The Kingdom of Heaven

It would appear God has my Muse by the short hairs. Maybe that means something. That would be nice. It’s not the most comfortable position for my Muse to be in, for sure. But, as in all things, it could be far worse, she could have a bad back…  On the bright side, once I get this out of my system, I’ll be freed to write about other things, unless God starts speaking to me.

Now that I think about that prospect, I’m not sure if I’m excited or terrified. I guess it would depend on what He has to say.

* * * *

Back when I was a psych nurse, I would occasionally engage my co-workers in religious discussions. As I said, I spent a lots of time thinking about the subject, and it was probably safer than talking about their tits.

Except with my ex-work wife, former Wonder Twin, Tara Grant Molden. She could talk about either subject with the same amount of ease. What a gal!

But one of my colleagues said something like unto this one day, “I go to church, but it’s a bunch of Biblical stuff, and who can understand that?” I know, right! And she was smart! Nice tits too, by the way. And one of the most confusing Biblical things was the Kingdom of Heaven.

When Jesus started his ministry, he did so by announcing, “The Kingdom of Heaven is upon you.” That’s what the Good News was. I guess it’s still the Good News.

Okay, class. What do you need to have a kingdom?

A king!

Yes. And what else?

A queen?

Maybe. What else?

A castle, with a throne?

Sure, why not. What else?

Um, subjects?

And that’s pretty much it. A kingdom is a group of people united under, and ruled by, a king. And that, was the purpose of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus was sent by God to create a divine government.

Somehow, that message has been diluted down over the years, and I think we can thank the Romans for that. The early Christians certainly had to be careful not to step on the toes of the Romans, or Rome would have stomped back, with both feet.

The Roman emperors were, well, jealous of anyone trying to usurp their status and power. Some of them were actually paranoid about it. The last thing the emperor wanted was a rival to his throne, even if that rival was a dead guy who became a god.

So, Jesus the King, was replaced by Jesus the Savior, and only a few-ish early Christians became martyrs, instead of all of them. And even though Christianity no longer has to worry about getting exterminated the Roman Empire, that message persists to this day. Jesus is mostly viewed as a savior first, and a king second, if at all.

But let’s review God’s purpose–what does God want? As near as I’ve been able to tell, what God wants, He tends to get.

“I have sworn by my own name; I have spoken the truth, and I will never go back on my word: Every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess allegiance to me.”

That is the Book of Isaiah. This phrase is repeated and reaffirmed in the New Testament in Romans 14: 11. It is repeated again in Philippians, Chapter 2. 9, but this time, the focus is on Jesus. “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Think of any novel or movie that has a king in it. Whenever any of his subjects are brought before the king, they drop to one knee in respect/allegiance and say, “My Lord.”  

Let’s go back to the vision of John in the Book of Revelation. Jesus Christ is about to return. He rides a white horse. On his head are many crowns. On his robe is written King of all kings and Lord of all Lords. It doesn’t say Savior of all saviors or Redeemer of all redeemers or Deliverer of all deliverers.

King of all kings. Lord of all lords.

When he returns, he comes to reclaim his kingdom.

This, I think, is the message the Holy Spirit will deliver. This is why you must listen to him. The King is coming. Everyone knee shall bow, every tongue proclaim; Jesus Christ is my sovereign lord.

There’s a word for failure to obey a king. It’s called treason. And treason is punishable by death.

* * * *

Most of the pastors I knew back in Arizona loved to talk about God, and Jesus, and faith, and stuff. After all, it was their job. But there was one topic none of them were wild about discussing, and that was the End of Times.

The end of the world has been predicted countless times down through the centuries, and there’s one thing that all of the predictions have in common.

They’ve all been wrong.

So, my questions to the pastors about the end were mostly deflected or ignored, and that was probably a pretty smart thing for them to do. I sent several pastors copies of my theory about the Holy Spirit and his role at the End of Times. The most complementary thing I heard back from them was my ideas appeared to have a strong Biblical and Scriptural foundation, but none of them had ever seen or heard anything like my idea before.

“Yes, I know. I’ve looked. I can’t find anything like it either.” was my response. And because it was something not seen or heard before, it was impossible for them to accept it as something that could be true.

I don’t choose to feel disappointed in them. I don’t know if my idea is correct. If I knew I was right about this, my reaction would probably be different.

So, I pray, and I think, and pray some more. And all I hear is a ringing noise in my left ear. Not exactly a ringing endorsement from God in my mind. And even if God did speak to me, that would hardly make my idea more acceptable to anyone else, even a pastor. Actually, especially a pastor.

They think they know more God than anyone.

* * * *

Jesus said, “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail.”

So, how does one get into the Kingdom of Heaven? How else? You have to work for it. Jesus explained it like this: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him,  ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’

“And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’

“But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. 

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

If I am nothing else, I am persistent. I’m not sure where it’s gotten me…

The most obvious question is, What am I supposed to ask for? Ask to be shown the Way. What am I supposed to seek? Seek the Truth. Well, why do I have to look? Because the Way and the Truth are hidden.

Jesus explained it this way: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way.”

I’m not sure about the childlike part, but I have been described as ladylike. Maybe that will suffice.

“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”

“Blessed are the eyes that see what you have seen. I tell you, many prophets and kings longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.”

And what did they hear? They heard his voice.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.”

The most beautiful illustration of this comes from the Gospel of John, of course.

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

And that was the precise moment she realized who he was. It was the way he said her name. I love that story.

* * * *

Jesus knows his sheep, and his sheep know him. And sometime prior to the end, Jesus will send the Holy Spirit to gather the sheep that can hear his call. This idea came to me back in 2010. I was convinced at the time that the Holy Spirit would appear any minute! And, then he didn’t.

See? Not a prophet.

Nonetheless, I’m convinced he’ll show up someday. I hope I’ll be around to see it. And when he comes, he will gather together all of the sheep that hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, and they will come to him when he calls. And those people will be the first subjects in the Kingdom of Heaven.

So, how does one get into the Kingdom of Heaven? For that, I think you have to be able to hear the invitation.

Jesus used the parable of the Great Feast to explain: “The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servants to notify those who were invited.

“But they all refused to come. So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’ But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business.”

When the Holy Spirit comes, I think he will invite those with ears to hear to the mother of all wedding feasts—the marriage of Jesus Christ to his Church. You may be invited to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Clearly, you can choose not to attend. But not only will you be invited to the great feast that has been so long in preparing, you will have a seat of honor at the groom’s table.

You will be seated right next to the King. From where he sits, Jesus Christ can lean over, take you by the hand, look you in the eye and say, “Thank you for coming. It means a lot to me that you are here.”

Pretty cool, huh?

* * * *

Jesus warned us repeatedly, “I will come as unexpectedly as a thief.” I’ve talked to many people about this passage, including several pastors. Most people assume Jesus means he will come when we least expect it. That is true, but Jesus almost always has multiple meanings whenever he speaks. So let’s break this down.

What does a thief do?

Well, thieves steal stuff, is that it?

If everything on earth already belongs to God, why would he need to steal his own possessions? What do we own, what quality do we possess that God does not already have in abundance? Jesus probably didn’t mean this.

So, what does a thief look like?

Who knows? Don’t they wear a disguise?

Now you’re on to something.

Keep your eyes, and your mind, open. Listen. And try to be ready.

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