Monday, November 12, 2012

WHEN IS HEAVEN?....November 12, 2012

The reader may wish to read Edward Fudge's compelling, excellently written orthodox interpretation of these matters at the bottom before reading my essay. You will notice at times he and I are much in agreement. In this essay I am equating the expressions. 'Kingdom is coming', 'Kingdom is at hand', 'Heaven is now or tomorrow', 'Heaven is here and now', 'Heaven or Kingdom is imminent.'

Remember this: heaven ain't here yet. Hi Edward. This light hearted comment nearly passed me by as harmless and not worthy of comment. But while walking I realized it stirs me to think that things extremely important and timeless are being thrown out. A real example of 'throwing out the baby with the bath water.' I disagree with what your expression asks us in the end to give up. This difference has nothing to do with intelligence for I'm confident your IQ would check out higher than mine. Actually strong Western intelligence often adds to the problem of our thinking we have a total picture when we are actually not yet conscious of  some deeper considerations. I think it is nearer the truth to say that 'Heaven is now, or if not-then tomorrow.' I want to approach this from several directions.

I do acknowledge and do not apologize that my thinking about such things has been influenced by the reflections of Carl Jung. I do not consider him a guru, messiah or more complete in personality than many others. I have found him to be one of those authentic seekers whose work I have found very helpful in interpreting my own observations and  experiences of life. Jung has especially been help in that way with respect to the nature of human inner life.

A post I'm reading about the Historical Jesus today states an essential concept in interpreting the gospels, For me it is difficult to separate the historical Jesus from the socio-economic havoc wrought in Galilee by Herod the Great and his son, the Tetrarch Herod Antipas. Having served as governor of Galilee during the waning days of the last Hasmonean regime, Herod discovered the vast agricultural bounty of the region, and ruthlessly exploited this wealth to finance vainglorious building projects in Judea and Samaria after becoming king. Galilean farmers--as Joseph probably was, in addition to his woodworking skills--were slowly crushed under a triple layer of taxes: tithes due to the priesthood; tribute due to Rome; and lastly, taxes to sustain Herod's own lavish administration.” 

The sensitive and highly conscious Jesus stepped into a very unique religious/political environment. The Jews, prompted by severe religious/civil oppression, were expecting the imminent appearance of a Messiah Savior who would change their cruel world into a place of justice and the full reign of God on earth. Or to put it another way they expected any day for 'Heaven on Earth' to be realized. Jesus supported this hopeful attitude and longing by his central preaching concept, 'The Kingdom of God is at hand.' This meant  for people to believe.... 'that heaven or God's full reign can be expected any day now.' He assured them that in their lifetime  'heaven or the kingdom would come.' Matthew 23:34

Middle East Children Of Poverty And Oppression Today.

This same kind of mindset of longing for the full presence of God on earth continued, even more strongly, after Jesus was murdered by Roman decree. This is what, more than any precept or teaching, drove the hope and endurance of the earliest Christian communities. They literally and whole heartedly believed Jesus would return in the flesh even the 'next day' to bring his 'Kingdom on earth' to realization or 'heaven on earth' into full outer reality. Matthew 6:10 Without that strong powerful notion of heart and soul the 'believing' community would never have survived. It can't be over stated that to believe with heart and soul that 'heaven is just a day away' is the central archetypal energy of primitive Christianity. Any belief system that does not seek in some manner to retain that same spiritual/psychological orientation in human thought and ambition can hardly be said to be fully in touch with Christian foundations. This is why  as an heir of such a type of  mindset for nearly three decades I strongly disagree with the lighthearted certainty statement , “Heaven ain't now.” To every trusting Jew of Jesus' day and to every first generation Christian  Heaven was not 'now' but it surely was tomorrow. That is the only way they could hang on to human life and have a deep confidence in its meaning. This was central to earliest Christianity. The saying that 'Heaven ain't here now' would to them seem like a kind of disbelief in Jesus.

