by Gary Bergel
As the Gospel was energetically propagated during the first centuries after Christ’s resurrection the world became increasingly aware of the fact it was living “in the time of the Christ.” Historians began to reference events as being “before Christ,” BC, or as occurring after His nativity, AD, anno Domini, “in the year of Our Lord.”
As the Gospel moved westward from Jerusalem, the epochal reality of Jesus Christ began to indelibly imprint civilizations, cultures, governments and societies.
A. A. Hodge, a prominent lecturer and theologian at Princeton in 1873 declared:
“The kingdom of God includes all sides of human life. You are either a loyal subject or a traitor. When the King comes, how will He find you doing? If the Church languishes, the State cannot be in health. The elements of society will lapse backward to primeval night and chaos. I charge you, citizens of the United States, afloat on your wide sea of politics, there is another King, one Jesus.”
A mere century later, in 1973, a lot of the Church in America was languishing and “sleeping at the switch.” The 1970 Clean Air Act, passed, was not fully or forcefully implemented. The Nixon administration remained mired in the Viet Nam war. Evangelicals for Social Action was launched, yet with little real resistance God and prayer were removed from schools and public places, abortion-on-demand was legalized, license displaced liberty, empty entertainments and moral decadence sprouted into pop culture. Mammon and materialism, not Christ and “caring for the least,” is now enthroned in the hearts of multitudes of Americans, outside of and, unfortunately, inside the professing Church. As incredulous as it sounds, many U.S. Christians are fearful of not buying what they might not need, lest they “hurt the economy.”
And, what of creation? Like human life, it was devalued, plundered, polluted, stepped on, almost obliterated and replaced by asphalt in many urban settings, or lays like a chemically fertilized, wastefully watered door mat at the entrances to our sub-populated suburban meadow mansions, local churches and sprawling retail outlets. The groaning of creation (Rom 8:22), and of the poor, is louder now.
A. A. Hodge’s insightful word that “the kingdom of God includes all sides of human life” is a life-saving and creation-restoring word for us today. “You are either a loyal subject or a traitor. When the King comes, how will He find you doing?” This is the challenge of the Holy Spirit to all Christians today. Hodge understoood that “the safety of the State can only be secured in the way of the humble and whole-souled loyalty to the person of Christ and of obedience to His law.”
This will only be effected by radical refocusing – ouch, that nasty old word, repentance – a 180 degree turn-around and return to our rightful ruler and Lord, and to His ways — ways of loving and compassionate conservation, not of unjust and profiteering exploitation. Ways of cleansing and restoration, not of pollution and degradation.
We must look past profit in 2013, past the seducing dollar and personal “success,” beyond Manhattan’s glittering corporate kingdoms, and away from our highly addictive consumer techno-culture. We must “look higher” and fix our gaze on Christ our Risen King, seated above all, and already reigning in Glory. We need to see His future and invest and partner in that. Only this will redeem human souls, set sin’s captives and sex slaves free, mitigate climate crisis, better care for and steward the earth, and prosper the human family in clean, sustainable and healthy ways.
To hear the voice of what may come we have to remember another injustice of long ago.
African American slaves, stripped of dignity and often bleeding under their master’s whip, looked way beyond their days of ignominy. Fixing their spiritual eyes on the Sovereign, seated above, they began to sing, “My Lord, what a morning, what a morning, when the stars begin to fall.” They could see the truth of the day prophesied when “the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men” would hide themselves in caves and cry out to the mountains and rocks: “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!”
In the midst of their anguish, America’s slaves glimpsed the Glory to come – the payback day when justice would be fully rendered. Suffering slaves were graced to look into eternity and see the day when “the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev 6:12-17; 18:1-13; 11:15)
On that consummating day, when Christ publically displays His Creator crown rights and redemptive dominion, a day foreordained and certain, the stars will fall to the earth, “as a fig tree drops its late figs.” The heavens will be folded like a blanket, the sky will split and recede like a scroll, the elements of creation will dissolve. All corruption will be cleansed by cosmic fire and then, that new morning will usher in a new heaven and a new earth; one in which God’s Shalom and righteousness will flourish. (Mt 24:29-31; Heb 1:12; 2 Pet 3:9-13; Rev 21:5) Can you see that day? That is the day of our Risen Lord, Jesus! That is our day too, in Him and with Him and through Him.
Have you lifted your spiritual gaze to the threshold of eternity. Are you fixing your spiritual eye on things above? If not, refocus. In truth, this New Year belongs to the Risen Christ, not to us. And as it is written, the unfolding years of Our Lord cannot come to failure, nor will they come to an end. (Heb 1:12b) Maranatha!
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–Gary Bergel, President Emeritus of Intercessors for America, partners in the Creation Care work of EEN, directs Heritage Harvest International, operates Bergel Art/Media, and teaches at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College. A version of the above was first published by Intercessors for America. Gary and his wife Susan reside in Charles Town, WV.