The Body of the Son of Man (Part 2)

By Samuel M. Frost, Th. M.

Since writing the first part of this series, considerable conversations happened on Facebook.  The agreements are overwhelming, but the small band of Full Preterists demonstrated an almost total lack of understanding of even the basics of what Christianity discusses under the subject of Christology – the careful study of just who this Jesus fellow is.

Since I wrote Part 1, I also was reading through Alan Bondar’s book, The Journey Between the Veils, published and entirely endorsed by my nemesis, Don K. Preston.  Basically, in that book, Bondar demonstrates quite plainly that the one who the Scriptures uniformly call, “the son of ‘adam” (the son of a man), and “the man, Christ Jesus” – a man with a soul and a body – a human being, is no longer such.

Allow me to quote from Bondar, as I have done on Facebook, so that there is absolutely no misunderstanding of what he (and Don K. Preston) teaches.  “…the physical body of Christ was permanently destroyed at his ascension…the elimination of the physical body of Christ is absolutely necessary…” (180).  On page 181 he speaks of the “total elimination of the physical body…”  Don K. Preston, one of the main leaders of Full Preterist claims, states in the Foreward, “Bondar shows that it was necessary that Christ lay off “the body of flesh” to enter the Most Holy Place…” (10).

So that it is further understood, both Preston and Bondar  are not saying that Jesus’ physical body was “changed” or “glorified” in any way.  “The claim,” Bondar writes, “that Christ had a glorified body after his resurrection is unfounded” (185).  Noting that there is debate within some circles as to whether Jesus was glorified the morning of, or later at his ascension (recorded in Acts 1), Bondar concludes that neither is true.  When he says the physical body of Jesus was destroyed, he means that there cannot be a “glorified physical body of Christ” (186).  “[T]he idea that Christ’s physical body was glorified (whether pre- or post ascension) is pulled out of thin air” (186).  Further, Jesus is to come into the glory of his father in heaven, and the father “doesn’t have a body” (187).  Therefore, neither does Jesus.

So let there be no mistakes here.  There is no room here to say, “but.” Bondar is forthrightly clear.  When he says that Jesus’ physical body was “destroyed” he means “eliminated”, “divested” – not changed, not glorified, not anything, but entirely gone.  Ceased to exist.

Now, to believers this may come as a shock.  To many of those who call themselves Full Preterists, this has come as a shock (not to me, because I taught the same thing when I was a teacher in that movement).  One may ask the reasoning behind such a wild claim, and this article will deal with that, focusing solely on the comments of Bondar on Philippians 2.

“Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name…” (2.6-9 – DRA).

Bondar spends two pages on this passage, a most famous passage, to show that Jesus did indeed, “took on flesh” (118).  However, when he ascended he “returned to his non-physical state” (118).  He then quotes the passage above and states that this is what Saint Paul teaches, if only we read it “without the filter of tradition” (118).  That is, don’t read what the theologians have said about this passage in Christian history, or the fact that Christians of all walks have uniformly agreed on what this passage says, whether Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, or Protestant.  This agreement is found in the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed and the Council of Chalcedon.  They are unifying creeds of the Christian Faith.  Bondar, however, does not want any “filters”.  In other places in the book he attacks these statements of faith.

First off, Paul is speaking of Jesus.  “Who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.”  In other words, Jesus is God, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity.  One God, Three Persons.  Bondar does not deny this (as far as I can tell).  Now, the Greek of Paul’s hand notes that Jesus is “being in the form of God”, and the verb here for “being” is present participle.  The word for “form” is morphe, which can refer (and does) to his nature – his essence of being.  Bondar has already correctly noted that God “doesn’t have a body” (187).  Since we agree here, then, that God does not have a body (and so does every other Christian) then theologians have insisted that the term morphe here cannot denote “form” in terms of spatiality, but must mean “nature” or “essence”.  The NIV has, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.”  This spares us, then, of going through those details.

It’s the next verse that creates the problem, “But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man” (DRA).  The word for “emptied” is the verb keno-o.  He emptied himself, and “took” the form (morphe) of a man.  He “took” (lambano) human nature to himself.  And that which he took, the human nature of man, he was found, seen, became, a human being, body and soul.  This is what the term “likeness of men” means.  He looked, smelled, ate, burped, went to the bathroom, and fell asleep.

