As I mentioned in my previous post, my church has been doing an Advent series called “The Other Christmas Stories” where we’ve been looking at various texts (outside of the traditional Christmas narratives) that comment on the Advent event. Last week, our pastor preached from the book of Revelation, including some of these verses:
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them!”
On this Christmas Eve, I just wanted to quickly point out one little thing that we often miss about both the Advent and the Gospel. Look at those verses again. What is the “good news” that the “loud voice” is proclaiming and worshipping God for? What has now “come” or, as it would say in Latin, “advented”? You’ll notice that of all the things that have come and advented with Jesus, “salvation” is only one of many things listed. Further, notice that the rest of the things in that list or heavily skewed towards one particular theme: Kingship.
I’m currently reading The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight (from which I posted a relevant quote yesterday. You also can see my Kindle highlights from the book). His basic premise is that the evangelical church has not been about the gospel, but has instead been about the “Plan of Salvation”, which is only part of the gospel. As he goes on to say, by itself this is not the gospel. The gospel is not “I’m bad, and Jesus came and died for my sins.” Here are some quotes:
It may strike you as uncommonly odd for me to make this claim, but I’m going to say it anyway: this Plan of Salvation is not the gospel. The Plan of Salvation emerges from the Story of Israel/Bible and from the Story of Jesus, but the plan and the gospel are not the same big idea.
…not only have we reduced the robust view of salvation to [just] four or five points; we are also asking the Plan of Salvation to do something it was never intended to do. The Plan of Salvation, to put this crudely, isn’t discipleship or justice or obedience. The Plan of Salvation leads to one thing and to one thing only: salvation. Justification leads to a declaration by God that we are in the right, that we are in the people of God; it doesn’t lead inexorably to a life of justice or goodness or loving-kindness. If it did, all Christians would be more just and more filled with goodness and drenched in love.
I am convinced that because we think the gospel is the Plan of Salvation, and because we preach the Plan of Salvation as the gospel, we are not actually preaching the gospel.
The kingdom vision of Jesus isn’t simply or even directly about the Plan of Salvation, though the kingdom vision entails or implies or involves the Plan of Salvation, and without the Plan of Salvation the kingdom doesn’t work.
I think this is exactly right.
The true good news is that the King has come as the fulfillment of the story and the promises of Israel and has freed us from our greatest enemies that had infected his good creation: sin, death, and its personification in “the accuser”. He has established his own good and rightful rule and reign in this world. And as his agents in this world, we are meant to be heralds and stewards of this Kingdom, ushering in the future fulfillment into the present.
So come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.