May 21, 2011 came, and May 21, 2011 went. And no earthquakes, no cataclysm, no rapture… Now what? Many other friends, pastors, and Christian leaders have written and blogged about the theological and pastoral implications of Harold Camping’s end times date setting, and I will not attempt to rehash any of that here. But, this recent focus on the end times does provide an interesting opportunity to explain one reason Liz and I have named our website and blog “Living on the Ground.”
The Bible is clear about God’s passion for redeeming and restoring his Creation. In the first chapters of Genesis, God makes the heavens and earth by the power of His Word, and makes man and women in his own image. The delight of our Triune God drips from the pages of Scripture as He pronounces “GOOD” over all that He has made. Then, in the greatest tragedy of all history, sin enters the world through the rebellion of Adam and Eve bringing disjoint and chaos into every aspect of life. As J.R.R. Tolkien so graphically describes in the creation story of the Simarillion, it is as if discordant notes are violently inserted into the most beautiful and resonant harmonies. But, Tolkien is quick to say that no matter how discordant and strident a sound the forces of evil sought to make, they always ended up being rewoven into the grand symphony of sound in a way that made it all the more beautiful still. So it is with our redeeming God. From the first moments after Adam and Eve’s original sin, He tells them that the “seed of woman” will come to crush the head of the serpent. And this theme pulses and grows throughout the grand story of Scripture—culminating in the coming of Jesus Christ, who makes possible by his life, death, and resurrection the redemption of a people unto God. No matter how discordant and destructive the powers of evil become, God by His sovereign hand weaves them back into his grand narrative of redemption in which God becomes man and dwells among us. But God’s redemption does not simply stop with the coming of Jesus. It rushes forward, rippling into eternity, as the final pages of Revelation speak about the full and final redemption of the new heavens and new earth. God’s Creation is restored in perfect peace and harmony, and the redeemed people of God will spend all of eternity declaring God’s praise for his incomprehensible work of redemption.
Now that’s an amazing story… but what does that have to do with our blog? In a word, everything. God is at work, right now, bringing about his restoration and redemption of Creation. It is partial and messy, and won’t be fully completed until Christ comes again…but it is happening right now. That is what Jesus means when he says, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” God’s Kingdom of Redemption has broken into our universe through Jesus Christ, and the effects of that full and final redemption are even now breaking into our midst through the power of God’s Spirit.
In practice, what does this mean? If God is at work right now bringing restoration and healing to his Creation, then that is what I want to be about as His follower and adopted child. Like Father, like son. If there are families suffering under the weight of HIV/AIDS and urban poverty in the slums of Addis Ababa, then I want to follow the Spirit of Jesus Christ in seeing his work of healing and restoration in their lives. If there are men and women who do not know the saving grace of their God, then I want to be sharing that gospel grace with them through the very words and actions of Jesus. Unlike Harold Camping who is looking to a coming rapture to remove God’s people from the sin and brokenness of the world, I instead believe that God calls us to be active in the world, right here and right now. He calls us to be “Living on the Ground’ right in the midst of his creation, laboring through the power of the Spirit to see his salvation and redemption move forward.
Now, I believe whole-heartedly that Jesus Christ will come again some day… maybe tomorrow, maybe thousands of years from now. But regardless, when Christ does come back it will not be to “rescue” us from his creation. That isn’t God’s way. Rather, Christ will be coming back to bring his work of salvation and redemption to fulfillment. There will be judgment, but not a judgment to discard his creation. No, it will be a purifying judgment to restore his creation to what it was designed to be. And if his purpose is to purify creation, and not to discard it, then that means there will be some form of continuity between our present existence and present labors in the world, and our future resurrection life in the new heavens and new earth to come. What we do now while “living on the ground” will matter then. Amazing, encouraging, wonderful news.
So, with that—the Polk family signs off. If you need to find us, we’ll be right here… Living on the Ground. Join us. It’s a great ride.