BRINGING HEAVEN DOWN
Turning Back Destruction
“You must pray, then, this way: ‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.’”
– Matthew 6:9-10
In Jesus’ well-known discourse, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29), he instructs his followers to pray for God’s will to be done on earth, in essence for the conditions in heaven to permeate the earthly realm. ‘Bringing heaven down’ so to speak, should be the prayer of everyone who honors God and especially those who truly follow Christ Jesus.
But bringing heaven down is a formidable task. There is so much turmoil in today’s world that it hardly seems possible. It is no wonder so many Christians believe the only way God’s will can be done on earth is for God to first destroy everyone and everything apathetic or in opposition to Him. They believe God has given up on man’s ability to correct his ways and has determined that the vast majority are worthy of destruction. But is that true?
Has our heavenly Father decided that destruction is the only way to achieve His will on earth? Has He determined that the good news of the kingdom Christ Jesus lived and died for will simply not have worldwide appeal after all? Has God lost the battle for souls and is throwing in the towel so He can start all over again? Has His patience run out after only 2,000 years? Is worldwide destruction really God’s will?
Or is it possible that there is another way to bring heaven down? Is there something man can do to prevent a worldwide calamity and assure that God wins the battle? We believe it is both possible and probable. We have an example of that very thing in the story of the Ninevites as told by the prophet Jonah. Whatever your personal view, we invite you to consider another possibility – another way God’s will can be done on earth as it is in heaven.
The Ninevite Possibility
The book of Jonah begins:
“And the word of Jehovah began to occur to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying: ‘Get up, go to Nineveh the great city, and proclaim against her that their badness has come up before me.’”
– Jonah 1:1-2
Of all the people on the earth at that time, the people of Nineveh have drawn Jehovah’s special attention. The time for her judgment has come. At first, Jonah ran away from his assignment, but is later persuaded to obey. (Jonah 1:3-3:2) When he gets his bearings, he heads to Nineveh to begin his ministry:
“At that, Jonah got up and went to Nineveh in accord with the word of Jehovah. Now Nineveh herself proved to be a city great to God, with a walking distance of three days. Finally Jonah started to enter into the city the walking distance of one day, and he kept proclaiming and saying: “Only forty days more, and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
– Jonah 3:3-4
The situation in the ‘great city’ of Nineveh is similar to the way many view the entire world of our time. They believe the badness has reached a point where the only solution is a complete overthrow of the entire world system. Like Jonah, many are preaching a message of doom for our world because from their standpoint, so few really serve God. But is doom man’s destiny? Notice how the people of Nineveh reacted to Jonah’s preaching.
“And the men of Nineveh began to put faith in God, and they proceeded to proclaim a fast and to put on sackcloth, from the greatest one of them even to the least one of them.”
– Jonah 3:5
The men (and likely their families) repented first. They did more than make a verbal proclamation of their error. They performed certain acts to demonstrate the sincerity of their repentance. And their actions had a domino affect.
“When the word reached the king of Nineveh, then he rose up from his throne and put off his official garment from himself and covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the ashes. Furthermore, he had the cry made, and he had it said in Nineveh, by the decree of the king and his great ones, saying: ‘No man and no domestic animal, no herd and no flock, should taste anything at all. None should take food. Even water they should not drink. And let them cover themselves with sackcloth, man and domestic animal; and let them call out to God with strength and come back, each one from his bad way and from the violence that was in their hands.”
– Jonah 3:6-8
The king of Nineveh witnessed the repentance of his countrymen and followed suit. But more than that, he decreed that the entire city must repent and perform acts demonstrating their repentance. Why? The king explained:
“Who is there knowing whether the [true] God may turn back and actually feel regret and turn back from his burning anger, so that we may not perish?”
– Jonah 3:9
Though the king had to recognize his errors, he had faith in the goodness of God. He believed if God saw their repentance, He would be moved to spare their city. And he was correct:
“And the [true] God got to see their works, that they had turned back from their bad way; and so the [true] God felt regret over the calamity that he had spoken of causing to them; and he did not cause [it].”