It is important to keep in mind that this 'kingdom of God' or similarly to Christians 'heaven' was not 'pie in the sky in the sweet by and by.' The Jews had no such concept and Jesus did not really ever teach such a concept. It was all about 'heaven coming to earth' which is at the heart of the 'Lord's Prayer'. Jesus' prayer for them to 'all be one' is also a prayer for 'earthly life' to become a place of peace , harmony and joy which would be for 'all people', not just the ones praying that prayer. 'On earth as it is in heaven' was to these people a fleshly, on this very earth, full presence and reign of God and humans in full harmony with each other and the creation. It was a return to Eden but  potentially with a far more conscious understanding of love and life than the Genesis story pictures Adam and Eve having. To say rather nonchalantly, “Heaven ain't here yet” or  'Don't have any strong immediate expectations of it', is to throw out what the timeless symbol of  baby Jesus in the manger communicates.

So what happened to that 'lively hope' that was so central to the Jews of Jesus' day and which was elevated by Jesus and his admirers after he was killed? In short this specific hope of 'immediate heaven now' was, in less than a century, practically forgotten. Logically speaking it was, in some very real ways, misguided and misplaced. For a person to have such a driving hope for 'heaven tomorrow' interfered with carrying out the ordinary responsibilities of daily human life. If 'heaven is tomorrow' why bother with taking any precautions, why bother to instruct the young in making a living, why bother with even 'burying the dead?' God's reign and full harmony on earth is 'coming tomorrow.' The teaching would say that all that  is required of a human with such a conviction is to 'get by and trust the promise given today-that heaven is imminent.' 

The first gospel writers teach that 'heaven is tomorrow' and that this is the hope of the world and all who follow Jesus. All references above of Jesus emphasis on 'haven now or tomorrow' are found repeatedly in the gospel teachings, especially the first three 'synoptic' gospels. Paul, who wrote earlier,  speaks the language of an imminent return of Jesus. But he also warned that believers needed to tend to the matters of daily living and working. II Thessalonians 3:6  In the fourth gospel, John, we see a near fully post-Easter Jesus, a Jesus that is far more than human and an image of Jesus that one can use for a 'long haul' kind of faith. This was going to work much better for an institutional hierarchy model of life and church. In John the 'post Easter' Jesus is not nearly as much a symbol of 'the world will change tomorrow and heaven will be on earth' as a symbol that could encourage Jesus admirers to 'live in this world but not be of this world' for however long it takes. John 17. 

And even more the later epistles of the New Testament begin to teach against the idea of a seriously imminent coming of the 'Kingdom of God.' Jesus is being reinterpreted and his 'heaven is tomorrow' is no longer taught as a reasonable way to believe.  The Hebrews epistle is a strong effort to help Christians have support for the long haul they may have to  endure. Revelation is the purest apocalyptic literature in the New Testament but its 'Kingdom come' message is very different than that of the gospels. Revelation is a very dark desperate plea for Jesus' return. It's images include a Christ who 'devours children' in vengeance in contrast to the earlier images of Jesus' tender care for them all. Revelation 2:23.  Revelation ends with the apocalyptic plea,' Even Come Lord Jesus' but it had now become a desperate cry of 'save us.' By this time the author had seen so horribly many human atrocities happen because Jesus' expected immediate returned had been postponed 'far too long.' Revelation describes an intermediate psychological/spiritual state of mind between 'Loving Jesus will come immediately and make all right' and the final settling down of an institutional church to the understanding that, 'He will eventually come taking vengeance on disbelievers but don't count on it soon. Prepare for much suffering to come first.'

The implication of such 'new' teaching is the Kingdom might come to tomorrow but it is not really likely. The updated teaching in effect says, "We were mistaken  about 'Heaven being the same as here' as in the original teaching. We should have known 'with God one day is as a thousand years.' " II Peter 3:8.  In other words earlier believers had taken Jesus too literally. He was speaking metaphorically. So the Christian teachers themselves began to throw out the baby. They no doubt felt they had to of necessity  to keep order. And surely this is where we are generally today in orthodox Christian practice and belief. So it is now our conventional wisdom that whatever you think of heaven, 'Remember it for sure ain't now.' Such a change was necessary and correct for it has been over two thousand years and Jesus has not yet returned as the original teaching suggested.
So how can the archetypal energy of 'God's full presence is immanent daily' still be accessible to post-modern persons? We can rejoice for exclamations of love's supremacy such as I Corinthians 13. Here it is love that we are to yearn for, strive for and expect as the fullest meaning of human or Christian living.  And love is about 'right now or tomorrow.' I am suggesting that a fuller more complete experience of intimate love is the appropriate and effectual way the archetypal energy of 'Heaven is now or tomorrow' can be captured and lived in post-modern daily human life. For it is only 'love that is the greatest thing-nothing else.' This can be just as clear and sensible to us post-moderns as 'Jesus is Lord and not Caesar'  and ' Jesus Kingdom is to replace Caesar's any moment now' were to those original Jesus admirers.

