Rev. October 1, 2006
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.
JESUS AND THE TRANSFORMATION
OF THE WORLD
By Edgar Jones
Many pastors and teachers inspired me to take up the banner of Christ and set forth in the "divinely ordained calling" of transforming the world. It makes sense. Jesus teaches us to love our neighbors and, as we survey the world – as I surveyed the world sixty years ago – one sees much suffering and injustice. The love motivation cries out within a young heart to do something to improve the earthly lot of our fellows around the globe as well as of those who are on our doorsteps. We were emerging from the most terrible war the world has ever seen – a war that produced the most frightful weapons imaginable, including single bombs capable of scorching a whole city. A new global awareness presented me with visions of devastated and impoverished peoples in many places. There was, for example, the continuing exposure to pictures of starving and malnourished children in distant lands, visions that compelled a compassionate heart to reach out to help and to counter the forces that produced such terrible images. And I empathized with the millions of blacks who were experiencing unjust racial discrimination throughout the world, and especially in my native Tennessee. Surely, I thought, Jesus wants me to do whatever I can to change this world where war, poverty, and ethnic discrimination abound. And so, I set about building the Kingdom of God on earth. I thought it was His high calling and I staked a life on it.
But I was wrong. No, I was not wrong in abhorring war and in renouncing violence. I was not wrong in reaching out to help the poor. I was not wrong in taking my seat with the blacks in the back of the bus. Jesus was with me in all that and he remains with me today. But I was wrong in believing he had called me to change the world. My ultimate motive was wrong. Not only has he taught me that he does not call or lead any of us to change the world, but he has taught me that even the very desire to change the world comes from evil.
How can this be? It is certainly counter-intuitive, like Newton's laws of motion and gravity. Which falls to earth fastest in a vacuum – a feather or a boulder? Common sense tells anyone that the boulder falls fastest – but no, not in a vacuum. This is now easily explained by pointing out that we don't see feathers and boulders falling in a vacuum, only in the atmosphere where the resistance of the air retards the motion of the feather much more than that of the denser boulder. We are faced here with a similar case of counter intuition, for it seems obvious that we should seek to change the world so as to improve the lot of the millions of oppressed peoples around the globe. But just as pre Newton man overlooked the effect of the unseen air resistance on falling bodies, just so churchmen continue to overlook the significance of the unseen will and purpose of God for fallen bodies. Just as Newton clarified the laws of gravitating, physical bodies that descend to earth, so Jesus clarified the laws of levitating, spiritual bodies that ascend to heaven against the resistance, not of air, but of attachment to earth that is born of the love of life. Newton's insights into the nature of things, though recent as compared with the revelations of Jesus, nevertheless soon won the day because it was possible to demonstrate conclusively, with physical proofs, the accuracy of his equations. But the revelations of Jesus remain counter-intuitive after two millennia because, unlike Newton's, they pertain to the transcendent realm beyond the reach of physical means, and therefore beyond proof. They remain matters of faith and have never really been heard by many. We require a giant leap of faith to perceive and believe them.
By the revelations of Jesus, I am not speaking of personal insights drawn from ecstatic visions or voices in the night. Unlike Saul of Tarsus, I have not been caught up to the Third Heaven, there to behold things impossible to utter (II Corinthians. 12:2). No, I am speaking simply of listening to the voice of Jesus as set forth by his utterances and reported in the gospels of our New Testament where I have heard clear words easy to utter. I am speaking of a process of revelation that is available to all that seek Truth – the simple reading of the words of Jesus and of believing what is read. He said,If you abide in my word, you will know the Truth, and the Truth will make you free. (John 8:32)This is a promise I have claimed with gratifying results. You can, too. It requires neither great intellect nor profound knowledge, for he addressed his message as to children, to little ones. And he was careful to thank the Father for the result, saying,I thank thee Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes.Now, of course, if in your adult pride you object to being thought of as a babe, or thinking like a child, you may not understand what he is saying to us.
Reliability of the Gospels
You who are familiar with the presentations of New Testament scholars and who have been positively impressed by their acumen will think me naive at this point. Many of the scholars, those who are wise and understanding, have shown to their own satisfaction that the canonical record is not reliable. Many of the words of Jesus as recorded in the gospels are not authentic. They are rather the products of later redactors who have put into the mouth of Jesus words to support their own personal views. I simply do not believe that this took place to a significant degree because the supremely radical message of Jesus continues to shine through so brightly. Actually, there are five primary reasons for my rejection of the redactionist view:
1. The total message from all four gospels speaks to a consistent theme; many utterances in all the gospels are strung together like beads on a string, each with its consistent and supportive idea. This could not be the case unless there were a common source to the ideas presented.We can depend on his word, even though he may have taught in Aramaic and we are looking to an English translation of a Greek translation of his original words. However, it is almost certain that many of his basic teachings were delivered also in Greek. Jesus came from Nazareth, which was only an hour's walk from Herod's new capital at Sepphoris. This was a large city with all the Roman amenities and where the people were almost certainly bilingual, speaking both the local Aramaic and the koine Greek of the time, which latter is the language of the oldest manuscripts of our four canonical gospels. Jesus and Joseph, the husband of Mary, being artisans, very probably labored in the building of Sepphoris and many of Jesus' utterances may have been inspired by his experience with this city. For example, his statement, 2. This common thread, this joint foundation of his ideas, is of such a nature as to be abhorrent to the masses of mankind. No series of individuals working independently would ever state it, or even conceive it. Indeed, it is almost unthinkable. I could never have framed it except for an extreme crisis – a major breakdown (to me, it was a "breakthrough’) – experienced at the age of 41. It is this very hardness of the thing that keeps it hidden from most churchmen even today. 3. Given the devotion of Jesus' early disciples to the preservation of his very words and the surprising uniformity of the ancient manuscripts, it is more reasonable to believe that his very words were accurately preserved and passed down than to believe that they have been adulterated. 4. It is obvious that those scholars who hold to redactionist views of textual history haven't a clue as to what Jesus was really communicating to his disciples. The same is true for pastors and teachers in the churches. If there are exceptions, I have been unable to find them during a quest of half a century. 5. Finally, the message of Jesus is thoroughly consistent with modern disciplines. It accords well with the discoveries of natural science, especially with the new Twentieth Century view of the cosmos and the discovered principles of physics, chemistry, astronomy, mechanics, mathematics, biology, zoology, geology, anthropology, and what have you. It is in perfect harmony with history.A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidmust surely have been inspired by the panorama of Sepphoris situated on its hill as viewed from Nazareth.
Jesus was surely exposed to both languages in his youth. It is not reasonable to suppose that one who, at the early age of twelve sensed a special relationship to God the Father, would not have learned the Greek that was being spoken all around him, seeing that it was in this language that his message must be presented to reach the multitudes in the far flung Greek speaking world. Indeed, I find evidence that Greek was his preferred and normal language in the passion story of the gospels. He spoke three times from the cross. The first words came at the ninth hour (noon) and were uttered in Aramaic, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani. He was quoting the first line of Psalm 22, which in English is "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" He would have used Aramaic here because that was the language he had customarily used in quoting this Psalm from the Aramaic version of the Old Testament (The Targum) while teaching his Aramaic speaking disciples. But after three more hours of suffering, near death, he called out in Greek, dipso! (I thirst!) And then also in Greek, his very last word, Tetelestai! (It is finished!)
Now comes a question: If the evangelists were so careful in their reports to present one utterance in Aramaic, and if that was his only spoken tongue, why did they revert to Greek in reporting his very last words? Would it not be most probable that his very last words would be spoken in his most familiar tongue, the one he uttered most naturally?
So, we can reasonably infer that he used Aramaic in special circumstances, as when quoting familiar Aramaic scripture, but his normal and more usual language was Greek. It is entirely conceivable that his words in the New Testament Greek manuscripts are exactly as uttered by Jesus, requiring only one translation to render them in English. To be accurate, however, the translations must be as literal as possible. When the linguists become too free with their translations, their interpretations enter in to spoil the utterances.I will therefore take the utterances of Jesus from the canonical gospels as the source material as I seek to explain how the very desire to change the world comes from evil. To set the stage, I will first define evil, understood in its relevance to transforming the world, and also what I mean by speaking of changing or transforming the world. Next I will list five key questions related to the utterances of Jesus and their answers as I see them, then proceed to examine them individually in the light of the words of Jesus to sustain my answers. We can then proceed to draw out the principal concepts on which Jesus' answers are based, and that will explain why the answers are as they are. First, though, we must define evil and change.
The Definition of EvilWe are dealing with conceptions set forth by Jesus who was the messenger of the Father. Therefore it is necessary to define evil in absolute terms. As a relative term it could mean almost anything, depending on the perspective of each individual person. My evil may very well be your good, and my good, your evil. But what is evil in the estimation of the Father?
I take it that he created the world for a certain purpose and you and I are expected to contribute to the completion of that purpose. He therefore has a certain will for us and for his creation. Then evil is whatever is not in accord with his certain will. To do evil – absolutely – is to transgress or work against the will of the Father. When I therefore assert that the very desire to change the world comes from evil, I imply that the Father does not will change, or transformation of the world. That is contrary to his will; therefore, when it is our will, our will is contrary to his will and is therefore evil. This necessitates that we examine the will of the Father as set forth by Jesus, who said that he came to earth precisely to do the Father's will.
The Definition of Change (Transformation)
The words "change" and / or "transformation" as applied to the world mean a radical reconstitution for the better, so much so that futility and immorality are no more manifest. If this transformation were actualized and brought to completion, there would be no more "evil" in the world from the human perspective. But here, the evil of which I speak is not absolute; it can only be relative – that is, from a human point of view. This renders it exceedingly difficult even to conceive of such a transformation because everyone's idea of evil, or of a world without evil, differs the one from the other. And to seek a world without evil in the absolute is the ultimate contradiction, since such a transformation is contrary to the will of the Father and would therefore constitute absolute evil, as I will show below.Now I would be foolish to say that the world does not change in any sense whatever because change is obvious. Anyone who has lived through my generation has experienced a constantly changing world with far more changes than has ever before experienced in a single life time. There has been a great increase in knowledge of the natural world and of human nature; technological change is tremendous and it has in turn produced many changes in life style. But these are not changes in the deeper nature of man or of the world. They are obvious to any observer and must therefore be classified as cosmetic. Real change -- genuine transformation -- will require a change in the inmost character of mankind, but as a race we remain as subject to avarice, immorality, greed, self aggrandizement and violence as ever. A universal change in the heart of man so great as to produce a new humanity has never occurred, but that is the change of which I speak. It is the very desire for this change that is evil. To be sure, could the world experience it completely, there would be Paradise on earth. But this is a condition directly contrary to the will of the Father, as I will show below.
Five Key QuestionsThese questions are all clearly related to the subject matter, and I believe they all share a common answer. All are closely inter-related, with each looking at this common answer from a slightly different point of view. Taken together, they are intended to define Jesus' personal attitude toward world transformation. They are:
1. Did Jesus expect the world to be transformed prior to the Parousia or thereafter? This is the historical question. Does history display change?
2. Did Jesus say anything to support the idea that the world is changeable? This is a character question. Does the character of the world permit change?
