Does the following story sound familiar?
It was 1971, Pasadena, California. A group of hippies, a cult of some sort, had entered town. Locals noted them hanging out in the downtown area, in parks, on street corners. Often they were seen together, and they soon attracted the attention of the police.
It seemed there were between fifteen and twenty in the group. Although in most respects merely a band of vagrants, the group claimed to be leading a spiritual renewal of America. They had come, they said, to usher in "a New Age."
To bring about this New Age the group advocated homelessness and free sharing of everything in the community. They claimed to shun private property as evil. Most group members were young men, but among them were a few women too. They were usually seen with the unsavory elements in town.
Their leader was a wild-eyed man named Stephen R-------. Unlike most spiritual gurus of the time, R------- carried a Bible with him and quoted from it to show that America was not following "the true path." It was reported that R------- frequently sought out arguments, and that he especially liked to argue with local pastors or priests. Police reports indicated that he would often join religious services and then during or after the service begin debating the pastor or priest presiding.
"I am not merely leading a religious movement," he is quoted as saying, "but a movement of the Spirit. Religion is dead. Religion suppresses the Spirit. You have led the people astray."
Does this story sound familiar? How would you have reacted had you had lived in Pasadena then? And if you had been part of the Christian community? Would you have reacted to the group with curiosity or contempt?
Imagine that you live in Pasadena and that you attend church regularly. Though no cult member has yet interrupted services at your church, you've seen them in the downtown and your pastor has mentioned them and their leader Stephen R------- and his antics.
"They are homeless," he told the congregation one Sunday, "but not exactly like the true homeless who can't afford homes. No, this group is homeless only because they are too lazy to earn an honest living. In fact, to listen to them it seems all they want to do is criticize others. In this they show the sin of arrogance. To study their ideas--if you study their ideas you'll see that they are not far from communism. What kind of spiritual renewal is this? By their behavior and their teaching, this group does nothing but encourage lax morals and delinquency."
Your pastor says it's especially important to keep teenagers from having dealings with the group.
Then it happens that the group takes up in a park a couple blocks from your house. You live there with your wife and a 14-year-old daughter.
About 10:00 p.m. one night there's a knock at your door. You go to see who it is. Standing there is none other than the leader of the group, Stephen R-------, with two of his sidekicks. You recognize him from a photo in the newspaper.
"Hey, Mister," he says immediately. "Peace be on this house."
"Can I help you somehow?" you ask.
"We are just travelers here, you know, passing through while we do the ministry, and we often receive shelter from caring people like yourself who might be interested in the Teaching. So we've come to ask you if we could stay in your living room for the night? We've already eaten, so we won't be needing any food. But it's raining out and we do need a place to stay, just for the night. We will be quiet, we won't disturb you, unless of course you want to hear the Teaching. If so we will be glad to share it with you."
It's 1971 and you are there in Pasadena, California. Would you open the door to let in R------- and his two sidekicks?
* * *
Following is pretty much the same story with certain cultural adjustments. The time frame and the country have been changed, as well as a few of the names.
Does this story sound familiar?
31 A.D., Capernaum, Galilee. A charismatic group of healers enters town. They are seen in the city center, around the synagogue, on street corners. They claim to be leading a renewal of Israel, ushering in the Kingdom of Heaven. They also claim the world will soon be coming to an end, so it is time to prepare for Judgment.
The group advocates homelessness and the free sharing of everything in the community. They also claim to shun private property as evil. Most of the group are young men, but among them there are a few women. They are usually seen talking with prostitutes and tax collectors.
Their leader is a charismatic named Jesus. Unlike other wandering healers you've seen, he knows the Scriptures very well and quotes from them often to show that Israel is not following the true path, which only he has access to. You've heard that this Jesus likes to argue, that he especially likes to argue with any Pharisees or Doctors of the Law he can get to.
Last Sabbath while you were at synagogue you heard the rabbi mention the group and this character Jesus. "They are homeless, but not like the true homeless who cannot provide themselves with homes. No, this group is too lazy to earn an honest living, and all they do is criticize people and spread false doctrine. But look at the kind of people they are seen with! Their behavior shows that they have a complete disregard for the Law."
The rabbi warned all to keep from any dealings with the group.
It just so happens that you live not far from the city square where this group is often seen. You live there with your wife and an unmarried daughter. Then one night it happens.
It is well after sunset. There's a knock on your door, so you go to open it. Standing outside is none other than the leader of the group, Jesus, with two of his sidekicks.
"Good evening, brother," he says. "Peace be on this house!"
"Why are you knocking at my door?" you ask. "My family is in bed."
"We are travelers here, passing through to spread the Good News of the Kingdom, and we often receive shelter from those who want to hear the word of God. We ask to stay in your home for the night, only until the morning. We've already eaten, so we won't be needing food. But we are in the rain outside, and we have nowhere to lay our heads."
It's 31 A.D., Capernaum, Galilee. Would you open the door to let in Jesus and his disciples Peter and James?