Throughout church history there have been moments of strong upsurges in the notion that the “ kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And  people during such moments have alive again the hope of an imminent drastic positive change in the world and personal situation. But we post-modern people have a strong hunch, and we've seen it repeatedly confirmed, that such people are generally not psychologically well balanced and in time are always humiliated. Most of these upsurges of 'The Kingdom is here' though have not been about a 'heaven on the earth in the here and now' but that heaven is a 'different world', a non-physical world 'out there.' One modern exception to this is the doctrine of pre-millennealism which in my specific heritage is a heretical doctrine. But it has been embraced by Biblical literalists through the years. It says that Jesus will come back to this very earth and 'set up his Kingdom' where justice and harmony will reign over all. It does not say this is actually heaven but something much improved over what we have and a kind  of predecessor to heaven that will be in the 'other world.' 

My religious heritage, the nineteenth  century indigenous 'back to the Bible' Christian movement referred to as 'the restoration movement' was captured initially by a varying sense of the 'imminence' of the kingdom of God. This vacillated between a pre or post millennium belief. There was a conviction that some serious coming of the Kingdom of God was imminent so there became a desire to end the many factions of Christianity , to become simply Christians so the Church or 'bride of Christ' would be prepared for a kind of heavenly marriage, when the full 'kingdom comes.' This movement instead splintered into at least four separate Christian communities: The Independent Christian Church, The Disciples of Christ, The non instrumental churches of Christ and the non-institutional churches of Christ. There is scarcely any serious teaching in these groups today where people  are admonished to live with a strong expectation of 'heaven tomorrow.' I think The Jehovah Witnesses  teach a pre-millenneum view and an imminent coming of an earthly Kingdom of God. So neither mainline Christians or the general secular culture today live with any strong confidence that radical change, personally and collectively, which will be very good for all is fully expected each day.

The previous paragraph reminds me of the idea that the germ or seed of the end of one's spiritual journey is necessarily present in ones origins. So I consider my origins  just as important as where I have ended up in religious perception and belief. Ones origins include all the environment in which one begins their journey,  including  family, culture and  religion. So I honor my Southern family, conservative, Church of Christ origins. It gave me exactly what I needed for the seed of my life  to develop  as it has. No one should resent  their origins. It is likely they were 'chosen' very specifically for each of us. The only regret we might have is that when life nudged us to move on from the comfort of our origins we lacked the interest, will or courage to follow that nudge. My present religious perspective retains something that was an original emphasis of my religious origins which had practically been lost by that religious movement even before I was born. But that archetypal element has been restored in a unique way to me in my life's unfolding.  I am referring to the experience of 'Heaven always being at hand, tomorrow if not today, right now.' 

All modern teachings that would lead a person to live similarly to the gospel teaching 'Heaven is today or tomorrow' are generally referred to as apocalyptic.** My personal theology nor psychological understanding are in line with these apocalyptic teachings as they have come forth throughout the centuries of church history. But all apocalyptic Christian teaching does demonstrate how the living archetype of ' Heaven is tomorrow' is a living thing and it breaks through to some level of Christian experience time and again. People under the influence of such an archetype do admittedly 'have something' special, certainly a strong and hope filled emotional anticipation, which was a part of Hebrew and initial Christian foundations. Living Archetypes are powerful and can take over processes of the human psyche  in very unconscious and misleading ways. They are dangerous but full of real religious inspiration. Jung would say that without archetypal energy life becomes bland and meaninglessness threatens. Archetypal energy is essential  for being most fully human. But archetypal energy, when too unconscious, can also mislead and shipwreck personal life and collective culture. Any strong, potentially life altering, emotional experience of a person or a group should in our day be a red flag that we need to become more conscious of their source and meaning. Otherwise the unconscious archetypal forces will control human living in ways that can become destructive and lead to all kinds of disappointing dead ends.