3. Did Jesus teach his disciples to seek to change the world? This is the authority question. Are we authorized to change the world?
4. Did Jesus say how his disciple should proceed to change the world? This is the methodological question. What must we do to effect change?
5. Did Jesus promise to reward us with a better world? This is the fruition question. Can we expect our lives on earth to get better as a result of our labors for the kingdom of God?The answer to all five questions is "No." The questions are so closely associated that, should the answer to any have been "Yes" we would expect the answer to all to be the same. Another way to say this is, if the answer to any of them can be shown to be "No," we would expect the same answer for all. These are not proven relationships nor is it my purpose here to prove anything, but their close association implies a common answer and mine, as I stated above, is "No. Now let us examine each question individually.
Question No. 1Did Jesus expect the world to be positively transformed at any time prior to the Parousia and the end of the age? The relevance of this question is clear for, if he expected a transformation, it stands to reason that he would call on his disciples to participate in the transformation movement as movers and shakers. On the other hand, if he did not expect any change in the nature of the world, he could not within reason have urged his disciples to work for such. So, did Jesus anticipate a transformation of the world? The answer, without reservation, is "No."
We can point to several relevant passages to sustain this answer, although one should be enough. We turn first to Matthew 24:37-41 (Luke 17: 26-27, 34-35).
Luke's Gospel includes the reference to Noah, then goes on to reference Lot, a second similar figure (Luke 17:28-30):As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. The "coming of the Son of man" is identified with the Second Coming, or Parousia, at the close of the age. This coincides effectively with the end of the world. Now clearly Jesus expects the world at that time, immediately preceding the end, to be a realm of much unrepented wickedness with exactly the same features as existed in the days of Noah, when the flood came to destroy them all. The features Jesus described, "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, buying, selling, planting and building" are characteristic of every age, including ours, and are obviously associated in the mind of Jesus with the wickedness of mankind in the days of Noah that brought destruction upon his generation, and of the days of Lot, when wickedness brought destruction on Sodom. This does not by itself rule out the expectation of some intermediate period of righteousness on earth, to be followed by a plunge again into wickedness. No, but the very fact that we have not experienced such a period after two thousand years and are no closer to paradise on earth than when Jesus spoke these words suggests very strongly that he saw no vision of such a paradise. It further suggests that he expected the world to continue much the same as ever, marching inexorably toward its destined encounter with the heavenly Judge.Likewise as it was in the days of Lot – they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom fire and brimstone rained from heaven and destroyed them all – so will it be on the day when the Son of man is revealed.
A more general description of the future of the world is found in another portion of the Olivet Discourse, Mark 13:5-13 (cf. Matt. 24:4-14, Luke 21:8-19).
Take heed that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying "I am he" and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines; this is but the beginning of the sufferings. Take heed to yourselves; for they will deliver you up to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say; but say whatever is given you in that hour for it is not you who speak but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will hated by all for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.To this passage we can add material from Matthew not included in Mark (Matt. 24:10-14): And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.Jesus prophesied exactly what history has revealed and is revealing: there will be (as there have been) persecution, apostasy, betrayal within families, betrayal among disciples, many false prophets, multiplication of wickedness, and love grown cold. This is the precise description of what has taken place in the world since the crucifixion, and what continues today unabated. This especially applies to the 'false prophet' prophesy. His most poignant utterance regarding his expectations of the world may be this from Luke 18:8: Yet shall the Son of man find faith on the earth when he comes?It is a question, not a statement. But the fact that he could pose such a question, as though he did not know the answer, suggests that he understands clearly that there will be a paucity of true faith at the end. There may be none whatever! That is the import of this question, which he asked of himself. Faith will be hard to find. Will there be any? These prophecies of Jesus give us no grounds for the expectation that the world will be transformed in a positive way.
Our answer to the question, "Did Jesus expect a transformation of the world?" must continue to be "No." But there are other questions that bear on this one. If we consider some of the world's greatest evils that surely would be terminated by a world positively transformed, and ask, "Did Jesus expect these evils to come to an end?" we might be further enlightened. Let's focus on two of the worst social evils, war and poverty, and ask the particular question, "Did Jesus expect to transform the world so as to put and end to war and poverty?" We have this utterance from Luke 12:49-53 (cf. Matt. 10:34,35):
I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished! Do you think I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division: for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in -law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.Then there is this from the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with the precious ointment in the house of Simon the leper in Bethany. When someone complained about the waste of the precious ointment, saying that it should have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor, Jesus responded as we read in Mark 14:6,7 (cf. Matt. 10,11): Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you and whenever you will, you can do good to them; but you will not always have me.Now, if we will always have the poor with us, that is one evil that will not be touched by any transformation of the world. If peace is to come – if war is to disappear from the earth – we will have to depend upon someone other than Jesus to bring it. Of course, we have already seen his prophecy, listed above (Mark 13:8):For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places, there will be famines; this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs.Jesus expected these two evils, war and poverty, to remain in the world indefinitely. He made no prophecies concerning their end. He did prophesy their continuance and positively asserted that he did not come into the world to bring peace but rather division, strife and conflict beginning with the family and personal relationships and extending to the scale of nations. He saw no end to either prior to the end of the age. The word, henceforth, above, is a mighty big word! It implies the beginning of processes without end.
Jesus had other things to say concerning peace. You may think that I have drawn my conclusions too soon, without giving adequate attention to all of his utterances. No, I have considered all. But since my thinking and conclusions are based on the premise that Jesus did not contradict himself, a single very positive utterance is usually all that is necessary to express his message. Nevertheless, let us use this as an opportunity to show the validity of this approach to understanding him by examining other utterances on the subject of peace. The most direct ones come from John's Gospel:
He was speaking directly to his disciples in all these utterances and two things are clear: first, the peace he announced is different from world peace, or the peace the world gives, for in the world the disciples are to continue to have tribulation that, without the peace of Jesus, would leave them troubled and afraid. Second, this is an inner peace, a state of mind of the disciples who are to be of good cheer and whose hearts are not to be troubled . . . neither afraid. This peace, which Jesus confers on his disciples, is not for the world, neither of the world, which must continue in turmoil as the site of tribulation. The nations of earth do not know this peace, neither can they know it. It is hid from their eyes. True, the holy angels heralded Jesus' birth with the promise of peace on earth – but if we listen carefully, we see that it was not peace for the earth that they heralded, but a peace on the earth restricted to persons of good will (Luke 2:14). Therefore, even in those utterances in which Jesus pointed to peace on earth among the disciples, we see that there is a parallel indication of continuing turmoil among the nations of the world. He remains perfectly consistent!Peace be unto you; my peace I give you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John14:27)
I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
Peace be unto you! (John 20:19,21,26; also Luke 24:36)
His celebrated lament over Jerusalem (Luke 19:39-44) provides insight into his thoughts as to the restricted nature of his peace:
And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, "would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation."This prophecy is such a perfect summation of what the Roman army did to Jerusalem in 70 AD that many scholars have concluded that it must be Luke's redaction, written after the fact. I see no need for this conclusion, considering the insight of Jesus into the future, his perfect consistency, and the accuracy of all his predictions. This shows us, rather, that Jesus had a special place in his heart for the city of Jerusalem, for its people, for its temple and its historic tradition of worshipping his Father. He had earnestly desired to share the Peace of God with them, but they refused to understand his message, insisting instead on the restoration of "the kingdom of our Father David, which is coming" (Mark 11:10).
Now, David's was not a peaceable kingdom. He was a man of war who built his kingdom on violence beginning with the slaying of the giant, Goliath. This accolade, conferred by the multitudes during the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, may have been what dashed the last hope he had for the city. He would have conferred upon them a kingdom of peace, the Peace of God. They insisted upon the kingdom of violence, of David the man of war. He could only weep for them, knowing that the things that make for peace were now hid from their eyes. They would go the way of war and of the world. They would suffer the consequences: devastation! The fire that he came to cast upon the earth must also fall upon Jerusalem. Nevertheless his peaceable kingdom came and only the sheep of the little flock constitute the nation that experiences this peace on the earth and in the midst of tribulation. As for all other nations, well,nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, but the end is not yet!So the answer to our question, "Did Jesus expect the world to change, or be positively transformed?" is and must remain, "No."
Did Jesus say anything to support the idea that the world is changeable?"
We have to look at this question, too, because the first question is an historical question, whereas this one probes the fundamental nature of the world. According to Jesus, it will never change – we have established this – nevertheless, might it change if only it could be approached properly? Can the world be like a scoundrel brother-in-law who never changes but who could change if only he would? Or is the world so constituted that it simply cannot change? Is immutable futility the essence of the thing? My answer to this question, "Did Jesus say anything to support the idea that the world is changeable?" is, as with the first question, a resounding "No!"
This answer can be sustained by examining all Jesus' words. Having done this, I can truthfully assert that I can find no saying of his that can reasonably be interpreted to mean that the world is of such a nature, in its essence, as to be changeable. What I do find are words that suggest very strongly that the world is unchangeable at the core. Jesus has given us a clue as to the essential nature of the world in the following statement concerning the Spirit of Truth:
And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him (John 14:16,17).This seems to speak to the essence of the world, but we need to go further. The world is so constituted that it cannot receive the Spirit of truth, but this alone doesn't confirm that its nature if unchangeable. We see the same indicator in the utterance already listed: Heaven and earth will pass away, but my word will not pass away. (Matthew 24:35)The world, here, is the sum total of the universe, the heaven and the earth together, and it is subjected to an ultimate futility, a pass-away-ness that will finally consume it so that it will be no more. Since the universe is the site of the world of humanity, this latter is likewise subject to the same futility and is destined to pass away. This suggests that the universe and the world of mankind, which is sited in the universe, are both subjected to this ultimate fate, a fate that can never change since it ends with the final triumph of futility – the passing away of the universe. This end of all things, this "passing away" is the only intrinsic change Jesus saw for the future of the world, and that coming at the very end. This is in accord with the will of the creator, whose desire is that it remain unchanged.
In speaking of the world, we are using a term that has a variety of definitions. Here we need specify only two. On the one hand, it is the system of created things, the Universe, the cosmos. But throughout this writing, it is something more specific – it is the whole of the inhabitants of the earth. It is the human race in all of its concerns. We find the same two uses in the New Testament, where it is rendered by the Greek, kosmos. Thayer's Lexicon states these definitions as follows: first, the world, the universe; second, the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human race. The second definition is the one I have focused on throughout this article. When I speak of the transformation of the world, I am speaking of the transformation of the human race that is on the earth. To change the world, we must change our race, and to change our race we must change individuals – we must change men.
Now, since the physical universe is the site of our being, out of which we have arisen and upon which we are utterly dependent for our physical existence, what we can say about the essence of the universe is also applicable, in a very direct way, to the world of men. Our destiny, and our essential nature, is tied to the destiny and the essential nature of the universe. As the universe is subjected to futility, so are we. As the universe, the heavens and the earth, are to pass away so as to be no more, so must our race of men pass away so as to be no more. Yet there is a distinction – that between the container and its contents. It follows that if the contents or any portion thereof are in any way to escape the destiny of the container, it must come out of the container or become not of the container. This is precisely what Jesus taught when he said that his disciples are not of this world, and when he said that the world would hate us because we are not of the world.
