I actually don’t think the context mandates that it is talking about the afterlife. A future age, certainly, which may be the age when Jesus was expected to to rule Israel. The age/era of Donald Trump for example… Those that stood by him before, were granted positions in his cabinet. I don’t see that this would be any different than what Jesus was telling his disciples.
I am trying to read this passages now with an open mind and not coming in with presuppositions. For example, the reason most believe this is the afterlife is because they are operating on a presupposition that Jesus died and was raised from the dead and ascended to the Father. Therefore, since Jesus did not reign (yet) then they conclude he will reign in the future. Therefore, in order for Jesus to fulfill these promises, it must be in the afterlife, because his disciples are, well, dead.
List of presuppositions
We don’t even know Jesus said this. (maybe he didn’t, maybe it was attributed to him, maybe it was misquoted)
We don’t know that Jesus was talking about this life, or the next.
We don’t know that Jesus was resurrected.
This leaves the section open for, what I would consider a more neutral position.
In my opinion, Universalism is better defended philosophically than proof texting the Bible.
At any rate, my personal stance based on the text alone is that Jesus expected to to be king and with that, he was going to reward those who followed him. Just like people do today… The friends that stuck by you through the thick and thin will be rewarded.
One clarification: It certainly could be referring to the afterlife, I am not suggesting that it can’t. I am merely suggesting that I don’t think it has to be referencing the afterlife when considering the context.
Second clarification: You mention salvation and I am interpreting that to mean “salvation from something bad in the afterlife”. Though maybe you didn’t mean that, as salvation could have many meanings such as salvation from drowning, starving, hell, etc…
It just dawned on me (I am a slow one at times!) that this topic is under “Arguments for Evangelical Universalism” and so I am assuming that one must argue from that premise, right? In other words, I shouldn’t bring up any arguments against the presuppositions held by Evangelical Universalists (in other words, casting doubt on the scriptures, or the resurrection are not a valid points to contest in this context), but should instead argue with the assumptions that the presuppositions are true? That is not the say that the arguments are not valid, but they are not valid in this context because the rules of engagement have been narrowed down, right? Just trying to make sure I understand this right.
Assuming I am right, then my post above is pretty much moot, as all my objections to that section of scripture (Matthew 19) not being about the afterlife are based on rejecting or not accepting the fundamentals from Evangelical Christianity. In that case, I’ll show myself out…
Those are really good points. Although I myself am not dead-set on interpreting these in a specific way, I’ll offer my thoughts on them.
Let’s start with Matthew 6:19-21
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
I think philosophy has been been the primary motivator in all religions. What we have here is a basic truth that transcends Jesus time. When people are on their death-bed, what is it they will never say? Things like “I wish I made more money”, “I wish I worked more hours”. We don’t find people saying these things because they ultimately perish and they mean nothing to the well being of the person as they leave this world. But, what are some things they do say? “I wish I spent more time with my family”, “I wish I would have been a better husband”. They see right on their death bed what actually matters both in life and after life. You see, these things last. Helping someone stands the test of time. Spending time with your family has lasting impressions that go from generation to generation. We pass on positive traits. This is, like, the spiritual aspect of life.
All through life all of us struggle with material possessions over time with people. Many of us trade in our friendships to watch TV and spend time doing things solely for ourselves (I am as guilty as anyone in this). But one thing I can tell you, I am well aware of the transient and ultimately worth prospect of accumulating wealth and material possessions. As I have hit a bit of a mid-life crisis these last few years, I have come to the conclusion that relationships are simple irreplaceable. We basically punish ourselves by choosing these things.
So, in this context, I don’t think “treasures” in heaven is referring to a special place when we die. I think it refers to a space that is untouchable. Someone can take away your possessions, but they can’t take away your love for another human being.
Heaven, I believe, is used figuratively and is used as such today in everything except the narrow context of the afterlife. For that time, however, the word as I understand is translated in two primary ways; above/sky, and heaven. That said, heaven itself has quite an abstract concept. So, maybe these phrases could be said “kingdom of above”, or “kingdom of the sky” in place of “kingdom of heaven”. But, again a literal translation doesn’t seem any more plausible, because it carries with it so many other assumptions. If Christ was referring to this being a place and not a state of being, then we are still left with some serious ambiguity. In other words, I don’t believe that referring to the afterlife (place) solves and or answers anymore questions than using the phrase figuratively as a state of being. But, I am not dogmatic about this. I could go either way.
