THE APOCALYPSE OF WEEKS

apocweekspic
Enoch’s Apocalypse of Weeks

Enoch’s Apocalypse of weeks is believed to be the earliest apocalypse of the Jewish tradition. The Book of Enoch was effectively treated as canonical by the very early Church. Church fathers including Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus and Tertullian believed it to be inspired and written by Enoch himself. Even those such as Augustine who were instrumental in ensuring it was ultimately rejected by most of Christendom acknowledged it to be divinely inspired, principally in view of its citing in New Testament Jude. As I have been recently testifying, the Old Testament cannot be rightly interpreted without reference to the Book of Enoch, especially regarding the activity and influence of the fallen watchers that resulted in the universal flood and the need for ethnic cleansing within the Canaanite territories. More importantly it contains prophecies of events that may be happening right now. For as the opening verse affirms, it was written to be a blessing, not to the Church through her history, but to “the elect and the righteous who would be living at the time of tribulations when the wicked and godless are to be removed”. 

The scholarly consensus is that it was written in the 1st or 2nd century BC. However, I am convinced, along with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the aforementioned early Fathers that Enoch was written by Enoch. There are various theories cited on the internet as to how practically speaking that could be the case which I won’t go into here. But think about it – if, as so many believe the Book of Enoch is inspired, being a true word from God (biblical Jude believed that or he would not have quoted from it in his letter), how then could it at the same time be a fabrication of deceit? How could that which is divinely inspired be the creation of someone in the 2nd or 3rd century before Christ claiming to be the original patriarch, passing off as divine prophecy much that was already history?

Most interpretations of the weeks have worked on such an assumption, i.e., that the apocalypse was written 2000-2300 years ago. A typical example is available HERE. But taking this prophecy to have, like some within the Old Testament, a dual (Temple/Church) perspective, my interpretation of the first seven weeks is as follows:

I (Enoch) was born the seventh in the FIRST WEEK, while judgement and righteousness still endured”.

Calculating from the genealogy in Gen5, Enoch was born around 600 years after Adam’s creation, yet he records that “righteousness still endured”. This is supported by Gen4:26 that stated that after the birth of Adam’s grandson Enosh, “at that time men began to call on the Lord”. But all was about to change, yet canonical Scripture only makes a fleeting reference to it (Gen6:1-2); not so the Book of Enoch which goes into the greatest of detail.

“And after me there shall arise in the SECOND WEEK great wickedness, and deceit shall have sprung up; and in it there shall be the first end. And in it a man shall be saved; and after it is ended unrighteousness shall grow up and a law shall be made for the sinners”.

The fallen watchers briefly referred to in Gen6 were intended to be a guiding and restraining influence for fallen humanity. But they rejected their designated function, sexually uniting themselves to women, creating monstrous hybrids (giants) in the process and leading humanity into ever deeper depravity. Consequently, God saw that “the inclination of the thoughts of man’s hearts was only evil all the time” (Gen6:5). I say again for the sake of the many who have been deluded by the teaching of Augustine and the Protestant Reformers, that was not the case from the time Adam fell till the fall of the watchers, any more than it is for the postdiluvian world. Yet it is the case for some – the offspring of Satan (cf. 1Jn3:11), whom the Book of Enoch’s opening verse affirms are shortly to be despatched from the earth. Clearly the “first end” refers to the Flood. Other versions of Enoch make it clearer that after Noah and his family left the ark, unrighteousness grew progressively, after which “a law was made for the sinners”. I don’t believe this to be relating to God’s covenant with Noah for that was immediately after the flood (Gen9). It would therefore be referring to the Torah, which although ostensibly made for the Jews, was ultimately intended to be a light to the whole world as Moses indicated in Deut:4:5-6.

And after that in the THIRD WEEK at its close a man shall be elected as the plant of righteous judgement, and his posterity shall become the plant of righteousness for evermore.

I believe this to be referring to Jesus Christ, the Man at the centre of history who otherwise would not have received a mention. Others believe it to be Abraham or Elijah but surely only Christ could be “the plant of righteousness for all time”. Of course, if it is Christ, that affirms the later weeks must be referring to the New Testament period, i.e. to the Church.

And after that in the FOURTH WEEK, at its close, visions of the holy and righteous shall be seen and a law for all generations and an enclosure (or court) shall be made for them

Identifying the “visions of the holy and righteous” is difficult however the weeks are interpreted. It could refer to those saints raised at Jesus’ resurrection, who were seen in Jerusalem (Mt27:52-53). Given the timescale (i.e. the New Testament period), the “law for all generations” would be Christ’s teaching. The apostles’ commission had been to go to every nation and “teach them to observe everything I (Jesus) have commanded you (Mt28:19-20).

And after that in the FIFTH week, at its close, the house of glory and dominion shall be built for ever

Jesus had told one of His disciples, “You are Peter (Πέτρος) and on this rock (πέτρᾳ) I will build my Church and the gates of hades shall never prevail against it (Mt16:18). The early Church both in the east and west generally accepted that the bishopric of Rome (where Peter had been buried) had pre-eminence. The controversy that continues to this day pertains to whether Rome’s bishop should have jurisdiction over the rest (a subject for another occasion). Particularly In view of the “week” that follows, I take the house of dominion to be referring to the Church established at Rome.

And after that in the SIXTH week all who live in (the house of dominion) shall be blinded, and their hearts shall godlessly forsake wisdom. And in it a man shall ascend. And at its close the house of dominion shall be burnt with fire, and the whole race of the chosen root shall be dispersed.

It follows from what I have consistently been attesting, that the “blinding” and “forsaking of wisdom” occurred around the 4th/5th century, its chief contributor being Augustine. The man referred to who later arose to prominence within the Church would be a 16th century Augustinian monk. He legitimately challenged aspects of the Roman Church’s integrity and theology (especially regarding “indulgencies”) but went on to dispute her very credentials as the true Church [NOTE #1]. Through the support Luther gained for his rebellion, the Roman church was severely damaged (“burnt with fire”) and many of the faithful “dispersed” into separate, independent denominations, reliant on Scripture alone whilst rejecting the Eucharistic sacrifice which the Church in East and West had historically regarded as sacrosanct.

And after that in the SEVENTH week shall an apostate generation arise, and many shall be its deeds and all its deeds shall be apostate. And at its close shall be elected the elect righteous of the eternal plant of righteousness to receive sevenfold instruction concerning all His creation.

