ATTAINING TO THE RESURRECTION

Jesus arguing with the Sadducess

 Now there were seven brothers. And the first took a wife and died without children. 30 And the second took her as wife, and he died childless. 31 Then the third took her, and in like manner the seven also; and they left no children and died. 32 Last of all the woman died also. 33 Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife.” 34 Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. Lk20:29-36NASB

This passage concerns Jesus’ response to a group of Sadducees, a Jewish sect who denied the resurrection of the dead. They try to trick the Lord by presenting him with the scenario of a woman who marries seven brothers in turn. Ok then Teacher, if there is such a thing as resurrection whose wife would she become now?  Jesus’ reply raises some interesting issues that I will briefly comment on in this post. Firstly, in the age to come, the resurrected shall not marry and more importantly will never die. Most Christians will agree about that. But note Jesus’ reference to “those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead”.

This cannot be referring to the general resurrection for all are eventually be raised, worthy or otherwise (cf. Jn5:28-29). It is referring to the first resurrection spoken of in Revelation reserved for “those found worthy of that age” (not “world” as some translations incorrectly portray it). Such is also indicated by Jesus teaching that those who partake of His body and blood shall be “raised up on the last day” That implies of course that others will not be so raised (Jn6:54). Refer also to Rom8:19-23 which speaks of the whole creation being restored when the sons of God are revealed. The latter, Paul describes as awaiting “the redemption of their bodies” (v23).

The millennial age

Such passages lend support to the pre-millennialist viewpoint held by the majority of the ante-Nicene Christian writers. The first of these openly to challenge this perspective was Marcion. He was later denounced as a heretic for rejecting the use of the Old Testament and any epistles not written by Paul. Moving forward it was once again Augustine of Hippo who most greatly influenced medieval theology. As a result the Catholic Church has long rejected pre-millenarianism as an approved doctrine.  For more details on the background to these developments see this page of Wikipedia.

Regardless of the various millennial perspectives it should be evident to any diligent, open minded researcher of Scripture  that the emphasis of the New Testament is not “our spirits going to heaven when we die” but to share with Paul the aspiration to “attain to the resurrection of the dead” (Phil3:11). For the latter is not obtainable via any natural precepts but requires special revelation and faithful discipleship to Jesus Christ.

THE SALVATION OF ZACCHEUS

Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” [Luke 19:8-10]

Luke’s account of Jesus’ encounter with this vertically-challenged, wealthy but dishonest tax collector is instructive on several fronts. At the more trivial level, a couple of posts ago I reported Jesus as saying (when translated into English) that unless you give up ALL your possessions you cannot be His disciple. As I commented at the time the Greek relayed the idea of keeping a loose hold on one’s possessions, and this account bears that out. For Zacchaeus vowed to give HALF of what he owned to the poor, no doubt leaving himself sufficient resources to meet his own material needs. More importantly he vowed “to go straight”, in the process paying back fourfold those he had defrauded when going about his business.

More importantly still, Jesus affirmed that Zacchaeus’ response was what was required for his personal salvation. I suspect the emphasis in this account may surprise many as it did me in the past, along, frankly, with quite a lot else Jesus’ taught regarding discipleship, salvation and final judgement. That was because of how I as for many years a “Reformed” Evangelical had understood Paul’s teaching regarding the human condition, grace, law, free will and justification. The new interpretations set out in my book** supported by these blogs accord more with that of the earliest (pre-Augustinian) Church Fathers. They bring the teaching of Jesus, the Apostles and Old Testament wisdom literature more into harmony. Apart, that is, from the radical new concept that Paul introduced at the risen Saviour’s command: the reconstitution of the elect people of God – the rejection of the Jews as sole inheritors of the Kingdom and the provision of fulness of salvation for people from every nation as considered in the previous post, an understanding of which opens up a vastly broader vista of benign providence.

**Free PDF HERE

THE JEWS’ TWO-FOLD REJECTION OF MESSIAH

Jesus weeps over Jerusalem

41 When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, 44 and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” [Luke19:41-44NASB]

I make the point in my book that Old Testament prophecy has been subverted, i.e. the establishment of God’s Kingdom on Earth is not to be fulfilled in the current age under the inspiration and leadership of the Jewish people (cf. Zech8:22-23; Mt8:11-12). But what in particular has not been understood is that this is a result of a two-stage rejection by the Jews of their Messiah, the first during His lifetime  to which the above passage is referring, the second pertaining to the Jewish leaders’ response to the apostles’ teaching after Jesus had been resurrected and had ascended to heaven.

Whilst many ordinary Jews welcomed Jesus to their city with palm leaves their leaders were indignant and already plotting His downfall. This was the first rejection culminating in the crucifixion and as Jesus stated it put paid to the hope that the coming of the Messiah would bring an end to Israel’s political and military problems. The promise of peace and security for Jerusalem, evident in much prophecy including the recent angelic annunciations concerning the birth of John and Jesus, would not be secured by Jesus in His earthly lifetime, indeed worse was to come for Israel in about a generation’s time as Jesus had warned in His Olivet sermon. However, this is not what resulted in the rejection of the Jewish nation as sole inheritors of the Kingdom that Paul refers to in Romans 11 and Ephesians 3. Such is affirmed in Acts where the apostle indicates that even after Pentecost it was still the Jewish people’s “day of visitation” and they were still not appreciating it. Paul had warned certain Jews at Antioch:

