The kingdom of God: some assembly required?

Unassembled furnitureHave you ever made something from a kit? A cabinet, perhaps, or an exercise bike. The kingdom of God is something like that.

You bring your kit home from the store and open the box. Inside you find lots of parts, both large and small.

You also find some instructions. They can be hard to understand. Your task is to assemble all the parts to make something that looks like the picture on the box. And it has to work, too.

I have gotten my project assembled in three different ways. Sometimes I just do it myself. Sometimes I work with someone else. And sometimes, I just pay someone else to do it for me. In the end it doesn’t matter, just so the box of parts turns into something I can use.

What does this have to do with the kingdom of God? Take a look at Hebrews 2:8-11:

It is finished

crucifixion, grunewald, kingdom of God

Crucifixion, from Isenheim Altarpiece by Mathis Grünewald (c. 1515)

For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren. (NKJV)

One of Jesus’ last words on the cross was, “It is finished.” Or as a popular modern paraphrase puts it, “Read the back of the book. We win.”

That’s what God sees. The finished product. The writer of Hebrews acknowledges, though, that we don’t see the finished product. We see, in effect, a box of unassembled parts. But we see Jesus.

Jesus is the picture on the box. Jesus is the one who assembles the parts in the box—or works along side us as we do our part. But the Jesus we see is not yet the undisputed Lord of the universe. We see in his earthly life how the process of assembling the kingdom has proceeded as far as God has chosen to reveal it to us.

Assembling the kingdom of God

Kingdom of God -- Separating the Sheep from the Goats

Jesus Separating the Sheep from the Goats

As the eternal God the Son, Jesus knew nothing of sin, suffering, or death. So he became a man.

As the man Jesus, the Son experienced sin, suffering, and death—although unlike the rest of us, he did not experience sin as a practicing sinner.

Scripture says that the author of our salvation became perfect through suffering. In the process, he saw us at our worst. He saw a depth of depravity we can scarcely imagine.

Yet he is not ashamed to call us his own family. Through his suffering, the author of our salvation brought us to glory—even though we can see it only in our mind’s eye. As our sanctifier, he has united us with himself.

That’s why he’s not ashamed of us. He would have to be ashamed of himself in that case. But instead, he has taken us at our worst and fitted us for heaven.

As long as we’re breathing air, all we can see is the box of parts, with only some of the work done. We see Jesus as the crucified and risen Christ, but not yet as the universally acknowledged Lord.

We do not see all things under his feet with the eyes of our flesh. We still live in some combination of construction zone and war zone while the enemy still seeks to stall the inevitable.

But God has spoken. It is finished.


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