Bondar, again, correctly notes that the Son of God, the Eternal, Uncreated Son, who is God, came into “a particular state or condition (that he did not previously have)” (118-119).  The Son “took” human nature to himself, and as a result “became a human being.”  Where he gets into trouble is where he write, “Jesus emptied Himself of equality with God by becoming something created” (119).  But, then he quickly states, “That doesn’t mean Jesus lost His right to be God, or that He wasn’t God anymore” (119).  He explains, “It just means that, for a time, He chose to divest Himself of using Godness for the purpose of His mission.”  However, this is contradicted just as quickly, “…as long as Christ maintained his form as created being, then He could not also maintain equality with God because God is not created” (119).

Bondar is apparently unaware of the contradiction for he never addresses it.  If the Son of God, the Second Person of the Godhead, took upon himself human nature, and this does not mean “that He wasn’t God anymore”, then how is it that as a man, “he could not also maintain equality with God”?  Bondar wants to avoid saying that while Jesus was on earth he ceased being God.  However, he contradicts this when he says that while he was on earth he could not be equal to God!  In other words, Jesus cannot be both God the Son and man at the same time.  But, this is precisely what Paul states: the Son of God, who is God, took to himself human nature and likeness while at the same time “did not think it a thing to be grasped” to be God.  He was both.  In theology we have taken Paul’s statements here and said, “One Person, Two Natures, Human and Divine – existing in One.”

What Bondar is saying, though, is this: “If taking on the flesh meant kenao (sic), then Christ had to cease kenao when he completed his mission” (119).  That is, if the Son of God emptied himself of his divine-ness – being God – then when he ceased his mission while he was man, he would empty himself of his human nature in order to refill himself of his God-ness.  You read it right.

So, not only does the Son of God cease being God for a time, but when he done being a man, he divests, empties himself of human nature to regain being God the Son again.  Therefore, not only is the physical body destroyed, but the entirely of human nature is emptied upon his ascension into heaven!  This would mean, then, that the human body is essential to being a human being since he destroyed it when he ascended.  Folks…..

Now, Bondar states, “So, yes, Christ took on a biological body.  But He does not have to keep His biological body to be “man”” (33).  Again, “Christ is still “man”” even “apart from His flesh” (34).  So, how does this all square?  How does the Son of God empty Himself and become a man, then destroys his body, and does not now have a body, yet still be considered a man?  What Bondar appears to be saying is that Jesus emptied himself of his human body, but did not empty himself of human nature.  The human body, then, simply becomes something that really serves no ontological purpose other than a shirt, or a pair of pants.  Shirts are nice.  So are pants.  We like clothes.  They have a purpose.  But, clothing has no real purpose in terms of defining who you are.  Same with the body.

Bondar never defines how Jesus is still a man in heaven.  Since having a body is non-essential (except to be born and live on earth), and Jesus apparently didn’t think too much about it since he ditched it, then why should we care for it at all, really?  It has nothing to do with who we are.

Bondar is faced with, on one hand, maintaining that Jesus is still a man in heaven – a full man, yet, on the other hand, maintain that in order for Jesus to become a man, he had to empty himself of divinity because he could not be both – in fullness – at the same time.  Well, how can he be both now in heaven?  If it required him to empty himself to be man, and he emptied himself again so as to be God again, then how can Bondar insist that he is now in heaven as man and God at the same time?  If he could God and man in heaven, why could not also be God and man while he was on earth?  Why would it require this emptying in order to be?

Well, the theologians have solved this a long time ago, and they used Paul to do it.  The Son of God, who is God the Son, took to himself all the essentials of becoming a man – body and soul – for both are essential.  The Son of God himself did not empty himself of any divinity whatsoever.  None.  The human nature he took upon himself, however, did.  That dude is the one we see in the Gospels, Jesus the infant, the 12 year old, the traveling Rabbi, the carpenter’s son, Yeshua ben Miriam (son of Mary).

Paul states, “For, let this mind be in you that is also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2.5).  He is telling human beings to be like the human being, who has a mind (not had a mind, but has a mind), Jesus Christ.  Jesus, the man, humbled himself, and made himself of no reputation, that while “being” God the Son, did not rely on his divine nature, but rather, as fully man, humbled himself and learned obedience just like you and me.  It is entirely absurd to suggest that the Logos, the Son of God ceased being divine when he was a man.  Rather, because he the Person of God, the Son, “took” to himself human nature in every way, that man humbled himself.  Two Natures, Divine and Human, One Son, One Logos, One Person.

