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Evangelism and Messianic Time

J.C. Hoekendijk is truly a wellspring of missiological insights. From his book, The Church Inside Out:

“Throughout the Bible, evangelization of the heathen is seen as a possibility only in the Messianic days. In the Old Testament it is the Messiah who gathers the nations. ‘Unto him shall the gathering of the people be’ (Gen 49:10). His will  to save becomes so powerful that all resistance is overcome. ‘In the last days,’ i.e., in the days of the Messiah, the nations will come and praise God. In other words: the Messiah is the evangelist. Only to his power and authority will men surrender. . . . Now the last days have downed on you, you have entered the Messianic era, now you walk in the midst of the signs of coming glory. You are transplanted in the aeon where you live in the fellowship of the Kingdom which is to come.” (p. 20)

Hoekendijk relativises the perennial preoccupation with evangelistic methods that always seem to dominate in Christian discussion and sets the messianic and eschatological context of mission in the forefront of our imagination. He then notes two key theological underpinnings of a properly thick description of evangelism. “The first is that the Messiah (i.e. the Christ) is the subject of evangelism. Paul expresses this conviction in his epistles to the Corinthians, showing that the apostles can march only as conquered men in the triumphal procession of God (II Cor 2:14).”

The second point is that “the aim of evangelism can be nothing less that what Israel expected the Messiah to do, i.e., he will establish shalom. . . . The Messiah is the prince of shalom (Isa 9:6), he shall be the shalom (Micah 5:5), he shall speak shalom unto the the heathen (Zech 9:10); or in the prophecy of Jeremiah (ch 29:11), he will realize the plans of shalom, which the Lord has in mind for us, to give us a future and a hope.” (p. 21)

Great, great stuff that is necessary for any theological understanding of evangelism. Hoekendijk strikes to the root of the reductionism that pervades most accounts of evangelism, and especially the tendency within evangelicalism to differentiate between evangelism and social action. As Hoekendijk points out, biblically speaking they must be one and the same, in that the salvation of the Messianic age can only be understood as shalom:

“This concept in all its comprehensive richness should be our leitmotiv in Christian work. God intends the redemption of the whole of creation. He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. In some segments of creation his sovereignty may be established already: shalom for all life; destruction of all solitude, obliteration of all injustice, ‘to give men a future and hope.’ Is this a utopian ideal? Or could it be apocalyptic realism? A super-human task? Or is this the marching on of the victorious Son of Man? . . . These are the kinds of questions we must answer before we can deal with the problems of evangelistic method.” (p. 22)

Superb stuff.

2 Comments

  1. leadryl wrote:

    This all hangs on his theological interpretation of Shalom. To (devil’s advocate) defend the differentiation between evangelism and social action, one could interpret Shalom as peace with God, hence forgiveness of sins etc…
    Just a thought

    Sunday, March 8, 2009 at 2:22 pm | Permalink
  2. Halden wrote:

    I think however, were one to do so, they would be hard pressed to make such an interpretation square with the descriptions of shalom in the Old Testament. They’re far too thick to be construed in such a narrow manner.

    Sunday, March 8, 2009 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

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