I have just inferred to whom I believe the “apostate generation” applies. It is referred to again a few chapters later (104) where Enoch wrote, “they will alter and pervert the words of righteousness in many ways, and will speak wicked words, and lie, and practise great deceits and write books concerning their teachings”.  By implication such books would need to be widely distributed if they were to make an impact and furnish an “apostate generation” – which rather implies the availability of the printing press. At the close of this period (which I’m clear is the present), a seven-part instruction concerning God’s providential intentions towards His whole creation would be provided. Such would not in any way subvert canonical Scripture; it would elaborate upon those aspects which had been intentionally veiled and much misunderstood. That especially concerns God’s providential intentions towards the earthly creation as a whole. Those who received it and acted upon it would be “the elect righteous of the eternal plant of righteousness” – the generation of saints who would live to see Christ’s return. As to how this would come about:

“After they have written down truthfully all my words in their languages, not erring from my words but writing them down truthfully, then I know another mystery. Books are to be given to the righteous and the wise to become a cause of joy and uprightness and much wisdom. To them shall the books be GIVEN, and they shall believe in them and rejoice over them, and then shall all the righteous who have learnt from them the true paths of righteousness be recompensed” [En104:10-14]

Note, this would not occur until just after Enoch’s writings had been faithfully set out and made available to many peoples in their own languages. Again, it affirms Enoch’s Apocalypse of Weeks to be prophecy indeed – for his writings were concealed for centuries and only recently discovered and widely translated. As for the “other books” setting out God’s intentions towards wider creation, if the prophecy is to be taken literally, such were to be “given” – by implication made universally and freely available. That would only be possible via the likes of PDF downloads or digital printing through the internet, a very recent development and a thoroughly alien concept to the human relater of the Apocalypse. My earlier post refers.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Does my analysis perfectly fit Enoch’s Apocalypse of Weeks 1-7? By no means, but it appears less fudged than others I have seen which restrict those middle weeks to the Old Testament/Temple period. It reflects the supposition that all churches, particularly in the west, have experienced substantial doctrinal error, especially after the 4th century, and that those who later severed themselves from the Apostolic lineage are apostate. Given the broader benign providence at the heart of this disclosure, this is not as drastic as it might appear. Every deceased soul that has loved Christ or indeed loved “Christ” currently reposes in heaven (Mt25:37-40). What is more, mutual ecclesiological error is the ideal, possibly only predisposition for re-uniting the fractured Body of Christ so that a unified gospel may be proclaimed to the world before His coming (Mt24:14). Given when these prophecies were made, even if it were just a few centuries BC, the fact that they can be made to resemble any version of Church history is remarkable. All the more so given that the concept of a universal Church was unknown to the Old Testament prophets of the bible, being a secret “hidden in the Father” – until Paul clarified the situation (for some) in the New Testament (Eph3:2-11).

An analysis of weeks 8 to 10 may follow shortly, in which case it will be much briefer given that I claim to have no insights whatsoever concerning how the millennial age shall pan out, merely that it shall be initiated at Christ coming “when the wicked and godless [note 2] are to be removed” and the dead in Christ raised, so that a period of righteousness may ensue upon the earth.

NOTE 1 - The proverbial elephant in the room within most Reformation debates is the perennial Eastern Orthodox Church whose priority has always been to remain faithful to the apostolic deposit of faith. Yet her sacerdotal practice has been much the same as Rome’s. Like her, they accept the real presence of Christ at the altar, regarding the Eucharist 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”.
NOTE 2 - The "wicked and godless" aka "children of the devil" are systematically defined from Scripture in chapter six of The Little Book of Providence. They are the defaulters from the eluded universal covenant of life of whom Cain was the archetype (Gen4:7 King James Version). Morally, such people are devoid of conscience, compassion, empathy or any compulsion to speak the truth. For they lack that quality which is the essence of God Himself, being LOVE (1Jn3:10-12 & 4:7-8)

Download a free PDF of The Little Book of Providence from HERE

or a Large-print version of PDF suitable for mobile phones HERE

Author’s FACEBOOK page HERE

Linked posts: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?  &   ENOCH’S APOCALYPSE – THE AGE TO COME 

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

For the last three years or so I have been posting on Facebook and on this website, progressing through the bible, drawing out those passages which pertain directly or indirectly to the subject matter under consideration being divine providence. I have been careful not only to focus on passages that support my thesis (that God’s benign providence is vastly broader than has traditionally been understood) but also narratives that might appear to support the much narrower Augustinian derived Western theological perspective. That is that humanity is a massa damnata (condemned crowd), the bulk of whom are destined for eternal torment. In Augustine’s words “many more are to be left under punishment than delivered from it so that it might thus be shown what had been due to all” (City of God book XXI chap. 12). In the case of the New Testament I have had something to comment on the subject in virtually every chapter so far (having reached Ephesians 3).

Time to take stock

And it so happens that that chapter, reviewed in my most recent biblical narrative post “God’s Secret Plan” was the catalyst for all my published deliberations starting with the book “Fellowship of the Secret”. In 2020 I shortened, depersonalized and systematized it to create “The Little Book of Providence” that this website is promoting. Given also that I recently turned the age of 70 (so in biblical terms am living on borrowed time), I have concluded that now is an appropriate time to review the project’s main findings to date. Actually, “findings” is not quite the word, for as my recent testimonial post affirmed, the understanding I have come to is not primarily the result of study or research but of revelation, which in view of what I experienced at the time I have no doubt was an encounter with the Holy Spirit. It was “revelation” in the sense of being given new insights as to how the bible should rightly be interpreted, more especially the epistles of Paul. Augustine and Martin Luther will have claimed to have had such divinely provided insights on the same matter in their day. But whereas both were already established scholars and leaders within their Church, I am a relative dullard; a Johnny Nobody. Or as the English version of my “new name” indicates, a retired busman [the recent post on “acoustical mysteries” refers].

But in the sphere of Spirit and Kingdom, worldly or ecclesiological status are not determining factors. God’s criteria concerning to whom He chooses to provide insights or equip for nobler service are decidedly counter-intuitive (Mt11:25). As for verification, I do not rely on a particular spiritual encounter to support my Pauline interpretations (which could hardly be further removed from the aforementioned gentlemen’s, especially that of Luther – see related posts starting HERE). Rather, it is the fact that my interpretations result in a providence that reflects God’s biblically testified benevolent disposition. It also make sense of the world and the church as each has panned out to date. Above all, the interpretations result in an unprecedented degree of biblical coherence: Paul agrees with Jesus and James regarding faith, works and the like, whilst Old Testament prophesy can be reconciled or at least explained by what Paul discloses in the New (Eph3 again – God’s secret plan).

The internet – vital for this process

So I am no scholar and those who wish to evaluate my findings need not be either – thanks to the internet.  But it has been necessary to research some matters that transcend biblical interpretation, for they impact upon it. That includes early Church history, especially that of the second century; in particular, how aspects of its theology (but not its sacerdotal praxis) were transformed by the fifth century, especially as a result of Augustine’s extraordinary influence. More recently I have also been examining the insights gleaned from the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the late 1940s, especially the Book of Enoch and the related “Book of Giants”. Those who take the view “I’d sooner stick with canonical scripture, thank you very much” might do well to think again. For the Old Testament cannot be rightly understood without reference to those narratives. For example with regard to God’s rationale for the universal flood and the divinely ordered ethnic cleansing of the Canaanite territories acquired for the promised land. Both might appear cruel and harsh on God’s part, but once Enoch’s vastly more detailed narrative has been accommodated, they are shown to be essential for the wellbeing and ultimate restoration of humanity.