Further, Bondar must create this absurd notion that Jesus “destroyed” his body when he entered heaven because he is a Full Preterist, and they insist that the resurrection of the dead has absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with the human body being raised again.  Therefore, even the raised body of Jesus only serves as a temporary shirt.  Yet, Bondar wants to still insist that Jesus is a man in heaven.  Well, a man has a soul and a body.  And, since the body was destroyed, what happened to the human soul of Jesus?  See, for Bondar, when we (human beings) die, we go to heaven – our souls go to heaven.  And, if Jesus was a man, then he must have had a soul, too – a soul that cannot be the Person of the Son.  If Jesus is both man and God the Son in heaven, then what is it that is man about him?  The theologians have insisted, Jesus, the man, had a soul and a body – a human soul and a human body.  Bondar ditches the body, keeps that Jesus is a “man” in heaven, empties himself of his human nature, and….what about the soul of the carpenter’s son?  This is not answered.

Christians maintain that the man, Christ Jesus, a human being with a body and a soul, died, was buried, was raised and ascended as a man, body and soul, in heaven.  That the Son of God (One Person) took himself human nature in all of it meaning, and that this man ascended heaven at the right hand of God, crowned in glory and honor.  I finish with Psalm 8:

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings(1 )and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 9 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

The author of Hebrews quotes at length this psalm and concludes, “But now we see not yet all things subjected to him”, that is, to man.  “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2.8-9).  We see Jesus, the man, who was made man, and by his resurrection from death (his body dying) he was raised in that body and “crowned in glory and honor” AS MAN.  For, the Son of God, who is God, the Logos, Eternal, never lost his glory, never ceased in his divinity, and never suffered death.  The man, Christ Jesus, did.  Because the man was a human being united with the Divine Nature of the Son of God, he was raised from the dead in righteousness, glorified and exalted as man in heaven.  Bondar’s teaching robs us of our glory, for God made man to have glory and honor, and to have dominion over his creation in a new heavens and a new earth.  Bondar’s view destroys the body, leaves creation in the mess that it is, and has man “in heaven” the rest of his life (eternity).

The Body of the Son of Man (Part 1)

By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

According to the Gospel of John, Jesus, the man, was raised and glorified the morning of his resurrection.  John has no ascension scene at the end of his Gospel.  I believe this simple proposition can be more than adequately deduced from his Gospel.

“Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come'” (John 13.33).  This is repeated in John several times.  “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (14.2).  This is, perhaps, a reference to the Temple design in Ezekiel 40-48, but the point here is that Jesus is going to the Father.  “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I” (14.28).  “But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?'” (16.5).  Here it is made plain that his mission to the Father was an immediate action.  “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (16.7).  Finally, and most conclusively, “”A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me” (16.16).  In other words, Jesus is going to die and they would not see him for three days time.  But, after three days they will see him again.

Further, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (17.5).  This is interesting in light of the statement, “Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” (John 6.62).  With these verses it is plain that Jesus was going to be taken from them for a little while, and then return.  During that interval before they would see him again Jesus went to the Father.  He also stated, according to John, that he must go to the Father so that he could send the Holy Spirit.  For John, we have a most explicit statement: “Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (7.39).  The glorification of Jesus has already been mentioned above, “now, Father, glorify me in your presence” (17.5).  Jesus went away from them and died.

Now comes the morning of his resurrection, using the terminology of John, Jesus flatly says to Mary, “Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”(John 20.17).  The Present Tense found in “I am ascending” is, in the light of what we have read above, conclusive.  This is what Mary was told to tell the others, “Jesus said he was ascending to the Father, and your Father.”  It had been three days since they have seen Jesus, for he told them that they would not see him “for a little while” but that “after a little while” they would see him – after he had gone to the Father!

When Jesus fulfills his words to them by seeing them that very day, he did an astonishing thing: “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (20.22).  Remember, those who were “to receive” (lambano, Greek) the Spirit would do so after Jesus had been glorified.  The glorification of Jesus, therefore, must take place before he saw them again.  And, when they do see him again, he breathed on them and said, “receive the Holy Spirit” (lambano, Greek).  To argue that the disciples did not receive the Spirit then and there is to argue against what is so plainly stated here.  Jesus went away from them for a little while.  He was going to the Father.  When he was raised from the dead, he ascended to the Father, body and soul.  He was raised in glory.

I bring this up because there are some that fail to see the parallel of Jesus’ resurrection and glorification as occurring at the same time.  However, when we read the Apostle Paul, we find that the exact same description given for the resurrection of the dead exactly parallels the resurrection of Jesus.

“So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.  It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.   It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.  Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15.42-45).  If the dead are not raised, then neither is Jesus raised, for in the same fashion he was raised, so shall they be raised.  Paul cannot make this any plainer, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8.11).  “This mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15.53).

