need of doing. There are things which we have already received and things which we must wait for. There are things we are able to be accomplished in the current age and things which will not be accomplished until later.
This is what theologians have come the call the "already and the not yet" of the Kingdom. Jesus has already died for the forgiveness of our sins, but he has not yet returned to make all things new. The power, presence and counsel of God is already available to us through the Holy Spirit, but we still wait to stand in the presence of God and see him face to face. Shalom can already be brought to bear on the world in the present day, but it is not yet a reality for everyone everywhere and will not be until Jesus comes back to judge the living and the dead. Jesus is Lord, and yet the world tends to not look like.
Let's turn to some scriptures that express this tension.
- "The Kingdom of God is near." Mark 1:15
- "...your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Matthew 6:10
- "...nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” Luke 17:21
- "My kingdom is not of this world." John 18:36
- "For by grace you have been saved by faith." Ephesians 2:8
- "Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own." Philippians 3:12
- "He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Colossians 1:13-14
- "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1
- "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!" 2 Corinthians 5:17
- "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hoe that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." Romans 8:18-24
The examples could go on and on.
There is hope of freedom from sin, from despair, from shame, from loneliness, from hunger, from homelessness, and from violence today. People don't have to wait! These things are transformations that are experienced every day and it is the church's mission to spread this joy and abundant life far and wide. However, we do not yet live in a world where every tear has been wiped away and every burden has been lifted.
These are the tensions present in the gospel.
The good news has been done. It is being done. And it will be done.
It is a present fact and a future faith.
This is the source of all our hope.
It is why we can do what we are called to do even when things are rough. The examples could go on and on.
It is why we can do what we are called to do even when things are rough. Part of the play on words that I hope this blog's title subtly conveys is that history is on an unwavering march toward shalom. Shalom is the great culmination of time itself! Even though our eyes have not seen it, we know that our God is faithful to fulfill his promises and that we are to join him in this work of love today. Therefore, stand in the tension friends.