The Pagan Path

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

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The New Creation

One of the most well-known and well-used phrase in the Bible is II Corinthians 5:17, where Paul told the Corinthian church that 'if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new' ( to be honest, however, the words 'he is' are not in the original Greek, and thus the verse actually reads 'if anyone is in Christ, ( he is ) a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new' ). A  friend of mine has recently pointed out that Paul said 'if anyone is in Christ', indicating that 'if' a person is not 'in' Christ; he is not 'a new creation', 'old things' have not passed away, all things have not 'become new'. Sound about right?  I thought so too; up until a few days ago, I was fairly comfortable with the idea that we are new creation ( renewed ) because we are in Christ, having become one with Him, but as another friend has recently reminded me, we miss a lot when we try to apply the Bible directly to us, rather than allowing the context to dictate the intended meaning. Sure; I think we can say, with impunity, that we are a ( made ) 'new creation', but is that the idea that Paul meant to convey when he told the Corinthian church that those who were in Christ were a new creation. I believe that the key to understanding Paul's  first-century context is the phrase, or phrases, 'old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new'.

'In that He says, “A new covenant,  He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away'. ( Hebrews 8:13 )

We must remember, when reading passages like  II Corinthians 5:17, the covenant context of the whole of Scripture. When Paul wrote those words to the church, there are several things to keep in mind; first, that he was writing to a particular audience, at a particular time. The particular audience that Paul was writing to was the first-century church at Corinth, and the particular time, as we've seen, was not only the first-century church at Corinth, but concerning those 'upon whom the ends of the ages have come' ( I Corinthians 10:11 ), which 'generation' ( Matthew 23:36, 24:34 ) would see the 'end of all things' ( I Peter 4:7 ).

In this present 'day and age', we as Christians, can easily apply Paul's words to ourselves, and proclaim, as he did, that we are 'a new creation'; it is when we come to the next phrase that we run into problems! 'Old things have passed away'? 'All things have become new'? 'How can you say that?', one wonders, when we still have our ( old ) human nature to deal with, when we have fleshly ( natural, carnal ) desires to ignore? Well, obviously; we can see that, in that sense, 'Old things' have not passed away, 'All things' have not become new. We are faced with several hard ( I would say 'easy' ) choices; either Paul's writings were not inspired ( he was mistaken ), we are not 'in Christ', or Paul was not speaking of biological 'change' ( I Corinthians 15:52 ), not even, in a sense, of the spiritual 'change' that we undergo when the Holy Spirit comes upon us in the 'new birth' ( John 3:1-21 ). So which is it?

I have come to believe that Paul was speaking, not of our conversion, even of theirs, but of the transition, already begun with them, from the Old Covenant age to the New Covenant era, to the age which, like God's Kingdom, 'shall stand forever' ( Daniel 2:44 ( Luke 20:27-36 ). 'Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new' now makes sense; as the writer to the Hebrews told his brethren, the Old Covenant regime was 'growing old', and was 'ready to vanish away', and the New, already begun at the Advent of Jesus Christ, and inaugurated on the cross, was upon them, 'in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God' ( II Thessalonians 1:8 ), in which 'the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat' ( II Peter 3:12 ).

Can we truthfully say today, that we are a ( made ) 'new creation'?

I believe that this phrase may need some adjustment, as applying to us who were never 'under' the law ( Old Covenant ), but that the principle still applies. In Christ we have been 'changed', our conscience has been cleansed, we have been forgiven; we, like those first-century followers of Christ have been 'perfected forever' and are 'being sanctified' ( Hebrews 10:14 )!

May God bless this short study to your understanding, as we all strive to live up to the work that God has done in us, in making us 'a new creation'!

