Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God…. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 ESV)
The kingdom of heaven is now; it is already here. It is hidden behind the religions and the shouting. It lurks in the shadows of “the church” but it is here. It is often hard to see it. We see the pain. We see hate. We see evil. But we often miss the kingdom.
It will not be found in the shouting, in the world, or in any religion; it is in the still small voice.
The following parable was written by Joshua Noel as part one of five in a parable series, called "The Mark".
There was once a town like any other town. It was a quaint town with people residing in it that were like any other people you might meet. There were a couple grocery stores, one major intersection, an elementary and middle school, a high school, a mayor, and one main church.
Every Sunday, without fail, the majority of the town would leave their white picket homes and head to the church. The church was unlike any other thing in town. While the homes and the stores and the people were quaint, the church was not. Constructed upon the tallest hill, at sunset, the light passing through the stained glass windows made the church a fiery crown, resplendent. It was with much love and pride that those who lived there considered this church a beacon, seemingly hewn from the earth by God himself.
In this town like any other, there were those that everyone knew by name and face. The Pastor and his son were two of these faces. The other face most recognized was that of a kid named David. The beloved quarterback of the White Stallions High School football team – the golden child. David had perfect grades, helped the community at every opportunity, and was unquestionably the best player on the football team. His future, like the church on the hill, was bright.
The Pastor’s Son, the linebacker for the same team, had no love for David but could not bring himself to hate him, for his religion stayed his envy and spite. Though often he dreamt of giving in, he could not bring himself to action for nothing David ever did could possibly deserve hatred from someone possessed of any reason.
Being the most popular person at school and in the community, the people of the town thought it odd when David began to date the strange, adopted sister of the Pastor’s Son. The Foster Child had been adopted by the Pastor several years prior, from the orphanage that he ran. The girl was pretty, but timid and withdrawn, giving many pause for curiosity.
David was no stranger to people questioning his choices. For even though many thought highly of him, he often mingled with those others would ignore. He befriended another orphan, who grew to be David’s best friend. This orphan, a Refugee from across the ocean, was a kind child with a darker complexion than most. Though they often whispered, none of the town’s people could ever decide if they thought the Refugee something other than a Christian. For every Sunday, David would meet with his girlfriend and the Refugee to travel up the hill to the beacon of light.
During the beginning weeks of fall, football season began. On one occasion, the team spent the day practicing for a game the following day. David, the star of the team, exerted more effort than any other in practice. As the day ended, he sat on the bleachers and passed out from his intensive training. His teammates noticed this quickly and began jovially poking and prodding him.
Over the summer, the team discovered that none of their light pranks would rouse David, thus now they saw an opportunity of escalation. A certain defensive lineman took up a hair trimmer and brought it to David’s head, as he laid there passed out. This defensive lineman had such skill and viciousness on the field that he became known as the Beast by every team for two hundred miles.
The Beast began to remove David’s hair section by section, but stopped suddenly when one removed chunk revealed three concentric spirals upon David’s scalp. As the Pastor’s Son looked upon David, an idea dawned on him. Finally, a chance to exercise spite without repercussion from his father, his town, or his coach. And so, he whispered into the ear of the Beast. The Beast looked incredulous at the idea, so uncharacteristically spiteful, and a smile broke across his face. He evened both sides of David’s hair and then drew out a skin-toned, permanent marker. With three strokes, he achieved his goal. The Beast cleaned the fallen hair from around David’s hair and with that, the team went to sleep chuckling.
The following day, David in his excitement, failed to notice his missing hair as he rushed onto the field. His team was victorious and he reveled in the attention as he gathered for the photos being taken of everyone. As he removed his helmet, the cameras flashed. Everyone who looked at him stared in disbelief at the trio of sixes on the side of his head. But none said anything, the Pastor’s Son and the Beast smiled at each other, awaiting the chaos that was soon to ensue.
The photographs of the game made it to the town’s people shortly before the victorious team returned home. Upon seeing a photo of the mark, the town’s people began to buzz. Their generally guarded whispers became louder. This sound led to the first question, “Is that the mark of the beast?”. This question led to doubt. For those in the town knew of the scriptures describing the end of days.
The pieces they saw joined and formed in front of their very eyes. The mayor’s son, the son born into politics, who marched with white horse, and bore the mark of that which they feared most. And so doubt of their favorite son became fear. The next notion set their fear ablaze and terror grew. Is David, the charismatic politician’s son, that which is most unholy?
As this thought took spark, they forgot him as a person, seeing him as only those symbols. With this, the seeds of discord had been sown. From them will grow an excuse used to persecute. And soon only the two witnesses shall stand together and endure.
And so, these questions will become doubt, doubt will become fear, fear will become belief. Belief will soon become an excuse to persecute.
Where, here, is the true kingdom of heaven?
Such is the body of Christ today
Part 2 of "The Mark" will be released April 14th 2016.