For 19:21, I would say that is even less of a stretch to use it figuratively and I think mainly because Jesus said as soon as he did that he would have “life”. He would have attained it. He would have left his rotting wares and entered “life” which is heavenly!
Ever read perspectives from minimalists? They find as they unload their possessions, life is easy, happier. You could say that if you want to find heaven, you could become a minimalist! Though this isn’t ncessarily true, specially if you are not believing that this is a superior way of life, but it rings true for those who believe it and put it into practice. I suspect most of us, like the rich man, as on the fence… We are not quite ready to make this jump. George MacDonald has a great sermon on this. I think it is titled “The Way” going by memory.
Now, I totally understand why someone would think “Woah, Gabe, this is way too far fetched, sorry man” and I respect that, because I often think that about what other people say. Doesn’t make it right or wrong, just another perspective.
One little self experiment I have done in the last year is to make note of all the idioms and figure of speech we use in our daily lives. I find it amazing and every day I find new phrases used that don’t mean what they literally mean! In fact, I have found that our language is so dynamic and non-exact that it actually a major cause of feuds between people. I mean, isn’t it obvious? Look around twitter or facebook. If you are not utterly careful with your words and try to be as exact as possible, you can end up getting flamed for things you didn’t mean! That, is why I no longer read the Bible with the idea that “This words means this, so that is what the author meant” - No, it doesn’t mean the author meant that.
To complicate matters further, there is another element called tone which doesn’t does not come across writing very well, not in the way speech does. The same text line spoke two different ways can bring people together or push them apart. But I digress from this point.
All that to summarize, I don’t have my feet planted in anywhere on this topic and it could very well refer to a place as opposed to a state of being.
Those are all worthwhile thoughts to have… and you could be right…
I guess the main thought that comes to my mind after reading your post regards the potentially ironic similarities between you and the rich young ruler.
The rich young ruler seems like he must have been a great guy in most respects. But when THE ruler of the world came around and offered him the opportunity to become an even greater person, who would inherit extraordinarily great responsibility in the afterlife, he failed to act. The young ruler’s afterlife will probably initially be filled with many regrets. He will probably initially be ashamed to show up in the New Jerusalem.
But that’s assuming that Jesus will in fact reign in the afterlife, setting all wrongs right.
I’m not exactly one to talk. My current life is filled with regrets due to ignoring wisdom regarding relationships - specifically, allowing a girl to manipulate me into marrying her.
Edit: I apologize if my comments were unhelpful, touchy, accusatory, etc…
I doubt anyone who has a sufficient exposure to the gospels would question your explanation of the idiomatic nature of Christ’s references to the “kingdom of heaven.”
But when Christ refers to storing up “treasure” in heaven, do you know of any good textual analysis that contradicts the simplest reading of Matt 6:19-21?
Suppose Christ wanted to make a statement that had the meaning that Gabe would prefer to read in the text. It seems that a statement similar to the following would have been more effective at removing unnecessary ambiguity:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. Rather, store up for yourselves treasures in the kingdom of heaven. For thieves cannot steal the treasures of the heart. It is more beneficial to set your heart upon the kingdom of heaven, with its lasting treasures, than to set your heart upon the earth, with its treasures which do not last.”
Isn’t it the case that Christ used the exact phrase “the kingdom of heaven” to refer to
Is there evidence that He used “in heaven” in the same way?
I’m not sure there’s any need to go contradicting anything?? The assumption that “in heaven” ALWAYS = the afterlife is simply that, an assumption. What reason would there be to not simply understand that as referring to storing up treasure in terms of God’s ‘presence’?
As I understand it… the context either side suggests this is basically speaking of the inner heart-attitude. Or to quote William Barclay… “The Jews always connected the phrase treasure in heaven with character.” Now having said that no one ignores the blessedness of life beyond life in the ‘there and them’ but this has more to do with how we experience life in the ‘here and now’ and what we do with that blessedness etc.