Who Is Jesus, Part 3

By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

Allow me again to post one of most greatest pieces of doctrine ever written:

“We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us” (Chalcedon, 451 AD).

These descriptions of Jesus are all in present tense.  They refer to Him now as He is.  “Perfect in manhood” (ἀνθρωπότητι – Greek, “manhood” – that which consists of “being man” – Chalcedon was written in Greek).  Manhood is defined in the next clause:  “truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body.”  That is, ἐκ ψυχῆς λογικῆς καὶ σώματος, of a rational soul, reasonable soul and body.  The Logos, the Eternal Son of God was not the “soul” of Jesus, nor the “body”.  The man, Christ Jesus, had his own human soul (created) and body (created).  This constitutes, phusis or, as we saw in Part 1, morphe – “nature” – human nature.

“[O]ne and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably.”  Or, “[C]oncurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son.”  So, Two Natures, fully God (of the same Nature as God Himself) and fully man (of the same nature of Man).  One Person, the Eternal Son of God, Two Natures, divine and human.  These Natures are inseparably in union with each other.  They are “inconfusedly” in union, meaning, “not mixed” (ἀσυγχύτως – means “no confusion”).  They are “unchangeably” in union – and this is important.  The union between the Two Natures of the One Person (God the Son) is without change – it is forever a union of Two Natures of Man (rational soul and body) and God (Divine Nature, Essence, Being).  What prompted this series is the denial of such a claim by Mike Sullivan, David Green, Jeff Vaughn, Alan Bondar and Don K. Preston.  They do not believe that the One Person, Jesus Christ, now has a human nature, body and soul.  The human nature of the One Person, Jesus Christ, Eternal Son of God, uncreated, is called in the Bible, “the son of man”.  Son of God (Divine), son of man (human being, body and soul).  Any lessening of this is heresy.

“[I]ndivisibly, inseparably” – these last two further score the idea that the Two Natures of the One Person are, from the time the union was brought together in conception of the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, are now forever “indivisible” and “inseparable.”  The fullness of the “manhood” of the son of man, en toto, cannot ever be “separated” ever again.  If, then, Jesus no longer has his human body in heaven, we have separation.  If Jesus no longer has his human soul in heaven, we have division.  If Jesus no longer has any of that which is “consubstantial” ( ὁμοούσιον homousian -of the same substance) with manhood, then the Gospel is lost.

“[T]he distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved.”  This notes, again, the present understanding (“being preserved” and “concurring” are present tense) of the One Person, Two Natures in heaven.  The “distinction” is preserved, not blended by the union, not con-fused together in union, but “distinct” – Two distinct Natures.  One does not “absorb” the other.  One does not “blend” with the other.  There is no “third hybrid”.  There is One Person with Two Natures, distinct (two), yet with an inseparable union in One Person.  This is further emphasized by saying, “not parted or divided into two persons.”  There is not the person, the son of man on earth, and another person, the Son of God, Eternal, “up there.”

In the Trinity there are Three Persons, Father, Son and Spirit.  One God (one Nature, being, essence).  Do not try and “picture” this, or “image” it.  There are no images.  This is a purely propositional, intellectual statement of Faith.  Remember, it is based on two concerns: does it contradict itself?  Does it contradict the Bible?  By distinguishing the terms, “Person” and “Being” logical contradiction is avoided.  There are not Three Beings.  There is only One God, one being.  Each Person of the Godhead has their “being” in unity as One God.  The Singular Essence of One God is in Three distinct Persons.  Thus, we can say, the Logos is God.  The Spirit is God.  The Father is God.  Three Persons, One Being.  Contradiction avoided.  Mind numbing attempts of picturing or attempting the fathom this Being in His Essence in Three Persons is unfathomable.  Blessed Be His Name forever.

Now, the Son, who is God Eternal, One Person, is the sole person of his own eternal divine Nature (and all essences of God, all that is attributed to God are properties of Him), and the sole Person of the son of man, who was made a soul and body – yet without having his own human, individual person in and of himself.  We say the son of man was fully man, with a full human nature yet impersonal as to individuation, because the Person of the son of man is God, the Son.  The very Person of the soul and body of the son of man expresses himself (without confusion) in the impersonal human nature.  The Logos (The Son, Eternal God) did not possess a body.  A human individual was not made then the Logos took over that individual.  Rather, the conception of the soul and body in the womb of Mary at that instant was the Person of the Son (who is divine) expressed in and in union with the created human being, the son of man, Jesus of Nazareth, the dude.

