The Pagan Path

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

Monday, April 29, 2013

Christian Heresy?

What does Kingdom Life look like?

This question might engender discussion about how Kingdom Life differs from everyday life ( for the Christian ), which might prove difficult to explain, or it might even lead to further questions, like; 'what do you mean by Kingdom Life?' One thing we can pretty much be sure of, though, is that modern American Christianity, and for the most part, Christianity around the world, while acknowledging God's Kingdom, attempts to relegate it to either merely the 'spiritual' realm, or to the future ( or both? )!

While Kingdom Life, in theory anyway, does not differ at all from 'normal' everyday life, for many if not most Christians today, you might be hard-pressed, by their own admission, to find much similarity between the two. Kingdom Life, in theory, means acknowledging ( the ) One King in your daily living, worshiping and serving Him and His Kingdom alone. In practice, this should look like 'normal' Christian life, but too often we see Christians making a false separation between their religious lives ( which are usually fairly private, and often only show up on Sundays and maybe Wednesdays ) and their secular lives ( which show their true colors, except for Sundays and Wednesdays ). Sadly, more and more, whether because of a misinterpretation of Scripture itself, or for some other reason, the differences between these two separate lives, or ways of living have become less and less, becoming heretically close to what is known as 'secular life'!

No Christian in his or her right mind would disavow the authority of King Jesus, at least in the spiritual realm, but many Christians today seem, if not to disavow this authority and rule in all of life, at least to disregard His rule. Too often, modern Christians are quicker to 'bow the knee' to 'Caesar' than they are to surrender their life and living to their true King and Ruler! Most Christians, to their credit, would as quickly deny this idolatry and claim Jesus as Lord of their lives, but by their practice, from seeking license from any other than their true King to enslaving themselves and their progeny to this ( false ) beastly authority, they show that they truly serve, not the true God, but a mere idol, often a self-appointed one!

Now, to be fair ( and extremely lenient ), most of the Christians mentioned above only bow the knee to this idol because they believe God has commanded them to! Passages like Romans 13 have been misinterpreted for many, many years to say that we must bow the knee to whatever government has ( claimed ) authority over us. This is not the time or place to correct that interpretation fully, so we will suffice to say that the apostle Paul was treating a certain and specific situation ( problem ) that had arisen within the Church at Rome and elsewhere; although we may apply certain of these principles to our own lives, we must also realize the clear audience relevance of Paul's word!

The Jews of Jesus' day, much as many modern Christians are, were horrified when Jesus would not bow to the supremacy of their instituted laws, and even accused Him of heresy and blasphemy, eventually putting Him to death for refusing to bow the knee! To disobey those ordinances constituted by man was almost tantamount to disobeying God! Some Christians are even saying that to disobey even unjust 'vested authority' IS to disobey God!

Most of the blame for this plague, this dilemma, can be laid at the feet of the futurist paradigm! Because Jesus has not returned to set up His earthly and political Kingdom ( sound familiar? ), this 'world' has been given over to the rule of 'devils', and will remain under their rule and authority until He returns in power and glory and wrests it from them!

How do we live Kingdom Life?

As we saw earlier, it 'means acknowledging ( the ) One King in your daily living, worshiping and serving Him and His Kingdom alone'. To live a life free of the constraints of any but His government; to acknowledge His Kingship, and His Kingdom alone, is to live a life that honors and glorifies God; nothing else will do!

We have much work to do; as were the Jews of Jesus' day, so many Christians today have been steeped in this idolatrous notion, that man's laws trump God's, at least on this earth, but we much teach our children, and the following generations, that this can never be! There is one King we must deal with, and He is a consuming Fire!

As the Consuming Fire that He is, let us pray that He will use us in each others lives to consume this 'dross' that so heavily and readily besets us!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Law of Love, Continued

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; 
as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
John 13:34 

Is there such a thing as homosexual love?

In a post-biblical era; can we say with certainty that the homosexual life-style is necessarily wrong? The one place in Scripture where it seems to clearly say that homosexuality is wrong, Leviticus 18:22; 'You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It [ is ] an abomination' though it seems clear enough, may not actually be that cut & dried! We may assume that Yahweh meant that men should not lie with men ( homosexual ) because He was addressing the leaders in Israel ( men? ), and this is actually warranted, for in that culture, men, and usually not women ( though it did happen ) were the ones chosen to lead.

It is clear from Scripture, as we have studied before, that biblical marriage ( union ) was between a man and a women. Without going into too many details, this is because, quite literally, they were made for each other! They fit ( quite nicely )! A man was not made to mate with another man, as we have also explored before; it just doesn't work; certain accommodations can be made, but nothing but selfish enjoyment and relief can come from such an accomodation! Speaking of this sort of 'accomodation'; the Scriptures have something to say about this practice as well. The Greek transliteration 'malakos' from which the English 'homosexual' in I Corinthians 6:9 comes, is defined as 'soft, soft to the touch', in a metaphorical sense ( bad ), one ( man ) who is unnaturally lewd. This was a fairly common practice, I believe, in the Greek and Roman cultures of the day!

Although it may be true that Jesus never specifically condemned the homosexual life-style, He never condoned the practice either! When confronted with a case of adultery, He simply told the accused, 'Go and sin no more'! Although He did not condemn her for her sin He did recognize and acknowledge the practice as sin! Admittedly, there is no Scriptural evidence that He was confronted like-wise with homosexuality, but it is not unlikely that He would have given much the same response!

It might be well, at this point, to clarify ( again ) what love is. Love, as we have seen, is an action, not a feeling, though actions, right and wrong, usually come from our feelings! Paul wrote, 'love is the fulfillment of the law' ( Romans 13:10 ), so therefore, love is something we do, not something we feel toward another person. This Law, the Law of Love, was fulfilled in Jesus, but it did not end with Him! The meaning of that word 'fulfilled' does not connote an ending, but rather a filling up; we, as we continue to love God and our neighbor, continue to fill up this Law of Love! But I digress.............