If you said no to letting in the above trio, but yes to letting in these three, the obvious questions is why? In both cases the men were vagabonds, you'd seen them around town with unsavory companions, and you'd been warned by your trusted rabbi/pastor to stay away from them.
It's easy to look back in hindsight and say: "He was the Savior. Of course I'd have welcomed Him." But how would you recognize Him amid the cares and struggles of the day? And how would you recognize Him if He returned? Would you recognize Him at all if He behaved in ways similar to the last time? Angering the religious authorities, wandering from town to town, hanging out with prostitutes and shoddy characters? Would you recognize Him?
* * *
>Subject: Re: Annoying hippy story
>Date: Mon, 22 Mar 2004 15:48:12 EST
> As I read this I knew it was referring to Jesus and his
>followers. I have taken the words of Jesus deeply into my heart and I honestly
>believe that I would recognize him if he ever came to Naples. It won't happen
>though because he said when he comes again it will be the end time, and he will
>be taking us with him.
You may be right, he may only be coming at the end of time. And if he comes I'm sure he'd also come to Naples.
But if Jesus came to Naples, how would he do it? I mean, how would the actual winnowing out of the worthy occur?
I have a vision of this in fact, and I think I should share it. I'm not sure I'm correct in everything here, but that's how the spirit of prophecy generally works, isn't it? Some things are given clearly, others not.
If Jesus comes to Naples at the end of time, I believe he'll set up his winnowing station in the parking lot of Coastland Mall. You know the place well: it has pretty major capacity, so that's where I'm guessing he'll probably set up.
Jesus will be there in front of the crowds of believers and he'll say something like: "Narrow is the gate and few are those who enter it."
Next to Jesus on the stage there will be a narrow gate, the opening about 15 inches wide. Jesus will begin to call up the Neapolitans one by one to see if they can squeeze through the gate.
Yea but many a preacher in those days will lament his cheesecake and pizza!
The people who make it through the gate will be seen immediately ascending to heaven right off the stage.
This is the way I picture it. Jesus calls up the Neapolitans one by one, and almost none of them can squeeze through the gate. "Many are called, but few are chosen," as he has said already.
Of course there's much complaining about this as it actually comes to pass, but that's the way it is. "That's the way the cookie crumbles," as someone else has said. But there's much complaining also because the pavement on the parking lot is getting hotter and hotter as the winnowing proceeds. And it isn't just the Florida sun that's causing the slow rise in heat.
For those who don't make it through the gate, an angel hands them a consolation prize in the form of a big ice cream cone. The cone is given with the admonition: "Eat it quickly, because soon it will be melting."
I see a man with a huge potbelly shaking his fist at Jesus and yelling: "What in hell is this? I've been a good man all my life. My salary just before retirement was around $450,000 a year! And I've been generous too! I gave blood for a blood drive in 1987. What about that!"
I see a group of women begging for entry: "Can't we just go in around the gate? Isn't there some way? I mean, it's so unfair! I can vouch for myself and all these gals here: we went to church every week! If we didn't go to church for you, Lord, then why did we go to church? Huh? It was all for you, Lord!"
It is interesting that most of those who make it through the gate are from the immigrant community. Not a few Neapolitans are angered to see mainly brown-skinned people ascending to heaven, whereas nearly all the white-skinned people are returned to the parking lot after a short struggle with the gate. Also not a few French tourists who happened to be in Naples when Judgment Day arrived--they make it through the gate. The German tourists, however, don't make it through, and they have gathered into a small crowd chanting in protest. Also many children make it through the gate, or at least the ones who haven't yet stuffed themselves round as pumpkins.
The pavement is really getting hot now, and the stage begins to levitate above the ground. Jesus is waving to the crowd in farewell. But most of the crowd doesn't notice: they are furiously licking away at their ice cream cones so as to finish them before it's too late.
P.S. -- Though the specific town I saw in this vision was Naples, Florida, I now realize that it was a vision not only of Judgment Day in that town but of Judgment Day in most of America. Yes, I now realize through the Spirit that in most parts of America Jesus will do his winnowing in large mall parking lots. And in most places things will proceed in much the same way.
While many in America seem to think that fire and brimstone will fall mostly in the urban areas where the liberal intellectuals and homosexuals reside, this more authentic vision vouchsafed to me shows that things will not be like that at all. I see the damned flowing into Hell in a sea of molten SUVs and fudge syrup. Huge fissures will open up in the earth, they will open in mainly suburban areas, and the Sea of the Damned will flow down into them, myriad burning self-righteous slobs waving credit cards and VOTE BUSH placards as they sink down into the Maw of Hell. Oh, horror! Why me, Lord? Why show these things to me! I see all of Florida caving in and sinking into the Below, I see Texas caving in, Dallas being one of the few cities swallowed up in its entirety. Oh, the fake cowboys! They are suffering so! They are burning! Look at their Texas wives! Oh, Lord, such suffering!
So it's not only you in Naples that have to worry about that day.
But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. This is how he says it in Matthew 24.