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Cruciformity or Idolatry: Reflections on Michael Gorman’s “Counter-Imperial Theoformity”

I. Turning from Idols to the True and Living God (I Thes. 1.9b)

People are not their positions. Positions are ideological affirmations a person holds at a give time, but which a person can also renounce or just grow out of. If you have been journeying on a theological pilgrimage for any significant amount of time, your positions have no doubt evolved. If they haven’t, I would question how critically you’ve examined those beliefs, and whether you’ve interacted with the best alternative views.

It is not a shameful thing to renounce mistaken or inferior position in favor of superior and more accurate ones. Yet, for some, it is resisted as if it meant one is weak or simple-minded. Nothing could be further from the truth! It is the weak and simple-minded who cling to mistaken and inferior positions out of stubbornness, anxiety, or intellectual laziness.

One theologian for whom I have great respect is Clark Pinnock. I was first introduced to his thought through an essay he wrote called “From Augustine to Arminius: A Pilgrimage in Theology.” In this essay, he detailed his intellectual and spiritual journey away from New Calvinism (5-Point) [1] while a professor of theology in a seminary affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention which had recently taken a decidedly Calvinistic and Conservative turn. Pinnock’s journey toward a “true and living God” away from the static, “Unmoved Mover” of New Calvinism was inspirational to me and mirrored my own journey of theological exploration.

Pinnock was not afraid to acknowledge that his views had changed, and he was not afraid to admit they were still evolving—even until his last days in this age. Pinnock was not a coward; Pinnock was intellectually courageous!

Unfortunately, some people have a difficult time not over-identifying with their current positions. Often this is because there are relational and psychological reasons for the death-grip hold they have on their position. This stubborn and recalcitrant clinging can make fruitful discourse at best a minefield and at worst relationally fatal. The person with the death-grip hold on their cherished belief has made of their conception of God an idol that is praised in itself.

Idolatrous beliefs don’t necessarily make a person immoral or intellectually inferior. Idols happen when a person’s conception of God is not centered in the self-revelation of God in the Person of Jesus Christ—and particular on Jesus’s Cross. Good, well-intentioned Christians can easily hold idolatrous conceptions of God due to the pervasive and relentless influence of Western culture, which wars against a Crucified God. Nevertheless, our task as theologians is not to allow our particular cultural context to be determinative of our conception of God. Rather, we are to let the picture of God produced by Scripture, reason, experience, and tradition—the God self-revealed in the Crucified Messiah—to be determinative, supreme, and final.

II. Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology

Dr. Michael Gorman [2] is a celebrated theologian and prolific author. Among his many wonderful books are Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb Into the New Creation and Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross. One of his latest books is Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology (hereafter “Cruciform God”). [3]

In Cruciform God, Gorman thoroughly exegetes Philippians chapter 2, the famous hymn the apostle Paul includes in his letter to the Church at Philipi. This hymn is what Gorman calls Paul’s “Master Story,” [4] and Gorman believes Paul’s soteriology is primarily “narrative” in nature. In Cruciform God, Gorman demonstrates that in Paul’s narrative soteriology, justification by faith happens in the process of a person participating in the cruciform (cross-shaped) character and nature of God. And Gorman goes on to demonstrate that, since God is cruciform in Godself, this process of participating in “cruciformity” is also the process of becoming more like God—the ultimate expression of which is called “theosis.” Therefore, for Gorman, cruciformity is theoformity.

There is neither space nor time enough in this brief post to give this masterful work of Gorman’s the treatment it deserves. However, I do wish to outline an important section of the book which pertains to idolatrous conceptions of God, the cruciform God revealed in Christ, and what Gorman calls “counter-imperial theoformity.”

III. The Idol of “Normal” Divinity

One of Gorman’s contributions for which I am most grateful is the precision with which he pinpoints from whence idolatrous conceptions of God derive. He locates them in a conception of power that is corrupted by cultural influences. Because of the context of empire in which the world has been situated since Babylon, a default view of power has been associated with coercion and control. This conception of power has become intuitive” for most people because of empire.

