The Kingdom of God: Now or Later or Both?

3. “Now but not yet” – Is this the best unifying concept to sum up the life of God’s people in the present age?

This exam response will discuss whether the phrase “Now, but not yet” is the best concept to sum up the age in which Christian’s live in. As Christians there is no doubt there are expectations of the future and the full unveiling of the Kingdom of God is not yet completed. This response will show a) that through his life, death and resurrection Jesus established a Kingdom that is incomplete on Earth. It will discuss b) a biblical perspective of the future completion of the Kingdom of God and conclude that there is an overlap in the ages, which means Christians both live in the Kingdom of God and are waiting for the completion of that Kingdom in accordance with the scriptures.

Through the life of Jesus Christ we can see the inauguration of the Kingdom of God ‘now’. Jesus was the kingdom in person. He was the temple of God on Earth. (Jn 2:19-21) The kingdom that was promised in the Old Testament comes to actuality in the person of Jesus, but He didn’t stay on earth for long. Christ was raised in glory to be with the Father and continue his reign. Thus He sent the Holy Spirit while Christians wait for his return.[1] The ascension of Jesus, and the sending of the Holy Spirit marks the overlap of the ages.[2]

Christians are victorious now by being re-born in Christ’s victory on the Cross and also His resurrection. Christians have been raised with God in this age. God is working within us now, changing and conforming Christians into His image and likeness. Christians have access to the father now because Christ is reigning King today.

These present and earthly expressions of the kingdom are imperfect and incomplete.[3] The human experience is defined with suffering (Rom 18:19), Christians continually displease God (Gal 5:17), Christians haven’t yet reached glory as God intends (Eph 4:15). There is a day where God’s future will be fully realised and perfected.

So then, Christians are compelled to think of the Kingdom also in terms of the ‘not yet’. It will be consummated on Christ’s return. Jesus will judge the living and the dead. At this point the kingdom reign and kingdom realm will become one. ‘Both-And’[4]

The bible uses certain passages to describe what the Kingdom of God will look like in the future. There is a Old Testament theme of ‘prophecy and fulfilment’ as the scriptures are a linear historical progression. The theme is best described as ‘a movement from creation to new creation’. We find in the Old Testament a prophetic eschatology, as in Isaiah 2:4.[5] This passage, along with others, is focused around the themes of God the King,  the new temple of Jerusalem, a new people with a new heart of flesh, a new land and a perfect union with the King where obedience is also central. Prophetic eschatology is understood by looking back to the garden of Eden in order to show what the future Kingdom of God will look like.

The New Testament has a different eschatological approach but draws identical conclusions. Goldsworthy surmises the New Testament eschatology by saying that the emphasis of the kingdom is no longer on the temple, but on the person of Jesus. Wherever He is, the Kingdom is.[6] Although the emphasis is switched, the theme of God as King is still present.  Phrases such as Kingdom of God’s beloved Son,[7] Kingdom of God,[8] Kingdom of Glory,[9] Kingdom of Christ,[10] show that the Kingdom is described less with land and more with emphasis on Jesus.

Further to this in the gospels Jesus shows that the kingdom of is both near and hear. This is done through his miracles, reign over nature and demons and the forgiveness of sins.

In conclusion through both the New and Old Testaments Christians can visualize what the Kingdom of God will look like. From our human experiences of this world it is clear that the fullness of God’s Kingdom is not upon us. Although we have already experienced Christ’s saving grace and justifying forgiveness; and although we have the Holy Spirit as our present counsel, Christians still look forward to a time where the fullness and completion of God’s Kingdom will be a present reality.


[1] G. Goldsworthy, According to Plan, (InterVarsity Press, 2002) p.212

[2] G. Goldsworthy, Kingdom of God, p.620

[3] G. Goldsworthy, Kingdom of God, p.620

[4] G. Goldsworthy, Kingdom of God, p.620

[5]  see also: Ezek 34, 11:19; Is 65; Jer 31; Joel 2:28-32

[6]  G. Goldsworthy, According to Plan, p.213

[7] Col 1:13

[8] Col 4:11; Rom 14:17; 1Cor 4:20

[9] 1Thes 2:12

[10] Eph 5:5; 2Pet 1:1; Rev 11:15

The Intermediate State: Where do Christians go when they die?