Be careful! – or what the prophets say will happen to you: “Cast your eyes around you mockers; be amazed and perish!  For I am doing something in your own days that you would never believe if you were told of it” {Acts13:40-41]

The warning was about what will or might happen to the Jewish nation, not what already had happened. Their day of visitation did not end when they crucified Christ. That event that Jesus referred to as His other baptism had been both divinely planned and prophesied; what was shortly to occur was undoubtedly planned or foreknown by God and also hinted at in some of Jesus’ parables but it had not been foretold within the Old Testament. It concerned the establishment of an international messianic community, a plan hidden in God the Father even from earlier prophets. For the Jewish leaders had refused to acknowledge that the resurrection and the miraculous signs were the vindication of Jesus’ earlier claims. They still rejected His Messiahship even now that He had been raised to the highest heavens and empowered His disciples to work miracles in His name. The featured passage from Luke 19 affirms that the Jews had already forfeited the prospect of political peace and security through their rejection of Jesus in His lifetime, but something even more radical was at stake: Kingdom inheritance. For as Paul goes on to warn:

We had to proclaim the word of God to you (Jews) first, but since you have rejected it since you do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life, here and now we turn to the Gentiles [Acts13:46-47].

As I go on to explain in my book this was not matter of sequence or protocol – that commonly held view subverts Paul’s teaching in Rom 11 where he writes –

“Look, what I am saying is this: Was this stumbling to lead to the Jews’ final downfall? Out of the question! On the contrary, their failure has brought salvation for the Gentiles, in order to stir them to envy. And if their downfall brings great riches to the world, and their loss has brought great riches to the Gentiles – how much more will their restoration bring!” (Rom11:11-12)

And later in the same chapter:

“For you (Gentiles) were once disobedient towards God but you have now obtained mercy as a result of (the Jew’s) disobedience” (v30)

When Jesus and Paul are taken at their word in this context, the providential implications are wondrous and profound – explored in depth in The Little Book of Providence (free PDF HERE)

THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS

Lazarus comforted by dogs but not Dives

“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. 20 And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 And [a]besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham *said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” [Lk16:19-31NASB}

The preoccupation of the Christian Church has historically focussed on what happens to the soul/spirit after death. So it may surprise many that there is effectively only one relatively miniscule passage of Scripture in the New Testament that directly refers to an individual’s experience of the afterlife: the story of the rich man and Lazarus.  And that is in a  pre-Christian context, hence the reference to compartments in Hades rather than heaven and hell as some translations wrongly translate ᾅδῃ . Yet what will be more perplexing to many is the actual content of the story or illustration Jesus provides. For the one stated criterion distinguishing the two men in question was that one had enjoyed a life of ease and comfort whilst the other had been poor and wretched. It can be deduced from verses 27-31 that the rich man was suffering partly because of the way he had utilized his wealth; failing to show care and compassion to the likes of Lazarus. Yet no reason is provided as to why Lazarus should be comforted after his death other than that he had experienced a life of poverty and sickness. What is more, Abraham intimates in the final verse that “Moses and the Prophets”, i.e. our Old Testament provides all the information required for the rich man’s brothers to avoid a similar fate.

Within the confines of a single post I will have to leave some of these imponderables hanging in the air. The matter pertains in part to redistributive justice (earlier post) and the necessity of suffering (or salting) that Lazarus had experienced in life whilst the rich man had not. The latter may shock the reader but it is line with other teaching of Jesus particularly as recorded by Luke, the Apostle James (“weep and howl you rich people”… ch5v1) and Paul, particularly in terms of the need for those who are to reign with Christ to have suffered with Him in the meantime (2Tim2:12). And why should they suffer? – because even their Captain was perfected through suffering (Heb2:10). All is spelt out and presented in a cohesive package in “The Little Book of Providence”, a free PDF of which is available HERE

THE DEMANDS OF CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP

Now]large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 Who ever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends [c]a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. (Luke14:25-33NASB]

In introducing the previous post (95 theses) I mentioned the importance of paying attention to the original Greek text (in the case of the New Testament) to be sure of understanding a particular verse or passage. The above teaching of Jesus is such an example which for illustrative purposes I have quoted from the New American Standard Bible. For Jesus assuredly did NOT say or mean that His disciples should HATE their parents, spouse or children, or anything like it. Of course, Jesus will have spoken in Aramaic but Luke’s account, like the rest of the New Testament is in Greek and He reported the Master as saying that His would-be disciple should μισέω their relatives. Μισέω can mean “hate” but it is also used in the comparative sense of elevating one person or item above another, and that is surely the case here. The disciple’s devotion and obedience to Christ must indeed be greater than that which they apply to their family commitments or  personal life plans – but that is very different from hating those things. [An interlinear translation per se will not necessarily identify these distinctions – further study is needed such as provided by Bible Hub HERE]

The final verse (33) may also perturb many when Jesus says (in most English translations) that we cannot regard ourselves as His disciples unless we give up all our possessions. Actually, that is not so far from what the Greek relays – ἀποτάσσω  literally means to bid farewell to or at the least to keep a loose hold on. This was the rich young ruler’s problem that I commented on in an earlier post (re: the camel and the needle). It is simply not possible to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and a materialist, at which point many may well utter with Jesus’ original twelve “Who then can be saved?” Jesus’ response was that such an undertaking was impossible apart from God’s enabling grace, and such is the case.