For some Christians this conception of power is baptized and given the pious-sounding nickname “sovereignty” in a vein attempt to make it appear biblical. Nevertheless, Gorman rebukes those who claim we must hold God’s majesty “in tension” with the humility of God we see in Christ. Instead, Gorman claims the only majesty of God is precisely that which issues forth from the face of the Crucified Lord Jesus.

“Because God’s majesty and God’s relationality cannot be separated, we must understand God’s majesty in light of God’s revealed relationally. We do not simply hold majesty and relationally in tension; with Paul, we must see them in concert, a unison revealed in the power of the cross. God is not a god of power and weakness but the God of power in weakness.” (p. 33)

It is difficult to say it more succinctly and beautifully than this:

“The counterintuitive God revealed in Christ is kenotic and cruciform, the Eternal vulnerable and self-giving One, the God of power-in-weakness.” (p. 32)

But this vision of God is unattractive to those who idolize the power of empire. Such “Christians” don’t want a Crucified Lord, with all the suffering and pain it entails. No, they would like to skip that whole nasty episode in Jesus’s life. They claim to still be “Christ-centered” but by this they mean a generically broad idea of “Christ” which relativizes the Cross. Gorman addresses this directly:

“…the cross is not just one theophany among many; it is the definitive theophany… Unfortunately, however, the embedded theology of most Christians still revolves around a non-cruciform model of God’s power, and a crucial corrective is needed.” (p. 34)

Gorman does not mince words, a non-cruciform vision of God’s power is idolatrous. God in Christ did not endure the Cross as a superfluous exercise. No, as Gorman says, the Cross is the “definitive theophany“. This will no doubt chafe against those who still cling to the imperial vision of divine power, what Gorman calls the “idol of ‘normal’ divinity.”

“In light of [the counterintuitive kenotic character of the God of the Cross], we must affirm that the ‘normal’ ‘civil’ god of power and might is an idol, and it must be named as such. This god is not the Lord God revealed in Jesus Christ and narrated in the theopolitics of Phil. 2:6-11. […] military power is not the power of the cross, and such misconstrued notions of divine power have nothing to do with the majesty or holiness of the triune God known in the weakness of the cross. The ‘civil’ god, though perfectly ‘normal,’ is not only unholy; it is an idol.” (p. 34-35)

IV. Kenosis and Chalcedon

Some Christians have misunderstood kenosis (that powerful word found in Phil. 2). They have made it into a bogeyman word, a word that (for them) equals a “low Christology.” Gorman won’t let such misunderstand stand. In two ways, he expounds upon what it means for God to be kenotic. First, he explains that “kenotic” and “cruciform” are “inseparable and overlapping in meaning, though not quite synonymous.” [5] This means that to deny Christ’s kenosis is to deny Christ’s cruciformity. Since no Christian could nor world deny Christ’s suffering and death on the cross, the “kenosis” of Christ is likewise undeniable. Second, Gorman expounds upon the correspondence between cruciformity and kenosis:

“By ‘cruciform’ I do not mean that God is constrained in being or act by a particular (Roman) form of death, namely, crucifixion. Rather, I mean to say that because Paul’s understanding of God’s kenotic character is inseparable from the revelation of that character in Christ’s cross, we must define this divine kenosis with content derived from Paul’s narratives of the cross, especially voluntary rejection of power/privilege and humble self-giving.” (p. 28, footnote 67)

For Gorman, the divine kenotic character isn’t optional, but essential. The revelation of God in Christ’s Cross makes this so. Kenosis is not a sudden shift in God’s character. No, precisely the opposite! Kenosis is the expression of God’s eternal nature.

