“This is what it looks like when an empire fails.”
That’s what a friend of mine posted on Facebook last week, in response to the current political climate of America. When we look at the news lately, it seems like my friend may be right.
Over the last several months, we have seen increased coverage of police brutality and other racially-motivated acts of hatred.
We have seen well-known athletes such as Colin Kaepernick refuse to stand for the national anthem, recognizing that it (like much of our American heritage) has its roots in racism and colonial oppression.
We have also seen growing discontent among voters, many of whom refuse to choose between a candidate who is known to have lied about her own policy positions, and another who has been caught on tape bragging about sexual assault.
“Is this really what our nation has come to?” many have asked.
My own sense is that nothing has really changed, other than visibility. This “great nation” we speak of was founded on stolen land and forced labor; and it keeps its power through violence, coercion, and economic deceit.
The only thing that’s changed is that many people are now seeing the American empire for what it is, and always has been. The fact that so many people are now seeing this spells almost certain death for our current political system.
I am convinced that the American empire will fall within my lifetime, and the global capitalist economy with it. I also foresee environmental collapse on a level that has never been seen before. Our current way of life is unsustainable, and will not last much longer.
To be clear, I’m not looking forward to the coming collapse. I’m just as invested in the system as the next person, and I’m not sure I would know how to survive without the technology and conveniences I’ve come to take for granted.
When the empire falls, it’s going to hurt – there’s no doubt about it! But in the midst of all the signs of decay, I have also seen signs of great hope.
One particularly inspiring revelation came to me just a couple weeks ago. As I was driving home from a diner late one night, I felt a very strong presence of the Holy Spirit, along with Christina (my girlfriend in heaven) and Jesus.
When I pulled up to a stoplight, I suddenly had the feeling that I had stepped outside of time. I felt a very deep stillness and a profound sense of peace.
At that moment, I heard God speak to me. Do you know where you are? God asked. Flint, I said. No, I mean, do you know where you are in time? said God. Not exactly, I replied.
You are experiencing the apokatastasis (the restoration of all things),said God. That’s why you feel Christina’s love in such a powerful and passionate way, even though you only dated her for a few months while she was a mortal. Indeed, every time you experience her love, or that of your grandparents or anyone else who has passed on, you are experiencing the apokatastasis.
Every earthly love, no matter how fleeting, survives into eternity, God said. On the day when all things are restored, every divorce and breakup will be healed. Every broken relationship will be restored. Indeed, every good thing you have ever experienced will return to you on that day – in a purer and more powerful form. Nothing that is truly good will ever be lost!
This vision contradicts much of what we have been taught. The prevailing wisdom of our culture says that when a relationship falls apart, the best thing to do is to cut ties and “move on.”
“Cheer up,” we often say to those who are grieving the loss of a relationship. “Sooner or later you will meet someone new, and then you won’t even think about this person any more.”
We think that this is the way to heal – to forget our former loves and go on to someone or something new. In our culture, this is seen as good news – the best we can hope for.
But the good news is better than that, to borrow a phrase from Rob Bell. The good news of the gospel is not that we can “move on” from former loves, but something far better – that the best parts of every relationship we’ve ever had continue into eternity!
We are often told that those who die with faith in the Lord will go on to a place where there’s no suffering, pain, or death, where “God will wipe every tear away” (Rev. 7:17, 21:4).
I believe this is true. But the reality described in these verses is far better than what we have typically imagined. All of our pain will be healed, yes; but this doesn’t mean that we will simply forget our earthly sorrows and losses.
Instead, we will see all of our dashed hopes fulfilled, all of our earthly losses restored, and all of our loves reignited in a heavenly glory.
The wisdom of our culture says to “leave the past in the past,” to “forgive and forget” – but the good news is better than that!
This is the good news we need to hold on to in the present age. Suffering is all around us, and it may well get worse before it gets better. Indeed, we must pass through a time of trial and tribulation before we will see the new heaven and earth.
But if we die with Christ (literally or figuratively). we will rise with Him – to a life more joyful and glorious than we can presently imagine. And I am convinced this is coming soon!
If we follow the wisdom of our culture, the best we can do is muddle on through and “make the best of it.” But the truth of the gospel is that we have something far better to hope for – and if we are open to it, we can see glimpses of it even now.
Contrary to what the nihilists say, this life isn’t the best we can hope for – nor is it true that “life’s a bitch, and then you die.” No, the good news is better than that!
(Coming Soon: The Apostles Creed Unpacked (A Series))