Having surveyed the Old Testament, all the while observing the differences between theocracy and pilgrimage, we can now begin to think about the way that this is all applied in the New Testament. In this regard, of course, we should start with the arrival of the Messiah.
As so powerfully taught in the book of Hebrews, Christ fulfilled all in the Old Testament, bringing about the very apex of redemptive history. Jesus showed that everything from the sacrifices, to the temple, to the theocratic kingdom of Israel itself, all pointed to Him. He arrived as the last Adam, the True Israel, and the inaugurated locus of the kingdom of God. He came to fulfil the promise of Genesis 3:15, a promise that had been covenantally expanded upon throughout the entire Old Testament. He came as our substitute, to endure the fiery sword of God’s judgement and give us entrance to His eternal kingdom.
But while a very difficult concept for the once-theocratic Jewish disciple to grasp, he had also come to show that although this kingdom would indeed (eventually) encompass all of renewed creation, it must first advance in spiritual terms through the preaching of the Gospel. But then, the million dollar question — how were these disciples to interact with their cultural surroundings as they went about this gospel-preaching mission? Were they to see themselves as pilgrims; or a newly revived theocratic nation?
Well, if our hermeneutic thus far bears out, we simply need to ask whether or not Christ gave them any particular geographical territory to take possession of. If so, the answer is clear: they were under the principles of theocracy. If not, however, they were to whole-heartedly embrace the principles of pilgrimage.
Of course, Christ did give a clear commission to his disciples, but it had nothing to do with real estate. And, as already alluded to, this is exactly why he did not teach us to pray that God would smash the teeth of our enemies. Quite the opposite, instead of calling upon God’s judgment, and driving out the surrounding nations, Jesus commands us to pray for our enemies and love those who persecute us. Exactly as we might anticipate then, God’s common grace is held high, and we are expected to imitate his kindness.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:43–45, ESV)
But what about our money, and our taxes? Surely now that we know who our true King is, this all belongs to God and God only? Not so. Yet again the pilgrim principle applies. We read very clearly in the teaching of Jesus:
21 . . . render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21, ESV)
Ok fine. But what if the . . . unimaginable . . . happens? What if they take our Lord, and they want to . . . crucify Him?! Surely then, like Peter, we grab our sword and fight? Surely then we do as Joshua and Caleb would have done? No. We don’t. Listen carefully to the King:
36 . . . “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (John 18:36, ESV, emphasis added)