By God's grace,

Charles Shank

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I believe

I believe that there is one God ( Deuteronomy 6:4 ), the great and most holy Spirit ( John 4:24-28 ) ; who manifested Himself in the flesh ( Romans 1:1-3Matthew 1:18-23 ), when He sent His only begotten Son to this earth to be the propitiation ( John 11:49-52 ) for the sins of His people ( Daniel 9:3-19 ), which sacrifice ( Isaiah 53 ( Genesis 3:15 ) had been prophesied throughout the Old Covenant Scriptures.

I believe that all that is visible and invisible ( Colossians 1:16 ( John 1:1-3 )was created by God, through His divine Spirit ( Genesis 1:2 ), and that He reigns over all His creation and over every event ( Isaiah 45:7 ( I Chronicles 29:11 ) that takes place therein.

I believe and trust in this One true God, and His Son, Jesus Christ ( Acts 4:12 ), for my salvation, full and free
( Luke 21:25-28 ( Romans 13:11 ), Romans 5:15-18 )
I believe that the Son of God left His glory in Heaven ( John 17:5 & 24 )and suffered a normal human existence ( Luke 2:21-51 ( Hebrews 2:18 ), as the Son of Man ( Hebrews 4:15 ( Hebrews 2:14 ), in order to offer the one, final, and perfect sacrifice ( Hebrews 7:25-27 ) that had been prophesied throughout the aforementioned ( Exodus 12:5, Numbers 29:36, Ezekiel 46:13 ( I Peter 1:19 ), Hebrews 10:4-14 ) Hebrew Scriptures, and to rise again, thus defeating ( Hebrews 2:14 ( Romans 7:10 ), I Corinthians 15:54-56 ) death ( Genesis 2:15-17 ( II Corinthians 3:7 ) for those who would believe on His name.

I believe that God, in His eternal, everlasting covenant ( Galatians 3:17 ( Genesis 17:19 ) and supernal purpose ( Ephesians 3:8-11 ( Isaiah 55:11 ); purposed ( Philippians 2:11 ( Romans 8:28 ) and predestined ( Ephesians 1:3-6 ( Deuteronomy 14:2 ), James 2:5 ), His people to believe ( Philippians 1:29 ( Ezekiel 36:27 )and accept ( Romans 10:6-16 )these promises.

I believe that God has granted ( Matthew 13:10-16 ( Philippians 1:29 ) us to be made righteous ( II Corinthians 5:21 ) through the suffering, death ( Matthew 27:46-50 ( Hebrews 10:12-14 ), and resurrection I Corinthians 15:12-17 ( Romans 6:8-14, 8:10-12 ) of His Son, Jesus Christ, and that if we are found 'in' ( John 11:26 ) Him; nothing else is necessary, indeed, that nothing is possible to further recommend us before the Father.

I believe that, since the coming in the clouds ( Matthew 26:64 ( Acts 1:9-11 ) of judgment upon apostate Israel, or 'The Great Harlot' ( Ezekiel 16:15-30 ( Hosea 2 ); God Himself now dwells in ( John 14:16-18 ), and among us ( John 14:23 ( Revelation 7:15 ), as promised ( Exodus 29:45 & 46 ), and pictured ( I Kings 8:10-12 ( I Samuel 4:4 ) in the writings of the Hebrew Scriptures.

I believe that the baptism ( Matthew 3:11 ( Mark 1:8 ) of the Holy Spirit of God is the only baptism  ( Ephesians 4:5 ) sufficient ( I Peter 3:21 ( Hebrews 9:13 & 14 ), indeed necessary ( Ephesians 1:7 ( Colossians 1:19-23 ) , to cleanse us, and transfer ( Colossians 1:13 ) us into the Kingdom of God.

