The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Monday, May 28, 2007

'A Mighty Fortress is our God' ( a preteristic revision )

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing;
For when our ancient foe, did seek to work us woe
his craft and power were great, and armed with cruel hate
on earth was not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God's own choosing;
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth His Name, from age to age the same, And He has won the battle!

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His Truth to triumph through us,
The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we have endured, for lo, his doom has come,
The Word of God has felled him!

That Word, above all earthly powers-no thanks to them abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill, God's Truth abideth still:
His Kingdom is forever!

Friday, May 18, 2007

'A Focus on the Physical'; Revisited

I've been thinking about the after-life lately, and wondering if we ourselves, as believers in the fulfilled kingdom of God ( aka, full-preterists ) aren't focusing on the physical a bit too much ourselves, by thinking that there must be an after-life yet to come, after we have shed this 'husk' of flesh that we now inhabit. IS this all that we can expect, as some people are reported to teach ( Heaven Now ), or can we expect to someday, as we all dream about ( I know I do ); be literally free of this 'body of death', to be without all of our physical ailments, including the lusts which ravage our flesh, to be pure spirit ( as I've been known to speculate ) and more free to worship, and commune with Christ, not having the 'flesh' present with us to vie for our attention?!

Let me quote a fairly lengthy passage here, from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 20;

27 "Then some of the Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, 28 saying: Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife, and he dies without children, his brother should take his wife, and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. And the first took a wife, and died without children. 30 And the second took her as wife, and he died childless. 31 Then the third too her, and in like manner the seven also; and they left no children, and died. 32 Last of all, the woman died also. 33 Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife. 34 Jesus answered and said to them, 'The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection'."

This may open another whole 'can of worms', but I must quote the next two verses also;

37 "But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord 'the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob', 38 For
He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him."

Jesus told them ( Sadducees ) and reminds us, in language reminiscent of Matthew 24: 37 & 38; that the sons of the age in which He lived in the flesh ( the Old Covenant age ) were focused on the physical aspects of life, marrying and giving in marriage; while those who were counted worthy ( notice; He didn't say 'those who are found worthy' ) to attain that age ( the everlasting age in which we as Christians live, ie., His kingdom ) would be focused, not on the physical aspects of life, but on the spiritual aspects of true life, in and for Him! Notice too; that He equates 'us' ( the sons of 'that' age ) with the angels, and, in language reminiscent of John 11:25 & 26; that 'we' will never die!

Here is another lengthy quote: this time from Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, and the fifth chapter;

1 "For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 for we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality might be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord."

I think that the traditional ( futurist ) understanding of this passage is that Paul is speaking of his physical body, and the 'fact' that, while we are in this physical existence, or this body; we cannot be present with the Lord, but I find it interesting that Paul speaks of being in this 'tent' or 'tabernacle'. I know that Paul, earlier in I Corinthians 6:19 and later, in Ephesians 2:21, says that their bodies were now the 'temple of the Holy Spirit' and that they were being 'built up' into a holy temple for the Lord ( not just His Spirit; notice! ); but remember that the writer to the Hebrews wrote to them that 'the way into the ( true ) Holiest of all was not yet made manifest while the first temple was still standing' ( Hebrews 9:8 ), which temple, I would propose to you, was the same temple that Paul spoke of, in II Corinthians 5!

Paul further told them how much he desired, not 'to be unclothed, but further clothed', that 'mortality (or this 'simple' human existence ) may be swallowed up by life ( true life, in Christ-please read "The Meaning of Life' and 'A Spiritual Body' by this same author )'. Paul desired, not to exit this physical existence, but rather to be further clothed ( with Christ )! He further says, reminding them, that God has ( already ) prepared them for this very thing!

So, when Paul says, in the next verse, that while they were at home in the body, they were absent from the Lord; I think that he was saying, not only that while they made their home, or found their rest, or comfort, in the flesh, that they were absent from the Lord; but also as the writer to the Hebrews wrote above; that while 'the first temple was still standing' the heavenly
( or true ) temple, or their 'habitation from heaven' ( see also Deut. 26:15 & Isa.63:15 ) had not yet been revealed.

Let us go a little further now, in chapter five;

7 "For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him."

Combine with this the last two verses of the preceding chapter;

17 "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

If we have been 'further clothed' with our 'habitation from heaven' ( which I think, most of my readers will agree-we have! ); then what further awaits us? What further biblical hope of an 'after-life' do we look for?

