Jesus, coming in the fullness of time, proclaimed the good news of God, declaring, "The kingdom of God is near...and all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (Mk. 1:15, Mt. 28:18)"
By virtue of this authority, and in the plan of redemption, Paul declares that through Christ, God is at work "to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven. (Col. 1:20)" Furthermore, the apostle writes that Christ shall reign at the right hand of God until "he has put all his enemies under his feet (1 Cor. 15:25)."
John Calvin presented this challenge to his hearers: "We are called to make the invisible Kingdom of God visible to the world."
In the Heidelberg Catechism, we are asked: What does it mean to say, "Your Kingdom Come?"
The answer: Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you. Preserve your church and make it grow. Destroy the devil's work; destroy every force which revolts against you and every conspiracy against your holy Word. Do this until your kingdom fully comes, when you will be all in all.
The next question further presses the point: What does it mean to say, "Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven?"
The answer: Help us and all people to reject our own wills and to obey your will without any back talk. Your will alone is good. Help us one and all to carry out the work we are called to, as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.
Herman Ridderbos explains, "The coming of the kingdom is first of all the display of divine glory, the reassertion and maintenance of God's rights on earth in their full sense...not only oriented to the redemption of God's people, but to the self-assertion of God in all his works. Not only does it place Israel, but also the heathen nations, the world, and even the whole creation, in the wide perspective of the realization of all God's rights and promises...the one great kingdom of the future penetrates into the present."
Likewise, J.H. Bavinck, with poetic prose, declares, "Wherever Jesus comes, the demons flee, the fever subsides, the sea becomes calm, and the storm obeys. The kingdom of God has come near, and leprosy retreats, the blind open their eyes in utter amazement, the lame start to leap in spontaneous enthusiasm, and the dead rise from their graves. Indeed, the kingdom of God is near. All those shattering, destructive, depressing, and disruptive forces now dominating the universe fly away in despair and anguish as soon as the king appears...[All these] serve as proof that God will not surrender this terrible world to the powers of decay at work in it, but that the great day in which he himself will gather up his world into a harmonious symphony of adoration has begun."
Our World Belongs to God, the contemporary testimony of the CRC, teaches: Made in God's image to live in loving communion with our Maker, we are appointed earthkeepers and caretakers to tend the earth, enjoy it, and love our neighbors. God uses our skills for the unfolding and well-being of his world so that creation and all who live in it may flourish...[And now] restored in Christ's presence, shaped by his life, this new community [the church] lives out the ongoing story of God's reconciling love, announces the new creation, and works for a world of justice and peace. Jesus Christ rules over all."
Even in our own day, J.I. Packer makes it clear: Christians must manifest the reality of Kingdom life" through the work of worldwide witness, disciple-making, and church-planting, as well as faithful Christian living that corresponds to the message of Christ and the Kingdom.
"Because the kingdom, the time of God's rule, has been inaugurated with Jesus' own coming, we are called to life in the kingdom which means life under his lordship, freely accepted and forgiven," states Tim Keller, "But we are also committed to Jesus' Kingdom priorities of the new age and seeing them worked out in our own lives and the world in this present age."
And Joseph Boot writes, "The church as God's kingdom people must not only be concerned with personal salvation, or institutional church affairs, but with the reign of Christ over all things. The church (as such) represents the exalted Christ to the secular order."
If Henry Van Til was right when he said, "Culture is religion externalized," then the question is: What does our culture say about our religion? What do our lives say about the content of our faith?
Is our culture (and our lives) reflective of the themes we find throughout the pages of Scripture? Does it (and do we) represent the kind of redemptive, reconciling, and renewing faith to which we've been called by the grace of God in Christ Jesus? Or does it (and do you and I) instead reflect a kind of civil religion, a moralistic-therapeutic faith, nationalism, or gnostic indifference?
Do we seek to find theological loopholes and convenient alternatives to our covenantal calling--marked by the Cultural Mandate and Great Commission--because it is easier than laboring for the Kingdom in the already-not yet?
May God open our eyes, that we may see the drama of redemption, the beauty of the Kingdom, and the challenge given us as its citizens; a challenge that is not futile to give your life to, but rather, already assured of its success. May the Lord help us to see how to live into this calling and glorify His name. So join me in reflection and contemplation, and pray along with me: