After rereading my last post I came to realize that in talking about mission as living into a certain story, I only touched on the end of that story – the final renewal of all things. But seeing only the end of the story without understanding what comes before it causes the ending to lose its impact.
Imagine watching only the end of the movie Dead Poets Society, the scene where Mr. Keating walks out of the classroom for the last time and all of his students jump on to their desks and say, “Oh captain, my captain.” Watching only this scene would make little sense and raise all sorts of questions. Why are they standing on their desks? What does “Oh captain, my captain” mean? Without watching all of what comes before it – Mr. Keating passing along his love for poetry, the formation of a special club, and the bond that develops between Keating and his students – the ending has little significance. The same is true with scripture. If we only focus on the end it’s significance and impact is diminished.
Seeing how the Bible is such a massive book, it can seem overwhelming and impossible to capture the whole thing at once. There are so many books, characters, plot lines, genres of literature, and it spans thousands of years, how can anyone make sense of the overall story?
Fortunately, with just a few words it is possible. Those words are, Creation, Fall, Redemptive History, and New Creation. There are some other variations on these words. Some people use:
Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration
Creation, Fall, Israel, Jesus, Church
No matter which one you use, each of these word groups are faithful to the scripture narrative. Each one simply tries to highlight something unique about the narrative as a whole.
In his book, The Mission of God’s People, Christopher Wright shows how the different parts of the bible fit into these four sections. Here’s a diagram from his book.
In this picture you”ll notice Redemptive History is the bulk of what the biblical narrative is all about. Redemption is the ultimate goal of God’s mission. Creation, Fall and New Creation make up only 13 chapters of the entire Bible! So, if redemption is the main goal of God’s mission, it raises the question, Redemption of what? What was it that was lost?
Here’s why I’m revisiting this discussion from my last post; I believe the end of the story really comes alive when it’s held in tension with the beginning.
In the story laid out above, what makes the Fall so devastating is that it destroys the shalom that was present when God created the world. At creation there existed universal flourishing in all areas of life and in all relationships. Specifically, humanity lived in the presence of God. But once sin entered the world Adam and Even, and all of humanity after them, are expelled from God’s presence. This is what was lost.
Therefore, at the end of the scriptures when the Apostle John sees a vision of a new heaven and new earth and hears a voice saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people.” What he’s saying is that the thing that was lost at the beginning of the story has now been recovered. The biblical narrative essentially comes full circle. God is restoring things back to His original design.
This is where history is headed. As a friend of mind says, “Another world is possible.” And in fact, it’s on its way.
We are now living in the “in between.” But that doesn’t mean we are just holding on and waiting for that day to come. No! As I said in my last post, as Christians we are called to live into that new future NOW. And perhaps the most spectacular thing about this story is that in Jesus Christ the future has actually broken into the present. We don’t have to wait till the final restoration of all things to be united with God’s presence! Through the Spirit of Christ among us we have access to it NOW
This has HUGE implications for how we participate in God’s mission. It means we live with a super natural confidence, power, courage, and boldness. It means we have certainty about our future and we can spend our lives now for the sake of His kingdom knowing it will all be given back to us a hundred times fold in the age to come.
This is the story from beginning to end. God created us to live with Him. We rejected His design for our life and rather than leaving us to our own fate, He came after us to redeem us, to bring us back into His presence and put this world back to His original design.
This is His mission, His story, and we are called to live into it.