Mark 13:31 “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”
How does a literalist interpret this Bible verse? If earth passes away, then there is nothing left to speak or hear Jesus’s words. We all expect earth to pass away after the second coming. But if heaven passes away, you and I are toast. Everyone is toast if heaven disappears along with earth. Has that never bothered anyone but me?
We may have to seek help from an interpretation from the Aramaic language. In my book on the Lord’s Prayer, I mentioned that Aramaic has a broader view of heaven and earth than Christianity. (The following explanations are found in “The Hidden Gospel” by Neil Douglas-Klotz, p. 99-101.) The word “earth” in Aramaic does not merely refer to the planet or the ground we stand on. It can refer to all of creation as well as to any object or being that has individual form – from a plant to a star. (Earth = anything that has mass or form, that’s visible or dense.)
The word “heaven” in Aramaic comes from the words for light and indicates a sacred vibration that vibrates without limit throughout the entire universe. It gives the impression that all things are connected communally to each other through one wave of sound or light. In heaven, we find that all things are connected as one – as in living in harmony.
This is where the passage gets interesting. The Aramaic word “pass away” can also mean to cross over a boundary or go beyond a limit. And the Aramaic word for “word” can mean a story or narration, the flow of anything that is fully formed, or the expression of a life.
When earthly forms cross over their boundaries or go beyond their limits, i.e., death, the substance/raw materials they are made of return to the vibrating elements of the atmosphere, heaven. Then they are incorporated into new forms. The carbon, oxygen, hydrogen atoms that make up flesh and blood – along with the sounds and vibrations we gave off – will pass away…and be recycled. That’s pretty obvious.
And the story of Jesus will go on. The narrative about his life will not stop. The message he brought will continue – God loves. God is love. God’s love connects us one to another. How does it connect us to each other?
God loves our neighbor, even when we don’t. God loves the outcast, even when we don’t. God loves sinners, even when we don’t. God loves our enemies, even when we don’t. God loves the members of our family of faith, even when we don’t. God loves us, even when we don’t love ourselves.
We are one with each other, whether we like it or not…whether we agree with it or not. We are one with all of creation.
There’s another level of heaven and earth “passing away” that isn’t quite as stark or related to physical death. It may simply refer to disappearance from another’s life.
When people stop talking to each other and remove themselves from one another’s presence, they’ve crossed a boundary called “unity,” a boundary called “relationship.” That’s happened too much in the last three years in my church. People removed their physical forms and the vibration of their voices from the community because of differences of opinion. Heaven and earth passed away.
But the story of Jesus’s life that reveals the truth about God and God’s love did not pass away. It goes on. It always will. Thanks be to God.