Sunday, September 9, 2007
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.- 1Cor 1:21-24;
Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.- 2:13-14.
There are the rules of language, there are proper approaches to interpreting a given text of whatever book in the world we may discuss. But if we hold that the Scriptures are the very Word of God, do the same rules always apply? And I'm not saying that they don't- please hear this. But the Scriptures are "multi-layered"- like an onion if you will. An example of this are the Jews in their traditional, and mystical approaches to Scriptural hermeneutics. Christianity, prior to modern "higher criticism", also adopted these approaches: 1) literal; 2) figurative; 3) allegorical; 4) spiritual; to these standard approaches may be added: 5) parabolic; 6) typological; 7) gematria; and 8) cryptological (?).
Fundamentally, the truth, let alone the life, of Scriptures cannot be arrived at scholastically, by the ability of the dianoia-mind. While the Scriptures are forced into pseudo-scientific constraints, and imposed delimitations after the natural (soulish) mind, the spirit man is left starving, and the carnal mind proud.
Contrariwise the approach to Spiritual hermeneutics as taught in Scripture Itself, there are at least 4 fundamental necessities:
1) The Holy Spirit Himself;
2) Spiritual discernment;
3) Comparing spiritual with spiritual: Scripture interprets Scripture (note how the Old Testament Scriptures are interpreted by the apostle Paul, and all the writers in the New Testament); and,
4) The preaching of the Cross of Calvary: we may look at the crucifixion of Christ on the cross, the truths thereof, as the "key" to ALL Scripture on all levels.
A final word on spiritual hermeneutics:
A person will hear Scripture on at least 1, or more of 3 levels as exemplified when the Father spoke to His Son from heaven (Jn 12:28), The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.- v.29. Thus in accordance to one's spiritual growth (not "intellectual") when God speaks, as He does in Scripture, what is heard will either be heard, but sealed up as thunder (Rev 10:3-4), heard from the medium of an angel (messenger) as it were, or the voice of God Himself, directly and noetically (gnosis).
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
The Lord addressed seven churches located in Asia Minor when He appeared to the apostle John while he was exiled on the island of Patmos (Rev 1:9-11). These churches, in the order they're addressed, are in clock-wise direction, forming a kind of oval shape on a map. This lends to the historical view of these churches as representing various church-eras, as well as surviving denominations that have deep traditional roots.
Let us see that of the seven, only the final four churches, while representing their own historical era, are with us today. This is seen in the fact that these four each are spoken of in the context of Christ's second coming (Rev 2:18, 22; 3:1, 3; v.v.7, 10; v.v. 14, 20).
This presentation is not meant to be a treatise against denominations, nor against denominationalism as such. But simply to see where each church is today in light of what Jesus said concerning them. Nor yet is this meant to exalt one denomination, or group of people over another. But honest readers of church history can assess for themselves where their church or denomination is in relation to Christ Who stands in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.
The Seven Church types through the ages, with brief commentary (the years are mere approximations and not intended to be exact):
1. Ephesus (2:1-7): The Patristic Era (35-120 A.D.);
2. Smyrna (2:8-11): The Apologetic Era (120-220 A.D.);
3. Pergamos (2:12-17): The Philosophic Era (220-305 A.D.);
4. Thyatira (2:18-29): The Catholic Era (305-1499 A.D.);
5. Sardis (3:1-6): The Protestant Era (1500-1906 A.D.);
6. Philadelphia (3:7-13): The Pentecostal Era (1906-? A.D.);
7. Laodicea (3:14-22): The Charismatic/Evangelical Era (1970-? A.D.):
1. Ephesus- The Patristic Era:This time span of the Church extends from the time approximately when Christ ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9) down until about the time of Irenaeus (2nd century A.D.).
Based on the Scriptures for this time period, the church already left her first Love (2:4b ). She was more or less alright in terms of form and works. Around this time the Didache was written, which is also called the Commandments of the 12 Apostles. And in Didache XI, we have evidence that during this time itinerant apostles (other than, or in addition to the 12) and prophets were roaming about the known world preaching, and ministering the Gospel.