Not many people have realized how Jesus characterized men in general, and I am providing the following excerpts from his words to show the significance of this category in his mind. You will notice immediately, when looking at the utterances listed below and combined in this way, that this word, men, defines a category that is hostile to God, to Jesus, and to the disciples of Jesus, in precisely the same way as the world is hostile, consistent with men being identified with world. All men will hate the disciples; therefore they are to beware of men. The traditions of men stand over against the commandments of God and do not conform to them. Men are on one side, the side of Satan (as was Simon, Son of John, when Jesus rebuked him) and God is on the other side. Men and God are so differently minded that whatever is exalted among men is an abomination to God. For this reason, Jesus refused to receive honor from men, for the honor of men is dishonor before God. Woe to us, therefore, when men speak well of us and esteem us highly. But blessed are we when men hate us, exclude us, and revile us for the sake of the Son of man. Jesus is the light of the world, but men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.
Here are the relevant utterances:
Matthew 10:17-22: Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and . . .. you will be hated by all (men) for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.Now that we have established that the world, in the definition we have been assuming, can be designated by the word men, we will find much more light in the utterances of Jesus by examining this latter word in the utterances listed above. Let me first assure the ladies that they are not omitted by the use of this word. Jesus use of it is generic, not genderic, and it is in this light that we should view it when he utters it.
Mark 7:8: (to the Pharisees) you leave the commandment of God and hold fast the tradition of men!
Mark 8:33: But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter, and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men."
Luke 6:22: (To his disciples) Blessed are you when men hate you and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man!
Luke 6:26: Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
Luke 16:14,15: (To the Pharisees) You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
John 3:19: Men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.
John 5:41: I do not receive glory from men.
Remember the question being considered: Did Jesus say anything to indicate that the world is changeable? We can change the words now slightly by substituting men for world without changing the meaning of the question, but nevertheless clarifying it. Are men, as a general category, changeable? Did Jesus say anything to suggest that such a change is possible? I have already said that the answer is "No." but lets look at his words for clarification.
First, look at Jesus utterances listed above once more. Is there in these words any hint of hope for a change in the character of men? Does not the Word define a category of unchanging character opposed to God the Father? That is certainly a valid assumption if we restrict our consideration to the words listed, but there is more. Some of the above utterances were directed to the Pharisees, and identify them with the men category. Now we have the following utterance concerning the Pharisees in Matthew 15:12-14:
Then the disciples came and said to him, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?" He answered, "Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit."The Pharisees are identified with men; therefore whatever applies to the Pharisees also applies to men, and to the world of men. The Pharisees are only one segment in that world, one clan in the human race, men among men. But the Father did not plant them (cf. the Parable of the Tares), and therefore there is no hope for them as a group. They are only to be rooted up! What is true of the Pharisees in general is also true of men in general: the Father did not plant them. We have here nothing to encourage us to think that men, in general are changeable as to their inner, essential nature. There is only one destiny for all in this general category: they are to be rooted up!
If the Father did not plant them, who did? Jesus has given us a clear answer to this question, in the Parable of the Tares:
The kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then weeds appeared also. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, "Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?" He said to them, "An enemy has done this." The servants said to him, "Then do you want us to go and gather them?" But he said, "No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and find them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn." (Matthew 13:24-30)This is one of the parables for which Jesus provided an explicit explanation, as follows: He who sows the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evil-doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:36-43)The Pharisees are weeds, the field is the world, and the one who sowed them is the devil. The weeds, he said, are the sons of the evil one. Now let us look to The Fourth Gospel for a confirmation of this interpretation as applied to the Pharisees. Actually, the words are addressed to "those Jews who had believed in him," but his attitude to them is the same as to the Pharisees in other utterances, and they surely qualify to be included here: If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. . . He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God. (John 8:42-47)If God did not plant them, the devil did. Jesus even provides us a way to tell the difference between the children of the Father and the children of the devil:He who is of God hears the words of God (the words of Jesus).This is the only valid test of spiritual paternity, equivalent to the DNA test used so successfully to establish genetic paternity in courts of law. Further, we are justified in identifying the tares with men in general, for the field is specifically identified as the world. The Pharisees came in for their place among men simply because they displayed their true paternity: they would not listen to the words of the Father as uttered by Jesus. This is a universal test of paternity that can be applied anytime and anywhere.
So you see that the world, and the men of the world, like the Jews and the Pharisees of Israel, are the planting of the devil, and they cannot be changed, as a general category, because their nature derives from the seed and the planter. If one plants weed seed, one gets weeds, and the weeds never become anything other than weeds; they cannot change. Historically, the world has never changed. Prophetically, it will never change. Now we know why: in general, the men of the world are from bad seed, weed seed sowed by the devil, and their end is (in a sense) to be bound in bundles to be burned. So, again, the answer to our question, "Did Jesus say anything to support the idea that the world can be changed?" must be and must remain, "No." He said much to indicate that it cannot be changed, and he has perfect consistency.
There is need here for an insertion to prevent any erroneous inferences. Dear Friend, whoever you are, I do not know to which general category you belong, the weeds or the wheat. I do not even know to which general category I belong. Nevertheless, I live in hope for both of us, that, receiving and believing the pure word of God as delivered to the world by Jesus, we may be found to have divine paternity. In the meantime, whatever your response to me may be, I can do no more than be a witness to the Truth as announced by our Lord. What you do with it, what I am doing with it, depends only on our essential nature as determined by the seeds from which we came. To judge you would be an act of disobedience to my Lord who stated most plainly:
Judge not that you be not judged, for with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get (Matthew 7:1).If Jesus, who knew what was in man, could ask the Father to forgive those who nailed him to the cross as though he yet had hope for them, we who do not even know what is in ourselves can do no less.
The Parable of the Sower comes forth to provide further insight. You recall that in this parable, the sower sows seeds that fall on four different kinds of soil. Some fall along the path and are trodden under foot and the birds come and devour them. This is the one who, hearing the word of the kingdom does not understand it, and Satan comes and snatches it away. Some fall among rocks. These are they who receive the word with joy, but they have no root and fall away in a time of persecution or temptation. Some fall among thorns. These are they who hear the word but the cares of the world and the pleasures of life choke the word so that it proves unfruitful. Finally, some fall on good soil and bring forth, some thirty fold, some sixty fold, and some a hundred fold. Clearly, the seeds, which are the Word of God, is the same in every case; but the soil differs and what comes forth is unfruitful except that coming from the good soil. The soils represent classifications of the differing characters of men, which are clearly unchangeable since this dictates the outcome.
These two parables, of the Tares and of the Sower, establish the unchanging character of the men, the general category, who comprise the world in every circumstance. In the case of two seeds, the outcomes depends upon which seed one receives; those who, like the Pharisees who opposed Jesus, cannot hear the word but rather oppose it and therefore are planted by Satan. They have received the seed of Satan, which is his lies. Nothing can change that. But those who hear the Word as uttered by Jesus are the planting of the Father, another general category, and nothing can change that. In the case of the four soils – the path-like, the rock-like, and thorn-like and the good – all receive a single kind of seed but only the good soil (a general category) bears fruit and nothing can change either. Therefore Jesus considered that the world of men is of such a nature that it cannot be changed.There is here the very real danger that my readers will yet misunderstand me to be setting forth a doctrine of predestination according to which it is impossible for individual human beings to change. This thought is in absolute diametric opposition to the truth, which is that there is no such predestination. What cannot be changed, what will never change -- what is predestined, if you will -- to never change is the general category, men. They constitute the world which, according to Jesus, cannot receive the spirit of truth. The individual human being, to the contrary, can and sometimes does change, so that no one individual is predestined to either salvation or condemnation. I have clarified this further in a separate article, Predestination, to which I refer you.
Question No. 3We have answered two questions: Did Jesus teach that the world will be transformed, or changed? and, did Jesus teach that the world is of such a nature that it can be transformed? The answer to both is "No." Now, there is a third question that we can examine in an effort either to confirm or rebut these answers. For if these answers are somehow erroneous, in spite of our case in their favor, then the answers to both must be "Yes." In that case, Jesus surely would have instructed his followers, in their love for their neighbors, to work for the transformation of the world; that is, to work for world peace and the end of poverty, racism, and all worldly ills that infect out race.
So, did Jesus teach us to apply ourselves to the task of changing, or transforming, the world?
Again, my answer is, as with the other two questions, "No."
Now, if my answer is not correct, you will only be able to show me in error by searching the words of Jesus for a different answer. I, of course, have already searched his utterances with this question in mind, and have determined to my satisfaction that no different answer can be found. Indeed, the question has already been answered in two of the utterances listed above, in reference to the second question, in which he has instructed his disciples to do the very opposite: that is, to leave the world alone. Since he is consistent to perfection, he would hardly have taught otherwise elsewhere. I refer to the conflict with the Pharisees and to the Parable of the Tares. He said, concerning the Pharisees,Let them alone. (Matthew 15:14)Not only the Pharisees,but every plant that my Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone!Then, in words of exactly the same import, he said to those who wanted to root out the tares,Let both grow together.These two commandments are operative for all time insofar as they apply to our responsibility toward the world: Let them alone! Let both grow together! The world is the field where wheat and tares mingle and where the devil's planting (such as the Pharisees) mingle with the Father's planting. As much as we might wish, for the sake of our neighbors, to root out the tares and purify the field for the use of the wheat, we cannot; we cannot even judge rightly which is which, nor can I confidently judge myself to be among the wheat. We can live in hope but we cannot surely know. Don't change it; let it be. Or, in Jesus' words,
Let them alone.
Let both grow together.
There is more. When Jesus responded to the complaints of the Pharisees and scribes who said, "This man receives sinners and eats with them," he told three parables – that of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son (Commonly called the Parable of the Prodigal Son) (Luke 15:1-32). He concluded the Parable of the Lost Sheep with the words,Just so, I tell you, there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.He closed the Parable of the Lost Coin similarly, saying,Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.The Parable of the Lost Son concludes when his father prepares a great banquet in celebration of the return of the lost son, and with the complaint of his elder brother,"Lo, these many years I have served you and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf! To which the father replied, Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad; for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.As with the lost sheep and the lost coin, there is great joy at the finding of the lost son, more so than over the righteous one, for the Prodigal's father had never killed a fatted calf for him! All of these parables were told to illustrate the maxim, as expressed by Jesus, that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. From this I draw the very reasonable conclusion that the Father in the Parable of the Lost Son is God, his house is heaven, since that is where the joy was expressed, and the elder brother is the righteous son who needs no repentance – Jesus. Furthermore, the far country where the lost son sought to find his life represents the world. The Prodigal, hopefully, is us!
You see, the sinner, like the Lost Son, is one who loves the life of this world and seeks to save or to find it apart from the Father's Glory. In its broad outline, the Parable not only explains Jesus' reception of sinners in quest of the lost, but it is perfectly consistent with the Great Correlate set forth below. We can let our imaginations roam free as we look at the setting of this parable as long as we keep all interpretations consistent with Jesus' Great Correlate, which I believe he had uppermost in his mind. Jesus, the elder brother, is always with the Father (son, you are ever with me). This elder brother can represent no one other than Jesus, for the Father's soothing words,Son, all that is mine is yours,echoes perfectly Jesus' statement,All that the Father has is mine (John 16:15).The lost son was lost precisely because he sought to find his life in the world rather than in the Father's house; that was his great sin, and indeed the essence of all sin according to the Great Correlate. Leaving the Father, the lost son loved him not, but rather loved the life of the world to which he went. Returning to the Father, he loved the Father and hated his life in the world. This is the Great Correlate of a certain love and a certain hate, and the key to eternal life.