Do we now walk by sight, waiting for an after-life in Heaven, or do we still walk by faith in the
( true ) life that we now live in Christ? ( see "The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven" by Ward Fenley )

As the author to the Hebrews wrote, in chapter 11;

1 "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

Admittedly, in the context of this passage, the author was speaking of the faith ( in Christ ) that the Old Covenant 'saints' had, before Christ ( the Messiah, or 'Anointed One' was 'incarnated in the flesh'; but even though this 'hope' has been fulfilled in the Coming of Christ ( full and final ), our faith in His fulfilled Kingdom, though 'realized' by many, is still 'the evidence of things not seen'! As Jesus Himself said, in Luke 17:20 & 21;

20b "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, 'See here!', or, 'see there!', For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."

It would seem like some un-realized hope for an after-life ( and like I noted before-I'm as guilty of this as ANYBODY! ) among ( especially ) 'preterists', or believers in Fulfilled Eschatology
( among other things Fulfilled ) is akin to 'our' own special kind of focus on the physical!

In his letter to the Philippians, chapter one; Paul again speaks, almost in the same vein as in
II Corinthians 5, of his overwhelming desire to 'depart and be with Christ';

21 'For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless, to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25 And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, 26 that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again."

From a cursory reading of this oft-quoted passage; one could easily read ( understand ) that Paul is looking forward to departing this ( physical, temporal ) life to be with Christ, but when read in the context of other passages like the one I just quoted; might not Paul 'simply' be speaking of the 'change' that he spoke of in I Corinthians 15:52, of what I like to call the 'changing of the guard', or the full implementation of the New Covenant economy, as opposed to the Old Covenant economy which Paul lived in, and fought against? If 'the flesh' which Paul ( in particular ) refers to in his writings, is speaking, not of our physical bodies, but of the Old Covenant economy, or system, under which he labored: why would it be strange to think that Paul's dilemma was not whether to give up his ( physical ) life, so that he could be with Christ, or to stay alive ( physically ) so that he could further minister to the Philippian believers; but rather, as he hints at in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 9;

19 "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews, I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law ( not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak, I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some."

Now, I think this is pretty self-explanatory, but lest some wrest this from it's historical context: we must remember that Paul was speaking of the coming conflagration, under which those who still clung to the remains of the Old Covenant economy would forever be shut out of the New!

Let's return now, to the passage in the letter to the Philippians, for a bit more context;

In speaking of the glorious blessing of the gospel 'simply' being preached, Paul wrote;

19 "For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death."

Now, I will freely admit that it looks more and more like Paul is speaking here of physical death, but would it not be a safe 'bet' to say that Paul looked for the same 'deliverance' that we now enjoy, that he spoke longingly of in passages like Romans 7:23-25, and the 'change' that he mentioned in I Corinthians 15:52?

In words not unlike those to the Corinthians, chapter 15: 33 & 34, Paul wrote to the Philippians;

27 "Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in the Spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not in anyway terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God."

Like I wrote, in a previous paper, I think that these two verses are a 'turning point', like
I Corinthians 15:33 & 34, in Paul's discussion: Paul is admonishing the ( new ) Philippian believers to walk according to the Gospel which he taught, thus seeking the deliverance
( salvation ), or the 'change' that Paul taught the Corinthians to hope for, the very same 'change' that believers received, and still receive, in Christ!

I hope that I have sufficiently noted the conjunction between these two passages
( II Corinthians 4:17-5:9 and Philippians 1:19-28 ), so that we can see that Paul was not 'simply' looking forward to departing this life ( or normal human existence ), in order to be with Christ,
' which is far better', but he was looking forward to, and rejoicing in, his deliverance
( full and final ) from that Old Covenant, or Mosaic economy, 'that of the letter, and not of the Spirit' ( II Corinthians 3:6 ).

My point, in this little study; is that 'we' as believers in Fulfilled Eschatology, Redemption, etc, need to 'realize' that we are IN the after-life! In other words, Christ is the after-life!

I have come to see now, that any ( biblical ) hope for an 'after-life', or life after death
( remember John 11:25 & 26, et al ? ) was, and is, fulfilled in Christ, who is 'the Way, the Truth, and the Life", and, as He told Martha, 'the resurrection and the Life'!

My hope ( and for some it may be a 'realized' hope already ) is that my writings here, will not only bring glory to His Name, but that they may help others begin to 'realize' that God's Kingdom and the after-life are synonymous terms, and that we need to begin to live our lives for His glory alone, and not in some hope for a ( future ) 'after-life'!

( please read "The Fulfilled Life' by this author )

As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, in chapter one;

3 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ."

Are these ours now? Do we truly have every blessing ( in Christ ), or do we 'look for another'?

in His Kingdom,
and for His Glory,
Charles Shank

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Strength and Simplicity of the ( fulfilled ) Gospel

The Strength and Simplicity of the ( fulfilled ) Gospel Message

I think that the strength of the Gospel message is, first and foremost; it's simplicity: Believe and receive! Sounds simple enough; does it not? But wait: it gets even better!

