The Here and Not Yet: What is Kingdom Theology and Why Does it Matter? by Joshua Hopping - Read Online
The Here and Not Yet
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Summary

Life is messy and rarely simple.

There are times of victory when things seem to be going really well and times of struggle when things seem to be falling apart. The way we process these ups and downs of life is extremely important as it sets the tone for everything in our lives. 

Kingdom Theology provides a worldview that allows us to embrace the tension in which we live. It is a worldview based upon the central message of Jesus that the kingdom of God has come, is coming, will be coming soon, and is delayed. 

Written in an easy to read conversational tone, Joshua Hopping’s book, The Here and Not Yet, seeks to develop a scriptural framework for Kingdom Theology before exploring how this worldview changes the way we live. In holding the tensions of life together, we are better able to respond to the challenges of life while following the lead of our king and savior, Jesus of Nazareth.

Published: Vineyard International Publishing on
ISBN: 9781540136824
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soul.

Acknowledgments

From the very beginning this book has been rooted in the local church. And to that end, I would like to thank all the members of the Sweet Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Sweet, Idaho. Your love, friendship, encouragement, and wisdom shaped me more than you will ever know. To this end, this book is dedicated to all of you – may the Lord continue to guide you along his path.

While all the members of the Sweet Vineyard left their mark on my soul, there were a few that really shaped how I view the world. Accordingly, I would like to acknowledge the following people: Bill and Bette Willhite, Ben and Marilyn Snider, Mike and Linda Oliver, Jan Blumberg, James (Doc) and Judy Peterson, Harvey and Myra Church, and Brian Harm. These were the people who would challenge me and make me think through all my decisions and sermons. As iron sharpens iron, you all have sharpened me.

I would also like to thank the pastors and staff of the Vineyard Boise Christian Fellowship in Boise, Idaho. It was from watching all of you that I learned how to pastor and lead. Any practical knowledge that may be found within these pages was learned from the leaders of the Vineyard Boise, especially Tri Robinson, Kevin Thienes, Larry Pew, Mike Freeman, and Tim McFarlane.

There are also those within the greater Vineyard Movement whose friendship helped shape my worldview and theology. Accordingly, I would like to thank the following people who helped me understand what it means to walk in the here and not yet of Kingdom Theology: Mark and Karen Fields, Roy Conwell, Allen Hodge, Josh Rishell, Craig Simonian, Derek Morphew, Bill Jackson, Peter Fitch and Winn Griffin.

In publishing any book, there are those who must be thanked for their help in taking care of the details. To that end, I would like to thank Dr Peter Fitch, Dr Derek Morphew, Bill Miller, Rebecca Miller, Cassie Wallace, Vickie Hieb, Dr Winn Griffin, Kevin Thienes, Melyssa Oglesbee and Cari Bickel for reading the early drafts of this book and providing your thoughts, concerns and suggestions. Thanks to Judy Twycross for her editing skills, as well as Stephan Vosloo, Stephen Vosloo, and Kim Hough at Vineyard International Publishing. I would also like to thank Keefer Brumbach, Jon Pitman, Bill and Wanda Miller, Greg and Jane Bartlett, Craig Simonian, and all the others who financially supported the publication of this book. Without your help this book would not be here today.

Finally I would like to acknowledge the sacrifices of my family who gracefully gave me room to write and encouraged me to keep going. To my wife, Emily: the words that I would like to write in thanks have not been invented, so amazing is your love and support. This book is full of your wisdom and scholarship, for, while you prefer to stay in the background, it is your insight that has guided me along the path of the here and not yet. Thank you also for going to VLI and dragging me along with you. This book is the end result of that journey. To my two amazing sons: thank you for allowing your father to finish writing down his thoughts before dragging him off to play.

For those people I have missed, and I most certainly have, my utmost apologizes. Please realize that the omission of your names was due to the lack of space rather than a lack of impact. Each soul with whom I have met, has changed and shaped me in ways I cannot say. To all of you, please accept my heartfelt thanks and acknowledgment for everything you have done.

Foreword

I am somewhat part of the story of this book coming to print, from initial discussions with Joshua, to proof reading his manuscript, to recommending editors and publishers, so it follows that I have been encouraging the process all along. Why so? My own calling has been to articulate kingdom theology and see it firmly established not only in the Vineyard, but as widely as possible in the body of Christ. It is still a new departure within the ecumenical church, and within evangelicalism, not fully grasped in many quarters. I am also keen to see the baton passed to the next generation. Therefore, when a writer much younger than I comes along and shows not only a wide reading on the subject, but a passion to articulate the kingdom to his generation, I can only be delighted.