Yet during this time, formalism began to appear. Due to the threat of Gnosticism, and State sponsered persecution (Nero's persecution occured during this time) the Church identified itself as "catholic", meaning universal, to include all the communities of those who believed in the same Lord Jesus Christ come in the flesh. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch (d.107 A.D.), who wrote seven epistles on his way to be martyred in Rome, emphasized in them the authority of the ecclesiastical heirarchy even to the point of comparing them to the Members of the Godhead. Which, truth be told, is the right of every believer to participate in the divine nature (2Pet 1:4). No where in Scripture is this comparison the sole designation of the "Clergy". In fact this was the beginnings of the "Clergy-Class" mentallity.
2. Smyrna- The Apologetic Era:This time of the Church was known for its heavy persecution. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days; be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.- 2:10. During this time several wrote apologetic treatises to either Roman emperors, or others influential in Roman society in order to explain their faith in the face of tremendous persecution and martyrdom in the Church. Interesting is that the tribulation Jesus mentions was to last "ten days", which it has been customarily understood that there were 10 major persecutions:
1) Persecution under Nero (64-68);
2) Persecution under Domitian (81-96);
3) Persecution under Trajan (112-117);
4) Persecution under Marcus Aurelius (161-180);
5) Persecution under Septimus Severus (202-210);
6) Persecution under Maximinus the Thracian (235-38);
7) Persecution under Decius (250-251);
8) Persecution under Valerian (257-259);
9) Persecution under Aurelian (270-275);
10) Severe Persecution under Diocletian and Galerius (303-324)*
* (Dates and names from Wikipedia).
Of course these dates overlap other "eras" of the Church, but primarily this era is the epicenter for persecution. But also the harsh tribulation that the Church endured during this time, and the apologetics that came out of Smyrna led to the following era-
3. Pergamos- The Philosophic Era:
Due to the percieved need to compose apologetical works in defense of the gospel and Christian theology, there began to be a heavy leaning on human wisdom and philosophy. Justin Martyr (d.x) was one of the first to orient Christian thinking toward the classical Philosophers. In fact, he credits his conversion experience to an elderly Philosopher he met on a beach. One is left wondering who it was. I kind of surmise that it was one of the apostles, but I don't know.
One of the biggest exponents of marrying apologetics to secular philosophy was Clement of Alexandra (d.211/216), followed by his disciple Origen (d.254).
But not all were in favor of such an approach. Tertullian was strongly anti-philosophy. His famous statement, "What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?" makes this pretty clear. And yet, having been a jurist himself prior to his conversion, he didn't refrain for using his talents for the Lord in this area. But neither did he wed human philosophy with Christianity as did many his contemporaries.
4. Thyatira- The Catholic Era:
This era comprises a great expanse of time, and is the first of the final four churches which still have expression today, and will see the Lord's return.
Thyatira spans at least from the conquest of Constantine until the beginnings of Protestantism. Thyatira includes both Eastern and Western forms of Catholicism (Roman Catholocism, Eastern Orthodox, including Russian, Oreintal, Coptic, et. al.), as well as non-Protestant Anglicanism.
There are severe issues going on in the Thyatira church which the Lord adresses. These include idolatry and sexual immorality (2:20-22). The idolatry is obviously refer to the images and icons which Roman and Eastern Orthodox Churches have long engaged in. And of course the reference to sexual immorality (fornication, and adultery) is often spiritual in Scripture as idolatry.( Ex 34:15; Ezek 16:36).
Yet Jesus says, I know thy works this being said in a positive way. And the Catholic Church, particularly the Roman branch, has been a leader in works of charity, as is exemplified by Mother Teresa's order the Sisters of Charity, which she founded in Calcutta, India amongst some of the poorest folk in the world.
5. Sardis- The Protestant Era:
This period began in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his " Ninety-Five Theses on the Power of Indulgences" to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church, which was like a bulletin board for university related announcements. Though Luther's forerunners were such men like John Wycliffe, and John Huss.
6. Philadelphia- The Pentecostal Era:
In Topeka, Kansas Charles Parham lead a group of Christian seekers of the baptims in the Holy Ghost, as evidenced by speaking in other tongues. They were met by God in a powerful out pouring of His Spirit. Thus the Pentecostal revival began. The fires of Pentecost soon spread all over the world launched from a small church in Los Angeles, located on Azuza Street. The pastor's name was William Seymore. He had met Charles Parham at a conference in Dallas, Texas. But the Pentecostal revival began to be known as the Azuza street revival. From this place it spread as a world-wide phenomena.