The reason for this is that the Son Eternal “took to himself” (Part 1) human nature itself – the essence of human nature itself and all that it is and expressed himself in that “form” as a man while never losing His own Divine Attributes.  Every human being is a person (soul and body) – the soul is not the person, the body is not the person.  Soul/body is the person, and as such is entirely unique (individuated, individual).  However, not a single human person demonstrates the whole essence of human nature. There is not a single person that is every person at once.  Human nature is what every person has and is, but not any one person demonstrates all the human nature is.  Not until Jesus.  By taking on human nature, the Son of God took on that which is common to every human being.  If the son of man was a human person, he would be a human person common to himself as a single person.  By taking on human nature and being the Divine Person of that nature, the Son was able to take on all that human nature is in common to every human person.

The Son, the Eternal, expresses his Person in two Natures.  In regards to his Divine Nature, the Son never emptied himself, nor ever forfeited, nor relinquished any of the attributes of God.  In regards to the son of man, the Person of the Eternal Son was limited in that human nature, and so “in union” with that nature that we find human expressions only attributable to human nature: thirst, sleep, ignorance, growing in wisdom, an infant, ate, pooped, got dirty, needed a bath, clipped his nails, burped, etc.  “Yet without sin”.  By taking on the essence of human nature, the Son did not take upon himself fallen human nature.  He was without sin, nor born with any of the fallen propensities of sin that you and I are so easily entangled with.  This is another reason why “impersonal” comes into play.  There was no human being of natural birth between a fallen man and a fallen woman that the Logos could indwell or created.  The son of man was made by the Holy Spirit and the natural means of biological gestation and being formed in Mary’s womb for nine months.  There was an umbilical cord, and his penis was circumcised on the eighth day according to Jewish custom.

We have covered a ton of material.  The One Person of the Son of God, Eternal, Uncreated, took to Himself human nature and made a man in the image of God, image of Adam, without sin.  The man, Christ Jesus, and the Son of God, One Person, from that creation cannot ever be “separated” ever again.  The soul and body of Jesus was separated at the cross, and he died (though this did not at all separate the union of the two natures in One Person, and we cannot say the Divine Nature died – an absurdity in itself).  He was raised from the dead, with his same soul and his same body, and was glorified and entered heaven, soul and body, the son of man; human nature forever in union with Divine Nature in One Person, Jesus (the Eternal Son) Christ (the Messiah, annointed son of man).  Any denial of this fact is egregious error that absolutely destroys the Christian Faith.  For, if God and Man are not in all ways in union by human nature and divine nature in One Person forever, then man is lost and has zero hope of ever being eternally with God.  For, it is by this Holy Union of the Two Natures in One Person forever that man can comes and dwells with God in all holiness, with all righteousness with God in Jesus.  Any doctrine or teaching that takes away any nth degree of this union of the human nature (body and soul) and the divine nature in One Person is to be shunned and deemed heretical; a doctrine of demons; a conjuring up from the mere mind of man; feeble and good only for the trash can.

 

Who is Jesus, Part 2

By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

Obviously, if you have not read Part 1, stop now.  Okay, so we saw in Part 1  one of the main texts used for demonstrating what we will now cover: the Chalcedon Creed.  In Philippians, we have “father, “God”, “human nature”, “son” “man”.  How do you square this?  How can Jesus be affirmed as a man, and as God in the same breath?  Two things: 1. The statements that are used to describe this cannot contradict themselves.  2.  The statements from which the description is derived, the Bible, cannot be contradicted.  “Jesus is Lord” – that is a statement from the Bible.  “If Jesus is Lord, then that must mean he was risen from the grave and is alive, for he must be alive in order to be the present Lord” – that is a statement derived from the Bible.  It is just as true, even though it is not “found” in the Bible.  The second statement, my own, is a man-made deduction, a man-made proposition.  If, then, a statement is derived, deduced from the Bible, it is just as true as the Bible.  My statement, my man-made statement, does not contradict the Bible.  We all want to proclaim, “what the Bible says.”

Well, the intention was the same in Chalcedon.  Great, devotional care was taken over each word and their order.  Does it contradict the Scriptures?  Does it contradict itself?  Can we square, in logical, ordered derived statements what the Bible gives to us in answering, Who is Jesus?  And, once this has been done, with great pains, will those who believe in this Jesus accept it?  Is this a statement that can be presented to the Church so that it may bring unity where there is great division, even among our own?  That’s Chalcedon, 451 AD.  The Church did accept it.  And from then on it has become the bulwark of the Faith in defending the matter.  There is no contradiction in the Bible, nor is there any contradiction in a defense of the presentation that Jesus is man, and Jesus is God at the same time, forever.