Another feature is the neat division between defining the kingdom and applying it to the life of discipleship and ministry. This book does this in two equal halves. I want to comment, in particular, on the second half. The litmus test of whether this new theology of the kingdom is getting out there and landing in the church is its application. Since Jesus both taught and demonstrated the kingdom, in words and works, no purely theoretical articulation can ever be sufficient. To the extent that it has been grasped, it must be worked out in life and ministry. In this book, Joshua shows his commitment to this litmus test. He has reflected deeply on doing the ministry of the kingdom and contextualizing it in culturally relevant missions within his sphere of influence.

– Dr Derek Morphew, Academic Dean, Vineyard Institute

Introduction

My childhood was spent attending various independent Pentecostal and Charismatic churches in the Bible Belt of Oklahoma and Texas. In the summer of 2000, I married a wonderful lady from a conservative evangelical background, who, while not against the movement of the Holy Spirit, didn’t know very much about the Spirit. A few years into our marriage, we moved to Idaho where we started attending the Vineyard Boise Christian Fellowship, led by Pastor Tri Robinson. It was here that we were introduced to Kingdom Theology and the empowered evangelical way of life.[1] We had, quite by accident, found a church that we both could attend with elements from our respective religious traditions.

Having a desire to know more about God and the Scriptures, we decided to attend Vineyard Leadership Institute in 2005 facilitated by various pastors and leaders at the Vineyard Boise. (Vineyard Leadership Institute was a non-accredited Bible school and leadership program based in Rich Nathan’s Columbus Vineyard in Columbus, Ohio, and facilitated within local churches around the United States of America and Canada). Through this program we discovered that Kingdom Theology went beyond simply merging the Holy Spirit with biblical scholarship (the traditional landmarks of the Pentecostal/Charismatic and Evangelical movements, respectively). Rather, we learned that Kingdom Theology was a theological framework based upon the first-century understanding of the central message of Jesus, namely that the kingdom of God had broken into this age through his life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension. As we learned about this new framework, we realized that it had the potential to change the way in which we viewed life, read the Scriptures, did ministry and experienced the presence of the Creator. Hungry for more, I started a ten-year journey, reading everything I could on the kingdom of God and enacted inaugurated eschatology.

During this time, my wife and I had the pleasure of joining a church planting team sent out from the Vineyard Boise to start a new church in Sweet, Idaho. At first we were just support people for the church leaders, yet over time we ended up becoming the associated pastors and then, in 2011, the senior pastors. The nine years we spent in Sweet (2006–2014) were some of the hardest but most wonderful years of our lives. The people there taught us so much, and were very, very forgiving as we discovered what it meant to be a pastor. I have scattered excerpts from our life in Sweet throughout this book as this experience taught me what it meant to live a life of the here and not yet. (The phrase here and not yet is the layman’s version of enacted inaugurated eschatology).

Sadly, although I was reading a number of books on Kingdom Theology, I was having a hard time finding anything that I could give to members of my church that would fully explain the theological framework of the kingdom. I found books about specific topics of Christianity that used Kingdom Theology as an underlying framework, or I found thick scholarly books full of very technical theological terms. I also discovered that the term Kingdom Theology was being used by different people from various backgrounds to mean almost anything. The Pentecostal/Charismatic crowd used it to talk about signs and wonders while a new breed of Evangelicals used it to talk about social justice. Still others used the term to describe the church – local or global – while still others used it to talk about Jesus’ Second Coming. No matter how many books I read, I couldn’t find a single volume that retained the tension of the here and not yet while explaining how Kingdom Theology affects our daily lives that could be read and understood by the average person sitting in church. Seeing that I couldn’t find it, I decided to write the evasive book myself.

The purpose of this book is to help the average Jesus follower understand the central message of Jesus as recorded by all four gospel writers, namely that the kingdom of God has come, is coming, will be coming soon, and is delayed. To be true to the Scriptures, as you will soon learn in chapter two, we have to hold all four of these items in tension while understanding the cultural and historical background of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. This is the goal of the first half of the book, to give you, the reader, an understanding of what Jesus is talking about as that will provide the theological framework upon which everything else will fit. The second half of the book will seek to show how the modern Jesus follower can join the story of the Kingdom as revealed throughout the Scriptures. It is here that you will get to learn more about my life as I try to be open and honest with the struggles I faced, so that you can get a better understanding of what it means to embrace the tension of the here and not yet.

May the Spirit of the Creator King guide you on your journey into the world of Kingdom Theology. Amen.

chapter one

OUR PERSPECTIVES

It’s all about fried chicken.

Juicy, buttermilk batter, on-the-bone, deep-fat fried chicken – the kind that clogs your arteries the moment you take a bite. To a Southern boy like myself, that appropriately describes a piece of mouth-watering fried chicken. Imagine my surprise when I came home one day a few months into my marriage to a meal of fried chicken only to find a piece of lightly battered, boneless, skinless chicken breast fried in a small amount of olive oil on my plate. A bit taken back, I politely asked for clarification on what was being served, as I knew that the thing on my plate was not fried chicken.