I believe that we now commune ( I Corinthians 10:16-18 ) in a spiritual way ( John 4:22 & 23 ) with our Lord, and with each other, not only when we are gathered for worship, but whenever and wherever 'two or three are gathered in His name' ( Matthew 18:20 ( Luke 17:21 ).

in His Kingdom,
& for His glory,
Charles Shank

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Drying the Tears

Our tears are wiped away in Christ! There can be no doubt of this glorious fact; it is when we come to the next phrase  that we run into what some call the 'already, not yet' scenario. 'Yes', you may hear, 'spiritually speaking; God has wiped away all our tears and destroyed death, and we no longer must fear death, but physically speaking, we still suffer pain, we still have sorrow, we still physically expire'. The problem with this kind of reasoning is that it is based on the assumption that God sent His Son to save His people from physical death, and indeed, from the several examples that we have in Scripture of Jesus, even of several prophets in the Old Testament, bringing people back to physical life ( I Kings 17:17-24, I Kings 13:21 ), it is fairly easy to see where people might get that idea, but, as I've written before, and as I believe Scripture teaches; these physical 'risings' ( from the dead ), especially 'under' the Old Covenant, were simply given as pictures of our spiritual resurrection that was to come in the New Covenant, in Christ, who IS the Resurrection!

As believers in 'Fulfilled Eschatology', or 'Covenant Eschatology', one of the greatest pleas against our paradigm, our belief that Christ returned ( in judgment ) how and when He promised, that we now live 'in' 'the new heavens and new earth', and that God ( in His fullness ) once again dwells with ( in the midst of-Luke 17:20 & 21 ) us; is that we ( even as Christians ) still have sorrow and crying, though most will admit that the 'old things' have passed away, those being the 'old man' to whom we died. Many people try to attach too much of a physical meaning to passages like this ( Isaiah 25:8 ), and as with 'the death of Adam' that Christ will deliver us one day from physical sorrow. Besides the fact that not all tears come from sorrow ( I need not tell my readers about 'tears of joy' ); I believe that the Scriptures reveal a covenant story, a story of the people with whom God specially dealt, for the instruction ( II Timothy 3:16 ) of those with whom He is dealing. When Isaiah wrote these words, saying 'He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken', the first part of which John quoted in the Revelation, he was writing of the glories of the New Covenant, and in particular, the people of God, and His dwelling with them, once again. Within verse 8 here, Isaiah used what I and others, have referred to as a biblical parallelism, saying the thing twice ( or more, in several different ways, and in fact Isaiah, in this example, says basically the same thing, I believe,  covenantally speaking, three times.

'He will swallow up death forever'.

I'm sure that most of my readers are familiar with Daniel's 'seventy weeks' prophecy: in the first part of which, God proclaims that 'Seventy weeks ( literally 'sevens' ) are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of ( literally 'seal up' ) sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.' ( Daniel 9:24 ) Admittedly; no mention of 'death' here, not in so many words anyway, but later on in his prophecy, he writes, speaking of the same scenario, that 'many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt' ( Daniel 12:2 ) ( notice that he did not contrast 'life' with 'death' ), which saying Jesus quoted, in other words, in Matthew 25:46.

So what did Isaiah mean when he wrote that God would 'swallow up death forever'? If he meant that God would 'make an end of' death, as in the Revelation ( 21:14 ) 'Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire' ( we must be careful here too, not to over-physicalize ), then, as some would say, death has not been 'cast into the lake of fire', because we still expire physically.

This brings up yet another question, based on a wrong assumption, that the death that Christ came to save His people from, was physical death. To my knowledge, the Scriptures never say, especially in so many words, that Jesus came to save us from death, and especially not physical death. Jesus implied very strongly that He would save those that believed in Him from spiritual death, but I believe that an in-depth study ( which this is not ) will reveal that physical death was never the issue; Jesus obviously wasn't speaking of physical death in John 11:26 when He told Martha that 'he who lives and believes in Me will never die'! As I've quoted before, however; it was said of the Christ that 'He will save His people from their sins' ( Matthew 1:21 )

'The Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces'.