The parable therefore illustrates the fact that The Father in heaven does not interfere in the course of this world – not even to mollify the terrible living conditions of a destitute loved one. Why did Jesus not tell a story about a father who, seeing his son destitute in the far country, sent money to rescue him from debt and restore his fortunes? Or why did he not tell a story about a man who, seeing a beloved son in dire straits, starving while serving as a lowly swineherd, went and bought the farm and set his son over it as manager? Why did he have to tell this story about a father who, seeing his son destitute, did absolutely nothing to help him? As the parable has it, No one gave him anything. Why did he do absolutely nothing for his son until the tattered miscreant, dismal beyond description, returned like a chastened dog with tail between legs?
He did not tell such stories because the world is exactly as the Father created it, subjected to the bonds of futility in the hope that we wayward children may learn to hate the life of this world and turn to the Father in love, as did the Lost Son. That is our only salvation, and Jesus led the way, showing the way to all who can see. Therefore Jesus never said or did anything motivated to change the world, nor did he ever suggest that the world is changeable. He furthermore forbids us, his disciples on the earth, to seek such changes. Yes, the very desire to change the world springs from evil. Visions of a transformed world are inspired only by the devil, who took Jesus up to a high place to offer him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. That vision of worldly glory was the downfall of the Lost Son, and of all the lost children of the earth. These things being true, it must follow that Jesus would never have instructed his disciples to busy themselves with the task of changing their world. His rule, always, is –
Let them alone
Let both grow together.
Question No. 4.How do we suppose that we should go about changing he world, assuming this were possible in spite of all the evidence to the contrary? Did Jesus instruct us on this? There are two conceivable answers to this question, which I shall label the gradual and the instantaneous.
The gradual method is usually based on the parables of growth that suggest, to some, the slow but sure growth of the Kingdom in the world. These include the Parable of the Seed Growing Secretly, the Parable of the Mustard Seed, and the Parable of the Leaven. But a close look at these parables, minus the mindset that insists that the world must be transformed, sees them much differently. The Parable of the Seed Growing Secretly runs as follows:
The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come. (Mark 4:26-29)Something is growing here, and it could be the kingdom, as the seed, which is the Word, continues to be scattered upon the earth. But how does a kingdom grow? There are at least three conceivable ways. A kingdom may grow in extent as it expands it boundaries. That is not what Jesus has in mind here, because the kingdom came on earth as it is in heaven at the death of Jesus, and encompasses the whole earth already. (See my article, "The Gospel of the Kingdom") A kingdom may grow in authority if the king rules incompletely and the authority grows toward completion. That is not what Jesus has in mind here because he has already been given all authority in heaven and on earth. (Matt. 28:18) Or third, a kingdom may grow in the numbers of its subjects or of its princes, the children of the king. That is what Jesus has in mind here. We must interpret this parable in the light of the Parable of the Sower, and understand that the growth here is of the numbers and maturity of the children of the kingdom who are, by their responses to the word, being separated from the world. This has no transforming effect on the world. To the contrary, the world resists the growth of the numbers of the children of the kingdom within it because it hates the disciples. It hates them because they feel threatened in the mistaken belief that the disciples are attempting to impose unacceptable changes. This is exactly as the Jewish authorities mistakenly thought Jesus was seeking to make changes that would cause the Romans to come and take our place and our nation. (John 11:48)
The conception of a gradual progression of the world towards Paradise on earth is a relative conception that depends for its acceptance on the circumstances that rule at any particular time. Thus, the time between the two world wars, when I was born and grew to maturity, was a time of great expectations as people in general thought that the Great War, which had been fought to end all wars, had accomplished its purpose and the world was in for a time of enduring peace. It was commonly believed by those who held to the idea of progress that there could never be another great war. As a child I received this assurance many times. But before I could finish growing up, there came one much, much worse! Only then did people change their minds and lose their faith in the progress they thought they had won. Today we are in great danger of falling for the same mirage that our parents and grandparents believed in, because it has been a long time since World War II, the Cold War has been won, and it just might be, people of a new generation are thinking again, that we are making progress. Do not believe it! Listen to Jesus who said,Kingdom shall rise against kingdom and nation against nation, but the end is not yet! (Mat. 24:7)A resurgent and more militant Islam is rising to confirm these words, as they are confirmed in every century and generation.
For those who believe in progress towards a perfect world, it usually works this way: One by one, we must convert the sinners of this world until, at last, the world will truly be a Christian world and war and poverty will be no more. So, one changes the world by changing one person at a time until all are changed. The immediate fallacy here is in failing to recognize that when one is truly converted to Jesus and his Way, one is no more of the world, but has been extracted from the world, which remains absolutely unchanged except for the extraction.
This could work only if it were possible that everyone be converted to Jesus and his Way, and in Christendom this often seems reasonable when every church member is identified with Jesus. All that seems necessary is to get all the sinners into the church! But again Jesus has told us all we need to know to form a firm opinion as to the impossibility of this dream:
Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few (Matthew 7:13,14).You see, conversion to Jesus is not the key to progress in the world but is the key to growth in the numbers of the children of the kingdom on the earth. The two, the kingdom and the world, like oil and water are absolutely immiscible. And he has made it resoundingly clear that the consequence for those few who enter the way of life is hard, and they will be persecuted by the world.
The second method by which some suppose the world is to be transformed is the instantaneous one, that depends utterly upon the return of the Lord to cleanse the world and establish his reign of righteousness, usually understood to be the coming of the kingdom and the Millennium as prophesied in the Book of Revelations. This, also, is a vain dream. I have elsewhere explained this prophecy and will not repeat it here. What I have to show here is that Jesus is not about taking charge of the world after this fashion, now or ever. I need only set forth one utterance here, although much more can be brought to bear, for in the words of Jesus there is much that excludes any thought of a righteous reign of literally one thousand years or any other period on the earth. Here I refer you, dear Reader, to these words:
One of the multitude said to him, "Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me." But he said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?" And he said them, "Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (Luke 12:13-15).Here is one incident where Jesus had the perfect opportunity to demonstrate his intention to bring justice to the earth, but, astonishingly, he absolutely refused to get involved and sternly rebuked the petitioner. Then he gave him a lecture on the evil of covetousness. More than that, by the nature of the question by which Jesus replied,Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?he revealed that he is not a judge or divider over the affairs of the people of the world. This was Jesus' stance toward the world on that day, and it must ever be his stance toward the world, for I believe, as the scriptures teach, that he, like the world, is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He will never come to set things right on the earth because the Father has not given him the authority for this task. No one has made him a judge or divider over the people of the world. Jesus assumes absolutely no active authority over those who are subservient to covetousness, which are the men and women of the world. I should remind you again, however, thatall authority in heaven and on earth has nevertheless been given to Jesus by virtue of the coming of the kingdom (Matthew 28:18).The above incident has a background in the life of Moses that reveals that Jesus differs radically from the lawgiver of the Old Covenant. You see, Moses, in contrast to Jesus, assumed authority on earth even when he had not been given it. When he was forty years old, he saw one of the sons of Israel being wronged by an Egyptian, and he took charge of the situation, striking and killing the Egyptian. The following day he found two of the sons of Israel quarreling and again, he interposed, saying, "Men, you are brethren. Why to you wrong each other?" One of the replied, "Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday? (Exodus 2:14) Then Moses fled in fear of being punished for killing the Egyptian, since he saw it was common knowledge. Here, without being asked to interfere, he intruded. Jesus, to the contrary, being asked, refused for the reason that no one had made him a judge or divider over the people of his nation. I think Jesus had Moses in mind, in view of the similarity of the questions asked, and he intended to make us all aware that he has, does, and will refuse to make things right in this world. He did not do it then and he will not do it in the future.
Of course, the Father did, forty years later, make Moses a ruler and judge over the sons of Israel, to whom he returned to deliver them from bondage in Egypt. He is doing the same with Jesus, who will return to deliver the children of God out of this Egypt-world. But he will not stay to rule on earth, just as Moses did not stay to rule Egypt. He will only lead us into the Glory of the Father (John 14:1f), the Eternal Promised Land (Matthew 5:5), even as Moses led the Israelites to the Land of Promise. As for the pursuing Egyptians, I believe they perished in the sea.
When Jesus returns, it will not be to make things right on the earth. He explained what is to transpire at that time in the judgment passage of Matthew 25, and in a more condensed form in John 14, referenced above. Why did he leave after his resurrection? If he were ever to make things right on the earth, that was the time because he had already received all authority in heaven and on earth. He clearly stated why he was leaving:I go to prepare a place for you (In the Father's house).Then he continued,I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am there you may be also (In the Father's house).
Question No. 5Did Jesus promise to reward us with a better world?
Again, the answer must be, "No." This gets monotonous, doesn't it? Surely we should expect to share in the benefits of the better world that our efforts produce, and so our lives would be better. But the opposite is the case. He promises a great reward for serving him but every such promise is of an eternal reward, one beyond this world and not within it. As for our lives in this world, he very frankly acknowledged that the very opposite will be the case. Things will be tough for his disciples because they are his disciples, and because the world always and forever hates those who witness to it and within it concerning the true message of Jesus. Typical is this verse from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:11,12):
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.Could this be a promise directed only to his immediate disciples who would thus suffer in the world, but not to later ones who live after the world is changed through the work of Christ? No, because everywhere we look, we find only the same type of promise: hard times in store for the disciples of Jesus, in this world, but a great reward in heaven. I find no basis in the words of Jesus for the expectation of any world transformation, including a thousand year millennial reign of righteousness and peace such as many expect. The same holds true as we approach the end of the age: Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death; and you will hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:9-14)Whether it be at the beginning, the end or any time in between, there is no world transformation and there is no better age coming to this world for the disciples of Jesus. The passages above represent his promises to his disciples for all time; so if you are serving him in the expectation of worldly gain, for yourself or for others, you are on the wrong track!
How then is it possible that so many seemingly sincere and devout churchmen can be mistaken? If you will look at the last quoted utterance again, I believe you will find the words,And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.And do not fail to note here that the many will be party to this deception, in contrast to the few there be who find the Way. The perfect consistency of Jesus' words is nothing less than miraculous! Therefore I must conclude, as with the prior four questions, that the answer to Question No. 5, Did Jesus promise to reward us with a better world, is unalterably No!
The Underlying PrinciplesWhy?
If, as I have shown, Jesus did not expect the world ever to be transformed, if he believed instead that it was of such a nature that it cannot be transformed, if he did not teach his disciples to transform the world but instead commands us to Let them alone, and Let both grow together, and if his teaching knocks the props from under any method that we might have for transforming it, or any expectation for a supernatural renovation, and finally, if he could only offer us tribulation in this world as the temporal reward for our service . . . why?