It is possible for homosexuals to love each other, in that sense! In fact, there are doubtless many homosexuals out there who love more and better than many heterosexuals! In our culture, with so much emphasis on the outward appearance, and strict adherence to the letter of the law, rather than to the Spirit; it is clearly ( among Christians especially ) an unnatural thing, and an abomination for two men to love each other as a man would love a woman! As we saw earlier, and can attest to in Nature, it is quite unnatural for two men to contrive together to make a perfect union as would a man with a woman, but it is nowhere stated that, just because a man may prefer the intimacy of other men to that of women, that he is to be condemned!

A friend pointed out to me the other day that one does not need to experience anther's sexuality in order to be intimate with them ( although that is most often the case ); it is possible to share on a spiritual level without actually having sexual relations. Naturally speaking, it just doesn't seem right to most of us that a man ( or woman ) would prefer the companionship of a person of the same sex, but increasingly, that seems to be the case. On some levels, it seems that many such relationships are purely physical ( lustful and selfish-'any hole will do' ), but, but just as common, I believe, are those who have truly found an outlet for their love, one that is appreciated and shared, though it be a member of the same sex!

What does it really mean to love love your neighbor as yourself? What if our neighbor happens to be one who prefers the company ( intimacy ) of a person of the same sex? Can there truly be union between two members of the same sex? Can such a person ( or people ) enjoy intimacy with God? These, along with other questions, though there is One answer and One Truth, need to be discussed and answered in conjuction with the Word of God, and the Spirit within us!

Tlil then, and most importantly; love God with all your heart, mind, soul ( body ) and strength ( action ), and your neighbor as yourself!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Soaring in the Clouds!

'Heaven is my home, I'll get there 'by and by'.
Till I get there, I'll be workin' towards that 'great gig in the sky'!

You've prob'ly heard these words before, maybe even tried to guess the score;
But the score was written before time began, and though many have guessed at it, no one can!

Men are like clouds, they're chock full of rain, but try as they might, it's all done in vain!
The wind, as the Spirit, blows it's powerful gale, and so we know that He will always prevail!

The Spirit, like the wind, blows where He will, and like it or not, His purpose fulfill!
We always complain, when things go awry, but all is done well, in 'the sweet bye and bye'!

Blown by the Spirit, men are but clouds, and will they or won't they, His will always prevails!
Like it or not, we're blown by the Wind, and ever we know it, He's always our friend!

The Scriptures will tell us that clouds signal judgment, and that's universally true,
But when He cried 'It is finished', the judgment was passed; Adam was dead, we're into the Blue!

Many people ( okay, just a few ) have asked me over the years, why I photograph the clouds so much. In fact, one friend asked me just the other day what it was about clouds that attracts me to them, do they hold some significance for me? 

I really hadn't thought much about it lately, but the answer to my friend's question might best be found in these words: clouds remind me of people, but they don't talk back; clouds are be beautiful, and with the help of the wind, they're always changing! 

Clouds serve to remind us of many things, and one of those is that though it is true that, as David wrote in Psalm 104:3, 'He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters, Who makes the clouds His chariot, Who walks on the wings of the wind', He no longer rides them in judgment ( Ezekiel 30:3 ). He still, as in Deuteronomy 33:26, 'rides the heavens to help you, And in His excellency on the clouds', but we realize now, through the Revelation of His Son and His indwelling Spirit, that we are the clouds which He rode! It was and is through us, His people, His mighty ( yet weak ) creation, that He accomplishes His almighty will! 

We often do not like to acknowledge that in all things, His will is accomplished, His will is done! We like to split God's will into His revealed will ( as revealed in Scripture ) and His permissive will ( as revealed in the evil that men do ). I do not believe that we can or should try to do this, for in doing so, we ( vainly ) put  limitations on our Creator that are just not there! Who are we to say that the Creator of the universe would or would not do things in any certain way? Our God is the same God that commanded Israel ( under the 'first' covenant-Hebrews 8:7 ) to perpetrate genocide in the Land of Canaan ( ? ), the same jealous God who would kill a man ( Uzza-I Chronicles 13:9-11 ) who was only trying to help ( ?), and the very same God who told Moses, 'Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death' ( Exodus 19:12b )! Though people, like clouds, may be blown by the Spirit ( wind ) and thus 'changed', the Spirit itself, as the wind, does not change in essence, but wholly follows Its own course!

Let us soar as the 'clouds' that we are!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, April 19, 2013

Reality Versus Relativity

To a nation of moral relativists, what are three deaths compared to fifty thousand?

Anytime that innocents are killed, whether on purpose or accidentally, it is a great tragedy!  Any good American should be outraged at any person,  Muslim or not, foreigner or not, who dares to commit an act of terrorist aggression! Really, to any good person, American or not, Christian or not, feels at least a tinge of shame that another human being would dare do such a thing as to take the life of an innocent or even helpless person. But it happens every day! Not only do we see ( increasingly ) abominable events such as the infamous '9-11' and the most recent 'Boston Bombing', but statistically, around fifty thousand pre-born infants are murdered, usually in an even more abominable fashion!

With events such as this going on with increasing frequency, conspiracy theorists must be having a hey-day, not to mention the 'end-times' speculators and prognosticators. With moral relativism at an all-time high ( or is that 'low'? ), is it really any wonder that things like this happen all the time?

We are told, even by many professed followers of Jesus the Christ, that we each ( individually ) have, or must seek and find, our own truth. What is right, good and true for you, may not be what is right, good and true for me or for any other certain person. That there is such a thing as absolute truth may be professed by most Christians, but most do not act as if this is so. This is one reason we have so many denominational divisions within the Body of Christ, and why our founding fathers enacted the freedom of religion in this fledgling nation's new constitution!

