Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Kingdom of God is Bigger than Just being Right

Doug Reed has graciously given his permission to repost this article he posted on Planet Preterist. This is the best statement of the gracious essence of Preterism I have seen so far.

Around six years ago I discovered the fulfilled view of eschatology. I remember eagerly reading every preterist book I could get my hands on, and still I wanted more. Shortly after that I met Tyrone Copper, and helped him establish his web site. Ty and I worked countless hours in hopes of providing the best preterist outreach possible. Yet, I must confess that increasingly what fascinates me most is no longer Preterism. It is the kingdom of God.

Preterism is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. Fulfilled eschatology is the marvelous story of how God brought us into His kingdom through the finished works of His Son. Yet, to rejoice in Preterism alone is like a carpenter who glories in his hammer and nails rather in what they build. My hope and prayer is that we preterists would come to dwell firmly in the place fulfilled eschatology leads us and that is to the Kingdom of God.

One thing I have noticed about we preterists. We are truth junkies. We have an insatiable desire to understand truth. We want to get it right. However, this great desire can actually cause us to miss the very goal we seek if we lose sight of some very simple things. First, truth is not just an idea. It ultimately is a Person. The Person of Jesus Christ. He defined Himself as such in John chapter fourteen. "I am the way, the truth, and the Life." Truth must never be separated from person of Jesus Christ, or it becomes vain. Second, we must realize that the kingdom of God is bigger than just being right. The kingdom of God is not about the dominance of one idea or point of view over another. Jesus did not come just to get our doctrine straight. His purpose is far far greater than that.

Around five hundred years ago we saw the emergence of what some would call the Modern Paradigm. Two characteristics of this way of thinking were rationalism and individuality. Rationalism in particular is not a bad thing. Enormous good came when Western Civilization began to change from the mystical mindset to the rational. However, rationalism alone leads to problems, some of them severe. With the Reformation came an increasing focus on hermeneutics and critical analysis as a way of understanding truth. In some respects this was humanity's attempt to grasp God with the rational mind.

With this change in focus came an increasing emphasis on doctrine and ideas as the basis of unity among Christians. The rational mindset combined with the resulting individuality did not lead to a more unified church as its proponents believed. Some thought that as we grew closer to God as He really is, we would automatically draw closer to each other. However, it had the opposite effect. It did not bring God's people together as much as it began to tear them apart. This is the inevitable result when ideas and doctrine become the basis of unity. It is ironic that the modern mind's quest for God did not bring people together as a quest for God should, but it lead to countless denominations and church splits.

We have five hundred years of history to prove that ideas and doctrines are not enough to make God's people one. Such ties are far too easily broken. Praise be to God that He has given us something much greater than doctrine to make us one.

In Jesus' day, as it is in ours, there was a great debate about who the real people of God were. In other words, they debated who really had God on their side. The various factions were too numerous to count. The Pharisees thought they had it right, so did the Sadducees and the Essenes. Although they did debate over doctrine, the emphasis was probably more on deeds and linage more than anything else. For example, the Essences thought they really had Sabbath keeping down, but others did not. They would not even put wool in dye over the Sabbath. Even though they would not be working, the dye would, and that would make God mad. Lineage was also very important. Who were the true children of Abraham? The Samaritans weren't, and the Gentiles were out for sure.

In our day we do not argue Sabbath keeping or race when we argue who is in and who is out with God. It is far more likely to be what a person believes. Does that person have the right eschatology or the right understanding of salvation? Self-righteousness makes brother hate brother. In some respects doctrine has become the self-righteousness of the modern paradigm. Jesus blew the world of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Essenes apart. In one way or another He will do the same to ours.

A new proof of knowing God

Jesus brought a whole new definition of who was acceptable and who was not. In fact, He turned the world of the religious folks upside down. Those who the Pharisees thought God hated, Jesus loved. Those who the Pharisees thought God loved, Jesus came against.

The parable of the good Samaritan is a perfect example. The Samaritans were considered to be the bad guys in that day. They had intermarried with gentiles, and they had some pretty funny interpretations of Torah. Yet, in helping a man in need, the Samaritan proved himself to be the true neighbor not those had the right lineage or those who thought they kept Torah correctly. In God's eyes who really kept Torah in this parable? Who was truly right?

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (I John 4:7-8)

In simplicity, John gives us the proof of knowing God. The greatest proof a person knows God and is of God is love. No other proof will suffice. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said:

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matt 5:43-47)

Jesus said we are to love those who wrong us. He could just have easily have said that we are to love those with whom we disagree. What good is it when we love only those that agree with us? Do not even atheists do the same? Perhaps the greatest proof that we know God is not that we have it right but how we treat those who are wrong.

Who is near to God?

I once had the privilege of speaking to a group of thirty or forty Amish folks. There they sat, very plain. I was wearing a conservative coat and tie, yet compared to their simplicity, I felt I was wearing a sequined suit with a glow in the dark tie. The funny thing was that they did not move a muscle the whole time I spoke. I don't think I even saw anyone blink. After I was done, I thought they must have hated what I said. I was used to having some kind of response, a smile, a nod, a frown. Yet, no response at all was very unnerving.

