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Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Oneness of God, and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
( Deuteronomy 6:4 )

I believe that anyone who calls himself a Christian will readily acknowledge this fact, but most Christians who still have any orthodoxy about them will also profess belief in the 'Trinity', or three separate persons within the one God-head. Although it may ( more or less easily ) be argued from Scripture; the doctrine of the Trinity is, by no means, a 'case closed', when it comes to Scripture!

The first undeniable 'evidence' that Scripture gives to show that there exists a God-head, composed of one or more 'persons', is found in Genesis 1:26, where God said 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'  Here, God was evidently speaking to another ( besides Himself ), although obviously not really another ( for who else was there? ). Backing up, we read in Genesis 1:2, that, 'the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.' This is the first among many mentions of the Spirit ( AKA-the Holy Spirit ( Ghost, in the KJV ) that we find in the Scriptures. John 4:24 tells us that  'God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.' To bring out this truth; John uses the Greek transliteration 'pneuma', which Thayer's ( Greek ) Lexicon defines simply as 'a movement of air (a gentle blast)', and which therefore is roughly the counterpart of the Hebrew 'ruwach', which, according to Gesenius's Lexicon, can also be translated 'wind, breath, mind', among others ( the New Jerusalem Bible translates this phrase, in Genesis 1:2, as 'a divine wind' ). One question, and it is childish, almost, in its simplicity, is 'Does a Spirit have a Spirit?' We read in the Scriptures of the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of truth, and etc., but must these necessarily point to a Trinity? Here is an interesting ( and telling ) fact; according to the NKJV, the phrase 'Holy Spirit' occurs only three times in the Hebrew Scriptures, first, in Psalm 51:11, where he pleads with God, 'Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.' In the very next verse, he reiterates his plea, this time referring to His 'generous' Spirit. Was David actually referring to what orthodox Christianity calls 'the third person of the Trinity', or was he simply giving God the title ( s ) which He rightly deserves, that of 'holy' and 'generous'? ( In fact, Isaiah ( 57:15 ) says that His ( God's ) name is 'Holy'! ) the second and third instances in the Hebrew Scriptures where we find the phrase 'Holy Spirit' are found in the 63rd chapter of Isaiah, verses 10 & 11. 'But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; so He turned Himself against them as an enemy, and He fought against them. Then he remembered the days of old, Moses and his people, saying: Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of His flock? Where is He who put His Holy Spirit within them'. Again; is Isaiah doing anything here but giving God the title, or character, of being 'holy'? Some could argue here that since verse 11 seems to say that God put His Holy Spirit within the Israelites, that this Holy Spirit must be a distinct 'person', or entity, but as we read in Luke 1:35. 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.' We know that Jesus was called 'the Son of God' ( to my knowledge, this phrase, or even this concept, does not appear in the Hebrew Scriptures! ) Those who prophesied of the Christ did not ever say that He would be the Son of God, although Isaiah 53 does, to be fair, seem to indicate another personage, although not ( necessarily ) a familial bond. 

As was mentioned concerning the birth of the Christ; Matthew and Luke ( really the only two Gospel writers that record this blessed event for us ) give an account that this Holy Spirit ( of God ) was instrumental ( as in the beginning ) in bringing the Christ into the world. Matthew recorded that God revealed this to Joseph ( in a dream, interestingly enough ) saying 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.' ( Matthew 1:20 ), and previously that 'she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.' I'll get into this more, later, but when John the baptizer was asked why he came baptizing, or 'whelming ' ( washing-Exodus 29:4, Leviticus 16:4, ( Isaiah 52:15 ); he responded that 'I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire' ( Matthew 3:11 ) ( interesting to note here, that the Majority Text, upon which the KJV is largely based, omits 'and with fire' ). Prior to announcing the conception of the Christ, an 'angel' appeared to Zacharias, the husband of Mary's older cousin, recorded in Luke 1:15, telling him, among other things, that 'He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.' We find later, that when the wife of Zacharias is visited by the mother of her Lord, that 'the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit', just as the 'angel' had prophesied. Much later, after the birth of Zacharias' son, he himself 'was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied'. When the fullness of time ( 9 months ) had come for Mary, and her Child was born, and they took Him to Jerusalem to fulfill the Law ( Exodus 13:2 & 15 ), they found that 'there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.' ( Luke 2:25-35 ).

