If a kingdom exists today, if there’s an empire anywhere or a republic that is preparing to crucify Jesus all over again the NT sounds both a word of warning and assurance. To that kingdom or republic the gospel is a word of warning and to the uneasy believers in Jesus Christ there’s a word of assurance and warning. The word is this: this has been tried before and it failed—it failed with an eternal failure. A powerful, ruthless and brutal empire nailed Jesus to a cross, stripping him of his rights and his very life only to discover that in the cross it was being stripped, made a spectacle and rendered powerless [Colossians 2.15].
Now in their tens of thousands each year tourists travel to ruins in Rome to hear some guide say, "This is where the Empire used to torment and jeer at the followers of Jesus Christ."
The cross exists both to assure and warn Christians. It assures them that since crucifixion has been tried before, crucifixions don’t trouble the Christ and the gates of Hades cannot prevail against a church that is his body.
Government decrees, public opinion, high or supreme-court decisions, political corruption or war-mongering gangsters—none of these makes the slightest difference: Jesus is Lord! [Why then doesn’t he crush them? We’re so keen on having our enemies crushed. He is keen on redeeming them. The complexities are beyond us but they're not beyond him. It is the Lord, let him do what seems right to him.]
The cross is also a word of warning. Christ’s Lordship is not the kind that is established by the use of threats of reprisal. His kingdom is not of this "world" and any kingdom we seek to prop up by military might or shrewd political manoeuvring in the corridors of power or by the threat of economic sanctions is not the kind of kingdom of which Philippians 2:5-11 speaks.
To use the weapons by which fallen structures like human governments establish themselves is the kind of thing the prophets railed against in the OT and would be included in Paul’s 2 Corinthians 10:2-6. To make alliances with foreign armies to sustain the kingdom of God in the OT was seen as treason against Yahweh. To recognise that the one true God establishes and uses human governments to achieve his purpose is one thing and to make alliances with them to further our ends is something else. To pay, obey and pray for human governments is right (Romans 13:1-5 and 1 Timothy 2:2—these texts need unpacked; they're not as simple as they look). To see them at times as God’s instruments of judgment against the enemies of truth and righteousness (wherever those are found) is also right (Isaiah 10:5, Habakkuk 1).
Governments and the powers invested in governments are the creation of God—leadership is no crime or perversion of God’s creation purposes (Colossians 1:16). But with the entrance of human sin these powers that God created were hijacked and made to serve satanic ends; a world-spirit demonized them. It is only in Jesus Christ, the righteous Governor and last Adam that such powers are first, defeated and disarmed and then reconciled to God (Colossians 1:15-16,20 and 2:15). The structures as they have come from God are not evil but they’ve been put to evil uses and in the hands of fallen humanity have become fallen structures.
To view them as the kingdom of God is a fundamental misunderstanding of the cross of Christ and the mind of God. The cross of Christ is the result of the use of government structures by fallen humans. Those who think that their government is or wishes to be completely submissive to Jesus Christ have not heard some of the thunder pealing out from the cross.
There exists in the world a people who are the "elect of God" and they have been called to be the "body of Christ" in and through which Christ continues to proclaim the reality and nature of his royal power. If it truly is to be the body of Christ then its theology, ordinances, liturgy and life is to be cruciform and by this it proclaims God’s blessing and redeeming deeds by Jesus Christ and his cross.
The church exists to stupefy the world!
The church exists to stupefy the world by proclaiming that it is only in and through Jesus Christ that reconciliation with God is accomplished and glory is won and eternal peace is gained and gained as a gift from God. Every time such a body baptizes someone into Christ or engages in Holy Communion at the Lord’s Supper they proclaim the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ by the way of the cross and they do it until he comes again. In the Eucharistic meal they defy and reject the gods and demons and proclaim one true God and his Blessed Lord Jesus [1 Corinthians 10:14-21].
But the Church—the extension of the incarnation of the blessed Lord Jesus—pays the price for being faithful, if and when it is faithful to its Lord. It's message is nonsense! Scandalous to some and stupidity to others [see 1 Corinthians 1:17-25]. The Church, as the Body of Christ, aims to save people by the preaching of a foolish gospel [1:21]. Preaching is folly and its preachers/teachers are fools [1 Corinthians 4:1, 9-10]. How stupid are is a preaching church! How pathetically weak!
But it's God's folly and his foolishness is wiser than all the wisdom of the ages. And whether we like it or not his weakness is the form taken by unimaginable power when it moves to redeem a planet where demonic parasites feed in the dark recesses of human corruption.
Fancy that! What we are most afraid of is exposed as a donkey running around in a lion's skin with its rear end showing. And what exposes them is the living Lord Jesus playing the fool again in his Body the Church.