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Christian Government

When Jesus came preaching that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand," he was telling the people of Israel that God was bringing in a radically new form of government... not just pie in the sky when we die, but something that works right here and now.

There has, however, been confusion throughout the history of the church over just what this "kingdom of heaven" is. We have previously quoted a Catholic priest who confessed that all of the sins of the Catholic Church were summed up in one sentence: "We mistook the Church for the kingdom of heaven."

Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven cannot be seen, that it "comes without observation... neither will they say, 'Lo, here it is,' or 'Lo, there it is'." (Luke 17:21-22) And yet he referred to his followers as the salt of the earth, and as a city that is set on a hill... a city that cannot be hid. (Matthew 5:13-16) So, for 2,000 years, something has been happening through (and often in spite of) the church, which has brought light to the world.

When we turned to Bible prophecy in an effort to better understand what this mysterious kingdom of heaven is, we discovered a wonderful description of God's government revealed by the Hebrew prophet Daniel. It came as an interpretation of a dream that the king of Babylon had, in which he saw a statue of himself with a head of gold. Various parts of the body were made of other metals, with each one becoming less and less valuable, until the feet were made only of iron mixed with clay.

Daniel explained that the statue represented all of the governments of mankind.

But then a stone appears out of nowhere. Significantly, the stone has not been made by any human hand. It strikes the feet of the statue and destroys it. Then the stone begins to grow, until it becomes a mountain that fills the whole earth. This stone, of course, is God's government. (Daniel 2:31-45)

The mountain described by Daniel has been referred to poetically as Mount Zion, or Jerusalem. And yet those terms have spawned a horrible perversion of the real kingdom of heaven (God's government) called Zionism. This man-made counterfeit has been widely supported by fundamentalist Christians as being a form of God's government. With help from various American presidents, Zionism is turning into as much of a perversion of God's government as the Catholic Church was in her darkest days.

In the New Testament John the Revelator continues the theme that Daniel started by referring to a "beast" that has many different heads. In other words, no matter who the world picks to lead it, we never escape the horrors of the beastly system with its abuses of power. But, like Daniel's "stone", John talks of another government that comes from heaven. In contrast to the beast, it is symbolised by an innocent Lamb which has been killed. This, of course, is Jesus, who suffered a cruel death on the cross, at the hands of the Roman and Israeli systems (a parallel of the American and Israeli systems today?). Jesus' death on the cross has become the universal symbol of "God's government".

But where is that government today? Like we said, it is not visible. It is more of an INFLUENCE, which comes from individuals everywhere who give their lives in sacrificial love to others. Yet there seems to be more interest amongst religious leaders to re-structure the governments of the world than there is in building a replacement for them. Religious/political activists from both ends of the political spectrum continue to push for changes in the political system that will make it more consistent with God's government. They have achieved some modest successes, making prisons, for example, more humane, outlawing slavery, combatting the sale of harmful drugs, and demanding accountability from government leaders.

But still, we do not have, in the governments of any nation, including those who promote so-called Zionism, a true representation of God's government... the one symbolised by a Lamb dying on a cross. In fact, the more religious these governments become, the more their actions seem to mirror those of the government that KILLED the Lamb of God. Daily we see the violence and corruption of Zionism (and variations of it from other religious movements) growing, as their terror fills the earth.

What has become of the kingdom that Jesus spoke of, the kingdom which he said was "at hand" some two thousand years ago, and which was represented by a cross?

For a while his followers were building such an idealistic kingdom, and they ruled themselves. They were a body of believers who had dropped out of both the Roman and Israeli systems, and who were consequently hated by both. One of their leaders, when he heard that some of them had turned to the system for help in settling a legal dispute, said, "Don't you know that we will one day rule the world? Can't you at least pass judgment yourselves on such a matter now?" (I Corinthians 6:1-6)

Ironically, he later rebuked these same people for not forgiving the man and accepting him back into their fellowship after they had carried out some unspecified punishment. (II Corinthians 2:6-7)

In The Revelation, we are told about God's government ruling the world with a rod of iron (Revelation 2:27, 12:5, 19:15) In the letter to the Hebrews we are told that God whips every son that he receives into his family. (Hebrews 12:6) So we get from all of these passages a picture of a government which is both hard and soft, just and merciful. It is a government which starts by ruling itself, but eventually grows to rule the whole world.

We believe that this government comes through obedience to the teachings of Jesus. In our own efforts to take up our crosses and follow Jesus, we have forsaken all private ownership, stopped working for money, and formed a worldwide community of believers who are prepared to lay our lives down in loving service to God and others.

Occasionally things happen in our communities which are inconsistent with the principles of the kingdom of heaven. We have rebuked wrong-doers, but we have also worked on teaching them to discipline themselves. It is not uncommon for members of our community to be observed missing several meals in a row (for example) as a form of personal discipline... a self inflicted punishment for some relatively minor indiscretion.

Such disciplines say two things... one hard, and one soft. The hard truth is that we do not settle for wishful thinking and empty talk. We believe in discipline and we expect results. But the soft message is that ultimately these disciplines need to originate from within the hearts of the people being disciplined, and not from outside force. Disciplines which are forced on people rarely result in lasting changes. This is the secret of God's government.

Obviously we want to find ways to make this government grow into the mountain that God intends it to be. We want to see a New Jerusalem, a new Zion... one that comes down from heaven, and one that is symbolised by the Lamb that was slain for the sins of others.

There have been many efforts throughout history to bring about such government, but they have always lacked something. Some have created laws and punishments, but they have been too harsh. Others have offered forgiveness to one and all, but they lacked the ability to enforce the standards that Jesus expected of his followers.

Now we are talking about a movement where people set standards... high standards that are consistent with the "rod of iron" or the two-edged sword that came out of the mouth of the One we call the Word of God. (Revelation 19:13-15) These people will not have just one cross, but many crosses, each one carried by a citizen of this new government. By offering to take on ourselves the punishment for people who offend, we hope to inspire others to submit willingly to the exacting standards of God's government.

We don't expect to be successful in the eyes of the world, but we do hope to become salt for the earth, preserving it from at least some of the corruption that seems to be sweeping the world today.

In the midst of darkness, let us become a city that is set on a hill, candles of hope and faith and love, as we lay down our lives for others. As we do this, we will be establishing God's government, a government that will one day rule the world.

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