Racial divisions have polarized people on the most foolish of basis: skin color. I’m glad that Martin Luther King’s criterion for evaluating a person’s respectability is becoming more prevalent; this criterion being: the content of a person’s character. This is an example where knowledge is wining over presumption. I’d like a little less presumption about the Kingdom of God among Christians.
I’ve been labeled a pre millennialist or a post Millennialist depending on which scriptures I quote out of two select collections that it seems have been considered artillery for two opposed groups to hurl at each other across their own divide. Do the scriptures truly not agree?
Well I’m a pre millennialist; but if I quote Luke 17:21 which says the Kingdom of God comes in a persons heart, it’s as if I’ve said that the Millennium has come, and if I say: no, I didn’t say that, I can expect sighs and expressions of perplexity as if I’m advocating beliefs in polar opposition to one another.
The bible is clear about Jesus coming with an army, and establishing a kingdom in which he is literally present in body, and in direct command; but the bible says the Kingdom comes in your heart; you can’t just sweep that under the rug and pretend it doesn’t exist. Or, I suppose, you can join the cherry pickers club and just ignore what doesn’t fit some preconceived notion.
How often I have presented evidence of the errors of legalism, and pointed out the Old Covenant contaminant within one’s version of New Covenant Christianity, only to see the eyes glaze over and spasmodic seizures of venerable leader quotations erupt from mouths running on auto pilot replaying well rehearsed warn out dictums virtually word for word, exactly as I’ve heard them since before I could understand what the words meant. They might just scrawl across their forehead in permanent marker: this is a reasoning free zone.
I lived with a Herbert Armstrong wanna be back in the 80”s. He had the head bobbing thing down pat, the booming voice, and GTA’s talent for mockery. Mocking the followers of “churchianity” was a standard post Sabbath service fixture, and woe to those fools who believed such tripe as: “the Kingdom of God comes in your heart.” I guess you’ve noticed that this is a pet peeve of mine.
I was just a young guy, but I was corrupted by all those venerable old goats that I thought were so much smarter than I. We Armstrongist were the religious version of the ultra right wing (urw) redneck spouting vulgarities and venom at pinkos, punks, comies, spics, wet backs and hippies; only the objects of denigration were Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, Pentecostals, and revival meeting evangelists.
The urw rednecks, after tacking a label onto somebody, whose unorthodoxy (by urw redneck standards) could only be symptomatic of chronic communism, could be expected to have at least one bright soul among them remark that: “some one should line those bleep bleep sons of bleeps up against a wall and shoot them. This was not too different from what you might hear from certain segments of the Armstrong ditto heads during their Saturday evening bull sessions. It would be quite normal to hear some one exclaim: I can’t wait for Jesus to return, he’ll have those Catholics and Protestant loonies hiding under the rocks like rats running in terror from God’s righteous wrath. Won’t that be wonderful?
I definitely can imagine the influence of members of the KKK on young minds. I can’t see OWCG as being much better. There was a local elder’s wife who stated during a conversation something one wouldn’t anticipate from your average diminutive, seemingly sweet house wife. The conversation rolled around to politics and race to where she found it appropriate to add a “biblical” observation. She said: “God told Israel to exterminate the evil residents of the land he gave them. The United States has disobeyed God by not destroying all the American Indians living here, and because of that, God is punishing us.” Wow, what a statement, rendered in the sweet mellow timbre of an apparently classy civilized educated woman. You might expect such table talk among members of the Arian Nation, or between Heinrich Himmler and Herman Goering. This kind of attitude would have been right in tune with Hitler’s final solution, yet such talk could be bandied about without raising an eyebrow.
Of course, I don’t know of any nation born out of any other crucible but that of unjust war of conquest, so our world is beastly. We can’t change the past, but approval in the present strikes me as being an accomplice after the fact.
The church member I lived with (I’ll call him JJ) gave regular sermonettes; was considered a pillar of the local congregation, and yet could say of the “so called Christians,” however euphemistically, “kill um, kill um all,” without the slightest glimmer of shame, and why? Partly because they believed such “ridiculous clearly pagan ideas” as that of Luke 17:21: “the kingdom of God dwelling in your heart? Give me a break!
Particularly vile to the Sabbath evening Bull session guys (all unmarried social misfits) was anyone who might claimed to be born again, after all, John 2:6 says “that which is born flesh, is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit;” and Luke 24:39 says “a spirit has no flesh and bone as you see me have;” and Rom 8:23 says “we groan within ourselves waiting for the adoption of our body.” The spiritual RPG’s are launched at the “pagan born again Christian” liberally with contemptuous smiles of self satisfaction, over the divide, with unshakable confidence that the enemy has been mortally wounded.
JJ had put on display, on a stately wooden plaque, a very large darning needle mounted horizontally with an inscription below in large letters reading: “Born Again Checker.” JJ would often proudly proclaim that anybody who walked through his door, and made the ridiculous claim of being “born again,” would be immediately probed with this handily available test instrument to discover if this is so, since according to John 3:8 "the wind blows wherever it pleases, you hear the sound, but cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the spirit.” Notice the phrase “born spirit,” and compare that to 1Pet 1:23, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living enduring word of God.” What did that verse say? We’ve gotta cherry pick that one out right now. Can’t be the bible talking. Sorry, it is.