7. Laodicea- The Charismatic/Evangelical Era:
By the 1970's, there began to be a secularization of the Charismatic movement where there was a distancing from Pentecostalism doctrinally. This distancing has been covered my post "Confusing the Gift with His Gifts".
The results have been a "safe" approach to the supernatural in the Church, and a more "marketable" gospel that appeals to the "worldly" Christian who expresses his worship on Sundays only, and has no depth to his spirituality. This "room temperature" Christianity is what Christ referred to as lukewarmness (Rev 3:16).
*This blog post requires further research, and is a work in progress. More will be added soon before I call this post "done".
Thursday, August 16, 2007
When the baptism in the Holy Ghost revisited the Church in a powerful way in 1906, and onward, the resistance from disbelieving Protestant churches was in the form of this objection, that this, along with healing, miracles, etc, passed away with the Apostles. This failed, however, to prevent the global revival promoted by Pentecostals, and Pentecostalism. Since then, Pentecostalism has made deep inroads into Mexico, Central, and South America-traditionally held by Roman Catholicism, and has spread around the world in continents as diverse as Africa and Asia.
Today, however, there is a new attempt by disbelieving circles to quell, if not quench the fires of Pentecost. This view has a wider audience then the Protestant denominations, but embraces much of evangelicalism, as well as Charismatic Christianity. In fact this view has come to define the Charismatic movement, separating it, at least in its approach to Pentecostal gifts, and Holy Ghost baptism.
Before we look at this view, what is the traditional approach to the baptism in the Holy Ghost held to by Pentecostals? Before we answer, we have to exclude from this consideration the Oneness Pentecostals of the Apostolic denomination. Their theology differs from most Pentecostals on the fundamental levels of the nature of deity: their denial of the Threeness of Persons; and the nature of salvation: their insistence on "Jesus' name only" water baptism, and the Holy Ghost baptism as some necessary "third step" toward salvation, (as if the cross or belief in Jesus were not enough).
1) The 120 believers- And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.- Acts 2:4.
2) The believers of Samaria (though here the evidence is inferred)- Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (for as yet he was not fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money.- 8.14-18.
3) The Gentiles of Cornelius' household- While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they which were of the circumcision were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.- 10:44-46a.
4) The twelve believers at Ephesus- He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost...And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues and prophesied.- 19:2, 6.
And so the Holy Spirit Himself is the Gift after salvation, and to receive Him is evidenced by speaking in other tongues. This has been the experience of millions of Spirit baptized people the world over since 1906. The confusion comes by assuming that whoever believes on Christ has the Holy Spirit too. And, as they think, how dare we assume otherwise. But there is a confusion in their thinking toward this text, But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteouness.- Rom 8.9-10. The Greek text shows a difference here between three references to 'spirit': the Spirit that belongs to God, which will determine whether a believer is in the flesh or Spirit; the Spirit that belongs to Christ, which will determine whether or not we even belong to Christ; and the human spirit, as there is no Greek possesive suffix (-ou) attached to the last instance of pneuma-spirit in the text above. This last instance should not have been capitalized by the translators. Oh well, sorry KJV only people- But this human spirit is alive with zoe-eternal life because of its state of righteousness.
Thus, fundamentally, what is at issue is, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?- Acts 19.2b. The question would've been a moot point if matter-of-fact everyone who believes receives the Holy Spirit. True, all believers, if they are that, have the Spirit of Christ, which is to say, they have Christ. And equally true that their spirit is alive for eternity with God's life because of the righteousness they enjoy by faith. But if they already had the Holy Spirit, then why would Jerusalem send Peter and John to the Samaritan new believers? And why would Paul ask such a question of whom he assumed were Christians in Ephesus?