Was the body of Jesus made perishable?  Absolutely.  “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” But he was speaking about the temple of his body’ (John 2.20,21).  Was it raised imperishable?  Absolutely.  “But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1.10).  “Imperishable” and “immortality” are two English words for one Greek word.  Paul stated that Jesus, having been raised, can “no more return to corruption” (Acts 13.34).  If Jesus was raised immortal/imperishable, and by this act has shed light on what these things mean, then the death of his body meant that his body was given to the enduring corruption that is handed to all men.  However, he was raised incorruptible/imperishable/immortal.  If he was raised in immortality/imperishability, then that must mean that prior to his body being raised, it was undergoing the normal process of corruption and mortality.  But, as both Paul and Peter declare: Jesus’ body did not remain in that state.  It did not see the full process of corruption as, in contrast, David’s body did (and still does).  Due to the fact that God laid upon Jesus our sin, Jesus suffered death, being “made sin” on our behalf, and experiencing the full blow – not as one who sinned, but as one on who sin was laid.  Thus, like the believer, Jesus’ body died, and his soul immediately, absent from the body, was present with the Father.  In three days the Father raised the son in an immortal body, glorifying him, and the son ascended to the Father in this glorified, immortal, imperishable body.

Paul said that the dead will be sown in weakness and raised in power.  “For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God” (2 Corinthians 13.4).  “…and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1.4).  Not forty days later, but by his resurrection he was raised in power, having been sown in weakness.

Can we continue and say that Jesus suffered shame and humiliation on the cross in his death?  That he died without honor?  “Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me” (John 8.49).  “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2.9).  Jesus was crowned with glory and honor having suffered the dishonor of death.  He tasted the same death we taste.  He was raised in glory and honor.  Jesus was not raised when he is seen in his final ascension to the Father in Acts 1.  He was raised in glory and honor, immortal, imperishable, and in power the morning of his resurrection.  The attestations of the the Apostles are clear.

Did Jesus have what is translated as a “natural body”?  Most certainly.  He was the son of ‘adam (“man” in Hebrew).  When Paul considers the natural body of Adam, he quotes Genesis 2.7, “man became a living being” – made from the dust and the breath of God.  This verse that Paul quotes is before Adam fell.  Adam, in his natural state, before he transgressed the commandment of God, was a natural man, a natural body, without sin.  And, so, Jesus’ body was made without corruption, and without sin.  Where Adam faced temptation and broke God’s law, Jesus was tempted “in every way” to sin against God’s law, but did not in one jot or tittle.  In fact, Jesus, prior to his bearing sin in his body, transfigured his body into a raiment of white glory, having the glory of God manifested in that body – the glory he had before.  However, bearing the shame of sin, the weakness of the cross, and being humiliated in suffering, Jesus’ body died.  It was made corrupt.  It was without honor and power.  It was made mortal.  But, this is not the end of the story for because of his obedience to the Father, he was raised in power, with honor and glory, immortal and incorruptible, no longer to return to corruption, no longer to bear sin in death, and no longer able to die again.  Jesus was raised in his adamic body as a life-giving spirit.  The point here is that what’s good for the gander is good for the goose, and what’s good for the resurrection of the dead is good for the resurrection of Jesus.

To state that Jesus waited for forty days to then be glorified and then receive his immortal body, then receive an incorruptible body, is to go against the very statements of Paul and John.  What is interesting even in the Hebrew Bible, is that Moses ascended into the glory cloud of God “on the third day” (Exodus 19.11-20).  “On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled…And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.”  Now, in the Greek-Hebrew Bible (the Septuagint) guess what word for “went up” is used?  It’s in our Bibles in John for “ascended.”   And, how long did Moses stay on the mountain?  Forty days.  But he smashed the first tablets after forty days, and re-established the covenant with new tablets.  I’ll let that sink in.

When Jesus ascended the morning of, on the third day, he sat at the right hand of the Father.  Matthew makes this known when he said, “all power in heaven and earth have been given to me” (Matthew 28.18).  He said this before he was taken up in Acts 1.  As I have noted in past blogs, Daniel 7.13,14 reveals the son of man coming to the Ancient of Days upon the clouds of heaven and was “given” (same word) “power” (same word).  He comes on the clouds of heaven at the right hand of the Father, before his Father, where he was “going”.

Luke, the author of Acts 1, actually confirms our witness.  “He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise”  (Luke 24.6,7).  Then, just a few verses down, Luke wrote, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (24.26).  We can see the clear implication: suffer these things, and on the third day rise/enter his glory.  Luke does not say, and indeed none of the Gospels say that Jesus rose from the dead, hung around for forty days, and then entered his glory!  He is not here!  Well, where was he?  In glory, to which he rose crowned with glory and honor!