Probably THE most familiar verse that people use for evangelistic purposes is John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

This is probably also one of the most misused and misquoted verses in the Gospels! How is it misused; you may ask? First of all, Jesus told Nicodemus ( I assume that He was still speaking with just Nicodemus ) that 'whoever believes' would inherit eternal life, right? This verse is most often used to convey the idea that it is ALL dependent upon our choice ( true, to a point ); IF only we would believe, then our belief would make the love of God, for which cause He sent His Son to die on the cross ( for the ( whole ) world ), effectual ( for us? )!

The first problem that we should see with this idea, is found in the Old Testament Scriptures, or rather, the Old Covenant Scriptures; in Jeremiah 17:9:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?

This is also a well known and oft-quoted ( not as often as it used to be, I think ) verse, and, in context, is speaking of the vanity of the man who trusts in his own worthiness to accomplish his own deliverance, or salvation! Now, I know that in the immediate context, Jeremiah is speaking to his own people, the Israelites, but I think that, as typical of men, as a whole, this applies to un-believers today as well as yesterday.

One of my favorite passages pertaining to this subject ( the 'heart' of salvation, you might say ), is Ezekiel 36:25-27, but for our purpose here, I'll only quote verse 26:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

Two things immediately jump to attention here: first, 'I ( God ) will' is a statement that is most prevalent throughout; and two, this passage speaks of the need of a new heart, a heart of flesh that is pliable, able to be shaped by ( God's ) hand, rather than a hardened heart of stone that is not open to outside ( God's ) influence, and only able to be broken, or crushed in His judgment ( Romans 9:22, James 2:12 )!

The second problem that should immediately jump to our attention is also found in the Old Covenant Scriptures, in the book of Isaiah, chapter 55, verse 11;

'So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return void, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it”.

(Another reading of this passage might be; “So shall My Son do, that I send forth; He shall not return to Me empty, but shall fulfill the Purpose for which I send Him.” )

The problem, which I have outlined in these two passages, is this: since God must first grant us the 'new heart', which He told Old Covenant Israel through Ezekiel; 'I will', and since He sent forth His Word ( John 1:1-3 ), which will not return to Him void, or emptily/ineffectually: IF indeed, as some would posit; God's Word DOES return void for those who choose NOT to accept, or receive His wondrous Gift; we have a problem, and a very serious one at that, for we have called God a liar and His Word is not in us! ( I John 1:10 )

Now an argument that I've heard, with which some suppose to lessen the effect of Christ's sacrificial work of atonement and redemption on the cross, is “Christ came to die for sin”, which is true enough, I suppose; but that's a very vague statement, because God told Matthew to pen these words, in Matthew 1:21;

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sin.”

Is it unreasonable to assume that 'His people' of Matthew 1:21 and 'the world' of John 3:16 are both speaking of the same people: are Matthew 1:21 and John 3:16 contradictory? God forbid!

I said before, that John 3:16 is also miserably misquoted often, by taking passages like Revelation 22:17 ( 'whoever desires, let him take of the Water of Life freely' ), and transcribing that, over passages like John 3:16, etc.

So; one might now be thinking, “What does this have to do with that?”, or, “What do all these reasonings have to do with the title that he's given to his paper?” Well; I'll tell you! If John 3:16 ( for example ) is telling us that God loved everybody in the whole wide world ( individually ) so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for their sins ( meanwhile; in His omniscience knowing that some would reject Him, thus making His precious blood-sacrifice ineffectual for them ); that whoever chose to believe in Him, would not perish, but have eternal, everlasting life; then we not only have a simplistic Gospel: we have a very simplistic view of God, and the Love which He showed us in sending His Son to save HIS PEOPLE from their sins! If the aforementioned explanation is true; then we have a God who is impotent to effectually save us from our sins UNLESS we will believe in Him!

Here; I think, is a much simpler ( and plainer ) explanation of John 3:16, in the context of passages like Matthew 1:21:

“ For God so loved the world ( His people-Matthew 1:21 ) that He gave His only begotten Son ( Jesus ), that whoever ( 'His people'-Matthew 1:21, 'My sheep'-John 10:27 ) believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life ( eternal life-John 10:28 ).”

I think that the biggest mistake that some people make, is to look at passages like John 3:16, and, not only pull them out of their context ( the context of Scripture-comparing Scripture with Scripture ), but they attach a 21st century, English meaning to it!

By reading ( out of context ) passages like John 3:16, “For God so loved the world........”, one could easily assume that God DID send His Son to shed His precious blood for the sins of every individual person on planet earth, but when read in context with passages like Luke 1:21 and John 10:27 ( for instance ), we plainly see that God did not send Him for the purpose of dieing for EVERYONE'S sins, but only for those of His people, or His sheep, especially when read in the light of Isaiah 55:11!