Such eruptions of archetypal energy need to be 'worked with' and even challenged by the human conscious ego which at first experiences them as very strange and 'other'. This is precisely the therapeutic process that Carl Jung creatively used with his individual patients. The goal of his therapy was what he called 'individuation' which basically means supporting a person in their process of making conscious the archetypes that are most at work in his/her life. This kind of insight is also possible at the collective level. Our religious and political systems are also empowered by the living archetypes which can be made more conscious by intentionally interacting with them in therapeutic type ways. The fact that these apocalyptic 'Heaven is now' kinds of inner attitude and experience commonly erupt within Western communities, often with religious or Christian emphasis, is an indication that such archetypes strongly deserve our conscious attention. They do in fact  rightfully have an important place and role in a healthy human and Christian consciousness for our present day. I have attempted to show how  such a 'Heaven is tomorrow' attitude or archetype can be most needed and appropriate in our day. *** If I am correct such a direction would be how post modern people can be in touch, in a conscious and healthy way, with the very same archetypal structures and energy that were active in Jesus and his closest  admirers in his belief that “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”

The Greek Myth Of Psyche and Eros
I now  venture to comment on another archetypal aspect of the “Heaven is today.. or tomorrow” spiritual/psychological state of mind. I have written much about Eros being perhaps the single most direct and common connection between Humans and the Sacred. And I have also explained that Eros has, not without reason, been very villainized in Western culture; often associated with sexual promiscuity and life destroying sexual encounters and scenarios. ** But Eros is also a very needed and positive energy. “Eros is a human/Sacred archetypal power”, said theologian Paul Tillich which more than any other results in a person experiencing being fully alive and in love with self, others and the world. It is an experience that a great number of humans never forget the 'glory' and ' Oh my Godness' of. It lives as a strong fantasy, dream and yearning and can also break through as actual sexual encounter by youth and adults. However, because it has not been usually sustained such as in one night stands, temporarily exciting adulterous affairs  nor often  in legal marriage, it is passed off as an immature fantasy and something to be outgrown. So Eros experience is often rather purposely repressed and life is lived without an ongoing surge of Eros energy. 

Along with Paul's Ode to Love in First Corinthians chapter 13 and many other exhalations of love, the Bible raises up the importance of Eros love in its very center. Here  the Song of Solomon, or more appropriately Song of Songs, overtly intends to display the glory of Eros. Here are the amazing stories of the ecstatic Eros rendezvous of committed but unmarried lovers. I confidently say unmarried for there is no suggestion of marriage in the text. The woman explains she is under the close watch of family. And also,then as now, even with its culturally approved polygamy, no reasonable person  dared to  imagine such a sustained intimate Eros in the context of marriage. I stronngly suspect generally sustained Eros intimate relationships were not psychologically/spiritually possible in the ancient  patriarchal  and sexist cultures. But such daily sustained Eros love, in or out of legal marriage, is precisely what I am arguing can be the growing expectation of post-modern persons. If not presently for themselves personally then  for many others for whom life opens that door. (A large part of my life, as with many others, has been without an Eros charged relationship. But this need not discourage any of  us from supporting and expecting such love to be happening with others in our culture.) All moments of Eros love between committed responsible partners, I believe, make the world a far more loving and safe place for everyone. Only in our era  where mutual male-female relationships are culturally  valued can we  finally be at the cusp of sustained Eros love relationships as typical, not just an extreme occasional exception.

