Victory & Hope
by Josiah Audette
The following is an article I composed last year in a lecture I was scheduled to give. In the end I never did share this specific article, but another in its place on the Westminster Catechism.
DOOM & GLOOM
These days everything is doom and gloom for Christians. Among the many of the professing evangelical populace presides the regrettable notion that the world is in such an awful state of wickedness that there is positively no hope for recovery. These people may very will dismiss reformed theology with as much adamancy as the pope, but they preach the “Total depravity” of the world more tenaciously than Calvin would have himself. These are men who see a devil behind every bush, and the antichrist in every politician. These impoverished souls are born crying, live complaining, and die disappointed.
To heap misery upon misery, it is passively assumed that the Church in North America will undergo grim persecution from the hand of Satan through tyrannical men in political, economic, and military power. All that these miserable wretches can behold is the markets of the whole world crashing down around them, Harold Camping’s legions raving about the impending universal apocalypse, the Middle East in one of it’s greatest showdowns, Iran close to getting the nuclear bomb… essentially the world spinning off it’s axis. The only dim light of hope which remains to be cherished in this darkened universe is the glow of the TV screen during the FOX news commentary.
Moreover, the only plausible solution to such a dire predicament, the only thing which will save the spiritual existence of this tattered and bruised remnant of the Church is, namely, the rapture. The trick is just to survive until it comes. To accomplish such a feat one must perform a string of deterrents such as avoiding living in a densely populated city like the black plague, reckon the internet to be the personal creation of the devil, and raise goats in your back yard for milk and cheese when the time comes that Superstore is finally overrun by militant temporary workers. Our panties are in a terrible wad.
WHAT HAVE WE DONE?
Enough of the polemics, I have simply described in unambiguous witticisms a terribly paralyzing theology which is all to common in our day. This theology has affected many in their views of the world and faith – or should I rephrase that with “The world or faith?” The question aught to be asked “What have we done?” Could it be that we have surrendered the world to the devil? This theology of surrender of our day has manifested itself in numerous ways, ways which are certainly not new under the sun.
This disavowing of the “World” as evil and base with the solitary embracing of the “Spiritual” as holy was first taught by Plato – although it is a sin as old as Adam. Neoplatonism envisages the human soul rising above the imperfect material world through virtue and contemplation toward transcendent knowledge. Separating the physical from the spiritual reared its ugly head also in the Apostle John’s time through Gnosticism. The 2nd century heresy/cult of Gnosticism conjectured that the world was created and ruled by a lesser demiurge, and that Christ was an emissary of the remote supreme divine being. Redeeming the human spirit, in Gnosticism, is enabled through esoteric knowledge of this supreme being. Consequentially you have the glorification of the mind and soul while dismissing the world and all in it. Through the next five centuries the prevailing heresy was Manichaeism. Manichaeism was also a dualistic heresy, which explained evil as a result of God abdicating dominion over the earth and Satan capturing it in rebellion. Obviously, from the 7th to current century a multitude of dualistic heresies – time forbids me to give an account for each – have arisen. Heresies such as asceticism, quietism, sectarianism, antinomianism, and pietism. Each of these historic notions have glorified the spiritual – to varying degrees – all at the expense of disavowing the world.
WHO’S THE KING?
Yet, fundamental to all of these notions is that they lead to surrender. In our day we have unreservedly surrendered the material for the spiritual exclusively. We have surrendered our Christian hope of victory in favor of a withdrawal from conflict into spiritual exercises and “rapture” oriented lifestyles. Vexed by this dualistic tension we either surrender to the world, or flee from it, or do both. Now to our own defense, we are much more civilized and refined in our rejection of the world than we were previously – for instance – in the 2nd century. We no longer discredit material, physical objects, but notwithstanding we altogether retreat from the “World’s” spheres and institutions of politics, education, economic endeavors, and family governance. God forbid the thought that we would ever crawl out of our church hermitages and aspire to “Christianize” such spheres! Thus, we have disavowed ourselves from the “World” – in impeccable accordance to our false notions – and surrendered it to Satan in a hand-basket. But Satan is not the king of this world, there is a different King altogether.
CHRIST IS KING
Undeniably, one of the most fundamental and foundational teachings of the Bible is that Jesus Christ is “King of kings, and Lord of lords.” (Rev. 19:16). Christ was born a king (Luke 2:11) lived a king (Mark 2:28) died a king (Col 2:15) rose a king (Acts 2:36) reigns as king (1 Cor. 15:27) and will return to consummate His reign (Rev 17:14.) The dilemma of the argument doesn’t lie in whether or not Christ is King, but rather what the true nature, origin, and extent of his Kingdom is. Earth, or heaven, or both? Politics, law, business, justice system, education, or the church, or all of the above? Undeniably the doctrine of the Kingship of Christ is consequential.
