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The Seed of Abraham

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By SuperSoulFighter - Posted on 19 April 2005

by John McPherson
As promised, I would like to present an article focusing on the nature of our Covenant relationship with God today, and the Scriptural, historical basis for it. In the face of charges of “deism, nihilism, hyper-cessationalism”, etc. it is important to establish the continuing relevance and Biblical validity of the relationship between the God of the Israel and ourselves, post-AD 70.As promised, I would like to present an article focusing on the nature of our Covenant relationship with God today, and the Scriptural, historical basis for it. In the face of charges of “deism, nihilism, hyper-cessationalism”, etc. it is important to establish the continuing relevance and Biblical validity of the relationship between the God of the Israel and ourselves, post-AD 70.Antecedent to the Old Covenant spiritual economy of Israel founded in the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai, another Covenant was made with a man who was called to separate himself from the rest of mankind and devote himself to the Creator, as His God. This man was Abram (later, Abraham). We are told that he lived in Chaldea, moved to Haran with his father, and was approached there by God concerning a land of promise to which He would guide Him. God urged him to leave his father and his father’s house, and allow Him to guide Abram to a new homeland. Abram chose to respond in faith, and trust God to fulfill His promise.

1 Now the Lord had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, From your family And from your father's house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Gen. 12:1-3)



In the Scriptures we encounter various terms (such as “world”, “heavens” and “earth”) used metaphorically within certain contexts and types of literature. In narratives, such as the one in which this promise from God to Abram/Abraham appears, we are obligated to handle the language in literal terms. Thus, “all the families of the earth” has a planetary significance, rather than a geographically specific, limited frame of reference (such as is found in the usage of “earth” in the prophetic, apocalyptic literature of the major and minor prophets).


With this initial promise to Abram in mind, we are able to track his relationship with God in a different setting than that established in God’s Covenant relationship with the Nation of Israel, as governed by the later Mosaic Covenant. The personal relationship that developed between Abram and God was repeatedly put to the test. God tested Abram and Abram (later Abraham) tested God. But God initiated their relationship, as is evident in Genesis 11, and God guided Abram’s development into a close and personal friend.


In Abram’s relationship with God, there was both a physical and a spiritual element. True to His promise, God led Abram to the land of Canaan, and there made him this promise, in Genesis 12:7, ”7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." And there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.”


This was a promise to grant to Abraham’s physical descendants property rights to a specific geographical location on this planet. As the history of Abraham’s physical descendants – the nation of Israel - progressed, God fulfilled this promise – to the letter. By the time Joshua 21:43-45 was penned, the promise was completely fulfilled. ”43 So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. 44 The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. 45 Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.
God made a further Covenant with Abraham, in Genesis 17. This one had spiritual overtones, and a more eternal focus.

1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. 2 And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly." 3 Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: 4 "As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. 8 Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." 9 And God said to Abraham: "As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. 13 He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant."



This eternal Covenant was initially tied in to the land of Canaan, and to literal, physical circumcision. As time passed, and the physical Nation of Israel repeatedly violated her Covenant with the God of Abraham (and Israel), the spiritual element in this Covenant was emphasized, the physical aspect having been declared fulfilled (Josh. 21:43-45). The eternal significance of this Covenant became apparent and was realized in Abraham’s expectations concerning a “land of promise” AFTER this life. We read the following, in Heb. 11:8-10, ”8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Further on in that chapter we read, ”13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
Abraham and his SPIRITUAL descendants (those who exercised faith in God) anticipated a heavenly country and a city “whose builder and maker was God”. God built a heavenly city, governing a heavenly country for his saints (those who exercise Abraham’s faith in Him) to enjoy eternally.


This is further confirmed in Romans 9:6-8, “6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, "In Isaac your seed shall be called." 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.
Which “promise” is in view, in v.8 (above)? I believe the “children of the promise” were those referred to in both Gen. 17 AND Gen. 22:15-18, “15 Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16 and said: "By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son-- 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."
Clearly, God planned to increase and multiply Abraham’s descendants infinitely. While God employed figurative terminology to indicate a vast number, here (“as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore”), in reality, Abraham’s descendants both physical AND spiritual before 70 AD were not quite so numerous as this language would suggest. Furthermore, “all nations of the earth” being blessed in (and through) his descendants is indicative of fulfillment at a global level, involving mankind as a whole. Thus, we see implied in these promises an eternal commitment extending beyond the termination of the OC Israelite “world” in 70 AD. We see God Covenanting with Abraham to multiply his “seed of promise” ( Spiritual Israel, descended through Isaac) to the extent that it would be a numberless, essentially infinite and eternal Nation.


