Revelation Chapter 1: The Parousia

By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

Many have been following along in this series and the response I have been getting is enthusiastic.  I have been arguing that the “parousia” (advent) of the “son of man” is presented in the NT as a perpetual image of his advent to heaven, his “appearance” before the Father as son of man (the Ascension).  Thus, the main imagery of this event is found in Daniel 7,13-14: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came (erchomai) one like a son of man, and he came (pareimi-parousia) to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

This image is conjoined with Psalm 110.1, “The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”  And, as we have noted, this psalm is the most quoted psalm in the NT.  Jesus himself conflates these two verses in Matthew 26.64, ‘Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”‘  There is no getting around the fact that Daniel depicts the son of man as coming to the Ancient of Days, not from (see past blogs on this subject).

Now, reading John’s revelation with this understanding – that Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of the Father was a “coming on the clouds of heaven” – further confirms the testimony of Scripture.  Revelation 1.1-8 forms an Introduction to the whole book.  That is, it was penned after John had seen the visions, and had recorded the dictation of Jesus to the seven congregations in Asia Minor (Revelation 2-3).  Let us quote in full the verses: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. 4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is coming, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

The above words in bold highlight the shared image in Daniel.  Jesus is not “going to be” Ruler of the kings on earth.  He is.  Jesus is not “going to” make his people a kingdom.  He did.  Jesus is not “going to” receive all power, glory and dominion.  He did.  He does.  At the time John wrote this  Jesus was in heaven, coming on the clouds of heaven, and received all power, glory, dominion and honor.  When this is seen for what it is, this “coming on the clouds” is not something going to happen.  It is happening, and is the perpetual state of the exaltation of the son of man in heaven.  His parousia.

Further, in 1.9 John begins to recount where he was when this vision of Jesus, the First Vision, appeared to him.  When he saw Jesus, he adds that he saw him “in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man.”  This is an obvious echo of Daniel 7.13.  Thus, Jesus is depicted here as one “who is coming on the clouds of heaven…one like a son of man” – and when we emphasize that Daniel is depicting his ascension to the Ancient of Days, we can see that this was not something going to happen.  It was happening.

Further confirming this testimony is Daniel’s description of the Ancient of Days: “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened” (Daniel 7.9-10).  Now, read what John “saw”: “The hairs of his head were white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and his feet like unto burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace; and his voice as the voice of many waters” (1.14-15).  Jesus, having ascended to the Father, the Ancient of Days, is in the glory of his Father, depicted in the same description as his Father.   in case you missed it, John wrote, “Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is coming, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ….”  The phrase, “who is coming” is present, not future.  “Behold he is coming with the clouds” is present, not future.  The son of man is before the throne of the Ancient of Days, coming on the clouds of heaven before Him, beholding his Glory, is in the same glory of the Father.  Jesus came in the glory of his Father, in heaven, in the clouds, to the right hand.

Thus, John is told to “write the things that you are seeing, those that are…” (1.19).  The First Vision is a vision of Christ – who is – who was – who is now coming on the clouds as son of man before the throne of the Father.  In this First Vision Jesus dictates to John seven letters to congregations in Asia Minor, which are representative churches of all the congregations.  What the “Spirit says” is “to the churches” (plural).  Then “after these things” (4.1), that is, after he saw these things (the First Vision), he is then told, “I will show you things that must take place after these things“.  “These things” is what he would now show John.  The First Vision is the present things, the things that are when John first saw the visions.  Then Jesus states that he going to show him things will take place after he shows him what we see in chapter 4,5.  The scene in 4-5 is the Ancient of Days with the accompanying, “myriads upon myriads of angels” (compare 5.11 with Daniel 7.10).  And they praised the Lamb of God, who appeared as one slain, with “Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might and honor, and glory, and blessing” (5.12).  We saw this in Daniel 7.14: “And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”  Where did this scene take place?  In heaven.  When did this scene take place? When the son of man ascended to the glory of the Ancient of Days, his Father.  The Lamb reaches to the “right hand” of the throne….Psalm 110.1.  Is this a one time scene?  Is the Lamb, the son of man, exalted just for a few moments?  No.  The Lamb remains exalted, remains as the one coming on the clouds of the heaven in heavenly glory with the angels in his kingdom.  The son of man came in his kingdom with the glory of the Father and the myriads and myriads of angels before him in power and glory.  When I personally “see” this vision in my imagination, my worship LIGHTS UP!  Blessed is He that is coming on the clouds of heaven, who is at the right hand of the Father, the Lamb of God, the son of man, who was dead and has been risen bodily from the dead and has ascended to heaven!

