Plan A

I have said before that the cross of Jesus Christ was plan A from the beginning.  What does that mean?

Here, I propose a theory.  Not a dogma or doctrine or theological fact but a theory.  You ever watch that movie “Dogma” by Kevin Smith?  Rufus says, “I think it’s better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier…”  Not that I don’t believe in anything but some things I don’t keep so close to the chest.  Anyways, I have an idea about what it means for Jesus to be “slain from the foundation of the world.”

So, where does it say that anyway?  In Revelation 13.8, it says, “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast–all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.”  It is also said in I Peter 1:18-20, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”

Now, I’m a sci-fi/fantasy fanatic and I sometimes view the Bible that way.  Not as fiction but as a true story with incredible, fantastic events that science can’t explain.  So I sometimes apply sci-fi/fantasy tropes to the Bible.  One of those tropes is the idea of dimensions outside of the four we know (length, width, height, and time).  Another trope is that those dimensions bleed into our own.  With that, is also the idea of parallel universes.  It is the idea of another world occupying the same space as our own but somehow “out of phase”.  So, I sometimes see myself thinking of Heaven as a place with many more dimensions than the ones we’re used to and occupying the same space as our own world. This idea makes certain verses read an interesting way.  For example, the Lord’s Prayer.  It says, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”  This gives the idea that whatever happens in Heaven filters “down” to Earth.  It is that same idea of parallel universes bleeding into each other.

Here’s another passage.  It is Galatians 4:21-26.  It says,

Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.

These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.

Here we have the idea that there are two Jerusalems.  One is “above” and one is “below”.  One is a shadow of the other.  Also, we have the idea Hagar and Sarah (Ishmael and Isaac) were shadows of the old and new covenants which were both handed down from God.  So we have heavenly reality bleeding into our own.  The two realities are not separate entities.  It just looks that way to fallen man.  We can pull things out of one reality into the other.  We can freely take healings, breaththroughs, gemstones, feathers, etc from one reality to another.  We have that authority in Christ.  “On Earth as it is in Heaven”…

So what does this mean for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?  It was a heavenly reality bleeding into our own.  Jesus was slain before the foundation of the world.  Before the world was made, Jesus suffered for our sins.  This event was so powerful that it bled through into our reality in the person of Jesus Christ.  Something so powerful happened in Heaven that it bled through and created this person that was fully God and fully man in our reality.  Events kept bleeding through that resulted in the death and resurrection of this person.  Again, this heavenly event was so powerful that when it bled through, it destroyed the laws of entropy (death) in our reality.  This caused the torn body of Jesus to come back together and come out of the grave.

Because these laws were destroyed, we can restore what has been lost.  We can raise the dead, heal the sick, lift up the poor.  We can spirit travel, bi-locate, or even fly.  Nothing is lacking anymore.

Am I right about this?  Probably not.  But it’s a good idea.  And I think that, at least sometimes, God likes our good ideas.

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The Prodigal Son

Oh how typical…  A Christian writing about the prodigal son.  Well, hopefully, this is a new perspective on the old parable.

I wrote a couple months ago about attaining Heaven without relationship in a post about the Twilight Zone.  In a particular episode, an old man won’t be separated from his dog even in the afterlife because the dog saved his life once.  He even appears to give up a chance at entering Heaven only to find that he was being tricked into entering Hell and that Heaven was up the road a ways.  It was the old man’s relationship with his dog that saved him from Hell.  John 17:3 echoes this, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”  True Heaven comes from our relationship with Jesus Christ.  The Kingdom of God was never meant to be a stationary thing.  It was meant to move in and through us.  It is not “up there” or “over there”.  It is right here.  Think of it this way, if Heaven is where we go when we die then who/what is our savior?  In that case, death becomes our salvation.  Yuck!  No, Heaven is revealed as we walk with Jesus.

I said before that in modern Christianity, we sell out Jesus to get Heaven.  We sell him as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.  I referenced Satan’s temptation of Christ.  Satan was trying to get Jesus to attain Heaven outside the will of His Father.  But Jesus doesn’t do anything apart from the Father so Satan was denied.

So what does this have to do with the famous prodigal son?

Well, first, we need to back up and look at all the players in the story.  There is a father and two sons.  The father owns a large estate with many servants who are well-fed and cared for.  While the focus of the story appears to be the younger brother who squanders the family fortune, I believe both sons are in a precarious position.  They both exploit their relationship with their father.  Pretty bold statement, right?  Don’t we always think a little higher of the older brother for sticking around?  I used to.  Let’s examine a little closer.