Jacob's (Israel's) comments in Gen. 32:11,12 further establish this view of the nature of his own (and Abraham's) descendants, “11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. 12 For You said, 'I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.' "


Many Full Preterists have been wondering how we can view the cessation and passing of the Church (from this realm) with the removal of the New Testament generation (at AD 70) as meaning anything other than a cessation of all possibility of Covenant relationship with the God of Israel for ourselves, today. I have been accused of promoting “deism, nihilism and anarchism” at various times. The ultimate intent of such accusations was to highlight the seeming discrepancy between my belief that the God of the Bible (and the Scriptures themselves) have any relevance or real, active relationship with us today, while maintaining that a rigorously, contextually consistent treatment of the pertinent Scriptures requires that we view the New Testament Church as a highly unique entity which, upon its perfection and completion as a “corporate body”, was removed to heaven to dwell with Christ Jesus eternally as His wife (His Body/Bride). Surely, if we have no direct involvement with that Church as members thereof, then New Testament Christianity has no relevance to, or bearing upon our lives, and the Scriptures themselves are no more than an ancient literary artifact of moderate interest to scholars. This argument leveled at my position fails to take into account the reality that those who demonstrate the faith of Abraham, are counted as his seed and are partakers in his eternal Covenant with God. Truly, as Abraham was invited to launch out into the unknown, trusting God to guide, protect and sustain him in his journeys to a land of promise, so we also are invited (at the point of our conversion and spiritual rebirth) to move forward on the great adventure of life, with God as our Guide/Sustainer/Provider/Protector. When we demonstrate a willingness to trust Him and His Wisdom rather than our own, we have taken that great step of Abrahamic faith. We have become his seed by faith, and are recognized and marked as such by God.


Paul referred to the inward “mark” placed upon the heart by the God of Abraham/Israel, in Romans 2:28,29, ”28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
Conversion by faith in God alone is a New Covenant characteristic that superseded all Old Covenant physical, legal requirements and outward signs. The inner man is renewed, and the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration is a form of spiritual circumcision – “circumcision of the heart”. This circumcision marks one as a member of that Spiritual Nation referred to in Gal. 4:26-31, “26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written: "Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children Than she who has a husband." 28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. 29 But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. 30 Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman." 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.


It will undoubtedly be pointed out that, according to the hermeneutic I have presented here in other articles, we have no business viewing ourselves as included in any of Paul’s statements, above, concerning “children of promise” and Jerusalem being the “mother of us all”. However, these New Testament saints (admittedly a unique generation, who were, exclusively, the Body and Bride of Christ) were also part of a much larger Nation – the spiritual Nation whose forefather was Abraham. Paul clearly references their participation in THAT Nation, in Gal. 4, as “the Jerusalem above” is identified as Sarah – the wife of Abraham, and her offspring (the “seed of promise and faith”) are the descendants and citizens thereof.
Paul spoke of his citizenship (and that of the NT saints) as being in heaven, in Phil. 3:20, “20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” Clearly, Paul tied in the First Century expectations concerning the Parousia of Christ (that occurred in their lifetimes and was exclusive to their experience) with their citizenship in heaven. But do we have any right to consider our own, spiritual experience as enabling us to participate in that same citizenship and transformation into a glorious body? I believe we do. I believe that the Spiritual Nation referred to in Romans 9 and Gal. 4 is both eternal AND continually augmented by the addition of new proselytes to its infinite population.

