When Jesus said the meek will inherit the earth, He meant it.
Though we’re in the middle of a pandemic, we still find headline space for the royals—Harry and Megan, who are stepping away from royal duties, William, Kate, and of course, as always, the children.
How about those kids? Are they brats, or are they polite? What kind of life do they lead? Is it excessive, or ordinary?
I’ve heard mixed reports, but if I had been in their shoes, I would have probably pushed the envelope. I was bad enough having been raised in a middle class American family. How much worse would it have been if I’d known I would become the Duke of Earl? Maybe I would have stood up in the middle of spelling class and proclaimed that, as Sovereign, I need not learn anything. Then (pointing to the teacher), You there, bring me a pound of chocolate. And you (to the Principal), saddle me a horse. Behold, I’m going riding. But ideally speaking, it would be exactly that kind of entitled, immature behavior that would have needed to be straightened out before I could have ascended to a place of royal authority.
Check out what the Apostle Paul wrote to a group of Christians who were having trouble settling disputes with each other:
“Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! (1 Cor. 6:2-3).
In order to realign these disorderly believers, the Apostle refers to their exalted future, that of judging the entire world, and beyond, extending even to angels (presumably fallen ones). Their gross immaturity however, was obscuring their lofty future. They were having trouble settling disagreements and representing God to their world. Perhaps this is another reason why Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Mt. 7:1). Judgment from the spiritually immature is ugly and inaccurate. Yet Paul expected from the Corinthians, that after having met Jesus and spent time following Him, they should have possessed at least some baseline competency in exacting divine judgment.
God is at work today, moving us toward a lofty goal, preparing us for a future of ruling, reigning, and administering this universe together with Christ.
That’s the scene John describes in Revelation 20:4-6
“Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed…” (v.4a).
At this point, things have obviously changed, with the devil imprisoned (vv. 1-3), and the current political order that dominated this world gone, with all its selfish and unrighteous agendas. God has committed, like a sacred trust, the authority of judgment to a number of thrones. Who sits upon them? We know one group must include the twelve apostles. “Jesus said to them, Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28). Other gospel passages promise that believers who are faithful in a few matters, will be rewarded with rule over cities (c.f. Luke 19).
“…Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (v. 4b).
These martyrs had the highest fidelity toward living Christ, and to holding the Word of God—things that constitute qualifications to rule. For a millenium God will administer righteousness to this world through His believers. But for now these future rulers are currently incubating. They are in a developmental phase, and although highly imperfect, and frequently falling into sins and errors of judgment, God moves them unerringly to the ideal.
“The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and they will reign with Him for a thousand years” (vv. 5-6).
Note that these people weren’t “blessed” because they finally got their turn to boss everyone around. They were blessed firstly because the things that used to rule their lives, the evil, dirty things that belong in the lake of fire, will no longer had any power over them. From these verses, “blessing” proceeds from priestly service, not ruling might. True blessing comes from a government free of evil, animated with selfless service.
This was God’s intention from the beginning (Gen. 1:26). He created human beings in His image and gave them dominion over everything. But due to our fall into sin, everything ended up having dominion over us—simple things like sleep, food, sex, money, and then anger, jealousy, pride, vanity.
Then one day, through the gospel, we met Jesus in the gospel. Hopefully, the person who shared the message with you also encouraged you to receive Him. “For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17).
The big question is did you receive Him? If so, God has plans for you. His grace does not take you to heaven and put you to sleep on a cloud. His expectation was that grace would cause you to rule, beginning with authority over your own self. That is the start, but the end point is a throne, a place of robust involvement in the coming kingdom of God.
We don’t talk about these things very often, because we see our own imperfections. Immaturity tends to eclipse our view, and so we settle for God accomplishing things in the horizontal—solving problems, granting creaturely blessings, forgiving our gaffes. Heaven itself tends to be a place of our own idealized enjoyments, because that is how a child envisions the perfect future. How could we exercise massive, spiritual realities, when we can barely summon the will to lose weight, to get up on time, even to pray?
Today when we hire a babysitter to be in charge of our home, and children, we expect references, and maybe a CPR certificate. But back in the day, the sitter only needed to be twelve years old. As parents shelled out fifty cents an hour, they rarely asked whether or not that babysitter needed a babysitter of her own. Most of the mischief I got into growing up was when we had a babysitter.
One night my parents went out for the evening, and hired someone to watch us. As soon as their car was out of sight, I dug out the chemistry set I had gotten for Christmas. The one that should only be used under adult supervision. Our sitter went to call her boyfriend on the telephone, while I, in another room, lit a Bunsen burner, combined every chemical ingredient into beakers and test tubes, and then cooked it all over high heat. I managed to ruin the equipment, and produce a noxious cloud. It was a real live-to-tell-about-it experience. In the early seventies, those sets had no real governmental oversight. Kids could almost manufacture heavy metals with them. So when your parents got home and asked what you did while they were gone, you could tell them you made nickel.
While the sitter was there.
Nobody likes to admit it, but this is often the dysfunctional scene in churches today. We make huge mistakes, neglect people, try to deal with issues the wrong way. And now even more, in our homes. During the shelter-in-place order, there has been an uptick in domestic violence. I believe it, because we’re all shut in on top of each other right now. Marital tensions brew, as parents try to work full-time jobs on laptops, interrupted once every ten minutes by kids wandering around the house.
The rest of the world views this whole thing as a stretch of bad luck, with no redemptive value at all. But Christians should view it as another in a long series of teaching/training moments. The Lord mandates, even requires His children learn new things—flexibility, forgiveness, self-sacrifice, habits of discipline. Maybe we’re learning a new love for the church, as well. When this crisis is over, we won’t sashay back to weekly worship events. Better, we’ll rush back to a vibrant faith community, where Christ is so much better when we’re together. And if you’re involved in vocational ministry, maybe you’ll stop seeing the church as a non-profit organization to be manned, or a production to be put on every week.
If the Lord really is going to turn the world over to His believers, then we’re going to need to unlearn some things, and learn others.
Ten years from now, we’ll remember the experiences of 2020 (some of them sad, some weird, involving toilet paper). But if somebody asks, “I wonder why all that happened?” Hopefully you’ll say to yourself, I’m sure there were a lot of reasons. One of them is that I had to learn how to run the universe.