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Full Preterism and the Church

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By SuperSoulFighter - Posted on 10 April 2005

by John McPherson
This is an article I published here a year or so ago, but it was somehow lost from the archives. I feel that the re-introduction of it now, would be both timely and beneficial in relation to the clarification of certian ecclesiological issues currently being debated among us.This is an article I published here a year or so ago, but it was somehow lost from the archives. I feel that the re-introduction of it now, would be both timely and beneficial in relation to the clarification of certian ecclesiological issues currently being debated among us.Those (including myself) who subscribe to the Fulfilled Eschatology position, hold a uniquely historical perspective on the Scriptures and the entities revealed therein. This perspective guides the hermeneutical approach of the Full Preterist (FP hereafter) exegete. The goal is to read and understand the text from the viewpoint of one of the original recipients of the written revelation of God – the Holy Scriptures. This is accomplished in large measure by careful, rigorous analysis of the text itself via cross-referencing passages and individual verses with other texts in both Testaments. The result is a thoroughly contextual understanding of any given portion of Scripture, in both the most immediate and broadest senses. Historical relevance is paramount, and personal application is a far lower priority than with most futurists (including Partial Preterists).


In terms of the subject at hand in this article, “the church” (Gk. “ekkleisia”) has no clear textual support in terms of its perpetuation as an entity for time indefinite, beyond the First Century era (pre-70 AD in particular). The passages dealing with “church structure” and authority, as well as the goal and hope of “the church”, in its various metaphorical incarnations as both “the Body” and “the Bride” of Christ are clearly time-limited in nature, and have as their focus the saints of the NT period of history. A very specific number of people/saints were “elected” to make up the membership of that foundational generation of the New Covenant Kingdom of Christ. THEY were the “Body of Christ” and His “Bride”. WE are not. As FPs, we believe that the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb” and His “Bride” occurred @ AD 70. There is, of course, ample evidence of the fulfillment of ALL prophecy in the Scriptures at this time, and it is not the goal of this article to elaborate on the fundamentals of this position. However, it is instructive to note that the metaphor of “the Bride” is directly associated with this historically accomplished event, and thus it is plain that this spousal metaphor has no application to any corporate gathering of the saints today (within the FP paradigm).


Likewise, “the Body of Christ” was composed of various specific saints of that period fulfilling clearly defined roles within their local gatherings and memberships. Those roles were defined by the HOLY SPIRIT, who was uniquely outpoured upon THEM. That outpouring was for the pre-AD 70 period of New Covenant Kingdom history and has no direct relationship to or parallel within our experience as saints of the Kingdom today.


The “burden of proof” in terms of substantiating either the position presented above or the one commonly held among the adherents of “Churchianity” today lies upon the latter group. The traditional, natural understanding of ANY historical literary work involves applying the injunctions pertaining to entities of that period to those directly identified within that text. One cannot read the works of Tertullian, Aristotle, Eusebius, Origen, Socrates, Confucious, and others and assume that they relate directly to entities and circumstances of our time. Even great thinkers and theorists in more recent times spoke and wrote from the perspective of their OWN historical period. The propositions of Marx, Darwin, Hegel and other nineteenth-century theorists were limited to projections and scenarios derived from entities existent and influential in THEIR day. They built on the concepts and paradigms of their contemporaries, as well as those who had gone before. Thus, to truly understand their writing and thinking, a certain amount of careful research must be done to determine WHAT the influential entities and paradigms of that era WERE.


Likewise, a rigorously historical approach to the text of the Scriptures provides us with a more accurate understanding of the ORIGINAL INTENT of the Word of God, in accordance with the nuances and inferences popular and familiar in the day in which it was revealed. The primary concern of the modern exegete must be “What did God intend to communicate to the original recipients of this text?” NOT “What did/does God want to communicate to me?”


In Hebrews 8:6-13, we read the following, “6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 8 Because finding fault with them, He says: "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-- 9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." 13 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. “ (NKJV).


Two things are readily apparent in the immediate context of this passage. First, the New Covenant and the People having their origins in it are under consideration (see vss. 6,7). The “house of Israel and the house of Judah” references the New Covenant People (Spiritual) who had their origins in that Covenant. The original members of the New Covenant Kingdom of Christ were, of course, primarily Israelites/Jews. The New Testament Christians (and those who would be their descendants, spiritually) were the “house of Israel and Judah” who are the focus of this passage. Second, the nature of the Covenant as described in vss.10-12 specifies the CHRISTIAN’S experience with God, directly, via interaction with His Spirit and Word.


Note VERY carefully that v.11 CLEARLY indicates there is no longer any need for teachers/preachers within this New Covenant Kingdom. The “provisional church structure” of the New Testament period was evidently intended to pass away when the Old Covenant Nation was terminated forever (70 AD). The NT Church was uniquely provided to THOSE saints for maintenance of the fledgling faith in its fetal stages, as a “spiritual incubator” of sorts. When the intense persecutions of the Great Tribulation of those days were brought to an end, the need for any kind of formally structured “religious body” meeting together regularly also passed away. As that which was “obsolete” actually “vanished away” (v.13), so did the need for a “church”.



Christ Himself, in comparing the attitudes and inner qualities of those aspiring to leadership in His Kingdom with the despotic, tyrannical tendencies of the Phrarisees had this to say:


“8 But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. 11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matt. 23:8-12, NKJV).


These injunctions mesh perfectly with the stated intent of God with respect to His emerging Spiritual Kingdom, in Hebrews 8. God, ultimately, desired (and still desires) a “leaderless” Kingdom (in terms of human leadership). He wants the Kingdom to be characterized by self-sacrificial service to one another and those around us, on a very basic, interpersonal level. The huge “church” budgets and buildings of today are, quite simply, outside of God’s perfect Plan for His People today, as the spiritual descendants of the original “house of Israel and Judah”.


In 1Cor. 15:24-28, we find that ALL rule, authority and power involved with the Old Covenant "Kingdom" (including CHRIST'S OWN, as YHWH of OC Israel) was made subject to the sole authority of the Godhead, as God alone rules and governs the New Covenant Kingdom of Heaven WITHOUT human agencies co-governing and ruling under His jurisdiction as "undershepherds" or anything else of that nature. All First Century Church authority, rule and power designations passed from this realm with the establishment of the eternal Kingdom of Heaven here. Thus, the Scriptures do not permit us to falsely assign titles such as "pastor", "bishop", "elder", or any other such term to anyone attempting to assume a role of spiritual authority over someone else in our day. Nor is the "ekklesia" or "church" a term having any relevance to fellowship gatherings today.


Let’s re-commit ourselves to determining the primary, originally intended interpretation/application of the Scriptures as understood by their original “target audience”. Only in this kind of approach is God’s glory truly manifested in His historical revelation of Himself via His interactions with His People, in ancient history. And let’s remain true to God’s original intent in providing us with the written revelation of Himself that we have today.


Serving the Truth,


John McPherson

SuperSoulFighter's picture

I will be away for a couple of days, but will be back Sunday evening (most likely) and will do my best to get that promised article published here at that time. I know several people are waiting for my latest material concerning the Biblical nature of our current spiritual experience (which is almost finished), so I will present it at that time, on my return.

Thanks for your patience, folks! Many of you (with one notable exception) had some very good, insightful comments to make here, and those are appreciated.

Parker's picture

The idea that the Church became extinct on the earth at AD 70 is patently false, both biblically and historically. Scripture clearly teaches no such thing, and history shows that the apostolic churches existed right on through AD 70 to AD 71, AD 72, etc. etc..

In addition, it is impossible to separate those first "called out ones" from their promised reward: the Kingdom. It is their Kingdom and not ours according to scripture (Mt 16:18-19; Mt. 25:33-34) -- that is, if we consistenly apply McPherson's hermeneutic. It is a glaring inconsistency that the author teaches an extinction of the Church on earth at AD 70 but not an extinction of their just reward on earth at AD 70. Obviously, the promised reward exists where the elect Church exists--and it resides there with them alone. If the Church exists only in God's transcendent heaven, then the reward (the Kingdom) exists only in heaven as well. Certainly the Kingdom would then have nothing to do with us some 20 centuries later. The author needs to be consistent.

Finally, John McPherson is seriously confused about the way the "burden of proof" works. When the status quo of scripture teaches the existence of the Church on earth, the burden of proof is on the author to produce clear scripture references that say the Church no longer exists on earth (or would no longer exist on earth). Such no such scriptures exist, we know that McPherson's entire thesis is based on his personal conjectures and wishes, not upon scripture.

Perhaps the most grievous errors McPherson makes in the article are demonstrated in his mishandling of scripture. It would appear that McPherson mistakenly regards Hebrews 8:6-13 as a post-AD 70 reality. It most certainly speaks of a pre-AD 70 reality. Note that the New Covenant there was already established and the ministry obtained (Heb 8:6), and the apostles were already ministering within that new covenant framework (2 Cor 3:6). Note that while the covenant was made with the houses of Israel and Judah (Heb 8:8), that covenant is eternal (Heb 13:20) and also includes the gentiles (Eph 3:6; 2:11-16; Gal 3:8-9, 14). Note that the claim that God's laws would be written in their minds and hearts (Heb 13:10) was a pre-AD 70 reality (2 Cor 3:3,6; Romans 2:14-15). Note that God had become their God and they his people (Heb 8:10) prior to AD 70 (2 Cor 6:16; 1 Peter 2:10).