“Some may object […] that the assertion about God’s essential kenotic character limits God’s freedom, making kenosis a divine necessity rather than a free act of love and grace. While I want to maintain with the Christian tradition (and Paul) that God in Christ acts in freedom and grace, I also want to maintain (with Paul, I think) the corollary, if paradoxical, conviction that if the cross is theophantic, kenosis must be something other than one of several options on the divine table.” (p. 36, footnote 36)

Therefore, Gorman directly refutes the claim that a kenotic Christ (and a kenotic God) somehow violates the Chalcedonian definition (which its more fanatical proponents don’t realize is thoroughly paradoxical). He writes,

“Kenosis is the sine quo non of both divinity and humanity, as revealed in the incarnation and the cross of Christ, the one who was truly God and became truly human. His preexistent and incarnate actions […] had essentially the same character. As Chalcedonian and therefore anachronistic as this claim will sound to some, it seems to be the inevitable conclusion of the line of thought we have been pursuing; it is Chalcedon with a Pauline, cruciform twist.” (p. 36)

V. True Humanity as Counter-Imperial Theoformity

All of Gorman’s exegesis and theopolitical analysis leads him to view the process of becoming more like Jesus—being formed into the image of the Son—is the process of cruciformity, because the Son is essentially cruciform. But, further still, Gorman concludes that this process of becoming more cruciform is also simultaneously the process of becoming more fully human and more godly. For Gorman, the telos of humanity is theosis, as is customary in the Eastern traditions. This glorification is not found in some blissful indifference to suffering. Rather, it is found in the process of being molded into the image of the Crucified Messiah—the only perfect revelation of the Living God.

“To be fully human is to be Christlike and thus Godlike in this kenotic and cruciform sense. Cruciformity, it turns out, is really theoformity.” (p. 36)

Salvation/justification for Gorman is being caught up—participating—in the divine nature. This process of participation is precisely the same process of cruciformity and theoformity Paul’s been describing all along. “The emphasis [of theosis] is on transformation by union, or participation […] Kenosis is theosis. To be like Christ crucified is to be both most godly and most human. Christification is divinization, and divinization is humanization.” (p. 37)

This participative process—cruciformity, theoformity, theosis—is thereby the way Jesus-disciples resist conformity to the ‘pattern of this world’: the idolatrous vision of power created by empire. The community of Christ is the location where the Spirit of God forms Jesus-disciples into the image of the Son (cruciformity) who is the image of the Father (theoformity) whereby the sons and daughters of God are revealed in glorious transformation (theosis). “The goal of the Christian community is to allow the life and Spirit of this God, rather than the imperial spirit of domination and acquisition, to flow in and through it — to participate in God.” (p. 37)

VI. Conclusion: Salvation is Union with the Kenotic, Cruciform, Triune God

The telos of humanity is to be united with the God whose very nature is revealed definitively and finally on the Cross of Christ. Christ has shown us the character and nature of God, and that character and nature is both kenotic and cruciform. Christ has also called us into participation in that character and nature—into cruciformity and therefore theoformity. Participation in the kenotic, cruciform nature of God is rejection and renunciation of the idolatrous gods of power worshipped by empire. Cruciformity is Counter-Imperial Theoformity.

“…because Paul says that Christ was in the form of God and that this equality with God was properly expressed through the kenosis of incarnation and crucifixion, we can say that the structure of [Phil. 2] is causative: ‘because…” Thus Paul compels us to rethink God and to speak of a cruciform God […]

The incarnation and cross manifest, and the exaltation recognizes, both Christ’s truth divinity and his true humanity, all of which leads us in a Chalcedonian direction, though with a Pauline (cruciform) twist. […]

We then contrasted this counterintuitive view of God with popular notions of divinity that focus on power, especially military power, and offered it as the foundation of a counter-imperial lifestyle. To be truly human is to be Christlike, which is to be Godlike, which is to be kenotic and cruciform. Theosis is the process of transformation into the image of this God.” (p. 39)

Praise and Glory, All Honor and Power be to the Kenotic, Cruciform God Revealed in the Cross of Christ! Amen!