The Statement reads as follows: “We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with us according to the manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the virgin Mary, the mother of God, according to the manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.”

That’s a lot, I know.  And, I will not go down the whole explanation.  “Following the holy fathers” means that Chalcedon grew out of the prior centuries of the Faith.  It was not “created” in 451.  It came from another Statement, the Nicene (325 AD) and the Apostles’ (possibly coming into its own form as early as 180 AD).  Chalcedon is a development.  Many were saying this about Jesus, and that.  The problem these views had was that, although they sounded plausible, they contradicted a text in the Bible.  That’s a strike.  Can’t be true.  For example, a guy who was a Christian named Apollinaris (361 AD), an important figure, a Bishop even, had a hard time understanding the whole Jesus and God thing.  He argued that the Logos himself, the Second Person of the Godhead, the Son, Eternal, was the actual “soul” of the man, Jesus.  This meant, of course, that Jesus was not a real, human being, soul and body.  It also had great implications for the Logos Himself, where “he emptied himself” was taken to mean that the Second Person Himself ceased, for a time, being God Almighty.  The absurdities the caused, not to mention the contradictions, abounded.  It was roundly condemned in 381 AD (Second Council at Constantinople).  Never really heard from since.  The Jesus in the Bible is not God in the flesh.  He is a man in union (one) with God – in the flesh (incarnation).

“All with one consent” is the idea of unity on this matter.  And, this Statement has unified all the churches that profess their faith in the Scriptures – Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant Churches with its myriad of denominations are in unity over this matter.  We can’t agree on baptism…but we can and do agree on this!  We fight over what might seem to be the most trifling of things, but on this we agree.  That’s something to keep in mind.  When such a Statement like this actually produces the unity it sought for and now has been judged to have stood the test of time as it has – and it has been and is still subjected to great scrutiny, then one pays attention to the collective voice of the Body of Christ, the Church (as Paul called it, metaphorically speaking).  The Spirit resides in the Church, in all her “members” wherever they are found, and with the Spirit, the Father and the Son.  In spite of continued divisions between West and East, and between Protestants and Catholics, this Statement still unifies to this day.  When a view, or a teaching comes along and attempts to charge it with being wrong, that is not something to “throw off” lightly.  This is more than a mere “statement” from a scholar that can be quoted from a commentary or some systematic theology.  Even the great Luther, who championed the individual reading of the Bible, did not dare begin to question this Statement.  He did question other statements here and there, and brought about the Reformation.  Other councils, other statements, even those held by a great deal of theologians, were questioned and rejected, but not this one.  If this one was knocked down, the Faith ceases to exist, rendering any questions of any matters pointless because there is no reason to discuss pointless articles of the Faith when the very core has been demolished, and that is what this Statement has come to be known as.  It does not give us a matter of how to be saved.  It does not even tell us why we must be saved.  But it does tell us WHO does the saving: Jesus Christ, “Very God, Very Man.”  It states in the end, “as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.”  This Statement claims that it is the direct teaching of the Lord who presides over the Church, His People in the Scriptures, and handed down til then (451 AD).  This is no mere “creed” or “statement of faith” by some corner church of the Billy Bob Evangelist Heart of the Bleeding Miracle.

I have written a bit on this first matter to establish this point.  It may appear to those who have a renegade spirit to simply ignore it as a piece of paper.  Big deal.  Bunch of old men in the 5th Century got together and rattled off some words and a lot people accepted them because they were smarter than they were and had more power and wealth to use this creed as an effective fear-mongering tool to corral  in the idiots.  Be my guest.  Feel free to believe that.  But don’t call yourself a Christian in the historical sense of the word.  You may call yourself a follower of Jesus that has no creed, and that’s fine.  But, when I ask you, “Who is this Jesus you follow?” and your answer is, “well, my Bible says he is a spirit, like, you know, everywhere.  He doesn’t have a body anymore, you know, or maybe he does, but who cares?  See, this Jesus is not in heaven any more.  He is not a man anymore, either, or like, I don’t know, maybe he is in some sense or something, I don’t know, don’t care.  I just love me some Jesus cause he makes me feel good, you know?  I don’t really speculate on this stuff you know, cause Jesus, see, Jesus lives in my heart, man, you know?”  No.  I don’t.  You have not said anything.  “Well, you know, just pray about it, man.  He will come into your heart, you know?  He’s all apart of us, you know, so we have to love each other, man, you know, and not argue over this stuff, man.  Jesus is real, brother, and you just want to talk about theology and doctrines and man made words, man.”  So, what you are saying is that you have no real definition or clue – any words that have any sort of precision to them – at all?  “I don’t need words, man.  I got Jesus!”  Have a nice day.