'Looking through the OT prophets, we see that David was wont to use this terminology to describe, among other things, a deep spiritual longing for restoration to communion with God (Psalm 42:3 ); in Psalm 80, he reminds his people ( and God ) of the curse of disassociation with Him, that He placed upon Adam and through him, his progeny ( Genesis 3:19 ): in Psalm 116:8, he realizes ( prophetically ) that God has delivered 'my soul from death, my eyes from tears................': Jeremiah, in the context of the New Covenant/New Heavens and Earth, records God as saying 'refrain your voice from weeping, your eyes from tears.............' ( Jeremiah 31:16 ). Malachi says that the 'tears' of 'God's people' ( Israel ) were not a good thing, but were, in essence what finally separated them from God ( Malachi 2:13 ), in fact, along these lines; the writer of Hebrews reminded them that Esau, though he 'sought it ( repentance ) diligently with tears', he found no place for repentance.' From 'Is This It?, or 'No more tears' (  October 2007 )

I wanted to add here, Jesus words ( almost a direct quotation of Isaiah 25:8 ) in Revelation 21:4, 'And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.'  The last phrase here, should immediately bring to mind Paul's very similar statement in II Corinthians 5:17; 'Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.' ( Do you think John had these words in mind when he wrote Revelation 21:4? )

'The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth'.

Daniel wrote, at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, in the passage that we read above ( 12:2 ) that some ( the wicked ) would awake to 'shame and everlasting contempt' ( In relation to the conflagration of AD70, which is Jesus' primary concern here, remember that Jesus was present at this time, having come in the clouds of judgment, and thus those unrepentant Jews, who had continuously and then finally rejected Christ, were very literally tormented in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb!  from 'ECP and the Resurrection of Condemnation' ( March 2010 )  Because of their sin and blasphemy against God, the children of His people were reminded that 'Your sons have fainted: They lie at the head of all the streets; like an antelope in a net; they are full of the fury of the LORD; the rebuke of your God.' ( Isaiah 51:20 ( Jeremiah 2:19 )  God spoke these words through the prophet Ezekiel, 'Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD; I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name's sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went' ( 36:22 ) Remember, during the Exodus, when the children of Israel had made the 'golden calf'? When God told Moses to 'let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them' ( Exodus 32:10 ), Moses pled for the 'children' of Israel, saying 'Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’' ( 32:12 ) The Hebrew transliteration cherpah, used here, and translated 'rebuke', could also be translated ( and often is ) 'reproach'. The example above, from Exodus 32, is just one example that we can find in the Hebrew Scriptures of how these 'children' brought reproach, not only on their name, but on their Father's name as well, and even more importantly! In the New Covenant, as promised in places like Jeremiah 31:34 ( 'I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more' ), and Ezekiel 36:29 ( 'I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses' ), God has removed the reproach, the shame, of His people.

Some might say that the reproach, and the tears, of His people ( much less, death ) have not been removed, which in a very physical sense, is true enough, but we must remember the covenant context of Isaiah ( God's, really ) words. The death that he wrote about, that Jesus came to save His people from, was the sin-death of Adam, and as we can see from passages like Hosea 13:14 and Hebrews 2:14, that what He promised, He also performed on the Day of Jesus Christ.

Finally; of the title of this article, 'Drying the Tears'; one might wonder why I've chosen to title this article in such a way as to convey the notion of an ongoing process: above, I wrote that in a very physical sense, our reproach has not been removed ( the name of 'Christian' has become almost a shameful thing, once again, in some circles ), and tears have not all been wiped away; but as the people of God, as the 'healing leaves' that we are called to be, we do wipe away each others tears, we bear each others burdens, 'the reproaches of those that reproach You have fallen on Me' ( Psalm 69:9 ). As we continually wipe away ( dry ) each others tears by the healing power that God has placed within each one of His people, as we fulfill our mandate as 'the leaves of the Tree', even the spiritual promises of God will have a greater impact on the physical creation around us!

In the Strength of Christ alone,
fulfilling His dominion mandate,
Charles Shank