Click here to read the first part.
In part one of this blog series, we discovered that all of humanity (as the Son of God) has always been part of the trinity of God. The kingdom of God is a reality in the here and now, whether we are aware of it or not. The question is how we can become aware of the full reality of the kingdom of God in the here and now, and then walk in that reality. That is what parts two and three of this blog are about.
“Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven, that whoever eats of it does not die.” (John 6:49,50)
“Everyone who lives and believes in Me will not die forever; do you believe this?” (John 11:26)
The reality of the kingdom of God
The fall into consciousness has darkened our thinking, so that we no longer perceive the world from God’s perspective (the kingdom of God), but through the glasses of knowledge of good and evil (the so-called realm of darkness). As a result of this fall (no punishment from God!), we have come under the curse of sin and death. However, the fall into consciousness does not negate the reality of the kingdom of God! The kingdom of God is as real here and now as it was at the foundation of the world. The kingdom is among us and even within us.
The cross is meant to be a revelation (unveiling) of the Way by which we come to full awareness of the kingdom of God here and now. Walking in the full reality of the kingdom of God involves the complete redemption from the curse of sin (missing the mark) and (physical) death. Salvation and rebirth are not static events, brought about by faith in certain creeds (dogmas). Salvation and rebirth have everything to do with a Way of Life, with renewal of our thinking, with illumination of our darkened consciousness, with a radical mind-shift, with blind eyes opening to the reality of the kingdom of God, here and now! Not just a little, as a foretaste for later in heaven, but to walk here and now in the full reality of the kingdom of God, without seeing physical death. This requires a profound and lasting inner change that will also become visible in our bodies (so in, so out). Paul describes this change as a metamorphosis (physical transformation) that will go from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 12:1,2); not from glory via physical death to glory! This metamorphosis comes about through a radical mind-shift, causing us to think, believe and live from a completely different perspective (opposite to our human/deluded perspective; mind of flesh), from a completely different reality (that of the kingdom of God; mind of Christ). This inner change leads to the glorification of our physical body of flesh and blood (Matthew 17:2; 2 Corinthians 12:2-4).
Regardless, the cross brings about change
Each vision of the cross leads to renewal of our thinking. Depending on our view, the cross brings some degree of change in our lives. Below are three ways of how we can look at the cross and what change it brings.
- The best known view of the cross (especially for Western Christians) is the view known as penal substitution. The core idea is that Jesus on the cross vicariously brought about the (possibility of) forgiveness of sins for us. This view is usually accompanied by the belief that if our sins are forgiven we will go to heaven in the afterlife instead of an eternal hell. If our starting point is that every human being is guilty before God and deserves eternal hell, then this view of the cross leads us to believe that by our faith we may know ourselves free of guilt. The liberation from guilt and the prospect of heaven then creates intense joy and gratitude. You truly become a different person from this! However, it does not lead to the metamorphosis from glory to glory associated with complete redemption from the curse of sin and death. Life here and now is at most a vestibule to heaven, which we must make the most of. This vision does not bring us into the full reality of the kingdom of God. That remains in the future. Hush, wait, everything becomes new.
- In recent decades, another view of the cross known as Christ Victor has been gaining ground (this view was common in the Early Church). The core idea is that Jesus brought about the victory over evil on the cross for us and that we may already – though not yet fully (already, but not yet…) – share in this victory. Because of this vision of the cross, more and more Christians have come to believe that through signs and (healing-) miracles we may already reveal a foretaste of the kingdom of God on earth. The renewal in our thinking that accompanies this causes the kingdom to actually become visible from time to time in some places (so in, so out). This leads to greater freedom in our thinking and actions. Through this vision, too, we truly become a different person! But even this vision of the cross does not lead to the metamorphosis from glory to glory associated with complete redemption from the curse of sin and death. The vast majority of Christians who believe in Christ Victor still assume that we only really get to heaven via physical death (unless Jesus comes back sooner for final victory). Even with this view, walking into the full reality of the kingdom of God remains still in the future.
- Today, there is a growing number of Christians who believe that Jesus on the cross accomplished everything for everyone. This view – which is based on Jesus’ words on the cross “It is finished!” – is known as radical grace. The core idea is that in the end, based on what Jesus accomplished on the cross, everything and everyone will be all right. This thought naturally leads to inner peace and tranquility. We no longer have to worry about our loved ones because everyone will be all right. The pressure of doing, which the previous two views in particular lead to, falls off our shoulders. It does not depend on us. This change of thinking, too, truly makes us a different person! But even for this vision, it does not naturally lead to the metamorphosis from glory to glory by which we walk here and now in the full reality of the kingdom of God, without seeing physical death. Complete redemption from the curse of sin and death remains for most Christians, however radical the grace of God may be, something for the hereafter.
Three ways of how we can look at the cross and the inner change it brings. All three ways involve believing in something that Jesus would have brought about vicariously for us. In all three it does not come to profound and lasting salvation (restoration), but remains only temporary symptom relief. One continues to see physical death as the only gateway to the full reality of the kingdom of God.
My contention is that as long as our view of the cross is determined by what Jesus (as the exclusive Christ) would have accomplished vicariously for us on the cross, the real message of the cross passes us by.
For the real message of the cross is focused on the metamorphosis from glory to glory, bringing us to full restoration and walking in the full reality of the kingdom of God here and now. The cross wants to reveal to us the Way to full awareness of that which has always been there (the kingdom of God), which is accompanied by the complete redemption from the curse of sin and death. It is intended that the perishable (not the dead!) will put on imperishability and the mortal (not the dead!) will put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53,54). Our degraded (not the dead!) body is destined to be conformed to the Lord’s glorified body (Philippians 3:21).
The righteousness of the kingdom
All human beings are justified from the foundation of the world; after all, we are all created in God’s image and likeness. Kingdom righteousness is not about legal righteousness, as if we must meet certain standards (the law) in God’s eyes. We are not righteous before God only when we are good (or at least good enough). We are not justified on the basis of Jesus allegedly fulfilling the law for us. That is still righteousness of the law.
Divine righteousness is about wholeness, without spot or wrinkle, free from defect according to spirit, soul and body. Seen from God’s perspective (the objective Truth), this applies to all people. Jesus did not go to the cross to bring about objective Truth! Seen from a human perspective (our subjective Truth) there is no righteousness (perfect wholeness) yet. The curse of sin and death is still doing its work, with all its consequences. Although all people are objectively righteous, subjectively we will still have to become righteous (whole; righteous; perfect). That is the atonement process by which the sin (missing the mark) of the world will be completely removed. That is the redemption that the New Testament is all about. The cross is meant to reveal to us the Way to full awareness of that which has always been there (the wholeness of the kingdom of God). Jesus offered his body as a living, holy and God-pleasing sacrifice in the service of the kingdom of God. On the cross, Jesus wanted to open our eyes to the Way that leads to the metamorphosis from glory to glory, without seeing physical death. The cross wants to bring about a radical mind-shift. Jesus did not bring about this mind-shift for us, but we will have to undergo it ourselves in our lives here and now. Our view of the cross is decisive here. Believing that Jesus brought about our salvation (regardless of what we mean by that) vicariously on the cross does not mean that we will work out our salvation ourselves “with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Why should we, when everything has already been finished?
Click here to read the third and final part of this blog series.
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