The Reality is that Absolute Truth does exist, whether you accept this glorious fact or not! Theologically speaking ( especially ), where there is discord ( disagreement ) concerning the nature of God, which is what it all boils down to, if one person is right, then the other person is wrong! ( Very often, both are wrong! ) Too often, in today's society, mostly Western, but Eastern as well, it seems that the general consensus is that truth is relative, in an individual sense. What is wrong to one person may not seem wrong to another, for instance, the murder of innocent people! War, for just any reason ( the ends justify the means ) may seem just, good and right to one ( group of people ), while to another, it is the most abominable thing that one ( group ) could do to another!

Often, when we are offended and outraged by such events, it is because we are all too familiar with the motives behind them. There is a saying, 'but for the grace of God, there go I'. This can be applied, to some extent, to everyone! Some have a better control on their emotions and thus their actions, than others, but most people have a natural tendency to turn 'do into others as you would as you would have them do unto you', into 'do unto others as they do unto you', or even 'do what you feel ( is right )'!

Never minding what IS right; too many nowadays are quick to do what they feel is right, and hesitant to do what they KNOW is right! Moral relativism is so prevalent in Western society today that it's barely even noticed as such! It's taught religiously in the public ( government ) schools, it has pervaded our society in almost every area, and has even insidiously maneuvered itself into our pulpits!

Finally, and again, should we be outraged & offended when people, through whatever means, carelessly kill others, even innocent ( and helpless ) human beings? You bet; at the very least, it should aggravate our own sensibilities, but even more, these cowardly and abominable actions should convict us of our own cowardice! They should cause us to repent of former sins and to examine our own moral relativism !

May we, through the Power that dwells in us, use these opportunities to effect a great change in the 'world' around us, and society in general!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Jesus; Man of the Eschaton ( Shake & Bake )

Once more (it [ is ] a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations,[b] and I will fill this temple with glory.
Hosea 2:6 & 7

See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more [ shall we not escape ] if we turn away from Him who [ speaks ] from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, 
Yet once more I shake[h] not only the earth, but also heaven.”[i]  
Hebrews 12:26 & 27 

No question about it; Jesus WAS a Man! The fact that Jesus WAS God is also unquestionable ( John 8:58-'Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.', et al )! As surely as the Holy Spirit ( hagios pneuma ) was God, so Jesus, as the Son of Man, was the Son of God as well! The question before us today, and probably the base, though not realized maybe, of much disagreement within the Body of Christ today, is whether Jesus is still the God-man, or whether He, like the Holy Spirit ( paraklētos-comforter/advocate ), was simply an eschatological phenomenon, sent to comfort the people of God for a certain period of time, to fulfill a certain Purpose!?

Admittedly, this notion is quite unorthodox, at least, according to the accepted orthodoxy, and will likely be considered by most to be heretical! Many Christians, both believers in fulfilled eschatology ( preterists ) and futurists alike may disregard this notion outright, but some may begin to see that this is an implication of fulfilled eschatology.

There are many Scriptures to which one could turn to see that the historical Jesus was both man and God. A few are Romans 1:3 ( 'born of the seed of David according to the flesh' ), I John 4:2 ( 'Jesus Christ has come in the flesh' ), Matthew 4:7 ( 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God' ), and John 14:9 ( 'He who has seen Me has seen the Father' ). There is at least one notable passage in the Hebrew Scriptures, as well, that show the Fatherhood of the Son of Man, Isaiah 9:6; 'For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.'

We have explored the ridiculous notion before, that the historical Jesus, who was unquestionably a man of flesh, with all the necessary attributes ( Luke 24:39-'a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have' ), could inhabit a spiritual realm ( 'Heaven' ), and while this notion IS quite unreasonable, it is also beside the point! As a flesh and bone Man, Jesus was imbued with Power from on High before He entered upon His priestly ( earthly ) ministry. Luke wrote that, upon Jesus' symbolic baptism in water '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'. Now, whether or not this implies that the Man Jesus was not the Son of God before this is beyond the scope of this article, and will hopefully engender further discussion, but the point is that it is not recorded the the Spirit rested upon Him until this point in His earthly ministry!

Doubtless, then, there is a God-head ( at least least, eschatologically speaking ); Scriptures like Colossians 2:9 ( 'For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily' ) bear witness to this fact, but we, as believers in fulfilled eschatology today might ask ourselves whether this is still the case: is God 'three-in-one', as the doctrine of the Trinity simply states, or is He One in His People ( 'All in all'-I Corinthians 15:28 ), who are, corporately, the Son of God?!

Again, this not to try to lessen the impact of the historical Jesus ( 'Immanuel-God with us'- Matthew 1:23 ( Isaiah 7:14 ), but simply to propose that the doctrine of the Trinity, one of the most divisive doctrines in the world, might bear another look. How many people out there live righteously, loving their neighbor as themselves, and thus their God most of all, are shunned, or even worse, persecuted because they don't follow a doctrine that is not strongly mentioned in Scripture? With the advent of fulfilled eschatology, and the leaps in consistency which are being made, it is not too much of a stretch to propose that the Godhead, which, for eschatological purposes, was separated ( 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'-Matthew 27:46 ( Psalm 22:1 ); after that Purpose was fulfilled, became One again!

Let Us make man in Our image.......
Genesis 1:26 

Clearly, God is a 'plurality of unity'; God is not three separate Gods, as some propose, but from the plural usage in the above passage as well as others, we can see ( understand ) a relationship within the Godhead! This relationship, as many have found, is mirrored in Nature itself, as can be, or has been, explained, for example, in the Sun. The Sun can be seen to be a singular body, but there are unseen effects from it, both heat and light. Not being a scientist, I cannot give you a perfectly scientific explanation, but aside from that, we have no way, with the senses, to measure either of these effects quantitatively. We cannot, except for the blessing of science, tell why it is cold and dreary one day, and why it is warm and bright the next. We simply bask in the warmth of the Sun, work in its light, and rest when it lends its light to the other side of the world!

Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language......
Genesis 11:7 

Unless the translators of Scripture insidiously inserted these plural pronouns in certain places in their translations, there is definitely something going on here! Not a plurality of Gods, for there are numerous places, as well, where God either says out-right, as in the Shema, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one![a]' ( Deuteronomy 6:4 ) or implies, usually in the same passage ( Genesis 1:27-'So God created man in His own image' ) His singularity. There is no question; the Creator of the world and all things in it is One, but it is as obvious, from these and other Scriptures such as John 1:1-3 ( 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.' ) that He was, and is not, alone.

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.
John 14:23 

Here again, we have both the plural and singular pronouns, simply pointing to the fact that, as Jesus also said elsewhere, 'I and [ My ] Father are one'-John 10:30! Now that, as you have often read in these pages, God once again dwells in ( the midst of ) His people, we are not alone, as He is not alone! We may draw many conclusions from this, and throughout these writings and others probably, we have begun to explore the implications, but we have only begun to scratch the surface. Some, being braver then others, have adopted an heretical ( according to 'accepted orthodoxy' ) stance, while others, for various reasons and to varying degrees, have remained stagnant, not wishing to rock the boat or upset the apple-cart.

Whatever the case may be, let us conclude ourselves in this matter, realizing that we all have a long way to go ( infinitely ) to truly understand our relationship to and with God and each other! Most importantly, though, is to love God and our neighbor as ourselves, and to pursue the relationship that is patterned for us in the God-head! 

Every spirit that does not confess that[a] Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.
I John 4:3

As with many other such statements in Scripture, this was most surely of an eschatological nature. Was Jesus God Himself? Doubtless! Is God a man? As surely opposite, 'No!' Though Jesus was a Man, it is undeniable that He ( God ) came in the flesh to fulfill one eschatological purpose. With the fulfillment of that purpose, though the Son of God retains His glory as  one and the same as God the Father ( John 14:9 ), Jesus, as a man, is no longer, except through His people.

In conclusion then, having explored this before and drawn my own conclusions; I will end here and encourage each of you to be a good Berean, and to draw your own conclusions, as the Body of Christ; Amen!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, April 15, 2013

On the Road Again? ( Preterism or Covenant Eschatology? )

There is no doubt in my mind that the Fulfilled Eschatology aspect, at least, of what has come to be known as 'preterism' is both true to and honest with the Scriptures. As this belief becomes more wide-spread and mainstream ( yes, I said 'mainstream' ); it has become as widely varied in its many facets as say, dispensationalism. In fact, some opponents of preterism like to accuse preterists of being dispensational. I believe that this may be founded, and even have a firm foundation in the fact that many preterists have rejected, or are just plain ignorant of, the covenantal aspect of Scripture. Much baggage, I believe, still has a tenacious hold on many preterists, most notably, maybe, the notion that the two main covenants, the 'first', of which we read in Hebrews 8:7, and the 'new' Covenant, of whom we read in places like Jeremiah 31:31 ( Isaiah 42:6, 49:8 ), were different in their make-up, in that one was a covenant of works, whereas the other is a covenant of grace.

Grace has always been the primary aspect of the covenant!

This truth has always been, at the least, in the back of my mind. Recently though, it was brought fully to the fore-front, by comments like, 'even the Ten Commandments start with grace; 'I am the Lord your God who brought you out.........', and even by my own remembrance that God's very creation of 'Adam', or the covenant, was an act of grace, which remembrance was jogged by my friend's comment. The grace of God, if you honestly review Israel's history, even through the eyes of the ( Mosaic ) Law, was always active! Sure; you would be cut off from the children of Israel if you committed certain acts, but if you repented of your sin and offered the sacrifice that God required ( which was a figure of the the sacrifice of the Christ ), you would be forgiven. God, in His grace and mercy, provided even then, a way for men to return to His the blessings of the covenant! The writer to the Hebrews ( 9:12 ) wrote of this figure; 'Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption', and, as he wrote earlier ( 7:27 ), speaking of this same Jesus, 'who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself'. Not only was the grace of God present under the 'first covenant', the grace of God was prevalent; as long as there was a priest to offer up sacrifices; grace was shown to the children of Israel!

Some people, I know, have a problem with the terminology that we, as covenantal preterists use; for instance, the very term 'covenant' or 'covenantal' itself. There is a tendency, as with any doctrine where mere finite human beings are involved, for it ( whatever 'it' may be ) to become an 'ism': therein, I believe, lies much of the problem. We are inbred with an attitude of, 'if man has anything to do with it, it must be wrong, or corrupt, at the very least!' Another way it might be put is, 'we know that man is corruptible, so anything he espouses is suspect': in this way, the proverbial baby is thrown out with the bathwater. Because something has the propensity to be used, or understood, wrongly, we should just discard the whole idea. Several former preterists seem to have done this. Part of the problem, maybe the largest, as I see it, is that the truth of fulfilled eschatology has been approached apart from a good understanding of the covenant that God instituted, that God Himself maintains with His people.

I know that covenant eschatology is nothing new, but too often it stops there, with many rubbing their aching foreheads, saying 'What now?' This, even, is nothing new, for there are many out there, in one way or another, that have tried to provide the answer to this question. Some have done an admirable job, but others have gone off the deep end, saying that 'since all Scripture is fulfilled; we don't need it any longer, it's no longer applicable anyway, right?', even going so far as to say that Christ did away with the Law when He fulfilled it at the cross. Without the understanding that the Scriptures are a covenant document, and that we are a covenant people; it is easy to see where these people might have gotten those ideas.