I quickly discovered that to my health-conscious wife, fried chicken simply meant chicken that was fried. What happened? How could the two of us have two, totally different images for the same food dish? Was one right and the other wrong? For that matter, what is fried chicken?

My wonderful wife and I had just experienced the first of many cultural differences that were to surface over the years. Even though we had both grown up in the United States of America, we processed the same words and/or phrases differently. In the case of fried chicken, my heart and waistline praise the Lord for a healthy meal; these days I can’t even eat deep-fat fried chicken now without grimacing!

In addition to adding humor to this book, this story highlights how each human being processes information differently. We all have a unique view of the world about us based upon our experiences, culture, religion, nationality, ethnicity and gender. This worldview becomes the lens through which we see and interact with the world – emotionally, spiritually and physically. It’s like when you read a story or a portion of Scripture and something really stands out to you like a billboard. Yet, when you show a friend the same passage, they don’t see anything.

British author Terry Pratchett does a great job of exploring worldviews in his Discworld series, albeit in a satirical way. In the series, a seven-foot skeleton named Death is able to walk around wearing a robe without anyone noticing because everyone knows that skeletons don’t walk around town. Or, in another case, people failed to recognize that a dog talking to them because they know that dogs don’t talk.[2] The people’s perception of reality kept them from seeing what was really there. While this may sound absurd, Pratchett uses these exaggerations to illustrate something that is true in our world; that our perceptions can shape our reality.

Years ago, I went to an orthopedic doctor to have my knees checked. One of them had given out on me on a ten-mile hiking trip. During the course of the procedure, the doctor informed me that my legs were different lengths and it would be smart if I started wearing a heel lift inside my shoe. Following the doctor’s orders, I bought a shoe insert that raised my right side up a quarter inch to match my left side. I diligently wore that heel lift for many years until an evening church service on May 2, 2010 changed everything. At the end of the service, the content of which I don’t recall in the very least, the speaker asked everyone with different leg lengths to come up front for prayer.[3]

Walking up front with about 40 other people, I was asked to take off my shoes and sit down in a chair. The speaker then proceeded to have all the young children and teenagers in the audience come forward to pray over those of us with different leg lengths. A teenager and a young child of about five years old approached me as I sat there in anticipation of what Creator King was about to do. The five-year-old held up my feet, one foot in each hand, showing the difference in length, and then prayed. As she prayed, a strange feeling moved down my leg – similar to a shot of whiskey going down the throat. Eyes wide open, both the teenager and young one stared at my legs as my right leg grew out to match my left leg! Craziness!

Naturally, we all know that legs don’t just grow. There are bones, muscles, blood, veins, skin and a host of other stuff in that leg that would have to change and lengthen as well. The most logical explanation was that I shifted my hips which moved my legs, making it seem like the leg grew. At least, that would be one way or one worldview to look at the event. If you modified your worldview from a purely scientific view, in which nothing happens without a logical and scientific explanation, to a worldview that allows the Maker of heaven and earth to reach down and touch his children, then you have a leg that grew and a prayer that was answered. (By the way, I had my legs checked out by a doctor after that event and they are now the same length.)[4]

Or how about diabetes? We all know that once someone is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and is taking insulin shots, they can never stop for the rest of their lives. When I was in college, I took a prayer and healing class at a local church where the instructor prayed over an elderly gentleman who had been fighting diabetes for many years.[5] As I watched the man receive prayer, I honestly didn’t think anything would happen. After all, to be healed of diabetes, one would have to have your body’s internal organs change the way they worked, to the point that your body could regulate your blood sugar. Yet, in spite of my doubts, the elderly gentleman in question went to doctor and came back with a clean bill of health. He no longer had diabetes.

So, how can we change the way we look at the world? The first thing is to recognize that we are seeing the world through a particular worldview. Once we acknowledge that our background, culture, gender, etc. affects how we see the world and read the Scriptures, then we can go about modifying or changing our lens. This is not to say that our current worldview is somehow wrong or bad. Just like in the story about the fried chicken, neither my wife’s view nor my own view of what counted as fried chicken, was wrong. Nor was one view better than the other as each of our respective cultures had different value systems and tastes. The issue came when we tried to communicate using a word that had different connotations, at which point we had to recognize each other’s worldview and adapt accordingly.

As this relates to the Scriptures, those of us living in Western culture (i.e. Europe, United States of America and Canada) must acknowledge the role that science has played in our worldview. Ever since the Age of Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, Western culture has focused on logic, science and technology. These were the magic bullets that were going to solve all of humanities problems: hunger would be eliminated; wars would be stopped; diseases and famine would be ended. As a result of this enlightenment, emotions and experience were downplayed while logic and facts were placed on a pedestal. No longer was it okay to merely experience the touch of God. Now you had to prove it using logic and cold, hard facts – and possibly the Bible, depending on your belief system.