Well, I wish the above exchange were not true.  But, it has happened.  The “I don’t need no creeds, just my Bible” routine is one of the more silly notions that cults all around the world have used to “keep one” from seeing what “others” have said on this matter.  And here we find a great cloud of witnesses from the most opposite of people in agreement on what the “Bible says”.  Don’t they count, too?  Are they not brothers and sisters in the Lord?  Does he not know them as well?  Is your faith more impassioned for Christ than them?  Such a great unity of the Faith, where in the world unity is damn hard to come by, should be rigorously studied first before throwing off such a great force.  That would be the responsible thing to do.

This, then, is my second part of this series.  Part three is coming in a couple of days, and should complete it.

Who is Jesus? Part 1

Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

For anyone following the recent explosive topic on Facebook concerning matters of what is called, Christology, you will have noticed the constant appeal by me to Chalcedon, 451 AD.  Since my opponents now openly and explicitly admit they deny this cherished Statement of the Christian Faith, one of them stating that the union between Man and God in the Son, “ceased”, it behooved me to begin an article or two on the subject.  It marks the end of that discussion for me with these deniers.

The Apostle Paul wrote what is perhaps his most clearest attempt to  honor two theologically perplexing problems.  Jesus is a man “born of a woman” (Romans 1.2) and is genealogically speaking, of the family of King David.  Paul consistently calls this Jesus a man.  However, there are also passages wherein Paul unmistakably relates Jesus to God Himself.  How can this be?

“…Christ Jesus, who being in nature of God, did not think being equal with God something to hold” (Philippians 2.6, 7).  In other words, Messiah Yeshuah, his earthly name, and the name by which, as we shall see, he is to be forever called, while on earth was equal to God.  This was not something he had to “grab”, or “take” (hold) for himself.  He is equal to God (where the main verb “being” is present).  “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal [same word in Paul] with God” (John 5.18).  It is perhaps from John that Paul took his cue.

Before we go any further in this verse, and finally in this articles to Chalcedon, let us immediately note that we are talking about two, distinct beings: God, and Christ Jesus.  John introduces God, the Father.  Jesus is the son.  The Father is invisible, spirit, heavenly, eternal.  Jesus is a man, flesh, and his feet got dirty.  God does not have feet.  You get the picture.  The antagonizers of Jesus got the picture: he is claiming to be equal to God.  “Equal” as a term requires two things in order to compare/contrast the claim: they are equals.  Thus, Christ Jesus, as a man, had no problems in his mind thinking that he is equal with God.  How can a man think that he is equal to God?  That God is his direct father?  Hopefully, you can begin to see the issue: God, Father, Son, Jesus, thinking, man.

“…but did empty himself, the nature of a servant having taken, in the likeness of men having been made, and in fashion having been found as a man, he humbled himself, having become obedient unto death — death even of a cross” (Philippians 2.7,8).  But, this Jesus, the Messiah (the Christ), the one who has no issues thinking that he is equal to God Himself, he emptied himself.  The verb κενοω (kenoo) means to lay aside something that one has.  Jeremiah 14.2 says, “Judah is in mourning, Her settlements languish” where the Greek verb used for the Hebrew is kenoo.  Her gates themselves are laid aside.  She has gates.  They are just laid aside and not being used.  Some translations have, as the one above, “emptied himself” which again carries with it the notion of laid aside, not used, emptied out, tossed.  The point here is the Jesus, the Messiah, the son of Mary,  who did not think it any issue to be equal with God, laid aside that equality, did not use it to further his own mission.  He knew he was equal to God, but did not cash in on that equality.  It’s like this: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?  But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?….Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest” (Matthew 26.55-ff).  He was sentenced to death.

Get it?  The next part of the clause, “having taken the nature of a servant” runs into ambiguity at first.  The verb, “taken” has a subject acting on another thing; in this case someone is taking something.  In order for someone to take something, someone must exist prior to the taking.  We know that Jesus of Nazareth was born.  There was a time when he was not.  However, there was not time when God was not; He is Eternal.  The man, Christ Jesus, was not born into the world, then at some point decided to “take” to himself equality with God.  That’s absurd.  So, who did the taking here?  Who took to himself “the nature of a servant, in the likeness of man was made”?  If someone “was made” something, and this same someone “took” something to himself before he was made, else nobody took anything, then by logic of the verb, the text, God took to Himself the nature of man, and in that nature made a man (who did not exist prior to) and was found, after fashioning this man, one who was a man equal to Himself.