But the main point I want to make from this passage is the major theme of my theses and book – that very few people globally and historically have been enabled to serve Christ in such a way or have even been informed or understood that such was required of them. For Christian discipleship is not what determines where the soul goes when it leaves the body or whether a resurrected body will play any part in God’s eternal kingdom. That is determined by what is innately known and thoroughly achievable (Mt25:31-46). And thanks to the Passion of God’s Son it is not a matter of an accumulation of works or a perfectly lived life but the evincing of an underlying faith or faithfulness towards the innate light of Christ (cf. Jn1:9NKJV) through the exercise of a compassionate humanity.

However, the kind of self-sacrificing discipleship Christ is calling for in the above passage is indeed the requirement for those who are to share His inheritance and be His corporate Bride through eternity. And  as Jesus says, such a commitment needs to be carefully weighed up like a King about to go to battle or someone wishing to build a tower – which would hardly be the case if it pertained to our immortal souls avoiding Hell or gaining  Heaven. Exactly how this fits in with everything else the Bible teaches is explained in my book – free PDF available HERE.

95 THESES OF THE LITTLE BOOK OF PROVIDENCE

INTRODUCTION

This is a reworking of a post I first put out on Halloween 2017, 500 years to the day that Martin Luther allegedly placed his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. It was a somewhat tongue in cheek gesture on my part, but this more rigorous version hopefully provides a useful summary of the theological fundamentals and biblical interpretations set out in the two books that this website is promoting.

I am the first to acknowledge that  biblical proof-texting can be utilized to prove almost anything – what is really needed is a comprehensive biblical synopsis that is intrinsically coherent and accords with the realities of secular, religious and church history as each has panned out. And unlike some earlier Institutes of Religion to which I once adhered, the cosmic outcomes derived from its theology should do justice to the sovereign yet equitable and loving nature of God as He is revealed in Scripture. Those earnestly seeking after Truth rather than simply wishing to support a particular ecclesiological persuasion should not only pay careful attention to the original Greek and Hebrew text of the Bible but also examine the  writings of the second and third century churches. The earliest of these assemblies will have been founded by the apostles themselves or their immediate appointees so they cannot have uniformly been in error regarding the essentials of the faith. Yet none of the available writings of the earliest Church Fathers bear much resemblance to my former (Calvinist Evangelical) theology or polity – it is more akin to my new understanding, especially in the area of (so-called) natural law, an appreciation of which is essential if the true nature of God’s broader providence is to be perceived.

With the Spirit’s help I believe a unified biblical synopsis has now been provided in “The Little Book of Providence”, so-called as I understand its subject matter pertains to that of  “The Little Book” referred to in Revelation chapter ten. It is a disclosure concerning our Creator’s extraordinary providential strategy and His magnanimous intentions towards the human family, both of which have been historically obscured, more especially through the influence of Augustine’s writing and teaching in the fourth/fifth century. For sharing or serious critiquing, a PDF version with full biblical verse renderings is available HERE

95 THESES RELATING TO THE PERSONAL PROPHETIC INSIGHT THAT LED TO THE PUBLICATION OF “THE LITTLE BOOK OF PROVIDENCE” by Richard L. Barker

