By Dr. Samuel Adjei Sarfo If Jesus were to return today, he will certainly mistake our present world as the heaven he predicted two thousand years ago. And if we are not enjoying our lives on earth as we should in heaven, then the problem lies with our attitude to life and our conduct therein.
Two thousand years ago, in the part of the world where Jesus Christ was born, there was a blanket of despondency upon the land. The Jews were living under the heavy yoke of the iron-footed Romans who trampled upon them with impunity. The people were taxed heavily from their meager incomes. They could be killed by the word of a centurion, let alone a governor. Their prophets’ heads were constantly rolling to satisfy the whims and caprices of the Roman rulers. Their lives were a daily drudgery in which hopelessness was the only truth of their existence. The staple punishment was crucifixion which the Romans used to quell any semblance of rebellion. The streets were regularly lined with crucified rebels to serve as odious examples for those imagining any uprising against Roman tyranny. Apart from crucifixion, mob justice through stoning was also very common among the Jews themselves. And there was hunger and starvation everywhere. The poor barely had clothing or shelter, and if they fell into debt, they were thrown into prison. People sold their children into slavery to pay off their debts. Others, for a crumb of bread, either maimed or killed. The religious establishment which dictated the ethos and mores of the Jews sold out to the Roman rulers who appointed them to be lords over the people. At a point in time, the religious and the political system were intertwined in marriage of oppression of the people, and while the political establishment overtaxed the masses, the religious leaders saddled them with draconian interpretations of the laws of Moses….
Under these trying circumstances, the people were always looking for a Messiah to relieve them of their lives of pain and suffering….and there were many who came before Christ, claiming the status of savior of the people. They succeeded in varying degrees in halting Roman tyranny, but they were always eventually conquered and destroyed. An example preceding the advent of Jesus was the Maccabees who were the thorns on the side of Rome for decades…… The relief the people were seeking was specifically pragmatic--a strong leader who was going to lead them to overthrow the Roman yoke and to establish a peaceful and thriving kingdom in which all people would live free. Theirs was a simple desire borne of the context of the times. They were not looking for a deferred dream into the remotest future wherein they were going to live with God after they died. They were not looking into the clouds for an archangel sitting on a white horse who would feud with the devil and conquer him in Armageddon. They were not looking for a magical kingdom of Jerusalem in which all were transmogrified at once into saints. Their needs were immediate and pressing; they needed a savior now, not some two thousand years thereafter! The people therefore searched the ancient scriptures for the signs and times of their liberation here on earth.
It was under this awful cloud that Jesus was born. Of what was written of him, he must have been quite charismatic, teaching people a different kind of philosophy from that which had been corruptly imparted by the religious establishment. He taught of love and mercy, of generosity and benevolence, of sacrifice, dedication, respect, kindness and peace. He also spoke of a place in future where there will be no hunger; where men will live free from oppression. Like the other prophets before him, he spoke of the great well-being of people--abundant food and clothing………a land flowing with milk and honey, he spoke of everlasting life.
It is the submission of this writer that in a material sense, all the things that Jesus spoke of two thousand years ago have come to pass. We live in a certain degree of universal freedom and comfort hitherto unknown in world history. Today, autocracy has virtually disappeared; nowhere in the world is a government able to use cruel and unusual punishment as was the stock in trade of the Romans. Nobody’s head is cut off for a song or dance. Slavery, wherever it is found is ostracized. Men and women live in freedom. There is freedom to say anything--freedom to move anywhere, freedom to be in opposition of government even at the doorstep of government, freedom of worship or no worship…. There is also material comfort never imagined in the time of Christ. People living across the world can communicate in real time with each other. Our roads are paved far wider than the Roman Appian, and we drive in comfortable cars instead of horse-drawn chariots. We eat as much as we can, drink all the milk and honey we want and grow as fat as we want. We wear so many clothing and shoes that we cannot count them. We watch TV to be apprised of world events, use sophisticated computers to see each other across the globe…..It is not even possible to recount the number of things we have which Jesus couldn’t have imagined in his time. Even in the last hundred years, what we have and where we are supersede anything imagined since the beginning of time. In a sense too, we are all immortals in a metaphorical sense insofar as what we do here or write here is forever preserved here for all posterity. For example, u-tube will forever store what we do and say and make same forever accessible for generations yet unborn. If this is not heaven in a material sense, somebody please describe what is.
Thus the quality of our present life justifies any heaven out there which anybody or anything could possibly provide; and if in doubt, just try to think of anything physical you want of God in heaven, and all the activities you would engage in if you found yourself today in heaven, and consider any activity or anything you imagine, and bingo, you can find and do all of them right here on earth. Your best fantasies are achievable right here on earth if you only dare to pursue them. No heaven could be better than our present world!
Indeed, if you think hard enough, you will find that the physical heaven has been here on earth throughout your life but the reason why this fact is lost upon you is that you look into an abstract future for its material existence, while abandoning the spiritual quest for the fulfilling life. If Jesus were to appear in our world today, he will discover that its state has far exceeded the heaven he preached about. He will even admonish us severely for looking further afield for it. Unbeknownst to us, we have inherited the kingdom of God in its physical sense, but the reason why we still suffer is that we have abandoned the spiritual quest. The spiritual goal is best achieved by cultivating the fruit of the spirit as enumerated in Galatians 5: 22-23: But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Unfortunately, we have clogged our souls with the anti-fruits of the spirit, and the karmic weight of our belligerence mortgages our happiness in this world. We hate our fellows with palpable hatred, and insult our progeny with creative insults, feeding the ethnocentric and racist monster within us on a daily basis. Our worship claims its autonomy in bellicosity while we banish sagacity as the prerequisite of our religiosity. Instead of kindness and goodness and self-control, we wake up to devise evil for our fellows, and look for ways to humiliate them, to denigrate them or to dehumanize them, all the while claiming that we are far superior to them in one sense or the other. By our own conduct and attitudes, we have screwed up the heaven that has been given to us, and like the blind astrologer in Chaucer’s tale, we are looking to predict bliss in the remotest future right in front of what already is blissful today. We look into the clouds for what we already have and cry for an invisible hands to make all things right when we can make everything right. We have inherited the material wealth far beyond the imagination of the Christ himself, but through our attitudes and conduct, we have lost the fruits that come with the spirit and thereby mortgaged the fuller meaning of the celestial experience. It is only by cultivating the fruits of the spirit that we can fully inherit the heavenly state!
Samuel Adjei Sarfo, Doctor of Jurisprudence, is a General Legal Practitioner in the State of Texas. You can email him at email@example.com