Jesus Christ is not just savior of the human soul; He’s the savior of the world. He’s not just a personal savior; He’s the savior of the kosmos. But what does the New Testament mean by “world?” And that’s the only problem with the English language. It’s the words we use!
As Easter approaches and we naturally focus on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I want to take this opportunity to pull back the curtain on some of our assumptions and find out if we can discover something wonderful.
In this series of posts, I would like to look at these three questions:
- What does the New Testament mean by “world?”
- What does it mean that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World?
- Why should this matter to us?
What does the New Testament mean by “world?”
The Greek word for “world” is kosmos (κόσμος). Classically, it means “the universe, creation, humanity, the planet earth, the theater of history, etc.” The New Testament uniquely adds another layer to this word: “the human sociological realm that exists in estrangement from God.” **
We see “world” used in all of these ways in the New Testament, which is where the confusion comes in. It’s not how we normally understand the word, so we run the risk of missing what’s actually being exposed and can even end up hating what God loves.
The human sociological realm
In 1975, Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade, and Loren Cunningham, founder of Youth With a Mission, had lunch together in Colorado. God had simultaneously given each of these men a vision of seven mountains, or spheres of influence, in world culture(“mountains” symbolize kingdoms or realms of authority in Scripture). These seven “mountains” are as follows:
- Communication (media)
- Arts and Entertainment
We need to make a critically important distinction here. Neither the creation, the people, nor these seven spheres of cultural influence are inherently evil. They are FALLEN…and God intends to redeem them all!
The world is not evil, it’s fallen…but it will be redeemed!
This is critical to understanding what and who Jesus came to save, and how we are to know which “world” we are to live in but not be of (John 15:17). Here are three passages that can help us here:
God called everything He created very good.
31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good… (Gen.1:31 * – see also vs. 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25)
God’s creation was corrupted at the fall but will be redeemed:
19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Rom.8:19-21 *)
Furthermore, God declares that the kingdoms of this world (“seven mountains,” Mystery Babylon…) have become the kingdoms of Christ:
15 Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15 *)
“Have become” here is a proleptic declaration. These two “worlds” have co-existed since Jesus inaugurated His kingdom on the earth (Mark 1:15), and will continue to co-exist for a time, even though the estranged “world” is already defeated (see also Heb.2:8-9).
The point is, Jesus did not come to take us out of the world but to first deliver us from its insidious prison, and then deliver all of creation and the seven mountains. In other words, it’s not this earth, or the people, or the societal structure that’s evil, it’s this ubiquitous counterfeit overlay. I say “overlay” because of how it insinuates itself on God’s legitimate world-structure.
By way of analogy, here’s where Morpheus can help us (watch up to 3:26):
MORPHEUS: “It is the world that’s been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth”
NEO: “What truth?”
MORPHEUS: “That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage, born into a prison you cannot smell, or taste, or touch…” ***
What Morpheus is trying to tell Neo (and us) is that God’s good world, including His societal structure, has been high-jacked by a counterfeit world that’s been pulled over our eyes. This is how Paul put it:
4 in whose case the god of this world [age] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor.4:4 NASB *)
First, by saying the god of this world-age (aion), Paul means that this counterfeit construct is only for a finite period of time.
Second, even though everything has been placed in Christ (Col.1:16-17), like a person born blind, we do not see the light of the glory of Christ shining in our hearts until our eyes of faith have been opened.
But, like Neo, even if our eyes are not yet opened, we sense that there’s something wrong with the world…we don’t know what it is, but we’ve felt it our entire life…something we cannot smell, taste, or touch…yet it’s everywhere….when we turn on our television…when we go to work…when we go to church….
We will continue this next time.