  1. Humans were made in the image of God and even after the fall are to be regarded as such [Gen9:6]
  2. Cain and Abel as the first humans to be born of woman were representatives within a de facto covenant that has been eluded by theologians [Gen4:7 Masoretic, e.g. KJV]
  3. Abel was not “saved” by anticipating Calvary when he sacrificed an animal, he remained justified within a de facto covenant for fallen humanity by exercising faith/faithfulness, offering the best of his produce with a good conscience
  4. Cain defaulted from this Universal Covenant after killing his brother
  5. Such an inclusive covenant is indicated by the fact that Cain was neither entirely alienated from God nor cursed by Him until after his fratricide [Gen4:13-16]
  6. Cain rather than Adam is the type of the damned or reprobate, later described in the New Testament as derived from the Evil One (Greek: ek tou ponerou) [1Jn3:12]
  7. Adam is mankind’s federal head and the type of those Paul describes as “dead” due to the malign influence of the procreated vessel inhabited by the soul whose moral instincts oppose that of the God-given spirit. Cain is effectively the type of the twice dead [Jude12] in whom both flesh and spirit have died to God and become united in evil
  8. Those who go in the way of Cain [Jude11] are described in the New Testament as children of the devil [e.g. Jn8:44]
  9. Children of the devil are distinguishable by their lack of conscience and their inability to emphasize or show compassion to others [Mt25:41-46]. They also have a total disregard for the truth [Jn8:44]
  10. Children of the devil are alluded to by Paul as vessels of wrath created and prepared by God for destruction [Rom9:22]. They were not planted by the Father [Mt15:13], neither retain His seed [1Jn3:9], so no longer bear a reflection of His moral image. In that sense they cease to be fully human but exist to fulfil God’s purposes set out in theses 92 and 93
  11. When Paul speaks of non-Christians being “dead” he is not referring to damnation but to the disruption of the incarnate soul’s communion with the Source of its spiritual life
  12. Original sin is a reality and the “death” described above is its result
  13. Our first parents “died” immediately they ate the forbidden fruit [Gen2:17]
  14. Spiritual death arises as soon as the conscience is defiled for that faculty has a spiritual dimension [cf. Heb9:14]
  15. Death results from sin but Paul indicates sin is itself a result of death [1Cor15:56] arising from the corrupted intellectual vessel in which the human soul is planted
  16. Infants do not experience spiritual death until in Paul’s language “the law comes” [Rom7:9] being a clear sense of right and wrong; for where there is no law sin is not imputed and the conscience is not defiled [Rom5:13]
  17. Adam and Eve’s offspring do not inherit their parents’ guilt [Jn15:22] but through procreation inherit an intellectual vessel that has been “shaped in iniquity” [Ps51:5] acting as a malign influence on the soul  
  18. The soul/spirit of man, being that which returns to God is not derived from human sperm but directly created by God [Eccles12:7]
  19. The God-given soul/spirit of man is innocent but pliable (liable to corruption)
  20. Apart from gospel grace or infantile death the soul is bound to experience corruption
  21. The soul/spirit of man is not intrinsically corrupt having come from God, unlike the procreated vessel into which it is planted at birth
  22. The intellectual vessel that the soul/spirit inhabits is innately corrupt, governed by a triple concupiscence [1Jn2:16]
  23. Paul refers to the intellectual vessel that the soul/spirit inhabits whilst on Earth as “the body of THIS death” [Rom7:24], referring to its current spiritual status 
  24. Paul’s “law within his members” or “flesh” pertain to the governing principles adopted by the human brain as it processes the senses of the body [Rom7:23]
  25. Since the soul and spirit are immortal the human psyche cannot be confined to the physical brain
  26. For the soul/spirit that leaves the human body when the brain dies is itself an intellectual entity with a memory of its bodily existence [Lk16:25]
  27. Man is composed of body, soul and spirit [1Thes5:23]
  28. The human’s spirit is also referred to in Scripture as the heart or inner man [Rom7:22]
  29. The human’s spirit (not to be confused with the human spirit) is often mistaken for the Holy Spirit when interpreting the Pauline epistles [e.g. in Rom8:6]
  30. The fruits of the spirit pertain to man’s spirit, for those currently devoid of the Holy Spirit also produce good fruit [Gal5:22-23]
  31. The inner conflict described by Paul in Romans 7 arises from conflicting motivations derived from the processing of the brain on the one hand and the conscience-directed spirit of the “inner man” on the other [Rom7:23]
  32. Such an inner conflict is not restricted to the Christian, but to everyone with a functioning conscience
  33. The guiding principle or engrained law within the human’s spirit or “heart” is the conscience [Rom2:15]
  34. The conscience is the light of the incarnate Word/Logos that is diffused within every soul that comes into the world [Jn1:9NKJV]
  35. In taking heed to conscience one is effectively responding to something or Someone superior to oneself
  36. Conscience is therefore a sufficient object of faith, being man’s positive response to the divine revelation he has received
  37. Those who defer to the dictates of their conscience are exercising a form of godly fear
  38. Regardless of race or creed everyone who fears God and seeks to do what is right is accepted by Him [Acts10:35]
  39. “Justification” or acceptance before God within the inclusive Universal Covenant is on the basis of evincing a God-given quality (faith/faithfulness), manifested by the exercise of compassionate love [Gal5:6]
  40. Justification within the exclusive covenant sealed with Christ’s blood is by faith in Christ as Lord and Saviour
  41. Paul’s teaching regarding Law and grace in his epistles to the Galatian and Roman churches is in the context of Jewish infiltrators who insisted that Christian believers complied with works and rituals pertaining to the Torah such as circumcision, observing festivals and the like [Gal4:9-10 ]. On the contrary, said Paul, justification within the new covenant required faithfulness towards Christ, not compliance with “deeds of the Law”.
  42. Natural law in its anthropological context pertains to the functioning of conscience and is normative for humane living and acceptance with God
  43. Biblical salvation is provided to a specially chosen people in order for them to relate to God whilst in mortal flesh and function within His royal priesthood. For such they require spiritual renewal and ongoing sanctification through a mystical participation with Christ
  44. Acceptance as a subject of God’s kingdom at death and final judgement does not require adherence to a religious creed, simply the exercise of compassion arising from the promptings of conscience [Mt25:40]
  45. In showing deference to the dictates of their conscience, even avowed agnostics and atheists unknowingly exercise faith in Christ [as Logos]. They may have cause to mourn for their sin and disbelief but will readily submit to Him when He is made known to them [Rev1:7]
  46. Calvin’s description of little children as by nature “odious” and “an abomination to God”  opposes the teaching of Christ [Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion 2nd Book Chapter 1 para 8]
  47. In describing infants presented to Him as “little ones who believe in Me” [Mt18:6] Jesus was alluding to an internal witness of the light of Christ, reflected in their God-given spirits/consciences, guaranteed in their case not (yet) to have been obscured or distorted by the lusts of the flesh or impurities of the mind
  48. Those who show compassion to the destitute are judged as serving Christ and rewarded accordingly [Mt25:40]
  49. Pelagius was right in believing that man possessed the innate spiritual faculties to perform good works such as exercising compassion towards his fellow man
  50. Pelagius was wrong if he believed that man possessed the innate spiritual faculties to live a sinless life or merit co-heirship with Christ [Much of Pelagius’ writing was destroyed so it is not known precisely what he believed]
  51. Pelagius was wrong if he believed that any man could be saved in the gospel sense apart from being in a living cognisant relationship with Jesus Christ
  52. Augustine’s assertion that Adam’s disobedience resulted in God degrading human nature to the extent that man could do “absolutely no good thing, whether in thought or will, affection or in action”  is unbiblical, an observable falsehood, an affront to God’s gracious magnanimity and the dignity of the human person [Quote is from  Augustine’s “On Rebuke and Grace” chap. 3]