Matthew 12:32 is a more or less oft-quoted saying, but I don't believe that it's understood as well as it's quoted. Jesus Himself said, 'Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come'. There seems to be a pretty clear separation here, as we'll see also in the Gospel of John, between the Son of Man ( Jesus ) and the Holy Spirit, but is there really? Looking at the previous verse, Jesus had said, in what I believe to be an example of Eastern literary parallelism, 'Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men'. I believe that Jesus, in His temporary capacity, as the Son of Man, was saying, in other words, 'Rail against me all you want ( remember, He prayed, 'Father forgive them.......' ), but do NOT say anything against My Father!' Mark records this incident as well, using slightly different terminology, but with the same meaning, in chapter 3, verses 28 & 29, quoting Jesus as saying, in response to their accusation that He had a demon, 'Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation.' Again, in a slightly different context than the first two Gospel writers; Luke records this incident as well, and quotes Jesus saying, to His disciples this time, that 'anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven' ( Luke 12:10 ), then warns them, in the next couple verses that persecution ( tribulation ) is coming, but not to worry about what they should say ( kinda reminds you of Matthew 6:33, huh? ), because 'the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say'. John is silent, in his Gospel, about this incident, but he has other things to say concerning this Holy Spirit; we will come to those presently, but for now I just wanted to present these thoughts: in all of the above mentioned paragraphs, from the Synoptic Gospels, there seems to be, and indeed, I see no indication of a Trinity ( except as implied by the capitalization of certain words, and the fact that Jesus refers to Him as someone 'separate' from Himself-more on that later ), and even in the two accounts of the natural birth of the Christ, there is really nothing that points towards there being a Trinity, of any sort.

Now we come to the harder passages, the ones that seem to indicate, if not a Trinity, at least more of a 'separation' within the God-head. In Luke 11:13, at the end of an almost parabolic discourse, Jesus said, 'If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?' This would seem to indicate that God the Father would give, or send the Holy Spirit ( God the Holy Spirit ), but then we're seemingly back at the question that I asked before; 'does a Spirit have a Spirit?' ( maybe a better question would be, 'why would a Spirit have a Spirit?' ) Obviously God gave us of Himself, just as He gave us of Himself when He sent His Son to become a Man so that He could pay the penalty for the sins of His people.

The Gospel of John, along with other incidents that the Synoptics do not record, presents us with a unique scenario; in John 7:37 & 38, 'On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water'. Jesus seemingly was continuing the tale that He began with the woman at the well, in John 4. 'Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”' ( John 4:26 ) Jesus revealed to her, in not so many words, that He was the source of that 'living water' that He had told her about before. He revealed to her that not only was He the Christ, or Messiah that they had been waiting for, but that He was God Himself, saying, 'I............am'! Back to John 7, then, John 'brings it all home', so to speak, when he clarifies Jesus' previous statement, saying, in verse 39, 'But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.'

The next passage, from John 14, is fairly well known one, what with Jesus' famous 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me', and 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.' Probably equal though, in familiarity, are verses 16 & 17, 'I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever- the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.' This passage seems to project the idea of a Trinity, that is, until you read the next verse, where He says 'I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.' ( Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5 ) Here, maybe, is one of those many 'time texts', that may not seem to be quite as 'plain' as some others. Either Jesus is prophesying of His soon ( within a generation-Matthew 24:34, et al. ) return, or He is promising that He Himself will return to them ( Hebrews 9:28 ), or, quite possibly ( probably ), both! After comforting them with the promise of coming to dwell with them forever, Jesus further clarifies His statement, in verses 25 & 26, revealing that 'These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you', and, lest they mis-understand His intentions ( which they often did, and still do ), He reminded them 'You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you'. After His death, burial and resurrection; Jesus appeared to them, miraculously, comforting them with these words, quite similar to those He uttered back in John 14:27, 'Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.' And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.'  ( John 20:21 & 22 ) ( This brings God's 'creation' of Adam, in Genesis 1:26-28 & 2:7, to mind! ) From my count; Luke mentions the 'Holy Spirit' a total of 42 times in his Acts of the Apostles, mostly referring to the indwelling, as promised above, in John 14:23 ( Joel 2:28-32 ) of the Holy Spirit ( God ), but also quoting, directly ( 1:20, 2:17-21, 28:26 ), and indirectly ( Acts 1:5, 2:4, 7:51, 11:15 & 16 ( Isaiah 49:1-13 ) from the Hebrew Scriptures. 

