Homeland

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

No, this is not a review of the upcoming season of the Showtime series “Homeland.” I’m sure that Carrie, Quinn, and Saul will continue to strategize, lie, cheat, seduce, and “disappear” the necessary bad guys in order to preserve homeland security. Instead this article is a result of my pondering on the verses displayed above and how they may apply to us 21st century American Christians, many of whom have forgotten just what/where their homeland is. And nowhere is this “lapse of memory” more evident than when it comes to American politics.thCK82J2W1

It doesn’t take too long a visit to the popular social media sights to figure out that many of us have forgotten who/se we are and where we’re going. I think it’s safe to say that a vast number of American Christians no longer see themselves as “strangers and exiles on the earth” and have fallen in love with the “American Dream.” Instead of being Christians who happen to be Americans, they tend to see themselves more as Americans who happen to be Christians. Consequently, they eagerly support the political candidate they think will best keep the dream intact, i.e., please no one come and take all my stuff. I honestly do think it’s our “stuff” that we are so earnestly trying to guard, and we have forgotten that “strangers and exiles” are transient, rarely holding on to anything too tightly.

One also has to be saddened by the divisiveness politics reveals among Christians. So called leaders will vehemently endorse or oppose different candidates, their acolytes will rally behind the leader, and carnal arguments play out on Face Book for all the world to see. And it seems that nowadays, racism of all colors, shapes, and sizes figure into the arguments, creating further division and bitterness. I even read an article the other day in which a pastor blamed the “Left Behind” series for paving the way for a Donald Trump presidential candidacy. Now while I don’t subscribe to Tim Lahaye’s eschatological paradigm….REALLY!!!!?????  I could go on, but I think you get my point. Brothers and sisters, all of whom love the Lord, arguing the politics of a homeland that is not even their own.

We know that God works through, in and among the nations of this world. He sets up kingdoms and removes them. And the writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that men and women of faith have been used of God to “conquer  kingdoms, enforce justice, obtain promises, stop the mouths of lions, quench the power of fire, escape the edge of the sword, made strong out of weakness, become mighty in war, and put foreign armies to flight.”But I would submit to you that most of what we see happening when American Christians become political today is a result of a people who have ceased walking by faith, looking for “that city whose builder is God” and have instead embraced the United States as their ultimate homeland. And out of a disposition of fear, they desperately desire a political leader who will shore up their treasured kingdom.

So, what is the answer to dilemma? First, we must remember that as Christians, our true Homeland is a “better country, that is, a heavenly one.” While we are of this world, this nation, we are now first and foremost citizens of the kingdom of heaven. But we are not merely holding on, waiting for Jesus to come snatch us away from all this trouble. No, in Christ we are men and women of faith who know that TRUE FAITH sometimes mean that the people of God have also “suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

Finally, it is our abiding intimacy with Jesus that ensures our proper understanding of homeland. He who is the author and finisher of our faith, the One who will rule over all the nations of this world, is the overcoming Lord who sits at the right hand of the Father until all his enemies are made into a footstool for his feet. We do not put our trust in political leaders. Nor do we allow nationalism of any kind to separate us from others in the Body of Christ. In fact,  I would say that perhaps it is nationalism itself that we American Christians must lay aside as “a weight and the sin which clings so closely,” hindering our walk with Jesus and his people.

Homeland. Home, the city prepared for us by God himself.

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.  And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.  By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it,  and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.  They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb  through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

 

 

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Thy Kingdom Come

(While I most definitely “see through a glass darkly,” I wanted to share with you  some of the research I’ve done as I have tried to understand a little bit more about the Kingdom of God. As you will see, I am really fond of Ladd’s The Presence of The Future , probably because  I agree with a lot of what he has to say (just being honest). While this is in no way a comprehensive study on the Kingdom of God, I do hope it will cause you to think and seek the Lord earnestly about these things.)

There is an abundance of discussion pertaining to the Kingdom within the ecclesia today. One could almost say that we have become inundated with “Kingdom Talk,” and there are as many points of view as there are people discussing them. If we are to understand the relationship between the Church and the kingdom we must first understand exactly what the kingdom is. Are the Kingdom and the church synonymous? If not, what is the church’s role and message in the world as it relates to the Kingdom? These are the questions we shall explore in our present endeavor.

According to George Eldon Ladd, the relationship between the church and the Kingdom will ultimately be defined by what one understands the Kingdom of God to be. If the dynamic concept of the Kingdom is correct, it is never to be identified with the church. The kingdom is primarily the dynamic reign, or kingly rule of God, and derivatively, the sphere in which the rule is experienced. In biblical idiom, the kingdom is not identified with its subjects. They are the people of God’s rule who enter it, live under it, and are governed by it. The church is the community of the kingdom, but never the kingdom it self. Jesus’ disciples belong to the kingdom as the kingdom belongs to them; but they are not the kingdom. The kingdom is the rule of God; the church is a society of men.[1]

Ladd insists that the New Testament never equates the believers with the kingdom, and that the message of the early church was the Kingdom of God and not the church itself.[2] Despite the analogies in the parables of the Kingdom given by Jesus in the gospels, one must resist the temptation of declaring the Kingdom and the church as synonymous. Ladd concludes that the parables, specifically the parable of the tares found in Matthew 13, have “nothing to do with the nature of the church but rather teach that the kingdom of God has invaded history without disrupting the present structure of society.”[3]