  53. On the contrary, acts of compassion, kindness and courage delight God’s heart and will be rewarded by Christ
  54. The mature Christian has a sense of what pleases God for he already possesses the mind of Christ whom even whilst incarnate had the mind of His Father [Jn14:9]]
  55. God is Love [1Jn4:8], and any theology that demands for its intrinsic coherence the notion that divine love is different in nature and outworking to that quality as it is defined in Scripture should be rejected, however revered its formulator may have been
  56. God’s qualities such as love, holiness, compassion and kindness are superior in degree but the same in nature to those of man’s, for every good quality man possesses originates from Him
  57. For much of their history the churches especially in the West have been under the misapprehension that their institution and the practice of the Christian faith primarily exists to enable people to go to heaven when they die
  58. Many more liberal churches are in error in believing that anyone other than a Christian can be saved in the gospel sense
  59. All people of good will shall go to heaven when they die regardless of their religious beliefs
  60. The notion implicit in some Roman Catholic teaching that people of good will are “saved” in the same sense as a Christian undermines the role of the gospel, Church and sacraments
  61. For the incarnated soul cannot be healed (saved) unless Christ had first been admitted to the vessel and united with the spirit [1Cor6:17]
  62. Biblical salvation is the restoration of divine communion whilst still incarnate through spiritual regeneration and devotion to Christ and His teaching. This is what is meant by “eternal life”.  It is for fallen man to become re-acquainted with God, His Son and Spirit [Jn17:3] before he dies (or Christ returns) so that the called chosen and faithful may be fitted for future glory as the corporate Bride of Christ [Rev17:14]
  63. An essential means for communicating spiritual renewal and progression is through the sacraments of the Church
  64. An essential component of the Christian life is participation in the Divine Eucharist
  65. The Lord has ensured throughout the Church’s history that faithful assemblies in East and West are gathered to Himself, so that from the rising of the sun until its setting a pure sacrifice may be offered to His name.
  66. In some meaningful albeit mystical sense Christ’s body must be eaten and His blood drunk by the Christian for “whoever eats Me will draw life from me” [Jn6:57] and “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person” [Jn6:56]
  67. Luther’s revolt was triggered by deformed practice and doctrine within the Roman Catholic Church but the Eastern Orthodox Church was relatively unaffected by the sixteenth century upheavals and continues to affirm the historically understood sacerdotal and sacrificial nature of the Holy Eucharist, describing it as “the awesome sacrifice entrusted to the Church to be re-enacted and given to the faithful for the nourishment of their faith and forgiveness of their sins” [Greek Orthodox Arch-Diocese of America –http://goarch.org/ourfaith]
  68. Participating in the Eucharistic feast is at best ineffectual if unaccompanied by the obedience of faith [1Cor11:27]
  69. What Christians are being saved from is the malign influence of the mortal intellectual vessel which the soul/spirit currently inhabits [Rom7:23-24]
  70. By attending to the means of grace and persevering in the faith the Christian is enabled to “possess his vessel in sanctification and honour” [1Thes4:4]. Such is the central and immediate purpose of Christian salvation as well as to preserve the soul for future glory as the corporate Bride of Christ
  71. The Abrahamic covenant superseded by the Covenant of Christ’s blood are exclusive covenants
  72. Ishmael was blessed by God and his father Abraham [Gen17:20-21] but not elected to the exclusive covenant designated for Isaac and his seed
  73. The Church, like Isaac, are the children of promise [Gal4:28]
  74. Like Isaac, those within the Covenants of Promise are elected through unmerited grace
  75. Christ as personal Saviour may only be apprehended by those the Father chooses for Him [Jn6:44]
  76. Covenantal admission is by grace alone; faithfulness is required to continue benefitting from its privileges
  77. Everyone is to be judged and rewarded according to their life and legacy [55]; not for the gifts they were privileged to receive but how they have been utilized
  78. Hell is as much a reality as Heaven and may involve sensual pain for its inhabitants [Lk16:24]
  79. As in life, post-mortem punishment can be for the purpose of healing as well as destruction [Is4:4]
  80. God has intimated that every soul that can be healed and restored shall ultimately be so, for He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked
  81. The Bible may hint [1Tim4:10] but does not positively affirm the idea of absolute universalism. Given that the wicked shall undoubtedly receive post-mortem punishment, the matter should have no impact on one’s conduct or life choices
  82. The Christian’s ultimate destiny is bodily resurrection as Joint-Consort to the King of Kings, not “Requiem Eternam”
  83. There is to be a new Heaven AND a new earth where righteousness dwells [2Pet3:13]
  84. The precise role and destiny of God’s elect people has yet to be disclosed but it in view of their undeservedly exalted status it must align with that of their Spouse, whose universal governance and reign of peace shall continue for ever [Is9:6-7]
  85. The Elect are not the totality of God’s children but their firstborn [Heb12:23], the first-fruits of humanity [Jam1:18]
  86. The current age is not the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies in a spiritualized form but in terms of salvation history is a dispensation established to recruit Gentiles to the Messianic community
  87. The Gentile’s unexpected, and according to Paul “unnatural” incorporation into the messianic community [Rom11:24] was to create “the fellowship pertaining to the secret (plan) hidden in God” [Eph3:9-12]. Although fore-ordained by the Father, this augmentation resulted from the refusal of God’s first-choice nation to acknowledge their Messiah even after His resurrection and ascension to glory [Acts18:6]
  88. Through Israel’s failure, fullness of salvation, “an inheritance with the sanctified” and the “gift of eternal life” initially understood to be exclusively for the Jews [Acts11:17-18 &26:18] has been extended to people chosen from every nation and succeeding generation
  89. Such a mystery was known by God (i.e. the Father) but not communicated to any other being until revealed by the apostle Paul who described the mystery pertaining to the Gentiles’ unexpected inheritance as “to euaggelion mou” – my gospel [Rom16:25]
  90. When Ephesians 3:9-12 and especially Romans11:11-15 are taken as read and integrated within a cohesive biblical synopsis it will be appreciated that God’s benign providence extends well beyond those elected to the exclusive covenants of promise. For if Paul is taken at his word, biblical salvation as we know it would not have been offered to the Gentile nations in the current age [Rom11:11,12,15], yet the Old Testament is clear enough that people from every nation would ultimately be reconciled to God, for all the world is His and He loved it enough to send his Son to save it [Jn3:16]  
  91. God’s strategy has always been to redeem and heal the world through a Spirit-led messianic community, not exclusively forthem
  92. In choosing to retain Adam and Eve as the procreative fountainhead of humanity after their rebellion, it must have been God’s intention to permit evil and suffering to enter the world [Rom8:20-21]
  93. The ultimate purpose of human suffering is indicated in Heb2:10. Even the sinless Saviour was perfected for His priestly office and future glory by suffering. How much more the need for such salting and grist to be provided for the mere mortals who will come to share His glorious inheritance. Hence, the perennial existence of evil in the world until Christ comes to restore all things [Acts3:21]
  94. Certain important (but non-essential) mysteries have been hidden from the Church during much of its earthly pilgrimage [e.g. Acts1:7]
  95. If the assertions in this document are broadly correct, the final mystery John was told not to write about (concerning the little book – Rev10:4) is likely to pertain in nature to the broader providence here outlined