All of these facts are brought out to demonstrate that Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day, that he was raised in power, crowned with glory and honor, and raised immortal, imperishable and without corruption.  He ascended to the Father the morning of his resurrection, on the third day, and he also was seen by his disciples, and 500 more according to Paul, for forty days, demonstrating that he indeed was the resurrected King of Glory.  Notice in Paul’s statements that “he died, was buried and on the third day he was risen and seen”.  There is no hint here whatsoever that he waited forty days after he was raised from the dead to enter his glory!  He was seen for forty days.  He was heard, handled and touched.  He was risen in the same glory he had before when he demonstrated his incorruptible state on the Mount of Transfiguration.  Adam sinned and became corruptible.  Jesus bore our sin and became corruptible, but unlike Adam, was raised from the dead without corruption so that now nothing stands in the way of raising his saints to the full glory and honor given to Man in the beginning according to Psalm 8, which Paul and the author of Hebrews states.  The fact that Jesus was raised immortal, raised from mortality, that he was raised incorruptible, raised from corruption, and raised in power, suffering our weakness, and raised in honor, suffering our humiliation, demonstrates that the dead in Christ, who have been baptized into Christ, have, therefore, been united in his actual, physical death due to sin, now also die in obedience to God in a corrupted body of sin, so that as we have been united in his death, so shall we also be like him in his resurrection.  If Jesus was bodily raised, so shall also those in Christ be raised, quickening our mortal bodies as his mortal body was quickened.

In Part 2 we will cover the ramifications of this when we consider being baptized into the death of Christ.

What about the Time-Texts? (Part 1)

Samuel M. Frost, Th. M.

Anyone and everyone familiar with the subject of Eschatology in the Bible is familiar with the so called, “time texts” of the Scriptures, particularly in the New Testament (NT).  This series of articles will deal with them in their various groupings under certain terms and phrases such as, “about to”; “at hand”; “near”; “this generation”; “ready”; “now”, and various others.

The first thing that strikes the reader of Mark is that Jesus comes on the scene and announces, “the kingdom of God is at hand.  The time has come” (1.15).  Jesus announced this in 31 CE.  Now, at first glance, this looks like he was saying that the Kingdom, God’s Kingdom in the heavenlies over all the world is ready to manifest itself for all to see.  And, of course, the whole world would immediately be radically changed if, in fact, this happened.  If the veil that separates our vision between what is seen and the invisible realm of God’s Kingdom were removed so that all, everywhere, would have no more doubts as to whether or not God exists, then I would not have to write this piece!

Of course, this did not happen.  In the Scriptures, there are the kingdoms of differing people groups, or nations, and then there is the Kingdom of God that rules over all the kingdoms.  “The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.  Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!  Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!” (Psalm 103.19).  In the Prophets we see that it required “visions” to see this Kingdom and its host.  For Daniel in particular God is seen as one that sits on the throne, having books opened before him, sending out his angels (messengers) to do all that he does in the earth.  Daniel is most explicit: “He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding” (Daniel 2.21).  Likewise, Isaiah pictures God as one who is “ruling from the Bench” as it were: “The LORD takes his place in court; he rises to judge the people.  The LORD enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people” (3.12,13).  King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon is recorded by Daniel as having acknowledged this truth: “At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4.34,35).

I could literally cut and paste hundreds of verses in the Scriptures to this point.  God’s Kingdom is His Rule over all of his creation and nothing escapes his attention.  Thus, with this first point, when we read the phrase, “the kingdom of God is at hand” does it mean that His Eternal Kingdom is getting ready to appear to everyone and be seen by all?  It cannot mean that he is getting ready to rule over his creation, for he already does.  It cannot mean that he is getting ready to “build” his Kingdom, for it already is.  It cannot mean that his Kingdom is going to take its place among the kingdom-nations of the world so that he can set up trade with them and perhaps join in on some alliances.

God’s Kingdom is over all kingdoms on the earth, and we have established this point.  However, with Israel we find that, indeed, there is a kingdom on earth.  It has a beginning point.  “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel” (Exodus 19.5,6).  Here, God has removed the Israelites from Egypt under Moses and enters into a covenant with them (an ancient form of an alliance, a contract of sorts).  Here we see the existence of others “among the peoples” (nations), and the acknowledgment of my first point: “for all the earth is mine.”  Everything God made and everything in it is his since, well, he made it.  I will allow Saint Paul to drive this point home: “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.  And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,  for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘ For we are indeed his offspring'” (Acts 17.24-ff).  This is Judaism 101.