– Jonah 3:10
What a wonderful outcome! True and honest repentance saved Nineveh! This example is encouraging to our generation when so many expect a complete overthrow of our world. The interpretations of Bible prophecy leads them to assume that destruction is a foregone conclusion. But, as shown by the Ninevites, that is not necessarily so. Paul wrote:
“For all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.”
– Romans 15:4
Yes, the story of the Ninevites is comforting to those whose hope is in God. But not everyone was pleased with the salvation of Nineveh:
“To Jonah, though, it was highly displeasing, and he got to be hot with anger. Hence he prayed to Jehovah and said: ‘Ah, now, O Jehovah, was not this an affair of mine, while I happened to be on my own ground? That is why I went ahead and ran away to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, and feeling regret over the calamity. And now, O Jehovah, take away, please, my soul from me, for my dying is better than my being alive.”
– Jonah 4:1-3
Jonah was upset. In effect, he said, ‘I knew it! I knew you wouldn’t destroy them! Why did you put me through all of this? I was minding my own business, but, no, I had to go to Nineveh to preach its destruction. And now, you don’t even destroy it? Just kill me now! Put me out of my misery!’ But God’s patience and loving kindness was available to Jonah also. After giving Jonah an object lesson on mercy (Jonah 4:5-10), God said:
“[F]or my part, ought I not to feel sorry for Nineveh the great city, in which there exist more than one hundred and twenty thousand men who do not at all know the difference between their right hand and their left, besides many domestic animals?”
– Jonah 4:11
God was concerned for the sheer number of men, as well as animals, who would have been destroyed in their ignorance. His words indicate that destruction was not His purpose at all. What He wanted was repentance, a turning around and a turning away from badness. As Jonah rightly said, our God is indeed ‘gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abundant in loving-kindness.’
No, the destruction of Nineveh was not a foregone, foreordained conclusion. It was a warning that could have resulted in destruction, but did not. It underscores the importance and the power of our God given free will and how our free will decisions can affect God’s actions. Like Nineveh, it is possible that the destruction of our world is not a foregone conclusion either. This example demonstrates that there IS something man can do to effect a merciful response from our loving and merciful Father. Why wouldn’t God be merciful to our generation? There are millions of faithful men and women on the earth today, and more people are seeking truth than ever before. Why would He not be patient with us when more people today are turning to the plain and open teachings of Christ and his true message of salvation?
Mercy For Our Generation
Yes, our generation has problems, but it also has tremendous potential for good. There has never been more favorable conditions for searching for God. More countries allow religious freedom, more people are recognizing the equality of all people and equality between men and women. And with the advances in technology, more people have free access to the good news.
Also, worldwide generosity is unparalleled. Whenever there is calamity around the world, people of all nations volunteer their time and resources to alleviate the suffering. These acts of brotherly love have great value in the eyes of God.
“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world. For I became hungry and you gave me something to eat; I got thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you received me hospitably; naked, and you clothed me. I fell sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous ones will answer him with the words, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty, and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and receive you hospitably, or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to you?’ And in reply the king will say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, To the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
– Matthew 25:34-40
“He that receives you receives me also, and he that receives me receives him also that sent me forth. He that receives a prophet because he is a prophet will get a prophet’s reward, and he that receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will get a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water to drink because he is a disciple, I tell you truly, he will by no means lose his reward.”
– Matthew 10:40-42
Yes, it is indeed possible, and probable, that God will exercise patience with our generation as long as there is forward momentum in the spread of the spiritual brotherhood on earth. And if we ‘handle the word aright’ as ambassadors substituting for Christ, not as self-proclaimed saviors or peddlers of the word, we can expect the true good news to reach its intended targets – the hearts and minds of men of all sorts.
Really, the alternative is unthinkable. The good news of the kingdom will have failed. The idea that the generous gifts from the Father are unattractive to the vast majority of His creation is appalling.
