In 1822, the German composer Franz Schubert began his Symphony No. 8 in B minor, completing two movements and an apparent study of a third before he died. It is perhaps his best-known and cherished work, often called The Unfinished Symphony, and has stirred many composers to try their hand at completing it -- so far without success. "Impossible!" some would say, "How could anyone capture what was in the spirit and soul of the original composer?"
Some music historians and scholars have labored to prove that the composition was actually complete in its two movements, and nothing more was intended by the author. But to the trained ear of a classical musician, it is inescapably lacking a satisfying conclusion, failing even to return to the key in which it was begun. Such people wish that the spirit that inspired the first two movements, and gave a mere glimpse of the third, could be brought back to complete the unfinished symphony.
This true story is strikingly similar to that of another unfinished symphony -- the greatest symphony that could ever be imagined. It expresses the heart of the Creator Himself, and His ultimate purpose for mankind. Like Schubert's unfinished symphony, the first two movements have been completed, and the third is but a prophetic sketch that must await a renaissance of the Spirit of its Composer. And just as with Schubert's symphony, there are many who scoff at the suggestion that there was a third movement in the Composer's heart. But there are others who long for His grand symphony to be completed, and His perfect will to be accomplished on the earth.
The first movement began with the awakening of new life on the desolate landscape of this ancient planet. From the barren earth a lush garden sprang up at the very word of the Composer and Conductor, soon to be filled with a myriad of living creatures, each playing its own special part. Yet all creation held its breath as God brought forth from the dust of the earth His most magnificent creation: Man (male and female), created in the very image and likeness of his Creator. His purpose? To fill the earth and be its loving caretakers, gardeners, and shepherds, ruling under the direction of their Creator.1 A noble calling!
Alas, the majesty of the music was short-lived, as the Serpent cleverly beguiled the woman into rebelling against God's clear command, and the man following after her plunged the human race into darkness. No longer would their Creator walk with them and shine His bright light on their steps, but they would have to walk by the light of their own consciences -- their inherent knowledge of good and evil. In their suffering to bear children and to bring forth a living from the reluctant earth, they would have to grope for their Creator, and He would have to wait for someone with a heart to rule.2
The following two thousand years of tumult were finally interrupted by the hopeful melody of a heart being stirred, desperately longing for the light of his Creator. Abram stood gazing up at the sparkling stars on the velvety blackness of space, feeling very small, but willing to do the will of the One who had put those stars in their places. It was exactly the kind of heart God was waiting for. Over 85 years old and childless, Abram heard in his heart the impossible promise of his Creator: "Count the stars if you are able to number them. So shall your offspring be."3
Abram believed God, and God cast His mantle of righteousness over Abram, calling him His friend, and began to reveal Himself to him. It was the first time since the Fall that a man enjoyed intimate communion with his Creator, and when that communion deepened, God changed Abram's name to Abraham ("father of a multitude"), knowing that he would command his children and his household after him to keep His way by doing righteousness and justice.4
On that basis, God made a self-cursing oath to give to Abraham's offspring the land from the Euphrates to the River of Egypt as an everlasting possession.5 His intention was that twelve tribes would come forth from Abraham's offspring, and they would dwell in that land in peace and unity, demonstrating through the bonds of their holy brotherhood the love, justice, and righteousness of their God. They were to be His royal priesthood, His holy nation, a people for His own possession who would be a great light to the nations around them,6 like a symphony itself in its intricate, well-balanced harmonies.
Tragically, except for brief periods under Joshua and King David, this orchestra often ignored and even reviled its Conductor, bringing forth a cacophony7 rather than a symphony. Tribal wars, idolatry, injustice, and sexual immorality weakened the nation to the point that they were overcome by their enemies. Two thousand years after God had chosen Abraham to be the father of His holy nation, only a bitter and discordant fragment of Abraham's descendants remained in the land, living resentfully under the dominion of Rome, in desperate need of a Savior. Yet among them were a few truly humble souls, praying earnestly for the Consolation of Israel.
