Right theology is important, don't get me wrong, and even, to a great degree, necessary, but it really doesn't do the dishes or take out the trash, when it comes down to it!
Covenant theology, in my opinion, my belief, is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God! The implications of Covenant Eschatology, on the one hand, are turning the world up-side down, reaching all the way back to the beginning of Creation, the Genesis of the People of God. On the other, however, the application of these freeing principles could be another matter!:(
The belief that the 'world' is 'going to hell in a hand-basket', or some other idiotic and misinformed notion, has caused more than a bit of trouble for nearly two centuries now ( probably more ). The belief that Jesus will be coming back anytime now ( imminently ), after which God will literally burn up this present heavens and earth, and fully establish His New Creation, is both irresponsible and biblically indefensible. Most will admit, to their credit ( or is that 'shame' ) that we are already in Christ a New Creation, but not realizing that it is through His New Creation that He is burning up, or purifying His New Heavens and New Earth, they think the best thing to do is to hunker down and wait for Jesus to physically come back and rescue them from their own ignorance, apathy, and stupidity!
I do believe that II Peter 3 was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD70 ( that WAS a literal burning up of the 'heavens' and 'earth' ).
Leaving the Old World Behind
As we live our lives in this 'New World', which Jesus spoke of as 'the age to come' ( Mark 10:30 ( Luke 20:27-38 ); we should realize that the Judaistic practices which Jesus, Paul and the Apostles struggled with in their several ministries were indeed ready to pass away, but I believe that we often forget, almost, what exactly it was that was about to vanish. It was not the Law itself which was about to be taken away, about which Paul says, 'the righteous requirements of the law': it was not even the cleanliness and dietary or even Sabbath laws, per se, that were removed, for these all pointed to the Christ, and are fulfilled in Him. It was that, as Jeremiah wrote, God would 'put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts'; instead of 'on tablets of stone' ( II Corinthians 3:3 ); no longer would it be an external command, written in stone, for men to obey, and thereby seem to be righteous and wise, but now it was written in their hearts, seared into their conscience, so to speak, for none can be purified through external observance, it is only through an internal conviction that a man ( or woman ) can be purified!
As we explore the implications of a totally fulfilled eschatology in the 'new age' of discovery and Kingdom Life, we should first of all remind ourselves that it is ALL about Christ! Jesus was God Himself who came to earth ( became human-one of us ) so that He could save His people from their sin, the sin of Adam, and pursue a more intimate relationship with us! Secondly, we must realize that we ARE part of a greater story, the story that is laid out for our instruction and understanding in Scripture! Although we, as believers in a totally fulfilled eschatology, teach that all Scripture is fulfilled in Christ, we do NOT mean to imply a conclusion of the story. As 'sons of the resurrection' ( or better, 'THE Resurrection' ), we are partakers in, and benefactors of ALL the promises made to Israel, whether under that first covenant, or in the New Covenant, for all the promises in that first covenant pointed to the Reality which is Christ in the New Covenant. The chiastic structure of Scripture, beginning in Genesis and ending with Revelation shows us the end goal of the eschaton; that end goal was that, as in the original Garden, God would again make His home with ( in ) His people; this is why Jesus had the name 'Emmanuel' ( God with us ), and why Paul called us 'the Body of Christ', and 'the temple of the Holy Spirit'!
There is some talk going around these days that if all is fulfilled, then there is nothing more to be done than to 'eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die'; there is talk, as well, that there is no more activity of the Holy Spirit, since God in the fullness of Christ dwells with us, as per John 14:23. The Holy Spirit was given to the first-century church as a Comforter until Jesus' Parousia, right? I believe that questions and statements like this only prove that there is much misunderstanding of the nature of the Trinity and of the God-head within the Church throughout the ages. The traditional construct of 'Father, Son, and Holy Spirit' was never meant to convey three separate Gods! I believe much of the problem in misunderstanding comes when men have tried to explain it as 'three separate persons' within the God-head. This is no better, and maybe even more confusing then 'three separate gods'! As the Father ( Creator ) of all things, He, in Genesis One, 'was hovering over the face of the waters', as the Son, He was born of a woman ( became human ) in order to 'save His people from their sins'; during the 'transition period' ( between the death of the first covenant, and the Life of the New ), He invested His people through His Spirit to comfort them in their 'Great Tribulation', and to show them the true meaning of 'God with us'!