Likewise, in terms of specific OT narratives such as Gen6:1-5 (regarding angelic union with women) and several references to gigantic inhabitants within the Canaanite territories faced by the Israelite invaders (e.g. Num13:33; Deut3:11). Both are perplexing apart from reference to Enoch. Yet again, Augustine was the most influential 4th/5th century voice ensuring that Enoch’s historical accounts and a key prophecy for the last days [note 1] were rejected by the Church; hidden from the faithful for centuries – until discovered at Qumran.  

The mystery of Augustine

Regarding Aurelius Augustinus (354-430AD), I have concluded that virtually every distinctive input that colossus made to the future direction and doctrine of the Catholic Church is likely to have thrilled Satan’s heart. It had the effect of barbarizing God’s character, maligning the underlying goodness of human nature, diminishing the efficacy and scope of Christ’s saving work and undermining God’s benevolent providential oversight of His creation. Ironically, the Bishop of Hippo was canonized in recognition of his strenuous endeavours to protect the Church from error and apostacy. Yet his doctrines were arguably a catalyst for the growing tensions between the Eastern and Western Church culminating in the Great Schism (1054). A further 500 years later Augustinian monk Martin Luther and his supporters, whilst asserting that their monastic patriarch had been St Paul’s most faithful interpreter, determined to break-away from the polluted, doctrinally flawed monolith that they and many of their contemporaries (understandably) perceived the Roman Church to have become. She nevertheless remains a part of the true Apostolic Church, equipped with every necessary sacrament of grace (and arguably some more besides), whereas those who broke away fragmented into numerous denominations. That was largely because the bible they had come to depend upon proved to be anything but “perspicuous”, even regarding matters pertaining to salvation itself such as the Lord’s Supper and baptism.

That is one of the reasons every Christian should take time to examine the teaching and praxis of the very early Church (thanks again, internet). That is not because the ability of the earliest Christians to interpret Scripture would have been any better than ours (the canon had yet to be finalized) but because they believed and practiced what they did having received the ways of salvation either from the Apostles themselves, their biblical protégées such as Timothy and Titus or their immediate appointees (which takes us into the early second century). And as both Irenaeus and historian Eusebius testify, the churches of the second century were remarkably united in terms of essential doctrine. Moreover,  if what I have been shown has validity, even in those areas where the separated churches developed broad agreement, it was because they were united in error interpreting some key aspects of Paul’s teaching.

Verifying the messenger

So, does what I claim to have been shown by the Spirit have validity? Despite the munificent providence I have been outlining, many within the churches will hope and trust the answer is a resounding “No way”. For as just indicated, it implies that many sincere Christians are not a part of the true Church, and more often than not are devoid of that sacrament of grace which sustains spiritual life in the present and affords a prospect of resurrection in the age to come (Jn6:53,54) – unless, that is, we believe Jesus to have deceived His listeners and that the early Church was almost uniformly in error. However, in accordance with a central tenet of my thesis, this is not to be equated with whether the soul goes to heaven when one dies. Such is not dependant on religious faith, still less denominational allegiance, but personal “ἀγάπη” (Mt25:40) and the benefits of Christ’s Passion towards those who show themselves to be “of God” (1Jn4:7).  Nevertheless, religious faith and access to the means of grace do impact upon one’s future destiny – whether one is the elect of God, soon to be raptured and delivered from the climax of tribulation, ultimately to be corporately espoused to the Lord of Glory and reign with Him through eternity.

Regarding such a premillennial perspective, again that had been the consensus of the pre-Nicaean Church. But as 2nd century Irenaeus rightly observed, it is not a prerequisite for salvation – else we would all be in trouble given that the Apostolic Church in East and West has long rejected the doctrine, once again largely thanks to you know who, as Wikipedia’s helpful historical review of the doctrine affirms. My long-held pre-millennialist conviction was further reinforced when I came to understand the dispensational implications of what Paul has written in Eph3:9-12. And there is surely a more explicit indication in what Jesus had said about those who would be raptured as well as whom He would be raising “on the last day” (Jn6:54). Similarly, Paul in 1Thes4:16-18, and regarding the earth as a whole in Rom8:18-23, at least once it is rightly translated. Regrettably, that is not usually the case in bible versions utilized within the Catholic Church: κτίσις clearly refers to the created earth, not individual creatures within it “going to heaven when they die”.  

We are where we are

So where DO we go from here? I intend to construct or republish posts relating to the above themes, some of which will have been posted 2-3 years ago. For some biblical misconceptions are foundational – they go right back to Genesis. Two quick examples: who was the first man to be cursed by God? – it wasn’t Adam, our federal head. And to whom in Gen3:15 does Satan’s offspring refer? Then there is the Book of Enoch, seemingly not intended for the Church through her history or the Holy Spirit would have ensured its inclusion in the canon. Rather, it was to be a blessing “to the elect and the righteous who would be living at the time of tribulations when the wicked and godless are to be removed” (opening verse). With that in mind, the next post is likely to concern Enoch’s “Apocalypse of Weeks”, which many interpret in terms of the temple whereas the 5th, 6th and 7th weeks can more readily be associated with the Church, especially as I have portrayed it above.

Re-establishing church unity

Had I ruled the world or overseen the Church this is not the way I would have handled it. But as Paul observed, God’s apparent foolishness surpasses human wisdom. Accordingly, He has decreed that ecclesiological unity be re-established from division and plurality rather than a historically maintained integrity. The only way such unity could be achieved from where the churches are right now is if ALL are shown to have fallen into substantial error – and at least those that are to continue are willing to acknowledge the fact. That is why an apologist with the support of a particular church could never be utilized to prepare the Church and the world for the second coming of Jesus Christ. Once again, it must be (or start with) the voice of one crying in the spiritual wilderness.

Christ has never left His Church in darkness

The errors being exposed do not pertain to the means of salvation itself. The idea that God would withhold the knowledge and means of Christian salvation from the world for centuries on end is absurd, yet it is the implication of what I once believed as an Evangelical Christian. No, the way and means of salvation has always been adequately set out and provided for within the apostolic churches. In accordance with God’s intentions (Rev10), what has been veiled until these last days is the context of the Church and the gospel within His broader restorative plans for the whole earthly creation. Many of the Christian faithful have already come to sense such broader benign providence. Such was evident in Vatican2’s allusions to “people of good will” outside the Church. But certainly from an Evangelical (or this former-Evangelical)’s perspective, it has never been adequately underpinned from Scripture. Nor could it be without substantial deconstruction of established Western theology, hence this process.

