Editor’s note: Jim Rutz’s latest book, “The Meaning of Life,” takes a fresh look at heaven, hell, human history and the church. Order it now at ShopNetDaily.

The main outlines of the Christian faith have remained clear throughout the centuries, thanks to the Bible and thousands of “reform” movements, each correcting (and often persecuting) the others.

However, all this fine-tuning has not produced the desired perfect unity of love and agreement, but 33,909 denominations and a harmful distortion of non-primary beliefs, practices and attitudes. Whether your perch is on the Catholic, Orthodox or some Protestant position, you’ll agree that “those other guys” have really messed up the church!

Yet much agreement on the central teachings remains. Excluding the liberals (whose wild re-imaginings reverse all the primary doctrines), Bible-honoring factions still agree substantially on sin, the cross, the person of Christ, etc.

Today’s column will serve as a modest start on erasing the most damaging misconceptions that have crept in through the years. Let us start right here to restore the original, clear-eyed, Christ-centered worldview.

In my own family tradition (conservative-fundamental), the Christian lifestyle has devolved to a matter of faithful church attendance, living an exemplary life, avoiding the obvious vices, and hanging on through the trials of this world until Jesus comes back or takes you home. For extra points, you could teach Sunday school or even become a pastor or missionary. This is a pathetic miniaturization of what God offers us.

Instead, the Bible shows in great detail that life is a massive and stupendous battle between life and death. Or more broadly, good versus evil. Or to be more precise, God versus Satan.

The present messed-up condition of planet Earth is not – repeat, not – a permanent state of affairs that we simply have to cope with. It is a snapshot from an ongoing and rapidly changing drama in which God is constantly editing the story line, but the plot is inexorably leading to a foreordained conclusion in which He wins.

Your destination is neither the pop version of heaven nor hell, both of which are a medieval farce. Heaven is real, but forget about halos, harps and fluffy clouds. Hell is real – and you never, never want to go there – but forget about the eternal torture chamber with people screaming their heads off for endless trillions of years. Scripture is clear, with dozens of verses stating unanimously that the main event of hell is dying – albeit very unpleasantly for those under greater judgment. Unbelievers do come to an end.

Let us cut to the chase before the chase: The rebellion of Lucifer, the former No. 1 archangel. When he fell from his position by the throne of God, he left an empty spot that was an insult.

But you can’t surprise the Father. He was ready – not with Plan B, but Plan A, Part 2: Replacing Lucifer with something better: YOU! (And a few other people.)

Read carefully: None of the angels really understood God like you and I do. None had any experience of His grace and forgiveness – or the incredible depths of His love. None had any need of faith. None had ever stuck their necks out for God. None bore any scars from choosing to follow Him throughout a life of pain in a Wild West sort of world where anything can happen, where careers collapse, dreams vanish, friends double-cross and children get hit by drunk drivers.

Yet your task is not merely to survive such things, but to work toward eliminating them by building Christ’s kingdom “on Earth, as it is in heaven.” Your purpose is to destroy evil and “the works of the devil.” (I John 3:8)

And here is a verse that bridges Earth and heaven, tying our present and future lives together: “Of the increase of His [Christ’s] government there shall be no end.” In three places, the Bible clearly says that “overcomers” here on Earth will be administrators in the next phase of life, e.g., “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne. …” (Revelation 3:21) Imagine you with your battle scars sitting at the right hand of Jesus with His wounds from the cross. That’s as awesome as it gets.

You no longer face a disconnect between now and later. “Thy Kingdom come” is no longer a vague hope for a distant future. It is the very heart of what you can start doing every day – both now and forever.

Yes, the thoughts in today’s column are highly compressed. Sorry. But you can get the expanded version in my newest book, “The Meaning of Life.”

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