What is salvation?
In my first post in this series I proposed the below chart as a way of answering that important question. In this post I will comment on the sixth sector (6).
|Personal||Forgiveness of Sins and Relationship with God (1)||Moral (Inner and Outer) Transformation (2)||Resurrection of the Body (3)|
|Communal||One Body of Christ: One New Society (4)||Reconciliation and Social Transformation (5)||The Fullness of the Kingdom of God (6)|
|Cosmic||Resurrection and Exaltation of Jesus (7)||Redemptive Emergence of New Creation (8)||New Heaven and New Earth (9)|
Sector 6 identifies salvation as the fullness of the reign of God in the community of God’s people. The goal of God for human community is transformation into the likeness of God and the experience of the Triune love of God as participants in the divine fellowship. When humanity fully participates in the circle of God’s loving fellowship, then the reign of God will have fully arrived.
This salvific reality does not entail a loss of finitude or creatureliness. When glorified in the new heaven and new earth with glorified bodies that conform to the glorious body of the resurrected Lord, we will not be saved from finitude but we will be saved as finite creatures invited to share in the divine fellowship of the Triune community. We will not become omniscient or omnipotent, that is, we will not share God’s divine essence. But we will become Godlike, that is, full participants in the divine love.
At the same time, our participation in the divine love–because it is experienced as finite creatures–is a journey into the heart of God, deeper into the fellowship of the divine persons. Every morning God will be new to us because as finite creatures the infinite God will always have more to share with us and we will experience that love more deeply. God is like a bottomless well from which we drink–we will experience daily filling, joy and satisfaction but there is always more to drink. God will give us more moment by moment throughout eternity.
As community, we will grow more intimate with each other. It is important to emphasize the continuity between Sector 5 and Sector 6. The relationships we begin now will continue into our glorification. More than that they will grow deeper, wider and more inclusive. Our relationships will not remain static but deepen and expand. We will know not only those with whom we have relationships now but we will also initiate new relationships with people we have never known. The fullness of the kingdom of God as a community is an interactive web of relationships which will provide opportunity for growth on the new heaven and new earth.
The glorified community is not a static accomplishment as if we attain “perfection” (as in some kind of Platonic immutability where any change is bad) and thus there is no more work, no more loving, no more growing, no more knowing, no more connecting, etc. to be done. Rather, the fullness of the kingdom of God involves a dynamic growth into the heart of God as well as a dynamic growth among the people of God (growth in intimacy as well as growth in the numbers of people and the diversity of people with whom we will become intimacy). When God recreates, just as in the beginning God created, the Triune fellowship will create a dynamic reality that invites the redeemed community to pursue growth, intimacy, fellowship and relationship within the kingdom.
The reality that God created in Sector 4, though it is so dimly and rarely seen in our broken contexs, will be fully revealed in Sector 6. The oneness of the people of God will emerge brightly on God’s visitation and the unity of the body of Christ–the kingdom of God–will be recognized as a gift of God’s gracious work. But the oneness does not entail some kind of Stepford human beings who are all identical. Rather, the oneness, like the oneness of the original creation, includes a diversity and a dynamism that reflects the reality of God who is both diverse (three) and loving (dynamic) while at the same time remaining one.
The fullness of the kingdom, then, is the reality of community as the image of God’s Triune fellowship. It is the experience of intimacy without fear, love without suspicion, trust without doubt. It is love because God is love. No more barriers, no more ethnic bigotry, no more snobbish class-wars, no more alienation or marginalization. The kingdom of God will experience community in a way that images the community of God’s own life and participate in the community of God’s life.