Born again is from “anagenenn emenoi” (G313): having been regenerated. It’s the same basic word as in 1 Pet1:3 “… according to his abundant mercy has begotten us. Begotten (G313) here translated in the interlinear as “up-generating.” Jesus appeared as a man, if you don’t admit that Jesus was God, there are plenty of other manifestation of God in the flesh in the Old Testament. Jacob reported that he wrestled with God manifest in flesh (Gen 32:30), “for I have seen the face of God and lived.” The question is: was God ‘down generated’? Or perhaps the body is not the criterion for reckoning if one is of corruptible seed or eternal. If God reckons the re-generation of a man to be at the point of reception of the incorruptible seed, then the born again checker will not determine the truth; it might only lead to an emergency visit to the local proctologist.
It appears that some people have jumped to the conclusion that to be born again (G313) ‘up-generated’, is the same thing as “born of the spirit”, where the word born is (G1080) Gennao. If this is so, than a running controversy has been the result of a simple error. ‘Born again’ and ‘born of the spirit’ must be different, or the bible is contradicting itself.
In parallel to the inability to physically test for the state of ‘up-generating’, is the ability to physically determine ones citizenship. The patriarchs of old admitted to being alien residents of planet earth (Heb 11:13) “all these… they admitted they were aliens and strangers on earth.” Can there be a vacuum of citizenship? And why can’t a Christian be a citizen of the world? Eph 2:1-2, “ As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, v2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." To be a citizen of a country is to owe allegiance to its ruler, is the prince of this world the ruler we want to recognize? So it should be clear why a Christian can’t be a citizen of the world.
If you are not a citizen of a country that you live in, you still must obey its laws, but allegiance is another matter. Can some one be a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven and a citizen who owes allegiance to the prince of this world? Dual citizenship may be permitted to people who, as an example, were born in Canada, but have at least one parent with a US citizenship; but these nations are not at war. Can you imagine this kind of arrangement between mortal enemies? Jas 4:4 “You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
I need to point out that the above verse, miss-applied, has been responsible for enormous suffering. There’s a great deal of difference between being a friend of the world and being friends of people living in the world. This verse made my childhood a living hell. To be ‘friends of the world’ is to be friends of the prince that is its personification i.e. Queen Victoria stating: “I am England.”
Some people may be so in tune with this spirit, and hostile to the King of Heaven, that being a friend may be difficult. Fortunately Jesus didn’t shun folks who weren’t on the same page as himself, or who lacked Godly love or Godly faith, which results from Gods spirit. He went to those he characterized as being in need of a physician, and certainly suffered the cross for all of us yet in our sins. How’s that for not shunning the “worldly.” OWCG made an art out of shunning people. I have to observe that if OWCG was judged by the criteria of “fruits of the spirit”, not many would have proved acceptable. Fortunately we don’t need to be accepted based on our own righteousness.
Peter repeats three times that Christians are strangers in the world. 1Peter 2:11 "Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world;" 1Pet 1:1 “To God’s elect strangers in the world;” 1Pet 1:7 “live your lives as strangers in reverent fear.” How can we be strangers? We were born in this world, and in this world we remain.
If some one were, for example, born to military personnel in Japan, the child is not given dual citizenship status. The child is a US citizen regardless of never having set foot on US soil. So why is it hard to imagine that a person born in this world could not be a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.
There are certainly noticeable earmarks of citizenship incumbent upon a Christian. A citizen is required to pay taxes, and the citizen of heaven is required to: (Matt 6:20) “store up for your selves’ treasures in heaven." Just like paying Social Security, but a much better investment.
A citizen of a nation has an obligation to resist that nations enemies; to sacrifice themselves for the good of the whole; and in times of peril, to serve in whatever way the government may require. The citizen of heaven, in like fashion, is also required to sacrifice ones self (Rom 12:1 The KJV most accurately matches the interlinear) “present your bodies as living sacrifices;” and as I said earlier, a citizen is obligated to obey the laws of their country.
In the times of the supremacy of earthly kings, the king was frequently the personification of law. He or she was the state. So is it any wonder that the law of written codes is not forwarded as a requirement of the New Testament; but instead, belief, faith and obedience to the single person of Jesus, the Eternal King, is the focus; so every word out of Jesus mouth is the Christian law. And what did Jesus command: John 15:17 “This is my command, love each other.”
The New Testament says in 1Cor 13:4-8 “ Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. V5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. V6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. V7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." V8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”
This is the law of the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s a law I don’t keep very well, so I’m thankful for the Lord (yup, I can say the word now without it catching in my throat) allowing his children to be a ‘work in progress’.
This is the law that is incumbent upon the citizens of heaven, whose document of citizenship is printed on their hearts. This is a law which describes the character of the Kingdoms King, and a good law that the citizens of heaven recognize as paramount and supreme, and the familiar quality by which its citizens recognize the Sheppard’s voice.
This rambled around a bit, I just went with the flow, but I hope I actually got to the main issue.
A final note to xHWA, in response to the question: "what does “my kingdom is not of this world” mean to me?” My thought is: neither are its citizens, we’re just kicking it here for awhile.
It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom.