I was asked a little while back – so what do you believe about ‘transformation’ of this world? A huge question and one on which I would like to write something much fuller on one day soon-ish. Also an interesting question as one has to try and see if there has been an evolution of a belief or a U-turn or a change of direction. For sure I once knew so much and now????
I will try and enumerate points in brief and hope that I will be clear enough to be understood and show enough about where I am at:
I am pretty conventional on the parousia – a personal return that brings about the reconciliation of all things without a set of events that precede (event commonly spoken of such as ‘antiChrist, tribulation etc.’). However, given that we might totally miss the thrust of the NT on this (same as many expectant Jews could not see the hope of Messiah being fulfilled in Jesus), I am also open to the parousia being somewhat different to what we might expect… with the resurrection of the dead in Christ being central to that future hope: that was always the hope in both testaments. So on the ‘return’ of Christ I do not subscribe to some triumphalistic (commonly called post-millennial) return.
‘Tickets to heaven’ are not what the gospel is centred on for two reasons – going to heaven when one dies is not the goal, nor are we the ones to decide who is ‘in’ or ‘out’. By all means we share our faith, and people need to be able to ‘borrow’ / ‘use’ our faith and benefit from that. Hence conventional understandings of ‘revival’ with a major influx of people to come to us and tick the same belief boxes as us is equally not the thrust of the NT. I see the context in which Paul worked as understanding that the body of Christ (ekklesia, if you like) was a body of people who took responsibility for the future of their setting. Responsibility for the wider setting in which everyone belonged, even those who did not come to personal faith in Jesus. I am deeply thankful for every person who finds personal faith and the living reality of a relationship to the God of heaven yet with much of that emphasis it furthers the separation of the them / us, and the strengthening of any ghetto. ‘Salvation’ is God’s part not a cultural experience, hence the emphasis on responsibility for the wider setting.
That responsibility involves serving at a human level, and at a spiritual level that of clearing the ‘heavens’ of everything that would pollute the context and obscure God. It does not involve the necessity nor the desire for Christians to occupy the x% of the ‘mountains’. Indeed this being the Christendom model that (my simplistic view) changed the whole nature of the gospel is something that I think is basically toxic.
We face huge challenges that are manifesting at the level of climate change (how long do we have?) and the huge displacements of people. Those issues (and other critical ones) are deeply sobering when we talk of ‘I believe in the transformation of the world’.
We will see (will = are seeing!) huge changes in our lifetime. The world will look so different in another 20 years. How different? Certain elements of transformation will be forced on us. OK… so what do I now believe?
We ONLY have a mandate to pray, work, relate and position ourselves that ‘your kingdom come’. Speculation about ‘Jesus coming soon’ we should not confuse with the hope of the New Testament (‘even so come Lord Jesus’). We should anticipate that there is a God in heaven who answers prayer.
I do see a connection between the many prayer journeys of the past few decades and the future. The answer to prayer is not always what one anticipates… the path to the ‘God come’ might not be the expected and ‘here they all come to our meeting’ but could well be (and will increasingly be) and here go those who carry that personal relation to Jesus into the world, embracing it, being changed by it, and as they are changed so is the environment and the people.
For me nothing has changed at the level of ‘here comes God transforming the world’. Well maybe what has changed is whether ‘we’ have an important and recognised position in it all. I pray today as I did more than a quarter a century ago for the transformation of cities, regions and nations. The difference is I am not counting the numbers who will occupy seats on a Sunday inside various buildings. I look to hear the voices from the streets that are calling out what is obvious wisdom for the future; I look for a sharing wider of a vision for the future that points to the future.
Transformation? Yes bring it on. And some amazing outposts of it here, there and everywhere – though perhaps not so likely to be centre-stage and visible where old paradigms (christendom) dominate.
I still look for change, for transformation. I do not see that we have any other mandate than to pray and work toward that vision. Maybe we will need a ‘conservative’ parousia along the way, but if that is not coming (we have misread… correction I have misread the NT) we still are focused on getting as close as we can to ‘the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and Christ’.
All the above is a great stimulus to getting out of bed in the morning!