1 Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! 2 Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works! 3 Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! 4 Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face evermore! 5 Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth, 6 O seed of Abraham His servant, You children of Jacob, His chosen ones! 7 He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth.
8 He remembers His covenant forever, The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations, 9 The covenant which He made with Abraham, And His oath to Isaac, 10 And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, To Israel as an everlasting covenant,
11 Saying, "To you I will give the land of Canaan As the allotment of your inheritance," 12 When they were few in number, Indeed very few, and strangers in it. (Psalm 105:1-12)



It is evident, then, that Abraham’s seed and lineage are eternal, being manifested in the eternal “house” or Nation of Spiritual Israel. As participants in that Spiritual Nation, through exercising the faith of Abraham in the God of Israel, we experience the spiritual circumcision accomplished by God within each true spiritual proselyte and newly regenerated citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven (Spiritual Nation of Israel). The infinitely growing, eternally developing Abrahamic “race” to which Spiritual Israelites belong has the heavenly City of Zion ( the New Jerusalem) as its “capital city” and seat of governing authority. God alone governs this Kingdom, and sovereignly administers it on an individual basis. The “corporate” element in our experience is not a necessity but a by-product of our Covenant relationship with Him in this Kingdom. Truly, as Abraham’s spiritual descendants, we are like the stars of the heavens (Gen. 15:5; 22:17), not only in number but in individual glory. We uniquely manifest God’s wisdom and glory according to our individual capacities to assimilate His Truth, righteousness and Person within the spiritual darkness surrounding us, and forming a backdrop to the glory of God’s Light and Truth. The necessary contrast thus created further magnifies the wondrous beauty of our Creator and King’s essence and Being.
Heb. 8:6-13 is a passage that has been considered carefully within the context of our present ecclesiology, but there is another significant aspect to this text. Here it is again.

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.



What is truly noteworthy (in terms of this particular article) in the bold-type verses, above, is that the “house of Israel” (spiritual descendants of Abraham) continues BEYOND the events of 70 AD (the clear inference of the language both verses 10 and 13). The spiritual forefathers of the Abrahamic Nation and race lived under the old, Mosaic Covenant referenced in v.9. The New Covenant established in and through Christ Jesus and His First Century Body/Bride represents the eternal perpetuation of the ultimate fulfillment of God’s Covenant with Abraham. Indeed, we have much to celebrate in our citizenship in this infinite, eternal Nation and Kingdom.


Serving the True, eternal Kingdom of Heaven,


John McPherson

philmute's picture

Like it John,
faith is a journey because God is infinite. 'Launching into the unknown' a sweet phrase indeed. Abraham's faith was to listen to the voice of God and follow it even to the loss of his most precious possessions, this is the love Jesus demanded and demonstrated.
'Truly as Abraham's spiritual descendants we are like the stars of the heaven, not only in number but in individual glory'. Excellent.

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Thanks, Phil! I appreciate the encouraging, complimentary comments! It's good to know that you, and others, appreciate the glory of the spiritual realities defining our relationship with God today!

JM

Parker's picture

This article tries in vain to make a distinction between some infinite, global "Spiritual Nation of Israel" and a finite, local, first-century Church (as if they are two different things). This distinction doesn't exist in scripture.

According to New Testament teaching, the first-century Church was the precise embodiment of that promised spiritual nation. In Galatians chs. 3-4, the apostle Paul gives us the apostolic interpretation of the promise given to Abraham--namely, the first-century, Law-escaping generation was the precise fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise (see Galatians chs. 3-4).

Therefore, we have no business viewing ourselves as included in any of Paul’s statements concerning “children of promise” and Jerusalem being the “mother of us all”. We have no right to consider our own spiritual experience as participating in that first-century, time-restricted citizenship and transformation into a glorious body.

Furthermore, since the apostles considered that the law-escaping generation was the precise fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, it is impossible to say that "all the families of the land" of Genesis 12:1-3 should be interpreted globally, involving all mankind as a whole. It pertained to the inclusion of gentiles into the first-century Church during the last days of the Old Covenant world.

This article illustrates the difficulty John McPherson has interpreting scripture consistently using his own hermeneutic. Is John McPherson the spiritual Israel Paul spoke about? No. Rather, the last-days citizens being "crucified unto that world" were spiritual Israel (Gal 6:14-16). Simply put, the Spiritual Nation referred to in Romans 9 and Gal. 4 spoke of the last days Church, and is neither eternal nor continually augmented by the addition of post-AD 70 proselytes...unless, of course, the Church is still on earth today.

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Once again into the breach, eh, Parker?

This article tries in vain to make a distinction between some infinite, global "Spiritual Nation of Israel" and a finite, local, first-century Church (as if they are two different things). This distinction doesn't exist in scripture.

"...tries in vain...". I got a chuckle out of that one. This distinction doesn't exist in Scripture? Really? Quite frankly, I'm convinced that I actually succeeded in making a good case for distinguishing between the Church and the eternal Kingdom of Heaven/Nation of Spiritual Israel. You, on the other hand, have once again made a vain attempt to refute my position in the form of speculative comments loosely associated with random Scriptures.