The following scene (chapter 6) shows Jesus breaking the “Seven Seals” at his command, and “giving power” to the principalities that are “sent” by him.  This is meant to show that all things are in his power and command and sent at his word.  These are the powers of life and death, famine and warfare, plague and economic power – things that affect us everyday.  However, it is not my intention to go any further at this point.

John’s depiction of the First Vision (1.9-3.22), the risen son of man, who was dead and is now alive, and holds the keys of “the Death and the Grave” (1.18 – the same “the Death and the Grave” of the Fourth Seal, inferring that when John saw Jesus, this Seal was already broken) matches to a tee the vision of his brother, Daniel, seen 500 years before.  Daniel’s vision of the “son of man” appears in that Prophet as enigmatic in several ways.  But, in John’s vision, the revelation of Jesus Christ, we now know who this son of man is, the one who comes on the clouds of the heavens in glory and power, and who appears as one before the throne in the same image of the Glory of the One Who Sits on the Throne!  “Holy, Holy, Holy!  Blessed Trinity!”

A Brief Look at Ephesians 4.8

Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

“Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men” (Ephesians 4.8).  This verse in Paul’s letter to the assemblies in Ephesus has gendered a few interpretations as to what he meant.  As a scholar, I have paid my dues in reading material on the Bible for the last thirty years, so I am not going to quote a bunch of commentaries and academicians.  I do not at all want to give the impression that I no longer consult them.  I do on a daily basis.  It’s just that in my fifties I am able to read, with some proficiency, the Greek text and first do my own work.  Needless to say I am aware of the two main interpretations of this verse that have held sway up to our own time.  So, not that it’s worth anything, here’s my useless two cents.

First, I want to note what Paul is quoting.  “Therefore it says” means a quotation from another source.  We find that Paul is quoting a psalm (68.18).  That psalm says, “You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there.”  Not quite the same.  The basic text is from the Septuagint (the Greek Hebrew Bible known to Paul).  However, there are some changes.  Most are not really that important.  The one change that has been focused on is that Paul’s quotation differs from the Hebrew and the Septuagint texts in that “taken” is replaced with “given”.  We have no variations that offer us another text.  This is on Paul.  Why would he do this?  Does it matter?  Is he quoting from memory, or does he have a Septuagint of the Psalms among his scrolls?  Secondly, does it alter, deeply, the meaning?

Briefly, I do not think it alters the meaning of the psalm.  I do not think this is an example that can be used against “inspiration” of the letters of Paul.  I do not think it is a “mistake”, either, if the alteration is simply an alteration that does not affect his point.  “I have taken the high road”.  “The high road was given to me.”  My point is that I am on the high road.  If we had the opportunity to discuss with Paul why he used “given” instead of “taken”, I am sure he would give us an answer that set well within our confines of the use of quotations.  Perhaps, though, the context may bear out his point, and thus bear out the reason why the alteration was made.

In the psalm itself, the LORD is exalted and praised.  It is a lengthy “psalm of praise” to the absolute greatness of the LORD.  If you have not read it, I suggest at this point you do.  For space, I will not quote all 36 verses here.  Needless to say, the “ascent” of the LORD is his ascent to his “mountain”.  He has conquered his enemies, and none can stand before him.  It is a psalm of deliverance of the the hand of the LORD for his people.

Paul, on the other hand, is writing about something no one in their right mind would “get” from this psalm.  “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 ( In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

For Paul, Christ, not the LORD, is in view.  Heaven, and not earthly Mount Zion (Jerusalem) is in view.  Now, I do not mean to dispense with the absolute profundity of Paul’s mind on this, but if he saw Christ, the son of man, as also of the same substance of God (which he did), then we have no issues here since the LORD and Christ are, in fact, “one in substance.”  So the Creeds of Christendom have stated, whether Greek, Catholic, or Protestant.  We can quickly excuse this point, then.

Second, Paul took the ascension of Jesus, the son of man, as the meaning of “ascension” in the psalm.  The LORD “descends” often enough in the Hebrew Scriptures, and he “ascends” as well.  The “descent” of Jesus, the Logos of God, the Son of God, of the same Essence, descended in the form of a man.  Again, much, much ink can be spilled here, but I will spare the reader.  Paul’s point is a logical one.  If he “ascended” then that must infer that he “descended.”  So, where did he “descend” to?  “The lower parts of the land (earth).”  It is precisely here that things get a little dicey.  To some this means “hell” – a netherworld of the spirits of the dead, both righteous and wicked (although they are separated by righteousness and wickedness).  A great deal of Hellenistic (Greek) Judaism adopted from Greek lore and legend concerning this notion. Whether Paul did is another matter.  To others this simply means that the Logos, the Second Person of the Godhead (Trinity), became a man – he descended to the lower parts of the earth itself (taking the genitive phrase here as appositive).  Huge difference.

