10. Evangelism offers people salvation as a present gift and with it assurance of eternal bliss.
“People are, even without realizing it, desperately searching for a meaning to life and history; this impels them to look for a sign of hope amid widespread fear of global catastrophe and meaninglessness.”
–Bosch, Transforming Mission, p. 414
The present gift of the divine life
Postmodern existence is a battle against two fronts. Personally, there is the question of the meaning of life. Because postmodern culture has eschewed absolute truth, it has exposed human society to irrelevance, uncertainty, and absurdity. Without the gospel, the basic and inescapable human condition is vanity. Without the gospel, there is no escape velocity great enough to break free of the gravitational pull of this black hole.
Actually, the void is within us. God has put eternity in our hearts. There is a restless aspiration within the human spirit for the eternal God and His eternal purpose. Even if it’s buried under intellectual pretense or willful rebellion, the tug of eternity is still felt. This is because man was made for God.
Consider these verses:
For thus says the high and exalted One, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I will dwell in the high and holy place, and with the contrite and lowly of spirit… –Isa. 57:15
He has made everything beautiful in its own time; also He has put eternity in their heart… –Eccl. 3:11
That Christ may make His home in your hearts through faith… –Eph. 3:17
The God who inhabits eternity put eternity in man’s heart so that one day He could inhabit man.
Within man there is something that corresponds to God in nature (spirit) and capacity (eternal). When someone repents and believes in the gospel, Christ cleanses them of their sins and enters into them to be their life. The God who is Spirit inhabits the human spirit. The eternal God (Rom. 16:26) fills the eternal void within man and brings eternal satisfaction and meaning. The present gift of the gospel is the present enjoyment of eternal life (Rom. 6:23).
“Eternal life is the present actual possession of the believer because of his relationship with Christ.”
— W. E. Vine, on zoe
The assurance of eternal bliss
The second front that postmodern existence battles is the illusion of progress in society and history. Both technological evolution and political revolution have failed to produce a new humanity or eliminate the evils of society. Fallen man refuses to admit that any problem is unsolvable. Given enough time, research, funding, and collaboration we assume that we can fix anything. This is essentially belief in humanity as savior.
However, right along side the track record of technological progress is its dark shadow:
“Most disturbing of all are the problems on the spot, as they are seen–for instance–in a city like New York, where the menace looming over all urban agglomerations is strikingly displayed: behind the most imposing skyline in the world an apparently infinitely expanding urban landscape with ever increasing air pollution, putrid water, rotting streets, traffic congestion, shortage of dwelling space, rising rents, the noise of traffic and all the uproar of civilization, health hazards, mounting aggression and crime, larger ghettos, more acute tensions between races, classes, and national groups. In any case this is hardly the “secular city” which theologians dreamed up at the beginning of the sixties.”
–Hans Küng, On Being a Christian, p. 40
This was something I really felt when I was in São Paulo and Rio this summer.
Konrad Lorenz goes on to list civilized man’s eight deadly sins:
- Devastation of the environment
- Man’s race against himself
- Entropy of feeling
- Genetic decay
- The break with tradition
- Nuclear weapons
Clearly man’s tenuous existence is threatened by his own progress. Bosch concludes that “progress was, in effect, a false god” (p. 363).
Through the gospel, God promises to bring in His kingdom to earth and solve the problems of human society. In the words of Watchman Nee, human society is like an old, sinking ship that can’t be salvaged. “We give up the ship and save only the men… Besides, our Shipowner is building a bigger ship, a brand new one. That is the one we look forward to (Normal Christian Faith, p. 178).” The kingdom of God will not arrive on Air Force One. The kingdom of God does not come through political reform. We should pray for our country and our leaders, but we should direct our hope for the world to Christ’s second coming.
And the seventh angel trumpeted; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever. –Rev. 11:15
While the Lord’s return will remedy every societal ill through the advent of His kingdom reign, the bliss that the Lord’s return will bring is not merely the material bliss of an earthly paradise. It is not the superficial, anthropocentric conception of heaven some Christians entertain. It is a bliss (enjoyment) that is centered in the Triune God and our consummate participation in Him and His fulfilled purpose. We will glorify HIM and enjoy HIM forever, not just enjoy blessings FROM Him.