There can be no doubt that Scripture does, in our modern translations ( 1611- ), anyway, speak of two main covenants; the writer of Hebrews terms the Mosaic Covenant ( given through Moses ) the 'first' ( covenant ), but you may note there, that the word covenant ( at least in the NKJV ) is italicized, and thus not in the original Greek, and likely somewhat ambiguous, so to speak. We have traditionally call this the Old Covenant, as opposed to the New. Is the iteration given through Moses, though, actually opposed to that which came through, and indeed, in the form of the incarnate Son of God, Jesus, who was the Christ?

Paul wrote, in Colossians 2:14 ( which many like to use in their defense ), that Jesus 'wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us'. Is this really to say that we no longer need to keep the Law? We can now worship other gods, we can murder, steal, covet ( even take ) our neighbor's wife? Of course not! Anyone with an ounce of sense would immediately say 'Why, that's just crazy: utterly ridiculous!' Some people just don't think these things out! The key word here, I believe, besides 'wiped' out', is 'against'. Jesus ( God ) took away that part that was 'against' us. Again, to clarify this statement, lest someone think that I am purporting that He did remove part of the Law, remember that the language of the Bible is somewhat ambiguous, what with the inserted words ( for clarification ). What, according to Scriptures like James 4, was 'against' us, or rather, them? James said 'You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet[a] you do not have because you do not ask': that was, and still is, the problem! The Law was not the problem; rather, as the writer to the Hebrews explained ( 8:8 ), God found fault with His people! It was His people that were the problem! Paul, who persecuted the Church of God before he was 'startled' on the road to Damascus, recognized that 'the law [ is ] holy, and the commandment holy and just and good' ( Romans 7:12 ). Yes, you may say; the Law was/is contrary to us, therefore that must be what Jesus took away'! Well; Paul did say that  Jesus took away, 'wiped out' what was contrary to us, but what exactly did he say was contrary to us ( not to our fallen nature, but to our rebellious human nature )? Not the Law itself, but rather, 'the handwriting of requirements'. I return to this passage a good bit, and some might roll their eyes at me, but in Ezekiel 36:26, God promised His people that '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', and later, in His promise of the New Covenant ( Jesus ), 'I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts'. Remember how the original Ten Commandments ( the Law ) were written with the hand of God on tablets of stone? Now God would remove the tablets of stone on which the Law was written, which was contrary to them, and instead, write the Law on their hearts, in their minds; no more was the Law as un-yielding as stone, now it was written on something pliable, something conformable!   But I digress.......

As I was saying; a good understanding of the Covenant, I believe, is what is lacking in many of those who oppose the glorious doctrine of fulfilled eschatology, whether they are futurists, as they have always been, or whether they have tasted the fruit of fulfillment and have fallen away!

I believe, as I have written in several articles and mentioned in discussion, that there is but one Covenant. There has been only ever, since the foundation of the world, one Covenant! Right away, some will likely say 'Whoah; stop right there!' The Bible is very clear that there were any number ( ranging up to 8 or so, I believe ), you might say, of covenants that YHWH made with certain men, in particular, Adam, Noah, Abraham, etc., all the way up to David.  What might be a better statement, and a truer one, is that YHWH renewed the covenant with each of these men. These renewals, as you might say, these covenants, all pointed toward the greater Covenant, the Covenant of Whom all these others were but types and shadows!

Some others will object to the idea of a seemingly one-side covenant. Well, I would reply, it's not really one-sided, and here, my friend, is where we might get into the whole Calvinism vs. Arminianism, Sovereignty of God vs. free-will battle. I have come to realize and understand that, though the One Covenant ( from the 'creation' of Adam ), though this covenant was instituted by God alone; it is not a one-sided thing! As under the 'first' covenant, that which the writer to the Hebrews, and other Gospel writers talked about, and which was instituted under Moses ( a type of Christ ); so under the New, which is fulfilled in Jesus the Christ, we are expected to live by His Law. Jesus told His disciples, which we are, in John 14:15, 'If you love Me, keep[d] My commandments'. The Law has not been abrogated, the requirements, as some might suppose, were not even changed; in that sense then, it was the people of God that were changed, as Paul wrote, in I Corinthians 15:52. Lest some think I'm advocating some type of replacement theology here, the people of God were not exchanged for a different set of people; I believe that God's chosen people have always been the same people, so to speak, from both Jew and Gentile nations. The 'change' that I'm speaking of, and that Paul wrote of was a spiritual one, that of 'Christ in you, the hope of glory' (  Colossians 1:27 ). This was a future hope for them, but we have the presence of God, through Christ!

Some preterists, those who have seen the truth of fulfilled eschatology, but without a proper covenantal basis, have taken preterism to its extreme, either that, or turned their back on it, because it's not viewed as orthodox by those who should know ( sound familiar? )! Those without a proper understanding of the covenant have, as I described earlier, come up with presuppositions based on the idea that if all Scripture is fulfilled, then it should be done away with, it has no applicability for us. We no longer must obey the Law, because Jesus accomplished it all for us, and of course, 'wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us'. This, of course, is beyond ridiculous, as I've already explained, but this just goes to show where fulfillment without covenant can lead. We are the covenant people of God, we have always been the covenant people of God, and we will always be the covenant people of God!


Let me explain a little bit here; I am not, by any means, saying that our individuality should go out the window since we, 'being many, are one body' ( although certain aspects of it should ). The marriage bond, at its basis, is identical to the covenant between us and God, for as God said in Genesis 2:24, 'they shall become one flesh'. Now we know that when a man and a woman are joined in marriage, they do not actually become one body, or one person. They are both individuals, one a male and one a female, with different ( and inter-locking ), but complimentary parts. But this is the analogy that Paul uses of Christ and the Church in Ephesians 5:32. Though we have become One with Christ, having joined Him in the spiritual marriage covenant, we are still individuals. We all have differing gifts, different parts, and when we work together as One Body, which we are, regardless, it is a beautiful thing; God is glorified, and we experience heaven on earth!

