That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. – 1 John 1:1-3
Moments ago I finished re-watching a movie which has jetted its way into my top favorites; Tomorrowland. If you haven’t watched Tomorrowland, it comes with my highest recommendation:
Bound by a shared destiny, a teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory. -IMDb
You’re probably wondering what an obscure imagined dimension called “Tomorrowland” and the adventures of our two protagonists to find it have to do with the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ll tell you, but first a little synopsis:
Frank Walker–the former boy-genius–grew up in Tomorrowland after being invited in on account of being a dreamer. Later he would be exiled back to the ‘normal world’ where he would live on in cynicism and regret for a device he had created.
Casey Newton–the bursting teen–is chosen by Athena, an AI (in body a fifteen-year-old girl) once tasked to recruiting dreamers to Tomorrowland and incidentally the very AI who recruited and was befriended by Frank Walker years before. Athena slips Casey a special pin, which when Casey discovers and touches, launches her into an immersive ‘commercial’ for Tomorrowland; she finds herself in a vast field of golden grass and a shining city in the distance. She is filled with an insatiable desire to find out what this place is, and where this mysterious pin came from.
Athena leads Casey to Frank who is living as a recluse locked away in his house in the back of beyond. Oh, and did I mention robots are chasing her? Through a series of comical events, Frank, Casey and Athena all wind up together, out to save the world.
The trouble with the world is that it’s going to end in 58 days, as predicted by Frank Walker’s device. The device acts like a massive radio antenna tuning into the future. The device is now in the hands of the stern Governor Nix who is intent on the apocalypse. Casey hypothesizes that Frank’s device isn’t merely ‘receiving’ the future but broadcasting it to the entire world, feeding humanity visions of their apocalyptic future and essentially becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. They explain this discovery to Governor Nix, but it is now that they realize he doesn’t want to save the world anymore–in fact, he is deliberately allowing the device to continue.
I want to jump ahead a little bit, because it’s the scene at the end of the movie that blew everything out of the water for me. The entire story is being retold by Casey and Frank to a new generation of dreamer-seeking AI as they embark into the world. The final scenes show a variety of selected dreamers finding their pins; as soon as they touch them, they wake up together in the vast golden plain, a shining Tomorrowland in the distance.
(I don’t mean to spoil the ending for you, but you can take in the full experience of the moment in this video)
And that’s when I saw the Kingdom.
If you asked me what I’ve been learning in the last couple years, I would give you a swirling mural of the true gospel, the kingdom of heaven and the image of “I AM” in and over all life–especially in those routine and mundane moments religion so quickly writes off as secular. Tomorrowland sums up so much of what has gone without words to describe.
Tomorrowland is the Kingdom. It is a place unseen by the world at large, but an ever-present reality. “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” the prophet cried two millennia ago–
But the sad narrative is that the keepers of the kingdom, the Governor Nixes of the world–indeed, religion itself–did not truly believe him, or the King who declared the same of His kingdom. The Governor Nixes see a doomed world, but they believed that the solution was to show the world how bad it really was–to broadcast their impending doom so that they could do something about it. The religious Governor Nixes refuse Tomorrowland to the world because they believe that to let ‘bad’ people in will corrupt the kingdom–the irony being that in all of Tomorrowland we literally only see one living resident: Governor Nix, himself.
And Governor Nix’s plan is self-defeating because to immerse a person in their future doom is to bring their doom upon them. The world receives his subliminal broadcast of the future and the apocalypse culture rises; people embrace and welcome doom because, as he explains: they want a future that they don’t have to do anything for today. And so Governor Nix is no longer interested in saving the world but purging it in and by its own fate.
But the Kingdom of Heaven is here. It isn’t even as far as another dimension, it is right here, all around us. “The kingdom of Heaven is here–and here.” Balian’s father tells him, pointing to his mind, and his heart [The Kingdom of Heaven]. 2000 years ago it was proclaimed; it was declared even before the gospel, and the gospel has come! But the religious Nixes live in a paradox of being ‘in’ the Kingdom but unable to see the Kingdom. They are like the disciples in a way, expecting to see Jesus rise up with a sword and an army on the earth to destroy the reign of the Romans; “Well nothing spectacular has happened yet,” they say, “We haven’t seen Jesus on the clouds of glory; how can His kingdom be here yet?” They justify their disappointments and long-harbored resentment at the apparent slowness of His coming with the explanation that something which God declares to be ‘at hand in this present generation’ can really be thousands of years (or more) away, and they have missed the Kingdom reality.
It is the dreamers who are waking up in the golden field with the Kingdom before them. True, what they have seen is only a preview, but the reality is all around them to be discovered, unseen but not without experience. You experience the Kingdom in your mind, and in your heart. You experience the Kingdom in your family, in your friends, in your dealings with the people you meet on a daily basis. In your art, your music, your baseball and babies and cookouts. Not everyone knows about the Kingdom in that they do not know that they live in and experience it, but none have been left outside of it.
You see, the Good News that John wrote about–That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– “It’s here!”, he says, “We’ve experienced it, and we want you to know about it so that you can experience it, too!”
But O religion, O Church. You broadcast to the world not the wonder of Tomorrowland, but a perceived imminent doom. You’ve become the cynical Governor Nix, first showing the world the extent of its danger with the intention of frightening people straight into the Kingdom. It worked for a while, but it created a false image of the King, and when people decided that they didn’t like the image you gave them, you became fixated, disillusioned, embittered with a world you essentially created–an apocalyptic self-fulfilling prophecy.
I know a young man in whom I see desire for the Kingdom. He does not realize it, but the deep passions he is cultivating are Kingdom passions. He does not realize that the nature he was born with is Kingdom nature–and of course religion will not tell him so; religion will tell him that he must at the very least have his nature changed so that he can enter the Kingdom of Heaven; “Get saved.” What Governor Nix doesn’t understand is that he is already saved. Remember the good news? Jesus did that 2000 years ago on the cross. And the ‘getting saved’ part was only the drop in the bucket: what Jesus really did in his incarnation was to bring this young man into God himself, and to bring God himself into this young man–and indeed, into everyone. That’s right; everyone belongs to Tomorrowland already!
The gospel–the good news–is about letting others know. Validating the I AM in people. It is about showing people that they already live with the Kingdom all around them, that they experience it, and that their experiences of it are valid. They may not realize that what they experience is indeed Kingdom; in a world permeated by the Govenor Nixes, you may not, either. But the reality is all around us; we are all dreamers, and our Tomorrowland is at hand.