How can this be true, when the natural inclination of nearly every one is to strive to leave the world a better place than we found it? Indeed, this desire to change the world is often, perhaps nearly always, a powerful motivating factor moving people to become Christians. It was for me! There must be a very profound and important reason for his stance on this matter of changing the world. What is it?
Why are the churchmen, who profess to be Jesus' ministers in the world and who are accounted guides in such matters, so busy changing the world if Jesus is not about changing the world? Whatever the reason for this strange stance of Jesus, if indeed this is his stance, the churchmen must not know of it; yet it is they who presume to be ministers of his word. How could they not know?
Yes, there is a very important, very profound, yet very hard and also very simple reason. Whoever you are, and whatever your station in life, be assured that this writer makes no judgments of you as an individual but only writes because he can do no other. I urge you therefore, do not turn away from the writing now but bear with me, for my sake, for your sake, for the sake of our Lord Jesus, for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of his Little Flock. What he has given us to believe, what he has given me here to say is the key to everything . . . to every riddle of life. I have explained this elsewhere at length, but it is necessary for the sake of completion to present it again here, but briefly.
The balance of this article will be devoted to answering the question, "Why does the desire to change the world come from evil?"Remember that we are accepting the utterances of Jesus in the canonical gospels as Truth, and we are examining them as our source of enlightenment. Our premise is that the desire to change the world comes from evil, and I have defined evil as whatever contradicts the will of God. Now it is necessary to focus on the concept of divine will as Jesus used and understood it, for this will be the foundation of our premise and will explain why the five questions listed above must all be answered alike with a resounding "No."
The Will of the FatherJesus' definitive expression of the Father's will consists of the following utterance:
For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:38-40).They are few who recognize this statement as definitive, yet any child can see that it is so. In saying,this is the will of him who sent me,andthis is the will of my Father,he is clearly presenting a definitive expression. Yes, even a child should clearly see it. One does not need an interpreter; one needs only to hear, as sheep hear the Shepherd, and believe. The Father's will therefore is fulfilled in the resurrection to eternal life, and only in that resurrection. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can have any relevance to the will of the Father except only those things that contribute to the realization of that will, which is the resurrection to eternal life. It is this will of the Father that we violate, or transgress, when we desire to change the world or when we set out to change the world, and the balance of this paper is devoted to explaining how and why this is so.
This is also an exclusive definition; that is, everything not included is excluded from the will of the Father. Since it points only to the resurrection to eternal life, that is the only thing included in the will of the Father, in so far as we are concerned. I do not mean to imply that this is the only thing that the Father wills or desires; only that, insofar as it concerns human beings on planet earth, nothing else matters. This is the sole definition offered by Jesus, who said that he came to do the Father's will. We therefore have no need to know anything other than this as a definition of His will, which Jesus came down from heaven to do, state and demonstrate.
It is supremely important that we do not attempt to expand the definition of the will of the Father to include things having no relevance to the resurrection to eternal life, such as the end of war and poverty on earth. This can only distract us from the only proper focus of his will and thus lead us away from his absolute will and on to relative conceptions that lead to condemnation. Like the desire to change the world, such inclinations come from evil – that is, from motives outside of and contrary to the will of the Father. It remains to show how Jesus did the will of the Father, which he said in the words quoted above that he came down from heaven to do.
How does anyone do the Father's will on earth, when that will is only and exclusively the resurrection to eternal life?
Jesus said he came down from heaven, to earth, to do the Father's will. He therefore came to do the Father's will on the earth. This implies, what we will find to be the case, that the Father's will was not being done, or perhaps had never been done, on earth prior to Jesus. Otherwise, why should he have needed to come down from heaven to do it? Some one else might have done it just as well, without the need of anyone coming down from heaven.
This also implies, what we will also find to be the case, that the Father's will is something that only an individual person must do if it is to be done on earth, for Jesus was an individual person who came, as he said, down from heaven to earth to do it. It is therefore not to be fulfilled in general terms – for example, in terms of peace on earth or of the end of poverty and prejudice, because it is something that only an individual can perform.
Further, it is not something that a nation or a people, or for that matter, an organization, such as a church, might do. It can be done individually and never collectively. For any democratic body to convene a meeting for business and pass, by voting, a motion to do the will of the Father would have no meaning, no more so than to pass by voting a motion to take a drink of water. Such a body could reasonably pass a motion to recess so that the individuals there joined might retire to the water fountain to take a drink of water, but individuals can only perform the drinking. A democratically administered church that convenes a meeting to decide, for example, whether to build a new house of worship is prone to petition the Father to show them his will concerning this (to them) important matter. So conceived, it is all a vain endeavor because it is impossible for a collective to perform the Father's will, even though they are, collectively, building a house of worship. It is of course possible for each individual within the collective to consider whether it is the Father's will for him or her to vote to build the house of worship. Yet the individual would still not be doing the will of the Father unless that vote in some way contributed to the resurrection to eternal life that alone is the Father's will. You will of course consider that it is easy to derive connections between building a house of worship and the resurrection to eternal life? This would seem reasonable to a Christian, but it is not the case.
There are therefore two stipulations concerning the Father's will that are implicit in Jesus' definition: His will is specific, not general, and only individuals can perform it, not a collective. This can be confirmed by examining other references of Jesus to the doing of the will of the Father. Here I will examine only two utterances, which are sufficient for anyone who really listens so as to hear him. First is the opening petition of the Lord's Prayer, which is as follows:
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.Now, since we have shown above that it is Jesus who has come down from heaven to earth to do the Father's will, and that it can only be done by an individual, and that it consists of a specific act or deed by that individual, and that Jesus is the one who told his disciples to include these lines in their prayers, we must conclude that, as of this point in his life, Jesus had not yet performed the deed that would be the doing of the will of God on earth as it is in heaven.
Furthermore, he was not instructing the disciples to pray for the realization of some general condition on earth, such as peace or prosperity, but was rather instructing the disciples to pray for him, as the one who had come down from heaven to earth to do the Father's will, that he might persevere to do it against all temptations to do otherwise. We can also say with a high degree of confidence that this deed, by which he was to do the will of the Father, was the one event that would bring the kingdom to earth.
The kingdom awaited the doing of this deed by Jesus, not that the doing of the will of the Father on earth awaited the coming of the Kingdom. The popular conception of this prayer among churchmen, that Jesus was instructing us to pray for the coming of the Kingdom so as to establish paradise on earth consistent with their view of the doing of the will of God on earth as it is in heaven is therefore totally erroneous and is the result of their not having listened carefully to the utterances of Jesus.
The second utterance comes in the course of Jesus' temptations in Gethsemane prior to his arrest and trial. There he agonized in prayer, saying:
Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done (Luke 22:42).So! Even at this late hour he still has not done the Father's will on earth as it is in heaven but is yet praying, as he had requested the disciples to pray, for the Father's will to be done. This means that he is yet praying for it to be done on earth as it is in heaven, by himself in the performance of one specific act, or deed. It remains specific, and not general, to be performed by the individual, Jesus, and not by any collective.
I have to conclude that the one thing that Jesus came to earth to do, this doing of the Father's will on earth, was consummately performed when he laid down his life on a Roman cross. His entire earthly ministry was a march to that end; every temptation was a temptation to avoid that end. All his earthly experience can truly be said to have been the performance of the will of God on earth, but only because it contributed to the end that was its consummation; for had he failed at that point, all would have been in vain. He would have utterly failed in his mission, which was to do the Father's will on earth as it is done in heaven.
What was the significance of that last word, It is finished? (John 19:30). By far the most likely answer to this question is that the performance of the Father's will was finally accomplished, together with the consummation of the Kingdom of God on earth. Jesus had come from heaven to earth to do, on earth, the Father's will. His total life purpose was focused on that objective, which was finished when he breathed his last. For Jesus, the doing of the Father's will on earth was performed through his death on the cross by which he left the earth and was resurrected to the Father's house in eternal Glory. This was a specific event, performed by an individual, Jesus, and consummated in his resurrection to Glory, which alone is the will of the Father.
Any reasonable person is likely to frame a serious question at this point: in view of the fact that many were crucified on Roman crosses, how is it that the death of this one man differs from the others in that it was the unique and premier performance of the will of the Father on earth? He was crucified on much the same grounds as many others, as a revolutionary insurrectionist, like the many Jewish Zealots who suffered a similar fate – like the two others who were crucified with him – so why wouldn't their deaths serve equally well as the doing of the will of the Father?
And while we are considering questions, wasn't Jesus attempting to change the world by his teaching and example prior to his death? Isn't this what cost him his life? If this were the case, how can it be that changing the world, or the desire to change the world can be founded in evil? Would Jesus then not be evil?
Yes, Jesus and his work would have been evil if he had been motivated by a desire to change the world, but this is not the case. Now because everything comes to a focus at his crucifixion, we will need to investigate that event more thoroughly to determine what, if anything, Jesus was doing in his death that was a singular and premier performance of the Father's will. It happens that Jesus explained to his disciples the significance and purpose of his crucifixion, but first let me simply state that the crucifixion of Jesus differs from all other crucifixions in that it was planned and initiated by the victim. Jesus set the stage for it, provoked the authorities to insure that they would call for his death, and triggered the action when he said to Judas,What thou doest, do quickly! (John 13:27)This fact alone, which is so obvious as to need no further elaboration, qualifies his death as being unique. But just what was its purpose?
The Purpose of the CrucifixionJesus' explanation of the crucifixion and its purpose was very evident and straightforward, and all four gospels preserve it. I have arranged the texts in parallel fashion as shown by the exhibit on the linked chart, to which I ask you to refer. Probably no text or group of texts has been as severely misrepresented by the scholars and theologians as this, and yet its significance is perfectly clear and straightforward so that even a child, unperverted by exposure to the churchmen, can comprehend it. It speaks directly to the hardness to which I referred above, and its meaning is overlooked or perverted simply because the Truth is horrendously offensive to mankind in general.
I ask you to focus on the Great Principle (Matt.16:24, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, John 12:25), which he clearly states as the explanation for what is about to occur. This principle is cardinal. It is stated here and in other places in the gospels and I believe he stated it repeatedly in all these forms and more. John's expression goes directly to the heart of the individual to focus on the desire of the heart in stating it in terms of love and hate:
Jesus went to his crucifixion because he hated his life in the world and he wanted to keep it for life eternal. He did it publicly because it was necessary to demonstrate the significance of this Great Principle to the entire world. The Great Principle applies to individuals only, and it applies to every individual who lives or who has ever lived. If any man would come after me, Jesus said in emphasizing the universal application (Matthew, Mark and Luke), or If any one serve me, he must follow me (in the way of the cross, John). So it is to individuals, any one or any man, that the Great Principle applies.He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for life eternal. (John 12:25)
Furthermore, it sets us a choice for which every one is responsible before the Father -- a choice made in the freedom of the will -- whether to love life and so to save it, or to hate life in this world for the sake of life eternal, as Jesus did in exemplifying the Principle. It was this choice with all its consequences that was the will of the Father. He did the will of the Father by demonstrating both the hatred of life and the love of the Father, which motivated his choice of eternal Glory rather than life in this world. He did the will of the Father by choosing life eternal rather than life in time. The relevance of the crucifixion to the will of the Father is that it led Jesus into the resurrection to eternal Glory, which he had defined as being the will of the Father in its entirety. In its universal application it likewise applies to every individual.