THE LITTLE FLOCK WHO ARE TO INHERIT THE KINGDOM

Fear not little flock for it is your Father’s pleasure to give you the Kingdom (Luke 12 v32)

The really good news that has been reserved until these last days (cf. Rev10) is that the Church is not the totality of people to be delivered from a “lost eternity” as I would once have expressed the matter, rather faithful Christians are in Jesus’ words the “little flock who are to be given the Kingdom”. Also defined as the Bride of Christ they will surely relate to that Kingdom in the same way as their Spouse – as joint-heirs and fellow-princes. Yet Christ did not die for them alone:

 Having made peace through the blood of His cross, God wishes to reconcile ALL THINGS to Himself by Christ, whether they be things on earth or things in heaven (Col1:20)

And Paul makes it clear enough elsewhere that it was never God’s intention to bring all people to a personal knowledge of the Saviour during their earthly lifetime. For example:

“Whom He did foreknow, He did predestine to become conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren” (Rom8:29)

The highlighted phrase should affirm that it is indeed a little flock (proportionately speaking) who in any sense become conformed to the image of Christ – apart from which no one humanly speaking is capable of coming to a personal knowledge of Christ except the Father draw them (Jn6:44). Even if that were not the case, historical cultural and religious formation not to mention profound disagreement amongst Christians themselves concerning  the nature of saving faith have ensured that the bulk of humanity die without hearing a sound rendering of the Gospel or anything like it. Be assured this would not be the case if religious faith and practice determined “who goes to heaven when they die” (cf. Mt25:31-46). However, religion does determine who can be “saved” whilst in mortal flesh (Rom7:24) and fitted to partner the Lord of Glory through eternity. As Paul affirms, the composition of the latter grouping is a matter of elective grace, or as Jesus put it: “It is the Father’s pleasure to give you the Kingdom”. Yet even in predestination God’s equitable justice is not compromised, for whilst others may live as they see fit  those chosen to be sanctified walk the narrow way, suffering with Christ in the hope of being glorified with Him in the ages to come (2Tim2:12).

 God’s munificent providence can only be perceived (and the course of history seen to make sense) once three rather than two soteriological categories are acknowledged. It can then be understood that those who are called to be Christ’s little flock are those whom He sanctifies, disciples and spiritually empowers to play a priestly role within a vastly broader (albeit not universal*) healing and reconciling process:

It is all God’s work; He reconciled (Christians) to Himself through Christ, and he gave us the ministry of reconciliation. I mean God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not holding anyone’s faults against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation (2Cor5:18-19)

God’s reconciliatory strategy for the world has been to work from within; firstly, reconciling a particular grouping to Himself (the seed of Isaac) to act as a bridgehead to the rest, who in turn would come to admire their wisdom and their laws (Deut4:5-6). Through Israel’s failure that preparatory stage has itself been sub-divided and therefore extended by a realignment of personnel. Consequently, we are still in the process of assembling the priestly enlighteners that are replacing the race of Israel, not in the process of fulfilling Old Testament prophesies in a “spiritualized form”. So shall the secret of God be brought to pass in accordance with the Good News He has brought to His servants the prophets. 