I am suggesting that Eros belongs as a central and fully legitimate aspect of inner and outer life. It is no accident that in Greek mythology Eros is a god who lives out an ecstatic yet also tragic relationship with a lover named Psyche(which means soul.) Eros and Psyche is a central story of love for Western civilization. It surely must be timeless and of highest imaginable need and purpose for human life in its ultimate potential. It lives, even if barely conscious, in our collective psyche as much today as ever.  I believe that it is not the honoring and genuine expectation and longing for Eros but the nearly universal repression and denigration of Eros that has led to such strong pornographic and sex trafficking markets.   And it is the repression and otherwise unconsciousness of the source of Eros that generate the tragic disappointment in not 'finding' it in life sustaining ways including many sincere marriage efforts. Eros, or the lack of it, is even expressed in our culture often as the butt of jokes. I would suggest we often laugh at our greatest disappointments in life when our true emotion about it, if known, is tears of sadness and loss.

So I am suggesting that the original yearning for a Messiah or heaven or especially Jesus' return in the flesh was strongly enriched by an Eros type of energy. These people had enjoyed the physical presence of Jesus. They had touched him. They had felt his strong warm physical embrace. The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas says that some had been 'kissed' by Jesus. Two women are described washing or anointing his feet with overtly erotic touch. The women came to the 'garden'(a biblical symbol of erotic love such as in  the Song of Solomon and Garden of Eden) tomb to anoint his body. So their yearning for him after his death was genuinely Erotic in nature. That does not mean they were explicitly sexually attracted but the ones most in love with him did long to touch and embrace him. The gospel of John has John laying his head on Jesus' breast and calling himself the 'most loved' by Jesus. These are clearly images of Eros love.  There is a foundation of Eros in all strong loving human relationships. Even where we can't be in such physical embrace, or where it is forbidden, it remains a part of any desired human intimate love. The presence of Eros is why the yearning for Jesus to return in the flesh was so unrelenting and why  an otherwise hopeless Christian people were able to endure extreme physical and spiritual hardships. Love was no intellectually sterile concept under the control of human will for them. Christian orthodoxy  long ago chose Agape love as the superior aspect of love which, without Eros and Phileo, turns into a cold formal technical term. But those early 'Heaven is tomorrow' believers were gripped by an Eros quality of love. Eros does not demand to be superior but does insist on being a mutual part of embodied human/sacred love. If it is rejected it will withdraw but it is nearly certain to come back in some dark and unpleasant way(s) in either personal or collective life.

I believe such Eros energy can accomplish the same today in individual and collective  human life which are in connection and harmony with healthy and balanced Eros psychological/spiritual energy.*** I carry the hope that our national culture, and likely the world, is near the point of a quantum jump in human capacity to experience sustained responsible Eros in intimate daily love relationships. This would truly change the world for such daily living with Eros would enable persons to realize far more fully that s/he is able to give and receive love in a most intimate and potent way. Such a person would always be able to say, 'I know I have been loved and have successfully given love' in such a complete way. I must emphasize that such a 'theory of Eros' does not leave anyone out. Even if a human is not intimately involved with a partner at any given time, even large parts or a whole  lifetime, s/he can still 'know and experience' they are living, like my personal life now, by Eros in connections with others. We can all glory in the fact that others are in such intimate  love relationships and supporting such love in every way we can.

Let me turn to a present American example of the fact of the power of Eros. We have just been informed that one of our national most respected, intelligent  community servants has had his life unravel before us. General David Petraeus, top leader of our recent wars, devoted husband and father has astonishingly resigned from his high post as director of the Central Intelligence Agency of the U.S.A. He acknowledged he was involved irresponsibly in an extra marital affair. Whatever is or is not true about this at the intimate human level , we can know that someone(s)' life has likely been powerfully changed both inwardly and outwardly. If what I am saying rings true we can suspect that he and perhaps his cohort experienced the  Sacred/human power of Eros. Keep in mind that 'Eros is love' in the Greek language. But it is 'not all' of well developed and balanced love. The other pieces are described in the Greek meanings of Agape(devoted faithfulness) and Phileo(pleasantness of being in the presence of another, friendship.) 