Note 1 : Enoch’s prophecy: When they write down truthfully all my words in their languages, and do not change or diminish anything from my words but write them all down truthfully – all that I first testified concerning them; then I know ANOTHER MYSTERY, that BOOKS WILL BE GIVEN to the righteous and the wise to become a cause of joy and uprightness and much wisdom. and to them shall the BOOKS BE GIVEN, and they shall believe in them and rejoice over them, and then shall all the righteous who have learnt therefrom all the paths of uprightness be recompensed” (Enoch104:11-13).

Author’s Facebook page HERE

Download a FREE PDF of The Little Book of Providence from HERE

or a Large-print version of PDF suitable for mobile phones HERE

THE BIRTH PAINS

“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. But all these things are the beginning of the BIRTH PAINS.” (Matthew24).

Spot the good news in Jesus’s prophecy: it’s in capitals. Paul speaks similarly affirming that it is not just Christians who shall benefit from the regeneration that is to follow the birth pains:

“We know the whole creation suffers birth pains together until now; yet creation itself IS TO BE SET FREE FROM ITS SLAVERY TO CORRUPTION into the glory and freedom of the children of God” (Rom8:22&21)

But why such pain and suffering in the meantime? The Little Book of Providence explains the Rationale, more especially in chapters six and seven. 

Download a free PDF of the e-book HERE

or a Large-print version of PDF suitable for mobile phones HERE

Author’s Facebook page HERE

ACOUSTIC MYSTERY ON A 32 BUS

Since 2014 I have been writing (2 books), blogging and occasionally tweeting on biblical interpretation and historical Church perspectives on divine providence. Recently there has been more of a focus on the Book of Enoch and (regrettably) myself, for reasons that may already be becoming apparent. The most recent blogs/tweets have referred to an extraordinary recording that some who follow me will have heard, which those who are not of a nervous disposition can access below:

It contains much that is barely audible or comprehensible, but about a third of the way through [at the 5minute mark played at normal speed], an individual set apart from the rest (the compiler) clearly calls out, “Hello there, Charton”.  

Spiers and Surenne’s French and English Pronouncing Dictionary (among others) affirms that the name “Charton” is a shortened version of the French word “charretier” meaning “CARTER” or coachman – in modern settings, a busman. Such was I for seven years before retiring from fulltime employment in 2013. So, for the virtually obsolete “Charton” read “Carter”.

Sources on the internet HERE and HERE  indicate the name “Carter” is derived from Yitzhak (also spelt Yitzchak), biblical Isaac’s Hebrew name meaning “He laughs”. For Abraham had laughed when God said his geriatric wife would bare him a son whilst Sarah laughed for joy when she did. Likewise, when the Holy Spirit gave me a radical new understanding of the apostle Paul’s teaching, I at the same time wept, rejoiced but above all laughed – how COULD we all have got it so wrong? And when I published my findings, some liked it, some hated it, but no doubt the majority simply laughed: “You CANNOT be serious!” Oh, but I am, so was Paul in Rom 11 and Eph3, the providential and dispensational implications appear to have eluded everyone (recent post).

Whilst I find the aforementioned English/Hebrew connection between Charton/Carter and Yitzhak somewhat tenuous, it is what these sources indicate, and it ties up with what is repeatedly heard on the recording. If I were to say exactly what I believe to be the source, origin and nature of that cacophony, many would think me entirely crazy, so I will not disclose it for the present. There are more substantive matters concerning divine providence I would wish to impart whilst retaining as many followers as possible. Individual listeners must make up their own mind about the recording. Be aware, it is multi-layered – different sounds, words and names (especially “Yitzhak”) can be detected at very different speeds. [Something occurs at the 4min39s point when played at the very slowest speed concerning which I dare not elaborate at present, but proves to me this cannot be a human mock-up]. Be aware also that this is far from the first such recording I have received, and they started before ANY of my writing was published in any form or on any platform, so it cannot be put down to aggrieved readers.

The method of delivery is equally strange. In this case a London bus’s onboard i-bus system can be heard announcing its route and bus stops (I’m familiar with it, I once drove that route), but there is no passenger or traffic noise whatsoever. This can be verified when the recording is played at a very slow speed – total silence when those that are ranting briefly cease to rant. That seems to imply the recording is coming via the bus’s radio system itself – but how could THAT be explained? I do not invite replies, I couldn’t handle them emotionally or have time to respond to them. But feel free to share what you hear with others, especially if they can provide spiritual or indeed acoustical insights regarding what is going on. And if you still have an open mind or are simply intrigued, continue to watch this space.

The LITTLE BOOK OF PROVIDENCE: a radical re-interpretation of the bible:

Download a FREE PDF of e-book from HERE

or a Large-print version of PDF suitable for mobile phones HERE

Author’s FACEBOOK page HERE

GOD’S SECRET PLAN

3By revelation there was made known to me a MYSTERY, as I wrote before in brief. 4Reading this, you should become aware of my insight into the MYSTERY of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;  6the MYSTERY being that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promises in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.  8Although I am the most inferior of all the saints, grace has been granted that I should preach among the nations the unsearchable riches of Christ 9to enlighten all regarding THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE SECRET hidden in God through the ages, who created all things through Jesus Christ, 10that through the Church should now be made known to the sovereignties and authorities in the heavens, the multi-faceted nature of God’s wisdom 11according to the purpose of the ages made in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph3:3-11)

And so we arrive at the passage of Scripture which gave rise to the title of my first book: “Fellowship of the Secret”. That was taken from verse 9 which could equally be translated “administration of the secret (plan)”. For as sometimes happens there is a textual variant in the bible manuscripts, probably due in this case to the similarity of οἰκονομία (administration) and κοινωνία (fellowship). In context either will do, for Paul is referring to the Church, being a fellowship of believers but also an administration for the propagation and application of the gospel. Similarly, “secret” could be translated “mystery” (as in KJV), being the same word in Greek – a secret of God is assuredly a mystery to man. And as I have highlighted, this short passage has several references to a mystery or secret, being the revelation of the Gentiles’ unexpected inheritance that had now been “made known to the apostles and prophets”. That must refer to prophets of the apostolic age (cf. Acts13:1; 1Cor12:28) for this mystery had only been revealed “now” (v5). Even the heavenly authorities were kept in the dark concerning it, as is confirmed by the sometimes mistranslated and rarely comprehended verses 8-11.

What Paul is disclosing is that it was not until the establishment of the Church, indeed by its establishment, that this mystery concerning the Gentiles’ portion, salvific inheritance and the nature of the dispensation pertaining to it was revealed by God even to the principalities and powers of Heaven. It had been “hidden in God” (i.e. the Father) from earlier ages. That is why none of the Old Testament prophesies depict the gospel age or Church in the form it has taken. For it was never envisaged (or disclosed) that the Gentiles would be included amongst Christ’s consecrated band of enlighteners, rather that they would become enlightened through association with the Jews, God’s elect people. But now according to Paul’s Good News, the Gentiles could themselves be made holy and incorporated within that consecrated fellowship and inherit all its privileges (Acts26:18). God’s secret plan had been accomplished through Christ’s Passion and the breaking down the wall of division between Jew and Gentile through the abolishment of Torah as considered in the previous post.