To my surprise, after everyone left the building, the Amish group became very warm and animated. They went on and on about how much they enjoyed what I said. It was apparent that these people loved the same Lord I serve. I thought "how could this be? How could the Lord be with a people who are so very different than me--that have such different ways and ideas?" Perhaps we can look to the first century once again to find some answers.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal. 3:28-29)

In Paul's day the big question was how could God accept the Gentiles? Who they were was wrong. They were not decedents of Abraham. What they did was wrong. They were uncircumcised, and they did not keep Sabbath and the festivals. Surely they had to become like Jews for God to approve them. Yet, the response given by the Holy Spirit was a resounding "no!" The gentiles did not need circumcision to be saved. How could this be so if the gentiles did so much that was wrong?

The answer was found in Christ Himself. What was important was not that the gentiles got it right, it was that God in Christ Jesus got it right at Calvary for them. It was who Jesus is and what He did that gave them God's approval. Making them acceptable was God's work. The righteousness of God had replaced the righteousness of man.

Herein we see the key to unity among believers. It is not doctrine or ideas. It is not us getting it right. It is the fact that the Lord got it right 2000 years ago on the cross. Making us one is God's work not ours. The cross was about reconciliation between God and humanity. Yet, it was just as much about our reconciliation to each other. God had forgiven, so we must forgive. God had accepted, so must we.

Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)

There are those who say that we must have unity at any cost. Others say this is wrong, the price it too high. Both miss the point. A great cost has already been paid to make us one. It was the life of God's Son.

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (I John 4:10-11)

Those who see the love of God in Christ Jesus love their brother even if they disagree with him. For they see it is not necessary for them to agree to be one. What was necessary already happened a long time ago.

What about Jesus and Paul?

Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? (Matt. 23:33)

Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! (Phil. 3:2)

Some might protest. They say, "Didn't Jesus have harsh and unkind words for those who opposed Him? Surely, Paul did!" This is certainly true, but we must be careful in our interpretation of these events lest they become a license to hate our brother. Who exactly did Jesus and Paul reject? Jesus never called the tax collectors or the prostitutes a brood of vipers nor the gentiles or the Samaritans. Remember these were the very folks many expected the Messiah to condemn and destroy! Yet, both Jesus and Paul embraced them. It was the religious folks such as the Pharisees and later the Judaizers that earned such scathing rebukes. The question is why?

It seems that the grace of God was coming in that day, and there was one perilous thing a person could do. Stand in its way. Grace was coming in Christ Jesus, and if you were standing in His way, you were about to be flattened.

(I must digress here for a moment. I know the mind of some of our readers. I am not saying that as long as you are not judgmental and you forgive, you need do nothing more. It is not suddenly OK to sin because we are under grace. However, repentance and changed behavior in people's lives often came in a different manner than we hear preached today. Under the New Covenant grace came first then right behavior.

We see this pattern Paul's writings. For example, chapters four through six of Paul's epistle to the Ephesians tell us to do a great many things. Most sermons we hear from the book of Ephesians come from chapters four through six. However, Ephesians does not begin with chapter four does it? It begins with chapters one through three. In these chapters we don't see a single command. Instead, we see a glorious picture of who God's people are because of Who Jesus is and what He has done. First grace, then the appropriate response to grace.

With that being said, we must also realize that for the most part it was not the worst sinners of the day the opposed Jesus or Paul. There was no tax collector's plot to do away with Jesus or Paul. It was the religious folks who came violently against both Jesus and Paul.)

By and large, there were basically two types of people who stood in the way of what God was doing. For one, it was those who would not let go of their own righteousness. They either rejected the righteousness of Christ outright, or they proposed a curious blend of the righteousness of God and the righteousness of man. Moreover, it was those who rejected their brother. Remember Jesus chilling words that as they judged, they would be judged. Recall that He said that those who would not forgive were in danger of their Master's wrath. This was not just a quaint saying. It literally dictated the fate of Old Covenant Israel.

Therefore, if we are to reject our brother, we must do so only with the greatest fear and trembling lest we disqualify ourselves and bring disgrace to the cross. I must see my brother through what happened at Calvary, because that is the way God sees me.

In the Old Testament the Jews celebrated seven feasts each year. Each was rich in symbolism concerning Who Jesus is and what He has done. The final feast was Tabernacles. In a sense it was the most joyous celebration of all. It showed forth the fact that the work of salvation was done. God has forgiven us and He is with us. He has removed every wall and made us one. Perhaps Preterism can give this immeasurable truth back to the God's people. This is my hope.


Doug Reed is a columnist for PlanetPreterist.com. Doug is the Pastor of Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Thorncrown Chapel can be found online at http://www.thorncrown.com.


Post a Comment

<< Home