I saw a meme recently that credited Jackie Deacon saying, “The moon is always full, it’s just our view that is partial.”
The truth of that statement is undeniable. It’s just that we don’t often think of it like that. Because the sunlit portion of the moon changes shape according to each lunar phase, we are used to referring to new moons, half-moons, or crescent moons. Or if we want to sound really clever we can identify the difference between a waxing crescent and a waning gibbous (whatever they are). We’re used to looking up to the black heavens on a clear night and proclaiming, “Look! It’s a full moon tonight!”
There’s nothing quite like the serenity and grace of the white-gold moon.
But technically, it’s a full moon every night. That cold, dry orb whose surface is studded with craters and strewn with rocks and silicon dust remains resolutely unchanged regardless of how much light we see reflected from it at any given time.
The way we speak about the Kingdom of God can be like that. We pray for God’s Kingdom to come, as though God only reigns partially and needs our help to increase his domain. We exort each other to get involved in extending the Kingdom of God. Or we strategise to bring the Kingdom to some place or other.
But God doesn’t reign partially. We can’t extend, increase or bring God’s reign. There is only one God whose power and authority are unchallenged. God’s rule over the universe is complete. That much is revealed all the way through the Bible, but it reaches its apotheosis in Christ, of whom the Scriptures say, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col 1:15-17).
Christ was always there! The whole universe was created through him. He owns it and sustains it. His reign and rule are total, utter and complete. Just like the moon is always full.
So what is the reign and rule of the Triune God like? In their book Kingdom Ethics, David Gushee and Glen Stassen attempt to answer that very question. They do so by overlaying the prophecies in Isaiah that refer to the kingship of God and to his coming reign with the fulfillment of those prophecies in Christ to distil what they call “the seven marks of God’s reign.” These marks are the characteristics of what life is like under the reign of God. They are:
- restoration/rebuilding of community
- the experience of God’s presence.
The reign of God rescues us from sin and death, delivering us from our enemies as well as from the fear of condemnation. It secures for us a realm of equity and access for all; the end of all sickness and evil; a joyous place of acceptance and community and the presence of God.
Isaiah dreamed of such a world coming for the people of God while they were trapped in Babylon. And Christ secures such a world by his teaching, his life, death, and resurrection.
But we struggle to see that world, don’t we? Even the most devoted believers among us only see God’s Kingdom in part. In our currently fallen age, our vision of God’s Kingdom is fitful (it only bursts into our experience irregularly), partial (it’s incomplete), and mysterious (who can explain it!).
If God’s reign is as pure and unadulterated as a clear blue sky, then our perception of that reign is always hazy and darkened by clouds. We know there’s blue sky beyond the clouds, but we catch only glimpses of it.
This leads us to mistakenly think God’s reign isn’t full and we need to pray and work toward its extension. But a better perspective might involve firstly acknowledging God’s utter, total and complete reign. This is a truth we take by faith, not by experience. We don’t observe God’s complete reign but we believe the Scriptures that affirm it to be so. With such faith, we then devote ourselves to helping others see more and more of the blue sky of God’s Kingdom.
I sometimes describe Christian evangelism as a form of spiritual window cleaning. We don’t try to make God reign more (as if we could), but we try to help people see that reign beyond the opaque vision they currently have of it, even though we know we can never see it utterly, totally and completely. It’s like saying, “Here in this broken world, marred as it is by sin, we can only barely see the new world that is coming beyond the veil. But it’s there. It is seeping into our experience, fitfully, partially and mysteriously. I can’t fully explain it, but I’ve seen glimpses of the good and beautiful world that is to come. And I’ve read the promises that Jesus makes about that world — his Kingdom of love and peace and joy and freedom.”
Our window on the Kingdom can never been fully cleaned until Jesus’ return. Then, he will blow the window from its frame and we will see his reign in all its glory and beauty. As the old King James version of the Bible puts it, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Cor 13:12).
Next time you look up to the nightsky and see the moon looking like a fingernail, remember it’s actually full. You just can’t see it.
And remember that God’s reign of deliverance, justice, peace, healing, community, and joy is always there, fully realized, just beyond the veil, bleeding slowly but surely into our world, the promise of wonderful things to come. You just can’t see it. Yet.