Paul first uses the phrase 'Holy Spirit' in Romans 5:5, comforting the Roman Christians, who were apparently in the midst of persecution, reminding them that 'the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.' Paul was referring to a number of Old Covenant Scriptures, like Proverbs 1:23, Ezekiel 39:29, Daniel 9:27, Amos 5:8, 9:6, and Malachi 3:10, in which the blessings of the Holy Spirit ( God ) were promised to His seed. In Paul's letter to the Romans, in chapter 9, and verses 1 & 2; Paul told those Gentile Christians that 'I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart', referring to his own people, the Jews, or Israelites after the flesh. Paul next refers to God as the 'Holy Spirit' in Romans 14:17, in reference to the Kingdom of God, saying that 'for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit'. In his benediction, near the end of his letter to the Romans, in chapter 15, verse 13; Paul again refers to God as the 'Holy Spirit', when he writes, almost in a form of 'parallelism', 'Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.' In his first letter to the Church at Corinth; Paul, speaking of the wisdom of spiritual discernment, wrote, in chapter 2, verse 13, 'These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.' ( the Nestle-Aland/United Bible Society text, based, I believe, on more ancient manuscripts, omits 'Holy' here. ) In a manner of reprimand, Paul reminded the Corinthians, in 6:19, asking a rhetorical question, 'Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?' Answering a question concerning spiritual gifts, and their diversity, Paul wrote this response, in 12:3, 'Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.' In his second letter to the Corinthian Church; Paul pleaded for their holiness, revealing to them, reminding them, that his ministry, and theirs, was by 'the Holy Spirit', in other words, 'by the power of God'. Paul ends his second letter with this benediction, using a sort of three-fold form of 'parallelism', 'The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen' ( II Corinthians 13:14 ) Paul next uses the phrase 'Holy Spirit' in Ephesians 1:13; reminding the Ephesian Christians, who according to Jesus ( Revelation 2:4 ) had left their first love ( Christ ), 'In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise'. ( 3:5 ) Paul obviously felt the need, once again, in Ephesians 4:30, to be holy, for he pleads, 'do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.' In his first letter to the Thessalonian Church; Paul revealed to them that 'our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit' ( I Thessalonians 1:5 ). Much as with the other churches; Paul had to remind them that 'he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.' In the first chapter of his second letter to Timothy ( verse 14 ); Paul wrote, 'That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.' Writing to Titus; Paul reminded him that it was 'not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit'. In the second chapter of the epistle ( letter ) to the Hebrews, verse 4, the writer, speaking of the salvation that God brought to man through Jesus the Christ, asks the question of those first-century Jews, 'how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation', since God was 'also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?' Quoting from the Hebrew Scriptures ( Psalm 95:7-11 ), then writer then makes a plea for faithfulness, reminding them that, 'Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says:  Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.' ( Hebrews 3:7-11 ) We read in Hebrews 6:4-6 that it is 'impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame'. Describing the limitations of the earthly types and figures, the author wrote, in Hebrews 9:8, speaking of the true tabernacle 'which the Lord erected, and not man' ( Hebrews 8:2 ), that 'the Holy Spirit [was] indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing.' Quoting Jeremiah 31:33 & 34, the writers spoke these words concerning the New Covenant in Christ; 'But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, 'This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them', then He adds, 'Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.' ( Hebrews 10:15-17 ) In I Peter 1:12; Peter wrote to his people , concerning the Old Covenant prophets, that 'to them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven-things which angels desire to look into', and in his second letter, that 'prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.'

Although in many of these examples, the Gospel writers, and the authors of the epistles, could very easily, simply have been referring to God as the holy Spirit ( which He is ), it also seems to be very clear that the Holy Spirit had a special mission during the first century, or the birthing and growing pangs of the Church. The question that I wish to present here is, 'if the Spirit of God ( or the 'third person of the Trinity' ( 'sure; it's orthodox, but is it Scriptural?' ) was sent to in-dwell the Church in the first century; is He still with us, as the 'Holy Spirit', since God ( who is the holy 'Spirit') once again dwells with us?' The writers of Scripture, especially the Greek Scriptures, also make very clear that, at least during the first century AD, and maybe a few years before, that there was a 'separation' within the God-head, when God sent His only begotten Son to earth in the form of, or as a human being, and thus was called 'the Son of Man' ( Ezekiel 20:27 ( Isaiah 52:14 ), although still called the 'Son of God' ( Hosea 11:1 ( 1:10 ), Matthew 14:33, Mark 1:1, Luke 1:32-35, Luke 22:70, II Peter  1:17, I John 4:10, Revelation 2:18 ( 21:7 ).

