Photo credit: Jon Imhoff, Glacier National Park,

Gospel as Peace

Final Part

In his book “Surprised by Scripture,” N. T. Wright has a fantastic chapter; “Jesus is Coming — plant a Tree.” He describes this hope of renewal when God’s people will live on the renewed earth in peace with one another and with creation itself.

“‘When Christ shall come,’ we sing in a favorite hymn, ‘with shout of acclamation, and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.’ What we ought to sing is, ‘When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation, and heal this world, what joy shall fill my heart.’ In the New Testament the Second Coming is not the point at which Jesus snatches people up, away from the earth, to live forever with him somewhere else, but the point at which he returns to reign not only in heaven but upon the earth.”[1]

The new creation God is wielding through Jesus is a wonder surpassing even that of Eden. Violence between God’s creatures and creation has no place there.

“The Liberation of creation is to happen at the end of history, when Christian believers will attain their full salvation in the glory of the resurrection. . . . Like the Kingdom of God, we cannot achieve the liberation of creation but we can anticipate it.”[2]

The Bible gives a meta-narrative, but its way of telling the story is often through symbolism, mythologized or parabolic form, and falls outside the kind of reality that includes static knowledge.[3]

Bauckham summarized the meta-narrative[4] in this way: it is the story of humanity and all the nations that comprise it. This story involves God’s chosen clan whose objective was to model a proper community of faith. The story takes a large step forward in the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus. The story as a whole then expanded to include the rest of the nations within this community, as originally intended. Through Jesus, as idealized Israel and humanity, God has inaugurated the new creation and revealed that restoration is on its way.

“What we can know from the Bible’s prophetic visions is that it is a new future for the whole creation, not just for humans.”[5]

We are able to anticipate this kingdom, but it does not mean taking preemptive measures regarding God’s eschatological action. Establishing the kingdom in its universal fullness is God’s prerogative.[6]

Heaven is neither our inheritance nor our hope. The “gospel” has often been reduced merely to “accepting Jesus” as Lord for the purpose of entering into personal salvation and thereby leaving the body and corporeal reality upon death. This is borderline Gnosticism.[7] Thus, sharing the “gospel” with someone is giving them the “secret knowledge” by which they too can escape “hell” and flee into an eternal heavenly bliss. I suggest that this paradigm misses the whole intended point and purpose of our participation in this good creation.

“Our inheritance is the whole renewed, restored creation . . . the whole world is now God’s holy land. That is how Paul’s retold Exodus narrative makes full and complete sense.”[8]

I love the way Wright framed it in another place,

“We find, not ransomed souls making their way to a disembodied heaven, but rather the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth, uniting the two in a lasting embrace.”[9]

God introducing shalom into chaos is a theme found throughout the Bible. At creation, the earthlings are made from the ground and placed in a garden to manage, enjoy and dwell with God in an intimate environment. As the narrative depicts, God dwelt with humanity in perfection, everything was right. There was safety and shalom, no fear or violence; everything was in its proper sphere. Humanity chose to rebel, but God continues the work toward restoration. Jesus, through obedience, [10] has become the ultimate ruler, mediator and high Priest of God’s kingdom. This is our hope: if God raised Jesus, we too can be raised.[11]

“The task of creating communities where shalom is lived out may not be easy, but we can know whether or not we are successful in our efforts. How can a community tell if it is practicing shalom? Fortunately, a consistent standard is given throughout the sacred Scriptures. Shalom is always tested on the margins of a society and revealed by how the poor, oppressed, disempowered, and needy are treated.”[12]

As Christians, may we strive to do everything in our power to defeat chaos with shalom, but leave the rest to God. We can pray as though everything were dependant upon God, but we must act as though it is dependant on us. Fear is powerful, but it is no match for hope.

[1] N. T. Wright, Surprised By Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues (New York, NY.: HarperOne, 2014), 102.

[2] Bauckham 2010, 99–100.

[3] Ibid., 143.

[4] Ibid., 144.

[5] Ibid., 125.

[6] Ibid.

[7] The view of a “lesser God” within the Hebrew Bible as a mean, violent God contrasted with Jesus, the meek and mild peace-loving savior is stronger in some Protestant traditions than others.

[8] Ibid., 93.

[9] N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope (London: SPCK, 2007), 26.

[10] Acts 2; Phil 2; Heb 5.

[11] Acts 17; 2 Cor 4:14.

[12] Randy Woodley, Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision (Grand Rapids, MI.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2012), 15.