During yesterdays teaching session at our Oak Gathering, Gareth Derry (one of the leaders of The Oak) did a stirling job at connecting the genealogy at the end of the book of Ruth to the bigger story of scripture, the coming of Christ and the rescue operation God the Father has done in bringing us into His story and His family. You can listen to it by checking out the media page in the Catch Up part of this site (it'll be uploaded by tonight - monday).
Anyway, as he was teaching he illustrated his point with a picture - a very good picture. He described how we are imperfect and christ is perfect. That all of our short comings are made up in christ. Kind of like a percentage where christ makes us up from pretty awful people to those who can be accepted by God. In doing so, he joked about how we often think how St Peter would be standing at the Pearly White gates and welcome us in to heaven. This got me thinking...sometimes we laugh at a joke when behind the joke is an incredible truth...
One of the myths of the new heaven and new earth is that St Peter is the gate keeper sitting on fluffy white clouds next to a pearly white gate, he checks us out and welcomes us in.
The point Gareth was making yesterday was that we are welcomed into the eternal presence of God, in the new heavens and new earth (those which God has restored and renewed), by the work of Jesus only not by an apostle.
Many divisions of the church throughout history have tried to make much of connecting Matthew 16:19 where Jesus commisions Peter to get started in building the church and Revelation chapter 21 where John see's a vision of this incredible city of God with 12 gates - they make the assumption that Peter is the gate keeper and that the city will be one walled dwelling place.
1. There are 12 gates, Peter couldn't possibly be at all 12.
2. The gates have angels at them and are for each tribe, not each apostle, or even one apostle
3. The vision of the city is symbolic of the perfect dwelling of God and His people whereby all of His people live within the perfect protection and provision of God's own presence throughout the heavens AND the earth.
4. Peter's commision is given as Jesus is building his church planting team to reach the earth with the good news of JESUS.
5. Peter's, and the other apostles, commision is outworked in the first few chapters of Acts and they build the church following the baptism of the holy spirit.
Understanding that you are welcomed into the eternal presence of God by the work of Jesus only is incredibly releasing, freeing and enabling. Christs perfection on the cross is what allows you to spend eternity with God and gives you hope now that His kingdom is coming.
Understanding that God is a restoring, redeeming, reconciling God who is making all things new gives you a vision of the future that has christ at the centre, not Peter; has God's presence at the centre, not a city; and has your new adoption into His family by His work on the cross at the centre, not your graded efforts to be listed by Peter before you can be allowed in.
Gareth's point behind the joke? Christ is everything.