Now, God forms this new nation under Moses and it is, like the others among them, called a kingdom.  There is the Kingdom of God, then there are the kingdoms of humankind and in particular there is the kingdom or nation of Israel.  This should not be a hard point to grasp.  What is also to be noted in Paul’s word (which was spoken to Greeks in Athens, Greece) is that he said, “though, indeed, he is not far from each one of us.”  The antonym (opposite) of “far” is “near.”  In Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, this phrase “not far” denotes that God, “is near everyone of us by his power and influence.”  The Louw-Nida Lexicon lists this term as an antonym of “near” or “at hand.”

Now, then, when Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is at hand” or “near”, we note that the verb in question is in the Perfect Tense in the Greek text.  The Perfect Tense is a form that emphasizes a past action with present results.  “America has been founded (and remains founded) on the Constitution,” where “has been” is in the Perfect Tense.  Thus, many translations have, “the Kingdom of God has come near”.  Luke’s Gospel goes even further with this idea.  Sending out the Disciples, Jesus tells them to “Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you'” (10.9).  Obviously.  If the sick are healed miraculously by touch and prayer, then God was near “by his power and influence.”  So near you could reach out and touch Him (as he was certainly touching them).

Luke continues with this.  “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you” (11.20).  Here, the term “near” is simply dropped.  The Kingdom of God has come (Perfect Tense) to them by the direct power and demonstration of Jesus over demons.  In perhaps a more striking example of my point, Luke stresses the fact that the Kingdom of God is not something far off, something remote or so far away that it cannot be sought.  Rather, “the Kingdom of God is among you” (17.21).  These two passages in Luke demonstrate, I believe, the idea of how we should understand the Greek word, enngus – close, at hand, near.  It does not denote near in terms of time, but near in terms of spatiality (as offered by Thayer).

There is a bit of translation controversy over Luke 17.21, “the kingdom of God is among you” or “within you.”  However, this is irrelevant to the discussion because in any way one wishes to translate this verse, the kingdom of God was still demonstrably near.  Craig A. Evans notes that this phrase is found in the Gospel of Thomas, a late first century tract.  It is conflated with Deuteronomy 30.11-14.  There, “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.   It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it” (Evans’ work from NIBC, Luke).

We can note in this text the antonym “far off” as opposed to our target word, “near”.  The phrase, “the word is very near you” does not denote closeness in terms of time, but in terms of space.  One could insert here “the kingdom of God” and “time” in place of “the word” and have the exact same Greek phrase we find in the NT.

Indeed, Paul quotes from this same passage of Deuteronomy 30 in Romans 10.6-10, and concludes by quoting Joel 2.32, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (10.13).  This passage in Joel is quoted by Peter in Acts 2.21, and concludes, “This promise is for you, for your children and all who are far away.”  The promise was near them.  The word of their preaching was in their hearing.  The Spirit of the Kingdom of God was there – ready to save.

What is of further interest to us in this regard is that Luke reports two instances of the expectations of many of the Jews in the first century.  “As they were listening to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately” (Luke 19.11).  “Near” here is enngus and here certainly means near in terms of space.  They supposed that upon Messiah’s entrance into Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God would appear in its full, manifested glory and restore all things.  It didn’t.

The second instance is taken from the passage we already quoted, Luke 17.21.  There, the Pharisees asked “when” the Kingdom of God would come.  Jesus, not dissuading the fact that the Kingdom is indeed observable in and of itself, states that its coming is right now.  “The kingdom of God is within/among you.”  It is at hand, right in front of their faces, near their hearts, and hearing its word.  This is what Luke means by “near.”  It is not a “time-text.”

Jesus did not say the Kingdom of God is not observable, but that its appearing, which they thought to be something that would happen at that time, would be cataclysmic.  He is not even denying that the Kingdom will come in terms of a final end of history and time.  What he is saying is that the Kingdom of God has come – it is near them, working invisibly (as it has always done) within/among the hearts of those near and far.  In this passage (Luke 17) Jesus goes on to say that he will be taken away from them, as Noah left and entered the ark, and as Lot left Sodom.  Jesus entered heaven and left the land.  There, in his “days of the son of man” he rules from the heavens at the right hand of God with occasional “flashes of lightning” (17.24) that appear on the earth.  The Kingdom is near, and Jesus has received it upon the clouds of heaven as the son of man (Daniel 7.13,14).  But, the Kingdom will continue to remain invisible, as well as his reign on David’s throne and over Israel (Luke 1.32,33 – where we must insist that David was a Prophet and saw that the throne to be inherited by one of his own bloodline was the heavenly throne).  Indeed, Luke’s narrative begins with the announcement of Simeon, who declares upon seeing the infant son of man, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Nations, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2.29-ff).

