Having addressed theonomy (here and here), the Law of God, God’s rule over civil magistrates, and the Christian’s obligation to humbly submit to authority, we’ll now take a look at the Christian’s role in the culture, which could not be more essential to understand given the nations’ drunkenness with Babylon’s immorality.
It is difficult to know how to act if we do not know who we are. Paul makes a point of this in Romans 6 when he instructs the Christians, who are dead to sin, to act like they are dead to sin because it no longer has dominion over them. Similarly, how Christians understand who they are as citizens of another kingdom will impact how they act in the world.
Another topic crucial to the Christian’s understanding of their role in the culture is how they view God’s covenants and His two kingdoms. Two? You might ask? Yes, two. This topic is far more expansive than can be adequately dealt with in a single blog post, but I would like to give it a few paragraphs before proceeding with how Christians ought to live in the world.
God’s Two Kingdoms
For brevity’s sake, the following quote is helpful in understanding the establishment of God’s two kingdoms:
Early in Genesis God established two covenants, by which the two kingdoms were formally established. In his covenant with Noah God entered into covenantal relationship with the entire human race (and with the entire creation), promising to preserve its cultural activities such as procreating and securing justice. This was the formal establishment of the “common kingdom.” In his covenant with Abraham, in contrast, God entered covenantal relationship with a chosen people, upon whom he bestows eternal salvation by faith, thereby distinguishing them from the rest of the human race. This was the formal establishment of the “redemptive kingdom.” God’s chosen people are thus called to live under both covenants – that is, in two kingdoms. (1)
The previous two articles in this series addressed God’s rule over the civil magistrates. All governments are accountable before God according to His eternal law and the covenant He established with Noah (Genesis 9:5-6). The Noahic covenant is the standard for justice for all nations, and all nations will be judged according to how they did or did not administer justice. The nations, therefore, are not governed by the Mosaic Law that came hundreds of years later and has since passed away along with the Mosaic Covenant, but they are governed by the Noahic covenant and the eternal Law of God that transcends the Mosaic Law.
While all humans are part of the common kingdom, only God’s elect are included in the redemptive kingdom, and entry into the redemptive kingdom only comes by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. The redemptive kingdom is an eternal, heavenly kingdom, but the common kingdom is a temporary, earthly kingdom and will pass away when King Jesus returns to set up His Davidic throne during the Millennial Kingdom. Things like family (whether to marry and have children), education (the method of schooling), politics (who to vote for, if voting is even allowed), and vocation (where to work) will become history because they are apart of God’s temporary, common kingdom, which means they are not unique to Christians but to all humans in general.
God obviously uses the common kingdom in His redemptive purposes, but His purpose is not to redeem what is common. This is where catchy phrases like “redeem the culture” go astray. There’s nothing to redeem in the culture, as if we could. God alone redeems, and He did so through Jesus Christ 2,000 ago when the Son gave His life as a ransom to secure the salvation of His people. Jesus Christ is the last Adam as He fulfilled and accomplished everything the first Adam failed to do and be. To say there is anything left for Christians to redeem, or to say we are to pick up where the first Adam left off (to take dominion), is really to have a low or insufficient view of Christ’s work. Christ is the last Adam and all has been redeemed. He will, in fact, destroy this world and everything in it, save those living in the redemptive kingdom who are awaiting the new creation in the new heaven and new earth. Thus, instead of trying to pick up where the first Adam left off, we must be resting entirely in the work that Jesus Christ, as the last Adam, completely and perfectly finished.
More to consider is that the kingdom of heaven (redemptive kingdom) on earth does not exist outside the church. Earth will never become the kingdom of heaven, nor is anyone outside the church within the kingdom of heaven. Our commission as ambassadors of Christ and His Kingdom is to proclaim the edicts of our King, that sinners still belonging to the common, earthly kingdom will be brought in to the kingdom of heaven through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The error of dominionism is changing the world to be like heaven and thus believing there is only “one kingdom”, but the Bible says heaven won’t be on earth until Christ reigns on it – He and His church with Him – because Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, and never will be.
So, given that Christians belong in the redemptive kingdom, but we are still living in the common kingdom, how shall we then live? As I implied at the beginning of this article, recognizing who we are will enable us to act consistently with our new nature in Christ. In the coming days beginning tomorrow, we’ll be taking a look at five characteristics of the Christian that define us as two-kingdom citizens and how we should live in the world as those who are not of the world. The first one is: Christian, You are a Pilgrim.
(1) Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture by David VanDrunen