On Sunday, January 24th, 2016, I began a Core Seminar on Redemptive History & Biblical Theology at my church, Lake Drive Baptist Church. During the course of this series I’ll be sending out emails recapping lessons and directing recipients to resources for further study.
Rather than just share these recaps with my church family, I’ve decided to share them here on the blog for anyone else who might be interested. I will be posting them occasionally over the next couple of months on a weekly basis or so.
See previous posts:
- Introducing Biblical Theology and Redemptive History (LDBC Recap 1/24/16)
- The Significance and Relevance of Biblical Theology and Redemptive History (LDBC Recap 1/31/16)
- Foundational Principles and Basic Frameworks for Redemptive History and Biblical Theology (LDBC Recap 2/7/16)
- Redemptive-Historical, Biblical-Theological Hermeneutics (LDBC Recap 2/14/16 Pt. 1)
- Redemptive-Historical Survey: 1 | Creation (LDBC Recap 2/14/16 Pt. 2)
- Redemptive-Historical Survey: 2 | The Fall (LDBC Recap 2/21/16)
- Redemptive-Historical Survey: 3 | The Flood & Noahic Covenant (LDBC Recap 2/28/16)
- Redemptive-Historical Survey: 4 | Abrahamic Covenant & the Patriarchs (LDBC Recap 3/6/16 Pt. 1)
- Redemptive-Historical Survey: 5 | The Exodus (LDBC Recap 3/6/16 Pt. 2)
- Redemptive-Historical Survey: 6 | The Mosaic Covenant (LDBC Recap 3/13/16)
- Redemptive-Historical Survey: 7 | The Wilderness Wanderings (LDBC Recap 3/20/16, Pt. 1)
- Redemptive-Historical Survey: 8 | Entrance and Life in the Promised Land (LDBC Recap 3/20/16 Pt. 2)
- Redemptive-Historical Survey: 9 | The Monarchy & Davidic Covenant (LDBC Recap 4/3/16 Pt. 1)
- Redemptive-Historical Survey: 10 | Wisdom and Songs (LDBC Recap 4/3/16 Pt. 2)
- Redemptive-Historical Survey: 11 | Exile & New Covenant (LDBC Recap 4/17/16 Pt. 1)
- Redemptive-Historical Survey: 12 | Return from Exile (LDBC Recap 4/17/16 Pt. 2)
This week was surveyed the role of the Gospel–or, the mission of Jesus–in redemptive history.
Overview of Biblical material
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John – The life and saving work of Jesus.
- God becomes a human—Jesus of Nazareth.
- He works great miracles.
- He teaches great things.
- He is eventually killed by the Jews and Romans.
- But three days later he rises from the dead.
Role within redemptive history
We can summary the central role of the Gospel in redemptive history as follows: God becomes a human being—Jesus—and initially but decisively brings about God’s new-creational kingdom. He does this centrally through his death and resurrection.
As always, we will break this down into in various parts for closer examination.
- God becomes a human: the incarnation’s relationship to the Gospel
First, we want to consider the incarnation’s (lit. “infleshing,” i.e., the event God becoming a human) relationship to the Gospel and its fulfillment of this new-creational kingdom.
Throughout redemptive history, we have noted the reality of humanity’s sinful inability to restore themselves and bring to fruition God’s new-creational kingdom. In contrast to this, in the incarnation God writes himself into the storyline of scripture, as it were, in order to bring about this work of salvation—this new-creational kingdom—by his own power, by divine ability. The redemptive-historical, storyline of scripture shows that only he is able to do it.
But God must become a human being in order to do so, in order to accomplish this salvation and restoration, because the predicament is humanity’s. God must become a human being to take upon himself the human problem in order to seek it out and defeat it. Thus, in becoming a human, Jesus becomes a substitute for human sinners, or, we might say, a representative for humans.
Furthermore, Jesus becomes the perfectly faithful, human covenant partner that was always required in the Biblical covenants. He offers up for us—i.e., on our behalf—perfect covenant faithfulness, perfect obedience to the law.
- Jesus brings about the new-creational kingdom
Throughout this series we have traced various themes or dimensions of what we have called the “new-creational kingdom.”
