Surprised by Hope: Mission and the End of Time, Part 3

Hatred

(Gen 4:8)  Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

Because of the jealousy caused by sin, Cain became the first murderer. As soon as man left intimate communion with God, we see community destroyed, so that people created to love each other choose hatred instead.

God’s mercy

(Gen 4:15)  But the LORD said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.

Even in the face of the murder of a brother, God shows unspeakable mercy on mankind, not allowing others to take vengeance on Cain beyond that God himself had decreed. And so we see that despite man’s sin, God’s love and mercy endures.

Babel

(Gen 11:4-9)  Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel — because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Finally, we see the arrogance of mankind leading to separation into many nations, speaking different languages, scattered across the earth.

We see in Christ God’s work to restore the unity of all people, to bring all nations into a single kingdom ruled by Jesus.

Government

Paul gives us additional insights into the nature of God’s curse on creation. There’s much more that could be said, but we need to consider two points in particular.

(1 Cor 15:24-26)  Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

We see the well-known declaration that death itself will be defeated in the end, returning God’s people to the tree of life. But we tend to overlook the first part — that Jesus will destroy “all dominion, authority and power.”

The Biblical view of government is that government is both ordained by God (Rom 13) but also an enemy of God — because governments tend to oppose the will of God. People need good government, but government consolidates power and sinful people handle power poorly.

Thus, the Roman government provided peace, and Roman roads facilitated missionary work, but the Caesars decided to have themselves declared gods to be worshipped, putting them in direct opposition to God.

Modern governments provide both good and evil to the people, protecting us from anarchy but often committing sins on a massive scale.

Government will therefore last until the return of Jesus, where government will be destroyed and replaced by the rule of Son of David, in a single kingdom, where all nations are joined under a single throne.

Until then, our redemptive work isn’t to destroy government — that’s Jesus’ job — but to redeem government by working for just government. Recall God’s declaration at the beginning of the giving of the Law in Deuteronomy –

(Deu 10:17-18)  For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.

God is indirectly commanding the rulers of the people to also be impartial and to refuse bribes. God wants his people to enjoy honest and fair government.

Creation

Paul tells us that the curse enslaved all creation.

(Rom 8:19-21)  The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

Thus, the specifics of Genesis 3 are but examples of the larger “bondage to decay” that corrupts the entirety of the Creation.

Redemption and Mission

We are called to be like God in holiness and in living lives of love. “Love” is defined by Paul as sacrificial living for the sake of others (Eph 5:2). It’s not niceness. It’s service — because that’s God’s nature.

(Lev 11:45)  I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.

(Luke 6:35)  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

(Eph 5:1-2)  Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

(1 Pet 1:15-16)  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

If Christians are called to be like God and participate in his redemptive work, what does that mean? Well, as we study what God meant for the world to be like and how the world was corrupted by sin, we see what is required to redeem the world. Here’s the list from before –

* Bring people into the new creation by bringing them to Jesus to be made new.

* Restore people to right relationship with God.

* Restore right relationships between husbands and wives and men and women.

* Restore right relationships among God’s people.

* Restore the right relationship of men and God’s creation — when we return to the proper balance of both working and caring for the creation (Gen 2:15).

* Restore God’s abundance to all his people.

* Bring about just government until Jesus returns.

Now, the point is not to make a list of rules. Rather, the goal is to better understand the character and purposes of our God. He is not the Great Scorekeeper in the Sky. He isn’t a proctor preparing the Great True-False Test in the Sky to see whether we have the right positions on the issues. He’s a Creator who wants us to live in the joys of Eden, in perfect communion with God, with each other, and with the Creation. He wants us to delight in our spouses and our children.

His work throughout history has been to return us to Eden, where we walk with God and each other in the cool of the morning, without shame, without pain, and without death, enjoying the abundance of his Creation.

God will transform the heavens and earth so that we cannot fall away from him a second time. The heavens, earth, and each of us with be clothed with a new bodies having new properties, so that there will be no more decay and we will live forever.