The Scriptures have also come to be in danger of almost totally being discarded because of a lack of understanding of the fullest implications of their covenantal nature! Scripture is one 'meta-narrative' ( as a good friend of mine calls it ), and because it is one continuous story, it is easy, though covenant eyes, to see that God's purpose, as described earlier, to return and dwell forever with His people, was worked out through centuries, even millenia of covenant death ( separation ) and renewal ( salvation ); we can read this history throughout Scripture, beginning with the fall of Adam in Genesis 3, throughout the book of Judges, on into the books of the Kings, and finally up to the Advent of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem. As before, being 'sons of the resurrection', we were born into what Jesus called 'the age to come', the never-ending age. Being thus born, we are 'equal to the angels and are sons of God' ( Luke 20:21-38 ), and are become, as those 'sons of Abraham' according to promise ( Galatians 3:7 ), 'the leaves of the tree' that ARE 'for the healing of the nations'!
'How should we then live?'
By no means have we exhausted the implications of a totally fulfilled eschatology here, and it is not my purpose to do so; you must search out for yourself ( be a 'Berean' ) the full implication ( s ). The purpose of this article is to reveal the sheer stupidity of stopping at 70AD ( like the Reformed seem to say, 'this/thus far, and no further' ) and with their focus on 70AD, sit around arguing like 'nincompoops' about how this or that was or was not ( couldn't have been ) fulfilled by then, tearing apart ( rabidly ) the Body of Christ, creating schism, and further making a 'blooming' mess out of what God in the Christ did for His people!
What is needed, and some have already begun to do this, is to apply these principles of Fulfilled Eschatology to our Kingdom Life, to make application of the implications! How do we do this? Well, for one thing, we shouldn't sit on our asses, making inane arguments that usually lead to a separation of some sort, between brothers and sisters in Christ! How many times have we seen this happen throughout the years since Max King first reintroduced ( most notably, anyway ) these principles? I'm not here to 'sling mud' or to name names ( point fingers ), but there are so many 'brands' of preterism out there, with new ones popping up like 'tulips', that it seems they can no longer be counted on one hand. Is it any wander that some are going off the deep end and coming up with all kinds of crazy notions, even going so far as to say that we do not belong to the Israel of God?
We need to stop resting in our beliefs ( that's what the Pharisees did ) and start resting in the One we claim to believe in! If we are ever to be, in actuality, 'the leaves of the tree' that ARE 'for the healing of the nations', then we must live as He lived, not tearing each other apart, as we are prone to, but dealing with one another in love, as well as with those who are outside. We need to live as a new creature, not as the old one, the mere human being who wants to snarl and fight for every piece of meat! We need to live as this world IS our home, as God is the Ruler, and as we ARE His vice-regents! This IS His Kingdom, and we are rulers ( of it ) with Him ( in fact, this is basically what 'Israel' means, look it up )! Let's take the bull by the horns, ( gracefully ) take exception to those who would deny His rule on earth, and live ( starting with ourselves, our families, our churches, and on down the line ) as kings in this 'new' world!
Living in the New World
It's easy to say 'we are kings', but it's not easy to live it. Sure, we could take our cues from our earthly examples from the past few thousand years, even from the many of the kings of Israel, but we'd end up in the same boat, that metaphorical and mythical ferry-boat that floats back and forth across the river Styx ( in other words; 'DEAD'! ) There is one notable difference between those kings and us: we live, not in that old 'world', under all those laws, signs, and symbols that merely pointed to Christ, but in the new 'world' that God made His re-creation, that He transformed, as Paul wrote almost 2,000 years ago to the Church at Rome, 'by the renewing of your mind'. One might might ask, too, 'what does it mean that we are kings?'
'I sure don't feel like royalty!' True enough, too many of us have given up on the notion that we are royalty, as God Himself said, 'you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation' ( Exodus 19:6 ), and 'has made us kings[b] and priests' ( Revelation 1:6 ); furthermore, He said, almost 2,000 years ago, that 'we[f] shall reign on the earth' ( Revelation 5:10 )! Most, if not all of the time, we don't feel like this is true, and this is part of the problem that has been festering within the Body for years, spreading like a malicious cancer, and weakening the knees of the greater multitude of the Church! For the past several hundred years anyway, the Church has been intimately attached to the notion that we are just 'polishing brass on a sinking ship', that 'this world', though maybe a 'training ground', 'is not my home'. We need to return to the notion, as a Body, that we are given the original Creation Mandate', to 'have dominion', to spread abroad the good news that the Creator of all things, and the Father of glory once again dwells in the midst of His people, through which He wishes to have a personal relationship with His creation! When we bicker and fight amongst ourselves, instead of working together peaceably, even with those with whom we disagree, are we not showing those who still have their blinders on that we are no different than they? If we cannot work together to heal the rifts in our own lives, how will we heal the nations?
