We expected Jesus to liberate us from Rome. To be the conquering king. Not the kind of king who rules over an invisible kingdom – a “kingdom of heaven.” Yet that’s what we got, and for two millennia, we have followed the cross toward the vision of that kingdom.
What kind of kingdom is this? One we find after death? After Christ’s second coming? Or here, on Earth, where we find and nurture it amongst ourselves, united by the Spirit of God?
As John MacArthur explains, “heaven” as Jesus used it was a “euphemism for God’s name,” and in fact refers to both the present Christian community and the post-apocalyptic world. Jewish people didn’t like to use God’s name, so Jesus used this phrase to avoid offense.
The concept of the “kingdom” is the sphere of God’s dominion over those who belong to him by faith. It is a present reality, and if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have entered into the Kingdom of Heaven.
In other words, when Jesus brings out the water to wash the disciples’ feet and instructs them to do for others as he is doing for them, he means it. Now. Today. Serve, show compassion, turn the other cheek, bear witness to the truth (no matter the consequence).
Being Christlike is to create heaven here on Earth – the world God created for us, and created us for, when he put us in the Garden.
For nearly as long, church leadership has too often told Christians that life on Earth is suffering (the fall), that kings are anointed, and blessed are the meek. From the time of the Medieval torturing priest, to today’s pastor telling the unvaxed they are no longer welcome at his church, too many teach, not compassion, but compliance.
Abuse of power. Misdirection of Scripture. Unfaithful shepherds.
The challenge is to discern where serving God conflicts with serving others. To discern, in fact, what actual service is. Is honoring someone else’s fear, or the lies of a monstrous machine, service?
I think not.
Let’s move on. We’ve talked a little about heaven, and will come back to it. Let’s talk for a minute about hell.
Heaven is of course opposed to hell, where we do not want to go.
While Jesus only refers to the classical idea of Hades (afterworld) once in Luke 16, the word he uses 11 times for hell is actually Gehenna, which was a literal place. This was a region where people ritually sacrificed children to Molek. It was later turned into a dump – a place of maggots and burning fire.
Gehenna was a place Jesus’ listeners understood to be what we might today describe as “hell on earth.”
It’s popular tradition to imagine heaven and hell as places we are sent to after death, but if we’re faithful to Scripture, they are actually twofold concepts, referring to experiences of this lifetime as well as our destination after the final judgment.
The servant is not greater than his master. When Jesus said this, he meant, if I am happy to wash your feet… for heaven’s sake… wash each other’s.
This is where we must consolidate and regroup. We must come together, united, as one church. The awake church. We must leave behind the corrupt and money-inspired influence of the corporate pastor, and the easy platitudes on Christian radio, and the subtle messages of fear. We must leave behind the comfort of cultural traditions worn thin over decades or centuries. We must be willing to look at the text with fresh eyes and ask ourselves…
How are “they” striving to create hell here and now?
How can I counter that? How can I create space for heaven, here?
Is it by taking someone in who’s struggling to find their way unvaxed? Is it by setting aside the familiar bullshit and becoming a more authentic witness? Is it by putting down the phone and getting back into the kitchen, or the shop, or the garden, or the Bible, to ready?
Is it by grounding myself in prayer so that I am a more patient servant for my family and loved ones as things become worse?
In the end, Rome did fall. Jesus knew that it would. He knew that they would try to rebel, and he knew the temple would be destroyed in the process (Mark 13). It’s not in the Scripture, so forgive me for hypothesizing, but knowing how history unfolded after Jesus’ death, we have to assume that the Lord knew that Christianity – the emerging church, a new kind of faith – would emerge as the dominant power of the West when Rome rotted and collapsed.
We may be enduring something similar now.
I don’t believe in regret, but in some ways I am sorry that in my anger, I led others to invest time and energy into protest. I was, in fact, furious with myself. Furious with being one of the smug, uninformed liberals who created this machine we’re now fighting.
We can’t fight this with cardboard signs. A lot of you knew that. A lot of people headed out to the mountains a long time ago. Those of us who tried, well, all I can say is this: The courage we developed standing last year – we’’ll need that in the future.
Because, you see, this is all to restore Gehenna, and we, we stand in the way of that.
Buckle up, and God bless.