Furthermore, the injunction about not needing teachers to teach (Heb 8:11) relates to people who are already taught, not to those that have never heard or who haven't learned well (Heb 5:12). A person who already knows true doctrine needn't be taught again (Heb 5:12-14). We also should carefully notice that this reality about "knowing God from the heart" spoken about in Hebrews 8:11 preexisted way back at the Babylonian exile when the Lord God said unto the exiles through Jeremiah: Thus says the LORD God of Israel, `Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans. For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and ... I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.' (Jer 24:5-7)

So we see that McPherson has plainly erred in viewing Heb 8:6-13 as a POST-AD 70 reality. The passage clearly spoke of PRE-AD 70 realites and blessings, and parts of the experience were even common to the exiles of Babylon nearly 600 years before AD 70. Therefore we understand that the New Covenant Church is not somehow made obsolete by Hebrews 8:6-13, and for sure the injunction about not needing a teacher depends on one's already having been taught well (Hebrews 5:12).

As we might expect by now, the author has blundered elswhere, particularly in his interpretation of Matt. 23:8-12 (injunction against looking to men as "teacher" or "father") -- the apostles plainly did not share McPherson's bizarre conclusion that Jesus there spoke of the elimination of teachers and fathers of the faith (see: 1 Cor 4:15-17; Heb 5:12).

doughoist's picture

I wish I could write as clearly as you and McPherson. My thoughts to go to pen vey well. I believe McPherson to be in error about Heb 8:11 also. No Christian needs to be taught to know his God because to be a Christian, one must be taught first. This is a contrast to being a Jew under the Law because one was born a Jew, circumcised on the eighth day and then taught to know his God as he grew up. Sometimes, such as when in exile, he might not have been taught about his God until much latter if at all, but he still would be identified as a Jew.

Hebrews is a book of contrast between the old and inferior to the new ans superior. In no way does the bible teach the cesation of the church at the parousia but rather its victory. They were shown to be the sons of God and entered the spiritual land of promise. We are their descendants. Not by the will of man but by the will of God.

It seems to me that like the plan for the tabernbacle, the plans for the church and her government were established in the first century church and there is no evidence from scripture to show where that has changed. Jesus is still the chief shepheard, the Apostles are still holding their high positions under Christ and the local body of believers is still to have Elders, Deacons, Preachers and teachers thought today they will not have those same Holy Spirit gifts that the first century church needed and enjoyed. It is clear from scripture that these things were a Last Days only outpouring and at Christ parousia were done away with as now we have Christ present with us.

Parker's picture

Good post, Doug.

McPherson's views are based on conjecture, never on clearly stated teachings of scripture. His fundamental error is that he thinks the apostles and Christ Jesus were Old Covenant ministers. He then reasons that since the Old Covenant ended at AD 70, so did the religion of Christ and the apostles. Problem is, they were NEW COVENANT ministers (2 Cor 3:6)! Furthermore, their new covenant ministry "remained" (2 Cor 3:11/Heb 12:27) when the old covenant ministry was "done away"/removed (2 Cor 3:11/Heb 12:27/Heb 8:13).

How he and a few others stumbled into this gross error is beyond me. McPherson ends up constructing a novel, post-AD 70 religion out of thin air--one that no person in scripture ever knew or experienced. Nothing can be more unbiblical than that. McPherson's bizarre "religious applications" have their origins in 21st century currents such as postmodernism and disestablishmentarianism. John is basically an anarchist, at least in matters of religion. John's religion isn't Christianity as it exists in scripture. Instead, his religion is anarchy and postmodernism as it exists in the modern world...with a little Jesus thrown in.

doughoist's picture

Parker,

I agree with you. If we cannot rely on the New Covenant misisters to relay New Covenant religion, where shall we learn it. Any religion outside of the New Testament pattern is indeed out of thin air.

McPherson has done a very good job at spurring this discussion and has shed light on the truth that the Church and the Kingdom are one and the same, even if that was not his intention.

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Parker,

I agree with you. If we cannot rely on the New Covenant misisters to relay New Covenant religion, where shall we learn it. Any religion outside of the New Testament pattern is indeed out of thin air.

Sorry to see you agree with papists and their misrepresentation of the Kingdom of Heaven (and post-AD 70 NC Christianity), Doug. "Where shall we learn it"?? From the Scriptures themselves - minus the interpretive mistreatments of clerics and their false hierarchical governing bodies.

Any religion attempting to perpetuate the New Testament Church structure BEYOND 70 AD is a hoax and a farce, Doug. No such legitimate institution exists in our day, nor has it existed for about 20 Centuries. You've bought into the ancient lie and, quite frankly, I'm disappointed to see it.

McPherson has done a very good job at spurring this discussion and has shed light on the truth that the Church and the Kingdom are one and the same, even if that was not his intention.

Any conclusions you have drawn in this regard have their source strictly in your own, false presuppositions and not in anything I've presented in my article or posted in response to comments here. It is certainly not my intention to convey the idea that there is any direct equivalence between the Church and the Kingdom. Such an idea is spurious, and the result of a failure to adequately and contextually handle the Scriptures within their original interpretive framework of understanding.

JM

doughoist's picture

I am sorry Mr. McPrerson. But I have not found the support for your arguments to be persuasive. Also, I did agree with him but not with his tone or yours in this posting. I know, "he started it". But can't we disagree or even debate without becoming mean spirited to one another. I meant to say more along this line in my previous post but I did agree with his view if not his demeanor. He has presented more persuasive proof than you did but the reality is that we are testing the spirits to see if they are of God. But they will know we are Chrsitians byt our love.

SuperSoulFighter's picture

McPherson's views are based on conjecture, never on clearly stated teachings of scripture. His fundamental error is that he thinks the apostles and Christ Jesus were Old Covenant ministers. He then reasons that since the Old Covenant ended at AD 70, so did the religion of Christ and the apostles. Problem is, they were NEW COVENANT ministers (2 Cor 3:6)! Furthermore, their new covenant ministry "remained" (2 Cor 3:11/Heb 12:27) when the old covenant ministry was "done away"/removed (2 Cor 3:11/Heb 12:27/Heb 8:13).

YOUR problem, Parker, is that you've never come to terms with the fact that Christ and His apostles were "NC ministers" within an Old Covenant framework and setting. THAT is one of the most signicant distinguishing characteristics between them and us. Their ministries were during the transitional, inter-Covenantal period. That period ended in 70 AD, when the Old Covenant "world" passed away forever. You still don't get this (and very likely never will), so further discussion between you and me is as pointless as always.

JM

Sam's picture

John,

Once again, if there are no need for teachers, then why do you keep trying to teach us that?

Sam

SuperSoulFighter's picture

There'd be no need, Sam, if not for the fact that someone needs to undo the mess the false "teachers" have made over the course of 20 Centuries. It's a dirty (often thankless) job but it obviously needs doing.

Sam's picture

This contradicts your very basis. If we have no need of teachers, then why has it become such a 'mess'? Why need teachers to "undo" what should have never happenend in the first place?
Sam

Parker's picture

John McPherson's entire claim about teachers being eliminated is contradicted by his constant teaching activities here at planet preterist. What irony.

If John's disciples were consistently applying the McPherson method, they should reply to him thus: "hey, teacher, leave us kids alone."

vinster's picture

Hey Parker, Are you still listening to Pink Floyd??("hey, teacher, leave us kids alone.")

Vinster

Parker's picture

Ahhh, hey vinster. Who could forget that line? Seemed appropriate to John McPherson's philosophy.

God bless,
Parker

SuperSoulFighter's picture

God's perfect Kingdom, in a perfect world wouldn't have been so badly misrepresented, historically. In fact, a poor parody of the one, True Church wouldn't have even been attempted. Up in the heavenly "land of promise" (Heb. 11:14-16), for example, there is only ONE, true Church - the original, NT Body/Bride of Christ. Down HERE, outside of the true Kingdom of Heaven, false institutions have attempted to simulate the Kingdom itself, seeking to emulate the structure of the NT Church in a Scripturally and historically unjustified way, and utterly without divine authorization of any kind.

Why did God allow this to happen? I'll be sure to ask Him that some day. I'm sure you're eager to do the same when you meet Him after this life. God's governance of His perfect Kingdom is perfect. OUTSIDE of the Kingdom, all kinds of falsehood and foolishness holds sway over the thinking of people. MY concern is that true Kingdom citizens should in no way be deceived by these false supposed representations of the Kingdom. And to a certain extent, I believe God is capable of directly informing His People concerning the Truth in this area.

One of my original summer jobs as a teen was for a farmer out in Alberta. He lived out in bush country, rolling hills, not far from the foothills of the Rockies. His farm was somewhat remote, but this was the Bible belt and several nearby communities had "churches" of various denominations. There were probably four or five "churches" within relatively easy driving distance, for him and his family. By the time that summer was over, they had "church-shopped" all of them, and determined (within a week or so) that none of them was really what they were looking for. He ended up having "church" in his own home with his family. I used to think, "Hmmm....this guy has a bit of an arrogant attitude. He thinks he knows best what the Scriptures teach, and as soon as there's a slight doctrinal discrepancy between what he believes and what a "church" teaches....he goes elsewhere". As it turns out, I think that farmer had a pretty clear understanding of the lack of validity in any "churches". He put my own Scripture knowledge to the test, once, with the question, "How does the text, 'All things work together for good, to them that love God' apply to us?" I responded with, "Isn't the rest of that 'to those who are the called according to His purpose'?" He grinned and said "Exactly." I didn't understand what he was getting at at the time, but I do now. To me, he is just one of the examples of believers who have chosen to remain disenfranchised from "churches" of any kind, and those immersed in "Churchianity" have assumed that they have spiritual issues and are in rebellion against God somehow for pursuing that course.

Both Protestant AND Catholic "churches", right across the board, have been (and are) guilty of preaching a false gospel and misrepresenting the Truth, Sam. The Kingdom has been grossly misrepresented in the post-AD 70 "church" throughout its history. The post-AD 70 "church" is a non-Covenantal and unScriptural as an entity. All structural elements belonging to it, all positions of spiritual authority within it, all hierarchical, instructional roles involved with its perpetuation are false and contrary to the revealed Will of God as found in His Word.