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1. The tenets of New Calvinism can be summarized in the acronym T.U.L.I.P., which stands for: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints. For more on New Calvinism, see:

Against Calvinism by Roger Olson

– “The New Calvinism” by PBS [http://video.pbs.org/viralplayer/2365215800]

– “Young, Restless, Reformed” – [http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/september/42.32.html]

2. Michael J. Gorman is the Raymond E. Brown Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. He joined St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute of Theology faculty in 1991, becoming Associate Dean of the Ecumenical Institute and a member of the Seminary faculty in 1993. He was appointed Dean of the Ecumenical Institute in 1995 and served in that capacity through June of 2012. Prior to taking the Raymond E. Brown Chair, he was Professor of Sacred Scripture and, before that, Professor of New Testament and Early Church History.

Dr. Gorman is a New Testament scholar who specializes especially in the letters, theology, and spirituality of the apostle Paul. His additional specialties are the book of Revelation, theological and missional interpretation of Scripture, the gospel of John, and early Christian ethics. In addition, he has a strong interest in the relationship between church and culture.

Dr. Gorman earned his B.A. degree summa cum laude in French from Gordon College in Massachusetts. He received the M.Div. and the Ph.D. cum laude in New Testament from Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, where he was also a teaching fellow in New Testament and an instructor in New Testament Greek. He has also been a visiting professor at Duke Divinity School, Wesley Theological Seminary, and Mars Hill Graduate School.

3. Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology (Eerdmans, 2009).

4. Cruciform God, p. 2.

5. p. 10, footnote 6.

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Conquer Like the Lamb: Cruciform-centrism in Revelation (For Everyone) by N. T. Wright

For Christmas I was gifted with N. T. Wright’s “For Everyone” commentary set on the New Testament thanks to my wife and members of the New City Covenant church plant. THANK YOU!!! I’ve wanted this set of commentaries for my library for several years now, and it’s clear now that it was well worth the wait. Just as soon as all the shredded wrapping paper was collected and recycled, I was hard at work digesting the first book from the series I pulled from the shelf. I decided to start with Revelation. For one reason, I recently read Reversed Thunder by Eugene Peterson and loved it. 1 Also, having read a fair amount of Wright’s other work, I felt that Revelation might be where his theological insights would shine brightest—and I think I was right.

revelation_for_everyone_nt_wrightWright’s commentary on Revelation is excellent! It’s accessible, thorough yet brief, and clearly organized. Wright remains true to his signature areas of insight, expounding on the historical-cultural, as well as the socio-religio-political, contexts of the book; the Person of Jesus in relationship to Israel’s God (including, obviously, a healthy dose of insight from Second Temple Jewish theology); the nature of the Jesus Movement out of which this text emerges; and the nature of the ‘salvation’ this book (and the rest of the New Testament) proclaim. Wright’s unique perspective on justification makes a few important appearances, and his hallmark critique of Platonic dualism in Western visions of the afterlife also shows up from time to time. Even his now common exposés of violence and systemic injustice make their way into the book. This commentary has all the things which have made N. T. Wright one of my favorite theologians to read.

Above all, Wright’s commentary on Revelation is most praiseworthy for its explicit Cruciform-centrism. 2 Five discernible themes in Wright’s exposition of Revelation make this clear:

  1. Jesus is the Lamb at the Center of God’s Throne;
  2. The Powers War Against the Lamb, the Followers of the Lamb, and God’s Good Creation;
  3. The Lamb is Victorious Over the Powers in and Through the Cross;
  4. Jesus’s Bride Conquers Like the Lamb—Through Self-giving Love;
  5. God is Faithful to His Covenant Through the Lamb, the Followers of the Lamb, and New Creation

As Wright plainly states upfront: “…the whole point of the book. Jesus himself won the victory through his suffering, and so must his people.” – p.10

1. Jesus is the Lamb at the Center of God’s Throne

The first major theme Wright highlights in Revelation is John’s scandalous locating of Jesus within the divine identity. For John, Jesus is no demigod nor mere creature, Jesus is worthy of praise due only unto God Almighty. Commenting on chapter 1, verses 9 through 20, Wright writes,

“When we are looking at Jesus, [John] is saying, we are looking straight through him at the father himself.” – p.8