There is without a doubt an inseparable relationship between the church and the Kingdom of God; but one must be sure to recognize that there is, at the same time, an overt distinction in identity between the two. Entering the church is not tantamount with entering the Kingdom in that the Kingdom, in its present form, is an invisible realm in which God rules, whereas the church is both visible and tangible. True, to enter the Kingdom means to participate with the church; but one can see, as in the parable of the dragnet, that an entrance into the church does not guarantee one’s participation with the Kingdom. The church is the result of the Kingdom entering the world and is itself a creation of the Kingdom.[4]

The Kingdom takes its departure from God, the church from men. The Kingdom is God’s reign and the realm in which the blessings of his reign are experienced; the church is the fellowship of those who have experienced God’s reign and entered into the enjoyment of its blessings. The Kingdom creates the Church, works through the church, and is proclaimed in the world by the church. There can be no Kingdom without a church- those who have acknowledged God’s rule- and there can be no church without God’s Kingdom; but they remain two distinguishable concepts: the rule of God and the fellowship of men.[5]

Once it as been established that the Kingdom and the church are indeed separate entities, perhaps the question should be asked in what way is the church an instrument of the Kingdom. Is the church the means by which the Kingdom of God is ushered into the world?

There is much talk within the church, especially within the Dominionist and Emergent factions, that the church should infiltrate the various sectors of “secular” governance, and work to usher in the Kingdom of God upon the earth. These factions see it as necessity for the church to institute the rule of God in the society and culture of contemporary historicity; a posture which has had adverse effects when assumed in the past.

According to Murray Rothbard, it was ideology including Christian involvement in politics that precipitated the “welfare state” now entrenched in American society. Rothbard says: “A critical but largely untold story in American political history is the gradual but inexorable secularization of Protestant postmillennial pietism over the decades of the middle and late 19th century. The emphasis, almost from the beginning, was to use government to stamp out sin and to create a perfect society, in order to usher in the Kingdom of God on Earth. Over the decades, the emphasis slowly but surely shifted: more and more away from Christ and religion, which became ever-vaguer and woollier, and more and more toward a Social Gospel, with government correcting, organizing, and eventually planning the perfect society. No matter how commendable the goal of such tactics, there is not one example in the entire Bible of political or social “activism” ever being advocated or used by God’s people.”[6]

It would seem to this writer that the function of the church as an instrument of the Kingdom should perhaps be understood in an evangelistic context as opposed to a political movement. It may be that the church, in preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, is the means by which men are exposed to the message of the Kingdom and are thereby born again into the Kingdom of God’s rule. Instead of attempting to subjugate an unbelieving world, perhaps the church’s true mission is to preach the gospel of the Kingdom, subjugating the hearts of men, and as a result the ethics of the Kingdom would become more and more prevalent within the society in which man lives.

If the Church is an instrument of the Kingdom and not the Kingdom itself, if it is indeed to be understood as an evangelistic tool and not a political movement, it behooves the church to understand the message it is expected to declare to the world. What is the declaration the King would have His citizens declare to those who have not yet submitted to the rule of God?

The King himself has given the church the paradigm for Kingdom preaching. The gospel that Jesus preached was that the Kingdom of God, while to be completely consummated in the future, had indeed, by the appearing of himself, come into history. Again, Ladd gives a beautiful summation asserting that Jesus’ Kingdom message was: God is a seeking God, God is an inviting God, God is a Fatherly God, and God of judgment, who in the person of Christ is acting redemptively upon the earth.[7]

“Jesus proclamation of the presence of the Kingdom means that God has become redemptively active in history on behalf of his people. This does not empty the eschatological aspect of the Kingdom of its content, for the God who was acting in history in the person and mission of Jesus will again act at the end of the age to manifest his glory and saving power. Both the present and the future display God’s Kingdom, for both present and future are the scene of the redemptive acting of God.”[8]

The message the church should be preaching to the world is the same one Jesus preached during his earthly ministry. The gospel of the Kingdom is that God has now come in the person of his Son to seek out, and invite mankind into a relationship with himself through Christ, thereby escaping the judgment which will be executed upon those who are unwilling to submit to his rule. The church proclaims in its message, and displays by its ethics that while the final consummation of the Kingdom awaits future realization, the reality is that the Kingdom of God has indeed come.

While the church is not synonymous with the Kingdom, it nevertheless exists in an inseparable relationship with it. The church, as often has been said, is a people who live “between the times.” They are caught up in a tension between the Kingdom of God and a sinful world, between the age to come and the present evil age. The church has experienced the victory of the Kingdom of God; and yet the church is, like other men, at the mercy of the powers of this world. The church is a symbol of hope, a proof that God has forsaken neither this age nor human history to the powers of evil. The Kingdom of God has created the church and continues to work in the world through the church.[9]

While Jesus never talked about building the kingdom or of his disciples ushering in the kingdom as do so many within today’s ecclesia,[10] the church is indeed inextricably bound to the Kingdom in that it is both its creation and instrument. Until that time in which the not yet is eternally transformed into the now, the church will be that which is made up of them who cry, “Thy Kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”


1. George Eldon Ladd, The Presence of The Future, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 262.

2. Ibid., 263.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid., 264, 265.

5. Ibid., 277.

6. Murry N Rothbard, “Origins of the Welfare State in America,” Ludwig von Mises Institute (August 11, 2006), http://mises.org/daily/2225, (accessed October 4, 2011).

 7. George Eldon Ladd, The Presence of The Future, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 171-217.

8. Ibid., 172.

9. Ibid., 338.

10. Ibid., 333.