Herman Ridderbos (1909-2007) on the resurrection of the dead

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“The resurrection of believers is set before the church time and time again in many different contexts as the great redemptive occurence of the future. It springs directly from and has its explanation in the reality of the resurrection of Christ, the center of the Pauline proclamation (Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 6:14; 2 Cor. 4:14).

His own people were already included in Christ’s resurrection, and baptism is the sacramental incorporation into this redemptive event (Rom. 6:4ff.; Col. 2:12; 3:1). The actual renewal of their life is the likeness of Christ’s resurrection (Rom. 6:5); in it the resurrection of Christ is already working itself out (Rom. 6:8; 2 Cor. 4:10ff.), and will work itself out more and more (2 Cor. 3:18).

It is this having been raised with Christ, this being permitted to know oneself alive for God in Christ (Rom. 6:11), this having already put on the new man (of the resurrection) (Col. 3:10), which has its consummation in the resurrection from the dead at Christ’s parousia.

And in proportion as believers may be the more forcefully aware of having been included in this spiritual event of renewal, they will also be the more fervent for its full outworking in the resurrection of the dead (Phil. 3:11ff)…

Christ has robbed death of its power (2 Tim. 1:10), given His own victory over death (1 Cor. 15:57). His resurrection and that of His people form an unbreakable unity.”

– Herman Ridderbos (1909-2007), Paul: An Outline of his Theology, p 537-538

Herman Ridderbos (1909–2007) on how the new creation has come to light

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“Paul’s kerygma [proclamation] of the great time of salvation that has dawned in Christ is above all determined by Christ’s death and resurrection. It is in them that the present aeon has lost its power and hold on the children of Adam and that the new things have come. For this reason, too, the entire unfolding of the salvation that has dawned with Christ again and again harks back to his death and resurrection, because all the facets in which this salvation appears and all the names by which it is described are ultimately nothing other than the unfolding of what this all-important breakthrough of life in death, of the kingdom of God in this present world, contains within itself. Here all lines come together, and from hence the whole Pauline proclamation of redemption can be described in its unity and coherence. Paul’s preaching, so we have seen, is “eschatology,” because it is preaching the fulfilling redemptive work of God in Christ. We might be able to delimit this further, to a certain extent schematically, by speaking of Paul’s “resurrection-eschatology.” For it is in Christ’s death and subsequent resurrection that the mystery of the redemptive plan of God has manifested itself in its true character and that the new creation has come to light.”

– Herman Ridderbos (1909–2007), Paul: An Outline of his Theology (Paulus: Ontwerp van zijn theologie), p. 57

Herman Ridderbos (1909–2007): Ushering in the Kingdom?

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I’ve heard of church (and para-church) mission statements and flyers that talk about bringing God’s kingdom to this city or that city by cleaning up neighborhoods, reforming city hall, and getting rid of gangs. While I’m certainly not against those things, I’d argue they are not “kingdom work.” I’m not comfortable with this type of language for several reasons (i.e. Heidelberg Catechism Q/A’s 83-85). Herman Ridderbos (1909–2007) explains it well:

“[The] absolutely theocentric character of the kingdom of God in Jesus’ preaching…implies that its coming consists entirely in God’s own action and is perfectly dependent on his activity.  The kingdom of God is not a state or condition, not a society created and promoted by men (the doctrine of the ‘social gospel’).  It will not come through an immanent earthly evolution, nor through moral action; it is not men who prepare it for God.  All such thoughts mean a hopelessly superficial interpretation of the tremendous thought of the fullness and finality of God’s coming as king to redeem and to judge.”

“Viewed from the human standpoint, therefore, the kingdom of heaven is in the first place something to keep praying and waiting for with perseverance.  Its coming is nothing less than the great divine break-through, the ‘rending of the heavens’ (Is. 64:1), the commencement of the operation of the divinedunamis (power; Mark 9:1).  The kingdom of heaven is, therefore, absolutely transcendent in its origin, it is the revelation of God’s glory (Matt 16:27; 24:30; Mark 8:38; 13:26, etc).  That is why the doxology at the end of the Lord’s prayer in many manuscripts (‘for thine is the kingdom’) although not originally there, is still the most appropriate formula conceivable to conclude the ‘prayer of the kingdom.’  The kingdom is not only concerned with God, it also originates with him.  Its coming is only to be understood on the basis of his miraculous and all-powerful action.”

– Herman Ridderbos (1909–2007), The Coming of the Kingdom (De Komst van het Koninkrijk), p. 23-24

In other biblical terms, we can say that just as farmer can’t make the seed grow, neither can humans usher in the kingdom of God (cf. Mk. 4:26-29).