I believe that this world we live in has a grand overarching story with a beginning, middle and end, and that we- living in this world- are unavoidably in this story. It’s a story of God, God’s Creation, and us.
Chapter 1: God & The Plan
God is the ground of all being- that which is relational, personal, eternal, and creative, and who is Love. This God is One but mysteriously expressed as Three. This three-in-oneness Mystery we have called the Trinity: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (John 14:11).
God created the universe out of love. In creating, part of God’s being is mysteriously infused into creation like an artist pouring themselves into their art- as such creation is sacred. God created the first people made in God’s own likeness, marked them out with a calling to care and cultivate the wild & untamed Earth, and to live in relationship with God, each other, and creation (Gen 1:26-28). God’s intension is for humanity to participate with God to move creation further up & further forward unto a time where God will co-rule creation with His people as our human King, and be in ever nearing close relationship with us; God being “all in all” (Eph 1:3-12).
Chapter 2: The Rebellion & The Rescue
However, humanity went against the grain of God’s calling for us. Even though good things like culture, babies, the arts, new inventions (etc) keep in line with God’s purposes for creation being taken forward, such direction of creation became intertwined with decay, destruction, death, suffering, and injustice as we sought to not follow the wise & loving ways of the Creator (Gen. 3:1-4; Romans 1:18-25). Rather than using our God-given power to co-rule the world with God, we have instead given power over to created things that don’t have power in of themselves; as we worship creation instead of the Creator, we have animated forces made in our image, that then arise, and then turn to enslave the human race. This mess is the unravelling of the world (Romans 5.12; Colossians 1.21). Our actions in this mess is what is labelled ‘sin’- and it means to ‘miss the mark’ of being what God desires us to be.
God has promised to fix this broken world and get God’s plan for creation back on track. God’s plan to fix all things particularised itself in a person named Abraham: God blesses Abraham and his descendants so that through them all people can be blessed (Gen 12:1-3, 15:4-6). Abraham’s descendants became a nation called Israel. Israel became enslaved in Egypt; however, God liberated them, gave them an identity and reinstated the mission of blessing all people. Israel made movement toward their mission, yet they consistently rebelled against God, and so the promise that God would fix the world through them looked dim. But a hopeful remnant was always looking ahead with hope for God’s rescue plan succeeding through them (Isa 40-60).
Chapter 3: The Rescue Becoming Fulfilled
The rescue plan eventually succeeds in Jesus Christ. God brings rescue via Israel by collapsing Israel’s mission onto Jesus as their representative (Gal 3). Jesus is also the Human King spoken about in God’s eventual future for creation (Ephs 1:7); this King is the Eternal Son of the Trinity. In the very act of the incarnation of Jesus, God made a decisive step forward of uniting heaven & earth by uniting heaven & earth through the God-man Jesus.
Within Jesus’ society, some people believed He would destroy the ruling empire over Israel (The Roman Empire), other believed God’s rescue hadn’t come yet because the Israelites weren’t acting religious enough. Jesus defied both expectations: He says that in order to overcome darkness and the political powers that held them captive, that it would come through radical love & service to all people, including their enemies (Matt 5-7), and He tells the religious elite that their religiosity had become an idol and blinded them to what God was doing through Him.
Jesus came healing people from physical, emotional, social and spiritual deformities (Matthew 4:23-25) and gives the broken & outcasts in society a place in His Kingdom movement (Luke 5:32)- all were signs of God’s healing Kingdom breaking into the world (Luke 4:16-21). Jesus warned people that their rejection of His Kingdom and its ways would naturally destroy their own wellbeing and cripple their society (Matt 7:13), whereas the path to following Jesus would lead to true life- a life aligned with being a restored human being in God’s Kingdom on Earth (Matt 16:24-25). I believe that’s still true today.
Chapter 4: The Climax- Rescue Fulfilled
Eventually, Jesus was arrested, put on trial, and executed- however, three days later God raised Him from the dead. God’s plan was to fix the world through this event (Acts 13:28-30). For God’s creation to move further up & further forward unto God’s intended future, God must defeat all the things that stop this from moving forward to its complete ends- which are the powers of death, evil, sin, oppression, and injustice that had been (de)created when humanity rebelled. And for humans to be included in His restored world, God must condemn such things without condemning us- the people who caused the mess in the first place. So in Jesus’ death, He defeats the powers that hold humanity in their tight grip- He lets the powers do their worst to Him, and as Jesus responds to humanity with forgiveness the cycle breaks- thus the powers lose and lose their grip on us as we are forgiven. He condemns sin on the cross without condemning us, and takes on the full outworking of our rebellion onto Himself (Roms 3.22-26, 8:1-2, Col 2:15). But in this, it’s Love that wins (John 3:16-17). God’s creation moving further up & further forward has its decisive victory. We can now look to the cross and see it as a place of our healing/cleansing- both cosmically, societally, and individually (Isa. 55); this victory is interwoven into all history across all of creation.