2.What happens to the individual person between death and the return of Christ, in the case of Christian believers?

This exam response will briefly discuss what happens to a Christian believer after they die for the period of time between their death and the return of Jesus Christ. It is beneficial to understand that in the beginning humans where created by God made up from a spirit and body which were tightly joined together. (Gen 2:7) Death was not in God’s plan for the perfect creation, and is directly a result of sin. (Gen 2:17; Rom 5:12) The death of a Christian believer results in a separation of the body and soul.[1] (Ecc 12:7 & Luk 23:43). This time of separation is commonly referred to as the ‘intermediate state’.

From our earthly experience we can deduce that the body is destroyed after death. The question that remains is what happens to the human spirit. For the Christian believer, the bible’s emphasis of the state of the soul after death is always positive. There is no hint of suffering, evil, sin or persecution. (Rev 6:10 and 7:15ff).

While the scriptures don’t spell out in detail what the intermediate state will encompass, the focus is on the fact that Christian believers are going to be with Christ. The key term is ‘with the Lord’. (i.e. Phi 1:23)

Paul’s writings are often positive about the intermediate state and there is also a sense of incompleteness. The vibe is that there is still something incomplete. Despite this incompleteness the soul is undoubtedly in heaven, with God. (2Cor 5:1-10).

The bible doesn’t lead the Christian believer to expect a gap between earth and heaven. This would exclude the idea of purgatory of which the Roman Catholics petition.

The bible teaches that Christian believers are not conscience in the intermediate state, but does suggest that those who have died or ‘gone to sleep’ are in heaven with Christ. Christians are taught that Christ will bring them with Him when he returns for final judgement. (1Thes4:14).  This raises the question of what ‘joys’ the Christians will experience. J.N. Darby fervently advocates immediate joy for the Christian after death.[2] Darby is often criticised for his dispensational views, although this is the case he helpfully differentiates between the intermediate and eternal states of the Christian after death. He argues that the bible never talks about spirits or souls being glorified. He shows that the human soul is not fully glorified after death, but that glorification is saved for the final judgment and reuniting of body and spirit. Darby suggests that there is an immediate joy for the Christian after death.[3] Others would interpret ‘gone to sleep’ as a death with a lack of conscience and therefore no human emotion.

To what end the human emotions are experienced is open for interpretation however we can conclude that after death, the Christian believer’s spirit is in heaven, with the Lord, waiting for Christ’s return and the final judgement where he and his body will be reunited and glorified for eternity. (Heb 12:23, . 2CO 5:1, Phil 1:23; Acts 3:21, Eph 4:10, John 5:21-30).


[1] M. Driscoll & G. Breshears, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe, (Crossway, 2010) pp.409-410

[2] J.N. Darby, The State of the Soul After Death, (T. Weston Publishers, 1910)

[3]J.N. Darby, The State of the Soul After Death, , (T. Weston Publishers, 1910)

Salvation: Catholic vs. Protestant

1. Outline the key differences between the classical Protestant understanding of “salvation” and the official Roman Catholic understanding. (i.e. the official position of the Vatican, rather than informal-level popular Roman Catholicism).

 This response will quickly discuss the viewpoints of the Roman Catholic Church and the classical Protestant understanding of salvation. For the purposes of this response salvation will be referred to in terms God reuniting his people to himself through the forgiveness of sins and the giving of righteousness. This is achieved through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This essay will discuss the view points on the human portion of responsibility in salvation.

 The official Roman Catholic understanding is that the initial responsibility of salvation is God’s. He’s grace empowers man to respond to that grace. A man can respond and add to or detract from the work that God has done, not only for himself, but for his family and community thereafter.

 The traditional reformed view commences the same as the Roman Catholic, in that salvation is a choice of God, not of man (Eph 2:5; 2Thess. 2:13; Tit 2:11). God chose before creation, with no regard to man’s actions or thoughts, who would and wouldn’t be saved. The reformed view differs as salvation is never regarded as a human right or achievement, (Rom 3:20; Eph 2:8-9; Titus 3:5)[1] rather it was fully achieved by Jesus by shedding his blood on the cross (Mk 14:24; Rom 5:9).