What’s your theology?

I was on the advisory board of a college-age discipleship program at my local church for a while. During one of our meetings, I asked the primary leader/teacher of the program what kind of theology he was teaching. He responded with the brisk comment, I don’t teach theology, I teach the Bible! A lot of you might agree with him, waving your fists at anyone who might dare teach anything but the simple black and white of the Bible. I know that feeling well, for I used to be the one waving my fist and screaming at the top of my lungs. Yet, in the mysterious ways of the Lord Almighty, he changed my heart and mind. How? Well, for starters I found out that the word theology simply means the utterances or sayings (logia) of God (theo). Talk about a humbling experience. Here I was waving the flag of the Bible, upset about anyone who was teaching theology, only to find out that I was the one in error. Instead of ignoring theology, I had to open my worldview to include the study of God.

This brings us back full circle to some fried chicken. We all have a different way of reading the Bible and applying it to our lives. Different ways of describing or imagining fried chicken. It’s not a question of right or wrong. It is a question about the framework on which you hang biblical truth. In the same way that the frame of a house, though unseen, is extremely important, so is the biblical framework or worldview that you hold is important in how you live your life and approach the living Creator of heaven and earth.

For most people, theology has been delegated to the university classroom, where grumpy old men stare at ancient scrolls and debate the meaning of foreign words. Perhaps they bring it out whenever a new pastor comes to town, or if their children start attending a different church. However, I think it is a safe bet to say that the only time most Christians think about theology is when they are trying to prove someone else wrong. Then, and only then, does theology really come into play. You might even agree with that mentality. However, I have to ask, If theology is the sayings of God, shouldn’t it carry more weight? And, if so, wouldn’t the conclusion of such study impact my day to day life?

Every fiber of my being cries out with a huge "Yes! to both of these questions. It does matter what you believe about God and it does impact your day to day life. For example, how do you deal with people living in sin? Do you follow 2 Corinthians 6:17, Therefore come out from them and be separate. Or, perhaps, you prefer Matthew 9:10, Many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him [Jesus] and his disciples." Both verses are in the Bible and can be considered biblical. This is where your theology comes into play. The lens through which you read the Bible will influence the way you apply Scripture in your daily life.

We live in a fast-moving world where things are changing at an unbelievable rate. For most of the last thousand years, the average Christian believer in the West (Europe and America) has not had daily contact with those who follow a different religion. As a result, believers in the West have developed a worldview that takes belief in the Bible for granted. This is no longer the case. Take Boise, Idaho for example. The capital of Idaho is a medium size city of about 200,000 people, located on the edge of the western desert and the northern mountains. It is, for all practical purposes, a typical American city located off the beaten path and deep within the heartland.

Yet, when I go to work I rub shoulders with Muslims, Mormons, Jews, Atheists, and Pagans (yes, Paganism is a religion these days). Going downtown during the summer to a local community gathering, I will see booths promoting the local nudist colony, Baha’i temple, and Unitarian church, along with those offering palm reading and fortune-telling. Driving away from this gathering, I might pass a store advertising New Age healing crystals or aroma candles, while on my way to a Chinese restaurant with a prominent statue of Buddha. If I was listening to the radio, I would hear songs about reincarnation, fornication, and Hellenistic views of pursuing enjoyment at all cost.

With all these changes, what do we do? How do we remain consistent with biblical truth? Do we have a theology that allows for this interaction? What do we do when a homosexual couple moves in next door? Or when our children decide to live with their significant other because it is cheaper than getting married? How do we process all the rhetoric about climate change and global warming? What do we do with the economic downturn and high unemployment rates? The way we answer these questions and live our lives depends on the theological framework supporting our worldview. If we are not careful, we could end up like the characters in a Terry Pratchett novel and miss what is happening in front of our noses, simply because we know it doesn’t work that way.

The goal of this book is to help you look at the theology frame underneath your worldview and to adjust it as necessary. To that end, I have split this book into two sections based upon two main questions. The first section will seek to understand the question of What is Kingdom Theology? To do this, we will look closely at the central message of Jesus as recorded in the Bible by the four gospel writers. Once we have explored the kingdom message of Jesus, we will look at whether or not this new theological framework fit within the greater narrative of the Scriptures. After this we will move into the second section of the book, asking the question now what? Does the new lens of Kingdom Theology actually change how I live my life or can I continue to live as I have always lived? This selection is perhaps the most powerful – and scary – as it has the potential to transform the way we live life and view our surroundings.

My prayer for you as you read this book is that you will open your heart, mind and eyes to a different way of seeing the world. This is not a new story, but an old one retold to a new generation of Jesus followers living in a culture that has changed since the days when the Scriptures were written. Just like my wife and I had to take a step back from our own culture and worldview so that we could come together