Chapter 5: Implementing the Fulfilled Rescue
The sign of God’s ultimate victory over evil is displayed in Jesus’ resurrection. He now rules as our human King from Heaven (which already mysteriously intersects with Earth, meaning that Christ’s presence permeates everywhere already) (Acts 1:9-11). As the Risen King, Jesus has issued a royal pardon to all people- the forgiveness of sin (Roms 8:1-2). All that’s left is to ‘wake up’ to this reality, to trust that this is the true version of all of reality (Roms 5:18). In such a trust we discover a new life of freedom (Roms 6:1-11; Ephs 1:3), a relationship with God, and a mission to be one of God’s representatives in the world (1 Cor 5:18-19). Such trust before God is declared by God as right. In this new reality, followers of Jesus are collectively called ‘the Church’- the Church is the collective people of God’s new humanity; an imperfect but slowly transforming people following in The Way. The church’s role is to implement God’s finished rescue plan into the world through the making of disciples (Matt 28:18, 2 Cor 5:19-20).
Followers of Jesus slowly become more like Jesus over their lifetime- this transformation comes via The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s presence in us; The Spirit enables God’s future reality to be worked out in our lives & in the world in the present- The Spirit empowers us with gifts, and convicts, guides, comforts, counsels, and leads us into all truth (John 16:8,13). This Spirit is also what collectively empowers the church towards its mission and moves through all of creation- mysteriously interweaving through all that is good in the world and that which serves the common purpose of renewing God’s good world.
Chapter 6: The Finished Rescue & Plan for Creation Fully Realised
Jesus will one day appear again as He did and fully implement what He started: He will heal this world, make all wrongs right, and make Heaven & Earth one (Rev 21-22); this is the the climax of creation having moved further up and further forward. This is all Good News, especially for those suffering injustice and those who are followers of Jesus (Matt 5). Part of God’s healing for the world will be a Final Judgement, whereby all people and all of creation will be held to account- this would be like a cosmic truth & reconciliation commission conducted by Jesus. All people’s secrets will be laid bare, and all wrongs will be made right, in what will be a daunting, confronting, revealing, and levelling judgement. However, on the far side of such a judgement is a world where even enemies can now become friends. For those who want to participate in God’s restored world- a world modelled and shaped after Jesus himself- can do so, and they will have perfect, eternal, and resurrected bodies. As for those who wish to not serve in a Jesus-shaped world, well God longs that such people will participate in God’s restored world; God doesn’t give up on people, and as such God’s love will forever seek to woo & transform hearts- so if there is any ongoing rejection of God, it is completely the choice of the person (not of God) for God longs for all people to be washed by the blood of the lamb. Yet, because God will not force himself & Jesus’ kingdom upon people, we must maintain the logical possibility of on-going rejection and as such must maintain the logical possibility of a place within God’s all-in-all reality that can hold such people (As to how God accommodates those who don’t wish to serve like Jesus in God’s new world is difficult to visualise, as God will be “all-in-all”; so I leave that dilemma up to God). It’s in this tension that I take seriously the possibility of people rejecting God in an ongoing & resolute way, whilst also taking seriously God’s outrageous grace that always desires to win all people over- I believe we should hold these truths in tension, not seeking to minimise either truth. That said, I believe that trusting that we are Christ’s beloved in the here & now is the best for all people- for in such a trust, the truth of our being becomes the way of our being, and we are transformed day by day more into the Image of Christ, with the trajectory for such a persons transformation unto God’s new world. With also that said, God’s Spirit is on the move in the world, and will find ways to woo people more into Christlikeness however the Spirit can- nonetheless, grounding people in discovering that Jesus IS the Christ is the best as Christ is the healing balm that removes all dehumanising falsehoods.
In the end, evil is destroyed, He makes His home with us, and we co-rule with God forever (Rev 21:1-4). Love wins.
We live Jesus’ reality in here & now in anticipation for Jesus to finish the job (1 Cor 15:58). This reality is made more alive and real to us in, and is lived out through us, in a personal relationship with God. To follow Jesus is to journey on the right side of where all of history is heading- towards Jesus & the Kingdom He is bringing.