 Roman Catholicism believe that the response to God’s grace is displayed in Holy Sacraments. The sacraments are a sign of God’s grace. When faithfully celebrating the sacraments award the grace that they signify.[2]

 The Roman Catholic Church states that baptism is an essential part of salvation. Through baptism the grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us.[3] We should follow the example of our lord as he voluntarily submitted himself to baptism, which was intended for sinners in order to “fulfil all righteousness.”[4]

 Although the initial responsibility of salvation is God’s, when receiving the sacraments the outcome of the sacraments (God’s grace) will depend on the nature and character of the recipient.[5] Further, the Roman Catholic church says that if one lives a sacramental life, it is the sacraments that unite the recipient in a divine union with Jesus as their Saviour. Therefore the Roman Catholic church insists that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.[6]

This view of sacramental response stands in contrast to the Reformed view, even where human responsibility is stressed in the response to salvation, the emphasis always falls back to the saving works of Jesus Christ. No amount of praying, baptising, repenting or performing charitable deeds will increase the effectiveness of God’s grace upon one’s soul. Unlike the Roman Catholic view baptism is not a means of salvation, but it is a sign pointing to the covenant grace of Jesus Christ.[7]

Although The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the pathway to eternal life is supernatural and depends entirely of God’s gratuitous initiative[8] it clearly shows that justification establishes the mutual work of God’s grace and man’s actions. (1993). It says that grace is bound with the participation in the life of God (1997).

The most pivotal point in the salvation process for the reformed Christian is undoubtedly justification. The reformed view of salvation revolves heavily around God pardoning our sins and granting us an undeserved righteousness. The reformed view emphatically states that God does all the work in the salvation process from beginning to end. There is no contribution or mutual work involved. We are made right with God by His grace and it is the power is God’s mercy, not our works that fuels the process. (Titus 3:5-7)

The Roman Catholic idea of mutual salvation is highlighted by the fact that men are taught they can earn extra favour, (or lack thereof, that needs to be worked off by others), by either good or bad actions, not only for themselves, but also for their community. This is called ‘merit’.[9] According to the Catholic church the graces needed for sanctification can be merited for ourselves and for others. We can merit extra grace and love for the attainment of eternal life.[10]

 For the reformed believer God does all the work in salvation in enabling men to have faith,[11] and men are required to respond with repentance. Repentance is the changing of attitude towards God’s will with a behavioural change that follows.[12] Any good action that a Christian performs for themselves or their community is deemed to be in response to the saving work already completed in their lives by Jesus Christ. The reformed view is that a Christian’s good works point other people to Jesus Christ, rather than earning extra merit for themselves or for others.

Another contrasting point between the two views is ‘why Christians are saved?’ For the Roman Catholic church the outcome of salvation is heaven. The catechism describes heaven as ‘the ultimate end and fulfilment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.’[13]  This is essentially saying that we should expect heaven to be a glorious magnification of the things we like on Earth. Christians after death are perfectly purified and live forever with Christ. They become like God and live eternally.[14] They reign with Christ forever and ever and their job is to fulfil God’s will in relation to other men and to all creation.[15]

 As for the traditional reformed view the Westminster Shorter Catechism makes it clear that our purpose, on earth and in heaven, is to glorify God and enjoy Him. This is adequately proven with scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 10:31, Psalm 73:24-26 and John 17:22,24. The two views on why Christians are saved share the fact that salvation is eternal, and our job is to serve God. However the Roman Catholic view is man-centric and the reformed view is God-centric.

 To surmise, the official Roman Catholic view of salvation is that through Jesus, God has done the initial work that is required to be saved unto eternal life, however this must be followed up by a response of sacraments and merit. The Catholic view becomes Jesus, plus works. Whereas the traditional reformed view shows that it is God’s predetermined grace that enables man to have faith. This faith is displayed to the world by obedience to God’s will with the intention of displaying his glory, both here, and when we die in heaven. The reformed view equates to a Jesus only salvation.


[1] M.J. Harris, Salvation, p.764

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church – Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Citta del Vaticano 1993 (as found online: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM) (para. 1127) Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1605; DS 1606.

