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There's a cemetery plot, somewhere out there, waiting for your corpse. Regardless of who and where you are, you will one day be quite dead. And in 100 years, chances are no one will remember your name—including the people carrying your genes in their bloodstreams. We see our mortal future in everything from the natural forces that sap our hair color to the bacteria that eventually grind our bodies to a maggoty pulp. The universe rolls around us frenetically, and, in every single case, it eventually kills us.

That's not just a matter of our individual destinies. If we are honest, the world around us seems pretty good proof that the gospel isn't true. Doesn't the cosmos seem to be just as the nihilists describe it: a bloody, merciless machine in which power, not goodness or beauty, is ultimate? What, then, is the meaning of life? What's the purpose of history? If it's all heading nowhere, then what difference at all does my existence make?

The gospel of the kingdom doesn't shy away from such questions, but our preaching tends to swerve around the answers it gives. Often we Christians start our gospel proclamation with triumph over sin. Fair enough: The gospel of Christ is indeed the reversal of sin, and of death and hell. But without a broader context, such teaching can treat Christ as a means to an end, a step from the alpha of Eden to the omega of heaven. In a truly Christian vision of the kingdom of God, though, Jesus of Nazareth isn't a hoop we jump through to extend our lives into eternity. Jesus is the kingdom of God in person. As such, he is the meaning of life, the goal of history, and the pattern of the future. The gospel of the kingdom starts and ends with the announcement that God has made Jesus the emperor—and ...

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February 2012

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