Christian teaching has generally implied that Eros be viewed as a 'bad or unseemly', even if necessary for reproduction, aspect of love rather than honored as the element of human/Sacred love that may most connect humans to the Sacred. It tends to reduce sexuality to biology and has failed to recognize its spiritual  dimensions. When reports of  the power of Eros in human life reach us we are stunned either with horror or with great joy depending on the outcome. (Some ordinary conservative Americans live out Eros vicariously through TV soap operas and paperback novels. Many religious persons find themselves embarrassingly  'pulling for real love' in these complicated relationships even when adultery is involved. Something they would never condone in real life.) 

The provocative description of  the Eros love of King David for Bathsheba is a Biblical story that needs  more investigation as to the strange  and dark beginnings of what may have become strong and balanced Eros. II Samuel 11, 12. There is good reason to read between the lines of such a provocative story, maybe more so, when it is in our Sacred text. This David is spoken of as 'a man after God's own heart?'  Does this refer to  his very rich and complicated  capacity for Eros love?  Recall that the overall primary description of God is that 'God is love.'  What does that mean with respect to the full range of love being Agape( Unconditional valuing), Phileo(desiring friendship and presence of) and Eros(longing for physical connection)? Bathsheba seems to have become far more than just 'another of the King's wives'. The couple grieved together the loss of their first child together(Are we to see this truly as a love child?) and became parents to the future King Solomon. There is much in the complicated story to indicate that  Bathsheba's legal husband, though a proud warrior, had a very low love value for  his wife compared to what David's love for her is shown to be. 

Of importance, David's sin is totally described as a property violation of another man,'taking another man's wife', which is how adultery is consistently defined in the Old Testament. At that time in human consciousness love is simply not the central issue and question  of personal life as it becomes in  the New Testament where  love is the 'greatest of all things.' This story clearly describes a time and situation where the male-female love relationship was thought of  in legal terms of law and patriarchal rights and economics. Love at most was a passing thought. Certainly consideration of financial  and legal realities must always be a part of the life of any balanced responsible love relationship. These should  be factors that support the relationship, not the definition or substance of it. I'm confident our present American culture will never return to such a love-less and Eros-rejecting standard like is implied in this cultural story. The time has arrived that a growing number of men and women are desiring and expecting love to be the measure of intimate relationships, nothing else compares.  The quality of David's love and care for Bathsheba is never questioned in the entire story.  Or is it asked who Bathsheba truly loves and desires to be with. Obviously all can agree that King David's treacherous use of power and murder  are morally indefensible. But all these  love questions need to be explored as post-modern people come to know more about the dangerous but forever life giving qualities and determination of living Eros.

Such thoughtful exploration makes it impossible for us to know whether mature and responsible love supported by Agape and Phileo are present in our contemporary 'sex scandals.' Such lapses of personal control can be little more than a person/s taking a very dangerous avenue to relieve pent up sexual tension, an irresponsible escape from an unfulfilled love life, using one's erotic capacities as a display of  personal power or acting out a sense of personal entitlement. Thus come the perennially occurring human  tragedies of Eros love. Where  Eros love is balanced by agape and phileo there is always humility and gratitude which the attitudes I've  just mentioned always lack.

There is always though the chance that such a 'scandal' was actually about a truly caring, responsible, committed  experience of Eros which seems to have been at the wrong place and time in ones life. If balanced responsible Eros is present I would strongly assume that any party involved fully 'knows' it and at a very real level could never regret it. Simply because s/he 'knows' they have fully loved and been loved. None may ever know but the ones who had the experience. It must be emphasized that one can never claim they are not personally responsible if they have entered such dangerous love and they will not resist paying for whatever the consequences are, and horrible those surely can be for  themselves and for others who may have been  deeply hurt.

I have explained in other blog posts how it is that I can write with such confidence of such things.**** After all I am a only a once long-time married and once divorced man. And I remain unmarried. It is not out of personal outer experience that I know whereof I speak. I confess it all comes from the 'vision-like' religious experiences I had beginning in mid August 1985 and continuing at some level for many years. It may also be rooted in my life long desire to 'know what love is.'  The Biblical materials have been an ongoing ever renewing  resource for me in this long journey.( My Cruden's Concordance is well worn.) Such sincere desire  and investigation of  the foundations of love does not likely lead one into promiscuity and may involve the experience of  love's heartbreaking  potential. One way I describe the effect of all this on me is there has been inwardly planted in my personal psyche, my soul, all of these kinds of experiences just as if I had had lived them in outer reality. This seems to be the central purpose of the 'revelatory-like' experiences I had. A part of me knows what it is like for a human to live out a full life in such intimate love partnership. No doubt I also have embedded in me the experiences of lost and unbalanced love that causes so much human tragedy, even for otherwise some of the best examples of responsible human living in our midst. I suspect we all have within us these collective love experiences of our human history but some, at times,  are more conscious of them? I can only say that from a kind of direct inner experience of the Collective Unconscious and of my effort to assimilate and integrate it over nearly three decades can I write with a strong confidence about these things. 

