Rune Rofke - Glenn Emery

The Upper Room

Athens, Ohio
August 1980

My initial and well-founded caution in associating with this loose band of charismatic Christians had evaporated. They still didn’t know everything about me, but I felt absolutely confident that when I did tell them, they would understand. I didn’t expect them to do handstands or anything, but I had been so thoroughly embraced by them that I no longer feared they would turn against me.

Pete and I had been working in his attic. It was unbearably hot. But he’d been especially open and receptive, asking a lot of thoughtful questions, enjoying the intellectual stimulation. The more I explained, the more he wanted to know. The discussion helped take our minds off the suffocating heat.

It would have been desirable to put up the insulation first, of course, but without a floor to stand on, it wasn't practical. So with the old siding salvaged from an abandoned house out near Chauncey, the two of us were trying mightily to nail down some of the crookedest boards I’d ever seen. Even though we waited until nightfall to tackle this project, there was no ventilation in the attic and the air was hot and still as an oven. Sweat poured off of us, soaking instantly into the dry, warped boards. Getting the edges to butt together before we could nail them down was a real chore.

It was not until we put up the insulation a couple nights later that it began to cool down noticeably. Each roll of insulation we stapled between the rafters brought down the temperature two degrees. By the time we were halfway done, it was almost comfortable.

“Let me ask you something Pete,” I ventured. “What do you see as Jesus’ purpose for coming to earth?”

“To save us from our sins. And teach us about the Holy Spirit.”

“Do you think he would have been any more or less effective in that mission if he had actually lived long enough to get married and raise a family, even if it was necessary for him to die on a cross in the end?”

“I never thought about it. What’s your point, exactly?”

“The point is you have something Jesus never had, a wife. And one day you’ll probably have something he also never had, namely a child.”

“Well, Jesus sacrificed those things so that we might enjoy them, as part of his grace. Besides, he had plenty of time to marry. It was customary for people to marry young back then.”

“Maybe he just put it off because he had a more urgent task at hand, like preaching the Gospel. I mean, he was still a young man. Plenty of time later for a wife and family. And even if a family wasn’t in the cards for him, the crucifixion prevented him from living a full and complete life.”

“Like I said, that’s his grace to us. But even if he had lived longer, the end result would have been the same. He still would have brought salvation to those who believed.”

“Would you agree that the people who had Jesus crucified, Pontius Pilate and Herod, were evil men?”

“Yes, of course.”

“That alone should tell us the crucifixion was an act of evil.”

“An evil act overcome three days later by his glorious Resurrection.”

“And the promise that he would return.”

“To call up the faithful.”

“For that to happen, was it necessary for Jesus to die on the cross?”


“He couldn’t have simply died of old age, for example?”

“It was prophesied he would be crucified, so it was all part of God’s plan.”

“But if it was God’s will for Jesus to die like that, why was everyone so miserable afterward? You’d think they’d be dancing in the streets for having been faithful participants in God’s grand drama. Besides, Jesus didn’t preach that he should be crucified. He tried very hard to get the Jewish people to accept him. If they had accepted him, they would have had no desire to kill him, even if it were God’s will. I mean, what’s the point of preparing an entire nation to receive the messiah, just so it can kill him? It doesn’t make any sense. The only entity that wanted Jesus dead was Satan, and Satan tried to kill him from the moment he was born.”

“But it was prophesied he’d be rejected and crucified.”

“It was also prophesied he’d be a glorious king.”

“And so he is, in heaven.”

“Maybe they were dual prophecies. One foretelling the possibility of rejection, the other of acceptance.”

“I don’t think so. One foretells of the crucifixion, the other of the resurrection.”

“Except that all of Jesus’ actions showed a strong desire for acceptance, to avoid an untimely death. Otherwise he would have gladly gone to the cross or endured any other painful humiliation, if he knew that would bring salvation to the world. But in the Garden of Gethsemane he was obviously in great anguish.”

“He felt the fear of death, just as any mortal man would.”

“Countless men have gladly marched into certain death for far lesser causes. He wasn’t afraid to die. His anguish was that the crucifixion was not God’s will.”

“How do you figure?”

“By what happened immediately afterward, for one thing. The sky turned dark and terrible, and all his followers were horrified. No one rejoiced except the evil people. It was a tragedy, plain and simple. It should not have happened, and the world has been suffering that debacle ever since. The centuries following the crucifixion and resurrection were not the dawning of a new and glorious time. They’re known as the Dark Ages, exactly what you’d expect when evil triumphs over good. The only silver lining, the only thing that sustained faithful people through all those hopeless years was the promise of the Second Coming, which I might add, was never mentioned until it became clear the Jewish people were not going to accept him.”

