THERE have been several attempts to unseat God from heaven.
Lucifer and his rebellious angel friends tried it a very long time ago, and failed (Is. 14:12; Rev. 12:7-9). They have refused to accept defeat, and for some not-fully-understood purposes of God, they have been allowed to roam the earth, living in their destructive demonic delusions (and seducing humans to join them), until they are finally dealt with by God.
There have also been similar attempts on earth to dethrone God. Atheists have tried to show that God does not exist. Secularism has now become a giant umbrella under which human rebellion and hubris are being nurtured. Under its shade are numerous attempts to declare the death, disappearance or the diminution of God.
One such attempt is by award-winning British author Philip Pullman. In his best selling His Dark Material trilogy, Pullman portrays God as an irrelevant, confused and weakened old being, and the church as a corrupt and cruel institution that must be dismantled. In the third volume, The Amber Spyglass, he has an angel describe God as deceptive:
“… [ the angel ] said quietly, ‘The Authority, God the Creator, the Lord, Yahweh, El, Adoni, the King, the Father, the Almighty – those were the names he gave himself. He was never the creator. He was an angel like ourselves – the first angel, true, the most powerful, but he was formed of Dust as we are … The first angels condensed out of Dust, and the Authority was the first of all. He told all who came after him that he had created them, but it was a lie.’” (The Amber Spyglass pp. 33-34)
To readers of the Bible, this would sound all too familiar (cf. Gen 3:1-5). Pullman has publicly said that his works are an attempt to replace the worldview created by another British writer from an earlier generation — C. S. Lewis — whose Narnia series has educated generations of children on the biblical story of Christ and the salvation He offers. Making his underlying beliefs and motives clear, Pullman told an Oxford literary conference in August 2000:
“We’re used to the Kingdom of Heaven; but you can tell from the general thrust of the book that I’m of the devil’s party, like Milton. And I think it’s time we thought about a republic of Heaven instead of the Kingdom of Heaven. The King is dead. That’s to say I believe the King is dead. I’m an atheist. But we need Heaven nonetheless, we need all the things that Heaven meant, we need joy, we need a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives, we need a connection with the universe, we need all the things the Kingdom of Heaven used to promise us but failed to deliver.”
It is no surprise, therefore, that Pullman’s series ends with the “Republic of Heaven.” Christians would reject such grand illusions. But the republic of heaven is subversive and finds expression in unexpected places, even in church. Deadly humanism and secularism have subtly infiltrated the church.
GOD IS KING
‘Heaven is a Kingdom. God is King, far above our democratic processes, opinions, decisions and choices.’
At times, this is obvious. Once nurtured in the Plymouth Brethren Gospel Hall, David Boulton, in his book, The Trouble with God: Religious Humanism and the Republic of Heaven, abandons his Christian faith for a humanistic spirituality that sees God as an evolving and useful cultural idea. But the trouble, of course, is not with God; it is with us humans, with our rebellious and unbelieving hearts.
Sometimes the infiltration of the republic of heaven into church is more subtle. Take for instance the popular song, “Jesus we enthrone you”. Its great weakness is its faulty theology. I am quite sure that the writer meant well and wanted to express warm devotional sentiments, but the words lead us to enemy territory.
The problem with the song is that it unwittingly makes us the centre of the universe. We are the ones who enthrone Jesus and proclaim Him as king. It is our song and our worship that seem to make Him king, and we ask Him to build His throne as we affirm His kingship.
The reality is that Jesus is the Enthroned One, whether we acknowledge it or not. In our ancient creeds, we declare what Scripture teaches: that Jesus died and rose from the dead, that He ascended into heaven and is now seated (on His throne) at the right hand of the Father (Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3). This Jesus is portrayed in Scripture in various ways. But the overwhelming and terrifying picture of Jesus in Rev 1:12-18 is seldom remembered by the church.
When we meet this great and awesome Jesus, our proper response is not to tell Him to build His throne so that we can collectively enthrone Him, but to fall (“as though dead”) at the feet of the Enthroned One. Jesus is not an elected King. His Kingship is from everlasting to everlasting and independent of our decisions and responses.
The point is that heaven is a Kingdom, not a republic. In God’s eternal kingdom, attempts either to dethrone God, or (perhaps as a reaction) to enthrone Him take us away from the truth of God’s eternal rule (Ps. 102:12). It makes us man-centred. While it may spring from good intentions to resist secularism’s subversive agenda, talking about enthroning God is to finally embrace the enemy’s mindset.
Scripture is rich with visions of God’s eternal throne (Is. 6:1-3; Ezek. 1; Rev. 4). He sits on His throne. His position is neither strengthened by our earthly affirmations and proclamations, nor threatened by rebellious attempts to dethrone Him. In fact, the “One enthroned in heaven laughs” at such foolish attempts and rebukes in anger, saying “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” (Ps. 2:4-5). He calls us to serve “with fear” and to “rejoice with trembling.” (Ps. 2:11).
Heaven is a Kingdom. God is King, far above our democratic processes, opinions, decisions and choices. We should fall at the feet of the Enthroned One, and obey Him without hesitation. Heaven is certainly not a republic; the sooner we learn it, the better, both on earth, and in the church.