I don't think the corrective instruction I am providing in these articles and accompanying commentary will be needed for very long, Sam. This is a Reformation that is going to go to the very ROOT and HEART of the problem (unlike the first Reformation). Spiritually reborn citizens of the Kingdom are going to become aware of the true liberty and freedom they have in their Covenant relationship with God, and will understand that no commitment to any "church" of any kind is an essential part of their growth and development as one of God's People. Once people really come to grips with that reality, Sam, and the understanding that "tithes and offerings" made to a so-called "church" are completely unnecessary and in no way merit God's blessing (or, conversely, His withdrawal of blessing when they AREN'T rendered to the "church") - do you really think the average "church" will survive very long? "Pastors" today need to cease and desist all "stewardship/tithing" preaching for starters. They need to get honest with themselves, with God and with His Word. It's over, Sam. The great delusion is coming to an end. Don't be caught on the short end of the stick. I would suggest making alternative career plans (and I'm not trying to be nasty in saying this).

I DO appreciate your dropping the title of "pastor" here, Sam. Don't think that's gone unnoticed. I respect the fact that you have taken that step, and that speaks volumes, to me, concerning your own responsiveness and openness to conformity with the Truth.

I also look forward to engaging you in further dialogue/debate in your periodical, whenever you are comfortable with initiating that exchange.

John McPherson

MichaelB's picture

John writes: (Heb. 11:14-16), for example, there is only ONE, true Church - the original, NT Body/Bride of Christ. Down HERE, outside of the true Kingdom of Heaven...

John, what is this up here and down here stuff?

2And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

How can the new Jerusalem be IN heaven if it came OUT of heaven ???

You quote Hebrews 11 - about the heavenly city - isnt that the same city that comes OUT of heaven in Revelation 21 and where both the LIVING and the dead were going to be made perfect TOGETHER AT THE SAME TIME in that city (Hebrews 11:40)???

And isnt this the same city that those who were alive were coming to in Hebrews 12 ???

Mike Bennett

SuperSoulFighter's picture

John writes: (Heb. 11:14-16), for example, there is only ONE, true Church - the original, NT Body/Bride of Christ. Down HERE, outside of the true Kingdom of Heaven...

John, what is this up here and down here stuff?

I'll tell you what it is, Mike. And I'll use Scripture to do the "telling" for me.

For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar-- 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children-- 26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. (Gal. 4:24-26)

Two, literal cities, Mike, representing two Covenants. The Jerusalem "below" represented the OLD Covenant because it was the center of OC worship (where the OC Temple was located) and was the "capital city" of the OC "world". Jerusalem "above" is the capital city and seat of divine authority in the NC "world". It is the center of NC worship, where God is enthroned, to whom we direct our worship and prayers.

The Jerusalem that is above came DOWN to receive the First Century Church/Bride into it, and to return to heaven with them, bringing them to dwell in God's Presence forever. Remember John 14:2,3 Mike?

2 In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

Christ and His First Century saints are not here in this physical realm now. They are in heaven, and the pre-AD 70 Church/Bride is forever dwelling in those mansions prepared for THEM, in that heavenly City of Jerusalem.

You quote Hebrews 11 - about the heavenly city - isnt that the same city that comes OUT of heaven in Revelation 21 and where both the LIVING and the dead were going to be made perfect TOGETHER AT THE SAME TIME in that city (Hebrews 11:40)???

Again, let's look at that verse in context, Mike.

39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

Did the OC saints (awaiting the resurrection in Sheol) "receive the promise" WITH the NT saints at the time this was written, Mike? Were the NT saints already participants in the New Covenant of Grace at the time this was written? WHEN were the rest of the Old Covenant saints ("elect") "made perfect" WITH the NT saints (Christ's Body/Bride)? Obviously, it was when they were raised together (1Thess. 4:13-17; 1Cor. 15:51-57) to be translated into immortal forms (spirit forms).

And isnt this the same city that those who were alive were coming to in Hebrews 12 ???

Here's the text you have in mind:

18 For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, 19 and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. 20 (For they could not endure what was commanded: "And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow." 21 And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, "I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.") 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. (Heb. 12:18-24)

This passage is one long list of actual, literal entities, Mike. The mountain referred to in v.18 is Mt. Sinai, upon which Moses received the Law. The "general assembly and church of the firstborn" was the literal NT Church (v.23). God is God (v.23), the "spirits of just men made perfect" were literal spirits made perfect (v. 23), Jesus is a literal Person who is the Mediator of the New Covenant, and the "blood of sprinkling" was actual blood. Out of that whole list, you can't separate "Zion, the city of the living God" and treat it as an immaterial metaphor - a non-literal entity representing the Covenant in strictly figurative terms. The reason it is referred to as a literal entity representating the New Covenant, is because it is the center of New Covenant worship and authority. It is the capital City of the New Covenant "world", where God's Throne is located, and where the Bride forever dwells with the Lamb (Christ Jesus) as His eternal wife.

These are important things to keep straight in our thinking, Mike. It's a matter of carefully examining the context, and comparing Scripture with Scripture. Keep working on it. The Truth has a way of making itself both apparent and comprehensible as you pursue a deeper understanding of it in full sincerity of heart.

JL's picture

Interesting point Mike.
The only way to make the city in Rev 21 (and Heb 12) be a real place in literal heaven ONLY (meaning: not a covenant in both realities) means you have to believe that there was a literal first century rapture IOT make the last 2 verses of Hebrews 11 make sense. They were all being perfected together.

But that means:
1. Worse off than Paul even without the Spirit.
2. The non-believers would have had to be raptured too.
3. We have NOTHING. The age to come is only good upon death, so our physical death should be our focus.

The New Jerusalem is FOUNDED on Christ, the Apostles and Tribes, but we are able to enter it. And entrance will be open for more people for all time. If we make the New Jerusalem a literal place in heaven ONLY, then we force a literal rapture view which is nothing but defeatism and futurist pandering.

God Bless
Nate

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Interesting point Mike.
The only way to make the city in Rev 21 (and Heb 12) be a real place in literal heaven ONLY (meaning: not a covenant in both realities) means you have to believe that there was a literal first century rapture IOT make the last 2 verses of Hebrews 11 make sense. They were all being perfected together.

That's not the only reason for "making the city in Rev. 21 and Heb. 12 a real place in literal heaven", Nate. It is perfectly legitimate to interpret it as such because the context in both cases supports that interpretation. See my comments in response to Mike, below. And yes, a First Century "rapture" of the Church/Bride of Christ is consistent with Scripture also. I am a firm proponent of that Scriptural, historical reality.

But that means:
1. Worse off than Paul even without the Spirit.
2. The non-believers would have had to be raptured too.
3. We have NOTHING. The age to come is only good upon death, so our physical death should be our focus.

How does my position logically (and, most importantly, Scripturally) necessitate those conclusions, Nate? I'm afraid I don't see any basis for drawing such conclusions.

The New Jerusalem is FOUNDED on Christ, the Apostles and Tribes, but we are able to enter it. And entrance will be open for more people for all time. If we make the New Jerusalem a literal place in heaven ONLY, then we force a literal rapture view which is nothing but defeatism and futurist pandering.

The New Jerusalem has, as the foundation of its authority, the divine work of redemption and New Covenant Kingdom establishment accomplished in and through Christ Jesus and His original apostles. The "word of their testimony" and the inspired writings they scribed on God's behalf reveal the basis for New Covenant relationship with God and the worship centered in that City. We are able to enter it after this life.

And entrance will be open for more people for all time.

Amen. New spiritual proselytes continue to enter it after this life, and continue to come under its governance in THIS one.

If we make the New Jerusalem a literal place in heaven ONLY, then we force a literal rapture view which is nothing but defeatism and futurist pandering.

Not at all. The literal "rapture" occurred, literally, for the NT Church/Bride. WE join them in that City AFTER this life. Think about it, Nate, and review Rev. 21 from that perspective. Personally, I find that this interpretive treatment of both chapters we have considered here (Heb. 11 and Rev. 21) is far more in keeping with the language, terminology and context employed in both.

Parker's picture

How does my position logically (and, most importantly, Scripturally) necessitate those conclusions, Nate? I'm afraid I don't see any basis for drawing such conclusions.

John,
I wrote a long response to Ed and his position in which these thoughts are drawn out using ALL his "expectation statements." A literal rapture does not fit.

1. Worse off than Paul even without the Spirit.
If the believers had to disappear to receive eternal life (their "mortal bodies" made alive), because they couldn't have eternal life in their physical bodies, then how can believers today have eternal life before death? They can't.
However, Romans makes it clear that Paul needed the Spirit to help hims war against the flesh. Yet the Spirit is gone. it does not operate in the power it had pre-AD 70. Why? If Paul was so reliant on the Spirit to help him battle the flesh, and the Spirit has ceased post-AD 70, why are we not worse off then Paul? We have dead mortal bodies and are without our life support to help us endure in the faith. We are worse off then Paul. Not to mention, if we have to wait to death and endure in the faith till death without the Spirit, we should at least have a reliable Church to fellowship with. One working as "One" in Spirit and truth. There isn't one of those today.

2. The non-believers would have had to be raptured too.
The judgment was going to happen to the living and the dead, to all men who were to be judged. The wicked or the righteous. So if the believers needed to be raptured to be judged righteous and receive life, then naturally the wicked would need to be raptured receive death. Fortunately, neither needed literal rapture to receive either reward or punishment.

3. We have NOTHING. The age to come is only good upon death, so our physical death should be our focus.
The age to come was a place with victory for the believer in which they would live in covenant with God. It would be open to all men. The age to come was ushered in upon the firstfruits receiving their reward/mercy...eternal life. It is safe to say that the age to come is a place where the following fruits would inherit what the firstfruits received. if the firstfruits had to disappear and be in the 3rd heaven in order to receive this reward and inheritance, then so do all believers in the age to come. they get NOTHING until they die. So it is better if we were all dead.