Well, in the Gospel, in Jesus, all of these dimensions finally find their fulfillment and climax. Jesus fulfills, i.e., he brings about or he realizes, the new-creational kingdom in all of its dimensions.
God’s people –
(1) Jesus deals with the corruption of God’s people:
(a) Sin (guilt & power) – In becoming human, Jesus takes on the problem of human sin—both the guilt of sin with its punishment as well as the dominating power of sin over humanity—and defeats it in his death and resurrection. In his death, the penalty and power of sin die with him. And his resurrection demonstrates his victory over them. Moreover, as we are by faith united to him in his resurrection, we are raised to a resurrection-life in which we are free from sin, in which our old sinful humanness is gone and we now participate in a new, Spirit-empowered humanness.
For just one example of this sort of teaching in the New Testament we looked at Romans 6:1-14, where we noted themes of both [a] dying with Christ to the dominating power of sin, but also [b] raising with him to resurrection, new-life existence.
(b) Physical death/corruption – Jesus becomes a human to defeat the curse of death that is pressing in on humanity. And in his death and resurrection he defeats death. In his death, the curse of death dies with him. He embraces it and absorbs it in his own death. And this conquering of death is expressed in his resurrection in which he literally breaks the jaws of death for all who trust in him. When we trust in him we are united with him in his death and are both raised now spiritually (with regards to the corrupting power of sin [see the point above]) but will also share with him in physical resurrection when he raises us at his second coming.
1 Cor 15: 20-23 – 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
Result → And so, in Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection, Christ restores humanity back to its true and full humanness. Christ becomes a human to restore our humanness. And he does so, as said, by (a) eliminating our corruption (sinfulness; death) in his death—taking that corruption down with him, so to say, as he dies and then defeating and conquering that corruption in his resurrection. But furthermore, (b) in his resurrection he achieves resurrection-existence for all those who are united to him by faith and thereby share in his resurrection. By becoming a man (incarnation) and then resurrecting, Christ thus restores humanity back to full humanness. In so doing, he creates a new humanity consisting of all those united to him.
Col 3:9-10 – …You have put off the old humanity with its practices and have put on the new humanity, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image [cf. Image of God/full humanness idea] of its creator [=Christ].
(2) He creates a multitude of people of God –
By defeating the corruption of humanity (sin; death) and by restoring in himself true humanness for all who trust and are united to him, he creates in himself the great offspring—a multitude of people; a people of God—about which the OT covenants promised (e.g., Gen 12; 15; etc.). As you will recall, one of the great themes of the covenants was the promise of a great multitude of people, a great people of God. Well, by restoring humans from sin and death and making them—as they are united to him—into a restored humanity, he achieves this new-creational kingdom covenant promise. And, furthermore, as we will see in the next episode, he also brings Gentiles into this new-creational kingdom, thereby fulfilling the promise of massive offspring to Abraham’s descendants, of a great new humanity, in even broader ways.
God’s presence –
(1) Jesus is God’s presence incarnate – Jesus is God; and thus he is the very presence of God, literally. Therefore, Jesus is described in temple categories because he fulfills the hopes running all throughout creation of God’s full, unhindered dwelling among us. Christ fulfills this. He is the place where God and sinners meet and are reconciled, dwell among each other in peace and blessing.
John 1:14 – And the Word became flesh and dwelt [lit. tabernacled] among us…
(2) As he resurrects and ascends, Jesus extends his divine presence by pouring out the Spirit to dwell among his people. (Cf. Acts 2; John 14; 16; on the Spirit as the Spirit of Christ, see Rom 8:9-11.)
As such, the NT describes the church (corporately, not just individually!) as the temple of God, the very place of God’s presence (1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:16; 1 Pet 2:5; Eph 2:21-22). The end-time, new-creational temple presence that was anticipated in the Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ as God-become-man and extended through his outpouring of the Spirit—the Spirit of Christ, and thus the presence of God/Christ with us always.