This is the announcement of the Kingdom of God.  The day has come.  Salvation is near in their hearing.  The Light has come to the Nations and the Spirit has been poured out on all flesh.  This is about as “near” as one can get to the Kingdom of God and yet still be in this flesh and blood on earth!  This is the “time” for those near and those far away (the nations) to come and drink from the wells of salvation and life in Jesus Christ.  It is this message that we, too, proclaim: “The time has come (and is here), the Kingdom of God is at hand (in your hearing, on your lips and in your heart).  Repent, while the Day is still called, “Today!”

Exegetical mEssays

By Samuel M. Frost, Th. M.

Now there came to Him some of the Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection), 28 and they questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he is childless, his brother should take the wife and raise up offspring to his brother. 29 “Now there were seven brothers; and the first took a wife, and died childless; 30 and the second 31 and the third took her; and in the same way all seven died, leaving no children. 32 “Finally the woman died also. 33 “In the resurrection therefore, which one’s wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife.” 34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; 36 for neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 37 “But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 “Now He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him.” 39 And some of the scribes answered and said, “Teacher, You have spoken well.” 40 For they did not have courage to question Him any longer about anything (Luke 20.27-40).

I am recently studying Luke-Acts and in the passage dealing with resurrection, the Sadducees asked Jesus a question concerning this topic.  They, of course, denied the resurrection of the dead, which was affirmed by the Pharisees.  I also re-read my chapter when I was promoting the heresy known as “Full Preterism” in the book, Exegetical Essays on the Resurrection (JaDon Publications).  Don Preston still peddles this work of mine, but it surely shows the utter blindness I had during that time.

First off, in that passage I noted that Jesus disagrees with the Pharisees conception of resurrection (which is the traditional Christian orthodox view for 2000 years), and the Sadduccees.  I wrote, “I will argue that Jesus’ answer, however, also disagrees with the Pharisaic view in that the conception of Jesus’ view is spiritual, and not a reanimation of long-dead corpses (the Pharisaic view)” (p. 52 – I am quoting from the 2004 publication of this book by TruthVoice before Don Preston took it under his own publication).  I also quote the eminent scholar, R.T. France who wrote, ‘The question assumes that Jesus shares the Pharisaic belief….and here his [Jesus’] support for the ‘Pharisaic’ view is unequivocal’ (from NIGTC, 471).  All of this is before I get into the material in Preston’s published work of mine.

When I read this now, my jaw drops.  I entirely leave out of the whole chapter the fact that the scribes of the Pharisees agree with Jesus and say, “Good answer.”  The Sadduccees never approach him anymore, but the Pharisees do.  Thus, right off the bat I omit the verse that affirms that the scribes said, “good answer” (the scribes who disagreed with the Sadduccees).  Instead, I argue the exact opposite.  If Jesus’ answer is the one I gave in Exegetical Essays, then the scribes of the Pharisees would NEVER have said, “good answer”!  R.T. France is correct, then.  Samuel Frost was wrong (and omitted from discussion the fact that they did agree).

Second, I state in the book, ‘I argue that [France’s view] is half true.  The question the Sadducees put forth does assume the Pharisaic view, and Jesus does affirm a view of the afterlife, but this hardly means that Jesus and the Pharisees affirmed the same manner and nature of resurrection life (what it would ‘look like’).  In this passage all that Jesus supports is a view of the afterlife.  I will argue that Jesus’ answer, however, also disagrees with the Pharisaic view in that the conception of Jesus’ view is spiritual, and not a reanimation of long-dead corpses (the Pharisaic view)’ (p.52).  But, again, Sam Frost never states, never, how it is that the scribes said, “good answer”!  If Jesus’ answer was only in some sort of quasi-agreement with the Pharisees, one’s response as a scribe of the Pharisees would not be, “good answer….partially.”

Third, I wrote in that book, ‘I will come back to the second part of the response of Jesus (about God being the God of the living) when I have finished up the first part of the answer’ (p.54).  I never get to this part in the chapter!  I read it, then I read it again.  I never “come back” to it.  I do not even discuss it.  What I do say is that ‘By focusing on the present aspect of the resurrection, Jesus is stating that the resurrection of the dead is something already in the stages of happening.  Moses and Elijah are already attesting to Jesus’ glory, and are appearing in glory with him.  ‘Elijah to come’ has already come, and the restoration of all things has already begun (Mk 9.12,13).  The dead are being raised’ (p.59).  In other words, I spend one short paragraph on the second part of this section in Luke by affirming that the souls of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have already been raised!  But, if anyone knows Full Preterism, the resurrection of the dead happened in 70 AD, and Jesus said this in 31 AD!

