Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season. We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season. Today’s contribution comes from our Pastor Emeritus, Rev. Jack L. Carter.
In the Meantime
In writing to the church in Ephesus, Paul reminds them of the “immeasurable greatness of His power for us who believe, according to the working of His great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the age to come.” Note the emphasis upon two ages, “this age and the age to come”. Also note that the people of God have always lived in a kind of “in the meantime”, in the time or age prior to the coming in fullness of the “age to come”.
“The “saeculum” (Latin for ‘age’), in which we find ourselves is a long “between”, and overlap of realities that are both now and not-yet. To live in the “saeculum” is to move in a world over which both the cross and the coming kingdom cast long shadows. The kingdom has come, but the former administration won’t leave the building,” writes James Smith, author of Awaiting the King.
God has always been King. He revealed Himself as such to Israel and they were taught how to live as a redeemed people under the only true King, Yahweh. They were called to live in faith, faithfully seeing and obeying the word of the King. And so is the Church. We are to be faithful, in the meantime, until the full manifestation is given of Jesus—King. We don’t shuttle between the jurisdiction of two kingdoms; we do, however, live now in the age of a contested rule, where the “rulers of this age’ grasp after an authority that, in reality, has been taken from them. “All authority, both in heaven and on earth”, has been given to the Son, our Lord Jesus, who now rules. In the meantime, we, the church which is His body, are called t be the place, the site, for seeing what Christ’s kingly rule is supposed to look like.
The core conviction of the Gospel is simply this: that Christ Jesus now reigns; that the kingly rule of Christ is God’s own rule exercised over the whole world. This peaceful, righteous, and holy rule is, ought to be, visible in the church, but not only there. “Peace on earth and good will toward men” is spoken to all men everywhere.
Everyone is now answerable to God’s King. Only God’s rule is ultimate. All other authorities are penultimate. All legitimate authorities are in reality “stewards” and will give an account for that stewardship.
Our high calling is to live out this theology. And all biblical theology is intrinsically dramatic; we are to become living Bibles, living letters written and empowered by the Spirit of God. We, the church, act out the doctrines of scripture. We perform the script. Thus we emphasize that theology, right doctrine, is very practical. The idea of a dichotomy between doctrine and practice is toxic. Doctrine, teaching is simply direction for both understanding and obeying King Jesus. We believe the Gospel; everything is now in subjection to Christ; He has already disarmed the principalities and powers. But we yet live in the not yet, the meantime. SO we bear witness, faithful witness, “until HE comes.” As John Donne, 17th Century pastor and poet, said to the boarding pilgrim passengers of a small ship bound for the colonies in 1630, “Act out the Acts of the Apostles.” Four hundred years later this is still our task!