Tuesday, March 26, 2013

More than a lifetime

Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth, to every nation, tribe, language and people. 
Revelation 14:6

If you look carefully at the language actually used in scripture, you will find that it is very flexible in application, so much so, that every age adapts it to its mentality and culture. It is conservatism inherent in the religious mindset that perpetuates the images of one age in another, making scriptural truth appear unpalatable, and hence unbelievable, in successive, more sophisticated ages. Yet that truth is meant to be universal and eternal.

Imagery associated with the judgment, for example, is drawn almost exclusively from Christ's description of the separation of the sheep and goats, adding to it elements of other biblical passages. We think this blending of texts is the way the Bible should be interpreted, sometimes even at the cost of reversing the literal meaning, yet this can divert us from eternal truths meant to be applicable, and credible, to every age and culture.

Yes, there is a day of judgment. It is a singular event, yet it is not one day, does not consist of twenty-four hours, cannot be located on a map or chart in space or time.

Yes, there is a judge, and a throne of judgment as well as mercy, yet neither He who sits on it, nor the seat itself, are what our human minds conceive or our mortal eyes envision.

Scripture is admittedly a testimony for mankind in our language. Christ alludes to this when He tells the Jews that it is not He who will judge them for their unbelief, but rather the words He has spoken; they will be their judge. How can this be? What has become of our creedal profession that ‘He shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead’? Again, He says, ‘these words are spirit and life,’ unhinging thus our dependence on what language and imagery alone can convey.

The moment of judgment for us is, as Christ says, both inaugurated and accomplished by our hearing the words that He speaks. How can it be otherwise? How can we be guilty of the sin of ‘law-breaking’ if we are not even aware of the content or existence of the law? True, the apostle Paul says we are judged guilty of sin even without knowing the content of the law, and as the Psalm declares, ‘in sins my mother conceived me.’

For everyone, not just the Pharisees of Christ's time, His word holds true, ‘Blind? If you were you would not be guilty, but since you say ‘we see,’ your guilt remains.’

Sin and righteousness, hell and heaven, the significance of all our thoughts, words and deeds in the light of holy and divine scripture—none of these are wholly encompassed within the meagre scope of our understanding. We are on a learning curve whose length we are loathe to admit. It is just too long.

Yes, ‘the best truths take a lifetime to set in’ [*], and even more than a lifetime, at least in earthly terms. What we have here is only the foundation, but what a foundation!

He is the living stone, rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him; set yourselves close to Him, so that you too, the holy priesthood that offers the spiritual sacrifices which Jesus Christ has made acceptable to God, may be living stones making a spiritual house. As scripture says, ‘See how I lay in Zion a precious cornerstone that I have chosen’ and ‘the man who rests his trust on It will not be disappointed.’
1 Peter 2:4-6

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