The fact of the matter is, is that R.T. France is correct.  Jesus sided with the Pharisees view of the resurrection, as did Paul where he was confronted with both the Pharisees and the Sadduccees on this matter, and, according to Luke, said, “Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.”  For, as Luke records, ‘And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided.  For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all’ (Acts 23.6-ff).  And, once again, we find the Pharisees agreeing with Paul, “and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” (Acts 23.9).  Same issue.  Same parties.  Same subject.  Same results.  Jesus and Paul affirmed the resurrection of the dead.  Their answer was not Preston’s corporate body view, nor was it Ed Stevens’ “get a brand new body when you die” view.  The Pharisees would have found Paul guilty right there on that point alone.  Forget circumcision, Paul is in error regarding resurrection of the dead!  Now, Don and Ed will do all sorts of wailing and flailing and “deeper meaning” and such, but the fact of the matter, as recorded by Luke, Jesus and Paul sided with the Pharisees.  No amount of exegetical acrobats can counter it.  France was correct.  Sam was all over the place.

Now, quickly, the argument of the Sadduccees was an attempt to reduce the idea of bodily resurrection to absurdity.  If a woman had been married to a man with seven brothers, and each of them died, and she married each one of them, then which wife would she be in the resurrection, when they all stand again?  Clever.

Jesus’ answer is the death annuls marriage (according to the Law).  No brainer.  When the resurrection happens (and note that Jesus is not saying, “the resurrection is happening right now” as I assert), there is no need for marriage or procreation.  In the new heavens and new earth such necessities that were meant for this life, and not meant for that one.  No brainer.  Duh.

That Jesus affirms the futurity of the resurrection means that the death of these seven brothers and the woman is not when they get new bodies upon death.  There is an intermediate state here.  They live on earth.  They died.  Their souls are in heaven, and there they await, “but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage.”  Jesus is not at all saying that when a person dies, they immediately are raised with the new body in heaven!  That would be absolutely absurd to read that here.  Both the Pharisees and Jesus repeatedly state a future resurrection.

“”But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 “Now He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him.”  Now, watch this.  If Jesus is affirming the future resurrection of the dead, and is not affirming that being a soul in heaven, with God, is a resurrected state, then Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have not been raised from the dead yet when he spoke these words.  However, he is affirming that they are alive.  How can they be alive with God, and not be raised?  It is here that Jesus affirms that when the seven brothers and the woman die, they await “whenever” the dead are raised at some point in the future.  This is the intermediate state between the death of believers, the saints, and resurrection of the dead.

Second, and most devastating to my old heresy, is that the verse Jesus quotes from is Exodus 3.6.  I never once quote this verse in the chapter in Don’s book by me.  Never.  Not once.  I do not deal with it at all.  That passes for “exegetical” in this “essay”?  My psychological bend at the time I wrote that (2004) was 70 AD, and all things 70 AD, and the resurrection of the dead must be in 70 AD.  Therefore, never mind Exodus 3.6!  It does not “fit” the tunnel vision!

Now, why does Jesus quote from this verse, which, on the surface appears as if it has nothing to do with the resurrection of the dead?  “And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Jesus’ commentary is that God is the God of the living Abraham, the living Isaac, and the then living Jacob.  This is a highly repeated description of the God who keeps covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  And the covenant he made with them on oath, forever, is that they would inherit the world and all things.  Paul makes this very clear: “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith” (Romans 4.13).

“By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God….These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”  Further, “For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland…. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”  Now, hear John, “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God”.   When the better country comes down and all things of creation are restored, and there is no more death (for death has been swallowed up in victory when the dead are raised), Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will, then, have received what God promised them on oath: heaven and earth, the world, restored.  And they will, with all the saints, stand again on the Land of Promise, the Earth of God’s Creation, restored, renewed.

This answer is why the scribe agree with Jesus.  This is why he said, “good answer”.  The Sadducees would have to deny the promise made on oath, by covenant, forever, that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not receive nor would ever receive that which was promised. But they are living.  They are living as souls in heaven, in the heavenly city, the very same one that John saw as coming down out of heaven when the dead are raised – when Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be raised to inherit all things as promised – together with all the saints.