“Throughout the book the focus has been on the uninhibited worship offered by the whole creation to ‘the One on the throne and the lamb’ (5.13). Jesus shares the throne of God; Jesus shares the worship which is due to the one God and him alone.” – p.170

“The lamb shares the praise which belongs to the one and only God. This is John’s way of glimpsing and communicating the mind-challenging but central truth at the heart of Christian faith: Jesus, the lion-lamb, Israel’s Messiah, the true man — this Jesus shares the worship which belongs, and uniquely and only belongs, to the one creator God.” – p.58

In classic Wright fashion, however, Jesus’s divinity is not simply formulated in vanilla, systematic language. No, Wright sticks close to text of both chapters 4 and 5, drawing out from them a more robust and biblical explanation for how Jesus and the creator God of Israel share the one divine identity—and what that means for “followers of the lamb.”

“But notice what this means. The affirmation of the full, unequivocal divinity of the lion-lamb comes, and only comes, in the context of the victory of God, through the lion-lamb, over all the powers of evil. It isn’t enough just to agree with the idea, in the abstract, that Jesus is, in some sense or other, God. (People often ask me, ‘Is Jesus God?’, as though we knew who ‘God’ was ahead of time, and could simply fit Jesus in to that picture.) God, as we have already seen in Revelation, is the creator, who is intimately involved with his world, and worshipped by that world. God has plans and purposes to deliver his world from all that has spoiled it; in other words, to re-establish his sovereign rule, his ‘kingdom’, on earn as in heaven. It is at the heart of those plans, and only there, that we find the lion-lamb sharing the throne of the one God. The church has all too often split off a bare affirmation of Jesus’ ‘divinity’ from an acceptance of God’s kingdom-agenda. To do so is to miss the point, and to use a version of one part of the truth as a screen to stop oneself from having to face the full impact of the rest of the truth. We discover, and celebrate, the divinity of the lion-lamb Messiah only when we find ourselves caught up to share his work as the royal priesthood, summing up creation’s praises before him but also bringing his rescuing rule to bear on the world.” – p.58-59

Wright’s criticism hits home. It is far too easy to talk about Jesus’s “divinity” in an abstract sense—distancing ourselves from our responsibility to embody Jesus’s Kingdom Way in and through our lives. It’s not enough for us to simply acknowledge Jesus’s divinity in theory, Wright is saying, we must also acknowledge Jesus’s divinity in practice.

2. The Powers War Against the Lamb, the Followers of the Lamb, and God’s Good Creation

The second theme Wright draws out from Revelation is the reality of opposition to God’s purposes. Revelation is full of “monsters” (as Wright calls them). The satan is depicted as a dragon, there is a monster that rises up out of the sea, and there is also a land monster. Together they form what Wright calls, an “Unholy Trinity,” “the ghastly combined parody of God, Jesus and the spirit.” (p.120)

Wright skillfully draws out the meaning of these apocalyptic images, and gives us much-needed insight into both the ancient world, as well as our contemporary world.

“The profound problems within that creation mean that the creator must act decisively to put things right, not because creation is bad and he’s angry with it but because it’s good and he’s angry with the forces that have corrupted and defaced it, and which threaten to destroy it (11.18)” – p.49

“The monster is Rome. Or rather, as we shall see, the monster is the dark power of pagan empire… John sees behind the pomp and purple to the dark spiritual reality of satanic rule which has enabled the empire to impose itself across so much of the world.” – p.116

“As often in the world of realpolitik, or underworld dealings, so in the world of spiritual warfare: the ultimate powers prefer not to show themselves, but to act through others. They choose secondary and tertiary intermediaries; they give them some of their power; they back them up where necessary. We are today perhaps more aware than some of our forebears of how what we call ‘dark forces’ go to work.” – p.115

This is not just a history lesson either. Wright draws the connection from the message of Revelation to the application for Christians and churches today.

