Category: Eschatology

July 29th, 2011 by Bryan Anthony

“Every man will sit under his own vine
and under his own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
for the LORD Almighty has spoken.” -Mic. 4.4

The picture of the world, after being set aright by the judgments and mercies of God at the end of the age, is one of “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Micah 4 is one of the most remarkable statements of that renovated order of reality, when God Himself dwells amongst men, and His ways become the prevailing government.

There is something about our consumeristic society- the pervasive addictions to entertainment and food, the rat races of the corporate world, the machinic and often heartless nature of industry, the radical mixture of truth and untruth in politics, and the overall nature of a me-first, ‘take care of number one’ culture- that is totally antithetical to the eschatological vision given in the Scriptures.

We are consumers to the hilt, from the nature of our eating and shopping to the whole tenor of our egomaniacal and inconsiderate customs, and they even find frequent expression in the best of our militaristic endeavors and political agendas. Everyone is wanting to be seen and recognized as the greatest and biggest, and this is even prevalent in American ministry. We are willing to step on the backs of others to consume what we desire, and to secure a place of prominence and prosperity for ourselves. The reality of the cross- which is the revelation of God’s self-sacrificial character- has become ‘old hat’, and we have fallen under the waves of an all-too-often noisy, glittery, violent, and irreverent culture.

When at once we are touched by the Spirit of God and brought into contact with His nature, we see that His way and His Kingdom are totally incompatible with the busy-headed spirit of this age.

Everything is calculated to trample the inner-man these days, and if we would come into the rest and sabbath reality of the Gospel, it will require us shutting the door on the world, entering the place of prayer, and “tasting of the powers of the age to come.” If we give in to this consumeristic age we will consume the wine of this world, and consequently, our inner-man will be consumed by the fires of sin and the debilitating values of the powers of darkness. But if we turn from the crookedness of this age, and abide in the reality of God by the Spirit, we will walk in a transcendent peace, humility, and righteousness.

Have you an awareness that the same Spirit and glory that the prophets foresaw in visions of the coming age have been shed abroad in your own heart, if indeed you have believed upon Christ? You need only to surrender your own heart daily, receive the life of the Spirit, and abide in the wisdom and power of that life. It is not in trying, but in dying, that the new life issues. Authentic kingdom living is not an issue of performing religious feats or exerting moral audacity, but abiding in the Man, Christ Jesus. As it will be in the age to come, when the Divine dew of His government permeates the earth, so will it be for the believer in the present age, who surrenders to His governance and luxuriates in His fellowship.

Hear this scholar’s description of the age to come as it is set forth in Micah 4; namely, the ending of war and the destruction of consumeristic values:

As a result of disarmament, every individual enjoys the fruit of his own labor in security (4.4). The rewards of righteousness on the international level work themselves out to peace for everyone. Instead of having to flee to the narrow confines of fortified cities as in times of war, in the new era of peace everyone can sit peacefully ‘under his own vine and under his own fig tree.’ The concrete image depicts the full enjoyment of God’s abiding peace and prosperity without fear of danger. The new age will re-experience the joy and happiness of Solomon’s golden days (1 Kgs 4.20; 5.5 [4.25]; 1 Macc 14.11-12). Zech 3.10 speaks of neighborly fellowship. In fact, there is a flip side to Micah’s vision: by sitting under their own vines and fig trees they show that they have also disciplined their swollen appetites. The dreams of disarmament and of agrarian well-being are inseparable. Those who live by war will die in war (Matt 26.52), and those with ‘swollen appetites’ cannot anticipate peace. W. Brueggemann wrote: ‘The prophecy anticipates lowered economic expectations. It anticipates a modest life-style of not having more than one’s produce and therefore a respect for the produce of others…. Thus this radical vision understands that a dismantling of the military machine carries with it a break with consumeristic values.”

(Micah, Bruce Waltke; Eerdman’s, 2007; p. 212)

If we are dominated by “swollen appetites”, moved by fashion and entertainment, delighting in violence and war, or gripped with fear of danger or poverty, we can be sure that we are neglecting the high calling of the saints; namely, to “taste of the powers of the age to come,” and to drink deeply of the knowledge of God in the place of prayer.

If our hearts have been transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we are abiding in Him and giving Him pre-eminence in all things, the evidence of that reality will be a grace-charged discipline in areas of appetite, a transcendent rest and peace, and a grace to love and forgive all men, even our enemies.

There is a remarkable kind of Kingdom modesty that we are lacking in this sensational age; a modesty in speech, attitude, appetite, and philosophy, and a bumptious, consumeristic value system has even been the basis for many of our church and ministry methodologies and paradigms. “Brethren, this ought not to be…”

The reason the prophets can describe this most beautiful version of the earth is that their visions are yet future. They predict a time when the earth, the remnant of Israel, and the nations have been purged with the fires of judgment, and after the smoke of that time has cleared, all that remains is a wonderfully God-centric existence.

Yet even now, if we have been touched by the “power” of that future age through the Gospel, and we are in fact abiding in a God-centric manner, our lives will exhibit the same qualitative majesty. Weak clay vessels that we are, a heavenly wisdom, character, and power will be demonstrated through us that will put the Kingdom of our God on display in the present age. We will go from living as consumers, and being puppets in the hands of a self-obsessed society, to “strangers and pilgrims on the earth,” who “desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” (Heb. 11)

“…. and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1.8b)

It behooves us then to abide in Him, not merely to toss around theories about what the faith is, and what the future age will entail. “Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” have been brought nigh to us by the Blood of the Lamb.

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. -Jn. 15.5

 

Bryan Purtle is the founder of the Antioch Prayer Society in Kansas City, MO.

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