According to New Testament teaching, the first-century Church was the precise embodiment of that promised spiritual nation. In Galatians chs. 3-4, the apostle Paul gives us the apostolic interpretation of the promise given to Abraham--namely, the first-century, Law-escaping generation was the precise fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise (see Galatians chs. 3-4).

Let's take a look at one or two portions of Gal. 3.

6 just as Abraham "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." 7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed." 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.

Note that Abraham was justified BY FAITH - NOT by membership in the Church. His belief in God was counted to him for righteousness. All those who are "of faith" are blessed with believing Abraham, Parker. It doesn't read "all those who are members of Christ Jesus' Body/Bride are blessed with him". Obviously, Paul was writing to those who WERE members of that Body and legitimately enjoyed the expectation of the Parousia and wedding of their corporate Body to the Bridegroom, Christ Jesus. There are aspects of Paul's teaching and admonitions that apply exclusively to the NT saints (the Galatians to whom he was writing in particular), and yet have secondary implications and ramifications for later generations of New Covenant Kingdom citizens.

I don't see where you get the idea that "the first-century, Law-escaping generation was the precise fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise" in examining Gal. 3,4. By "precise" do you mean "total" and "complete"? You're trying to make the argument, here, that Paul was teaching that the New Testament Church were the final fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. Of course, none of the Scriptures you've cited say any such thing, and you don't have the wherewithal to examine and evaluate them, so tossing a reference or two out as supposedly representative of Scriptural support for your arguments is really a waste of time.

Let me help you out a little. I think you might have this text in mind.

27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal. 3:27-29)

Your argument, based on this text, would go something like, "Since those who are Christ's were the First Century Church (as Christ's Body and Bride), in order to be Abraham's seed, one must be a member of that corporate "body" - His Church". Is that more or less how you would put it, Parker?

Here's a more accurate treatment of that text (v.29): "If you are Christ's [as a citizen of the Old Covenant "world" requiring redemption from the Law-worshipping and Law-serving Mosaic Covenant system], then [by exercising Abrahamic faith in Him] you are Abraham's seed [you have been joined to the pre-existing, eternal, spiritual Nation of Israel], and heirs according to the promise [made to Abraham by God]". Does this text state that they were SOLE heirs, Parker? Does it state that THEY ALONE were the seed of Abraham, as a result of faith in Christ?

Whatever you mean by "the precise fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant", obviously the Scriptures don't support the idea that they were the complete and total fulfillment of it.

Therefore, we have no business viewing ourselves as included in any of Paul’s statements concerning “children of promise” and Jerusalem being the “mother of us all”. We have no right to consider our own spiritual experience as participating in that first-century, time-restricted citizenship and transformation into a glorious body.

Paul's references were to an entity (the eternal, spiritual Nation of Israel) which is inclusive of MORE than just the First Century Church. THEIR number didn't fully define ALL of the citizenry of the Kingdom of Heaven. To pretend that this is the case is ridiculous. The First Century Church and the Kingdom of Heaven are two, distinct entities.

15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. 16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. (Gal. 6:15,16)

Note the distinction drawn between the First Century followers of Christ Jesus and believers in the First Century gospel, and the actual "Israel of God", Parker. The phrase "as many as walk according to this rule" is directed exclusively toward the First Century saints. The phrase "the Israel of God", on the other hand, includes all of the Old Covenant saints who died before experiencing the fulfillment of their hopes and faith - even those who walked in faith with God BEFORE Abraham's time (such as righteous Abel, Enoch, etc.). "The Israel of God" is far broader and greater in scope than just the First Century Church and her membership, Parker. Think about it. It's blatantly obvious.

Furthermore, since the apostles considered that the law-escaping generation was the precise fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, it is impossible to say that "all the families of the land" of Genesis 12:1-3 should be interpreted globally, involving all mankind as a whole. It pertained to the inclusion of gentiles into the first-century Church during the last days of the Old Covenant world.

That's a perfect example of the sloppy "exegesis" characterizing your "church", Parker. And it doesn't cut it. You'd better define your terms ALOT better for starters. "The precise fulfillment of the promise to Abraham" sounds alot like you're trying to make the First Century Church out to be the total fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. You'll be very hard-pressed to make any kind of case for that view, Scripturally, Parker. I would advise against making the attempt, although that would be the only course open to you at this point (other than openly and remorsefully acknowledging the accuracy of my position).