“…the abiding and overriding lesson for the church, then and now, should nevertheless be clear. The brutal but seductive ‘civilizations’ and national empires, which ensnare the world by promising luxury and delivering slavery, gain their power from the monster, the System of Imperial Power. Some have called this ‘the domination system’, a system which transcends geographical and historical limitations and reappears again in every century.” – p.157

As usual, Wright challenges readers to overcome the compartmentalization that is part and parcel with modern Western culture, seeing instead that the ‘spiritual’ and ‘material’ realities of our world are interrelated. The message of Revelation applies just as much to the suburban U.S. homemaker unknowingly enslaved by the unseen system of materialistic idolatry as it is to the first-century pagan peasant consciously aware of her domination by Rome.

3. The Lamb is Victorious Over the Powers in and Through the Cross

The Good News is that the powers have been defeated! Try as they might to cling to the last vestiges of power, the forces of darkness have been conquered in principle by the powerful, self-sacrificial love of God demonstrated supremely in Jesus’s Cross.

“The reality is that the creator God and the lamb have already won the victory, the victory which means that those who follow the lamb are rescued from harm.” – p.73-74

“…the blood of the lamb, the sacrificial Passover-like death of Jesus himself, has rescued them from slavery to sin, making them able at once to stand in the presence of the living God.” – p.75

“John believed in the God of the Exodus, the God who sets slaves free. A huge amount of his book, as we have seen, was built up on the basis that what God did in Egypt he will do again, this time on a cosmic scale — and that the basic act of slave-freeing has already taken place with the sacrificial death of Jesus. ‘With your own blood you purchased a people for God’ (5.9). That’s Exodus-language, buying-slaves-to-set-them-free language. Now, John looks at Rome/Babylon and sees, with this mind’s eye, the slave-market.” – p.165

4. Jesus’s Bride Conquers Like the Lamb—Through Self-giving Love

God’s people, “followers of the lamb,” live like their Lamb-Shepherd, giving their lives away, courageous even unto death. Through their sacrifice, through their demonstrated love, they participate in the once-for-all victory of the lion-lamb, Jesus. This way of life is “cruciform”—a life shaped and molded by the power of Jesus’s Cross. In the same way Jesus humbled himself, served others, loved others, and gave his life for others, so too will his followers. And in so doing, they too will “conquer” the powers of death and hades. They too will participate in the victory of God over the dark forces of anti-creation!

“They are to ‘conquer,’ not by fighting back, but by following Jesus himself, who won the victory through his own patient suffering. Some in these churches will suffer. Some will die. All must bear patient witness to Jesus, thereby ‘conquering’ the evil forces that surround and threaten them.” – p.14

“We are told, again and again, that the lamb has conquered through his blood, his sacrificial death, and that his followers are to conquer in the same way.” – p.134

“The lamb has won the victory over the dragon and his sidekicks, through his own sacrificial death. Now he calls his people to put that victory into practice, by following him down the same path. Jesus had stressed this during his public ministry: if anyone wanted to come after him, they should deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him. Somehow, the way to victory is the way of the cross. It was strange and challenging then, and it is just as strange and challenging today.” – p.124

“For some reason, all those talks and sermons I used to hear never got around to the second half of the verse: ‘I will come in to them and eat with them, and they with me.’ No early Christian could have heard those words without thinking of the regular meal, the bread-breaking, at which Jesus would come powerfully and personally and give himself to his people. Such meals anticipate the final messianic banquet (see 19.9). They are advance ‘comings’ of the one who will one day come fully and for ever. Those who share this meal, and who are thereby strengthened to ‘conquer’ as Jesus ‘conquered’ through this death, will have the most extraordinary privilege. It is already quite mind-blowing to think of Jesus sharing the throne of God — though the early Christians saw this as the fulfillment of Psalm 110 and Daniel 7. But now it appears that ‘those who conquer’ are going to share Jesus’ throne as well. They will (that is) share his strange, sovereign rule over the world, the rule to which he came not by force of arms but by the power of suffering love.” – p.40-41