Satan sought in every way to deflect Jesus from the fulfillment of his mission, which was to do the Father's will on earth by going to the cross in hatred for his life in this world so that he might have life eternal. It was to lead Jesus away from this destiny that Satan tempted him in the wilderness and in Gethsemane. In the present text (Matthew and Mark) we see him issuing the same temptation from the lips of his most faithful disciple, Simon. The source of the words is revealed with Jesus' rebuke:Get thee behind me, Satan!If it applied to him, it surely applies to every one. The purpose of the crucifixion was, first, that Jesus himself might through resurrection enter into eternal life; it was, second, to demonstrate the Great Principle to the world so that every one who follows would have this option. The end of this, you see, was not that Jesus and his followers might die, but that through this particular attitude to life and to death, he, and they, might enter into life eternal. All four gospels point to this ultimate purpose in the introduction to this expression of the Great Principle. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, he states that he is to be killed, but also to be raised on the third day. In John, he is to be glorified, which is another way of saying he is to be raised to eternal life with the Father. He qualified for the resurrection to Glory because he chose death over life, even death by crucifixion. Any one who qualifies for the resurrection to Glory must do it in a similar way, by hating life in this world so as to receive life eternal. This is the only way to do God's will on earth.This is the cross we are to bear. This is the horrendous offense to man that Jesus represents, and the world of Christendom has done its best for two millennia to convince us that he died for some other reason. But there is no other reason. Had there been, Jesus surely would have stated it here. His death was not a sacrifice for sin. It was not an act of propitiation or atonement. For Jesus it was a victory over death that redeemed his own soul, and a demonstration of the principle that applies to all so that all may know how to qualify for eternal life through the resurrection.
Most important, this, and only this, is the will of the Father. It was the will of the Father for Jesus, and it is the will of the Father for us. Jesus stated so clearly,
This is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:40).The question is, do you see the son, hanging from the cross by his own choice in demonstration of the hatred of life and love for the Father? Then believe in him, believe his words enunciating the Great Principle, and follow him in the Way of the Cross. Only thus can you, or anyone, do the will of the Father, which cannot be satisfied by anything other than your presence before him in the Eternal Glory, at the resurrection at the last day. It is that we might share this resurrection life with Jesus that he came to us. I can only conclude that, as Jesus came to do this will of the Father, and only to do this will of the Father.
Therefore, our only purpose in being in this world is to make the choice he made and to fulfill our lives in the Way of the Cross. That alone is to follow Jesus; that, alone, is to do the will of the Father that can only be fulfilled in the Resurrection to Glory. Only so do we realize the purpose of the crucifixion of Jesus, and so we realize the Father's will. Furthermore, as stated above, Jesus' death by crucifixion differs from all others because it was deliberately willed by the victim, in demonstration of the hatred of life that is the sole qualification for the Eternal Glory that is the Father's sole will and purpose for each one.
The will of the Father is, as defined by Jesus, the resurrection and nothing but the resurrection. It is folly to seek the Father's will, for example, in selecting a mate. He does not select our mates – we do. It is folly to seek the Father's will for our earthly occupation, unless that in some way contributes to us or others rising in the resurrection to eternal life. It is folly to seek the Father's will concerning peace on earth. He wills neither peace nor war. The will of men determines peace or war, and the will of men determines the outcome. It is folly to seek His will in a labor strike (Who made me a judge or divider over you?). It is folly to seek his will concerning how your are to vote in the next election.According to Jesus, the will of the Father for each of us, as it was for him, is the resurrection to eternal life in the Father's house – this and absolutely nothing else! We cannot make it more, and to seek to make it anything less is surely a violation of his Holy Will. His Holy Will is absolute; all else is but a human attempt to relativize it and make it coincide with what we will.
The Purpose of the WorldUnderstanding the purpose of the crucifixion as the fulfillment of the Father's will in compliance with the Great Principle leads immediately to another conclusion: the Father wants us, through the resurrection, to be with him in his Eternal Glory. He does not want us to be here.
This, in turn, leads to another question: Why did he create the world and put us here?
He certainly was not doing it in an effort to establish a better and superior home for his children; Glory is all joy, but here it is at best a bittersweet mix of joy combined with pain, sorrow, suffering, decay, and death. If he really loves us, why does he not immediately birth us directly into his joyous Glory?
Our belief that the Father loves us means that there must be a very good reason. The Great Principle enunciated by Jesus reveals that he did it because there was no other way. The protection of Glory requires that everyone who enters must first choose and desire to be there in submission to the will of the Father. He created the world so as to provide a place where we could derive our being, possess free will and then choose his Glory. Also, and simultaneously, the world serves as the alternative. We must choose between this world and his Glory, between life in this world and life eternal, and this choice reduces to the hatred of life because all that truly choose Glory want no more to be here.The world therefore competes with the Father for our affection, and is accordingly hostile to the Father and to Jesus and to all who follow Jesus in hating life in this world for the sake of life eternal. We are here for one purpose: to make the choice. That is the essence of the Great Principle defined above. Having made the choice, we enter His Glory only because we wish it, just as He wishes it for us, and in complete harmony with his Holy will. Earth is the battleground of the free will of individuals until individuals learn to desire His will. Then our entrance into His glory will be the perfection of peace and harmony. But, had He first given us being within the confines of His Eternal Glory, with our possession of free will, the result could only have been earth in heaven! And the free will is absolutely essential to the purposes of the Father; what he desires is children in his own likeness so that we might qualify in every way to inherit his kingdom and Glory – holy robots would never do!
The Character of the World and of ManIf this is the purpose of the creation of the world, and of our having our being within it, we can suppose that the world needs to have a certain character. I list here a number of features that would seem to be essential:
1. It must not be all glorious, for then we might realize our fulfillment within it so as to leave us no motive for seeking and choosing the Father's Glory.We persons of mankind also need to be of a certain character if the Father's will is to be fulfilled in us:
2. It must not be all sorrow, all suffering, all pain, or all death – for then there would be no reason that we might desire to choose it. It would be no temptation.
3. Again, it must present itself to us as something that is subject to change and as something that we can change; otherwise it would be no temptation and no choice for those whose lives are dominated by suffering.
4. Yet again, it must not be changeable. This feature must be hidden from men in general, however, and the fiction of its changeability maintained by cosmetic changes, so that we will continue to suppose there is a ground of hope that we can ultimately change it into an all glorious realm.
5. Finally, it must conceal the Father's Glory because, could we see the Father and his Glory, this most inferior world would, by comparison, be no temptation. It assiduously maintains the hiddenness of the Father. Yet it needs to confront us with patterns, images, and / or shadows of the eternal so as to prepare us to understand and receive the Eternal Glory.
1. First, we must, in his image, have the sentient and intellectual character that produces self consciousness and free will. Otherwise, the concept of a choice is meaningless and we could not truly choose either life in this world or in the Father's Glory.All these needs have been met. The world is exactly right and we are exactly right for the choice. And the messenger has come in the person of Jesus, whose death by crucifixion was the premier performance, on earth, of the will of the Father because it ushered him, through the Resurrection, into the Glory of the Father. As Jesus expressed it in John's Gospel and as presented above, the Father's sole will, in so far as it concerns us, is the resurrection to the Eternal Glory. We can qualify for it only as Jesus did, through the hatred of life in this world.
2. We must also have a thirst for His Glory in our hearts; that is, we must be of such a character that only His Glory can satisfy and fulfill us; thus we constantly hunger for the only Glory that can grant us fulfillment. This fuels the human desire to transform the world. We are eternal glory hounds and temporal misfits.
3. We need also to be characterized by a certain degree of ignorance. We must on the one hand be ignorant of the fact that the glory of this world can never satisfy us, and on the other hand we must be ignorant of the existence of the Father's Glory. If we could have certain knowledge of either of these, this world could never tempt us and so, again, there would be no choice. There needs to be limits to both ignorance and knowledge; if we know too little, like the beasts, there can be no responsible choice; if we know too much, the choice is already made. This dictates that our choice be realized as a free act of faith, driven by the thirst for Glory and partially motivated by despair for our lives in this world.
4. A proper consideration for the love and justice of the Father shows that there is yet one other need to be met: there must be a witness, some one like us yet in whom the Father dwells. This person must be sent by the Father to teach us our options and to manifest His love for us by entering fully with us into the experience of this world, and in particular into its pain and suffering. It is not enough for this one to communicate with us through words only; to obviate any basis or excuse for misunderstanding this witness must not only tell us the Truth about our existence. He must likewise show us by a demonstration so powerful that the world can neither erase it nor forget it.Since the world is right for his purpose just as it is, he would have no changes. Therefore the very desire to change the world comes from evil and is contrary to the will of the Father. It is and must remain the arena for the expression of the free will of men as they may choose. It is only in such an arena that an individual can make the choice to follow Jesus in the way of the cross. If one man chooses to kill another, the Father does nothing to stop him; if one nation chooses to destroy another, the Father does nothing to stop it. Only the nation with the bigger guns and bombs can stop the aggressor. The Father does not interfere in the wars of the nations of men. They are in bondage to the love of life and therefore both lost and dead to Him, as was the Prodigal Son to his father.
The Love for GodA lawyer once tested Jesus by asking, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" When Jesus fired back at him,What is written in the law? How do you read?The lawyer responded, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Deut. 6:5,6, Lev. 19:18, Luke 10:27). Then Jesus replied,You have answered right; do this and you will live (Luke 10:28).Is this then a second formula that leads to eternal life, in addition to making the choice of the cross in the hatred of life in this world? No, because loving God is the other side of the same coin, of which the hatred of life in this world is one side. One cannot please the Father by doing either one without the other. They must go together. I call this the Love of God / Hatred of Life Correlate, or the Great Commandment / Great Principle Correlate, or more simply, the Great Correlate, which is just another way of defining the Great Principle.
To love God is to hate life in this world; to hate life in this world for the sake of life eternal is to love God. How so?
Consider first the love for God. What is this love that, when directed to God, qualifies us for eternal life?
We do not think for a minute that there is any need to investigate the etymology of the word love, or to relate the many facets of its meaning. We do not need to investigate the Hebrew of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, the Greek of the gospels, or our Modern English or other language. We all know instinctively what is meant by this word, especially little children reclining upon their mother's laps or feeding from their breasts. This latter metaphor is most appropriate for addressing this question, "What is this love for God?" because it is the love of children for the caring, nurturing, protecting, comforting parent. It is the love of Jesus for the Father expressed when, as a youth, Joseph and Mary found him in the temple where he explained,Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house? (Luke 2:49)It is the love of the babe for the mother when, having been placed in the arms of a stranger, it reaches out to the mother and strains to escape the arms of the stranger with loud cries and many tears. It is the love of Jesus for the Father when, going to the cross against all the temptations of Satan to avoid it, he cried out to the Father,And now I am coming to you! (John 17:13)It is this love that attached him to the Father, made him one with the Father, and drew him through the cross and the tomb to the Father's embrace! It was not possible that Jesus could both go to the Father within the rushing current of his love, and remain in this world. He made the choice that alone leads to eternal life with the Father. He must leave this life so as to enter into life eternal. As love is the joining force, so hate is the repelling force, and his love for God was also, of necessity, a hatred for life in this world. That love that joins us to the Father becomes the hate that repels us from this world
The love for God that is acceptable to him excludes everything that would compete with Him for a place in our hearts. Luke tells us that Jesus approved a scribe's relating of the Great Commandment. Matthew and Luke tell us that he answered a lawyers question with the same quotation from Moses. Almost certainly Jesus affirmed this answer to the question as to which is the first commandment, not twice, but many times in the course of his teaching, but in every case the same answer comes forth because of the inclusive nature of this commandment, which specifies that we are to love the Father with all that we are – with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, all our strength. This leaves us no room for directing any of our love to any other object or person that distracts us from devotion to Him.
