Tuesday, November 20, 2012
The Teachings of Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven
The Bible records the teachings of Jesus. The church is the fellowship of believers in Jesus who collectively and individually together have interpreted the teachings of Jesus. Historically, before Martin Luther only priests of the Catholic church 'interpreted' the teachings. Few read and Bibles were rare as well. Martin Luther began the protestant Christian movement though his intent was to reform the Catholic church of the day. It followed that the Holy Bible, later the King James Version and today the most recent of interpretations and research, the NIV or the New Jerusalem Bible, for instance, were read and today owned, by all Christians and Catholics alike. Prior to the formation of the state church, called the Roman Catholic Church, by Emperor Constantine and the Church Leader conference in Nicea that gave rise to the Nicene Creed, Christians, as individuals and their community churches, didn't have the 'whole' Bible as we know it. Often they only had a chapter or some letters by St. Paul, but this was sufficient to base their faith on. Fundamentally Jesus taught Love of God and that God was a loving God as evidenced by his being Jesus' father and sending Jesus to us. Jesus said "I and the Father are one". To Jesus and to his followers the teachings of Jesus are straight from God in the same ways as Moses brought down the 10 commandments written in stone as directly teachings from God, himself. Jesus taught, "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near." Now the early disciples burdened by the ruthless pagan invading Roman army and the corrupt Jewish authorities tended to think that 'near' referred to time. The idea of 'repenting' coming from the punishing time of the era was perceived then and often today as 'threat'. People , depite Jesus' teachings, continued to see God as a 'punishing father' rather than a 'loving father'. In this light, "Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is near" means not something political or historical or futuristic but rather that Heaven is "nearby". It's like saying to a thirsty man, the water is here, right here, the race is over and all you have to do is drink. The key was 'to repent'. Repent in Hebrew tends to mean 'to return' and 'to feel sorrow'. In the Greek of the day it meant a 'change of mind and heart' and a 'change of consciousness'. A common theme of the Bible is the idea of being 'lost' and repentance to me is that moment of realization when one changes direction and finally heads to the true destination. The regret is the waste of time and the loss of all the effort one put into what turns out to have been the wrong direction. The joy is found in the new heading though, as from walking towards the darkness lost, then turning about and realizing now with certainty one is walking towards the light. "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near". This is a 'rallying cry' too. It's a direct message to carry on. Continue to 'seek' God, 'don't give up', 'of course life is wearying', of course we are all 'wounded' at times and the 'course is hard' but the "Kingdom of Heaven" is just around the next corner. Don't give up till the miracle happens. Indeed, the change of consciousness might simply be a realization that the Kingdom of God is not of this world and that looking forward or around oneself for it is the wrong 'direction'. The Kingdom of God is within and turning inward involves a change of consciousness. "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near". Today we know that God is present and that we must seek God this day and not say God is a task to be put off till retirement or tomorrow or next week. "Repent for the Kingdom of God is near" is for today. It's a message of imminence. The Kingdom of Heaven isn't something we get as a reward 'after life' but rather it is 'near'. I don't think Jesus was saying "Repent, you're going to die". But the fact is we are all going to die and we live literally in 'denial of death'. Jesus was in conscious contact with God and he lived so I believe for that reason and others that "Repent the Kingdom of Heaven is near" is referring to the transcendent and omniscient omnipresent state of God's domain. Jesus wants us to focus on Heaven and not on this earth or even to think on Hell but rather to consider Heaven first. "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near". Jesus also taught 'prayer', the Our Father prayer, being a model of prayer and our relationship with God as taught by Jesus. "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near."