However, the providential implications of what Paul is saying here has remained a mystery to the post-apostolic Church. Paul’s teaching is actually reinforced in Rom11 (vv11,12,15 & 30) – if only those verses were taken as read, but as I pointed out in an earlier post, they rarely are. I have however discovered at least one early commentator (St John Chrysostom AD347-407) who came in part to an understanding of what Paul is disclosing in Eph3. That is that the dispensation of grace to the Gentiles resulting in eternal life and a glorious inheritance was unknown to the Old Testament prophets as well as the celestial principalities and powers before it was revealed through  Paul. This mysterious (or secret) dispensation Chrysostom recognized had not “come to pass” but had been “manifested” through the establishment of the Church. He went on to write in his commentary:

“For this is the gospel: ‘It is Jesus that shall save His people’ – but (note) not a word about the Gentiles. That which concerns the Gentiles the Spirit reveals; that they were called indeed the angels knew, but that it was the same privileges as Israel, yea, even to sit upon the throne of God, who would ever have expected this? Who would ever have believed it? – (for it had) been hid in God[Chrysostom Homily VI and VII on Ephesians covering (Eph3:5-11); cf. Homily V on Colossians  covering (Col1:26-28)]

He also affirms my translation from the Greek, i.e. that that the mystery was revealed now (not in the Old Testament), through (not “to”) the Church, to (not “by”) the celestial authorities. The fourth century Catholic saint and scholar does not work through the providential implications (which would have challenged the then teaching of his Church). But at least he had grasped the gist of what Paul was intimating, which is more than most interpreters had done, including myself until revealed by the Spirit.

I acknowledge that most other early Fathers, unless they had clearly understood Paul’s reference to this mystery, would regard God’s secret plan as a “strange doctrine” for I found it somewhat peculiar myself. Yet it must be presented, for not only was it directed to my mind during what I know to have been an encounter with the Holy Spirit, it also reconciles a great deal concerning the context of the Church and gospel within a yet more glorious plan of loving goodness; one in which the majority of human tongues will one day willingly confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father (cf. Phi2:11). Although I am the most inferior of all the saints, grace has been granted that I should enlighten all regarding the secret plan that had been hidden in God, even from the Church.

🤣 Facebook page HERE

Related posts: Covenant of promise & Fourteen in the bible

THE DIVIDING WALL

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who previously were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall15 by abolishing in His flesh the hostility, which is the Law composed of commandments expressed in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two one new person, in this way establishing peace; 16 and that He might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the hostility. [Eph2:13-16]

At a first glance this passage might appear to be describing how Christ’s shedding of blood at Calvary has broken down the dividing wall that existed between man and God since the Fall. That is a wonderful truth but is not what Paul is referring to here. This barrier is vertical, not horizontal. It refers to a division between one nation and others because of the Law (Torah), not between God and humanity because of their sin. The peace being established here is between disparate peoples so that they might become “one new person”. Both groups are to be united such that as one body they can be reconciled to God. That is by abolishing what had previously separated Jew from Gentile – Torah, being “the Law composed of commandments expressed in ordinances” (v15). Paul refers to this same issue in Colossians where he writes “(God) blotted out the handwriting of the ordinances that were against us, that were hostile to us; taking it out of the way and nailing it to the cross” (Col2:14).

This is more good news in the context of the broader benign providence I have been outlining. God’s laws and decrees set out in Torah, which as fallen human beings we invariably fail to keep, have themselves been nailed to the cross – the benefit of which cannot meaningfully be applied to a specific grouping (i.e. a “limited atonement”). The requirement to keep this Law has been annulled; period. But the same applies to sin. This is how Scripture presents Christ’s Passion with regard to sin: Christ became sin for us (2Cor5:21); He suffered once for sins (1Pet3:18); the iniquity of us all was laid upon Him (Is53:6). Jesus had come in the likeness of sinful flesh so that all sin in the flesh should be condemned (Rom8:3). Not your sin, not my sin, not His chosen people’s sin – simply SIN! That is why John could write: “Christ Himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world” (1Jn2:2).

Having read the above, if you have been following these posts or have read my book, you will not immediately go on to challenge along the lines, “Then why be a Christian at all?” or “Wherefore the gospel?” Even the previous post should have made the reasons abundantly clear. Those outside “the covenant of promise” are, according to Paul, dead to God and without hope whilst in this world. For it is only God’s chosen people who can be set free from the domination and bondage of sin by sharing in Christ’s life (Rom5:10), overcoming the encumbrances of Paul’s body of this death (Rom7:24-25). Only such can be “alive to God” in the present or be fitted for their glorious inheritance as the corporate bride of Christ. And with the nearer future in mind, only such shall be resurrected or, if still alive, raptured, at the point that Christ comes with His saints to judge the earth (Jn6:54; 1Thes3:13; Jud1:14-15). At such a time, a certain category of people that Jude (quoting from the Book of Enoch) referred to shall be ignominiously removed from the earth. But these are not all who have failed to keep Torah or indeed failed to follow (or even know about) Jesus Christ. It shall be those who like their archetype Cain have entirely failed to keep the spirit of Torah and indeed every law God has provided for man: “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word within the statement, ‘You shall LOVE your neighbour as yourself’” (Gal5:14). For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is ANY OTHER COMMANDMENT, IT IS SUMMED UP IN THIS SAYING, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Rom13:9

It is no wonder that Paul had been so exasperated with the Judaizing infiltrators of the Roman and Galatian churches. They were seeking to rebuild the dividing wall that Christ’s work at Calvary had broken down. And they had failed to grasp that “it is not the hearers of the Law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the Law who will be justified (Rom2:13). Yet at the same time “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes knowledge of sin” (Rom3:20). Those seemingly contradictory statements of Paul make perfect sense once a distinction is made between outwardly observing “commandments expressed in ordinances” vis-à-vis fulfilling the spirit of the Law. The former has been abolished for everybody; the latter is required for all if they are to avoid the fate of the Mt25 “goats”. As Paul has just indicated in Gal5:14, such fulfilment in spirit pertains to love. That is a quality that all who are truly human possess and demonstrate to a degree (1Jn3:12: Mt25:40), whilst God’s elect who act as the Body of Christ in the world are to be perfected in love (1Jn4:17-18).

