The guarantee of better days is the kingdom of God, "God's benevolent, joy-filled, happy reign over his redeemed people." Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert's elaborate in their book, What Is the Mission of the Church.:
The Bible gives us a snapshot of what awaits us at the end. It's not a very detailed picture, but it is a glorious one. Isaiah tells us that God's full and consummated reign will be one under which joy and happiness are never broken, tears are never shed, death and sickness and sin are no more, and there is perfect peace and security, God is all and all, and evil is banished forever (Isaiah 65:17-25).
Revelation similarly tells us of the New Jerusalem, where God and his people will dwell with one another in harmony, and where "death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things passed away." Not only so, but the gates of that city will always stand open because there are no more enemies, the tree of life will once again be available for the healing of the nations, and God's servants will worship him righteously forever (Revelation 21:1-4, 9-27; 22:1-5). All this, of course, is a picture of a reconstituted Eden. Everything is once again as it was before the fall -- and even better! -- for there will no longer be even the possibility of sin in the redeemed, glorified people of God.
But that, of course, is the end. We are not there yet.
As the authors clarify -- as God clarifies -- "we are not there yet." That is interesting because Jesus proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom and said that people are entering it even now (Matthew 4:23, 9:35, 21:31).
Theologians explain this paradox as the "already/not yet" aspect of the kingdom of God. It is already here, inaugurated with the coming of Christ, but not yet fully consummated until he returns. In short, believers are getting a taste today of what God has in store for us tomorrow.
That means you are living between two worlds -- the world that is and the world that is to come. This truth has sobering implications. Let me frame them as questions each of us must ask as we venture into the New Year:
- Am I using my time, talents, and treasures to honor Jesus and further his reign? Or am I spending and consuming like this life is all there is?
- If the only way to "enter the kingdom," to experience the benevolent, joy-filled, happy reign of Jesus, is through faith in him (John 14:6), am I sharing that message with others? Am I witnessing to others about the coming King?
- Am I encouraging my tired and anxious heart with the reminder of what God has in store for me when Jesus returns? Or am I worrying like one who believes God isn't in control?
- The central figure of the Bible, the Hero of the Story, is Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords. Am I living -- at work, at home, at play -- like he really is the Hero of the story? Or have I become the central figure of my life?
Amazingly, God gives us a glimpse into the future and lets us taste it too. The kingdom of God . . . it is already here, and not yet here. We live in that reality.
Does anything need to change this year to live like you really believe that? How will you live differently today?
- "God's benevolent ..." from Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert, What Is the Mission of the Church: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission. Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 2011. Pages 135.
- "The Bible gives us a snapshot ..." from What Is the Mission of the Church?, pages 123-124.
- "suffering, forgiving King" from What Is the Mission of the Church?, page 138.