Here is a place where Jung's analysis seems to describe the kind of inner experience of love I have had:
From 'C.G.JUNG-PSYC. REFLECTIONS' By Jacobi & Hull
Love is forever the greatest single potential and spiritual mystery of human life. That should tell us how important it is to take our questions and experiences with it seriously. I do not know the extent that it can ever be 'on earth as it is in heaven' but I know if we do not think it is a highest human calling to  believe and desire it as our  personal and collective destiny that it certainly will never happen. I understand that much of what I say  is not convincing to most of my peers. But I feel obligated to share these insights, as they are alive in me, with the hope they can be joined in time with others' confessions to help our culture more fully learn about the power of love, and how it calls us to a harmonious connection with an archetypal energy which says to post modern people, “ Heaven is very near right now and always.” Jim H.

On Sun, 11 Nov 2012 03:59:00 -0500 "Edward Fudge" <> writes:
Edward Fudge
Surprises about Heaven - 5
From the first stirrings of our kind nearly 2,000 years ago until the present day, some primal but misguided urge has tried to jump the gun on glory. The rambunctious Corinthians, misguided and equally impetuous, found the notion of a suffering Savior exceedingly distasteful. But Paul wouldn't budge. It's Christ crucifiied, he insisted, or it is not the true Christ at all (1 Cor. 2:1-5). That was Paul's story and he was sticking with it.
The Corinthians much preferred a prosperity gospel (wouldn't we all, if it were only true!). What? Kings already? Paul mocked their imaginative theology. I wish you did wear crowns now, he said, Then I could put on my crown also, stop being treated like scum, and guarantee that I would never face death in the Roman Arena (1 Cor. 4:8-13). No, little children, heaven ain't here and now.
The Thessalonians also were confused regarding the timetable, some even attributing to Paul himself a rumor that Jesus had already appeared the final time and taken his redeemed (2 Thess. 2:1ff). Not to worry, Paul exhorted. You haven't missed a thing! It seems that some at Thessaalonica reckoned that common work was no longer  appropriate, seeing how they had reached their reward while the sun was still shining in the sky. Regarding such dreamers, Paul offers a very practical remedy: if someone refuses to work, cancel his meal ticket until his hunger pains convince him that immortality yet remains a future blessing. Again Paul makes the point; heaven ain't here and now.
Jesus, his apostles, and the witness of New Testament writings all assure us of a future they claim is too good to fully describe and so they use pictures instead. It's like a grand country park, a free-range nature preserve populated by erstwhile carnivores-turned-vegetarians, where slithering snakes play with human babies and no one is in danger of  any harm. On the other hand, our final reward also resembles a city such as has never existed until now, urban society wthout crime or decay, a perfect polis with no need for first responders because emergencies no longer occur.
We do well to remember the divine timetable and so avoid supposing we are already there. That sometimes results from wishful thinking, or from over-reaction to excessive futuristic schemes that leave no room for wonder or surprise. The end will finally come--the goal will arrive--the Savior will appear and claim us as his own. His kingdom has already begun. A new, eternal dynamic is in force. Between the now and the then, the already and the not yet, we experience the realities of both worlds.
We have surgeries, and Parkinson's and cancers. Sometimes we get healed; sometimes we die. We stumble and sin, but increasingly we enjoy victory. And through it all we persevere. We have grasped something transcendent and we have been grasped. So, whatever happens, come what may, we will not turn loose--more important, God will not turn loose. Our reward is sure, but remember this: heaven ain't here yet.

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