Theology 101

Working Between the First & Second Comings of Christ

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Jesus came to earth to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins and to establish the Kingdom of God. In my last article, we discussed God’s Kingdom in the Bible, seven differences between the Kingdom of God and the church, and how the kingdom is coming. Today, let’s take a look at how this understanding of the Kingdom of God impacts our work.

A Parallel to World War II

One twentieth-century theologian compared the coming of the kingdom to World War II between the Allies and Germany. For all intents and purposes, World War II in Europe was over on D-Day, when Allied troops established a beachhead in Normandy, France. Everyone, even the Germans, knew that V-E Day was inevitable, when the war would end with Germany’s defeat. All that remained was for the Allies to liberate Europe. Yet between D-Day and V-E Day came the Battle of the Bulge, a desperate counterattack by the German army, fought during one of the worst winters in European history. For six weeks the battle raged back and forth. It was the deadliest battle for American forces during the war; over 19,000 Americans were killed.

In terms of the Kingdom of God, Christ’s first coming was D-Day, and it was the decisive invasion of the war, guaranteeing the enemy’s eventual defeat. The second coming of Christ will be V-E Day, in which the enemy finally lays down its arms and surrenders.

When Christ died on the cross for our sins and was resurrected on the third day, He struck a death blow to sin, death, and Satan, and established the Kingdom of God. That kingdom will be consummated when Christ returns at His second coming. Yet Christians today live our lives between D-Day and V-E Day, in the Battle of the Bulge. The outcome of the conflict is certain, and our victory is sure, but the enemy is throwing everything at the army of God in the fiercest battle of the war.

Our Work and the Kingdom of God

We must see our vocational calling within the context of this final grand battle. Cornelius Plantinga, in his book Engaging God’s World, talks about the struggle of fulfilling our work in the kingdom:

A Christian who goes to work for the kingdom (that’s every Christian) simultaneously goes to war. What’s needed on God’s side are well-educated warriors (warriors who know what’s going on). We are now fallen creatures in a fallen world. The Christian gospel tells us that all hell has broken loose in this sad world and that, in Christ, all heaven has come to do battle. Christ has come to defeat the powers and principalities, to move the world over onto a new foundation, and to equip a people— informed, devout, determined people—to lead the way in righting what’s wrong, transforming what’s corrupted, in doing things that make for peace, expecting these things will travel across the border from this world to the new heaven and earth.

We must also understand that our duty as members of the kingdom is not to bring the kingdom into existence, nor is the kingdom something we build ourselves. The kingdom is brought and built by the King.

Despite all the New Testament references to the kingdom, most evangelical Christians today have no idea that their daily work has anything to do with the Kingdom of God. In his book Heaven Is Not My Home, Paul Marshall argues that the escapist attitude of many American Christians has been shaped by a false eschatology that teaches that our eternal destiny is in heaven. In this viewpoint, our salvation is like a one-way bus ticket to heaven, and the earth is only a bus stop. It does not matter what we do while we wait for the bus.

The Scriptures teach a different reality. Heaven is actually the bus stop!

In heaven, God’s people await the King’s return, who will consummate the kingdom he inaugurated at his first coming. Then he will fulfill the Biblical promise of a new heaven and a new earth. Marshall goes on to say, “Our destiny is an earthly one: a new earth, an earth redeemed and transfigured. An earth reunited with heaven, but an earth, nevertheless.”

Jesus told his followers, “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:13-14). God has delivered each of his children out of death into life and out of darkness into light—for a reason. As we believe, repent, and enter into the kingdom in this age, all of our work becomes a witness to the way things could be, a signpost pointing to the second coming of Christ and the age to come.

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