When I speak of simplicity being the strength of the Gospel message; I'm not talking so much of the plainness of the message, but of the simplicity which is inherent in the Gospel.

He says, in Micah 6:8;

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before your God.”

Compare this with Hosea 6:6;

“For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”

Compare this again, with Christ's words to the Pharisees, in Matthew 12:7;

“But if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice', you would not have condemned the guiltless.”

Compare this once again with His words in Matthew 23:23 ( also to the Pharisees );

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, but have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”

Yes; it is important that we make the right choice, as Joshua said, in Joshua 24:14 and 15;

“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

As Jesus said, in Matthew 23:13; it is MORE important that we serve Him, as Joshua also said, by dispensing justice and mercy to our brother, thus proving, or showing our faith in and commitment to Him! Jesus told them ( and tells us ) that these things ( justice, mercy, and a saving knowledge of God ) are the weightier matters of the Law, rather than 'simply', or woodenly, obeying it's plain precepts! Now, this may not sound like such a simple thing to do ( show justice and mercy to our brother ), sometimes; but I find simplicity ( and comfort ) in the fact that God gives us, through the 'new heart' that He promised in Ezekiel, the ability to choose the right, to show mercy toward our brother, and to know Him; but also in the fact that He promises, in Ezekiel 36 that “I will”, and also, in speaking of this New Covenant; in Jeremiah 31:31-34:

'Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-not according to the covenant which I made with your fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts: and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord', for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Here again, we should notice the prevalence of the 'I will' statement, thus putting it ALL on God, and off of our ( rather their ) feeble shoulders,and not to say that we shouldn't strive to show mercy and justice to our brother; but God has forgiven our sins, and forgotten our iniquities; that we might be free to show justice and mercy to our brother, for we are recipients of His great Justice and Mercy ( I John 4:19, Matthew 6:12 )!

The simplicity of this message is also that we have God's perfect law written in our minds ( consciences ) and on our hearts, rather than on tablets of stone ( or on scrolls of papyrus-as the case may be ) which are rigid, and immovable. The simple fact that, in the New Covenant; God, rather than the law written in stone, and certain men-even ourselves, is our Teacher: should be of the greatest comfort to us; Jesus said, in John 6:45;

“It is written in the Prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God'. Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.”

The prophetic utterance that Jesus spoke of is in Isaiah 54:13, where God spoke these words concerning the inhabitants, or inheritors, of the New Covenant;

“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.”

No longer 'must' we worry about obeying every precept, following every 'jot and tittle', and teaching our brother to do the same. Christ did it all for us! He fulfilled the 'handwriting of requirements' that was set in stone; that He might become for us the 'law written in our hearts'! In John 13:34, Jesus gave us a new commandment;

“A new command I give you, that you love one another; As I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

John further writes, in I John 3:14;

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.”

He tells us, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God; that, not only does our love for the brethren show us that God has forgiven our iniquities and forgotten our sin, it also shows us proof that we are saved! How simple is that?!

I mentioned previously how some people attach a 21st century English ( or American ) meaning to passages like John 3:16. What I meant by that, is that some forget the fact that, not only were these words penned centuries, even millennia ago; but that they were originally penned in the Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic languages, to a Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew audience! Others might call this 'audience relevance'. Although this is not to say that these Scriptures are not somehow applicable for 'us' today, I think we can safely say that the hope that Jesus gave His contemporaries in passages like Matthew 10:23, 16:28, 24:34, Revelation 1:1-3, 22:6,7,12, and 20, were realized by His generation ( else, as above; we make Him a liar ), and are for us in the sense that we can have a greater peace knowing ( realizing ) that our salvation is complete!
Paul, in his letter to the Roman church, penned these words, in the context of the more immediate command to love each other;

“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed”

The writer to the Hebrews corroborates this, in Hebrews 9:28;

“So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”

To get to the point of what I am saying: if the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which Paul said, “ was preached to every creature under heaven”, thus fulfilling Jesus' words in Matthew 24:14;

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world, as a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.”:

has NOT been fulfilled ( ie., Christ has not fulfilled His promises yet ); then we still await our full redemption and salvation! Now; wouldn't it just be simpler ( and a whole lot easier, theologically speaking ) to believe that Christ did what He said, when He said He would; rather than trying to apply all those promises to some future generation, thus implying that Christ, John, Paul and the apostles were all wrong, or simply mistaken about these things; or coming up with ( wrangling ) a whole system of theology to try to prove that He really didn't mean what He said ( audience relevance )?

As always, I recommend ( plead with you, really ) that you not simply take my word for it, but that you be a Berean, and 'search the Scriptures daily, to see if these things are so'!

In His ( fulfilled ) Kingdom,
and to His Glory,
Charles Shank