entering into the rest/david

These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

This is a promise made to those who endure. The sufferings the work the persecution oppression all the insanities of this lifetime will fade away. Those who suffered will find rest. Those marginalized will find acceptance. Those oppressed by unjust systems will finally be led by the Good Shepherd. No more hunger, thirst, homelessness or want. No more weeping. And they shall drink from the waters of life.

Sounds pastoral. Sounds sweet. Sounds like an account of sheep herding written by a city boy.

This is one image we have of Paradise. The stereotyped one of sitting on clouds playing harps — I don’t know where that one comes from. But the sheep and the Good Shepherd. That’s this one here.

The other powerful image of Paradise we get in scripture is one of rulership. Not where God rules alone from his throne and we obey submissively, but one where we get enthroned beside the great Ha’Shem, where we become co-inheritors with Christ Jesus, where we judge the angels, the powers and principalities. Where we reign with the Almighty.

Two very different images. Two very different implications for spirituality and for echatalogical hope. Two very different accounts of what it means to be saved.

But with common ground. Both are prophetic reversals of the (then) current established order. Common to both are the guys currently running the show get dethroned and the agendas set are set to favour the folks currently on the bottom of the heap.

Liberation theology calls this preferential option for the poor. Why don’t these images make God-fearing, tithing folks with 100-G luxury cars and chunky pinky rings feel a tad uncomfortable. How can such folks really believe they are oppressed. How can a biblical literalist read Revelation and not feel uncomfortable about their timeshare in Maui?

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6 responses

  1. I hear you saying ‘how long, oh Lord, how long?’- the universal plaint. The critical difference for me revolves around the matter of “what happens to those other guys?”.Near the end of The Four Zoas we read of the fearsome fate of the “lost”. Here’s a snippet:FZ9-117.15; E387| With thunderous noise & dreadful shakings rocking to & fro The heavens are shaken & the Earth removed from its place The foundations of the Eternal hills discoverd The thrones of Kings are shaken they have lost their robes & crowns The poor smite their opressors they awake up to the harvest The naked warriors rush together down to the sea shore Trembling before the multitudes of slaves now set at liberty They are become like wintry flocks like forests stripd of leaves The opressed pursue like the wind there is no room for escape……There’s much more, some of it more gruesome, but it was written before Blake experienced the ‘Forgiveness’.We all choose our Heaven one way or the other, and the critical faculty is always “how about the others?”I like C.S.Lewis’ slant in The Great Divorce, the important point (for me) being the nature of Hell and the idea that the doors of Heaven are always open.

  2. I imagin ethe possibility that damnation may be self-imposed. Hitler stands before God — infinite loving kindness — and Anne Frank — an 11 year old girl who died in Auschwitcz — and imagine for a moment he is unconditionally accepted by both in eternity and perhaps Hitler then opts for Hell to avoid facing THAT.If that is what Hell is — where some people may find eternal torment more bearable than eternal forgiveness — then after a millenium of exile — might the doors to heaven still stand open?

  3. How can wealthy people not feel uncomfortable, given the biblical message? One thing I’ve heard them say is that it’s not money that’s the problem, but attachment to money. I think this is a rationalization.

  4. Me too. Although maybe that’s because I’m not wealthy šŸ™‚

  5. Does Hitler think he’s one of the Bad Guys? I don’t think so.Putting him and Anne Frank together before God for some kind of reconciliation? First he’d need a pretty long period of education, just to sort out that he could/should have done anything differently.My guessjecture on death and rebirth goes: “We die when we can’t learn anymore without letting go of whom we’ve become. Then we’re fit to begin again.” Given that little Adolph always was a pretty disturbed kid, it could take a long time to be able both to see the significance of that particular lifetime, and know that he was no longer the person who’d lived it.Aside from that… While this passage has developed into a once-popular notion of Heaven, that’s a bit of a sideline on what Revelation is about. Which seems, so far, to be looking at God through the metaphor of monarchical politics, the sort that traditionally leads to mayhem, atrocities, lots of “rebels” crucified and the survivors sold into slavery. All pretty familiar features of history, theirs and ours. I want to write some more about that, but it’s still percolating. What think?

  6. My Adolph before the altar of judgment thingme was sort based on the notion that an awful lot of stuff gets peeled away from the ego when the oxygen stops flowing to the brain long enough for us to flatline.But yes, the monarchial stuff is worth exploring methinks.

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