The younger son is the one we’re familiar with.  He takes his part of the family fortune and runs away.  His actions basically say to his father, “I wish you were dead.”  This is much like a lot of modern Christianity as I spelled out above.  “Let Jesus die so we can have our inheritance.”  The younger son wants the benefits of being a son without actually being one. But the older son is not better. He receives his double portion but what does he do? He goes to live with the slaves. He squanders his fortune in a different way. He does it by pretending he doesn’t have one. There are two extremes in Christianity: license and legalism. The brothers play out these extremes to a tee. License gets its inheritance and goes wild. Legalism thinks he has to work for every cent that’s been freely given to him. License doesn’t see the father. Legalism doesn’t see the inheritance. Both lack relationship and communication. It’s all about getting Heaven without relationship.

So why is the younger brother more celebrated then? Because he began to see that it was his relationship with his father that really mattered. As soon as he made this headchange, the father was running to greet him. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Heaven without relationship will only get you so far.  If we only strive for the inheritance, we are missing out.  We will become strung out, stressed, empty.  It is only through a continuous relationship with the father that we are tapped into an endless supply.

I gave a word in church about a month or so ago.  It was about the reasons we come to Christ.  In earthly relationships, we are often attracted to what the other party can do for us.  It’s a sad part of human nature.  It doesn’t happen all the time but a lot of the time.  It is no different when we come to Christ.  We are often first attracted to what He can do for us.  A lot of us stop ourselves from going to God because we recognize this in ourselves.  A lot of us get in trouble and don’t think we can go to God because the only reason we’re doing so is that we’re in trouble.  I believe this is erroneous.  Any reason to go to God is a good reason.  The key phrase I said in church that day was, “Just come and Jesus will sort it all out later.”  The prodigal son in the story just wanted a place to sleep and eat.  What a selfish thing!  But it is all the father in the story needed to go running to the son.

I’ve talked a lot about Heaven without relationship.  That doesn’t mean if you go looking for Heaven then you won’t find Jesus.  You will always find Jesus this way.  You can’t help but find Jesus this way.  You may not want this person named Jesus but you want out of trouble, you want peace, you want stability.  Search for those things and you will inevitably end up finding Jesus.  Your search for a miracle will ultimately end up at the feet of Jesus.

I haven’t said much about the older brother.  I believe there is a similar celebration waiting for him.  When the younger brother came back, he wanted to be put with the slaves, where his brother was.  They really were brothers, I guess.  The father wanted sons, not slaves.  The older claims he was never given the chance to celebrate but it was only through his ignorance.  The father says, “You are always with me and everything I have is yours.”  Don’t be this person! If you have put yourself with the slaves, come out of there!  Our place is with the Father.  Our celebration is ongoing.  We can celebrate whenever because everything He has is ours.

Thankfully, our walk with God is not a choice between license and legalism.  Both leave us stressed, strung out, and empty.  We must transcend this dichotomy.  Christ died for our freedom.  We are free from sin (license).  We are also free from performing for a supposedly disinterested Father (legalism).  We are free to pursue Him even as He pursues us.  Before Christ, we were powerless to turn to Him.  We fell to license or legalism.  Now, we are free to be one with Him.

Twilight Zone – The Hunt

Copied from The Hunt (The Twilight Zone):

Hyder Simpson lives with his wife and his hound-dog Rip in the backwoods. Mrs. Simpson does not like having the dog indoors, but Rip saved Hyder’s life once, and Hyder won’t be parted from him. Mrs. Simpson has seen some bad omens recently, and warns Hyder not to go raccoon hunting that night. When Rip dives into a pond after a raccoon, Hyder jumps in after him, but only the raccoon comes up out of the water. Next morning, Hyder and Rip wake up next to the pond. When they return home, Hyder finds that neither his wife, the preacher, nor the neighbors can hear him or see him—they seem to think that he and Rip are dead.

Walking along the road, he encounters a fence he doesn’t recognize, and decides to follow it. Presently, both come to a gate tended by a man. Simpson asks him if he is Saint Peter. Explaining only that he is a gatekeeper, the man explains that Simpson can enter the Elysian Fields. Simpson is appreciative, but disheartened to hear that there is no raccoon hunting there, nor are there any of his other usual pleasures. When he is told that Rip can’t enter and will be taken elsewhere (“up the road”), he declines and angrily goes on down the “Eternity Road” rather than enter the gate without his beloved dog. Simpson states, “Any place that’s too high-falutin’ for Rip is too fancy for me.” Later, after stopping to rest, Simpson and Rip are met by a young angel whose job is to find and bring them to Heaven.

Simpson tells the angel about his experience at the first gate, commenting “Son, that’d be a helluva place without Rip!” The angel replies “Mr. Simpson, you ain’t far wrong – that is Hell! Heaven’s up yonder a piece,” pointing up Eternity Road. When asked by Simpson why the gatekeeper at the gate to Hades wouldn’t let him bring Rip inside with him, the angel explains that the reason Rip was not allowed in was because the dog would have been able to smell the brimstone and alert Simpson that something was wrong. The angel says, “You see, Mr. Simpson — a man, well, he’ll walk right into Hell with both eyes open. But even the Devil can’t fool a dog!”