🤣Facebook page HERE

THE COVENANT OF PROMISE

11 Therefore remember that previously you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the people of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who previously were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ {Eph2:11-13)

Paul is here reminding his Gentile readers in Ephesus of their spiritual condition before their conversion. This, then, must be true of everyone by nature, for all can be said to be “strangers to the covenants of promise”. By Paul’s reckoning, all outside that covenant are “separate from Christ”, “excluded from the Israel of God”, “without hope and without God in the world”. It sounds bleak and harsh, almost Augustinian – but pause for a moment. Who was the first man to be excluded from the covenant of promise? It was a certain “Ishmael”. He was Abraham’s first-born son no less – for whom the father of faith pleaded to God in prayer, “Oh that Ishmael might prosper before You!” (Gen17:18). Abraham’s prayer was answered, well sort of: “And God said to Abraham: Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac, and I will establish my covenant with him for a perpetual covenant, and with his seed after him. As for Ishmael I have also heard you. Behold, I will bless him, and increase, and multiply him exceedingly: he shall beget twelve chiefs, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bring forth this time next year”.

God’s redemptive plan for the world was undoubtedly to be focused around Christ. However, chronologically speaking, the first stage was to establish a people with whom the Creator would especially relate, and that was initiated by the call of Abraham. Such people would still be in sinful flesh, so they were to be provided with laws “to deter offences” and so that they might live, behave and worship in accordance with God’s will. But what of the rest of humanity? Moses later provided a clue: “Look, as JHWE my God commanded me, I have taught you laws and customs for you to observe in the country in which you are to take possession. Keep them and put them into practice and other peoples will admire your wisdom and prudence. Once they know what all these laws are, they will exclaim “No other people are as wise and prudent as this great nation Israel” (Deut4:5,6). So the children of promise were intended to be a light and bridgehead of salvation to the rest of the world. In God’s own words Isaac’s seed were “My own special treasure among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine – you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex19:5-6). That is the context of the “children of promise” in both the Old and New Testaments (cf. 1Pet2:9). But those of the Old Testament would be the seed of Abraham’s second son Isaac rather than Ishmael.  Similarly for the New Covenant in Christ’s blood, “You, (Galatian Christians), like Isaac, are the children of promise (Gal4:28).

This again affirms the privileged and exclusive nature of the covenants of promise, both in the Old and New Testaments. Those such as Ishmael did not exclude themselves by their actions (unlike Cain with respect to the eluded Universal Covenant of life). Ishmael and the other families of the earth had been excluded by divine decree. Likewise, those included such as baby Isaac, followed by children born and baptized by their Christian parents, or adults given the gift of faith to trust in Christ as Saviour (Eph2:8; Jn6:44) will have done nothing to deserve the privilege of becoming “the children of promise”. Yet that is what they are, and as I have been emphasizing in recent posts their election is by grace alone. What a monstrous travesty of justice and providential oversight it would be if the one group were to be assured of eternal bliss in heaven whilst the souls of those God had wilfully overlooked faced eternal misery. Yet that is what I (in the past) and so many Christians still believe to be the Good News of God, the fruit of Christ’s suffering, the scope of His saving work, the constraints of compassion from the God who is Love. It’s an outrageous maligning of divine providence, and largely the consequence of Augustine’s dire misreading of aspects of St Paul’s teaching, carried forward by the Protestant Reformers in their theology of sovereign grace. Yet as with the broader mystery of evil, it is a misconception which God intended should not be brought to light until the end of the age. [The relevant prophecies in Revelation and the Book of Enoch were highlighted in the previous post].

Notwithstanding such misconceptions of divine benevolence, those outside the covenant of promise were, according to Paul, “devoid of hope and without God in the world” (v12). But Paul was not saying there was no hope for them, rather that they did not personally possess “ἐλπίδα”, i.e.  hope, expectation, or assurance regarding the future – for example, that they would ever see those they had loved and lost again, let alone have a joyous relationship with God through eternity. As for being “without God in the world”, that is referring to the breakdown in the relationship that Adam and Eve had enjoyed with God before their disobedience. It is the “death” that Paul spoke of in Romans7 brought about by “the body of this death” concerning which I have already written much in these posts. For note, they were without God in the world. That is a temporary situation pertaining their soul’s inhabitation of “the body of this death” within a world order (κόσμος) still under the influence of Satan. Both encumbrances shall cease at physical death or when Christ returns, whichever is the sooner. The prince of this world’s final demise and “the redemption of the body” (Rom8:23) will transform the situation, ultimately for all true humanity (Rom8:21).

Author’s Facebook page HERE

Related post: Fourteen in the bible   &   God's secret plan

SEATED IN HEAVENLY PLACES

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our wrongdoings, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the boundless riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. [Eph2:4-10]

A favourite passage for many Christians and the last two verses were the text of my very first sermon during a brief period as a Baptist minister in the late 1990s. As to my subsequent spiritual journey, I referred to it in a recent post concerning the number fourteen. For that number has been particularly significant in my life, especially in the faith context. And it was fourteen years between two extraordinary spiritual encounters that transformed my theological understanding. Its outworking will be evident in these posts in which I am slowly progressing through the New Testament, whilst the full picture has already been set out in The Little Book of Providence, a seven-part biblical synopsis freely available as a PDF download.

I say, “a favourite passage”, perhaps especially for Evangelicals given that Paul twice in these verses states, “by grace you have been saved”. The problem for many Evangelicals (and others) is what Paul goes on to write in verse 8, although it was also implicit in verse 5. We are “saved by faith” (that’s fine), but such faith is “not of oneself it is a gift of God”. Not for the first time, Paul is affirming that whether one is a Christian is a matter of God’s choice – man by nature is incapable of responding positively to the gospel unless divinely enabled to do so. That is not to be determined from this passage alone, it is the consistent teaching of Paul in his several references to predestination (e.g. Rom8:29-30; Eph1:5&11). And as the Ephesians passage under consideration makes clear, such predestination cannot be referring to God “foreseeing who would come to believe”, for that would be election based on merit. For surely, denying oneself, taking up the cross and following Christ is a virtuous thing to do, whereas whether or not we come to faith is “a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (v9). And the apostle was no maverick – he is affirming Jesus’ own teaching (Jn6:44) and that of the apostle John (1:13). So, am I returning to my Calvinistic roots? By no means – for whether an Evangelical is Calvinist or Arminian, the eschatology that results from their respective interpretations of the bible has providential implications far removed from that which Paul alludes to. That is summarized in Rom8:18-23 in which he identifies a rationale for “the Fall” (v20), the current state of affairs for creation as a whole (vv22-23) and an expectation of its final deliverance (v21).

Dealing firstly with Calvinism, the God who Apostle John describes as love personified and who “so loved the world that He sent His own Son” to rescue it is deemed wilfully to withhold the saving remedy from the bulk of the world’s inhabitants. Myriads of precious souls are to be regarded as collateral damage within God’s redemptive purposes in Christ. These are formularies that I meticulously adhered to for 28 years, believing that virtually everyone I had known outside my church circle, including all my known family, were destined for “a lost eternity”. That, I understood, was to pay for Adam’s disobedience and the depraved nature inherited from him. According to the “Institutes of Religion” that I at one time esteemed, it resulted in “all men’s thoughts, inclinations and efforts being corrupt and viscous”, whilst young infants according to Calvin were “odious and an abomination to God; their very natures being a seed-bed of sin” [Ref#1].