I appreciate the encouragement to study it, but believe me, when responding to Ed, I thought about it and read very much. I am assured our inheritance is for us today...now.

Adam sinned. When he sinned he hid himself out of a guilty conscience. He was judged dead that day. To return us to a pre-sin Adam state, God created a covenant with man where we no longer hide from Him. Instead, we take the apple and offer it up and tell our Father that we have sinned, and humbly receive His forgiveness. Once you do that, you will never wear a fig leaf again.
I am sorry, John, but that is way more victorious than believing we are without the power of the spirit, without eternal life, and alone without a church until we die.

I have fellowship, a living mortal body that is not enslaved to death, and a perfected conscience.
Victory vs. Defeat...I choose victory.

God Bless
Nate

Sam's picture

This is such a radical proposal that only John can subscribe to it! Apparently, he is the only one, with maybe a few others, that "sees" it from God's perspective. Us, "down here on earth" are "outside the kingdom." Praise the Lord. I have tried to read John's posts thoughtfully, but when a system raises so many questions, one may begin to question it. It is not "preterism" at all. It is an entirely different sort of "teaching" (although John denies he is teaching, for that would make him a "teacher" which we don't need). I have to keep pointing out that John also believes in reincarnation. So, even when a believer dies, his soul may come back to "outside the kingdom" in the form of another person or something. I don't know. I just don't think God would have left us with such a screwed up state of affairs. Pessimism is unbiblical.

Sam Frost

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Now, now, Sam. Let's work through this carefully. Evidently, you've misunderstood a few elements in my position.

This is such a radical proposal that only John can subscribe to it!

I've never been shy about being "radical" or "the only one" holding a certain view. But I wouldn't jump to that conclusion too hastily if I were you, since neither you nor I have access to the thinking and beliefs of every Christian on this planet at any given point in time.

Apparently, he is the only one, with maybe a few others, that "sees" it from God's perspective.

Another, better way of phrasing that statement would be "Seemingly, he is the one with the most consistently contextual understanding of the Scriptures according to their original intent". I could live with that (for now).

Us, "down here on earth" are "outside the kingdom."

I've actually been very clear on this, Sam. I do NOT equate the Kingdom with the heavenly City or heaven itself. The Kingdom exists in BOTH this realm and that one (in terms of its spiritual governance and administration). I've repeatedly and systematically made a sound Biblical case for that view. Those of us "down here on earth" are NOT "outside the Kingdom" by virtue of our being "down here". You are mis-construing my statements and position.

Praise the Lord. I have tried to read John's posts thoughtfully, but when a system raises so many questions, one may begin to question it.

I definitely encourage questioning ALL doctrinal, theological systems and constructs. Be sure to not only question it, but carefully examine the Scriptures for yourself, as they are the only reliable means of determining whether someone's ideas conform to the Truth or not.

It is not "preterism" at all.

THAT bold, bald statement requires substantiation, Sam. You'll have to back that one up with some serious Scriptural verification.

It is an entirely different sort of "teaching" (although John denies he is teaching, for that would make him a "teacher" which we don't need).

I certainly occupy no, "church"-authorized, "ordained" teaching position, Sam. That is true. I present this interpretive system of understanding the Scriptures as being what I believe is truest to their original intent, and I expect others to be prompted to study further for themselves. I don't spoonfeed "truth" week by week to passive recipients who have little option but to assume that most of what they hear from their "ordained preachers/teachers" is reasonably true to the Word of God and is, essentially, "God's Word" to them directly from Him. I don't masticate someone else's spiritual food for them, spit it in a spoon, and then let them suck it down. Mature believers can chew their own food and digest the Scriptures for themselves. Everyone reading my articles (or anyone else's here) should be prompted to investigate further for themselves, as to the nature of the material presented.

I have to keep pointing out that John also believes in reincarnation.

I don't know why you feel that you need to do this, Sam (possibly out of a need to discredit me in some way?), but I certainly don't mind you doing so, and am fully prepared to defend that view also.

So, even when a believer dies, his soul may come back to "outside the kingdom" in the form of another person or something. I don't know.

True, Sam. You DON'T know. You've got my beliefs all bollixed up. NO spiritually reborn believer gets reincarnated. Believers go straight to heaven after this life. That's the fulfillment of our Covenant relationship with God. We spend eternity with Him in heaven, hereafter. NON-COVENANTAL PEOPLE are most likely reincarnated (and I'm not going to be absolutely dogmatic on that, since a strong enough case from Scripture cannot be made for that view). There ARE Scriptural indications that reincarnation is a reality, but again - we cannot make a rock-solid, concrete case for it so I won't bother making the attempt.

I just don't think God would have left us with such a screwed up state of affairs. Pessimism is unbiblical.

Pessmism is unbiblical, yes. But did God leave us with a "screwed up state of affairs"? I don't believe He did. I believe a perfect Covenant relationship with Him includes distancing oneself from any institutionalized religious system, and submitting to His Sovereignty alone. I believe the natural human tendency to covet power and authority over others brought about a corrupted form or expression of the New Covenant Church as a parody of its pre-AD 70 form. We can thank the ECFs for generating a great, futurist hoax that you've bought into yourself, Sam, and yes - it's enough to make one pessimistic in one's view of human nature and fallibility, but not at all when one considers the continuing, legitimate opportunity to engage in personal, perfect Covenant relationship with God as a member of His eternal Kingdom.

John McPherson

davo's picture

John, regarding reincarnation you said:

SuperSoulFighter: I certainly don't mind you doing so, and am fully prepared to defend that view also.

SuperSoulFighter: There ARE Scriptural indications that reincarnation is a reality, but again - we cannot make a rock-solid, concrete case for it so I won't bother making the attempt.

John, which is it – you are "fully prepared" or "won't bother" with a detailed response on this. Seeing as you have raised the issue a number of times and have a proclivity for writing articles – how about it? And who are the "we" you mention? – I haven't as yet come across any other prets towing this line, yet.

davo – pantelism.com –

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Hi, Davo! I wondered if anyone would pick up on that seeming contradiction in my comments. I noticed that myself, after I posted it. But what I was trying to say is that I'm prepared to defend it on the understanding that I believe there IS evidence in favor of the idea in Scripture, but it is not conclusive. I probably won't bother trying to make a public argument in favor of the idea, unless some would like to see what I've found that seems to point in that direction.

The "we" refers to the general "reincarnation" camp. To my knowledge, no-one has attempted to make a Scriptural case for that view, for obvious reasons. I have chatted with one other Pret on a chat site a couple of years ago who agreed with me on the reincarnation idea, and said that he had arrived at the same conclusion independently, as a "closet preterist" years previously. He had quietly been researching ancient texts, and strongly suggested that I read the Bhagavad Gita, as he felt that Christ Himself was probably familiar with the ancient Sanskrit texts, and that He was probably studying in India during those absent years for which we have no record in Scripture. He wasn't dogmatic on any of this either, but he definitely encouraged me to take a careful look at those texts (which I haven't gotten around to yet).

So that's one other Pret I've encountered who shares this view.

davo's picture

Thanks for answering John. It might be informative then to hear your thoughts on this, for most likely your reincarnate views in part help shape some of what you write. It might likewise then help some who struggle to "read" what you are really saying i.e., bring clarification, though not necessarily agreement.

davo – pantelism.com –

Sam's picture

It seems people forget the human element in it all.
YES!
Christ delivered...on time...perfected consciences, perfect freedom, gospel clarity, rest, etc. Because the truths that preterism shows have been lost by the organization, does not mean they did not happen, or that they were confused.

It took weeks to want to run back to Egypt.
It took weeks to doubt Gods power after the plagues, sea splitting, manna, etc.
It took weeks to want slavery over the freedom given.

Ok, so it took a generation or two for some to forget what Christ delivered in Ad 70. And the "church" grasped the lies and flew with them in a web of false expectations.
Is God to blame?

He didn't leave us hopeless, we just need to sort through the emotion and human self interest and start looking into the real issue.

WHAT IS THIS AGE TO COME!!!

Good to see you "get it" Sam.

God Bless
Nate

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Ok, so it took a generation or two for some to forget what Christ delivered in Ad 70. And the "church" grasped the lies and flew with them in a web of false expectations.
Is God to blame?

Nate - this idea Sam introduced that the so-called post-AD 70 "church" somehow "lost their understanding of the nature of the Parousia in 70 AD" is, unfortunately, a little ludicrous. That event was far too significant and pivotal to the Christian experience and redemptive history as a whole (not to mention the Kingdom's establishment) to simply allow it to pass into forgotten history like a minor blip.

The 70 AD Parousia of Christ was as significant and important as His death and resurrection. To believe that the post-AD 70 Christians somehow just "forgot" what happened at that time and what the true significance of Jerusalem's destruction was is simply outrageous.

Within a generation or so, the LIE that Christ Jesus had not returned yet had taken root through a deliberate (I believe) strategy of deception on the part of certain key individuals.

I don't know why you put "church" in quotes like I do, Nate - but am I to understand that you find its validity to be spurious and lacking in Biblical substantiation (i.e. you agree with me concerning the nature of the post-AD 70 "church")?

I don't think Sam "gets it" the way he should, as yet, Nate - but I'll leave that one between you, him and the Lord.

Parker's picture

John,
I have always agreed with you that the "church" is not an organization of leaders and followers, but of believers equal under the 1 rule of God the Father. No hierarchy.

However, Sam and I seem to be of like mind in what was delivered in AD 70 concerning conscience, relief, clarity, etc.

I think that the truth may have been maintained for a while post AD-70, but I think it is completely valid to assume that the following generations of believers may have been easily decieved by those who downplayed AD 70 as not being the real expected deliverance, just as the Israelites were deceived/disheartened by the poison of Korah.