One aspect that I have noticed about this individualism, and maybe especially when it comes to those who espouse preterism, or fulfilled eschatology ( or those who used to ), is that there is a tendency to think, 'what does this mean for me?' ( sometimes to the point of, 'what can I get away with?' ), rather than, 'what does it mean for us?' As the covenant people of God; we now experience, and live with God on a daily basis! This could be a frightening, and at the very least is, a humbling fact! If we live according to His Law of Love, and not our own, things have a tendency to work in our favor, as we strive together, in communion with Him and His people, but when we live according to our own law of love ( feelings ), and individualistically ( 'no man is an island' ) strike out on our own; things tend to go the other way. When we live without, or outside of communion with the Body, what is supposed to work together often ends up not working at all, especially not the way it's supposed to!

There's no good 'ism' except a 'prism'!

Man, bu his very nature, corrupts that which he controls! This is a well-known fact! No matter how good his intentions, left to his own devices, man will always prove that 'power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely'! One has only to look the many examples we have, written down for us in the pages of Scripture, and in our own nations history to confirm the veracity of this statement!

You may have noticed that this 'ism' is attached to many doctrines and subjects today; there's, of course, two very notable ones, Calvinism and Arminianism: there's Lutheranism, Pentecostalism, Presbyterianism, Americanism, baptism ( woops, how'd that one get in there? ), creedalism, trinitarianism, and many other 'isms' which, while not necessarily wrong at their basis, have been corrupted by the influence of certain men! Even 'preterism' has not gotten away scot-free; some have begun to look at this doctrine as the end-all, and have become corrupted in their comfort! There are so many versions of 'preterism' out there today, that it has become almost as laughable and ridiculous as the very 'ism' it proposes to squelch; dispensationalism!

Most recent maybe, and close to my heart, is that of so-called baptismal preterists as opposed to so-called anti-baptismal preterists. One believes in the continuation of water baptism as a necessary entrance into the covenant, the other doesn't believe that this sign ( outward/inward ) is a necessary part of covenant-keeping, especially taking into account its eschatological nature! The disagreement here is not over whether to, or not to submit to the waters of judgment; the issue is over baptism itself! What is baptism? Can washing your body in water save you? It may seem, from prophetic passages like II Kings 5 that it can, but any serious student of Scripture should be able to see that these outward actions were only significant of the work of God in their hearts. These rituals pointed to the True, which came in the form of the Messiah of Israel!

'Isms', while not necessarily wrong in themselves, can be used wrongly, and can become dangerous to their adherents! If believers in Fulfilled, or Covenant Eschatology continue to inconsistently apply the principles of preterism, and thus create more 'isms' within 'isms', the focus will be taken off the Kingdom we are supposed to be advancing and onto our pet 'ism'! May this NEVER be!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The ( fulfilled ) Hope of Glory

Do not let your heart be troubled. You trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places; if that were not the case, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am, there you may be also.
John 14:1-3 ( MR-INT

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him.
John 14:23 ( MR-INT ) 

μονή ( monē ), unlike in many more traditional versions, is translated more correctly above as 'dwelling places', in fact, my favored translation ( NKJV ) has a note to this effect, although the translators still ( stubbornly ) rendered it 'mansions'!  Most interpretations of Jesus' words in the beginning of this passage ( ' I go and prepare a place for you' ) that I have heard are to the effect that Jesus has prepared a place for us in some remote 'place' ( 'Heaven' ), from which He will ( futurist ) come and take us to Himself. As we have 'already' seen, though, in several different articles, not only is the same Greek word translated differently by these translators in these two passages, but the dwelling that He went to prepare was us! The New Jerusalem Bible more correctly translates the first part of verse 3 as 'after I have gone and prepared you a place'. This does not necessarily mean, linguistically, that the place He went to prepare was us ( His People ) but, reading the rest of the chapter, especially, and leading up to verse 23, it is not a stretch to ascertain and affirm that that is what He referred to! The fact that there are many 'dwellings' in our Father's house speaks of the Body of Christ, of which there are many members!

The argument has been made before, based on the latter passage and like references, that God once again dwells with His people, indeed that they ( we ) are His New Temple. Here again, we run into the tendency toward individualism. Is it true that the Spirit of God dwells ( individually ) within each and every one of His people? I dare say that this is an accurate statement, but, when taking into account that many Christians say that God cannot dwell with sin; we run into a bit of a problem! We know that even the best of us 'lapses' every once in a while, so questions like 'does the Presence of God leave a Christian when/if he sins?' What a thought! Thinking like this might lead one to wonder if he is a Christian at all, or even if he must be 'born again' every time he makes a bad decision! You might also wonder if this is not much of the philosophical impetus behind the futurist paradigm.

If God dwells in us, why does it seem like He is so far away sometimes? I know that many Christians out there probably ask themselves ( and God ) this question at certain times during their lives! 'Individualism' has long fingers! Because God dwells in His people, when we distance ourselves, for whatever reason, from His people, in that sense then, we have distanced ourselves from God! This is not to say that this person has, in reality, been separated from the Presence of God, but in actuality, it is in the fellowship and communion of the family of God that we sensibly experience His Presence!

Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Colossians 1:27c

Reading our English Bible, it is easy to where this idea ( individualism ) might come from. Unless one reads Scriptures like this in the context of the covenantal nature of The Story, as well as keeping in mind the plural tense of the language used, the tendency ( not necessarily wrong ) is to apply these words to individual Christians. When we do this, we often gloss over the fact that Jesus said, for instance, in Luke's Gospel ( 17:21 ),  'The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’[d] For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you'. These words were spoken to the Pharisees, so from an individualistic point of view, it almost sounds as if Jesus was telling those unbelieving Pharisees that they were vessels of His glorious Kingdom!

Christ is undoubtedly in Spirit, dwelling within His people, although His love is not always readily evident from their attitude and conversation! Paul wrote, in his letter to the Romans ( 8:30 ), 'Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified'. As we have discussed before, we sure don't 'feel', all the time, like we are 'Glorified Beings', but we must remember in this context also, that it is not individuals, though that may be discussed, so much as it is the people of God, as a whole, a corporate Body ( 'Corpus Christi' )that has been made glorious!

With the realization of 'Christ in you'; let us never forget that the apostle ( Paul ) also wrote, 'For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also [ is ] Christ' ( I Corinthians 12:12 ). Though we are 'members individually'; we must remember that we are not alone! James wrote, 'as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also'. With that necessary communion between the members of the Body of Christ, in covenant union, we will not thrive, and will not long survive!

We, as God's people, are glorious, and while we should show that glorification in our lives, we must keep in mind that is His Body, not individuals, that He has glorified! If/when we forget this, we'll go 'bonkers' trying to BE glorious!

Glorying in His Presence,
Charles Haddon Shank


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Who Owns Marriage?

 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.
Ephesians 5:25

Signed into law by none other than Bill Clinton, on September 21st, 1996, The Defense of Marriage Act, put forth by Georgia Representative Bob Barr, was a bill, among other things maybe, to protect state's rights. Although it seems that Rep. Barr had good intentions in authoring this 'bill'; at the very out-set, he launched his plan based on a completely false assumption!

'In the beginning', God brought Eve ( not Steve ) to Adam. Although this point has been discussed before, sometimes to death, this is not the focus of this article, nor even of the Defense of Marriage Act. As the Creator of all, and especially of marriage, if anyone has authority over, or owns the institution of marriage, it would be God, you'd think, but most people, Christians even, seem to think that state and federal governments hold this authority. They do not have this authority!

If husbands would love their wives as Paul said, 'as Christ loved the Church', then we would see a lot less divorce. This would be a real defense of marriage act, and one that is Scriptural!

To read the implications, both financial and ethical, of the state or federal marriage license, is like reading a horrible comic strip! The state government of Montana made this statement regarding marriage; 'Marriage is a personal relationship between a man and a woman arising out of a civil contract to which the consent of the parties is essential. A marriage licensed, solemnized, and registered as provided in this chapter is valid in this state. A marriage may be contracted, maintained, invalidated, or dissolved only as provided by the law of this state.' To any real follower of Jesus Christ, this should sound very wrong! A marriage is 'a personal relationship between a man and a woman', yes, but it does not arise out of any civil or social contract, especially not for the Christian. For another thing; marriage, a true marriage, is not by contract, but by covenant!

To make matters even worse, here is an excerpt from a brochure put out by Montana's Human Resource Development on 'The Legal and Financial Implications of Marriage'; 'When you become one of the 13,000 Montanans who marry each year, you enter into a legal contract. There are three parties to that contract; you, your spouse, and the state of Montana'. ( For more information, go here ) Interestingly enough, this information, as far as I could tell, is no longer available ( scroll down to page 7 on 'Marriage & Families' ) to the public: does that tell you anything about its insidious nature?!

Marriage, especially for the believer in Christ, was instituted by God. Others may argue that it is a human institution, and thus, subject to human laws, but for the Christian, there should be no question as to Who has authority over marriage!

Marriage, never minding the modern dictionary definitions of the term, is the union, the making of one out of two individuals ( in a purely spiritual sense ), a covenant where an agreement is made between the two parties to live together as God intended, and to devote their lives to each other and to the Kingdom of God. The contractual nature of today's 'marriage' is akin to placing oneself under the law, again! The main reason, among others, that divorce is so prevalent, and easily obtained in today's society, even Christian society, sadly, is that it has been traditionally, or commonly viewed as a contract, rather than the covenant it is! 'If he/she doesn't keep his/her part of the bargain, then I'm not constrained to keep mine'; 'if he/she does such and such, I can, by rights, do this and that'! Does this sound like laying down your life for your wife?! No; it does not!

The best way to defend marriage is not by asking our state or federal government to pass a law to that effect; the best way to defend marriage, first of all, is to enter into it by covenant, and second, to love your spouse as Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for her! This is the only true defense of marriage act, and the only Scriptural one!

If Christian husbands and wives would hear and heed this most important fact ( mea culpa ); the Body of Christ itself ( or Herself ) would suffer much less harm, and Christianity would have a much greater impact on society! Let us all, no matter our past history, begin to do as Jesus ( the Christ ) did, live as He lived, and lay our lives down ( on a daily basis ) for the wife of our youth!

Amen, and Amen!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, April 08, 2013

The Temptations of Jesus

Is 'Satan' Real?

Not having researched this much lately, but having done so in the past, I can say, with some certainty, that there is quite a bit of information out there, on both ends of the spectrum, about whether or not our adversary is a real, though supernatural ( spirit ) being ! Having, as well, written a bit on the subject myself, I will simply refer my readers to a previous article that I wrote a few years ago.

As this is probably one of the most controversial passages in the Gospels when it comes to showing how the ( Scriptural ) adversary or tempter was simply either the first-century Judaizers or ones own ( adamic ) nature; the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, recorded in Matthew 4:1-11, and Mark 1:12 & 13, will be our primary focus in this study. You may find, as we have in the past, that most, if not all Scriptural references to this adversary are of a natural ( human ) one, and that when referring to a super-natural being, as has been pointed out, are God, or Yahweh Himself!