Peter drops a further clue to the mystery when he refers to the Church both as a peculiar people and as a “nation” (Greek: ethnos). He is drawing on an Old Testament prophecy to summarize the nature and purpose of the Church; a purpose the prophets had expected to be fulfilled by others who were a nation in the more usual sense of the word:

But you (the Church) are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His OWN SPECIAL PEOPLE that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light (1Pet2:9 cf. Ex19:6)

A providential arrangement such as this, to me at least, is like honey in the mouth. I hope and pray it will become so to others.  Yet it will be tinged with bitterness as one contemplates the misrepresentation of God’s providential care towards those made in His image that has passed for “the Good News” for so long (cf. Rev10:9).

* Not all are reconcilable – see earlier post regarding children of the devil HERE

More about The Little Book of Providence HERE

THE DISCIPLES’ IGNORANCE OF THEIR MESSIAH’S FATE

(Jesus) said to His disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.”  But (the disciples) did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement (Luke 9:44-45NASB).

Progressing to Luke 9, a key to unravelling the mystery of God’s providential intentions towards His earthly creation (cf. Rev10) and the historical errors concerning it is to recognize that even Jesus’ closest disciples were not aware that their Messiah was destined to die (see also Lk18:33-34 & Mt16:22; 17:22-23). It re-affirms the point made in my earlier post concerning the “gospel of the kingdom” and the fact that that particular mission statement cannot have incorporated any soteriology pertaining to the Cross. Of course the apostolic writers and the churches founded by them have rightly focused on the latter, but such could not have been contained within “THIS gospel of the Kingdom” that Jesus was referring to in the Olivet discourse (Mt24:14 Greek), for that same “gospel” had been preached by His disciples (Mt10:7-8) whom Matthew and Luke affirm were at the time clueless concerning the Passion or its purpose.

This simple and easily demonstrated observation has radical implications: it nullifies the fearsome Augustine’s proposal that people in Old Testament times were condemned to Hell except they had “believed in the incarnation, passion and resurrection of Christ as a future event” [a].  Nor, referring back to Genesis could righteous Abel have been “anticipating the Passion” when he sacrificed an animal whilst his brother offered the dregs of his fruit harvest. Cain happened to be a fruit farmer, Abel tended livestock (Gen4:2); but comparing scripture with scripture the key point is that Abel’s offering had been accepted because his works were righteous; Cain AND his offering were rejected because his works were evil (1Jn3:11,12). The one was a child of God, the other was described by the apostle John as wicked and satanic (Greek: ek tou ponerou), derived from the Evil One (1Jn3:12). Cain as the first man to be born of woman was the archetype of what Jesus, John and Paul refer to as children of the devil, whom, to put it mildly, are to be ignominiously dealt with at Christ’s coming (cf. Rom9:21,22; 2Thes1:8; Mt13:49; Mt15:13; ref: Enoch1:1). Similarly, Abel will not have “got saved” by anticipating Calvary, for I say again, even Christ’s disciples were ignorant of His future Passion or its purpose. Rather, Abel was justified within the eluded universal covenant of life (explained in chapter two of my book**). The Cain and Abel story is concerned with the reprobation of the elder brother, who showed himself to be a God-hating homicidal maniac. He became “cursed from the earth” (Gen4:11 – note the “NOW”) and alienated from God’s loving care (Gen4:14 – note “THIS DAY”), i.e. his reprobation was affirmed AFTER killing his brother.

Cain’s damnable prospect is NOT the fate of man by nature (a la post-Augustinian Western theology). Man is “in Adam”, not Cain. Natural man’s fate is for his God-given soul/spirit (that which returns to God at death) to inherit “the body of THIS death” (somatos tou thanatou toutou Rom7:24) from his parents, ultimately from Adam. Paul’s “this” (toutou) is important as it refers to the “death” Paul is describing in the passage (Rom7:14-24), i.e. what the person he was depicting was currently experiencing; not the fact that he was mortal or was ” to go to hell when he dies”. As a result of such anthropological dualism (which Augustine dismissed, partly as a result of his wariness concerning the heretical  cosmic dualism expounded by Manes), natural man aspires to do good and genuinely admires noble qualities such as compassion, generosity, bravery and integrity in others. Indeed in view of his conscience (which fails to function in the likes of Cain), fallen man exhibits by nature some of the qualities prescribed in God’s Law becoming a law for himself (Rom2:14,15 strictly Greek). At the same, there is within man another law or guiding principle “within his members” (i.e. his physical senses as processed through the brain) “warring against the law in his mind (the conscience Rom2:15), bringing him into captivity to the law of sin (concupiscence) which is in his members (cf. Rom7:22-24).

 Such is the nature of “original sin” or Pauline “death”, and unless remedied, it radically damages the relationship with God for which man was created.  It may indeed be remedied in the present (for a minority) for those who respond to the gospel and experience sacramental participation with Christ (Jn6:55-57). By such special grace allied with corporal discipline (1Cor9:27), those who are called, chosen and faithful are “saved” from the corrupting influences of their disordered senses, becoming “free indeed to serve the living God” even whilst in Paul’s “body of death”. Their souls are progressively healed (saved) so as to be fitted to share an immediate inheritance with the Son of God when He comes to establish His eternal Kingdom (cf. Rom8:17-23).  As Paul jubilantly referred to this mystery, it is “Christ in you, the hope of glory!” (Col1:26,27NKJV)

[a [a] Augustine: “Against two letters of the Pelagians” Book III Chap. 11 

** i.e. The Little Book of Providence – free PDF HERE

JESUS REVERED BY MOST ORDINARY JEWS

John the Baptist

Continuing the review of passages that particularly came to my attention during the writing of The Little Book of Providence** we come to Luke 7:

Then fear came upon all, and THEY GLORIFIED GOD, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.”   And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region [vv16-17].