First, it is said that we are to love God with all our hearts. And because we are commanded to love with all our hearts, our love, all our love, must be in heaven. Jesus was surely thinking of this in relating the Beatitudes, when he said,Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.Now, to be pure in heart is to will one thing, as Soren Kierkegaard has explained in his sermon, "Purity of Heart is to Will one Thing." That one thing, for the children of the Father, is the desire, the will driven of love, to be with the Father in his Glory even as it is his will, his singular will, that we, through the Resurrection, rise to join him. But if our love is mixed; if we also love persons and objects of this world, including this life, our hearts are not pure. Our love for the Father is adulterated by a foreign mixture that he does not allow, and so he has said, through the prophet, Moses, and affirmed by his Son, Jesus, that we must love him with all our hearts.
Next, it is said that we are to love him with all our souls. Just what does this mean? This word, soul is one of the most elusive and undefined words in the English language, so that, unlike love, we do need to investigate the Greek and Hebrew equivalents from which it is translated.
In the Hebrew it is nephesh, which first appears in Genesis 2:7: "Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living nephesh. It is undoubtedly from this association that the soul comes in many New Testament references to represent the breath of life, the life of the flesh, animal life since they also breathe, or the life lived on earth or in this world, and it is in this sense that Jesus used it in the antithesis of the Great Principle (John 12:25). It is there that psuche, the Greek for life in this world, is set over against ZOE, the life eternal.In the Great Commandment it is one component of the total person and the intent is to include in the commandment the total man by specifying all components, and all of all components. If we think of it as the life on this earth, as in the Great Principle statement of John 12:25, then the love of the Great Commandment has not been demonstrated unless we have devoted to the Father absolutely all of that portion of our being that is defined as life on earth, in the flesh and in this world.
So we see again that the Great Commandment is exclusivistic. All of the individual's life in this world must be devoted to the Father if this commandment is to be obeyed. Just as our hearts must be pure if we are to see God, so our lives (psuche, soul) must be pure and undivided if we are to live with the Father.
Then we are told that we must love the Father with all our strength. Here the word is ischus, equivalent to might, ability, power. Perhaps here it refers more to strength of will than to other applications, for how can one strive after anything with all ones strength if one's will is divided such that one really wants something other than to love the Father and live in fellowship with him?
Finally, I am told that I must love the Father with all my mind, or dianoia. This is simple to apply, for love affects the mind more, perhaps, than anything else because I am bound to think and consider much in my mind concerning the objects of my love.
To consider one extreme, how can I love anyone, or anything, when I never think of him, her, or it?
But if I am possessed of an "all consuming passion" for anyone or anything, I will be constantly involved in mental activity revolving around the object of that love. So, if I am to love the Father with all my mind, He can never be far from my thoughts!Now, this does not imply that I can never think of anything other than the object of my love, for the mind serves many functions and many of these functions require thinking about things other than the Father. If, for example, one is a carpenter and involved in making something with one's hands, it will not turn out well if one does not apply oneself to what one is doing, which means keeping one's mind focused. But then, when these functional applications of the mind are fulfilled, one returns to give oneself to thoughts of one's beloved. This beloved one, according to Jesus, must be the Father if we are to fulfill the commandment so as to qualify for life eternal.
How the Desire to Change the World Comes From EvilNow, can you, my reader, understand why the desire to change the world comes from evil? How it runs counter to the will of the Father?
It is really so simple! If I give my heart, my mind, my soul, and my strength, in any degree, to the task of enhancing, improving, or otherwise changing that world that holds me away from the Father, how can I truly be said to love him with all of anything?
For so long as it endures, the world is our prison that isolates us and sets us apart from the Father so that, for so long as we live within it, we cannot go to him! Think of yourself as a juvenile falsely accused and imprisoned who loves family and wants more than anything else to be permitted to return to the parents you love with all your heart and whom you know to love you with the same fervor. Would you say to yourself, "Well, since I am likely to be here for a while, I must see what I can do to improve the place. In fact, with a very few changes, I could be very happy here and would never wish to leave!"
More to the point, think of yourself as a young Jewish holocaust victim, an Ann Frank cut off from her parents in a Nazi death camp. Do you think you might become accommodated to the place, even commit to it, to the extent that you would give your heart, mind, soul, and strength, to any degree, to making improvements, even though you knew that it was destined to destroy your life? Nay, would you not desire with all your heart, mind, soul, strength to be released into the arms of your loving parents? Would you not hate every moment of your life in such a place?
It is precisely after this pattern that Jesus has called each of us to hate life in this world and to love the Father with such desire as to be satisfied only with one outcome – release from this prison so as to go to Him! The whole world is precisely described by this metaphor – it is one gigantic death camp that is able to deceive us and cause us to think of it as the source and goal of life only because we were born into it and never knew anything else. This is our Auschwitz, our Treblinka, where the incinerator fires ever burn and where death is the only way out.
What can one do in such a place? One cannot change the administration; that is clear. One cannot remove the walls and bars; that is sure enough. One cannot employ more loving, less cruel guards. So what can one do?
One can do this: minister to the suffering of fellow prisoners to the extent of one's ability, focus one's heart on the freedom that is promised beyond the fire, and also, one can be a witness to that freedom to both guards and fellow prisoners. Finally, but not least, one can prepare oneself to rejoice on the day when the powerful one comes to break down the walls, destroy the ovens and release you into the arms of the loving Father. But all who become attached to this place and who give themselves to it heart, mind, soul, and strength can only expect to share in the fate of the captors.
When we look at the world and its purpose in the light of Jesus and the above considerations, we should be able to realize certain things, which I enumerate here.
A New Perspective
1. If we could change the world, and make it to be exactly like we want it to be, perfect in every respect, we would have little motivation to seek eternal life with the Father. Our thirst for Glory would be satisfied in time. Furthermore, the world would not serve as an option to the Father's Glory, since it would be Glory realized in time.
2. The above statement assumes that we have a common vision of what we would want the world to become could we change it. This is not likely. Could I change it to please me, even to conform to my vision of what I think a child of the Father should desire in this world, it would not likely please you. There are just too many variables for there to be a common resolution to many of them.
3. Statement No. 2 would not apply only in the single case of the absence of free will, such that the multitudes will be happy with the same thing, not having the freedom to will anything else. We would be less than human, with all minds conforming to a single vision of the Good.
4. The world is therefore perfect for its purpose exactly as it is. Could any of us change it to match our vision, it would not satisfy many others and certainly not the Father in heaven.
5. The transformation of the world would require that people be transformed. But the persons we want to transform is . . . them, and the persons they want to transform is . . . us. The consequence of such desires and the efforts to effect them has a name – war.
6. If the Father wanted the world transformed he would change it, or would have created it differently at the beginning. Instead, he has made it of such a character that it cannot be changed, certainly not by us. This world is the arena of the interaction of the free will of individuals. And contingent solely on the choice of the individual, out of the freedom of the will, it becomes also the arena both of our greatest triumph and out greatest tragedy.
7. Therefore, the very desire to change the world comes from evil. It is a desire to change that which the Father has made, and desires to remain, unchangeable in its essential properties. Those who seek to change the world oppose the will of the Father. Yes, the very desire to change the world comes from evil!
There is another consideration that I should mention, which will be used as a basis for objection by the many that disagree. That is the simple fact that the world views of First Century people were vastly different from that of modern man. There are many differences. One seems immediately relevant, which has to do with changing the world. First Century people were not likely to be motivated to "change the world" simply because the very idea was generally beyond their reach due to their political situation and their little knowledge of nature, including human nature.
Errors to Avoid
As to the political situation, Judea and Galilee were subservient to Rome, which resulted in the Jews having little or no individual empowerment. They wanted change but it seemed to most of them that, if change were to come to this mysterious world, it must be as an act of God and so they awaited the appearance of the messiah and continued paying tribute to Rome. In addition, the history of failed insurrections mitigated against any action to change their world or even against any vocal expressions encouraging such. When finally they did dare to act against the Romans their nation was utterly crushed.
Even that ill fated effort towards political change should not be interpreted in terms of being motivated by a desire to transform the world. All they wanted to do was restore their theocracy as it once had been. One of the temptations of Jesus, and a real option, was to spark a zealot rebellion but it was one he steadfastly resisted and finally rejected completely.
In our time democracy has created a radically different attitude because the focus is upon every individual's voice and vote in a land where the ballot box rules and everyone is encouraged to work for change in all areas – local, national, and international. Now it becomes one's personal responsibility both to want and to act to accomplish a transformation of the world. This mood of individual empowerment has moved into the churches, saturating them with the thought that the commitment to transforming the world is more than a personal responsibility – it is a Christian duty. It is hard to avoid this great error.
The First Century knew very little about the workings of the natural world. For the most part it was a mystery that individuals met with superstition. It presented unfathomable phenomena that were dealt with by means of magic and explained in mythological terms of good and evil. Again, their rudimentary comprehension mitigated against the motivation of transforming the world. How is one to proceed when seeking to transform a mystery?
But now we understand the world much better. We know our earth is a minor planet totally dependent on the Sun. Multitudes are traveling around it and up and down upon it so that it has become quite small. When I was a child, the only person I knew who had ever been outside the United States was a much older cousin who served in Turkey during the First World War. He was one of my heroes, one who bore the mystique of foreign lands. But now, I have traveled overseas and I live next door to an air transport pilot who may one day be in Beijing, another day in Paris and the next day mowing his yard and greeting me across the fence.
Man not only can change the world within limits, he has already made changes through the advancement of science and technology, economics, politics and medicine. Many diseases have been eradicated or controlled; there is more prosperity because economic systems are better understood, and so on. And out of all this there comes the inevitable motivation to exercise our opportunity to contribute to yet further changes – and so we reach out to transform the world. It seems an idea whose time has come, one that has become fundamental to all our thinking about politics, religion, and purpose. Another error to be avoided!
We may also be told of yet another reason why Jesus and the early disciples did not have much to say about world transformation. The thought is that Jesus believed and taught that this world was nearing its end in that generation and that an eschatological event of profound significance was drawing near. Certainly, the earliest Christians believed that the Lord was soon to return in judgment, at which time he would institute radical changes, ending the world as they knew it. Under the influence of this belief there would have been no motivation to work for transformation since the world was shortly to end in any event. The dominant call was to prepare for his return and for the end of the age rather than to rearrange the furniture. Now that we know better, the thought continues, we must reassess our responsibilities toward the world. It appears it may last for a while and we should after all rearrange the furniture. But this is one more error to be avoided!