“What we are dealing with is several different angles of vision on the one single great reality: that through the awful turmoil and trouble of the world, God is establishing through Jesus a people who, following the lamb, are to bear witness to God’s kingdom through their own suffering, through which the world will be brought to repentance and faith, so that ultimately God will be king over all.” – p.103

“[Revelation] is not about private spirituality in the present, or an escapist ‘salvation’ in the future. [Revelation] is about the living God confronting the powers of the world with the news that he is now in charge, and that the mode of his rule is that which was established by ‘his Messiah’, the lamb. ‘Suffering love conquers all’ is the message, as powerful as it is unwelcome (unwelcome, sadly, all too often in the church, as well as in the world).” – p.104

“The heavenly reality of the victorious battle is umbilically joined to the earthly reality of the martyrs’ deaths. As followers of the lamb, they believe that they have already been saved by his blood, and that his self-giving to death is the pattern which they must now follow. And that is what wins the battle.” – p.112

5. God is Faithful to His Covenant Through the Lamb, the Followers of the Lamb, and Through New Creation

Death is not the final word for the followers of the Lamb. The Lamb is the Word of God made flesh, and he will have the final word!

God’s judgment is against all the powers of anti-creation, every force that would seek to deface or destroy God’s good world. God will not abandon creation; God will be faithful to his covenant promises and will reign and rule in justice.

God has sovereignly chosen to fulfill his covenant in and through his Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, and through Jesus’s disciples: the followers of the Lamb. In and through them, God will remake the world, he will re-establish his rule and reign on earth as it is in heaven.

“So many Christians have read John’s book expecting that the final scene will be a picture of ‘heaven’ that they fail completely to see the full glory of what he is saying. Plato was wrong. It isn’t a matter — it never was a matter — of ‘heaven’ being the perfect place to which we shall (perhaps) go one day, and ‘earth’ being the shabby, second-rate dwelling from which we shall be glad to depart for good. As we have seen throughout the book, ‘earth’ is a glorious part of God’s glorious creation, and ‘heaven’, though God’s own abode, is also the place where the ‘sea’ stands as a reminder of the power of evil, so much so that at one point there is ‘war in heaven’. God’s two-level world needs renewing in both its elements. But when that is done, we are left not with a new heaven only, but a new heaven and a new earth — and they are joined together completely for ever.” – p.187-188

“…the central reality of God’s future is Jesus himself, and because Jesus is not merely a future reality but the one who lived and died and rose again and even now reigns in glory and holds the seven stars in his hand, the reality of the new city, though still a matter of hope, is something to be glimpsed in the present, especially in the ways sketched throughout this book: worship and witness. The new city is not just a dream, a comforting future fantasy. Those who follow the lamb already belong in that city, and already have the right to walk its streets.” – p.195-196

“God’s generous love is the source and goal of all things. How can the city where he and the lamb are personally present be other than the great wellspring of life, flowing out to those who need it!” – p.199

“In the new creation, there is no room for anti-creation. In the world of life, there is no room for death.” – p.195

“It is from the city, the city where is the bride, the bride which is the lamb’s followers, that healing restorative stewardship is to flow. This is how the creator God will show, once and for all, that his creation was good, and that the himself is full of mercy.” – p.200-201

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all!

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1. Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination by Eugene Peterson.

2. “Cruciform-centrism” is a neologism combining “Cruciform” (shaped by or into the form of Jesus’s Cross) with “centrism” (to make central). By focusing his commentary around the centrality of the Church being formed into the image of Christ—particularly in his Cross-shaped, self-giving love—Wright’s book can aptly be called “Cruciform-centric.” For books on “cruciformity,” check out The Cruciform Church by C. Leonard Allen, Cruciformity and Inhabiting the Cruciform God by Michael Gorman. For more on “cruciform-centrism” check out my reflections on Revelation and Greg Boyd’s cruciform-centric hermeneutic, as well as Greg Boyd’s posts on making sense of the violent portraits of God in the Old Testament.

Photo credit for the lamb fountain: http://www.flickr.com/photos/twostoutmonks/ used in accordance with Creative Commons license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/