God Bless
Nate

vinster's picture

Sam, Check your messages. You have one there from me. Vinster

Sam's picture

Vin,

I replied (i think!) The address is on the "donation" letter....also...I guess for Clark, the best place to start is with "Faith and Saving Faith".....

Sam

chrisliv's picture

Well,

Everybody here has probably heard my take on this subject. But it may be helpful and relevant to comment again.

I think there is an overarching misconception that both Preterists and Futurists have about the Greek term "ecclesia", which for us English speaking people has been poorly translated as "church".

Ecclesia is a term for "government". The Ecclesia is God's Government on Earth. The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth is a non-hostile government. It seems hard for people to see its reality because it's so much different than the worldly governments, as Christ stated:

"And he said unto them, 'The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so among you...'" Luke 22:25 & 26

Most people who read English Bible translations have been condition into thinking that God's government has only to do with a religious sideline, fellowship, or worship services and sacraments.

If Preterists pose the question: "Was the Church made obsolete in 70 AD?" they may do far better to pose the question more accurately as: "Was God's government on Earth made obsolete in 70 AD?"

Of course, the Futurist would say that it hasn't even happened yet, while they instead obey virtually every hostile Potentate that comes down the pike from the State.

So, as a Preterist and a non-statist, the answer becomes obvious. The idea that God's Government (ecclesia), Kingdom, or some portion of the New Covenant became obsolete at 70 AD is ridiculous. Rather, that's when it fully started.

And for about 250 years, Christ's Body was a separate and underground from the Body of the State, until savvy Caesar Constantine "had a vision" to conquer his battlefield enemies with Christ's banner. Around 312 AD Caesar's Empire was about to fall apart, so he "legalized" Christianity and invited the "Church" to become a State corporation and share in the Imperial power, that is, so long as the "Clergy" ensured that "Christians" fought on the battlefield for the State.

The "Church" has pretty much been a State corporation ever since. And it's my opinion that most churchgoers have been conditioned to accept " State and Church" instead of "God's Government" on Earth. There have been a few valiant exceptions, like the Anabaptists. And even today, there are a few groups that refuse to go overseas to kill poor people for the State. Even the state-incorporated Watchtower organization has a symbolic anti-statist, anti-militaristic position, although those poor souls are made into brainwashed mass-purchasers and peddlers of Watchtower literature.

Peace to you all,
C. Livingstone

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Greetings, Chris. Thanks for introducing these comments to the discussion.

Having examined the various meanings for "ekklesia" rather carefully in my Greek Lexicon, I don't see where you are coming up with an equivalency between "government" or "Kingdom" and ekklesia.

The Greek word for "Kingdom" throughout the New Testament is "basileia". My Bauer's Lexicon shows the primary meaning of "ekklesia" as "assembly, as a regular summoned political body". To equate a general assembly structured along political lines with an actual governing body or government is not really tenable, Chris.

Certainly, the gatherings of NT believers in local churches and, ultimately, as the corporate Church (Body/Bride) of Christ had political structure in them. But that temporal structure had no perpetuation in the "basileia tou Theou". They were two, distinct, separate entities - the "ekklesia" being temporal (in terms of its structure and role in this realm), and the "basileia" eternal, in BOTH realms.

I understand and appreciate your historical perspective on the false "church"'s playing handmaiden to the state, post-AD 70. I think part of the justification for that false relationship is found in a misapplication and non-contextual misinterpretation of Romans 13:1, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God."

Most expositors and exegetes fail to handle Paul's reference to the "powers that be" (i.e. in existence in HIS day) accurately in terms of putting the context of that text into a specific historical framework of understanding. Paul wasn't establishing a universal principle of submission to all earthly governments that might ever exist on this planet here. Rather, he was indicating to the pre-AD 70 believers that the political and religious entities in existence in THEIR "world" were ordained of God, as part of His bringing to completion His Master Plan of redemption within the history of Old Covenant Israel. Those "powers" were ordained to fulfill certain roles within the timeframe of that ancient, Old Covenant "age". That divine ordination and authorization ended in 70 AD with the "age" itself.

Now whether we need some kind of government today in order to provide protection, security and economic affluence to us is, theoretically, an open question. But with the societal structure we currently enjoy, we must do our best to honor our Kingdom commitments and accountability above that of any temporal, earthly government.

chrisliv's picture

Yeah,

We're not too far apart in our understandings.

My view, as I stated it some years ago in a newsletter, follows below.

Peace to you,
Christian

The word "church" is used in only two places within the four Gospels of the New Covenant. It is Matthew’s Gospel, where its use is attributed to Christ Himself, in both places. Though later, the Apostles go on to use this same word more than one hundred times in the Book of Acts and their Epistles.

In the first usage of the term, Jesus is quoted, saying, “...I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mat. 16:18) This is an ordination statement, for the church that Jesus was determined to build. The Church is ordained of God. (John 15:16)

It’s not a big secret that the English word church is a bad translation for the Greek word ????????, which is transliterated as ecclesia. Ecclesia, by definition, means: an assembly of people called out to convene in a public place for the purpose of deliberating in civil matters. It’s a governmental term in Greek, not a religious one.

A better translation for ecclesia would be: caucus, assembly, body, congress, or council.

Quite literally, Christ’s Caucus is made up of assemblymen and women who arrive at a consensus, and decide how their society will function. But, it doesn’t matter so much what you call it, it matters more that you know what it is, and how to become a functional part of it.

King James and the rest of the English monarchs couldn’t afford to allow a good translation of ecclesia; it was too strong. Interestingly, ecclesia is rightly translated in three places where it refers to an assembly of the City of Ephesus (i.e. civil government) at a municipal theater to decide if they should punish the disciples. (Acts 19:32, 39, 41) Of course, the translators couldn’t render ecclesia as church in these places, without exposing their bias against all of the places it refers to Christ’s assembly.

In the second usage, Jesus describes an organizational procedure for His Church to use in resolving civil matters, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear [thee, then] take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell [it] unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” (Mat. 18:15-17)

The context is clear, the Church is a community of Christians that contains a decision-making council, which, as a last resort, may only use the non-forceful punishment of excommunication, regarding its own members. The Church is a holy Nation, and is its own theocratic state. Jesus was initiating the long-awaited, universal New Israel, which is no longer a literal, ethnic-based tribal patriarchy.

Jesus also commanded his disciples by saying, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But it shall not be so among you...” (Luke 22:25 & 26, Mat. 20:25) This is the point of separation.

Caesar and the Roman State claimed to be a benevolent conqueror for the public welfare of all, just like the State does today. But, in that passage of text, Jesus was telling them that the State was oppressive and fraudulent. He then commanded them to be separate from the State, and prohibited them from exercising any force or coercion within the Church.

God never ordained the State. Jesus never said that Caesar and the State are the higher powers that you should obey (ala Romans 13:1). Quite the opposite! And, Jesus never said, that when the going gets tough and it looks like you have no other choice, to make an appeal unto Caesar (ala Acts 28:19). No, Jesus outlined a pattern that makes Caesar irrelevant to every Christian. The Church renders nothing unto Caesar, it renders everything unto God. (Luke 20:25) Though, God permits the State to be master over those that refuse to be mastered by Christ. The State is a non-Christian cult, and so is its federal auxiliary, the United State. The State is for idolaters, and the excommunicated, until they come to their senses. That’s why the State is so pervasive today.

Further, Jesus tells his disciples, “And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:29 & 30)
These disciples actually took Jesus seriously. They didn’t wait to die and go to Heaven, nor wait 2000, or more, years for a supposed Rapture, Millennial Utopia, or Another Coming of Christ. For them, Christ’s Kingdom was not a future event, or a religious tease. It was the Jews who wanted Messiah to reign as a hostile Earthly dictator on a throne in a haughty palace, like all the other petty dictators around the landscape. But Jesus refused that kind of rulership. (John 6:15)

The Apostles weren’t linear-thinkers. The Book of Acts shows that they fulfilled the very roles Christ assigned to them in His Kingdom. They began to act independent of, and “...contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king, one Jesus.” (Acts 17:7) This is the heritage of Christians who know their Master. It’s no wonder the State began persecuting them, they were turning Caesar’s “...world upside down...” (Acts 17:6)

vinster's picture

Hey John, Your article is not being swallowed too easily, but I can understand where you're coming from to a point.

Anyway, I have two questions I would like to ask:

1) Do you feel that Jesus' words, "Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God", still apply post 70ad??

2) You said, "Nor is the "ekklesia" or "church" a term having any relevance to fellowship gatherings today."
In your opinion, what should a fellowship gathering consist of today??
Thanks for your time, Vinster

P.S.--Did you ever find that article on "De-universalizing the Gospel"??

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Hey John, Your article is not being swallowed too easily, but I can understand where you're coming from to a point.

Yes, these things are not easy for the average Christian today to come to terms with. I never expect open acceptance of this perspective, initially. The natural tendency is to reject ideas and views that are uncomfortable and threaten things we hold near and dear to our hearts. I understand how important these social venues - referred to as "churches" today - are to people. But honesty and integrity in handling the Word of God requires that we confront error and inappropriate, misleading doctrine in all of its forms among us.

Anyway, I have two questions I would like to ask:

1) Do you feel that Jesus' words, "Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God", still apply post 70ad??

Yes, I do. What did Jesus mean by "he cannot see the Kingdom of God"? I believe He was not just referring to gaining entrance into that Kingdom, but to acquiring the spiritual "sight" or vision necessary to gain awareness of the spiritual Kingdom of Heaven among mankind. Only those who are truly regenerated by the Spirit of God are fully aware of the presence of the Kingdom here and now, on this planet.