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church (para.1987)

[4] Catechism of the Catholic Church (para.1224)

[5] Catechism of the Catholic Church (para.1128)

[6] Catechism of the Catholic Church (para.1129)

[7] Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) XXVIII.1

[8] Catechism of the Catholic Church (para.1998)

[9] Catechism of the Catholic Church (para.2006)

[10] Catechism of the Catholic Church (para.2010)

[11] Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) XIV.1

[12] M.J. Harris, Salvation, p.764

[13] Catechism of the Catholic Church (para.1024)

[14] Catechism of the Catholic Church (para.1023)

[15] Catechism of the Catholic Church (para.1029)

Being a Good Wife 101: Paul’s Love-triangle of GRACE

Ephesians 5:21-28

It is Christ’s empowering GRACE that holds a MARRIAGE together… the result… is a MARRIAGE that REFLECTS the GLORY of GOD.

Someone suggested to me the other day that the Lord of the Rings had a love triangle… I didn’t pick it at first but there is definitely some love triangulating between Frodo, Golem and The Ring. Love-triangles end in disaster. Someone always gets hurt. Especially in The Lord of the Rings… Frodo loses a finger, the Ring is finally destroyed and Golem ends up medium to well-done.

But would you believe me if I told you that Paul tells us that there is a love triangle that should be in every marriage? Paul teaches that each marriage should have a healthy, biblical love triangle with GRACE as its foundation. It’s Jesus Christ’s GRACE that enables husbands and wives to love each other.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. (Eph 5:22)

Paul is teaching that in order that wives submit to their husbands they must first submit to Christ. That wives should submit their husbands as to CHRIST. So what does submitting to a husband as to Christ look like for a woman?

The problem is this … two of the three people tangled in this love triangle are self seeking, greedy sinners. And the third, well He is nothing less than PERFECT!

It’s pretty unfair that wives are asked to submit everything to someone who is going to continually let them down. Let me use myself to paint a picture: I am often late. I am easily angered. I am tempted and often fall into sin. I am forgetful. (That’s my wife’s pet hate: My forgetfulness)… [Pause] Rarely I fail to love my wife but Often I fail to love her just as Christ loved the church. The list of my shortcomings is endless. What’s incredible is my wife is asked to submit everything to me as she would to Christ… now that is massive. The husband is not Christ. I am not Christ. Christ is perfect. The husband is a sinner. So why does Paul ask wives to submit to sinful husbands?

The answer is Grace. Undeserved forgiveness. A wife has to show her husband GRACE when he fails. GRACE empowers the wife to submit to her husband even when he is unworthy of submission. Christians we are supposed to reflect the image of God. And in our marriage it’s no different. By showing GRACE to her husband a wife reflects the GRACIOUS glory of God.

What does this mean? What does it mean to show your husband GRACE? Well just because a husband is a dirty-rotten sinner, it doesn’t mean that his wife no longer has to submit to him. What Paul doesn’t say is ‘wives submit to your husbands while they are doing a great job at reflecting Christ’s glory’ but rather ‘just as you submit to Christ, also submit everything to your husband’.

You see it’s like this. Wives need to experience Christ’s grace toward themselves, and REFLECT that GRACE to their husbands. Did you get that? Wives need to submit to Christ, experience His grace towards themselves, and reflect that GRACE to their husbands while also submitting to them.

It is Christ’s empowering GRACE that holds a MARRIAGE together… the result… is a MARRIAGE that REFLECTS the GLORY of GOD.When a woman places herself at the foot of the cross, it makes her husband’s job ten times easier. When a woman first trusts the Lord, only then she can then fully trust her husband. If she doesn’t fully trust the Lord then she will be bitterly disappointed when her husband continually lets her down. But if she trusts and submits to the Lord, she is then empowered to reflect Christ’s mercy to her husband when he inevitably fails. Let me say that in another way. A wife’s job is to reflect Christ’s mercy and grace to her husband.

Being a Good Husband 101: Paul’s Love-triangle of GRACE

Ephesians 5:21-28

It is Christ’s empowering GRACE that holds a MARRIAGE together… the result… is a MARRIAGE that REFLECTS the GLORY of GOD.

Would it surprise you that unlike the popularised unhealthy love-triangles we see in the media, Paul teaches that each marriage should have a healthy, biblical love triangle with GRACE as its foundation.

