Friday, June 17, 2016

Birth pangs

The Christian Message—I don’t want to call it ‘Christianity’ just now—is an incarnational faith. It is this heresy against pure monotheism that aggravates the Jews and makes some Muslims very warlike and antagonistic. We believe—for here I have to confess I am one of them—that the self-existing, eternal, living God who creates, sustains and destroys all things, is One in being but, as far as His personality is concerned, He is a triad, a threesome, officially ‘the Holy Trinity.’ Besides confusing those who want to reduce God’s being to a mathematical formula, it makes some people think a Christian is a tri-theist. All that aside, no, we are monotheists, not as man would have it, but as God defines His own nature. Regardless of how many ‘persons’ share the Divine Nature, God is One.

Back again to our incarnational faith, we say that God became man. Well, that seems to be nothing new. The Hindus and other religious peoples have long known that the gods incarnate as humans or even other life forms. Vishnu has had nine incarnations so far, some of them animals, and the tenth one, yet to come, is amazingly similar to what many fundamentalist ‘end timers’ of all stripes—Christians, Jews, and Muslims—believe about ‘the second coming of Christ,’ or ‘the Messiah,’ or ‘the Mahdi.’ Their ‘end times Lord’ is Kalki. He rides a white steed and is heavily armed. He comes to destroy the miscreants and bring the Kali Yuga, the ‘iron age,’ to a fitting conclusion. Incarnations of the gods always seem to ‘come to the rescue,’ usually violently. Not so for the Christians.

The kind of incarnation that we Christians believe of God, well, yes, He does become a man in order to rescue us, even to save us, but He doesn’t stop there. Another thing is, He doesn’t come armed and dangerous and ready to kill, though the psalmist sings ‘Smashing their skulls, He heaps the wide world with corpses. Drinking from the stream as He goes…’ (Psalm 110). No, that’s not what the Christian God-man does. He comes to re-enact in time, and before our eyes, the Sacrifice of Himself which He made on our behalf before the universe ever was. Scripture calls Him ‘the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world’ (Revelation 13:8). And the strange thing about this incarnation of God and His Sacrifice is, that we aren’t meant to just watch the Divine life. We are to participate in it.

What does this mean for us, then, and for the human world, this incarnational faith? It means that God has come among us in a real and demonstrable way, and that He provides for us not only an escape from sin and death, but also the means to transform the world. He makes us co-workers in His creative plan. Did you think that God was all finished creating the universe? Far from it! In those six days, yes, He unfolded the space-time envelope, and then as scripture says, ‘He rested.’ And that’s where we come in. Being made masters of the earth is our entry level position. The human race was made for this, and though we’ve been in the habit of avoiding our responsibilities, that time is almost over. Can’t you feel it? Scripture itself says that the universe is waiting for us to take our proper place in the created order (see Romans 8:19).

Sometimes it seems hard to keep track of all this—that is, if we are instructed Christians—while we see our world falling apart. When they hear of people claiming to be the Second Coming of Christ, or of wars and revolutions, or of weather anomalies and earthquakes, or outbreaks of dangerous diseases, or of the increase of general lawlessness, the ignorant skip over Christ’s words, ‘but the end is not yet,’ and they get ready for ‘the rapture’ or the end of the world. Some of them even abandon themselves to irresponsible behavior since ‘it doesn’t matter, and Christ is coming back soon,’ and they lay waste the earth. But those who have listened to the Lord and put His words into practice, seeing this chaos, remember that ‘these are only the birth pangs’ (see Matthew 24:8).

The birth pangs of what? Aren’t these just the signs that a new world is coming? Yes, of course, but not the way some people think. A new world, that is, a new human world, is coming. In fact, it’s what the universe has been waiting for so patiently. The human race is closing in on the Day of the Lord, when we take that step as a world into that new humanity of which Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, is the first example. And more than an example, because He has the power not only to conquer sin and trample death by death, but also to make us, all of us, sons and daughters of God just as He is. This is not the ‘same old, same old’ message of religious Christianity, but the Message that Christ Himself preached, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’ (Mark 1:1).

Scripture says, ‘The world of the past is gone’ (Revelation 21:4), and though this is not true yet, we’re almost there, ‘for the time is close’ (Revelation 1:3). The human race has evolved, by God’s creative plan, and in Christ the new humanity appears, and evolution itself is abandoned as the agent of change—but not without one final surge, one last assault by the forces of the First Adam, the old humanity, habituated to darkness, to the medieval madness of violence and slavery. They fight hardest and most brutally because they know they are defeated. They are about to disappear from human history, never to be remembered or brought to mind. They know, that to be forgotten is to die the second death.

Birth pangs, without which a birth cannot occur. Our future as a race is as certain, no, even more certain, than our past. Death for the race was taken on by Jesus Christ. He disappeared into the abyss, and reappeared, the Victor over death. Brethren, this is the evening of the Last Passover. We are about to leave Goshen forever. Night is almost upon us, just one more night, and then the Day without night. Let us prepare ourselves. A door is about to be opened.

This is not about religion. This is about the Truth, the Truth that will finally make us free.

Glory to God.

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