Friday, January 23, 2009

Prophecy and Earthly Paradise

Now to pre-empt the "Best of" again: I've been reading the Old Testament prophets for some reason and a friend asked me about my thoughts regarding the Christian Heaven and the earthly paradise predicted for the Jews. Here's my take:

One of the central questions of the Bible is how to reconcile the Christian heaven with the earthly paradise of the Jews.

There are three possibilities:

1. No earthly paradise.

2. An earthly paradise yet to come in history.

3. A spiritual interpretation of the earthly paradise that ignores actual fulfillment.

If the Bible is taken seriously, only the second option is probable, because the Jews are an earthly people with earthly expectations. Also, the prophecies of Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and even the book of Revelation support an earthly temple in Jerusalem whose measurements and description already appear in Revelation and the last part of Ezekiel.

This temple and the city that surrounds it will dwarf all the edifices of history, and Christ will rule from it, and the River of Life will flow from it--the trees that line it will bear fruit monthly and the leaves will be "for the healing of the nations." Note: nations. These are earthly provinces.

The same prophecies that predicted the Babylonian captivity, the Persian overthrow of Babylon, the Egyptians being reduced to a minor people, the extinction of the Ammonites, Hittites and Philistines, also predict the earthly paradise. If, historically, the other prophecies came true, we cannot discount the unfulfilled prophecies.

Christians, on the other hand, "have no earthly habitation" (Paul) and our kingdom "is not of this world" (Jesus). Moreover, Christians are already "seated in the heavenlies in Christ" as Paul remarks in Ephesians.

The earthly temple will have twelve gates inscribed with the name of Israel's tribes, yet the foundations of the temple, according to Revelation, will be the twelve Jewish apostles of Christ, each one represented by another layer of pure gemstone.

When Christ rules the earth, therefore, he shall rule through the Jews, and indeed, as a Jew, in his second coming, he shall fulfill the prophecies of an earthly kingdom.

Where then will the Christians be? Subsumed in Christ? Waiting in heaven for the thousand year reign to end before the last judgment? It is not known, but certainly the Book of Revelation endorses the preeminence of the Jews in the time of tribulation and later reign over the earth. The Jews are thus the inheritors of earthly rule, the Christians relegated to heavenly rule. The details for the Jews are much better worked out in prophecy; the Christian destiny is, in comparison, a little hazy. The Church does not appear in the Book of Revelation after the first three chapters, leading some to believe in "The Rapture," when believers simply disappear from the earth. I don't subscribe to this doctrine because I don't believe God will necessarily spare believers when they have also suffered throughout history.

If the Jews are to inherit the earth, then the long arc of their impossible history may be seen as a training ground for future supremacy, when they must repent and recognize the Messiah as "him whom they pierced," also foretold in prophecy.

The Book of Revelation rightly belongs to the Old Testament, as does that dark little book before it, Jude. Thus the ouroboros comes to light; the Garden of Eden was an earthly paradise, the New Jerusalem will also come down from heaven to be an earthly paradise. Yet Christians, despite the haziness of our destiny re: paradise, have this promise: "Eye hath not seen, nor hath ear heard, what God hath prepared for those who love him." The reward for Christians, who are a spiritual tribe, will likely be spiritual, with this caveat--that we will again assume human form in perfect resurrected bodies, though perhaps in another realm, while the Jews have their earthly prophecies fulfilled.

One more thing: Some of the prophecies of the end of the diaspora applied to the remnant that returned from Babylon, but that prefillment does in no way diminish the ultimate material outcome in the future, because the descriptions of paradise and the re-building of Jerusalem in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. do not match it, just as the Jewish state today does not fulfill them beyond a gathering of the Jews--there is no spiritual revival there, only a rapacious dedication to survival against enemies who are greatly overmatched by Israel's firepower.

How then should Christians relate to the chosen people? With respect and neutrality; it is not our place but the place of the Jewish prophets to attempt reform from within. The punishment has and will fall heavily on the atheistic, socialistic Israel of today. Nevertheless they have the geography right: the true earthly kingdom must be established in Jerusalem, the geography is specified in the prophecies.

As for Jews in the world economy, where they are overrepresented, remember that usury is a big deal in the Old Testament, and punishment should be expected for such a departure from righteousness.

Christians are released from the ultimate demands of karma through Christ's sacrifice (though not from the law of karma in this world), but a people that holds to its concept of a God intervening in history on their behalf will also be judged in history in real time. This judgment Christians will escape, having opted for a spiritual outlook and reward.

If not for the miracle of the Jews still existing as a cohesive tribe over near four millennia, these predictions would be hard to swallow. Only the orthodox Jews still subscribe to them. But Jesus said (loose quote), "Not one jot or tittle of the law and the prophets will pass away before all is fulfilled."

Here endeth the epistle for the day.


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