2) You said, "Nor is the "ekklesia" or "church" a term having any relevance to fellowship gatherings today."
In your opinion, what should a fellowship gathering consist of today??
Thanks for your time, Vinster

Social gatherings among people of common faith - particularly New Covenant Kingdom citizenry - should be largely that - social gatherings. The trappings of religion and the traditional forms they take (including spiritual instruction by a "pastor" or "preacher" to a passive, receptive "flock" or congregation) must be eliminated. New-born Christians may need some initial assistance in learning the tools necessary to feed, spiritually, on the Word of God for themselves. But anyone who has been a Christian longer than a year or so really has no need of extended instruction in spiritual things. They should have matured to the place where their relationship with God, personally and individually, is maintained and nurtured best on that basis - God's direct blessing and guidance of that person being their source of spiritual growth and development.

Yes, mutual edification in social settings is a wonderful treat, and should be enjoyed as such. But it should not be viewed as a continuous, weekly, regimented need. We don't need the big buildings and attendant financial obligations. The "pastoral" salaries, "ministry" schedules and obligations, etc. are all unnecessary and, in most cases, ultimately lead to frustration and failure of one sort or another.

I think get-togethers a couple of times a month would be nice, and probably sufficient. They could be large picnics or campouts in summer, and indoor potlucks or events of that nature in winter. If Christmas musicals are as important as many people feel, they could be organized as special events by those who feel strongly that they should be ;). I could go on with more specifics, but I think you probably get the general idea.

Yes, I finished re-drafting that article, vinster, and I forwarded it to the address you gave me. It didn't come back to me as undeliverable, so I think I got the address right. But if you didn't get it, I can re-forward it to you.

Enjoy! And thanks for the good questions!

John

MichaelB's picture

John:

Is the new Jerusalem a covenant?
Is the new covenant a "marriage" covenant?
Are we in that covenant?

“Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God

Mike Bennett

SuperSoulFighter's picture

1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband...9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, "Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife." 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. 12 Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13 three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. 14 Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15 And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. 17 Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. 18 The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. 22 But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. 24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. 25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). 26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. 27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life.

I assumed someone would have introduced this text as an objection by now, Mike. Thank you for doing so. When I first introduced this article, about a year ago, we examined this passage as a possible argument against the idea that the Church and the New Jerusalem are not one and the same entity.

Note the wording in v.2 of Rev. 21 - "prepared as a bride for her husband". Now John didn't state that he saw the church coming down out of heaven from God, nor did he say that he saw the Bride descending. Rather, he states that he saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem descending. It was PREPARED, or arrayed/decorated like an Eastern bride going to her marriage ceremony. In other words, THE CITY was decked out festively in a way that resembled a bride's apparel.

We need to keep this reality front and center in our reading of this chapter, Mike. The context once again establishes the nature of John's vision, and what he was actually viewing. The language can be a little misleading further down in the chapter if you don't read critically and carefully, keeping v.2 in mind. When the angel tells John "Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife" and takes him to view the city, he is speaking in terms similar to those of a tour guide in the Louvre. A guide will commonly introduce those on the tour to a famous portrait or sculpted bust with the words, "This is so-and-so, the wife/father/brother/friend/lover etc. of the artist/sculptor". They will refer to the artist's representation of that person as though it is the person him/herself. If you were blind and had just walked in on the group, you might think the guide was introducing everyone to an actual, living person. It might take a moment to realize that they were actually displaying a work of art - an artist's rendering of that person.

The New Jerusalem was God's architectural representation of the Bride (the NT Church), the wife of the Lamb (Christ Jesus). John was never under any illusions concerning the nature of the entity he was viewing. In the subsequent description of the City, he describes it as an actual city, with streets, gates, etc. The only indication that this City had any direct relationship to Israel and the Church in that description is the names of the twelve tribes of Israel on the gates, and the names of the twelve apostles on the foundation stones.

Note the final verse. Rather than view this representation of the Bride as the Bride herself (i.e. this whole description being strictly metaphorical, and the "walls", "gates", "streets" being representative of the souls of saints) - we need to carefully consider the fact that this City permits ENTRANCE to various people (see also vss. 24,25). The language employed here suggests rather strongly that this is more than just one, huge metaphor. In fact, there are various other texts in the Scriptures indicating that this is an actual city located in the realm of spirit (in heaven). And in that final verse, we note that the Lamb's Book of Life, which was used to judge the Israelite/Jewish citizens of the Old Covenant "world", was the documentation essential to permit entrance into the City as one of the redeemed (from out of the OC "world").

"And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God." (Rev. 21:3)

Too often this text is used to shade the meaning of this passage in favor of the idea that God came down to dwell among mankind via His Church here. This is a false understanding of this passage, I believe.

Verse 3 refers to the entrance of men (the corporate fellowship of New Testament saints who comprised the Body/Bride of Christ) into God's Presence to dwell with Him forever. This was a first. Man finally had regained the access to God lost in the Garden. God making His dwelling "among men" doesn't refer to all of mankind. Rather, it clearly refers to these New Testament saints who went to heaven to dwell with God, received up into glory in the New Jerusalem that had descended (arrayed as a Bride, and constructed in such a way that it represented GOD'S view and perception of the glory of the Lamb's wife, the NT Church)for that purpose.

I don't believe the City of Rev. 21 is either the Church itself OR the Kingdom/New Covenant, Mike. I don't believe either interpretation is contextually valid, or stands up to a careful critique of the language employed in the passage. You may disagree, and you certainly have the liberty to do so - but I hope the explanation and interpretation I have supplied, above, lends itself to further, closer examination anyway.

JM

MichaelB's picture

"And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God." (Rev. 21:3)

John writes: Too often this text is used to shade the meaning of this passage in favor of the idea that God came down to dwell among mankind via His Church here. This is a false understanding of this passage, I believe.

John is this the same promise in Hebrews? Isn't Hebrews about a covenant ???

10This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Hebrews 8)

John writes: In other words, THE CITY was decked out festively in a way that resembled a bride's apparel.

That is my point John - if that city is a covenant (which it is according to Galatians 4) and it resembles brides apparel - do we still put it on - yes or no ???

John if we believe are we counted as Abraham's seed? Yes or no ???

If you say no you are gonna have problems buddy =)

Mike Bennett

SuperSoulFighter's picture

"And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God." (Rev. 21:3)

John writes: Too often this text is used to shade the meaning of this passage in favor of the idea that God came down to dwell among mankind via His Church here. This is a false understanding of this passage, I believe.

John is this the same promise in Hebrews? Isn't Hebrews about a covenant ??? 10This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Hebrews 8)

Yes, Hebrews contrasts the two Covenants. Heb. 8, in particular, emphasizes that contrast and the transition occurring at the time it was written. No, the promise in Heb. 8:10 is not that God would dwell WITH His People in this realm. Rather, He promises to be the GOD of the New Covenant People. There is a difference.

John writes: In other words, THE CITY was decked out festively in a way that resembled a bride's apparel.

That is my point John - if that city is a covenant (which it is according to Galatians 4) and it resembles brides apparel - do we still put it on - yes or no ???

Mike - your handling of the City as a metaphor is really not true to the inferences of the texts you are loosely referencing. Gal. 4 does not suggest that the heavenly City of Jerusalem is either a metaphor (a non-literal entity), a Covenant OR something to be "put on". Rev. 21 suggests no such thing either. The fact that the heavenly City was decorated in bridal fashion and constructed in such a way that it artistically and creatively represented or portrayed the Bride as God saw her, does not make it one and the same thing as the Covenant, Kingdom or Bride itself. A painted portrait is not the person herself who sat for that portrait, nor is a sculpted bust the actual subject OF the bust. The City is NOT the Covenant, no.

A question for YOU, Mike. Christ Jesus made the following statement, in John 14:2,3 "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. 3 I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."

WHERE were those mansions, Mike, and where were they removed to, WITH Christ, to dwell with Him THERE, forever? Think of that City in Rev. 21 as you respond.

John if we believe are we counted as Abraham's seed? Yes or no ???

Ah. You're jumping the gun on me a little here, Mike! That's the subject of my next article! Good question. The answer, in short, is "yes". But I'll develop that further in the upcoming article.

If you say no you are gonna have problems buddy =)

No worries, Mike! I would expect rather strong correction on that point if I were to deny that Biblical reality. In actual fact, the subject you've just raised has everything to do with our current Covenant relationship with God. More on that in the article!

John

MichaelB's picture

Lemme make a clarification: I have no doubt hat the structure (pastors etc) went away. But to say we are no longer part of the church is to say that we are not part of the covenant.

SuperSoulFighter's picture

But to say we are no longer part of the church is to say that we are not part of the covenant.

Actually, no. It doesn't mean that at all, Mike. I invite you to support that statement with Scripture, and an accompanying contextual treatment of it. I'll respond further to this objection on that basis.

John

vinster's picture

Sorry John, Disregard the "P.S." in the last post. I just checked my messages and saw your response there to the "P.S."
Vinster

SuperSoulFighter's picture

No problem, Vinster. I missed the clarification above until after I responded to the P.S. myself!

John

judge's picture

Thanks for the article, well worth posting again.
A question for you (not trying to trap you in any way)

How do you see life different post 70 a.d. for a "non christisn" person just trying to live a spiritual life?

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Hi, judge! Good question! By "non-Christian" I think you mean "non-Covenantal". There were the Covenant People and those outside of any Covenant relationship with God before 70 AD. But there were also two Covenants active at that time, so there were two types of Covenantal People - the "fleshly" and the "spiritual" or Physical Israel vs. Spiritual Israel. Physical Israel were the "Law-lovers" rather than being lovers of God. They sought their salvation in Law-keeping, etc. Ultimately, that vain pursuit proved to be to their own damnation.

