Over my years I’ve heard warning about triumphalism in the church. This is understood to mean a euphoric feeling that Christ and His Kingdom had already in this age conquered the kingdoms of this world. Others call it the Church Militant, identifying it with what they conceive was the Catholic Church’s posture at it’s height of power.
But those who warn of such are usually plagued by such a defeatist, passive view of the Kingdom’s ineffectiveness in expanding prior to Christ’s Second Coming that their view hardly resembles the faith that spread throughout the world over the last two millennia.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the two inadequate positions are confused as to the place of two things, of an advancing Kingdom of God and second of suffering in this world.
One group believes in a Church Triumphant, a Church Militant which is expanding the Kingdom of God, but they see it in a conquering militaristic fashion as if suffering is no longer a mark of the Christian.
The other group believes in suffering as a mark of the Christian, but only in a world where the Kingdom of God has no hope of advancing until it comes suddenly in the Second Coming of Christ.
But I believe two passages of Scripture support the thesis that The Kingdom of God does indeed advance inexorably in the world, but through suffering and not with overt physical force.
In Matthew 12 we read;
And many followed him, and he healed them all 16 and ordered them not to make him known. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smouldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”
Here is both suffering of the Christ in vs. 19-20a, and the victory of justice or His Kingdom in vs. 20b.
Another passage is Colossians 2:14-15;
This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Here it is through the cross that Christ triumphed over and disarmed the rulers of this world.
Both these verses set before us the example of Jesus Christ, suffering servant who conquers the world BEFORE the Second Coming. I Corinthians 15:24-26 declares this conquering;
24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
The order here is missed by all but the most astute interpreters. Paul announces that Christ “must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet”, and only then will the end come when He will deliver the Kingdom he won on earth in history to God the Father.
The last enemy Christ destroys, Paul asserts, is death. Death is only destroyed at the Resurrection of all men on the last day. And if death is that last enemy and is destroyed at the end in the Resurrection of the dead, that means Christ is putting under His feet the other enemies before the Resurrection of the dead. He is putting the other enemies under His feet now, during history.