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[This is the final post in a series on the present aspect of the kingdom of God.]

In the following quote, Thomas Schreiner unpacks some of the OT categories for the kingdom of God the Jews would have had in their mind, one of them being the new creation. “They understood him to be proclaiming the dawn of a glorious new era in which…The new covenant would be fulfilled, God’s people would keep his law, and the promised new creation would become a reality.”[1] For many Theologians an essential part of the New Covenant Kingdom is that it is also the New Creation Kingdom. American evangelicals have often exchanged the biblical promise of a new creation for the hope of escape from the world. For Israel, “God’s great future purpose was not to rescue people out of the world, but to rescue the world itself, people included, from its present state of corruption and decay.”[2] At the Fall, God’s good creation was corrupted and the process of de-creation began. With Jesus’ inaugurated kingdom we see the reversal of that process beginning through the lives of his people, but is a foretaste of the full reversal when the new creation will be fully realized on the new heavens and new earth. It is the resurrection and ascension of Jesus that brought about the inbreaking of that new creation. What he participated in through his resurrection is brought into our present existence.

In the New Testament, old creation and new creation categories again fall under the domain of this present, fallen world under Adam (old creation) and the coming, restored world under Jesus (new creation). In his resurrection, Jesus has already stepped through the doors of the old creation and entered the new creation. As those united to him, we therefore participate in this new creation and this is what the kingdom is all about. There is definitely a fulfillment to come when evil is eradicated and all of the earth and all God’s people are restored and resurrected, but this future fulfillment does not diminish its present existence. “That new creation has ‘already’ arrived in the dawning of the new covenant in individual Christians (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:8-10) and the church (Eph. 2:11-21) and it will be consummated when Christ returns and ushers in the new creation in its fullness (Revelation 21-22).”[3]

The clash of the kingdoms involves the overlap of time where the new creation kingdom is coming into the old creation. G.K. Beale sees this as a fundamental aspect of New Testament Biblical Theology. “These pivotal events of Christ’s life, trials, death, and resurrection are eschatological in particular because they launched the beginning of the new creation and kingdom. The end-time new-creational kingdom has not been recognized sufficiently heretofore as of vital important to a biblical theology of the NT.”[4] Because resurrection is so tied into the new creation, all of our life in Christ and the work of Christ through his church must be seen as the new creational-kingdom. Jesus’ kingdom is not about expanding physical borders through the power of the sword but rebirthing people’s hearts the power of the Spirit and the Word. Beale compares Isaiah 43:18-19 and 65:17 to 2 Corinthians 5:17 and highlights how the linguistic connections tie together the new creation with the “new things” that cause us to forget the “old things” that are passing away. That includes both the physical world that will day be remade and our old self in Adam that has been remade in Jesus.

The new creation we experience now in Christ’s kingdom is primarily spiritual, but we must also remember that since Jesus was physically resurrected the new creation itself is not without a physical element. Jesus’ resurrection is the first-fruits and assures us that we will one day experience the same. The new creation taking place in the kingdom and its citizens is also a down-payment of the new creation we will one day experience in its fullness. This should excite us to see God’s work in our lives not as a minor thing but as the re-creation He is beginning in his world. As we experience a transformation from our old self to our new self, and as we image our King, we provide the world with a taste of the world to come. As we experience the newness of the New Creation-Kingdom it also stirs the inner longings for the return of Jesus and the consummation of his kingdom on a new earth.

Footnotes:
[1] Schreiner, New Testament Theology, 45. See fn. 12 above for the whole quote.
[2] Wright, How God Became King, 45.
[3] Gentry and Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant, 607.
[4] Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, 19. Beale’s emphasis is consistent with a range of other biblical theologians in recent years: N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection and the Son of God; Thomas Schreiner’s New Testament Theology; Gentry and Wellum’s Kingdom through Covenant.

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