("Christ Appearing to His Disciples," by William Blake, 1795, watercolor and tempera on print)
42.) The Kingdom of God in Jesus’ Preaching - Within his ministry, Jesus preached “the Kingdom of God” (perhaps better rendered as the “reign” of God). This seems to have been an eschatological idea: that the final fulfillment of all things, expected to come at the end of time, was being inaugurated in his own person, and, through him, one could enter into this Kingdom-of-God-within history. The present form of the Kingdom of God is often described as the “already-but-not-yet,” a dynamic in which the final fulfillment of the Kingdom is present only in developing form, not in all of its fullness yet. It is through the community of Christ that this Kingdom-within-history develops, encompassing more and more of the created order through its practices of worship, prayer, mission, and charity. As such, we Christians reign with Christ here and now, “are seated in the heavenly places,” in our roles as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God.
43.) The New Creation Inaugurated in Christ - Though too early to jump fully ahead into ecclesiology, it’s worth commenting on a related strand of thought here. Certain early church fathers were fond of linking this idea from Christ’s preaching about the Kingdom here-and-now with an idea of the re-creation of the entire created order. The world was created according to the allegorical seven days of Genesis 1, with the seventh day being a day of rest. The fathers interpreted this “day of rest” as the period of human history leading up to Christ. With Christ, the new creation begins (as Paul himself testifies: “if anyone is in Christ—new creation!”). The fathers, building on hints from Paul, conceived of the new creation happening in reverse order: thus, it starts with humanity, then through redeemed humanity in Christ the rest of the created order is also redeemed (first in a developing and inchoate way, leading up to the final fulfillment at the eschaton). With Christ, we enter the “eighth day” of the sequence, the first day of the new creation, the day when humanity is re-created and opened up to union with the divine.