By Aian Macpherson
If I were preaching in church by talking about miracles happening in the context of the kingdom of God I might use the phrase the ‘already and the not yet’ of the kingdom of God. By theologians in the university it would be called ‘partially realised eschatology’! By analogy you might think of the Second World War, at that moment when the allies had landed successfully in France, Russia was advancing from the East, but the Nazi’s were still fighting. Victory was certain for the allies, but some of the worst fighting and heaviest losses were still to come.
The kingdom is like the secured victory. It is the ultimate purpose and destination of all things. The ultimate purpose of creation is for God, the ultimate purpose of the person is communion with God. We might lightly call these things heaven, but I do not mean white clouds and golden harps! What Christians believe is promised most clearly about heaven is that it is a situation in which pain and suffering and death will be no more, separation from God will be no more. By God’s own death on the cross in Jesus, this victory is secure.
Yet the ultimate is clearly not the present situation. Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is near, and the defining moment in turning creation from death (as things are headed), to life (as they are meant to be), has already happened, but death, pain, suffering and separation from God are still on gong in this world. This seems to create a paradox, we are continually entering into the heavenly kingdom, whilst continually perceiving the death of the old. But within the new kingdom the miraculous is the restored, the normal, and the intended.
‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy’ wrote Shakespeare in Hamlet. We are in a world of perception and measurement, but we are also in the world that is becoming God’s kingdom; in which there exist further possibilities. Just as our technology would appear magical to our ancestors, God, who transcends technology, can only seem miraculous to us, but from the kingdoms perspective the miraculous is the natural. But we are in-between worlds.
If God is life in perfection then that which is not God is not perfected life. Life and death are not opposite poles. Heat makes a reasonable analogy. 37oC is very cold compared to the surface of the sun but for the absence of heat you have to go to -273.15oC absolute zero! We are in-between worlds. Our life is not perfected but God intends to bring us into God’s life so that we may be fully alive. All things are naturally living towards death. Death (which is really the absence of life) is given life in our fears by our awareness of life’s impending end. So our existence is not on the one hand what it should be, nor, on the other hand, the nothing which we fear.
In this world between worlds the miraculous is the one world, God’s world, breaking in to this world for a time. It is a moment of shalom, the peace and wholeness of God, restoring our fractured world.