By David Tan
A confession: I am a Star Wars fan and have watched all eight episodes of the film series so far. The first film came out in 1977 when I was a teenager and my Sunday school teacher brought our class to watch it. Some fans regard Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back as the best in the series, possibly because it revealed that Darth Vader was the father of Luke Skywalker, to everyone’s surprise and horror. In this instalment of the Star Wars saga, the Galactic Empire, having suffered the destruction of its Death Star, hunts down and attempts to destroy the Rebel Alliance.
But what has Star Wars got to do with missions?
Well, I feel that perhaps the best summary of God’s plan for mankind and creation can be expressed as “The Kingdom Strikes Back”. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and everything was good under God’s reign. But the first man, Adam, disobeyed God and brought sin into God’s Kingdom. Subsequently, mankind continued to rebel against God until he felt it necessary to destroy almost all of mankind in a flood, leaving just one man, Noah, and his family. However, that did not solve the problem of sin as mankind’s rebellion against God continued.
Photo: Elyse Patten, Wycliffe Global Alliance.
In fact, mankind even deliberately ignored God’s command to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen 1:28) In Gen 11, the people said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” (Gen 11:4) So God confused the language of human beings so they were not able to complete the Tower of Babel project. Instead, they were scattered all over the earth. It seemed that mankind was determined to rebel against God. But all was not lost – in Gen 12, God launched his plan for restoring his Kingdom (or redemption) by calling Abraham and promising that all the nations of the world would be blessed through him.
The whole biblical narrative is basically the story of how the Kingdom of God fell and how God restored and continues to restore his Kingdom through Abraham, Christ and the Church. When God called Abraham, he told him that he would not only bless him, but would also bring blessing to the nations through him. This blessing eventually came through the seed of Abraham, namely Christ. When Christ was on earth, he often preached about the Kingdom having come through him, e.g. “‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’” (Mk 1:15).
The Tower of Babel event marked the height of mankind’s rebellion against God’s rule. God’s punishment of confusing the language of mankind created different ethnic groups or nations that were spread over the earth. The good news is that all these will one day be restored to God’s reign under Christ. This was always God’s plan for humanity, that in the end, “every nation, tribe, people and language” will worship before the Lamb (Rev 7:9). The Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost gave a foretaste of what this would be like by enabling the early believers to declare the praises of God in different languages which they had not learned.
So what does this mean for Christians?
Well, contrary to what many believers may think, salvation is not just about receiving forgiveness for our sins. Yes, it does include that, but the true meaning of salvation is really the restoration of God’s Kingdom and rule over all creation. We, having been justified by faith and forgiven, enter into God’s Kingdom. And we are commanded to be God’s ambassadors to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God to others too. In particular, we are commanded to go and make disciples from every nation so that all nations will be represented in worship before God for all eternity. The Great Commission given by Christ is a clarion call to his people to join forces with him to strike back against sin and restore his Kingdom – The Kingdom Strikes Back!
To God be the glory!
Dr David Tan is the Executive Director of Wycliffe Singapore. He and his wife, Sharon, served overseas for several years.