Moving on to Arminius, his theological proposals are perhaps more erudite and logically persuasive than I as a former Calvinist once gave him credit for. Nevertheless, they are still flawed and result in the same cosmic catastrophe, as well as more obviously doing violence to Paul’s teaching on election. Examining Wikipedia’s helpful analysis, Arminius’ solution to the free will/predestination conundrum is perhaps best summarized by the statement “that sinners who hear the gospel have the free will to accept or reject God’s offer of saving grace and that nobody is excluded by God from the possibility of salvation except those who freely exclude themselves”. I have highlighted where the problem lies on the providential front. Even if such an interpretation could be squared with Jn6:44 in particular, the more obvious point is that the very possibility of attaining salvation is restricted to those who hear the gospel, and a faithful account of it at that. Calvin’s incomprehensibly harsh cosmic Chess Master has been replaced by a seemingly incompetent, uncaring Overseer. For clearly, God has (at the least) permitted cultural and religious developments to proliferate in such a way that most Asian/Eastern people rarely have had the opportunity to hear such a gospel through the centuries. That it is not to mention the rest of the world prior to the 16th century Protestant Reformation, whose protagonists rightly affirmed that the means of salvation they were insisting upon were virtually unknown to the Catholic/Orthodox churches for the previous thousand years or more.

I cannot speak for others, but during my 28 years as an Evangelical I scarcely gave these historical realities any thought, which retrospectively appears extraordinary. Such doctrines, designed to provide peace and assurance for the individual, are thoroughly demeaning to our loving Creator’s providential care. And the notion that human beings are innately depraved, common to both Calvinism and Arminianism, distorts the true and observable nature of the human condition. For even in their fallen state, men and women are clearly capable of exercising kindness, compassion, charity and a measure of integrity. And as both Paul and John several times affirm, acts of compassion and kindness were central to the purpose of God’s laws for humanity. According to Paul, anyone who loves another has fulfilled the law (Rom13:10). Indeed, every commandment God has made for man can be summarized in one word – to LOVE your neighbour as yourself (Gal5:14). That accords with John: “Love is of God and everyone who exercises love is born of God and knows God, for God is love” (1Jn4:7). Yet no one is “saved” in the gospel sense unless they are born again of Spirit and water, whilst there is a third category who were never “born of God” in the first place (1Jn3:12; Acts13:10). Such are devoid of conscience and incapable of love in the ἀγάπη sense. They are serial liars and psychopaths, but not always in a criminal sense, some far from it (2Cor11:13-15).

In ecclesiological terms, a measure of doctrinal error (“the forsaking of wisdom”) and Spirit-grieving corruption has existed in the past, even within the true Apostolic Church; particularly so in the West during the Middle Ages. That resulted in a rebellion (“a man shall ascend”), a fragmentation (“the whole race of the chosen root shall be dispersed“), a break away movement established (“an apostate generation shall arise”). I believe this is alluded to in 2Thes2, but my quotes in brackets pertain to an extraordinary prophecy in the Book of Enoch – “The Apocalypse of Weeks” – setting out the chronology, albeit in symbolic terms [Enoch93:7-10]. It is all somewhat cryptic and is intended to be so, for whilst much was revealed (albeit symbolically) to John in Revelation regarding the Church’s future, there was one mystery that he was not permitted to write about. It is referred to in chapter ten, verses 4-7.

Regarding biblical hermeneutics, it largely boils down to the simple fact that what the bible means by salvation is not to be equated to the soul being saved from perdition. The soul’s immediate fate in the afterlife and when God’s Kingdom is fully realized at Christ’s coming is determined by the criterion Jesus sets out in in Mt25:31-46, a passage in which neither religion nor religious faith is mentioned. [I highlight “religious” for the sheep/goat parable does pertain to a form of faith as an earlier post explains]. Salvation, on the other hand, is the process which begins when those God chooses for His Son are cleansed from past sins in baptism, at the same time being delivered from the ravages of what Paul describes as “the body of this death”, thereby becoming free to serve the living God whilst in mortal flesh (cf. Rom6:4-6).

And there is a related point that Paul raises in this passage that is usually turned on its head. He writes that the Ephesians had been saved by faith and not a result of works (v9). So Paul is referring  to what had already happened to them – all will have been baptized, cleansed from their sin and spiritually empowered, but he well knows that not all shall persevere in the Faith. That process is by no means all of grace, it is dependent on the believer’s cooperation with grace, his effort and self-disciple. This has been covered in many of my earlier Pauline posts and will become still more apparent in Hebrews, James and Revelation. “All of grace” applies to election, not to the process by which we “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling”. And as Jesus constantly alludes to in Revelation, final glory depends on whether or not one “overcomes” (Rev2:7;2:11;2:17;2:26;3:5;3:12;3:21;21:7). He makes it clear that many, even within in the churches, shall not be found worthy to inherit the promises of Christ (Rev3:4).

Such ineffable privileges pertain to “the elect” who shall be corporately married to the Lamb and come to share His throne, not to the many more who demonstrate they are “of God” by evincing love as described above. Both categories shall receive infinitely better than they deserve. That will certainly be the result of grace, especially the fruit of Christ’s Passion which I have been showing avails at two levels: the forensic and participatory. Whilst the sins of the many are pardoned and propitiated (1Jn2:2), those who through obedience to the Faith participate in Christ’s Life and partake of His blood can have their consciences “cleansed from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb9:14; Rom5:10). As Paul intimates in this Ephesians passage, the Christian, in a mystical sense, is already “raised up with God and seated with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus so that in the ages to come He might show the boundless riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ” (v7).

So, whilst God in Christ has elected a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, to proclaim the excellencies of Him who are called out of darkness into His marvellous light (1Pet2:9), “the boundless riches of His grace and kindness” Paul is writing about here are just that – boundless. Such magnanimity pertains to His very nature. This joyful vista will become more apparent once God’s providential purposes towards His whole creation have been apprehended.