Pete let this sink in for a few minutes. “You have a curious way of looking at things.”

“Yes I do. That why I came to Athens, hoping to find someone to tell these things to.”

“But I don’t see what difference it makes, if he died sooner or later. The end result would have been the same.”

“On the contrary, if he’d lived long enough to have a family, it would have changed everything.”

“How so?”

“God did not prepare the entire nation of Israel so that Jesus could preach for a mere three years and then be murdered. God intended for those people to listen to him and to follow him, and he wanted Jesus to live a long and fruitful life. There was far more at stake than Christians today realize. Those people had the chance to follow the messiah while he was alive and they blew it. By the time they realized it, it was too late.”

The last of the insulation was now hung, and both of us were exhausted. It was well after midnight. Pete was thinking hard about what I had been saying, and I sensed this may be my best chance to drive home my point.

“I don’t necessarily expect you to believe me, and we can debate scripture until dawn, but what I am about to tell you is the gospel truth,” I said. “Jesus did not come to die.”

“You’re forgetting the resurrection.”

“No, I’m not. But that could have happened right away too. Herod finds the infant Jesus, has him killed, and three days later is the Resurrection. Same thing.”

Pete was not convinced.

“Look at it this way. During his life, whenever people asked him what they should be doing to do God’s will, he never answered that they should nail him to a cross until he dies a slow and agonizing death so that he can take away all their sins. He took away their sins left and right before that. He didn’t need to die for that. In fact, you can search the Old Testament, but there’s no mention of a Second Coming. That only came much later, when Jesus realized that the whole thing was going to end badly. Suddenly there was a need for Christ to return which wasn’t there before. If Jesus had been permitted to live his life to its natural end, there never would have arose this talk of his imminent return.”

“But aren’t we saved by believing Jesus died for our sins?”

“That depends on whether you go out and keeping sinning afterward, especially things you know are wrong, like fornication or stealing. If you stop doing those things that are harmful to your spirit, I guess you can say you’re saved. But most Christians don’t stop sinning, they just insist they’ve been forgiven for everything, past, present and future. But even if you personally are saved, you are unable to pass that grace onto your children. They will be born with the stain of original sin and be tempted and seduced and betrayed and victimized by the same old crap. Jesus didn’t just come to forgive us for all of our sins, he came to wipe out the source of sin once and for all.”

“And he did at Calvary.”

“He only got partial victory. He made it possible for us to be saved spiritually on an individual level.”

“So there you have it. Personal salvation.”

“Okay. I admit that sounds pretty attractive. Almost perfect even. But what I want to know is if Adam and Eve had not fallen, had they not disobeyed God and gotten kicked out of the Garden, had they never committed the Original Sin, would they have needed personal salvation?”

Pete thought about it a while. “No, I don’t reckon they would.”

“I don’t think so either. And none of their descendants would have needed it and no one alive today would have needed it because there would be no sin we had to be saved from, you follow me?”

He nodded.

“So let’s just say an eternal Garden of Eden was God’s original plan. That doesn’t seem too far-fetched, does it?”


“Do you think God has given up on that plan?”

“No. But our reward is not on this earth.”

“Apparently not, looking at the dismal state of the world. I wholeheartedly concur our reward is not here. But if it was God’s intention for Adam and Eve to live in paradise here on earth, then I can’t help but think that’s what He really wants for us, too. I mean, if God intended all along that we should be sinful and live in a cesspool, just so we could appreciate being saved someday, he could have simply made us that way. Why put Adam and Eve through the charade of tempting them with the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil just so they could screw up and He’d have a reason to condemn them to hell, so the rest of us can someday make a personal choice about whether or not we want to be saved? Does that strike you as rational?”

“Not the way you describe it. But all we have is God’s Word, and that tells us we can only be saved through the Lord.”

“I’m not disputing that. The point I’m trying to make is maybe that’s the best we can hope for right now, but the Second Coming will bring a kind of total salvation Adam and Eve could have only dreamed about after the fall.”

“I don’t follow.”

“I’m saying I don’t think God has given up at all on restoring this world back to His original ideal, that’s all, which is clearly something we don’t have today, even though Jesus brought us personal salvation. I don’t think individual redemption is the ultimate goal. I don’t think God will rest until the entire world is restored, just like it was in the Garden of Eden before the fall.”

Pete didn’t say anything for a while. It was extremely hot, and we both needed to get to bed.

“Man, you talk some wild shit.” 

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