Heaven Misplaced: Christ’s Kingdom Now, Apocalypse Later

Heaven Misplaced: Christ's Kingdom on Earth by Douglas WilsonWhen we think of the End Times we usually think of earthquakes, floods, and nuclear explosions. From the hyper rants of Jack Van Impe to the silly scenes of Left Behind, evangelical culture has bombarded us with images of an apocalypse that is devastating and widespread — one that will be preceded by a big, cruel magic trick.

Small pockets of Christians will vanish across the globe, disappearing from busy streets, bustling malls and crowded airplanes. News anchors and political pundits will be left speechless, unaware that they are representatives of a world full of no-good sinners, left hopelessly to self-destruct under the grip of a soon-to-rise anti-Christ. The minority of good folks will be gone and everyone else will be doomed to hell.

But what if we’ve got it wrong? What if the events leading up to the Second Coming aren’t as grim as we suspect? There will almost certainly be a tribulation period filled with conflict, but before that happens, what if those busy streets are overwhelmingly Christian instead of overwhelmingly heathen? Yes, the above storyline often accepts that the Gospel will be proclaimed throughout the world, but what if most of the world will actually receive it?

It is this question that Douglas Wilson explores in his recent book, Heaven Misplaced: Christ’s Kingdom on Earth.

His answer? Before anyone goes to the Kingdom, the Kingdom is going to come to us — and with force.

As Wilson says:

[T]he striking thing about the Second Coming is that it will be the culmination of what is happening right here, right now. The new humanity is going to be finally and completely formed and born, but it is this world that is pregnant with that glory. The relief will be great, but it will be relief from the travail of this world.

For Wilson, our planet is simply one of the “colonies of heaven,” meaning that we are not to see ourselves as a “feeder town” for our colonizing power, as we so often do. Pointing to Paul’s metaphor of “citizenship” to the colonized Philippians, Wilson makes it clear that “the mother country feeds the colonies.”

From this foundation, Wilson walks us through the Bible, beginning with Abraham’s covenant and climaxing with Jesus’ birth, resurrection, and ascension. Throughout the exposition, Wilson points to many of the same Old Testament passages used to support his opponents’ views, offering a unique interpretation based primarily on how the disciples and apostles of the early church interpreted the scriptures.

For example, why did the disciples believe that they were living in the “last hour”? Why did they say that Jesus was “coming quickly” and that the “time is near”? Why did Jesus himself tell his disciples that “this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place”?

Two thousand years later, we have three options. Either the disciples were altogether wrong, partially confused, or 100% correct. Wilson goes with the third option, arguing that God sent His Son and poured out the Holy Spirit back then to empower us and get us on track for building and furthering His Kingdom. The Apostle Paul, for example, thought Isaiah’s prophecies about Christ’s reign were being fulfilled in his very lifetime.

By executing an intricate, line-by-line examination of the most pertinent Scriptures on the subject, Wilson successfully builds a fully fleshed narrative leading to a climax of earthly hope rather than earthly despair. As one final example that such “historical optimism” is not a fantasy, Wilson points to the message God sent to the shepherds on the first Christmas. In this angelic proclamation, Wilson believes God gave a clear picture of his overarching vision for Jesus’ mission — one that ends in peace, not destruction.

As Wilson interprets it:

God has declared, through His angelic emissaries, His goodwill toward our world. He has declared His intentions for peace. He did not do this so we would then drastically restrict the message to a tiny “club for peace and goodwill.” The gospel is for the world.

Wilson knows how radical this is. He recognizes the implications of his narrative and thus he approaches the subject with tact. He understands that the Church believes what it believes for a reason, and he takes the core scriptural concerns seriously. Indeed, after reading his introduction I was a bit shocked that he asks the reader for a “willing suspension of belief.” I saw it as a subtle concession that his theory was probably going to be weak in the knees. But as I continued, I soon realized his request had more to do with stunting our (read: my) typical, reactionary tendencies than it did with any lack of evidence on his part.

His analysis is entirely Biblically based and his conclusions, although controversial, are perfectly reasonable and reconcilable within the full scope of the Christian message. This doesn’t mean I’m fully persuaded, but he certainly got my wheels turning.

As far as what Wilson’s thesis implies for earthly progress, we cannot know for sure. If he is correct and the world will indeed surrender to Christ before the Second Coming, will such a massive revival occur in the wake of widespread destruction, or will it come from an explosion of prosperity and charity? How is it that the Gospel message will reach the world so comprehensively and so effectively, and what earthly tools and systems will be used in the process?

As I’ve argued elsewhere (here and here), I think the recent expansion of prosperity and interconnectedness shows great promise for the spread of the Gospel. Yet this speaks only to our ability to reach others. What then, of their ability to listen and receive?

Wilson provides an optimistic picture of an earthly future that is overwhelmingly heaven-oriented. For this to be true, we have a lot of work to do. But whether he’s right or wrong, I think it’s in the Church’s best interest to assume the best and pursue our callings accordingly.

To purchase Heaven Misplaced: Christ’s Kingdom on Earth, click here.

To read my thoughts on one specific chapter from the book, click here.

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  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/26000791997 Remnant Culture

    What will the world look like before the Second Coming? New post: "Christ's Kingdom Now, Apocalypse Later" http://bt.io/G5XG @douglaswils

  • annie

    When Jesus was “asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He replied to them by saying, The kingdom of God does not come with signs to be observed or with visible display, Nor will people say, Look! Here [it is]! or, See, [it is] there! For behold, the kingdom of God is WITHIN YOU [in your HEARTS] and AMONG YOU [surrounding you].” (Luke 17: 20-21) God's Word goes on to reveal that it is the GOODNESS of God that leads to repentance – not the fear of apocalyptic destruction. (Rom 2:4-5) If we are truly citizens of His Kingdom, and that Kingdom resides WITHIN us, we must then be compelled to allow His GOODNESS to manifest through us, thus spreading the blessings of His kingdom – a Kingdom which consists of “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost”. Doubtless it is these BLESSINGS that will set His subjects apart as the stress of apocalyptic events increases – blessings which will either attract or repel those still outside His Covenant. I believe you touched on a foundational issue in stating, “This again speaks only to our ability to REACH others. What then, of their ability to LISTEN and RECEIVE?” Romans goes on to state that there will be those who “despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering” due to “your hardness and your impenitent heart”. So sad. It comes back again to what is in the HEARTS of men. Still, He lets the chaff and the wheat grow up together until the time of the ingathering, because it is HIS HEART that all men have the opportunity to become children of His Covenant blessings. Selah.

  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/26379074419 Remnant Culture

    Will Jesus return to a world of chaos or one that is bowing to Him? What does this question imply for our earthly systems? http://bt.io/G6dY