God’s place –
The place aspect of God’s new-creational kingdom is fulfilled in Christ’s work of ushering his people into a literal, physical new creation. Thus, the land theme that began in creation’s design (the Garden of Eden [the creational kingdom]), and was picked up in the Promised Land of Israel (a New Eden [what we have called the porto-new-creational kingdom]) is fulfilled in a literal New Eden/New Creation to be experienced at the end [the eschatological new-creational kingdom]. For example, in Revelation 21-21, the New Creation is depicted in Eden categories (e.g., the reappearance of the Tree of Life).
The full, complete experience of this physical new creation still awaits believers. Nonetheless, believers have already entered this hope through Christ who has decisively accomplished its fulfillment in his resurrection. In Christ’s resurrection, he has decisively brought about the New Creation (note: his resurrection is an representational expression of the New Creation; his resurrected condition literally embodies the “resurrected” New Creation; and, thus, he serves as a new Adam-like representative for all of those joined to him by faith [see Rom 5; 1 Cor 15; 2 Cor 5), although we still wait to experience it in full. Thus, the full expression of the New Creation—including the promise of God’s place—is guaranteed, since it has already begun in Christ’s resurrection. In this sense—in Christ, who has already accomplished a New Creation yet to be fully experienced—believers can be said to have entered this new-creational place.
Heb 4:3 – For we who have believed enter that [Promised Land] rest.
Here we note an interesting reversal from the pattern of the original creation:
- Original creation – God prepares a land for his people, and then he creates his people, placing them into that land.
- New Creation – God prepares his new creation people, and then, only afterwards, ushers in his new creation land for them.
An important caveat must be added here before moving on. Although this new-creation is ultimately future, nonetheless, the fact that God intends to restore this world, this creation, and that he has already begun to do so in Christ, means that we do not abandon this world to decay, but we value it and pursue its well-being (cf. contrast the way the Corinthians justified their participation in immoral behavior due to the fact that their body would eventually be destroyed with that way Paul views the physical body of a believer in light of the fact that it will be re-created/resurrected [see 1 Cor 6:13-14]).
God’s rule –
(a) Under God’s rule, i.e., mediated through Jesus.
This great theme of God’s rule being exercised through human kings is fulfilled in Christ who becomes that king, that ruler through whom God’s rule is exercised. And, of course, God’s rule is most fully exercised through his human kingship because not only is he king but he is God (thus, as God, he can exercise God’s rule perfectly). Jesus is that ultimate Son of David that rules savingly (i.e., restoratively), whose reign restores us back to proper submission to God’s rule and will. His rule is a saving new-creational kingdom rule.
- Jesus’ Miracles – Jesus’ miracles exemplify the pushing back the forces of darkness, the effects of the curse, and the inbreaking of God’s saving, restoring new-creational kingdom.
- Jesus’ teaching – Jesus delivers a saving (i.e., restorative) teaching as he details what restored life in this new-creational kingdom looks like. Through his teaching he restores us, brings us back under God’s rule and will.
- Spirit outpouring – In Acts 2, after his resurrection and ascension, the now reigning Jesus pours out his Spirit upon his people. And what follows throughout the rest of the book of Acts is expression of his rule as he exercises it through the work of his Spirit among his people.
(b) Exercising that rule – But also, as the one who restores humanity back to true humanness (point above), that means he restores humanity back into God’s image. In himself, Christ came and restored humanity, fully embodying the image of God in himself—fully exercising and reflection what God had intended for humanity, the role God had appointed for humanity in creation—i.e., to reflect (or: image) God’s rule over creation and thereby bring all things into submission to God. Well, in Christ, as we are united to him by faith, we share in him, we are made more and more like him, we are conformed to him image, which of course is the image we were intended to be all along. Thus, our role as God’s image-bearers is restored in Christ, the truest image of God and the one who—by our being united to him—transforms us back into that image.
By means of mediation –
Throughout redemptive history we saw the constant need of dealing with the problem of human guilt and its necessary judgment/punishment. Well, in Christ and his sacrifice, this need is finally dealt with. Christ takes this guilt upon himself in his punishment-absorbing death.
Heb 9:28 – Christ “offered once to bear the sins of many.”
Cf. Heb 9:15, which redemptive-historically links Christ’s death to the Mosaic Covenant curses, and Heb 10:15-17, which redemptive historically links Christ’s death to the New Covenant forgiveness promises.