Comments have been made to this notion that implying that these famous passages refer to anything but a supernatural occurrence are akin to saying that Jesus was being tempted by His own ( human ) nature! Though this may not be out of the question ( a horrifying, not to mention heretical idea to most ); this is not the point of the Gospel's relation.

We must remember that, while we can glean certain universal truths from the Gospels, they were primarily about the Revelation of Jesus as the true King of Israel, and the Good News of the establishment of His Kingdom! One can ascertain from even a cursory study of the Hebrew ( Old Testament ) Scriptures, that every good king of Israel underwent, in different ways and at different times, a temptation, one which either strengthened or weakened his kingdom. This King was no different! But He was different! This King, unlike all the previous kings of Israel, was not just another Man; He was also the Son of God, and thus had the ability to withstand these temptations!

Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. 
 And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts.
And the angels ministered to Him.
Mark 1:12 & 13

Matthew's account agrees with Mark's, but for some reason, Matthew goes into more detail. Most familiarly, this account is known as 'the temptation in the wilderness', although by Matthew's account, not every one of the three temptations takes place in the actual desolation of the wilderness. This should be noted as significant, as well as the symbolic period of Jesus' ( forced? ) fast. Keep in mind that God, through the prophet Hosea, said 'out of Egypt I called My son' ( Hosea 11:1b ( Matthew 2:15 ); remember that they too, were consigned to the wilderness for a symbolic, though no doubt actual period as well. As Israel was led by the Spirit through the wilderness for forty years, fed with Manna from heaven, so the Son of God was driven by the spirit, without bread or water, to undergo His temptation, as the true Israel of Hosea's prophecy. As the true King of Israel, Jesus underwent this temptation, just as every other king of Israel faced his own temptation. There is one noticeable difference, though, in the outcomes of these temptations, because Jesus was not just the Son of Man; He was the Son of God!

If you are at all familiar with my musings, you will remember, hopefully, that this word 'satan' in the Hebrew, simply means 'adversary'. It is the English translators who have assigned this name to some supernatural spirit-being that has set himself up against his Creator. About this creature, the apostle Paul wrote that  he 'transforms himself into an angel of light' ( II Corinthians 11:14 ). We must remember, even here though, that 'angel' simply means 'messenger'!

The 'adversary' that the first-century church faced was, first of all, the Jews, or Judaizers, those who opposed the truth that their history was significant of His story, and was simply meant, as Paul also wrote, as a tutor to [ bring them to ] Christ. To say that Matthew's account of the temptation in the wilderness is a metaphorically told ( not unheard of in Eastern literature ) history of the event is to most, almost blasphemous. 'The Bible even says that it was the 'devil', you might hear! Here's where a passing knowledge of the metaphorical and symbolic ( hyperbolic ) nature of the literature of the Ancient Near East comes in handy, as well. Even today, in our western culture, mere men are often referred to as 'devils' or 'demons'; much moreso, I believe, in Eastern cultures!

To use Matthew 4 and Mark 1 as proof of the existence of this supposed arch-enemy of God is to miss the whole point of the story! That Jesus was driven ( think Genesis 3 ) into the wilderness to endure His temptation ( which incidentally, follows almost exactly John's list in I John 2:16 ), should immediately remind us of how God led His beloved son, Israel, out of Egypt and through the wilderness prior to entering His promised land of rest. The temptations that Jesus overcame during His period of testing were not unlike the temptations to which the children of Israel succumbed to ( repeatedly ) during their wanderings.

Going out on a limb here; the point of the Gospel writer's references to 'satan', the 'devil', or 'demons' was not to prove the existence of some supernatural spirit-being, or even to acknowledge such an existence; it was to remind that 'generation' ( Matthew 24:34, et al. ) of their own history, how they had acted as 'satans', 'devils' and 'demons' throughout that history, and especially how they, in a much worse way than Peter ( Matthew 16:23 ), were the personification of the 'Satan' that they themselves feared!

Again; 'is 'satan' real?'

Yes and ( resoundingly ) 'NO'! As the ( corporate ) adversary of God's people, the Jews, those who didn't accept their Messiah, anyway, were destroyed in the first century, and their ascendancy was removed with the destruction of their Temple in 70AD. Are there still adversaries ( satans ) to the people of God? In actuality, we face many temptations ( James 4:1 ), although in reality, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God, those temptations are not adversarial in the sense of those in the first century.

If you have ever read the deutero-canonical book of Tobit, you may see a glimpse of how steeped the Jewish and Near Eastern culture was in that kind of lore, and then, as I remember, reading all of the Greek mythologies ( which were often 'tall tales' based in reality, more or less ), you may begin to piece together an explanation of how we got our Bible, with its frightening pictures and stories of supernatural spirit-beings like devils and demons. Some of the stories that are related in the Scripture, the demons entering the herd of swine, for instance ( Matthew 8:28-34 ) may seem just as hard, or even harder to explain as anything but supernatural occurrences, but a basic knowledge of that sort of literature ( ANE ), together with the knowledge and understanding that much of what we read in our Bibles is based on a faulty or poor translation of the original tongues, it is not really that much of a stretch to assert these events as more or less natural and eschatological in nature.

In conclusion, then, when reading of 'the temptations of Jesus', whether you are tempted to believe that He was tested by His own humanity, that He was opposed by some Pharasaical Jews, or whether this was a supernatural event; to focus on any of these possibilities is, as we saw, to miss the whole point! We must not miss the point of this story if we are to understand THE Story, His Story! It is a story in which we take part, usually on a daily basis, and because of Jesus' Reversal of the Curse, we too overcome temptations, those adversaries that we face everyday!

Because we have become the New Temple, the Throne, and the Chariot of God, we have the Power!

Charles Haddon Shank