Again, we are faced with a daunting choice; will we continue to wrestle with the implications of a fulfilled eschatology, spending hours upon hours of debate, and thousands of dollars to prove we are right, or will we accept that God is right, and make the applications in our own life. Part of living in this 'new' world is realizing that, as kings and priests ( or, a kingdom of priests ), we DO reign in this 'world'! God's people are the ones with the power and authority, not those who stand against God and threaten our freedom in Christ! We need to stand up and let these false rulers know where they stand, not above us, but below us, beneath our feet, if you will. If we can begin to make application of the implications of Fulfilled Eschatology, then, and only then, will we begin to have a real and lasting impact in this 'world'!
The Separation of Church & State?
As well as theological implications; there are political implications as well, and it is mainly in this area that application needs to be made! Yes, I said 'politics'! For far too long, people have had the notion, Christians especially, that the Church and State governments should not, could not mix. I think that much of this came about because of state-sponsored ( and enforced ) religion, which was a big problem as early as Constantine, in the 3-400s A.D. Again, it is not my purpose here to go into a lengthy study of the many atrocities that have been committed in the name of God by the state-sponsored churches; the Inquisition, which lasted for many hundreds of years, is a glaring example!
On the other side of the coin, probably much the same could be said about Calvin's 'Geneva', and about other such instances where a certain church, or sect, has gotten control of state ( or city ) government. Some might say that this would be better than a state-controlled church, but maybe it would be wise, in this case, to ask those who may have suffered unjustly under the reign of a church-controlled state! Either situation is not good, unless it be according to the principles laid out in Scripture, rightly interpreted, of course! The government of South Africa from its founding, all the way up through the atrocities of 'apartheid' might bear some scrutiny in this respect, as well, even, as the foundling years of our own nation.
As we come to whatever conclusion we might, and I come near to the conclusion of this article; we might think now, on our necessary application of the implications of a fulfilled eschatology, as concerns our own life, liberty, and happiness in this nation of ours, the United States of America. The Founding Fathers were inspired, in many respects, to lay out a good course for this new nation, but we must understand that though their intentions may have been the best, and because of that, and the blood, sweat, and tears of many like-minded patriots, they were not perfect, and neither was any documentation they constituted for us! One might wander if their beliefs, especially concerning eschatology, had anything to do with this! Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that just because they may have believed that Christ's coming was in our future, they had everything wrong: I'm just saying that this might be something worth considering in our clamor for a return to their principles. They, at least, did have the motto of 'No king but King Jesus'!
As bad as things have gotten in this country, and things may get worse before they get better; we still enjoy a few, anyway, of the freedoms for which our forbears fought, and in many cases lost their lives for! Living in this great nation, with the admittedly dwindling freedoms that we do still enjoy, what have we to do but to stand up for the freedom, the liberty which we have been granted by our Creator, which rights are inalienable, i.e., no one but that very Creator can remove or otherwise transfer those rights from us!
In conclusion then, we cannot stand idly by while our liberties are unjustly and unrighteously withheld, but rather, we must, as a nation, a kingdom of priests, begin to act, once more as priests, first, as we have seen, to our families, then in our county and state governments, then to the nation and the world! This is, after all, our Father's world, and like it or not, yea or nay, He IS here and NOW, and He has given us, His people, the dominion, not those who deny Him! It is up to us to finish the job, not alone, for He dwells, once more, in the midst of His people! If we do not, in this generation, stand and fight for our freedoms, much as, but maybe even in a greater respect than our forbears did; God will surely raise up a deliverer from some other quarter, but what kind of life will we have to show for our inaction? What kind of life will our children enjoy? Our grandchildren?
There are serious implications, and logical conclusions that we must draw from the truths that have been revealed to us, and I have not exhausted these either! Unless we make application of these truths in our own lives, however, they will be of no use to those around us, and in fact, we could probably imagine at least one way in which these implications without application could prove detrimental to the Cause!
Let us stop bickering with one another about the implications of a fulfilled eschatology, although these may keep us busy for an infinite period of time, and focus instead on making the necessary applications of this important truth, the fact that we ARE a chosen nation ( not the United States, but the people of God ), we are a royal priesthood, we have been raised to new life in and with Christ, and we ARE the Temple, the dwelling-place of our Creator, Father and God!
Let us keep these important and inspiring truths in the forefront of our mind, as we LIVE our lives, giving our utmost, heart, mind AND strength, for His highest, in service to Him and His Kingdom, His people, His Creation!
In His grace,
Charles Haddon Shank