When all the people and the tax collectors heard this (Jesus’ acclamation of His herald), THEY ACKNOWLEDGED GOD’S JUSTICE, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and the lawyers REJECTED GOD’S PURPOSE FOR THEMSELVES, not having been baptized by John [vv29-30]

The Man Christ Jesus was foretold to be “despised and rejected by men” (Is53:3); and so He was ultimately, for as the Lord had observed, His people (i.e. the Jews) were like sheep without a shepherd (Mt9:36). For many of their spiritual leaders were ravenous wolves who succeeded in persuading and cajoling the people who a few days earlier had acclaimed their Messiah’s prophetic entrance into Jerusalem to demand His crucifixion.

As the account in Mark made clearer, the chief priests had handed Jesus over to the Roman authorities out of envy and succeeded in stirring up the crowd to call for Barabbas’ release in His place (Mk15:10-11).   But as the verses from Luke 7 quoted above indicate, the Jewish people were not instinctively hateful or derisory towards either Jesus or His herald John. They had “glorified God” after Jesus resurrected the widow’s son at Nain (v16) and “acknowledged God’s justice” at Jesus’ affirmation of John’s greatness as a prophet (v29).

The Jewish leaders on the other hand being the Pharisees, priests and interpreters of the Law “rejected God’s purpose for themselves“, refusing the baptism of repentance offered to them (v30). That “purpose” would have been to take forward the work of the Kingdom, supporting their Messiah as leaders and teachers of the people, but that same Messiah deemed them unfit for purpose and selected His dozen from amongst artisans, fishermen and tax collectors. Yet Jesus went on to insist that those same leaders were still to be obeyed by the people since “they occupied the seat of Moses”, albeit “Do what they say, not what they do” (Mt23:1-3). This affirmed that Jesus did NOT regard Himself at this point as instigating a new religion or else why would He require the people to whom He was ministering to continue to obey their appointed leaders? (The answer pertains to the subject of my earlier book “the Fellowship of the Secret”, i.e. what Paul was alluding to in Eph3:9-11). And it suggests that even the leaders and people of the true Church must take care that they are not to be snubbed by their Master at His return, observing the sentiments behind the herald’s warning recorded in Matthew3:8-9:

So bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I (John) say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these very stones!

* *Access free download HERE

THE REDISTRIBITIVE ASPECTS OF DIVINE JUDGEMENT

Jesus’ teaching of final judgement is dealt with more definitively in Matthew’s account (chapter 25 – considered a few posts ago). Luke, a companion of Paul [note 1] recorded Jesus as teaching that an individual’s status and suffering during their lifetime is taken into account at Judgement, both in his rendering of the Beatitudes and particularly in what is effectively the only account we have of an individuals’ experience in Hell [2]: the account of the rich man and Lazarus, the text of which requires careful attention (Lk16:19-31). The only stated criterion distinguishing these two men was that one had had a life of ease and comfort whilst the other had been poor and wretched (Lk16:25). It may be deduced (from vv27-31) that the rich man was suffering  because of the way he had utilised his wealth; living wantonly whilst failing to show care and compassion for miserable beggars like Lazarus (with whom Jesus personally identifies – Mt25:45), yet no reason is given at all why Lazarus should be comforted after his death other than that he had experienced a life of poverty and sickness (Lk16:25); thus had he been salted (cf. Mk9:49). The redistributive or compensatory aspects of judgement at death are also emphasised in the letter of James who exhorts the oppressive rich to weep and howl for the miseries that are to come upon them (Ja5:1KJV). It is clear from subsequent verses that he is referring to the MATERIALLY wealthy who obtained their wealth by defrauding and exploiting of the poor. James (as ever) is reflecting the teaching of Christ, who also had a word of warning for the well-to-do:

Alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now. Alas for you who have plenty to eat now: you shall go hungry. Alas for you who are laughing now: you shall mourn and weep (Luke chapter6 vv24,25).

I now understand this to be partly a question of redistributive justice but that it also relates to the role and necessity of human suffering (salting) explained in the theodicy (chapter seven of my book –[3]). For sure, Luke’s interpretation of Jesus’ teaching needs to be taken alongside Matthew’s emphasis on more spiritual and moral qualities (Mt5): poverty of spirit, hunger for righteousness, kindness, compassion and purity. For a lousy crook may be poor but is hardly fitted for God’s Kingdom. So life experience, moral and spiritual integrity, and especially how one has treated the poor with whom Christ personally identifies (Mt25) will determine how one fares after death, and also when Christ’s kingdom is consummated, resulting in a change of fortunes for many (cf. Mk10:31).

Notes:

[1] Some biblical scholars question whether the author of Luke-Acts could possibly be the Luke referred to as Paul’s companion in three of his letters; partly in view of seeming differences in the account of Paul’s conversion and subsequent events (Acts9:1-31 cf. Gal1:17-24); more particularly in view of their understanding that Luke’s theology was different to Paul’s, whereas I am in the business of demonstrating that Paul’s theology (once properly understood) does not contradict that of any other contributors to Scripture.

[2] strictly “Hades” being the place of the dead, an intermediate state between death and resurrection in which, according to Luke’s interpretation of Jesus’ teaching, disembodied spirits are nevertheless conscious and aware of either pain or comfort.

[3] A free PDF of The Little Book of Providence can be obtained HERE

Exploring the mystery of divine providence