An excellent case can be made that the entire Bible – and even human history – is essentially the story of the absent King:
- what was done during His absence,
- what happened when He sent His Son,
- what happened after His Son returned to heaven, to rule from the Father’s right hand,
- and what happened after the world was placed at Jesus feet, at His return.
Gary North outlines our responsibilities to the Absent King in his essay Representing the Absentee Landlord.
(Actually, I strong suggest reading all of the ICE newsletters: a better course in theology than in 95% of the seminaries our there today!)
Gary North writes:
Man is under God, for man is a creature. He is under God judicially, for he is a judge over the creation, who will eventually judge even the angels (l Cor. 6:3). Man is under God economically, for he is a steward of God’s assets. This position of subordination is manifested publicly by means of such things as person’s oaths, verbal proclamations, institutional memberships, and self-conscious lifestyles. Each person must serve one of two masters, God or Mammon.
We who choose God must actually obey God, in the here and now.
The Jews had been the representatives of God to the gentile world. Zion was the world’s religious center, whether or not kings came to worship there. The Temple and sacrifices were in Jerusalem. Immediately after He presented this parable, He announced the forthcoming transfer of the kingdom of God from Israel to the church international (Matt. 21:43). By means of this transfer, Jesus made the church God’s lawful representative. It became His prophetic voice. The church has experienced persecution from gentiles for the same reason that the prophets experienced persecution from the Israelites: its position as God’s lawful representative.
Where the Jews failed, the Church shall succeed. Already, hundreds of millions – not hundreds of thousands – recognize the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and know that before Abraham was, Jesus is. This growth – in overwhelming numbers, and eventually in overwhelming obedience – shall continue.
How did Jesus gain the authority to make this transfer? Through His inheritance of the kingdom after His death and resurrection (Matt. 28:18). He met the standards of the Father. He produced the required fruit. He thereby identified Himself as the true husbandman, the true vine, and the true heir. Thus, when He made the transfer of the kingdom to the church, He did so as its authorized owner. Because of His successful ministry in history, Jesus became the new owner in history. Thus, the church becomes heir with Him in principle and in history. The corrupt leaseholders of the world, claim-jumpers all, can maintain permanent control over the landlord’s vineyard only by repenting and joining the church.
Jesus is the gateway of salvation, the door to life: and it is the Church that shall point to HIm.
Now, granted, there are those churches that mouth words about Jesus, but pointedly despise His authority and commandments, as noted in the Bible. Such churches will be blighted, accursed, and driven from history.
Christ said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Again, those that despise His commandments despise Him, and without repentance, they shall certainly be sent to hell, not heaven.
What is true of churches is also true of men as well: to escape hell, obey Christ, and cry out to Him for forgiveness!
Why did Jesus depart? Because He had inherited the kingdom from His Father. As the new landlord, He again became an absentee landlord. But this time, He sent His spokesman, the Holy Spirit. This marked a major change in God’s administration in history. Jesus said that He had to leave so that the Comforter would come:
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you (John 16:7).
The situation is different in New Testament times. The Landlord has sent His Spirit to guide His servants. He has also provided His servants with His Authorized Book of Effective Stewardship, the Bible. When Christians bring the gospel of Christ to the claim-jumpers of this world, Satan’s unauthorized squatters, we come with a message from the Landlord: “Serve me in history, as was originally agreed to by your father, Adam. If you do, you gain lawful title to the land through my Son. You become fellow-heirs with Christ.”
What the New Testament offers is the actual transfer of title to the tenant farmers. This is the extraordinary grace of the Landlord: He offers title to murderers and thieves if they swear allegiance in history to the true heir, Jesus Christ. The Israelite tenants believed that they could inherit by murdering the son of the landlord. In fact, it was through the death of the true heir that inheritance has become possible to all men, to the Jew first but also to the Greek. And because of Israels pig-headedness, the chronological order has reversed: to the Greek first, but also to the Jew (Rom. 11). The second-born son inherits because of the ethical rebellion of the first-born son. This is a continuing theme in the Bible, from Adam to Jesus.
The basis of this inheritance is adoption. Those whom God regenerates He makes sons of His own household (John 1:12). These sons then become heirs of the kingdom. They become like the faithful and productive servants in another parable, the ones who inherit cities (Luke 19:17-19).
With the Holy Spirit, the world will not just rot in rebellion and futility: now, we can retake the world with the power of the Father and the Son within us! Thanks to the wisdom and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can be confident of gaining actual victory, in time and on earth: making regular, unstoppable progress for the Kingdom that shall fill all the earth.
God wants it all, and He will get it all. In time, NOTHING will be left to Satan, or his representatives: be they in the church or outside it, be they secular or religious.
It is the duty of those who love Him, those in the Church, to get King Jesus what He wants. We are His men, called by His name to obey His indomitable will.
The kingdom of God is universal. This means that it is inescapably historical. There are representatives of God’s kingdom in New Testament history as surely as there were in ancient Israel. They have been sent the Comforter, who manifests the presence of that physically absent Lord of the universe.
How strange, then, that Christians today regard the presence of the Holy Spirit as less significant culturally than the presence of God’s past representatives, the prophets. They regard the existence of the completed Bible as less significant culturally than, for example, the ministry of Jonah. They regard the visible signs of the universal kingdom of God in history as less significant culturally than the presence of tiny Israel in the ancient Near East. Israel was a nation; Israel had God-revealed laws governing her; Israel had priests and Levites. Israel was a theocracy, and its institutions testified to the authority of God. Not so the kingdom in the modern world, we are told; it has no comparable manifestations. It is an invisible kingdom, a kingdom of the heart, a kingdom only for servants who will, as before, be persecuted and slain until the Landlord comes at last in judgment.
Today’s Christian world denies implicitly and explicitly the doctrine of representation in history. The presence of the Holy Spirit and the Bible supposedly have changed nothing historically. The same defeat, the same cultural impotence afflicts the church as afflicted the prophets of Israel. Then what cultural difference has the cross made? And what difference will it make? In pessimillennialism, the Landlord cannot exercise authority in His kingdom without appearing in person. Then why did Jesus bother to depart, and of what importance are the Holy Spirit and a completed Bible? And what kinds of representatives are we Christians, who supposedly have less going for us culturally than the prophets of Old Covenant Israel?
I say that those believers who doubted God died powerless and irrelevant in the desert; but those who believed in God pushed forward, crushing the obstacles, and gained the land of Canaan for themselves.
And the Canaanites shook with fear.