KING OF WHAT?
“Christ’s kingdom ‘Is not of this world’” (John 18:36). This has been quoted a multitude of times in order to pronounce that Christ’s kingdom is entirely heavenly and “Spiritual.” Logically we can conclude from this that Christ’s kingdom is divorced from the critical matters of politics, economics and other such “Worldly” issues. But let us take a careful look at this much disputed passage of Scripture. “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not OF this world. If my kingdom were OF this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not FROM the world.’” (Emphasis added.) We confuse Jesus’ statement in John 18:36 to be concerned with the nature of His kingdom, but rather John 18:36 is speaking with regards to the origin of the Kingdom. The origin of Christ’s Kingdom is not in the world of evil men simply because it is not “of” it. Rather, its origin is with God and from God. Thereby His kingdom is relevant to all areas of society and all political institutions of the earth – including Rome – are accountable to Him as the King of kings. Christ’s kingdom is of God. Christ’s kingdom if from God.
Yet what is the meaning of the remaining passage? “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting…” Again, Christ’s method of conquest is not of this world, and certainly not the selfsame method as Rome’s (Which was fighting.) “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” 2 Cor 10:4 The citizenship and domain of Christ’s kingdom is advanced not by revolution but rather by regeneration and this is a critical note.
KING OF ALL
Scripture, on the subject of the domain of Christ’s kingdom, repeatedly claims right to the earth and furthermore its occupancy. Jesus claims dominion of the earth, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matt 28:18.) Jesus claims dominion of all ecclesiastical institutions, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.” (Eph 5:23.) Jesus claims dominion over all the political institutions, “And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings on earth.” (Rev 1:5) The reign of Christ is eternal, universal, and invincible “And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:14.) Hodge wrote it well, “Christ is already a king upon His throne in the full sweep of His kingly administration.”
“THY KINGDOM COME”
Christ’s comprehensive and unlimited Lordship is tremendously momentous to our lives, especially since we – as regenerate souls – are part of his Kingdom purpose (Namely the advance of the Gospel.) In the most practical of ways, when we pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” we must be conscious that Christ’s kingdom is here and now. We must acknowledge that we are seeking for God’s Kingdom purpose to be established both immediately and in every sphere of life on earth. The Westminster Larger Catechism states it wondrously,
“In the second petition, (Which is , Thy Kingdom come), acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, and the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fulness of the Gentiles brought in; the church furnished with all gospel officers and ordinances, purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up of those who are already converted: that Christ would rule in our hearts here, and hasten the time of his second coming, and our reigning with him for ever: and that he would be pleased to so exercise the kingdom of his power in all the world, as may best conduce to those ends.”
Christians have the duty as Kingdom citizens by regeneration to declare the crown rights of King Jesus in all areas of their nation and they may not rest until His divine rights and absolute authority is recognized and voluntarily submitted to. For a Christian to seek anything less is to act as if Christ is something less than what He is in fact: “King of kings and Lord of lords.” Since Jesus is Lord over all, everything – individuals and institutions alike – are accountable to Him and to His law. The Word of God is the only rule which God has given us to govern the entire life and thought of nations. We must recommit ourselves to pray the second petition with all earnestness and furthermore work toward the reconstruction of all aspects of this nation to the glory of King Jesus, by the Word of God, and in the power of the Spirit of God. It is preposterous to retreat from this world, for Christ is King over it and Satan and us. Therefore we can advance our King’s kingdom in his rightful domain with Christian hope. Yet again, this is not to be accomplished by revolution or by the sword, but by regeneration and by salvation. Be bold and proclaim the Kingship of Christ and His divine rights.
VICTORY AND HOPE
Once we recognize the crown rights of King Jesus over all the earth, when we realize we are citizens by regeneration, as we commit to our great commission of establishing God’s Kingdom and will on earth as it is in heaven, we will discover the Christian hope of victory. No longer will we withdraw from conflict into rapture oriented lifestyles. No longer will we limit the scope of our Christian experience and principles to our church’s domain or the doors of our homes. No longer will we be content with anything less than Christ being Lord of lords and King of kings in us, our families, our church, our community, our city, our province, and our nation. Our hope lies not in our performance, but in our King. Since Christ is Lord, He is necessarily Victor. “For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth… For God is King of all the earth… God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne…He is highly exalted.” Psalms 47:2,7,8,9. Believing in the triumph of Christ we have a victory-oriented, not a defeat/retreat/rapture oriented future view. We do still expect persecution, difficulties, and sacrifice, but ultimately we see the victory of the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We no longer are subject to the dualistic doom & gloom notions, but rather in the Kingship of Christ we have victory and hope.