Christ at the Center (Pt.3b)

Series so far: Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism –

Introduction: Part 1a, 1b, 1c, Jesus and the New Covenant: Part 2a, 2b, 2c,

The Covenant God Incarnate: Part 3a

Although it is not within the design of the present series to demonstrate it, the incarnation of the Christ, the Son of God, is a watershed event eagerly anticipated in the Old Testament.  What has begun to be shown is that Christ’s relationship to the New Covenant is, for all intents and purposes, one of identity (Isa. 42:6; 49:8).  This identity ensures that the terms of the covenant-making God will all be satisfied, clearing the way for the eventual fulfillment of the other everlasting covenants.

Several pertinent matters remain to be addressed, but I’m going to rest content for a while in the knowledge that the prominence of the Messianic idea in the Old Testament has been the subject of numerous fine studies (like those of Walter Kaiser and Alec Motyer, though many studies abandon grammatico-historical interpretation to “find” Christ in unlikely places).

Added to this, in the last article I commented on Meredith Kline’s teaching that the pre-incarnate Son was within the Glory-cloud at the creation and was the archetype for the image which Adam and Eve received from God.  Though somewhat speculative, there is enough textual and theological traction in the idea to warrant serious reflection.

But whatever we make of Kline’s proposal, the central thought of the Old Testament Messianic idea is what we might call a compulsory incarnation.  For without God becoming a man, man cannot become man – for he cannot become what he was created to be.  Both man and the environment God made for him must be renewed.  Here is Job:

And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. 26 “Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; 27 Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes shall see and not another…  (Job 19:25-27)

The Redeemer of man will stand on this earth (whether this is interpreted as Job’s grave or the earth in general does not impact us either way).  Job is sure that his Vindicator will be seen by him at a future day.  Is it too much to assume then that the Redeemer who will become flesh and dwell among us (Jn. 1:14), will assure that this event in Job’s life will occur at the second advent (cf. Acts 1:11)?  It didn’t happen at the first.

Incarnation and Resurrection

The incarnated Christ is resurrected.  This ties Him forever to the physical realm, in prospect of a paradisaical material reality, yet in this creation before its destruction and replacement by the New.  Therefore the physical is guaranteed.  It is to be taken up in the eternal, because Jesus Christ is Himself physical.  Indeed, this is a critical component of Christ’s teaching.  Observe the contrast between the present age and the age to come in our Lord’s answer to the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection:

And Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 “But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 “nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. (Lk. 20:34-36)

The passage speaks about those who in the resurrection will not marry, but our concern is just with the clear contrast between the two ages: in “that age”; the age of resurrection, the “sons of the resurrection” have eternal life as regenerated soul is joined to regenerated body (there is no incongruity between this passage and belief in a Mediatorial Millennial Kingdom before the New Creation).

We are to see the incarnation not merely in terms of the first advent, but perhaps more so in therms of the second advent.  Though the sacrifice for sin is paid at the Cross and our hope was sealed when Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended on high for us, the full results of the first coming are not realized until Jesus comes again.  The Apostle has this in mind in 1 Corinthians 15:22-23 where he states,

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming.

At the institution of the Lord’s Supper Jesus alluded to the physicality of the future kingdom when He will eat and drink with His own as the new Adam:

Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 “for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 “for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (Lk. 22:15-18).

The “kingdom of God” is not in this passage an “already” phenomenon.  It is connected to Christ’s coming again, and what Jesus calls among other things, “the age to come” (Lk. 18:30), and “the resurrection,” and so is comparable with Luke 20:34-36 and 1 Corinthians 15:22-23.  Once resurrection is linked to the incarnation the Christ-centered plan of God, which was from the beginning, comes more distinctly into the picture.

Consider this:

Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed You.” 29 So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 “who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Lk. 18:28-30)

Notice there is a continuity between material things which may have to be forsaken now (house, parents, etc.), and the eternal life “in the age to come.”  One may counter that “eternal life” does not necessarily include any of the material blessings mentioned in in verse 29, but the Jewish hearers would have understood “the age to come” in that integrated way (Lk. 19:11; Acts 1:6).  Notice also that “the kingdom of God” is coterminous with the promise of eternal life in “the age to come.”  From this vantage point Jesus’ promise in John 6:40 takes on a “this worldly” aspect, providing we add that “this world” is to be regenerated (Matt. 19:28. Cf. Acts 3:19, 21).  John quotes the Lord as saying,

For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (Jn. 6:40)

Eternal life; resurrection; the last day; the age to come; the kingdom; the regeneration.  These are all essentially linked to the Risen and Returning Christ, who is the covenant God of the Old Testament, and who will bring about all that He has promised to those to whom it is promised.  And He will do it by restoring everything in Himself as the New Covenant Incarnate.

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