You don't even KNOW why the Gentiles were included into the Church, do you, Parker? You're way off-base, of course, but I won't help you on that one (other than to mention Romans 11, in passing).

This article illustrates the difficulty John McPherson has interpreting scripture consistently using his own hermeneutic. Is John McPherson the spiritual Israel Paul spoke about? No. Rather, the last-days citizens being "crucified unto that world" were spiritual Israel (Gal 6:14-16). Simply put, the Spiritual Nation referred to in Romans 9 and Gal. 4 spoke of the last days Church, and is neither eternal nor continually augmented by the addition of post-AD 70 proselytes...unless, of course, the Church is still on earth today.

Wrong. The First Century, pre-AD 70 saints were a subset within spiritual Israel. They were PART of it. They weren't the complete and total Nation itself. You've failed to make your case, Parker. Miserably failed. Back to the Bible. Keep your nose out of RC theology and dogma, and stick with the Scriptures. That's the only reliable starting point for you.

Sam's picture

John,

Your view, which states that the "body" was only a first century phenomenon, is, more or less, exactly what "some" of the Corinthians believed...and they denied the resurrection of the "dead" (those not "in the body"). These would be those who died before the first coming of Christ, never having a chance to hear his gospel, under the law, in Adam, in sheol to perish. "In what body (singular) will they (plural) come?" If the "Body" is a first century entity, then, clearly, the OT saints cannot be raised, for THERE IS NO RESURRECTION OUTSIDE OF THE BODY OF CHRIST WHO IS THE RESURRECTION. It is IN HIM that the resurrection to life occurred. How, then, APART FROM the risen body of Christ could Abraham, who, in your view, is not a MEMBER of that body, be raised? In what body will he come? How can he be raised apart from Christ since he died IN ADAM? That is the question being asked in I Corinthian 15. See, to deny the resurrection of the dead, the hope of Israel, is to deny the resurrection of Christ (the hope of Israel) because the resurrection of Christ INCOPORATED the faithful "dead ones". Therefore, deny the resurrection of the dead ones, then you MUST deny Christ's. Therefore, Abraham's faith eventually brought into the body of Christ so that Abraham could die to sin and be made alive to righteousness in Christ. The Body of Christ, then, INCLUDED those faithful, along with the faithful of the "firstfruits" generation, and is being added to daily by those who have faith. It is plain and simple for Paul: THERE IS NO LIFE OUTSIDE THE BODY OF CHRIST, and if we are not in the Body of Christ, then we have NO LIFE either....

Samuel Frost

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Sorry to take so long in responding to your comments, Sam! Life has gotten a little hectic in unforeseen ways on my end the last few days.

John,

Your view, which states that the "body" was only a first century phenomenon, is, more or less, exactly what "some" of the Corinthians believed...and they denied the resurrection of the "dead" (those not "in the body"). These would be those who died before the first coming of Christ, never having a chance to hear his gospel, under the law, in Adam, in sheol to perish.

I think you've got their argument a little confused, Sam. I think these remarks of Paul's are what you have in mind:

12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up--if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. (1Cor. 15:12-19)

These Corinthians (with whose argument Paul was taking issue here), taught that there was NO resurrection from the dead for ANYONE - the ancient Israelite "fathers", as well as those within that First Century generation who passed away. They weren't distinguishing between God's household of faith who lived previous to the First Century generation, and the First Century Church itself. Rather, they were including everyone in the view that there was a resurrection for NO-ONE.

"In what body (singular) will they (plural) come?" If the "Body" is a first century entity, then, clearly, the OT saints cannot be raised, for THERE IS NO RESURRECTION OUTSIDE OF THE BODY OF CHRIST WHO IS THE RESURRECTION.

The text you've just cited in no way supports the argument you're attempting to make here, Sam. The resurrection of the dead under consideration in 1Cor. 15 is clearly encompasses the raising of BOTH those who lived BEFORE the First Century Church generation, as well as those who were members of the Church itself. Paul is examining the resurrection in very general, all-encompassing terms (where believers - exercisers of Abrahamic faith - are concerned).

