Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Thy kingdom come!

I've recently been reading through sections of George Eldon Ladd's A Theology of the New Testament, largely because Ladd is known as one of the foremost theologians on the kingdom of God and inaugurated eschatology, that is, the kingdom has arrived (Luke 11:20) but will not be consummated until the Second Advent of Christ. This meshes with a lot of what I've been thinking through as I've been studying Zechariah (warning: only do this if you want a time-consuming challenge). Much of the book, especially chapters 9-14, deal with God's coming to dwell in the midst of his covenant people, his restored and gathered remnant: " 'Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,' declares the LORD. 'Many nations will join themselves to the LORD in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst . . . . Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD; for He is aroused from His holy habitation" (2:10-11, 13, emphasis mine).

It's that pesky phrase "in that day" that rings throughout Zechariah and the prophets, especially Isaiah, Joel, and Malachi. But when you take a close look at things that happen "in that day" or "the day of the LORD" or "the day of His coming", you notice that nothing fits any one point in time or some nice, neat order of events. Things happen, mostly centering on the coming of the messianic king (e.g., Zech. 9:9-10) and the the lasting restoration of God's chosen remnant and the judgment of their enemies. But Zechariah 9 is just confusing.

Verses 1-8 tell of God coming and kicking ass and taking names in a southward march from the intended northern boundary of the Promised Land (Num. 34) and on southward to the southern boundary in the Philistine cities. But Jerusalem is spared (v. 8). In a very real sense, this happened when Alexander fought his way southward, destroying Damascus and even the island stronghold of Tyre, but sparing Jerusalem on account of a dream he had (c. 330 B.C.). Then in vv. 9-10 our meek King Jesus comes "just and saved" and bringing peace to the world. But then in vv. 11-12 we have a call for exiles to return to Jerusalem and their God on account of God's triumphant coming in vv. 13-17. But wait a sec, didn't Jesus already come in vv. 9-10? And v. 13 (and possibly vv. 14-17 as well) seems to deal with the Maccabean revolt in 165 B.C., when the Jews revolted against Antiochus IV Epiphanes and reclaimed Jerusalem from oppressive control by the Greeks.

The point is this: all this stuff the Bible has to say about "the day of the LORD" cannot be confined to a single day or moment in time. It spans from Jesus' first coming to his second, and beyond that into the new heavens and new earth (Is. 65:17-25). But Zech. 9 even seems to testify that events preceding Jesus' coming fall into the Day somehow. How? Well, it seems to me that God's day is really the entirety of the breaking in of the heavenly reign of the Lord upon this earth. It is God tearing open the heavens and coming down (Is. 64:1). It is the heavenly Jerusalem coming down to dwell upon earth (Rev. 21:1-4). It is the nations flocking to Jerusalem--the church, that is, "the place where God's presence dwells, the intersection of heaven and earth."* It is the raising up of God's righteous Branch as a banner to whom the nations will flock as he draws them to himself and smashes all opposition (Is. 11:10; John 12:31-32). But it is not to be separated from the things in which God's hand acts to pave the way for his Messiah, as seen by Zech. 9. And it is the right now indwelling of God within his people, that is, eternal life (John 14:16-23). "The presence of the divine life becomes the inexhaustible source of creaturely life, which thereby becomes the life that is eternal."**

"The eschaton is neither the future of time nor timeless eternity. It is God's coming and his arrival."*** That is to say, God has come in the Incarnation of Christ Jesus and is continually coming into his creation as he is incarnate in us as his living testaments to his gracious and just reign and conduits of his blessing to the nations. "God . . . was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles" (Gal. 1:15-16; cf. 4:19). Lord, may your Spirit fill us with your heart and your pleasure, to the end that your kingdom may come!

* Mark J. Boda, The NIV Application Commentary: Haggai, Zechariah (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 402.
** Juergen Moltmann, The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1996), 319.
*** Ibid., 22.

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