Now, we know that the Bible uses the terms, “father and son” repeatedly for Jesus and the Father.  But, we know that Jesus, the man, was made, created – had no existence prior to.  We also know that the Son of God is Eternal, is God Himself, the Son.  Therefore, the Son, who is God, took to Himself human nature, and in that Nature fashioned a man, with a human soul and a human body.  This man, Christ Jesus, Messiah, is in union with the Son of God, Who Is God Himself.  This man, knowing his equality with the Son of God, knowing that he himself was made of his mother and Spirit, laid aside that which he is in union with, and lived his life solely in terms of what he was: a created man.  He did not draw upon his being in union with God, equal to God, to “bail him out” of what he had to face: death on a cross.  He did not draw his strength from temptation by relying on his equality with God, but rather resisted it as a man drawing on his faith in God.  He did not use his power, which was equal to God, since he is in union with God, to cause him not to sleep, to hunger, to weep.  God never sleeps.  God never hungers.  God has no stomach.  God is spirit-essence.  He did not use his equality with God, who is Omniscient, to express his teachings: for the son of man did not know the day or hour of “that day” when heaven and earth would pass away.  But, he said, “the Father knows” – who he is equal to.

So, what we have here, then, is Father, Son, son of man, Jesus Christ, human nature, man.  The man, Christ Jesus, who is equal to God, as a man did not think it any problem being equal to God.  The man laid aside that equality.  God the Son took to Himself human nature and out of that nature made a man, Yeshua Messiah – a man with a soul and a body just like yours and mine.  Back hair and all.  This human being, this Jesus, the son of man, did not think it a problem that he was equal to God because he knew that God the Father was his Father.  The Son of God, the Eternal certainly has no issue being equal with God for He is God, the Son, and knows the Father, eternally.  Therefore, since the Son of God, Eternal, took to Himself human nature and fashioned a human being, the son of man, the son of man, being a soul and body, knew that he was in union with God, directly.  When we get to the Chalcedonian expressions it will become at once clear how they, like Paul, were trying to express what Paul here is saying.  Hang on.  It is important, however, at this point that we have fulfilled two requirements which was the utmost concern to the ancient fathers of our Christian Faith: 1. That no logical contradiction occurs in our description.  2. That no contradiction in our description contradicts the Revelation, the Bible.  These were the two “tests”.  Write them down.  Hang it on your wall.  Memorize it.

Now, again, he humbled himself, having become obedient unto death — death even of a cross.”  As the man, Christ Jesus, emptied himself, or laid aside that drawing of strength of being equal to God and rather depending on his drawing of the strength of his human faith (like us), so also he humbled himself.  It is here that Paul, before he said all of this, stated “have this thinking in you that is in Christ Jesus, who being in the nature of God…”  Be like Jesus, the man, who humbled himself.  Who, as a man is equal to God, but laid aside such honor, and as a man obeyed God, humbled himself, put those who he went to the cross for before himself.  Be like that.  Now, this Jesus, the son of man, did die.  And this simply cannot possibly be said of God, who he is equal to.  This can however absolutely be said of the human being, Jesus of Bethlehem.  He died.  His soul was separated from his body, and James 2.26 gives us a most explicit definition of death, “the body without the spirit is dead.”  No brainer.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (2.9-11).  It was to the “glory of the Father” that the man, Jesus, was made by God, and that God took to himself human nature in union with Himself and fashioned the son of man.  God did not “exalt himself” – God, the Son, Eternal, did not die, nor was he “highly exalted” after he made the man, Christ Jesus.  The Son of God, Eternal, is eternally exalted, eternally God.  The exaltation of is for “him” – the one that died and was raised from the dead, the son of man, body and soul – human nature.  Every knee will bow to King Jesus, the Son of David, King of Jerusalem.  Those on the earth (the living), those under the earth (the dead, the bodies of the dead that belong to those who have died – this is Paul talk for resurrection of the dead by the One who was raised from the dead, Jesus, the son of man, Son of God).

In conclusion, in a day or two, I will post comments on the Chalcedon Creed, 451 AD.  The words of that Creed are an exposition of these verses we have considered here (and several more).  After such, it will become quite plain that the men who penned this Creed were devout believers of the Scriptures, had wrestled through them with great pain (literally), and struck upon a formulation that, in spite of our dissensions and differences and words against one another, have united us all together in this One Confession of the Faith.

 

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.