Furthermore, I disagree with your treatment of "body" in this passage as referencing the "corporate body" of saints. I don't believe Paul is referring to any "corporate body" here at all. I believe he is discussing the nature of the FORM in which an individual is "raised" to enter and enjoy the spiritual Land of Promise (heaven) forever. Here is the context of that verse you cited, above.

35 But someone will say, "How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?" 36 Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. 37 And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain--perhaps wheat or some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. 39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. 40 There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.

I hope you don't believe a physical resurrection of some sort took place in 70 AD, Sam. Christ's own resurrection was certainly non-physical (as was His ascension), and His post-resurrection form had distinctly spiritual/celestial/supernatural qualities and characteristics. He did not RETURN as a physical human being, nor was He ever glorified as such, post-ascension. He left His physical body in the grave (to be disposed of by the angels, most likely) and ascended to heaven as a spirit being, made visible and manifest to His immediate followers (returning to them, in 70 AD, in the very same way).

We COULD turn this into a discussion about the nature of the resurrection, Sam, but that might be a sidetrack and detract from the whole theme and focal point of the original article.

It is IN HIM that the resurrection to life occurred. How, then, APART FROM the risen body of Christ could Abraham, who, in your view, is not a MEMBER of that body, be raised? In what body will he come? How can he be raised apart from Christ since he died IN ADAM? That is the question being asked in I Corinthian 15.

I don't see that question being asked at all, Sam. I think you're reading something into this passage that was really never intended here. I understand the point you're seeking to make here, but when you break down this passage, it's not so easy to identify the validity in what you're saying. Go back to verses 48,49. I see Paul stating that to be human (a descendant of Adam) is to taste of "death". Certainly, mortality is a common characteristic shared by all of humanity. But immortality is exclusive to the heavenly, celestial state and form. As v.50 clearly indicates, a physical flesh and blood body has no place in the celestial, eternal Kingdom inheritance (in the realm of spirit - the heavenly "Promised Land"). Our enjoyment of "Kingdom governance" and relationship with God in this life is but a foretaste of the glory and wonder of our celestial state, when we serve Him in glorified spirit forms. The "resurrection" was both an event AND a PLACE. The place of the "resurrection" is in heaven, where those who have experienced a translation from their physical bodies to spirit forms enjoy perfect, tranquil, painless joyful contentment with God and each other, forever.

I think you have v.22 in mind, above, Sam. I'll quote the surrounding verses also. 20 "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming."

Now let's consider another angle on Paul's words here (other than what you have suggested and implied is his intended meaning). "Those who have fallen asleep" COULD be a reference to no-one other than the First Century saints (members of the pre-AD 70 Church) who had already died natural deaths or had been martyred, by the time Paul wrote these words. He is not necessarily including all of the pre-Church generation "household of faith" - the ancient forefathers of the spiritual Nation - in his statements here. I'm not saying that they WERE excluded from the resurrection in 70 AD - far from it. I'm saying Paul is not necessarily reviewing THEIR situation here. I believe he is focussed more particularly on the First Century CHURCH saints, and THEIR involvement with the resurrection (post-mortem as well as those who might still be alive at the time of the event).

When Paul makes the statement "as in Adam, all die" - I believe he is making a very general statement about the strictly human condition. Humanity is mortal. That is our Adamic inheritance. In THIS passage, specifically, Paul was reminding the pre-AD 70 First Century Corinthian saints that THEY TOO were mortal, but IF they were partakers of Christ's redemptive sacrifice on their behalf, by faith, they would experience the resurrection and be "made alive". The statement "even so, in Christ all shall be made alive" is not necessarily an exclusive statement. Paul isn't saying ONLY in Christ shall all be made alive. Rather, he's saying "all of those who ARE in Christ shall be made alive". Do you see the difference, Sam? I read it as an "all-inclusive" statement pertaining exclusively to the First Century Church saints, in reality.

Now understand me carefully here, Sam. I'm not stating that Christ Jesus did NOT "call forth" the faithful dead (who died previous to the existence of the NT Church) from their graves (in spirit forms) to join He and His bride at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and enjoy glory together in heaven forever. I am simply pointing out that a case requiring these dead ones to have been members of Christ's First Century Body/Bride CANNOT be made from this passage. The context focusses on the First Century Church's spiritual and redemptive situation, not on the nature of the "corporate resurrection" of the Church vs. the "corporate resurrection" of the "house of Israel". Paul is dealing with the expectations and hopes of individuals where the afterlife is concerned, informing them that the details are somewhat sketchy, and yet glorious. And the most critical detail involves a relocation of persons, NOT the specifics of the eternal forms they will enjoy.