But we won’t live floating in space or playing harps on clouds. I don’t know exactly what it will be like, actually. My flesh-and-blood brain can’t comprehend something that is so different from what I experience today. I just know that the goal is to take us all back to a transformed, even-better Eden.

And I know that, until then, I’m to join with God in his redemptive work.

(Rev 22:1-6)  Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. 6 The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”

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6 Responses to Surprised by Hope: Mission and the End of Time, Part 3

  1. Tim Archer says:

    I'm admittedly still working through my views on government, so I'm always grateful when you explore the topic more. I can't overcome how uncomfortable I am with the enormous weight we pile on Romans 13, forcing everything the Bible says about authority and government to pass through that one funnel. Especially when it's a passage that is extremely difficult to interpret (in my rarely humble opinion).

    I'm curious if you read Richard Beck's series of posts on the concept of "the powers" in the Bible. Especially interesting is this post:
    http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2009/12/

    It neither confirms nor refutes your views on government, but does present an interesting perspective on the subject.

    In the end, I'm still uncomfortable with the idea of us being called to work through an enemy of God to achieve God's purposes. (which is part of why I don't see Christians killing other people as being God's will) However, Beck's article would remind me that every human organization falls into that same category of opposing God.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  2. Zach Price says:

    what you mean God doesn't vote libertarian? You've crushed my entire outlook on life.

    On a more serious note:
    "Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed ALL dominion, authority and power"

    i don't think that refers to just government, aren't you elders authority and power? we must remember that all dominion, authority and power is God's to take and give, but that definitely does not mean that where it is given is God's will, or he wouldn't need to take it all back in the end to fulfill his will.

    "Even in the face of the murder of a brother, God shows unspeakable mercy on mankind, not allowing others to take vengeance on Cain beyond that God himself had decreed." all I can say is Amen, very fitting to come before your section on arrogance.

  3. Jay Guin says:

    Tim,

    (1 Cor 15:24) Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.

    Jesus will destroy government at the end of time. Therefore, in some sense, although government remains necessary, it's a necessary evil. We either stand back and watch governments oppress, impoverish, and destroy people or we work for the improvement of government.

    Haiti would be a good example. There is no way to make much improvement in the lives of the Haitian people — beyond just keeping them barely alive — without working toward a more just the Haitian government. So long as it's corrupt and incompetent, misery will prevail. I don't see how we can love the Haitians and not make some effort to improve their government.

    It's not so much Romans 13 as "Love your neighbor."

  4. Jay Guin says:

    Zach,

    Elders don't have much power really, but your point is a good one. We do have some. It's not just the government, and therefore if we can work to improve the elders, we can work to improve the government, at least insofar as this verse is concerned. Thanks.

  5. Zach Price says:

    the pope certainly has power, even his own army!

    i believe that socialism/communism the extreme of progressives leads to people believing that the government loves them and provides for them instead of God or facism and repression.
    i believe that anarchy the extreme of conservatism leads to chaos and destruction.

    voting is an obvious and easy way to effect change for the better, but i feel very uncomfortable with ministers preaching about voting one way or another from behind the pulpit. i myself have preached before on how God is not a republican or a democrat.

    i honestly could use some guidance or elaboration on what you mean "I don’t see how we can love the Haitians and not make some effort to improve their government." i assume you would mean the same for our own government, but in what tangible and not just abstract way?

    i feel like a government that governs least while keeping things civil seems ideal, but i certainly empathize with a social gospel idea of government reflecting christian values of mercy and compassion albeit imperfectly can still accomplish good works in battling poverty or oppression (basic human and civil rights and tax breaks for non-profit organizations such as churches, charities and homeless shelters are good examples), yet sometimes accomplishing the opposite.

    is there somewhere the power of government is more Christian?

    any enlightenment?

  6. nick gill says:

    In the end, I’m still uncomfortable with the idea of us being called to work through an enemy of God to achieve God’s purposes.

    I bet God is, too, but he hasn't ever had many other options besides annihiliation.

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