I don't necessarily see a great change for non-Covenantal people from before 70 AD to after, except for a couple of critical things pertinent to the Kingdom of God. Previous to 70 AD, there was a physical Nation in which one had to undergo physical purification rites (including physical circumcision for males) to become a citizen thereof. Under that Covenant and spiritual economy, there was a specific geographical location on the planet and a very rigid, specific code of behaviour and ritualistic practices required for approval with God. The God of Israel was benevolent and yet rigorously demanding in the code of conduct required in being one of His Covenant People. So the non-Covenantal people were probably drawn to certain aspects of that Kingdom, and yet quite possibly found other aspects rather repellent. I think this is likely one of the biggest reasons that God Himself was so dissatisfied with the temporal arrangement and Kingdom. I believe God was aware of the flaws and weaknesses in that great anthropological experiment beforehand, but in His impeccable Wisdom, He saw fit to introduce it anyway, thereby revealing certain aspects of His Person more clearly in that context, before replacing it with the perfect portrayal of the ultimate, spiritual relationship He always desired to have with man.

I definitely see the non-Covenantal person's perception of the benefits of relationship with God as enhanced and potentially more positive than would have been the case BEFORE 70 AD. One of the other major reasons for this is that the Old Covenant People treated each other in evil, corrupt ways that we can't even imagine. They trumped up reasons to stone people to death for sport. Seeing someone lying half-dead beside the road was an annoyance and certainly didn't prompt any merciful, compassionate response such as the "Good Samaritan" demonstrated in Christ's anecdote. In other words, the Old Covenant People grossly misrepresented the God of Israel, to their further condemnation. By the end of their "world", that "world" was under the governance of Satan. He had successfully usurped God's role as the God of Israel, and (whether they were consciously aware of it or not), the Jewish religious leaders were serving Satan. This is why Christ Jesus referred to them as "the synagogue of Satan" and Satan himself as "the god of this world".

I think, in your question, you may be suggesting that there are other paths to gaining approval and acceptance with God, judge? Is that implicit in your question? I realize you're not trying to trap me in any way, but perhaps you could clarify just a little more for me.

I definitely don't see any element of "universal reconciliation" of mankind as a whole to God, wholesale (post-AD 70). What I mean by that is - not everyone on this planet, alive at any given moment, is a Covenantal person with an eternal relationship with God established through spiritual regeneration. Not everyone in the human race today is a Kingdom citizen or spiritual proselyte of the Kingdom of Heaven. I'll get into the nature of the distinctives of Kingdom citizenry post-AD 70 in an upcoming article (likely this coming week). I was hoping to get it posted last week already, I prioritized some other things ahead of that goal instead.

As a little "preview" though, I'll just say that it has to do with the faith of Abraham.

In direct answer to your question, judge, I would say that the average "non-Christian" person just trying to live a spiritual life isn't any closer to God in terms of an eternal relationship than those of the pre-AD 70 "age". I trust that response is somewhat adequate.

JM

judge's picture

Thanks for the reply. I will have to go over it a couple of times.

SuperSoulFighter:
I think, in your question, you may be suggesting that there are other paths to gaining approval and acceptance with God, judge? Is that implicit in your question? I realize you're not trying to trap me in any way, but perhaps you could clarify just a little more for me.

Judge:
Yes well spotted.

I think at the presnt I am some form of universalist. Not exactly sure of all the details.

I think I am m ore and more coming around to the view that what is impaortant is the direction I am growing in. Am I really being transformed into a heavenly creature, regardless of my outward profession?

Or am i basically earthly and running my own life, working for my own ends?

From this perspective I think one can be growing into the image of God, becoming having Christ growing within, and have a wrong understanding of theology.

davecollins's picture

Dear John, I always appreciate your thought provoking articles, and your obvious mandate to others to search the Scriptures for Truth.
I have been serving at a large(800) evangelical church for about 12 years.Since becoming a FP 3 years ago, I have been increasingly studying the points you present.
I think your take on the pre AD 70 church is right on the money, but to deny the furtherance of the church after the Parousia seems unfounded to me.
To say that present day believers do not make up the "Body of Christ" seems illogical and gives the notion that we are disconnected today.
I happen to agree that the "pouring" out of the Spirit to the early church was an amazing act of God to establish and verify the Gospel of Christ.This was a one time event, with lasting implications for all believers
Contrary to your view, I believe the parallel today, is His indwelling Presence as the Power of our New Nature.Our transformation only occurs due to His activity in our surrendered lives.
Since I have become vocal in my FP beliefs,my pastors have not censored or labeled me in any way, but rather have asked me to serve on our ministry leadership team, as an "elder".
I believe, as you do, that there is tremendous abuse of authority and mistaken priorities in some churches(maybe alot), but I think having a structure,and a strategy is beneficial in working out our vision of reaching the unchurched with the gospel of Christ. Of course, the great commission, given to the Lord's disciples prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, was fulfilled in the first century, but continues to be a main example to today's believers.
There is great encouragement in fellowshipping with other believers when you experience and see sacrificial love, forgiveness, and acceptance being portrayed.I was greatly encouraged this morning as I witnessed two ladies, who were at odds over some disagreement, kneel to pray together in restoration and obedience.
Bottom line for me, at this juncture of my life, is to ascertain the patterns we see in the early church and to emulate and strive to help accomplish the expansion of His unending Kingdom.Since our "operating manual" was completed before the return of Christ, to instruct and encourage fledgling believers, during their tribulations, we must primarily determine how they would interpret things, and then discern eternal spiritual principles to apply today. The greatest leaders are the best servants,those who humbly report to duty with a willing and grateful heart.
Today's "churches" with a major emphasis on "decisions" rather than on an authentic relationship, can be a wonderful field for a Christian missionary to operate in.
Honestly John, titles, and even roles are trivial and sometimes distracting to those who only want to serve the Lord, for His Glory.
Your friend, Dave

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Dear John, I always appreciate your thought provoking articles, and your obvious mandate to others to search the Scriptures for Truth.

Thankyou, Dave. I really appreciate that encouraging comment.

I have been serving at a large(800) evangelical church for about 12 years.Since becoming a FP 3 years ago, I have been increasingly studying the points you present.
I think your take on the pre AD 70 church is right on the money, but to deny the furtherance of the church after the Parousia seems unfounded to me.

I have been involved in a wide variety of "churches", Dave, from very large (several thousand) to small (less than 100 in attendance on the average Sunday morning) over a broad smattering of denominations. Parker might be shocked to discover that I even graciously agreed to *gasp* play the piano for Catholic mass on one occasion when they were desperately stuck for a pianist due to their regular player's sickness. I did my best to blunder through some very unfamiliar hymns, but I found their practices intriguing, as I'd studied them through second-hand material, but had never sat in on a mass (in adulthood) to that point.

While I can sympathize with your difficulty over how to respond to my categorical rejection of the validity of the Church's continuance and perpetuation beyond 70 AD, I feel that the Scriptural case for this view is exceedingly sound - even more so than I was able to express and demonstrate within the limitations and parameters of the article, above. It's a subject worthy of at least one full-length book.

To say that present day believers do not make up the "Body of Christ" seems illogical and gives the notion that we are disconnected today.

It seems illogical and "unfounded", Dave, when one is sitting Sunday by Sunday and week by week immersed in the social, religious milieu of a "church". When it is continuously reinforced by "church" leaders that the Holy Spirit is supposedly prompting everyone to consider themselves to be members of the "Body of Christ", etc. it is difficult to resist the imposed pattern of thinking and belief, particularly when tensions that could develop, and the obvious peer pressure to conform militate against disagreement.

We need to ask ourselves WHAT we feel "disconnected" from, when we get that "forgotten, disconnected" feeling (and I know exactly what you're talking about, Dave, because I've dealt with the very same misgivings, personally). IF my position is true and Biblically accurate (which, of course, I believe that it is), then to feel "connected" directly to the First Century Body and Bride of Christ (as an active member thereof) is really an illegitimate deception and delusion. But if we were to view ourselves more as the spiritual offspring of Christ and His First Century Bride, then there would be less of a sense of "disconnectedness" in our thinking and belief. But I think a much STRONGER case for "connectedness" can be made on the basis of citizenship in an eternal, New Covenant Kingdom/Nation. Rather than experiencing the "pampering", almost excessive "nurse-maiding" influence of the Holy Spirit in nurturing the "Body" like He did in the pre-AD 70 "age", we should view ourselves in a more adult, autonomously responsible and accountable way. We have a Sovereign God who benevolently governs us and attends to our needs (spiritually, in particular) in a way that no earthly king ever could. And we look forward to eternity with Him as His subjects, ever more perfectly expressing His nature creatively, individually and uniquely, in glory. We don't have to feel "connected" to the intense persecutions at the hands of the Jews suffered by the pre-AD 70 Christians, nor do we need to pursue "better gifts" or managing the effusive "signs and wonders" of Holy Spirit outpourings like those pre-AD 70 Christians had to. We don't have to govern others like those pre-AD 70 Church leaders did (and what an obvious trial and tribulation that was in itself, as was evident in their writings). No, Dave - there are MANY aspects of NT Christianity that I am thankful I am not as closely "connected" to as some evidently think they would like to be.

I happen to agree that the "pouring" out of the Spirit to the early church was an amazing act of God to establish and verify the Gospel of Christ.This was a one time event, with lasting implications for all believers

Amen, Dave. I would add that it was also a testimony of impending judgment coming upon the Jews - it was a harbinger of the reality that God's approval had passed from the Old Covenant Nation to the New Covenant one that was coming into existence.

Contrary to your view, I believe the parallel today, is His indwelling Presence as the Power of our New Nature.Our transformation only occurs due to His activity in our surrendered lives.