The Holy Spirit Himself is the Gift, and when He comes upon us in Pentecostal baptism, we speak in other tongues as evidence of receiving that Gift. Then with Him, comes at least nine gifts, prophetic tongues, diversity of tongues, and their interpretations are some of the gifts He gives as He wills according to our position or calling within the Body of Christ. So then not all will manifest the same gifts in the Church at every given moment
Let us not then confuse the Gift and His gifts.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
A commonly held view is that we were all born sinners. This view is based on what is called the doctrine of Original Sin. Which belief holds that because of Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden (see Gen 3.) all mankind were born sinners, as if "sin" were a physical phenomena that passed down to us genetically, causing us to be sinners.
This view taken for granted as true by most Christians is tacitly false! But before we can consider the truth, we must avoid the smoke screen of labels we so readily place on each other, and one another's views. Much like in modern politics, we label one a liberal or a conservative, a Republican or a Democrat. These labels can obscure the truths we face in society, and are actually smoke screens which seek to polarize us against each other as Americans, and nullify true and honest debate over political and social issues. And so we should avoid labelings such as Arminianists versus Calvanists, or Augustinian versus Pelagian.
To be sure, Original Sin is not held to be true within Judaism. If this is so, it should cause us as Christians great ponder. Why? Because for us, Christianity was not meant to be an elaboration of the Jewish faith, but a fulfillment of it. Thus, other than revealing Who the Messiah is, and His teachings, the rest was already in place through Judaism. And so, if the Jews don't believe in Original Sin as presented above, why do we?
Scripture, of course is the final arbiter of these matters. And to be sure, each will state his case based on their favorite texts. But the Bible cannot support both positions.
Some of the texts oft quoted in support of this doctrine, there are:
- Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.- Psa 51.5.
- Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned- Rom 5:12.
The issue is a serious one, and has led to gross error in the Church. Because it promotes an erroneous view of what sin is. It turns sin into a physical phenomenon that is passed (some say through the blood!) down from father to son, and upon all Mankind. This relieves you and I of the responsibility of moral obligation. How could God judge me for my sins if I only did that which was my nature to do? Was I not born a sinner? Is a snake blamed for being a snake? Isn't it doing what is its nature to do? And yet the Bible defines sin thus, ...for sin is the transgression of the law-1 Jn 3.4b.
And to be sure, Adam was not born a sinner, yet he brought about the dynamics of sin and death into the world, albeit activated through our personal participation.
Neither did the angels that sinned have to be born sinners in order to damn themselves through transgressing God's moral law (2Pet 2.4). In fact, Peter's entire point would be lost if the angel's sin was not comparable to ours, which would not be the case if we were born sinners. Yet there is the reward of unrighteousness- v.13a, why? Because there is such a thing as blameworthiness and praiseworthiness, which would not make any sense if we were born with the natural predilections to sin. These were acquired through our freely choosing to disobey God's moral law of love for self-grattification, albeit at a very young age. But likewise our salvation through the cross of calvary, while also not automatic, but was freely chosen by those of us who believe.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Recently, Joseph Ratzinger, whose Pontifical name is Pope Benedict XVI, reiterated that the Roman Catholic church was the true church, the only one that Jesus Christ came to establish on earth. And that, while the Greek Orthodox was the closest to being a real church, the protestant churches are not true churches as they do not have apostolic succession. But exactly what is the true Church that Jesus came to establish?
Before this can be answered, we must first say what the true Church is not:
1. The Church is not a human institution;
2. The Church is not a centralized organization;
3. The Church is neither Catholic, nor Protestant while including both Catholics, and Protestants;
4. The Church is neither headed by one man, nor by a group of men though containing leaders and leadership;
5. The Church cannot be licensed to be such, nor does She receive the "right" to be such by human government;
6. The Church cannot be overcome, divided, nor polluted by sin though including those who are saved out of a world of sin, and are being sanctified at varying degrees of maturity and purity.
Jesus Christ said, ...upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it- Mt 16.18b. This is true, not because the Church is built upon apostolic succession, even if we talk about Peter (whose name in Greek is Petros- a stone), but because it is built upon this rock which in Greek is the word Petra-a massive rock or stone, a cliff or ledge. But this rock of which Jesus spoke is the very revelation that, thou art the Christ the Son of the living God.-v.16b. Thus this Rock upon which the church is built is Jesus Christ Himself.
This brings us to the heart of the issue: What is the nature of the true Church?
Jesus said, Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.-Mt 18.20.
