Is it the Recruitment of Genuine Apostles?
What is the specific purpose of the fifth epochal revelation on this planet? While this may seem obvious to very many readers of The Urantia Book, to others who are familiar with the finest concepts and teachings of Christianity as well as the best in several other of the world’s religions and philosophies, the answer is not so obvious. Excepting for detailed information on the hierarchical structure among the heavenly hosts that we have no means of verifying, much of the book’s content has been stated elsewhere. Neither do the scientific aspects of the book bring much new knowledge independently within a short time after the book’s publication.
Perhaps the simplest conclusion is that it has been given to us in order that we should recognize our sonship with the Father and the brotherhood of all men. But that message is not new, so is there some other purpose for this revelation? Undoubtedly part of its purpose is to rectify error that has partially negated the effectiveness of the fourth epochal revelation. Another purpose would be to amplify upon our knowledge of our place in the totality of God’s creation. But why has this new revelation come to us specifically at this time, and not one thousand years hence or whence?
To try to answer this question, let us take a look at Paper 99, The Social Problems of Religion, presented by a Melchizedek of Nebadon and specifically addressing problems currently confronting our planet. In the past, religion did not have to adjust its attitude to extensive changes in economic and political systems; today the rapidity of changes in living conditions is such that institutional modifications must be greatly accelerated, and religion must quicken its adaptation to an ever-changing social order. We are told that these periods of gross instability will endure for a thousand years; that the human race must become reconciled to a procession of changes, adjustments and readjustments and that mankind is on the march toward a new and unrevealed destiny.
If we believe in the validity of the fifth epochal revelation, we have no option other to than to take these prophetic statements into account. Many of us may feel an urgency about getting on with changing and saving the world right now. But this prophecy is telling us that as fast as we remedy a world problem, new changes will be occurring that will require different adjustments and this situation will be with us or at least a thousand years. What is the role of religion to be? Paragraph 2 of Section 1 states:
Religion must become a forceful influence for moral stability and spiritual progression… [Paper 99:1.2, page 1086.5]
and in paragraph 3:
…the paramount mission of religion as a social influence is to stabilize the ideals of mankind during these dangerous times of transition from one phase of civilization to another, from one level of culture to another. [Paper 99:1.3, page 1086.6]
Paragraph four tells us there are no new religious duties to perform, that the role of religion is to be a wise guide and experienced counselor. But the leaders of our best religious institutions know all that, and there is certainly plenty of wisdom and experience to draw upon in the churches, seminaries, theological colleges, university departments of religion and so on. So why was the fifth epochal revelation necessary?
Perhaps Section 2 of the paper supplies an answer to this question. We are told that institutional religion is unable to provide the necessary leadership and inspiration because it is in a catch 22 situation. It cannot reconstruct itself until society has radically reconstructed itself. It then goes on to tell us that religionists must function in society, industry and politics as individuals, not as groups or institutions.
Some of us have been inclined to think that from the time of publication of The Urantia Book in 1955, those who gave us the papers have left us to work out our own destiny. This is only partially true; if we search the book conscientiously and prayerfully, we find that much explicit instruction is given even for questions that have since caused much perplexity and disruption. For example, the references just quoted tell us that for a long time to come the main role of religion in the advancement of our civilization rests not with institutions but with the individual. This is confirmed in Section 3:4 which states that:
The attainment of a high cultural civilization demands, first, the ideal type of citizen and, then, ideal and adequate social mechanisms wherewith such a citizenry may control the economic and political institutions of such an advanced human society. [Paper 99:3.4, page 1088.5]
Summarizing these comments, we have been told that we have a thousand-year job in front of us that initially should be confined virtually entirely to the production of ideal citizens who will, as individuals, serve to stabilize the moral and spiritual progression of society during these rapid periods of change. However, the requirements for producing an ideal citizenry have been known to millions upon millions of Christians for nigh on 2000 years. Where then is Christianity deficient and how is The Urantia Book telling us to compensate for that deficiency? Perhaps the answer to that question is that the vast majority of Christians know but do not live the message of Jesus. Undoubtedly a very large proportion of practicing Christians are genuine believers and qualify to be called disciples of Jesus. But according to The Urantia Book there is a considerable difference between the requirements for discipleship and apostleship. Perhaps then, the demand being placed upon us by the fifth epochal revelation is that we must follow the original twelve apostles into apostleship!