The angel also tells Hyder that there will be a raccoon hunt in Heaven that night, “right after the square dance,” and assures him that his wife, who will be coming shortly, will not be misled into entering Hell.

I remember watching The Twilight Zone as a child.  My parents were older and grew up watching the show themselves.  (That’s also how I got introduced to Star Trek.)  My dad used to talk about this episode a lot.  Now, I don’t know how much of the Gospel he believed but I like to think he believed more than he let on.  Why?  Because he loved this episode.  He didn’t like dogs (or cats) but he loved this episode.

I finally watched it the other day.  It almost brought me to tears.  There is so much it gets right.  Now, I am not a universalist.  However, I do think Hell and Death are defeated enemies.  The Bible says that Jesus came to take away the sin of the world.  I believe that He did that.  The only power Hell has is through manipulation and lies.  I love that this episode represents Hell and Satan as desperate entities.  They don’t quit until you’ve passed the gate.  The Gatekeeper in this episode is obviously a desperate man.  I wonder if he fears punishment if he doesn’t bring in Hyder Simpson.  Notice that the Gatekeeper doesn’t force Hyder to enter.  It’s all manipulation and lies.

It’s also interesting that the Gatekeeper insists that his domain is Heaven.  But it’s a white-washed Heaven.  No ‘coon hunting, no dogs.  None of life’s pleasures are allowed beyond the gate.  Also, why does Heaven need a gate?  Everyone should be welcome.  Why is there so much border control to this “Heaven”?  This seems like a legalist’s version of Heaven.  Can’t do this, can’t do that.  The legalist’s, or religious, person’s language is always NO.  Their language is always control.

Hyder, of course, doesn’t fall for any of this.  Rip doesn’t seem fond of the place either.  He insists on walking Eternity Road for all of time rather than spend that time without Rip.  A little while later, he comes across a young man who just happens to be looking for him.  He introduces himself as an angel.  He tells Hyder that the Gatekeeper had lied to him, that the Gatekeeper’s domain is actually Hell.  He invites Hyder into Heaven where there is square-dancing and coon hunting and that Rip can come along too.

As much as it gets right about Hell, it gets right about Heaven as well.  Heaven is all about relationship.  The reason Hyder didn’t walk straight into Hell is that he wouldn’t be separated from his dog, Rip, because the dog saved his life once.  In a sense, Rip was archetypal of Jesus Christ.  It was Hyder’s relationship with Rip that saved him from the Gatekeeper.  It was also the value that Hyder placed on that relationship.  Rip wasn’t just a dog but a loyal friend.

Here’s the problem with modern, mainstream Christianity.  We sell Heaven as a place where all our dreams come true.  We sell Christianity as a ticket to Heaven, a “Get out of Hell free.” card.  Now I’m not saying that Heaven isn’t a wonderful place but let’s put things in perspective.  The Bible says in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”  Heaven is a continuously evolving relationship with the one who saved us from Death.  If we’re simply looking for all our dreams to come true or to just not end up in Hell, we may be deceived when our time comes.

Will we be able to discern Jesus’ voice from all the other voices calling for us on that day?  The Bible says in I John 4:1 to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God”.  How can we test them if we have no relationship with God’s true spirit?  The real question is not of discernment between other voices but are we looking, listening, for His voice?

We sell out God to get Heaven.  This was the basis of Satan’s temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4 and Luke 4.  Satan was offering Heaven devoid of any relationship with God.  Jesus never denied that he could turn stones into bread or survive falling from the height of the temple.  But what was his reason for denying Satan?  “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  Jesus later said, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”  His source of life and direction was the Father.  As ours should be.  That’s where Heaven comes from.  But we have made Heaven simply a place where fun things happen.  Jesus could have had Heaven on Earth by turning stones into bread, commanding angels to save Him from every disaster.  But He knew this would be an empty experience apart from the Father.

In short, Hyder and Rip represent our relationship to Christ.  The Gatekeeper is Satan, offering “Heaven” devoid of relationship.  It’s his oldest trick.  Adam and Eve fell for it. They were offered a chance to be like God but without the relationship.  They soon realized how empty they were and how powerless they were without Him.  It is only when we trust in Jesus that we can discern between opposing forces that would lead us astray, just like Hyder listened to Rip in the story.  Rip was having none of that place.  True Heaven is a continuous relationship with the one who saved our life.  Will wondrous, miraculous, supernatural things happen?  The answer is a resounding YES.  But do they happen for their own sake?  No.  They will come from, and point to, an understanding of our relationship in Him and our identity in Him.