See, to deny the resurrection of the dead, the hope of Israel, is to deny the resurrection of Christ (the hope of Israel) because the resurrection of Christ INCOPORATED the faithful "dead ones". Therefore, deny the resurrection of the dead ones, then you MUST deny Christ's.

I DON'T "deny the resurrection of the dead", Sam. But I want us to be very clear and careful in our handling of Scripture and context. Of COURSE denying the resurrection is tantamount to denying Christ's own resurrection. You and I seem to disagree on the intent and inferences in Paul's words and teachings in 1Cor. 15, however. And we may disagree on the actual nature of Christ's resurrection as well as those of His saints.

I don't see that your argument above, however, has overturned or refuted the points made in my article. You're attempting to undermine my argument through appealing to some of the seeming implications thereof, but you really aren't addressing the argument itself.

It is plain and simple for Paul: THERE IS NO LIFE OUTSIDE THE BODY OF CHRIST, and if we are not in the Body of Christ, then we have NO LIFE either....

Rather, Paul clearly emphasizes the importance for FIRST CENTURY CITIZENS OF THE JEWISH "WORLD" to be "in Christ" in order to participate in the resurrection. If you lived in Paul's day, and were not "in Christ" (a member of His Body/Bride), then you would not enjoy eternal life, and would not participate in the resurrection (70 AD). You tend to jump a little too readily to personal application of texts intended for the First Century Church, Sam. YOU don't live in the pre-AD 70 "age", and therefore your statements, directly above, are erroneous. You are taking concepts exclusive to the pre-AD 70 spiritual experience and economy, wresting them out of their true context, and forcing an application to ourselves today. It doesn't work, Sam, and deep down I think you know that.

I'm going to leave you with that much for now, and hopefully forward that article to you this weekend.

I appreciate the interest you are showing in this issue, Sam, and the thought you are putting into it! Stay with it! This is a very valuable and important exercise we are engaged in here.

John McPherson

Jer's picture

Excellent points, Sam.

Jer

Sam's picture

John,

It appears that you are either, a) defining one church universal as "sons of Abraham." In that, there are some "sons of Abraham" in heaven and some on earth. This is the definition of the universal church given in the Westminster Confession. Or b) the "church" is in heaven and they are sons of Abraham, but there is another group of "sons of Abraham" on earth, but they are not the church. This view makes no sense. If we are all "sons of Abraham" then there is only "one body" in heaven and on earth united together under one kingdom, one Lord, one faith.

Samuel Frost

SuperSoulFighter's picture

I'll explain more fully in that article I'm preparing for The Millennium Post, Sam, but no - the situation can't be broken down precisely as you've outlined above, for several reasons. The primary ones are these: 1) The "one church universal" is not a Scriptural reality in any eternal, global sense. Rather, the one, true Church was Christ's Bride/Body First Century pre-AD 70 community of saints. They were the "royal priesthood" and "chosen generation". They were ALSO participants in, and members of, the "holy Nation" - but that Nation is NOT one and the same thing as the "royal priesthood" and "chosen generation" or "Body and Bride of Christ". The Abrahamic Nation includes that pre-AD 70 Melchizedekian priesthood, just as the Old Covenant Nation of Israel included the Levitical priesthood as a subset within it. But the OC Nation was not one and the same thing as the Levitical priesthood itself. 2) The Church had a temporal role to play in this realm, on this planet, and is fulfilling its eternal, glorified role now in heaven, as Christ's wife. Thus, it is Scripturally inappropriate to view ourselves and our current spiritual experience in terms of membership in THEIR unique generation and Body/Bride community. Their interdependence through Holy Spirit gifting, etc. was designed to perfect, complete and protect THEIR specific, "elect" number. To view their unique status and role in this light in no way diminishes what was accomplished in and through them, and the eternal glory they share in heaven with Christ.

We are united with them through the faith of Abraham, yes. That is true, Sam. But we are united as participants in the spiritual Nation as his [Abraham's] spiritual descendants - NOT as members of the Body/Bride of Christ. As I said, I'll go into further detail in that upcoming article.

John

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