Jesus said to Peter;
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
~Matthew 16:18-19 (NRSV).
The church has a stern responsibility.
Jesus, above, has charged it – at Peter’s initial control – with the destiny of eternity. The theory being, that whatever the church would allow here on earth, God will continue in heaven.
It is easy to see where this discussion is heading; we think about the variety of modern compromises the church is now making, or has made; we can see where we’re going wrong.
The church involves custodianship for a generation. That’s our task as we receive the baton from elders in the church of God before handing it on those seceding from us, our race ran. The length of our task is finite. The mission of the church is, however, eternal.
WHAT KIND OF HEAVEN DO WE WANT?
We normally think in the reverse. As Jesus said in the Lord’s Prayer:
Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
~Matthew 6:10 (NRSV).
We think how God must desire things, and we convert things here in accord with what we discern God would want. In effect, we truly wish to bring heaven here, perhaps never realising that by allowing or not allowing certain things we actually define heaven for all humankind.
Any non-believing person could safely make the assumption that the church resembles heaven and that heaven resembles the church – if they’re so interested.
Heaven is an abstract concept. Yet, the church is the means to that end.
HEAVEN THEN VERSUS HEAVEN NOW
Whenever Jesus mentions heaven in the gospels he never normally means a single dimensional heaven; no, heaven is normally quite a dynamic Spiritual location.
Of course, whilst we’re here, heaven will always mean something wholly incomprehensible to us.
We cannot grasp what heaven will be like, and we only ever get glimpses of it in this life – that is to live eternally via the knowledge of God (John 17:3).
We’re only beginning to understand heaven when we consider it as a place here and to come. That’s twin-dimensional. But surely our vast and infinite God has more in mind for something so marvellous. We can be sure this is true.
And still, we have the ability to design heaven as we live it here and now.
This is Jesus’ point. Like any good husband, Christ is offering His bride, the Church, full capacity to function (Ephesians 5:21-33). Yet, will she be faithful? Will she bind the right things? Will the right things be loosed?
Only each pastor, priest, church fellowship and denomination can answer that one for themselves, for their generation.
But again, it’s a stern responsibility for everyone in leadership. We will need to be ready to give a proper account of ourselves (Hebrews 4:13; 13:17), and why we may’ve bound or loosed things that previous generations did not.
We can begin to see, here, that the charge for the church is an eternal one. Nothing changes as far as truth and love and wisdom are concerned. We do not live in a special age – other than via technological advance that outstrips all previous ages. Virtue, however, remains unchanged. So, why would we make the compromises that are currently being made?
Are we happy to live in a heaven (to come) resembling the earth as it is heaven (now) today?
We may find that the two are more linked than we realise.
What sort of heaven are we, personally, prepared to settle for?
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.