The second movement begins with the pure and plaintive strain of an aged priest named Zechariah, sincerely performing his allotted service in the midst of a corrupt priesthood. As he approaches the altar of incense in the Holy Place, an angel appears and tells him that his prayers have been heard and that his wife Elizabeth will bear him a very special son who will turn many of the children of Israel back to their God. He would be the one spoken of by the prophet Malachi, who was to come in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Messiah.8
In perfect harmony, Elizabeth's cousin Mary adds her song as she humbly receives the angel's word that she, yet a virgin, will conceive and give birth to the Messiah, who will be called Yahshua, for He will save His people from their sins.9 At His birth, the angels themselves break forth into shouts of exultant joy, introducing the dramatic movement of His short life. From His unexpected baptism by John in the muddy Jordan, to His shocking crucifixion on Calvary, to the unimaginable agony of His suffering for three days and three nights in Sheol,10 to His triumphant resurrection, His life expressed the very heart and soul of the Creator for Israel and for all of mankind. It was the song of love.
He taught that song to all who would listen, and especially to the twelve men who walked with Him, day and night, for the last three years of His life on earth. He told them to forsake everything to follow Him, and He would give them eternal life. That was the only gospel they knew. He wrote His commandments on their hearts, teaching them by His example to put them into practice. He labored to keep them in perfect harmony. His last prayer for them before His death was that they would be perfectly one, just as He was one with His Father.11 His last command to them after His resurrection was to teach that same song to all who would receive them -- teaching them to obey everything He had commanded them.12 His intention was that His twelve apostles13 would establish a new spiritual nation of twelve tribes that would fully express His Father's heart in every place where they dwell together in communities, as a light to the nations around them.14
Although there is no trace of that spiritual nation left today, the book called "The Acts of the Apostles" records the fact that the apostles did as they were commanded.15 They preached the gospel they had received, and all who believed forsook everything just as they had. They all lived together and had all things in common. They were of one heart and soul, like a well-tuned symphony orchestra. Their communal life multiplied and grew into a spiritual nation of twelve tribes who earnestly served God night and day, hoping to fulfill their prophetic destiny.16 But over time, self-sacrifice gave way to self-concern and they forgot the melody.17 No longer able to live together in peace, they drifted back into living their own independent lives. Their lively circles of spontaneous daily sharing18 ultimately gave way to a weekly ritual of filing into their pews to be led through a fixed liturgy by a professional clergy pretending to be God's ministers.19
At some point along the way, the Conductor withdrew to His chamber, unwilling to endure the cacophony that had overtaken what had once been His orchestra. The second movement had ended, but most didn't even notice,20 continuing to screech out their own discordant improvisations, each claiming to be led by Him. Christianity had begun.
It has been at least 1800 years since the last note of the second movement was played, yet most Christians still claim that God is directing their countless conflicting denominations,21 and that He never really expected His people to bear the fruit of His kingdom in this age.22 Supposedly God is going to welcome them all into heaven where they will play beautiful music together in eternal bliss while those who have shut their ears to the noisy gongs and clanging cymbals of Christianity will burn forever in hell. But many good and honest people over the past eighteen centuries have sensed the absurdity of this claim, and have earnestly longed for a third and final movement of God that will actually usher in His kingdom on earth.
Without a doubt, the symphony is unfinished, for the grand finale has not yet happened. Yahshua, the Messiah, has not returned, and He cannot and will not return until the end of the third movement, for as it says in Acts 3:21, "must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore all things, as He promised long ago through His holy prophets." This is speaking of the restoration of Israel in the next age as a twelve tribe nation dwelling in the land God promised to give to Abraham's descendants,23 just as Yahshua promised to His disciples, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."24
So what is He waiting for? He is waiting for His Bride to be made ready,25 and His Bride is the spiritual twelve tribes of Israel.26 He is waiting for His enemies to be made a footstool for His feet,27 which are the feet of His Bride, which is His Body, the Church.28 She must be restored in this age as she was in the first century,29 and she must complete the course, bearing the fruit of the Kingdom as a witness to the whole earth, and then the end will come.30 That is the third movement of the symphony, and it is just beginning...