We now will treat several of the more ( seemingly ) irrefutable passages supportive of a doctrine of the Trinity. Most famous of these, probably, is John 5:7, 'For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one'. An interesting note on this verse though, and the first part of the next, is 'NU-Text ( Nestle-Aland/United Bible Societies ) and M-Text  ( Majority ) omit the words from 'in heaven' (verse 7) to 'on earth' (verse 8). Only four or five very late manuscripts contain these words in Greek.' Verse 8 reads 'And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one. ' If indeed the words noted above are true, it would make more sense in the context of Jesus' words to Nicodemus, in John 3, and His words to the woman at the well, in John 4. Matthew 28:19, perhaps better known as the first part of 'The Great Commission' is another well-known passage that seems to lend support to the doctrine of the Trinity. 'Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit', but could this simply be another example of three-fold 'parallelism', three being another numeral used in Scripture to denote completeness?

The Gospel according to Mark tells us that John the Baptizer, preaching of the coming of the Christ, prophesied, 'I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit'. Soon after this, John rendered his baptism upon this Christ, and 'saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove' ( Mark 1:8-10 ).  In Luke's account, in chapter 3; John is recorded as saying much the same as Matthew records, although in a slightly different context: John said, 'I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire' ( Luke 3:16 ). Luke also later records the Jesus received this baptism from John, after which 'the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, 'You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.' Following Matthew's account; Luke chapter 4 tells us that, immediately after this saying, 'Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness'. The gospel of John ( chapter 1 ) also records that John came baptizing, but, for some reason doesn't record that Jesus received the baptism of John ( water baptism ), although the baptizer did bear witness saying 'I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him'. In the very next verse, though, he says 'I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.'

When the Father 'separated' ( John 17:1-5 ) Himself from His Son, and sent Him to earth in the form of a man; God became, for a while, 'divided', within the God-head. One can fairly easily ascertain that the Son of God ( known as the Second 'person' of the Trinity, among orthodox Christians of varying types ) was preexistent; Jesus Himself said 'before Abraham was, I AM.' ( John 8:58 ) This statement almost got Him killed right then and there, because the Jews perceived ( how 'funny' that they perceived this and missed so many other things! ) that Jesus was saying that He was God ( Exodus 3:14 ), or at least equating Himself with God ( John 10:24-36 ( Philippians 2:6 ), later saying ‘I am the Son of God’. So we can pretty well establish that there are, or at least were, up until the consummation of the New Covenant, at least two separate 'personages' within the Godhead, but I believe that it as clear that these two, together, make up the Holy Spirit. A question that could well be raised among believers in 'fulfilled eschatology' ( in fact, this is one of the implications of 'FE' ); 'since Jesus left His body ( the Church ) on earth, when He ascended back into 'heaven' ( the presence ( glory ) of the Father ( God ); is He still a separate ( distinct ) 'person' from God the Father, or has He ( Father and Son ) become 'all in all' ( I Corinthians 15:28 ), as Scripture said?' 'Is it really all that important to defrock the doctrine of the Trinity' is another question that might well be asked; but I will leave that up to you. Personally; I believe that there is Scriptural evidence to say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is, not a multiplicity of persons, or even personalities ( 'aspects' or 'characteristics' might be better words ), but of offices, actions, within the God-head, but since Christ's return in the 'clouds' of judgment on Old Covenant Israel; He remains with us as our Head, for as the Scriptures said, 'in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily' ( Colossians 2:9 ( I:15-20 ).

In the love of Christ, and for the glory of God,

Charles Haddon Shank                                          

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Conversations witth a bullfrog ( 'If I were the king of the world........' ) AKA 'The Great Upheaval' ( a message from Jeremiah Bereano )

I recently had a conversation, over the internet, with a brother who lives on the other side of the globe ( 'Praise God for the internet!' ), and one of the subjects that we talked about was preterism. He asked me, in other words, when we would see this kind of covenantal thinking would begin to take hold in mainstream Christianity, in the church at large. I replied to the effect that God was moving in His Church, and that I thought that preterism ( in it's many forms and facets ) was one of these 'fingers'.