All of the above is how God works this final, end-time deliverance—through Christ—his incarnation, life, death, and resurrection. Christ acts for us and on our behalf. What he does and achieves counts for us through faith, which unites us to him and makes us partakers of his work.
And we encounter something unexpected here: that this ultimate, decisive act of deliverance by God comes through the lowly, humble mediatorial sacrifice of Jesus—that Jesus enters into our predicament and accomplishes a substitution (representational) work. For a specific example, we can note the unexpected nature in which this king/messiah achieves his rule through sacrificing himself—what Paul calls a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.
- Summative notes:
Comprehensive fulfillment in Jesus: In Christ, all of the new-creational kingdom promises of the Old Testament are fulfilled or realized.
2 Cor 1:20 – [A]ll the promises of God find their Yes in him.
And they are all fulfilled (at least in an “already/not yet” sense [see below]) in his first coming. This means that we not should be looking to some future dealing of God with Israel, for example, for the fulfillment of the Old Testament hopes. We are Christians, for crying out loud–we look to Christ! He has already done it, even if we still await their full expression.
Gal 3:16 – Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.
By doing all that he does above (e.g., faithfulness, defeating death, eliminating sin, etc.), Jesus finally brings about the new-creational kingdom promises made to Abraham’s seed, i.e., God’s people. Thus, when Paul looks back at the Old Testament in light Christ, when he observes these Old Testament promises being made to a certain seed, he conclude that, in a sense, Jesus is that seed (singular). The promises were ultimately made to Jesus in the sense that he is the one in whom they are realized/fulfilled. And thus, all who by faith are united to Christ, as we said above, participate in what he has accomplished–they too are made this “seed,” they are made heirs—the partakers—of these new-creational kingdom promises.
Breadth of this salvation/restoration: We see here that the breadth of this Gospel and its salvation is, as the hymnwriter put it, “Far as the curse is found…” The Gospel and its salvation correspond to the scope of sin and its consequences.
- This realization of the new-creational kingdom is (a) initial but also (b) decisive.
Another way to put this is, as theologians commonly say, “already/not yet.” But saying “initial/decisive” I am merely trying to capture the fact that the initial fulfillment of these things is in effect a guarantee of their complete fulfillment (thus, “decisive”).
Initial – i.e., the new-creational kingdom is not yet experienced in full. The work of bringing it about has just begun. We genuinely experience its realities; but we do not yet experience it in its fullness.
Heb 9:28 – So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many [“already”; initial], will appear a second time, not to deal with sin [“already”; initial] but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him [“not yet”; decisive].
This initial, but not full, experience of the new-creational is what is represented by the purpose in the chart below.
New-creational kingdom realities of the age to come have broken in with Christ’s first coming. They are a partial realization of these things.
This initial, partial realization was not something expected in the Old Testament. Rather, the Old Testament has an “all-at-once” sort of eschatological (end-time) view, that is, is seems to expect the full new-creational kingdom to come suddenly and in its fullness when the messiah comes.
Decisive – The story has already been written. The end is already determined. In fact, the initial experience of this new-creational kingdom is spoken of in scripture as testimony to the fact that its full realization is thus inevitable.
Eph 1:13-14 – 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
The new-creational kingdom has already broken into this fallen creational-world. This decisive act cannot be undone. The full work of achieving this new-creational kingdom has been done (decisive); it is merely yet to be worked out (initial).
And this working out of the new-creational kingdom in our lives personally is what we refer to as progressive sanctification. In other words, the more and more we defeat sin through our union with Christ, the more and more we are made like him, the more and more of God’s new-creational kingdom is breaking into this world.
As Paul says, in Christ and the new humanity he embodies as a result of his resurrection, we have already put on the new man (humanity). Our old humanness has died with Christ. We are therefore to live as new humans. However, Paul also recognizes this thing he calls the “flesh,” this lingering influence of sin. Thus, we live in the overlap between the ages–something we experience as believers personally everyday. Nonetheless, we are encouraged because, as noted, Christ’s victory, although initial at this point in redemptive history, is nonetheless decisive. Sin is on its last leg.
God becomes a human being—Jesus—and initially but decisively brings about God’s new-creational kingdom. He does this centrally through his death and resurrection.