That is not to say that there will not be an overthrow of various authorities who are stifling the progress of the kingdom message. This has happened in the past and will certainly happen in the future, and, of course, many may suffer as a result. (Daniel 5:20-21) But a wholesale destruction of our entire system is not consistent with the character or purpose of our Father and it would be a massive defeat of the good news. Never may that happen! Therefore, all able-bodied, God-oriented persons should fix their minds on doing what we can to bring heaven down.
This perspective may not appeal to those who are determined to ‘make a vision come true.’ (Daniel 11:14) Like the despondent Jonah, they fully expect worldwide destruction and will be sorely disappointed if it does not occur. But their attitude is stalling their own spiritual progress and stifling the efforts of heaven to come down. They will continue to cause us to wander generation after generation waiting for destruction instead of doing what we can to assure that God’s will be done on earth today. Unless we have faith in the power of the good news to effect real change, we will continue to be like the ancient Hebrews who wandered in the desert until the faithless generation of naysayers died off. (Numbers 14:1-38)
No, God is not losing the battle for souls. New sons of the kingdom are being added every day. Look around you. The news reports give a grim outlook, but in their personal lives many can testify that people are turning to God every day. As long as the momentum is forward, why would God have a need to throw in the towel?
As Jesus demonstrated in his model prayer, we can pray for God’s will to be done on earth, and then act in harmony with that prayer. We can bring heaven down by first making peace in our families – letting God’s will be done in our homes. That can have a domino effect on our world, as it did in Nineveh. As peaceful families come together, they can bring heaven down in their congregations. As peaceful congregations come together, they can bring heaven down in our religions. And as peaceful religions permeate our earth, we can bring heaven down in our entire world so that God’s will can be done on earth as it is in heaven!
Grand thinking? Perhaps. But with God, nothing is impossible! Remember Jesus’ words:
“But Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Truly I say to you that it will be a difficult thing for a rich man to get into the kingdom of the heavens. Again I say to you, It is easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.’ When the disciples heard that, they expressed very great surprise, saying: ‘Who really can be saved?’ Looking them in the face, Jesus said to them: ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”
– Matthew 19:23-26
Yes, it is indeed possible to get saved in spite of the apparent difficulty. No, God does not have to resort to destruction of our world in order to save it. Our world can be saved by means of His spirit:
“Accordingly he answered and said to me: “This is the word of Jehovah to Zerubbabel, saying, ‘Not by a military force, nor by power, but by my spirit,’ Jehovah of armies has said.”
– Zechariah 4:6
And no, His patience does not run out after 2,000 years – which is in reality to Him just 2 days.
“However, let this one fact not be escaping your notice, beloved ones, that one day is with Jehovah as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.”
– 2 Peter 3:8
We know that most of Christianity does not share our optimism. But what harm could come to those who work diligently to spread the good news and help the world realize we are all sons of God and brothers to each other with the hope of eternal life in heaven? Would the Father strike us down? Would He be disappointed in our positive attitude? Hardly! This is the mental attitude that we are encouraged to have:
“Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things. The things that you learned as well as accepted and heard and saw in connection with me, practice these; and the God of peace will be with you.”
– Philippians 4:8-9
“Let [your] love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is wicked, cling to what is good. In brotherly love have tender affection for one another. In showing honor to one another take the lead. Do not loiter at your business. Be aglow with the spirit. Slave for Jehovah. Rejoice in the hope. Endure under tribulation. Persevere in prayer.”
– Romans 12:9-12
Mankind has spent ample time wallowing in misery and in fearful expectation of judgment. Now is the time for change. Now is the time to let our lights shine so as to illuminate our world and move people of all sorts to give glory to God out of love, not fear. (Matthew 5:14-16) And as the true good news spreads and more and more sons of the Kingdom are added, perhaps we will cause any supposed anger of God to turn back as it did in the case of the Ninevites.
These are all matters for serious consideration for if there is indeed something we can do, and we do not do it, it is a sin for us. (James 4:17) It would be helpful if we first came to an understanding of what is exactly God’s will for us. When we understand His will, what we need to do becomes abundantly evident. That is the subject of our next article, Bringing Heaven Down - Training Our Perceptive Powers.