And of Jesus it is written, and gave him to be the Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all- Eph 1.22b-23. And of the Church it is written, Now are ye the body of Christ and members in particular- 1Cor 12.27; and again, so also is Christ-v.12b, which text thus calls the Church. The apostle Paul also spoke of the relation of Christ and His Church in reference to the creation of Eve from Adam's side, and how that Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh-Gen2.23a (cp.Eph5.30-32), and to say, He that loveth his wife loveth himself-v28b.
This is a holy mystery. Let us approach this with fear, and reverence. To touch the Church is to touch Christ. This is why when Paul who was Saul persecuted Her, Christ appeared to him, and said, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?-Acts 9.4b. The Church is not an organisation, but an organism: a body whose Head is Christ. Is Scripture simply speaking in metaphores? No. This is spiritual reality. And a believer's degree of realisation of this determines his spiritual maturity and rank before God.
The Church is repeatedly identified with Christ. And so the true nature of the Church is Christ.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Yes, the Great tribulation is often mentioned, and yes it is three and a half years, or forty two months long, but the term,"Tribulation" as a title referring to this period is unscriptural.
This is not a mere mincing of words. For a huge event such as the "rapture" of the church is directly defined relative to it. For the pre-tribulation adherent would argue that at the beginning of the seven year period the rapture would take place. But because Scripture does't call the first three and a half years "tribulation" one could be lulled into a deceptive peace and safety, even deception (Mt 24.4-5; 1Thess 5.3; Rev 6.2). Especially here in America, where we enjoy a life of ease, and would not wish to endure any global chaos.
Be it known, that each position can be proved, and has been supported by Scripture.
And yet all the Scriptural texts which support the position that I held to for years (until about 1994), the Pre-Tribulation rapture, all mention preconditions. This is very important. Because at the same time, there are other texts in the Bible which support both the Mid-Tribulation (Dan 12.1-3, 7-13; Mt 24.13-15; 1Cor 15.51-54; Rev 11.15; 12.7-14), and the Post-Tribulation rapture (Mt 24.31; Mk 13.27; and Rev 20.4-6). And not until we are willing to see this point, that all three positions are scriptural, can we begin to see these prophetic truths more clearly, and understand our brothers' positions.
Scriptures which show a pre-tribulation rapture with preconditions are:
- Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.- Lk 21.36
- Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly- Rev 3.10-11a
- And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Zion, and with him an hundred and forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads...And they sang as it were a new song before the throne...which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God and unto the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.- Rev 14.1, 3-5.
Being the "first fruits" places them first in the order of His rapture of the saints. For the apostle Paul wrote, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.- 1Cor 15.22b-23. This is a Holy mystery, that the 144,000 were truly Christ in the earth. But for now, the term, "first fruits" ties them to the order of harvesting prescribed by Moses as a type of the rapture:
There is the bread of the first fruits (Lev 23.20) which points to the first fruits rapture (1Cor 15.23a), Christ the first fruits; then there is the general harvest (Lev 23.22a), which is the general rapture at the last trumpet (1Cor 15.23b), they that are Christ's at his coming; finally, there are the gleanings of the harvest (Lev 23.22b), the believers left as gleanings for the poor and stranger of the earth who yet need a witness in those terrible days. Their rapture would be referred to in the texts that deal with the post-tribulation.
In conclusion, the partial rapture theory deals with part of the first resurrection, which is the resurrection of life (Jn 5.29; 1Cor 15.23-24; Rev 20.5-6), the second resurrection is that of damnation. The first resurrection occurs over a span of time stretching from an unknown time frame, any where from just prior to the seven year period of Dan 9.27, (or not long into it) unto after the millennial reign of Christ! Even if one adhered to a pre-tribulational position, he could not deny that God still talks about the first resurrection after the thousand year reign! And so the other translations of saints occur roughly three and half years later, then again after the period called the great tribulation. But even then, a resurrection occurs again when Christ's reign in the Millennium ends. Thus we're not talking about a one-time event over which we fight as to when exactly it will occur. But then again we are challenged, that if we seek to "miss" all the trials and tribulations associated with these prophesies, then we ought to strive to walk even as He walked (1Jn 2:6), and perhaps as Enoch, walk straight into heaven (Gen 5.24; Heb 11.5).