In this series, I’ve been answering a question about the “good virtues and attributes” of humanity. Part 1 addressed the issues the brokenness of the world and Yahweh’s plan to fix it. In Part 2, we addressed the plan finding it’s fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth. We saw how the Realm of God began through his life and continues to expand and grow. One of the outcomes of Jesus life, death, resurrection, and ascension was the reconciliation of all things. In Part 3, we listed the “good virtues and attributes” of humanity because of this reconciliation. We ended that with the remarks that people will say I’m naïve and delusional for thinking humanity is righteous, holy, faithful, good, etc. We briefly looked at the idea that, while God’s Realm was established in the first century, it continues to grow and expand. We see this idea of God’s Realm expanding quite clearly:
Ezekiel 47.1-12: When he brought me back to the temple’s entrance, I noticed that water was flowing toward the east from under the temple’s threshold (the temple faced east). The water was going out from under the temple’s facade toward the south, south of the altar. He led me out through the north gate and around the outside to the outer east gate, where the water flowed out under the facade on the south side. With the line in his hand, the man went out toward the east. When he measured off fifteen hundred feet, he made me cross the water; it was ankle-deep. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet and made me cross the water; it was knee-deep. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet and made me cross the water, and it was waist-high. When he measured off another fifteen hundred feet, it had become a river that I couldn’t cross. The water was high, deep enough for swimming but too high to cross. He said to me, “Human one, do you see?” Then he led me back to the edge of the river. When I went back, I saw...on both banks of the river...up all kinds of fruit-bearing trees. Their leaves won’t wither, and their fruitfulness won’t wane. They will produce fruit in every month, because their water comes from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for eating, their leaves for healing.
Here we see the Realm of God flowing like the water from the Temple (the place of God’s presence). It continues to expand until Ezekiel can’t cross it. It produces trees that yield all kinds of healing fruit.
In Revelation, John uses this image from Ezekiel:
Revelation 22.1-2: Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, shining like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb through the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life, which produces twelve crops of fruit, bearing its fruit each month. The tree’s leaves are for the healing of the nations.
Jesus and the Gospels pick up on this idea of an expanding Realm that brings healing:
Matthew 13.31-33: [Jesus] told another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and planted in his field. It’s the smallest of all seeds. But when it’s grown, it’s the largest of all vegetable plants. It becomes a tree so that the birds in the sky come and nest in its branches.”
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast, which a woman took and hid in a bushel of wheat flour until the yeast had worked its way through all the dough.”
Matthew 4.23: Jesus traveled throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues. He announced the good news of the kingdom and healed every disease and sickness among the people.
Matthew 9.35: Jesus traveled among all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, announcing the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.
Luke 9.2, 11: He sent them out to proclaim God’s kingdom and to heal the sick...When the crowds figured it out, they followed [Jesus]. He welcomed them, spoke to them about God’s kingdom, and healed those who were sick.
Luke 10.9: Heal the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘God’s kingdom has come upon you.’
The verse just above underscores the notion that God’s Realm is a present reality. A theme that Luke addresses head on:
Luke 17.20-21 (emphasis added): Pharisees asked Jesus when God’s kingdom was coming. He replied, “God’s kingdom isn’t coming with signs that are easily noticed. Nor will people say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ Don’t you see? God’s kingdom is already among you.”
The point of all this is to emphasize the reality that God’s Realm was established during the life of Jesus. His enthronement as the world’s true king, after all, was when he was crucified:
John 19.18-20 (cf. Daniel 7.13-14): That’s where they crucified him—and two others with him, one on each side and Jesus in the middle. Pilate had a public notice written and posted on the cross. It read “Jesus the Nazarene, the king of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city and it was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek.
The attributes I listed previously are buried deep within people but are held captive by our addiction to sin (to live and be what we want as opposed to living and being what God wants). The life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus released us and all creation from our prison:
Luke 4.16-21: Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been raised. On the Sabbath he went to the synagogue as he normally did and stood up to read. The synagogue assistant gave him the scroll from the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the synagogue assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the synagogue was fixed on him. He began to explain to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.”
With humanity now released from prison, we are free to become like Christ, the truly Human One—to have the same “mind” or attitude that Jesus had:
Romans 8.29 (MSG): God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.
2 Corinthians 3.18: All of us are looking with unveiled faces at the glory of the Lord as if we were looking in a mirror. We are being transformed into that same image from one degree of glory to the next degree of glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 2.15-16: Spiritual people comprehend everything, but they themselves aren’t understood by anyone. Who has known the mind of the Lord, who will advise him? But we have the mind of Christ.
Philippians 2.1-13: Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:
Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
by taking the form of a slave
and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Therefore, God highly honored him
and gave him a name above all names,
so that at the name of Jesus everyone
in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my loved ones, just as you always obey me, not just when I am present but now even more while I am away, carry out your own salvation with fear and trembling. God is the one who enables you both to want and to actually live out his good purposes.
In case anyone’s thinking that I believe that we don’t need God’s grace, notice that last sentence, “God is the one who enables you both to want and to actually live out his good purposes.” In other words, we can’t do this on our own. It takes God’s Spirit, living within us, enabling us to be Christ in the world (John 20.19-23). Because of what Jesus has done, those who follow him now have been empowered to live for him:
Acts 1.8: “Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Acts 3.26: “After God raised his servant, he sent him to you first—to bless you by enabling each of you to turn from your evil ways.”
Acts 5.31: God has exalted Jesus to his right side as leader and savior so that he could enable Israel to change its heart and life and to find forgiveness for sins.
Acts 11.21: The Lord’s power was with them, and a large number came to believe and turned to the Lord.
Galatians 2.8: The one who empowered Peter to become an apostle to the circumcised empowered me also to be one to the Gentiles.
1 Peter 5.10: ...the God of all grace, the one who called you into his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will himself restore, empower, strengthen, and establish you.
2 Peter 1.3-4: By his divine power the Lord has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of the one who called us by his own honor and glory. Through his honor and glory he has given us his precious and wonderful promises, that you may share the divine nature and escape from the world’s immorality that sinful craving produces.
Because we have been empowered by God’s Spirit, “we are God’s coworkers” (1 Corinthians 3.8-9). That is, God works through people to expand and implement God’s Realm “on earth as in heaven” (remember God told Abraham that through his family, all people would be “made holy”).
There are some people who have already attained some of the things on that list. But many of us haven’t. Many of us have a long way to go.
Next time, we conclude this series by looking at some of the objections— mainly the overwhelming proof of hatred, “evil,” and violence in the world.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC