The Big Picture (Continued)
A New Exodus
With Jesus in the grave and the disciples scattered, times looked for dark for God’s people. Indeed, God’s entire plan seemed in disarray. How could God win back the nations? The Messiah was dead. How could God renew His people? The new leaders had run away. It was like everything had stalled, the people of God stood before an bottomless sea, doom was imminent, and Satan would soon catch up and destroy them.
Yet God was not done. Three days after Jesus died, God raised Him from the dead. And, of course, this was no ordinary resuscitation. Not only was Jesus alive, but He was more alive than before, glorious and immortal and brimming with new power. God had raised His Son from the dead, overturning the verdicts of the Jews and Romans. So the sinners had killed the sinless Son, and now He stood justified while they stood condemned.
Jesus made it through death and hell, accusation and judgment, and came out fully alive with all authority in heaven and on earth. So He began teaching His disciples even more. They thought it was time to restore the kingdom to Israel. They expected imminent deliverance and vindication, a great victory leading to a world where Jesus reigned over every empire. Something like this was coming, for sure. The whole world was now their promised land. However, He explained, the timing and the power would not be what they expected.
A New Conquest
After a 40 day training session, Jesus left the disciples. He then ascended to the heavenly throne to rule everything and left them as His ambassadors. Heaven was annexing earth, and the disciples would be the witnesses to its people and rulers about the new Lord. God promised the nations to His Son, and it was time to conquer them.
The new conquest, however, would need more power than anything God’s people had attempted before. Fortunately, Jesus made this possible. His death cleansed His people from their sins: He suffered the fate they had earned and led them though safely to the other side. By His blood they were purified for God’s presence. But rather than simply granting them access to a location where they could come to God, God came to them. He came to live in them by sending the Holy Spirit to make them a new temple. Full of the Spirit, God’s people would have the power and support they needed to conquer the nations.
Immediately, the war began. Armed with the Sword of the Spirit, the apostles and Jesus’ other followers began cutting into people’s hearts. Thousands died in blood and water, saved to new life in God. This started within Israel as people who didn’t previously understand abandoned their other plans to accept Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. But it soon spread even to Gentiles. Even pagans saw the light of God’s people newly empowered. They glorified the Father in heaven who rescued them through Jesus from slavery to cruel and rebellious spirits. Gradually the other “gods” were cast down, bound up, and taken captive. The new army exorcised demons. Idolaters converted. Yahweh was taking back His world. Now the name “Lord” was for Jesus, not for Caesar, any pagan ruler, or even Satan.
As bright as the future looked with Christ’s resurrection, there were shadows in sight. For one, Israel at large was still guilty. Though many Jews accepted their promised Messiah, many more did not, especially the people in charge. Under the Torah, which they loved so much, they still deserved to die. So in a generation, God would send the Romans to tear down the Temple, just as He had once sent the Babylonians to do the same. The whole city of Jerusalem would be violated. Pagans would slaughter thousands throughout the land. And those faithful to God in Chris need to prepare for their escape.
But God’s sights were sight on the nations. God intended to clean Israel up precisely so He could move on in calling every people back to Himself. This would have to mean a confrontation between Him and the pagan gods the nations already worshiped. Especially, this meant a showdown between Jesus and Caesar. Pagan Rome would die; the kingdom Jesus established would grow and live on.
Eventually, though, the world itself would need to change. God’s glory through humanity demanded a final stage, a supreme perfection. Death must go, and all sin. Evil needs to be discarded so that peace and righteousness can reign everywhere and always. Death needs to go so that there can be unbroken life in God’s image in fellowship with Him. If God truly wishes to fill the world to the brim with His glory, everything which clashes with Him must go, including all sin and death. Not even the universal allegiance of the nations can take us this far. There will have to be a final stage where everything is new. Then God will be all in all.