The World Interrupted

In my last article I began a series on the church. What makes Sunday different from the rest of the week, and why do we need to go to church instead of worshipping God in our own private way? I built upon the idea of the temple as I began by showing how the first temple-garden was a holy space. We no longer worship in the garden because the secular world as we now know it is common.  After his work in the resurrection, Jesus established a new creation. He is rebuilding a new temple. Where Adam failed to earn a new cosmos for his progeny, the second Adam, Jesus Christ, succeeded. Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 5:17 that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” In the next chapter, he tells the Corinthians they are the temple of the living God. We have Paul saying in his first letter to the Corinthians that they are God’s building (3:9), describing himself as the master builder who has laid no other foundation than Jesus Christ. Then he goes on in proclaiming to the church, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (3:16-17). In his Great Commission, Jesus proclaimed: All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:18-20). We see how Christ as the new Adam is expanding God’s presence, fulfilling the spiritual part of the mission given to Adam in the Cultural Mandate. He is enlarging God’s presence on earth through the church. In our unity to Christ, we are part of that temple, even priests, “mediating God’s presence” (G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission) to the world. As Christians, we are not to transform the world, redeeming all parts of culture for Christ. No, Christ is redeeming us; he has made us new creations which will one day dwell with him in the new heavens and new earth.  And what will that be? Revelation 21 and 22 describe the new heavens and earth as the new temple encompassing the whole earth. Biehl refers to it as the “reestablishment of the Garden of Eden temple sanctuary on Mt. Zion.” He goes on to say that “Eden served as a little earthly model of the temple in heaven which will eventually come down and fill the whole earth.” As glorious as the Garden of Eden sounded, Adam was actually working for a new heavens and earth. The author of Hebrews alludes to this when he says, “For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to the angels” (2:5, emphasis mine).  He goes on to quote from Psalm 8, describing the creation of man. Adam, who was made a little lower than the angels, was under a covenant of works in which his kingship in the garden pointed to a rule much greater, even over the angels in the world to come (see David Vandrunen, Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, p.40-41). Jesus, our faithful King, has now earned that for us and now sits at the right hand of our Father. So here we are in the already and not yet. As frustrating as that can be, isn’t it also mysteriously fascinating? How do we convey something as marvelous as the temple of God in our common, everyday life? And, the point of this article, how does God convey to us Christ and all his benefits as we live as sojourners in this world? He gives us Sunday.  We tend to focus so much on the tension of living in between the times of Christ’s first and second coming that we miss what Biehl calls the redemptive/historical/eschatological context.  Huh? Well, he profoundly articulates that “we actually are at a certain time. We are the beginning of the inaugurated eschatological temple. We really are a temple, we’re not just like a temple… because the essence of the temple is the presence of God breaking out.” Our Sunday morning service is a reminder of the world interrupted. Michael Horton compares much of the life-scripts we write throughout the week to the “Seinfeld tagline, it’s the show about nothing” (The Gospel Driven Life, p.34). In our sinful nature, our default is always to look to righteousness of our own, searching for a meaning within. We get caught up in our week’s schedule, in all our business, and wind up missing the whole forest for the trees. But we are called out, at the beginning of the week, to an eschatological breaking in of our daily lives. We actually experience the future interrupting the present. The gospel message is something that is outside of us. When we get caught up in our week’s activities, we tend to go back to that default of looking to ourselves. We need the covenant renewal ceremony that we are given on the Sabbath. Here we are reminded that church “is the exclusive site of God’s covenanted blessings in Christ” (People and Place, Michael Horton, p.194).  It is “Holy time and holy space—coordinates for the covenant people”(262). Under the preaching of God’s word I am stripped naked by the law and clothed by gospel. I need that interruption. Horton describes the worship service as a sort of dress rehearsal. On Sunday, I can have a taste of what is to come, basking in the Lord Jesus Christ’s redemptive rule.