In Ephesians 5:22 (and following) Paul is teaching how husbands and wives should relate to each other. Jesus Christ is supposed to be the head of every marriage. And it’s Jesus Christ’s GRACE that enables husbands and wives to love each other.

So what are men told to do? Well it almost sounds easy… Paul says LOVE YOUR WIVES. But how does our love as a 21st century men compare to the perfect example of love that’s found in Jesus? Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… (Eph 5:25)

Do you ever imagine your wife being attacked and you boldly standing up for her. Or a car veers off the road and you push her out of the way to be crushed yourself? I do. But how often do we get the chance to love our wives like that? If taking a bullet for our wife isn’t what Paul’s on about, then what does he mean by lay your life down for your wife?

One of the biggest misconceptions that men take into marriage is that it’s the man’s job to change his wife. And it’s simply not true. Blokes have an in-built desire to control everything.  Paul teaches that men must love their wives to the point of giving themselves up. AND THAT’S ALL. Love your wife as you love yourself Paul says. Paul doesn’t say, Love your wife while she is perfectly submitting everything to you… but he simply says Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”

So practically, how are we supposed to love our wives? Well it all comes back to Paul’s love triangle of GRACE. Men, you need to first learn to be loved by Christ. Experience His gracious love for you. Then and ONLY THEN can you show that love to your wives. As husbands we need to reflect on Christ’s love for us, and deflect that love toward our wives.

We need to take a vertical experience with God, and shoot that out as a horizontal experience with our wives. Men need to submit to Christ, and learn how to rely on his GRACE and MERCY. Then once you experience that gracious love of Christ, you can reflect it to your wives.

We can find the perfect model for love and submission in Jesus Christ. And that model is best displayed His relationship to the church. Christ is supposed to be the head of the marriage union. I urge you all, whether married, soon to be married, or hoping to one day be married. Keep the word of God at the center of your life, and continually submit yourselves to the Lord, and love the Lord because He is the head of the church, and your marriage. It is Christ’s empowering GRACE that holds a MARRIAGE together… and the result?… the result is a MARRIAGE that REFLECTS the GLORY of GOD.

Preaching Portfolio Piece

For my bible college preaching portfolio, I was asked to write a short piece in common spoken form. Hopefully it reads as if I were speaking.

G’day. In 2010 I was sent to Afghanistan as an Army Medic. One of the more nerve racking experiences was waiting on the flight line for the sick and wounded to arrive by chopper. This would happen a few times a week. We’d wait as a team; ready to move a patient from the chopper and take them to the hospital. It was a 300m drive in the back of an ambulance. We never knew what to expect, usually we’d receive a couple of details about the injuries by radio. But it was never enough to give us a full picture.

Picture this: All we know is that an enemy soldier has been shot and he is inbound. And we know he’s in a bad way.  Finally, I can see the chopper coming. My adrenaline kicks in as the noise becomes deafening. I have to brace myself against the gust from the chopper’s blades. We lower our safety glasses and once the chopper is on the ground we go get the patient from the flight medics. As the side door of the chopper opens we see a medic bouncing up and down on the enemy’s chest. They’re doing CPR. He’d died during the flight. Our orders say we can’t stop treatment yet.

Patients who had died during a flight have to get 15 minutes of life support when they land. Only then can we say that the patient has died.

My heart is now pounding. My job is to help carry the stretcher from the chopper to the ambulance. After the short trip to the hospital I am working with a team of doctors, nurses and medics to help save his life. My next task is to get a cannula in his arm so the doc can pump in drugs to try and restart his heart. For those who don’t know a cannula is the little plastic valve used to put medicine straight into a patient’s blood. Yeah I reckon landing a good cannula in someone’s arm is pretty easy… unless someone is bouncing on their chest – shaking their limbs everywhere. Or they’re dead and have no blood flowing through their veins. Lucky for me I hit the flat vein and land the cannula first shot. The doc is impressed.

When the dust had settled we found a gunshot wound to his shoulder. And an artery had been split. The guy had no chance, he’d lost too much blood. You know… it was then that I realised that the guy had no hope. Nothing I could do could save his life. And to be honest I felt pretty useless as a medic. Even though he was an enemy, I felt sorry because chances were he’d never had the chance to meet Jesus.