2.9.2 Separation from the World
It has been pointed out that " Thy Kingdom come!" was violently in conflict with the Roman view that the lives of a subject people like Israel belonged to Caesar's kingdom. " 'Your kingdom come!' is therefore a word of defiance; to pray it is a subversive activity. This is also how the authorities understand the ministry of Jesus: it is subversive and not to be tolerated" (1). And so with us, the seeking of the future Kingdom is a radical denial of the spirit of our age, which seeks its Kingdom now; it demands a separation from the world around us. The well known description of the Kingdom in Is. 2:1-4 is in the context of appealing to Israel to change their ways. Because they would then walk in the ways of the Lord, therefore " O house of Israel [therefore] Come ye [now] and walk in the ways of the Lord" (2:5). The hope of Israel ought to motivate Israel to live the Kingdom life here and now. If we will eternally walk in God's ways then, we ought to now too. " We labour and strive because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all men" (1 Tim. 4:10 RV).
Whilst the promise of immortal life is far from all that the Hope of the Kingdom is about, it is nonetheless wonderfully true that we are promised eternal, deathless life. The world in which we live has no such hope, nor even concept of a human being who now lives one day enjoying eternal life in a bodily form. Therefore they have come to value youth above all else. Sport and fitness have become national obsessions. Magazine covers present faces without wrinkles and gorgeous bodies. Old age is devalued; the elderly are disrespectfully ushered off into old folks homes, isolated from the general populace. Skin creams, cosmetic surgery, cures for baldness etc. are all the order of the day. Dieting and body building have become the equivalent of pagan rites. And thus the external rather than the internal features of personality have become emphasized. Compassion, self-sacrifice, humility etc. are all of little account. For the Christian, separation from the world of such superficiality is mandatory. Because there is no concept of judgment to come, no sense of the eternity we might miss, there is no moral constraint; enjoying ourselves in the here and now becomes the prevailing religion. And so it is tragic to see sisters worried sick about their weight increase, brethren spending hours each day on body building…caught up in the spirit of the age, in seeking to be conformed to the image of this passing world. The hope of life eternal in the Kingdom means that the attitude of this world to life should not be ours. May we die peaceful, slightly over-weight grandparents, joyfully anticipating the eternity to come!
Making Sense Of The World Now
There is a sense in all of us that the natural world around us somehow reflects something of the eternal, something of God; and yet we are not led by nature itself to the ultimate truth of God and the Gospel. This is why we have the Bible. Only an understanding of the Kingdom of God coming on earth can enable us to put all these hints and leads into some sort of framework and context, as from our position of separation from the world we observe it around us. C.S. Lewis observed: " All the beauty and joy we meet on earth represent only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited" (2). Yet that good news, that far country, is for us the Kingdom of God on earth. We perceive that the whole of creation is groaning, not for nothing, but towards the coming of the day of the Kingdom.
Jeremiah lived the Kingdom life now, separate from the world, when on the eve of Judah’s destruction, he bought a field and carefully had it witnessed- because Jeremiah knew that “Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them. And fields shall be bought in this land, whereof ye say, It is desolate, without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans. Men shall buy fields for money, and subscribe the deeds, and seal them, and call witnesses, in the land of Benjamin” (Jer. 32:42-44). And so as he saw his world falling apart, he could make sense of things because he sought to live in his day how, one day, in the restored Kingdom, he knew he would live.
Watching For The Return
If we believe we really will be there, then we will look more earnestly for the day to come. We can never be truly enthusiastic about the Lord's return if we are unsure about our ultimate acceptance at His hand. Because we are sure that " When Christ…shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication…" etc. (Col. 3:4,5). We don't control ourselves because we think this will make us good enough to be accepted, but rather because we believe that we have already been accepted. By grace alone. That salvation is by grace enables us to look forward with eagerness rather than uncertainty to the second coming, and our lives are thereby changed. " The grace of God…teaches us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts…looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our saviour Jesus Christ" (Tit. 2:11-13). In other words- separation from the world.
And finally, the knowledge of the Kingdom should humble us. The wonderful good news of the coming Kingdom was explained to Belshazzar, but he had to be told that " thou…hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this" (Dan. 5:22). Knowing all this as we do…who are we to be there, to have a part in it, to even have been told about it…? It ought to humble us.
And it humbles us in another way too. We all to some extent struggle with God. There is so much we simply don't understand. But if we firmly believe in the ultimate coming of the Kingdom, we have a perspective upon all the cancers, the deaths, the broken relationships...all the collected groanings of our savage planet will surely be taken away in the coming of the Kingdom. Without this ultimate perspective, the apparent injustices of present life and even God's dealings with us would leave us lost, angry and with no real basis for an ongoing relationship with the Father.
(1) Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew (Harper Collins, 1998).
(2) C.S. Lewis, The Weight Of Glory (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), p.5.