Ref#1: Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion – Second Book chap. 1 para 8

Author’s Facebook page HERE

Related post THE CHURCH’S DESTINY

CHILDREN OF WRATH

Ephesians 2

1 You were at one time dead in your offences and sins, in which you previously walked in accordance with the world order (pertaining to) the current age and of the prince of the power of the air, the spirit currently working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all previously lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of its thoughts, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the rest. 4But God…! [Eph2:1-4]

What Paul means by “dead”

If you have been following my posts, you will know what I believe Paul to mean by non-Christians being DEAD in their sins. It is not referring to “damnation”, which pertains to those dead in both flesh and spirit such that they are devoid of love (Jude1:12 cf. 1Jn3:12; 1Jn4:7). Rather, it relates to what the apostle had written in Rom7 regarding “the body of this death” that resulted in a conflict between the spiritual essence (“spirit”, “heart”, “inner man”) implanted by God at birth and what Paul and Peter both describe as our earthly “vessel” or “tent”, being the intellectual entity (body and brain) procreated from our parents, ultimately from fallen Adam that the soul/spirit temporarily inhabits. By nature, the instincts of the latter overpower the former, and the “dead works” that result defile the conscience. That leads to an inability rightly to relate to or serve the living God, being man’s true purpose and destiny (Heb9:14). As that verse also affirms, the only solution to the predicament is the application of the blood of Christ (earlier post).

The mind of the flesh

In reviewing the Ephesians’ former lives Paul refers to the flesh and its thoughts (v3); not as many bibles translate it “the flesh and the mind” – for διανοιῶν is plural [see parsing]. “The mind” [Greek: νόησις] would anyway be ambiguous for we have two minds, the one pertaining to the flesh that Paul is referring to here (i.e. the brain) and the mind of the spirit/inner man/heart, being that memory-retaining intellectual spiritual entity that departs the body at physical death (cf. Lk16:25). It is a point in which I am necessarily pedantic and repetitive for it is crucial to understanding Paul, especially the much misunderstood second half of Rom7. “Crucial” because it pertains to the nature and consequences of “original sin” and the very purpose of gospel salvation (cf. Rom7:24-25).

Jesus expressed the same concept more starkly (albeit metaphorically) in terms of physical dismemberment. The telling phrase in His sermon on the mount being “if your right arm/eye offends YOU, hack it off / pluck it out” (Mt5:29-30). The “you” is the true/inner/spiritual self; the offending eye and hand are the instincts of the bodily members as processed through the brain. Peter was more succinct: “Abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul” (1Pet2:11). Note the fleshly lusts oppose the soul, they are not derived from it.

Satan’s temporary domain

Paul also refers here to the current age and the world order pertaining to it. “Prince of the power of the air” is simply referring to Satan and the physical atmospheric realm (air) in which human beings subsist – as opposed to Jesus’ current locale being “the heavenly places” (previous post). The extraordinary current state of affairs, concerning which I expounded in an earlier post is that Satan rather than Jesus is “ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου” (literally, chief of the world system). Through His Passion, the Latter has already assured the former’s demise (Jn12:31), but the final solution has yet to be implemented, involving as it does not only Jesus but His people (1Thes3:13), some of whom have yet to be recruited.

Children of wrath

In terms of final judgement, we can be assured God will take account of man’s hostile, satanically influenced environment and the inherited weakness of His flesh, for it is the Son of Man who will be doing the judging (Jn5:22). The Creator is nevertheless angered and aggrieved at the sight of human self-indulgence, violence, and immorality (v3). Given that man has an immortal soul, being by nature “the children of wrath” would not appear to bode well for humanity’s eternal prospects given that proportionally few have been delivered from this predicament.

Thankfully, Paul’s extraordinary statement in Rom8:20-21 [Ref#1] indicates otherwise, presenting the Fall, its consequences, and especially its origins and purpose in a different light. Frankly, Paul’s assertion here is likely to confound many, but hopefully it should make a lot more sense after a reading of The Little Book of Providence. Paul of course was well acquainted with these matters and so is quickly able to dispel the gloom. He does so in the passage immediately following. It is introduced by two of the most propitious words in the bible: “BUT GOD….”!  (v4 – next post).

Ref#1: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. [Rom8:20-21NASB]

Author’s Facebook page HERE

THE CHURCH’S DESTINY

God raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,  far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  And He put all things in subjection under His feet and made Him head over all things for the church which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Eph1:20-23)

So, writes Paul, Christ has been seated at the right hand of God, far above all rule, authority power and dominion – not only in the current age but in the one that shall succeed it. No surprise there – what is staggering and scarcely thought through by many, is the implication to the church’s destiny, both in view of what Paul is writing here and how she is described in Revelation. The apostle describes the church as “the body of Christ”, or on one occasion precisely in this context, simply as “Christ” (1Cor12:12). In Revelation the church is Christ’s corporate bride or “wife” (19:7 &21:9) whom Christ Himself informs us shall share His throne (3:21).

I am not primarily emphasizing these matters to glorify the church, though it is an inescapable fact that someone chosen to wed a king must attain glory, how much more the body of women and men chosen to act as consort to the King of Kings? Rather, my priority, as ever, is to magnify the scope of God’s benign providence. For whilst it must always be the case that Christ presides over His Church, that is not the point Paul is making in these verses. Rather, the apostle is indicating that Christ is Head over all things for or to the Church (v22). ἐκκλησίᾳ (church) is dative not genitive. And it is what is known as a dative of advantage; the rule and authority Paul is describing Christ as having is not so much over the church but is on her behalf.

In view of Who Christ is and What He is – the One by Whom and for Whom all things were created, He would scarcely need the help of anyone to preside over His creation. But He, or rather His Father, has determined that His beloved Son should not reign alone. God has given some of His own children over to Christ (Jn17:6 – note wording very carefully). The Father has chosen a bride for His Son, and Paul here depicts her as His body, “the fullness of Him who fills all in all”(v23).

So, in terms of the providential context, it should be obvious that Christ with His church/bride/body must have something and someone to rule over in the age to come – they cannot “all be in hell” as I once believed as an amillennialistic Evangelical. [I have been systematically adducing from Scripture that there are not two but three soteriological categories – the most recent post in the context of the age to come is HERE.] As for subsequent ages: “Things that the eye has not seen nor the ear heard nor have not entered the human heart have been prepared for those who love Him” (1Cor2:9). But what can be deduced from what Scripture has already disclosed is that the heavens and the earth shall one day be filled with the glory of God – and that Christ with His “bride” shall take precedence within the arrangements. For “those who are to receive royal authority are the saints of the Most High, and their kingship will be for ever and ever and ever” (Dan7:18). Head and body like Husband and wife cannot be separated as long as they both shall live – likewise their domain.

Such munificent providence cannot be asserted from these observations alone – the matter needs to be determined from Scripture as a whole. I believe this to have been achieved in “The Little Book of Providence”. Such writing was not intended (or in my case barely capable) of being an academic work. Whilst scholarship is undoubtedly useful in determining biblical truth, theological insight pertains as much to the heart as it does to the brain. Hence Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians just a few verses earlier and precisely in this context (previous post): “that the eyes of your heart might be enlightened to understand the nature of the hope of God’s calling and the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints (v18).

Author’s Facebook page HERE

Related post SEATED IN HEAVENLY PLACES

A book exploring the mystery of divine providence

%%footer%%