I believe this to be valid insofar as the apostles and other early disciples are involved, and this thinking may explain why, for example, Paul and others accepted the continuance of slavery and the minority status of women. Why remodel a house that was shortly to burn? No, the only thing for them to do was to live so as to secure a place in another and enduring house in the age to come.
But the apostles and others were mistaken about the early return of the Lord. He didn't return; he hasn't come and at this point we are pretty stupid if we don't revise out thinking about the end of the age. But this does not apply to the Lord himself. The apostles misunderstood him completely insofar as the timing of his Second Coming was expected in their lifetimes. Jesus never taught this. Now, if one reads the Little Apocalypse (Olivet discourse) from the synoptic gospels it will be easy to conclude that Jesus taught the end of the age within the generation of his youngest disciples. But it is clear that such a position makes him contradict himself in certain aspects, contradictions that disappear as soon as we realize that the early disciples, misunderstanding him, assembled his words inappropriately while compiling the gospels.
I have described this error in "Jesus: the Rock of Offense" and will not go into it in detail here. Jesus expected to return at some future point in time to bring an end to this age, but he did not expect his return to be immediate or soon. He didn't know when it would transpire and so his doctrine would have been defined within the context of expecting that the world might abide for a long time. The scarcity of sayings of Jesus relative to world transformation cannot be chalked up to his mistaken expectation of the early end of the world. He expected the world to abide as it is and for his disciples to have to deal with it.
Jesus is furthermore grossly misunderstood by many in that they believe the coming of the Kingdom is synonymous with his Second Coming. Certainly Jesus believed and taught that the former coming was immanent and indeed it is long since past as I have shown in my paper, "The Gospel of the Kingdom". It is the Second Coming together with the end of the age that he consigned to the indefinite future, where it yet remains. The confusion resulting from the identification in time of these two comings is vast and results, on the one hand, in thinking that Jesus believed the Second Coming in judgment and the end of the age were imminent and that therefore Jesus was mistaken; on the other hand it likewise results in a similar error by many who, seeing that his Second Coming yet tarries, are also persuaded that the Kingdom likewise tarries. Typical of this error is the interpretation found in the book, Jesus & the Forgotten City, by R. Batey, P.160, 161:
Jesus was reluctant to set an exact time for the coming of God's reign and informed his followers, "But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch, for you know not when the time will come. (Mark 13:32-33; Matt. 24:36)The statement of Jesus has no reference to the coming of the Kingdom (God's reign) but applies exclusively to the Parousia at the end of the age. Verses 32 and 33 should be read with verses 34-37 following, and its relevance to the Second Coming is evident in the expression, you do not know when the master of the house will come (Verse 36).
The confusion as to timing seems to result from reading verses 30 and 31 together with these. These read:
Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.But these verses apply to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and related events and have no relevance to the timing of either the coming of the kingdom or the Parousia. Jesus was here prophesying the end of certain things. He spoke of the end of his nation with its great city, Jerusalem, and he also spoke of the end of the age and of the Parousia, but they are two totally different endings and neither is coincident with the coming of the kingdom as I have also shown elsewhere.
Those who have a different view, the wise and understanding, therefore are apt to argue that the relative silence of Jesus on the subject of world transformation is to be expected because he believed this world was soon to end, was speaking in a human milieu where the whole idea would have been met with bewilderment, where it was beyond the ken of individuals that they might as individuals contribute to the transformation of the world.
If we love our neighbors as ourselves, as Jesus commanded, doesn't that by itself present us with an obligation to work at eradicating the evils of this age, so that all of us together may have better and happier lives in this world? If we truly love them, should we not do everything possible to give them better lives including taking up arms in their defense? The problem with this position is that, while it is true that Jesus did not directly address the subject of world transformation, he did teach lessons totally at odds with it while being perfectly consistent with the conclusions I have expressed above. He established clear principles that radically contradict the concept of world transformation.
Jesus' personal example is perfectly consistent with the premise of this article. He came into a world of hurting people, of people who had lost their national freedom to foreigners and were forced to pay tribute to them. They daily faced many injustices with no recourse either before a judge of through a ballot box. It was a world where their beloved patriots hanged from crosses that they must pass on their way to work or market. Yet he made absolutely no effort to reconcile the circumstances of his people, the Jews. Instead, all the evidence points to one conclusion: he accepted this world exactly as he found it and made no move to change anything whatsoever. He accepted the presence and power of the Roman overlords when he accepted the payment of tribute to Rome with the word,
Jesus’ Personal ExampleGive unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's. (Mark 12:17)He accepted the place and authority of the hypocritical leaders of Israel (But without accepting their conduct and character) with the word,The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. (Matt. 23:2)He accepted the injustices within the daily lives of his people when he refused to redress a grievance for a petitioner who was left out of the family inheritance. He requested Jesus to bid his brother divide the inheritance with him, as I have related above, only to have Jesus rebuke him with the words,Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?Now we know why: the very desire to change the world comes from evil – because it is contrary to the will of the Father for this world.
One of the most common errors of those who will disagree with me here is to rely on certain proof texts that seem to confirm their belief. One such text is the lines of the Lord's Prayer,
Contrary Proof TextsThy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matt. 6:10)This they interpret to mean that Jesus has instructed us to pray for the earth to become as heaven. This seems a reasonable view on the face of it, but the error lies in their understanding of what Jesus meant by thy will be done. I have already explained this above and shown that the will of God, for Jesus, consisted not of changed circumstances on the earth, but of one deed he must do (and in a sense we must also do) before returning to the Father through his resurrection: namely, suffering death on the cross in demonstration of the love of the Father and the hatred of life, which I have designated The Great Correlate.
God's will is done in heaven only because all who are there, are there by their own desire and want nothing but to be there, sharing in the Glory of the Father. His will is done on earth only when there is someone on earth with the very same desire. That someone was Jesus whose desire was tested to the fullest at the cross.
Another such text is the Beatitude,Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matt. 5:5)Again, on the face of it, one is justified in thinking that Jesus is here promising his followers, the meek, that they shall possess this earth – in righteousness and justice and peace, of course! I have explained the substance of this passage elsewhere, and here will only explain that the problem comes with our interpretation of the word, earth.
Jesus was here quoting from the Psalm, and in both the Old Testament Hebrew and the New Testament Greek, it meant, to the Hebrews and the Greeks, not a planet, for they did not understand the world in that way, but land. This was a direct reference to the Father's promise to Abraham, Moses and their successors that the children of Israel were promised the Land of Canaan, beyond the Jordan. But Jesus redirected the promise to the Father's Land of Glory, in heaven. It therefore has nothing to do with a transformation of the earth, or of the children of God possessing planet earth. That, they will never do and should they want to do so, they enter under the same indictment as those who desire to change the world. The old Evangelical hymn, I Am Bound for the Promised Land, gives full expression to the correct interpretation of this text.
Yet another Beatitude is often quoted to support the thesis that Jesus issued a mandate to transform the world.Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matt. 5:9)This means exactly what it says. Those who make peace as individuals in every situation – through non-resistance, love of enemies, turning the other cheek, giving what is asked or by any other response that might otherwise issue in violence – are the children of God. This one beatitude is a sort of summation of the consequences of the antitheses of the Sermon on the Mount that follow immediately. The persons thus making peace, being the children of God, are not of the world and their peacemaking activity will have a negligible effect on the world. There will be no effect to counter the prophecy of Jesus thatkingdom will rise against kingdom and nation against nation.They will come, experience the hostility of the world, and go to their reward. The world will not be transformed and will little note that the children of God once occupied a place within it.
Finally, I once believed, as many persons yet do, that Jesus promised to revolutionize our lives on earth on the basis of his statement from the Fourth Gospel (10:10):The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.The interpretation is that he came to greatly enhance our earthly existence by making life on this earth to abound so as to give us a much more abundant life here and now. This cannot be the case in the light of his Great Principle,He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25)He would never encourage us to love our lives on earth by seeking to make them more abundant. Clearly, the abundant life he promised is nothing less than life eternal, with the Father in his glorious house. When we look for his specific promises concerning life on earth and in time, we find the very opposite of life abundant. It is all summarized in his promise,In the world you will have tribulation . . .. (John 16:33)Life abundant and in this present age? No, such interpretations are dictated only by a mind set fixed on the love of life. Remove that and the Truth comes shining through. The same applies to all of Jesus statements that seem, on first reading, to promise temporal and earthly rewards.
I have shown how the desire to change the world comes from evil. This is a premise dictated by the Great Principle enunciated by Jesus:
ConclusionWho ever loves his life in this world loses it, but he who hates his life in this world will keep it for life eternal.This is a premise dictated by the Great Commandment,Thou shalt love the lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy mind and with all thy soul and with all thy strength.These two constitute a love/hate dialectic, the Great Correlate, which under girds everything that Jesus did or said in this world. Consequently Jesus did not expect this world ever to change in its essential nature because it cannot change, being created unchangeable by the Father. He therefore certainly never taught his disciples to seek to change the world, and never suggested any method by which it might be transformed. His personal example conformed to this view exactly.
Jesus hated his life in the world, and left it at the earliest possible moment, as soon as he could complete his course. He loved his Father in heaven and therefore returned to Him as soon as he had completed his purpose on earth. Just so, the Prodigal Son, in the parable, hated his life in the "far country" and wanted to leave it. He discovered to his everlasting joy that he loved his Father and sealed that love by returning to the Father's house.
The Great Correlate moves us toward one personal goal: to leave this world and go to the Father as soon as possible, which is as soon as our course on earth has been completed. Jesus would have succumbed to evil had he stayed on and tried to change the place. He could please the Father only by going to him. So with the Prodigal, who could please his Father only by returning to him. Had he stayed in the pigsty and continued seeking to find his life there, had he assayed to change the place, making it more agreeable both for himself and his fellow swineherds such as, for example, forming a union to petition their employer for higher wages and shorter hours, he could never have pleased his Father.
So it is with us. There is only one desire of our hearts that can please Him and render us acceptable to Him – the desire to leave this world and go to Him in love for Him. Therefore I can only conclude that the desire to change the world comes from evil.
There is one more thing that seals my case. In the Sermon on the Mount we find Jesus saying:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matthew 6:19-21)."Treasure" is here generally taken to mean money or other tangibles, such as houses or lands, that are highly valued on earth. This is indeed consistent with Jesus' subsequent statement,You cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24).But it is also clear that the word cannot be confined to tangible earthly things since Jesus is surely not urging us to lay up bags of gold in heaven! No, we must give a broad definition to treasure here, as suggested by the last sentence. Our treasure is whatever we value in our hearts, be it tangible or intangible. The Great Commandment is to love the Father with all our hearts. He will not share our hearts with anything else, and specifically with nothing on earth.
Now, if we set out to change the world of men, situated on planet earth, we usually have some vision to which we wish to have the world conform. Inasmuch as this vision is an earthly vision, and inasmuch as we value it in our hearts, it becomes a treasure on earth and the Father will not share our hearts with it, especially not with the human vision of and aspiration for a better world. The desire to transform the world therefore comes from evil. Not only is it contrary to the will of the Father, but it also defiles our hearts, the very seat of our will and desire.
Jesus never opposed the will of the Father by calling his disciples to pray and work for a transformation of the world.
Return to List of Papers E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Return to Home Page