You're actually closer to my own view than you may think, Dave. God's "indwelling Presence" as represented in the new, divine Nature created within the spiritually regenerated individual is a Biblically valid reality, I believe. In other words, it is not God's actual Presence within the person but His representative Presence - a representation of Him. This regenerative act of transformation within a person (you and I, I'm sure, can both verify the authenticity of these events through personal experience) is, I believe, accomplished by the Holy Spirit. It is a spiritually miraculous, supernatural accomplishment.

Since I have become vocal in my FP beliefs,my pastors have not censored or labeled me in any way, but rather have asked me to serve on our ministry leadership team, as an "elder".

On the one hand, this is encouraging, Dave - as it shows a humble openness to the challenging of one's core beliefs on the basis of conscientious Scriptural reasoning within a contextually accurate frame of reference. I respect your "pastors" for taking this step. If, on the other hand, some of them may be hoping to sway you toward reconsidering your position (through deeper immersion in the fundamental doctrinal position of the "church" as an "elder"), you may find it increasingly difficult to maintain your stance and yet serve the "church" effectively, according to its established criteria. I'm not saying there are underlying motives in their placing you in that position, but there MAY be. When I first became a Full Preterist, I was teaching a High School Sunday School class. I frankly and forthrightly informed our "pastor" that I was not comfortable handling any lessons examining the supposedly future Second Coming of Christ, and I was perfectly willing to step down from that position if he had a problem with the change in my beliefs. As it turned out, he didn't have a problem with my continuing as teacher (I think he may have respected my being upfront about change in eschatology) - but one of his sons was in the class and I had the sense he was keeping a pretty sharp eye on what I taught there, and whether I deviated much from the manual. Needless to say, I skipped the "end times/Second Coming" lesson, and only briefly mentioned my change of viewpoint in passing. I didn't feel comfortable in promoting my new beliefs in what I felt was almost an underhanded way - especially within an environment where the Doctrinal Statement dictated a futurist eschatology.

Again, I respect your "pastors" for taking such a bold, accepting step in your case, but I would caution you to be aware of the fact that we, as Full Preterists, can be prone to taking unto ourselves undue, illegitimate authority also. It is one thing to winnow out false teachings and beliefs publicly, in a forum such as this. It is another to mandate certain beliefs as the criteria for fellowship in a social venue such as your "church" (and I trust you'll be patient with me for consistently placing quotes around that word, because it really wrankles to lend any sense of Biblical, historical legitimacy to these institutions, in our post-AD 70 eternal age).

I believe, as you do, that there is tremendous abuse of authority and mistaken priorities in some churches(maybe alot), but I think having a structure,and a strategy is beneficial in working out our vision of reaching the unchurched with the gospel of Christ. Of course, the great commission, given to the Lord's disciples prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, was fulfilled in the first century, but continues to be a main example to today's believers.

I just want to say, Dave, before directly responding to your statements, above, that I am deeply touched by the sense of Christlike compassion and love I see in your comments and perspective. I share that. I love what people can become as a result of God's gracious, regenerative intervention in their lives. And what I love most is when those very same, spiritually reborn people develop an all-consuming love for God and HIS TRUTH. When a person becomes enthralled with the Word of God to the point that they feel compelled to assimilate it in mass quantities, and share their findings with all and sundry - I take that as a very clear sign that that person's heart and mind have been quickened by the Spirit of God. There is no clearer sign of spiritual renewal and regeneration than a deep love for the Truth as found in the Word of God.

Having said this - I think we need to re-evaluate the imperative we sense too often where the "unchurched" (your term) are concerned. As you rightly noted, above - the Great Commission was fully and completely fulfilled prior to Jerusalem's destruction in 70 AD, so to attach that mandate to any evangelistic effort today would, obviously, be erroneous and an abusive misapplication of Scripture. I understand that you are not suggesting that this be done. But we need to go further, and consider whether God's will is for all of mankind to enter into Covenant relationship with Him, or whether, in fact, His will is that we learn to inter-relate with each other in such a way that the non-Covenantal People are DRAWN to the Kingdom. If we can be a People of exemplary character and vision (creative optimism where the future of mankind and society in general may be headed), we have something that will attract people to it, without having to do a "sales job" similar to the door-to-door harrassment practiced by JWs and Mormons.

I think having a "structure" and a "strategy" can be as much a detriment as an asset in most cases, Dave. I've seen it time and time again. My own brother-in-law is a pastor of a growing Baptist congregation in a sprawling suburban area just outside one of our cities up here. He has experienced severe testing in his role, because (quite frankly) I don't think he had the personal OR spiritual maturity to handle the role when he stepped into it, and he was almost ousted over a pattern of very questionable behaviour. "Structure" and "strategy" too often end up in a battle of one sort or another, as personalities clash and wills begin to contest with one another for "control". But I'm not going to sit here and pass judgment on your involvement with a "church" and the potential consequent benefits (or drawbacks and liabilities). I think your evident sensitive spirit and careful consideration of the things we are openly discussing among ourselves here will stand you in good stead, as you evaluate your involvement there, seeking to exercise godly wisdom and discernment.

Just a quick item of curiousity, though - would your "pastors" be okay with the ecclesiology I've presented here, and the possible influence it could have on your own perspective? I'm just wondering if any of them have privately considered these possibilities, and the possible effect it could have on the continuance of that "church" as a functional entity.

There is great encouragement in fellowshipping with other believers when you experience and see sacrificial love, forgiveness, and acceptance being portrayed.I was greatly encouraged this morning as I witnessed two ladies, who were at odds over some disagreement, kneel to pray together in restoration and obedience.

Yes, Dave - those experiences are wonderful and very uplifting. I agree. Obviously, you don't believe it is essential to be in a "church" to experience those kinds of interpersonal interactions, though. I've seen the very same things happen in summer camp settings, conference venues, etc. I believe the men's "Promise Keepers" movement drew huge crowds and attention as a result of its promotion of "mutual accountability" and confession one to the other as a means of "bonding" men of God together. These meetings were of the "conference" type - not in local "churches". Obviously, these mass gatherings have inherent dangers in them and are vulnerable to abuses which local "churches" try much harder to mitigate.

Yes, there is great encouragement in fellowshipping together with people of like mind and faith, Dave. I agree. I am encouraged and blessed interacting with you, for example, right here and now, on this site.

Bottom line for me, at this juncture of my life, is to ascertain the patterns we see in the early church and to emulate and strive to help accomplish the expansion of His unending Kingdom.Since our "operating manual" was completed before the return of Christ, to instruct and encourage fledgling believers, during their tribulations, we must primarily determine how they would interpret things, and then discern eternal spiritual principles to apply today. The greatest leaders are the best servants,those who humbly report to duty with a willing and grateful heart.

Amen again, Dave. I would only caution that any leadership role we are invited to step into should be a Scripturally legitimate one, whereby we are enabled to fully and wholeheartedly manifest our blessed Sovereign's grace and Truth in harmonious balance. One great, old saint of years ago made the statement, "The hardest thing in the life is to stay balanced." I believe that statement is very accurate, but the corollary to it is "The most important thing in life is to stay balanced". Christ Jesus achieved perfect balance in His earthly life (gaining favor with both God and man without compromising His Person and divinely-established role/purpose). His example is one ideal we can set before us, and yet He was obviously unique in so many ways also. We are not supposed to pursue "messianic" agendas ourselves, of course. But we can certainly emulate certain aspects of His righteous Person and Character, and adopt the values He manifested as a man. Ultimately, acquiring and exercising God's wisdom in our everyday life is the bottom line for New Covenant People today. Whether you do this most effectively in a "church" setting or outside of it is between you and God. Too often, our "comfort zones" give us a sense of God's approval when that may not always be the case. It's a difficult, fine line to walk, and I can't walk it for anyone but myself.

Today's "churches" with a major emphasis on "decisions" rather than on an authentic relationship, can be a wonderful field for a Christian missionary to operate in.
Honestly John, titles, and even roles are trivial and sometimes distracting to those who only want to serve the Lord, for His Glory.

That's a relatively healthy attitude to have, I think, Dave - provided that all "titles and roles" can be readily set aside and mutual ministry can be pursued at the peer level. Due to their "trivial" and "sometimes distracting" nature, I honestly believe that all religious institutions designating themselves as "Christian" today would be well-advised to drop them completely. They are misleading and, ultimately, reduce the effectiveness of God's Kingdom and its advancement among mankind.

I very much appreciate your observations and forthright comments, Dave. You are truly a blessing, and I hope we can always carry on dialogues together at this level.

Your fellow-servant in the Truth,

John McPherson

davecollins's picture

John, Thanks for your patience in working through this issue.I understand the frustration of the untangling the red tape of today's "church".It is so easy to forget the call on our lives, and lose balance when immersed in churchianity.

The flip-side is when you see, and even help others grow in faith and Godly living.

To answer your question regarding my pastors, I have been really open about the timing and nature of the Parousia with them. I have shared articles and books with them.I believe they, at least,are open to the legitamacy of the issue.We both understand the tremendous courage needed for a full time pastor to relinquish the traditional view and adopt the Biblical position. It needs to be done, but it is hard.

I am looking forward to your next article on the post AD 70 christian community.I think we all want to be effective in living out our faith daily.
We are a "cellchurch" where ministry occurs in our home teams. Every member is a minister, and we exist for those who are not yet apart of us.

John, you are a blessing and I enjoy your writing.

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Thanks for those further clarifications, Dave! I'm definitely encouraged and heartened to hear of "church" leaders taking the brave, bold step of giving very serious consideration to Full Preterism's legitimacy as an eschatological paradigm and hermeneutical approach to the Scriptures. I'll be thinking of you and your congregation in the days ahead, Dave, and keeping all of you in my prayers. Your interactions as a community of faith seems to have significant benefits, at this time, to all involved (from what you've shared).

Thanks again, Dave, for your kind encouragement and affirmation. You, also, are a blessing, and I truly enjoy our discussions.

John

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