In my earlier days, as 'the wandering theologian'; I was often known to take passages like I Peter 4:17 ( 'For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?' ) out of context, and apply it to the Church today. I believe that it can and must be applied to the Body of Christ today, as it IS the eternal word of God, although it doesn't have quite the same ramifications as it did to those first-century Jews to who Peter wrote. When Peter wrote these words of warning to his fellow Israelites ( the Diaspora, or Dispersion ); he was referring to the Great Tribulation that was about to come on God's people in the first century, and although this judgment, as we know, was a final and decisive one, which had eternal consequences, ushering in the fullness of the New Covenant in Christ; the church today faces a judgment of sorts, a 'weeding out', if you will, a purification. Many people today, especially with the introduction of social networking ( most notably Facebook ) have turned to the internet for fellowship within the Body of Christ, either because of their 'paradigm shift' ( for which many have been ostracized ), or because there just isn't a body of believers anywhere near that they feel comfortable fellowshipping with. Some, for whatever reason, have even attacked the local, or institutional church, even religion ( Christianity ) itself, and in many cases; I don't really blame them!


The institutional church has, in many ( some would say most, if not all ) cases, become undeniably corrupt. I personally know of at least one church down in the next state below where I live ( and this was back in the mid-late 90s ) that paid their pastor almost a quarter of a million dollars, and this was over ten years ago! I'm sure we've all heard of churches, in the big cities especially, that are pay their pastors much better than that, and I'm sure we can all tell a personal story of ministers seeming to be more concerned with how much they're getting paid, than with actually ministering ( fully ) to God's people. We could probably use up reams of seemingly endless data, uncovering the seemingly endless corruption in the institutional church, but should we really be spending all that time doing that? The 'Middle Ages', especially towards 'the end', were a time of 'Great Upheaval', where men like John Knox John Huss, and even Martin Luther were great instigators ( of God ) of much of this 'trouble' that God's people faced. Not having read much history of that era for quite some time, and therefore not having an extensive knowledge of the whole situation; I believe that we can all agree that the institutional church, though by all accounts an integral part of the Body of Christ, has harbored a lot of corruption over the years, and quite a few shady characters, who some would argue, were not part of that Body.


As I said, and hinted at earlier; I believe that the principles of preterism, or 'realized ( fulfilled ) eschatology' is just one of the 'stepping stones' that God is using to effectually continue this 'Great Upheaval', but it cant stop with eschatology. There are so many implications of fulfilled eschatology, most that have not been fully explored, and most probably some that, for whatever reason, have not been explored at all. The grace of God is one of these subjects that are beginning, within the past ten years or so, to be more fully ( and freely ) explored. A good example of a certain doctrine that has been freshly looked at, and is still being explored, is that of 'soteriology', or the doctrine of salvation. Most churchmen ( and this is changing-thanks be to God ), because of their false assumptions concerning eschatology, have felt the need to posit that our salvation has not been fully realized yet, in order to be consistent with those assumptions. In all fairness; there are many in the church ( institutional ), both in the pulpit and the pews, that despite their 'false assumptions', are living and loving as they have been Loved, freely sharing ( though maybe ignorantly ) the fullness of the Gospel of Grace! This is very commendable, and as I hinted at; 'All praise and glory goes to God!'


Many, as I noted earlier; have seen the apparent corruption in the institutional church, and have made the ( difficult, usually, and heart-breaking ) choice to leave the institutional church altogether, leaving behind ( in many cases ) family, and those they thought were friends, while others have made the ( even more difficult ) choice to labor in the midst of oppression ( perceptively, of course ) , fellowshipping, encouraging, eve influencing, those that labor under those false assumptions. I've old several 'brothers' that I thought that Martin Luther had the right idea, not trying to leave the church, not breaking fellowship, but striving to change ( strongly and drastically ) it from within. Don't get me wrong; I'm no Martin Luther, nor am I claiming to be, but maybe, just maybe, by spreading this renewed Gospel of Grace and Love; we can help set things straight, and fulfill our destiny as 'healing leaves ( Revelation 22:2 )!