The qualifications for apostleship are set out in Paper 140 of The Urantia Book—The Ordination of the Twelve. It is quite possible to read this paper and to conclude that it was meant only for the original twelve. But this is not so. In Section 1:4 apostleship is offered to all who would take the path of the twelve. That offer is reiterated in Section 3:20 where Jesus says:
But everyone who hears this charge and sincerely executes his commission to represent me before men even as I have represented my Father to you, shall find abundant entrance into my service and into the kingdom of the heavenly Father.” [Paper 140:3.20, page 1571.7]
Thus we need to consider whether the real demands of the fifth epochal revelation may be for firstly hundreds, then thousands, followed by millions upon millions of Urantia Book students, all willing to undertake the pathway of apostleship.
Allowing that our train of thought may be close to the truth, what does it all mean for the present crop of Urantia Book students? It has been said that ultimately we are judged by the highest standards that we know, hence if we know the standards set out in The Urantia Book, then those are the standards by which we shall be judged. Though at first Urantia Book readers may be permitted to nominate as disciples, and hence avoid the rigorous demands of apostleship, this cannot be a continuing state. If we have received the book, read it thoroughly and understood its message, we must accept the challenge of apostleship or risk the consequences of rejection.
One difference between discipleship and apostleship as announced by Jesus is that, in undertaking apostleship, we elect to represent him in the world in the same way that, in his human life on Urantia, he represented the Father. This is certainly a rigorous undertaking, for it is not by the words we speak but by the lives we live that we will represent Jesus to the world.
Apostleship is a demanding but enormously spiritually rewarding undertaking. Many of its requirements are set out in Paper 140 and need to be fully understood as, in undertaking apostleship, we place ourselves permanently on trial before the bar of human judgment. The Christian experience has been that it requires unchristian behavior from a relatively small proportion of Christians to bring a highly damaging and condemnatory reaction. Perhaps it is in recognition of this fact that we find an extraordinarily harsh judgmental statement in The Urantia Book that perhaps applies only to those who undertake apostleship. It was made by Jesus during a resurrectional appearance to a group at Tyre who may all have been of apostleship status. It occurs on page 2054 and says:
And the fruits of the divine spirit which are yielded in the lives of spirit-born and God-knowing mortals are: loving service, unselfish devotion, courageous loyalty, sincere fairness, enlightened honesty, undying hope, confiding trust, merciful ministry, unfailing goodness, forgiving tolerance and enduring peace. If professed believers bear not these fruits of the divine spirit in their lives, they are dead; the Sprit of Truth is not in them; they are useless branches on the living vine and they will soon be taken away. [Paper 193:2.2, page 2054.3]
In conclusion we offer one final thought. There has been a considerable division of opinion about how the teachings of The Urantia Book should be spread to the general community. Just as the answer to the problem of what our role should be in our daily lives is to be found in the book, so the answer to that question of how the teachings are to be spread is also in the book. It was given to us by a Divine Counselor acting by authority of the Ancient of Days on Uversa and appears in the third paragraph of page 43. There is only one work on this planet that can fit the description given there of
…enlarged and exquisitely integrated modern concepts of cosmic truth, universe beauty and divine goodness, [Paper 2:7.10, page 43.3]
and that is The Urantia Book itself.
Just as Paper 99 addressed the current problems of this age, so too this direction is for right now and is to farsighted men and women of spiritual insight and with the necessary skills and abilities, using The Urantia Book as source material, to conduct those secondary works that will permit the teachings of the book to penetrate to all segments of all societies and thus…
…attract all that is good in the mind of man and challenge that which is best in the human soul. [Paper 2:7.10, page 43.3]
Who would dare to argue with such authority?