In favor of the latter view, is that the psalm itself gives no indication whatsoever of the LORD “descended” to a netherworld region.  Second, his ascent is “far above all the heavens” which would then give us the picture of his descent “below” the heavens, in the lower parts, the earth (which is below the heavens).

There is one other place often not mentioned by commentators and that is found in Romans 10.6,7: “But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'”(that is, to bring Christ down) 7 or “‘Who will descend into the abyss?'”(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).”  What is fascinating here is that the word, “abyss” is not found in the verse Paul quotes from (Deuteronomy 30.13).  Rather, in both the Septuagint and the Hebrew, the word is “sea”.  “Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?”  Where in the world does Paul get the idea that the “abyss” is “the sea”?  If “up from the dead” simply means his resurrection from the grave and his subsequent ascent to heaven, is “abyss” equal to “the lower parts of earth itself”?

It is often thought that “the abyss” is, again, this nether-region of spirits, demons and maleficent souls.  However, upon investigation in the Hebrew Scriptures, this is not the case at all.  This word is often translated as “the deep” of the earth.  In creation the Spirit dwells over the “deep” (Genesis 1.2).   In the flood of Noah, the deep of the seas bursted forth.  That is, the deep sea, its floors (earth) cracked open.  In Genesis 49.25 God will bless by the heavens above and the “deep” below.  The Hebrew uses the word that is often translated by the Greek word, “abyss” (abussos).  However, the Septuagint simply translates that God will bless “of earth.”  The abyss, then, can be seen as the “lower part of the earth” – the deep, the below the heavens, the under, the seas themselves.  Now, what is very interesting is that in Genesis 49.25, this announcement is to Joseph by Jacob, his father.  It is repeated in Deuteronomy 33.13: “And of Joseph he said: — Blessed of Jehovah is his land, By precious things of the heavens, By dew, and by the deep crouching beneath.”  However, here abussos is used in the Septuagint!  “Hast thou entred into the bottomes of the sea? or hast thou walked to seeke out the abyss?” (Job 38.16) where “sea” is in parallelism with “abyss.”  The word occurs over 90 times and the study of it is quite rewarding.  Needless to say, for our point here, “the deep” is simply “the lower parts of earth” – the sea, the realm of the created earth (in it, on it, or it itself).  [a sideline study here….if the war in heaven as seen in Revelation 12 of Michael against Satan, and Satan is hurled “into the earth” (12.9), or “Woe for the earth and for the sea: because the devil is gone down unto you” (12.12); “cast into the earth” (12.13); and “the sea” in many Hebrew texts is “abyss” – the region of earthly domain under the heavens – then perhaps this is what is meant by his being “cast into the abyss” in Revelation 20.  He was cast into the earth and sea, the abyss, and instead of wreaking havoc from heaven, he wreaks havoc on earth.  Just a thought].

We have seen, then, that for Paul, and indeed the Hebrew/Septaugint, that the lower parts of the earth need mean no more than simply the creation of God under the heavens – the deep.  It need not mean some spooky, netherworld of goblins, ghosts and spooks.  Therefore, we are entirely within rational exegesis that all that he meant in Ephesians 4.8 is Jesus descent to earth, and his ascent “above all the heavens.”

In the psalm, God “receives” gifts, whereas here Christ “gives” gifts.  He has lead forth those captive under sin by “grace” and his triumph over principalities and powers, including Sin and Condemnation.  As a result, he sets free those who place their faith in him, and he “receives” these captives as his own, giving them gifts.  Paul’s change of the psalm from “receive” to “give” is not a memory lapse; rather it is assuming that he knew the Hebrew text as saying “receive”, but adds to the victory of the LORD in Christ Jesus that not only does he receive men, he gives back to them as well.  He gives the captives he has received “gifts”.  The blessings just keep on coming.

The reason he gives to those he has received is that he might “fill all things” (things below the heavens, things above the heavens).  Hear this passage again: “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 ( In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” The very captives he has released, he now gives to them the means of grace so that his victory will extend over all the earth, below the heavens and above the heavens, filling all things with those that are His People.  Pauls’ eschatology of a future new heavens and new earth are in view here in that Christ, as head of the Assembly, gifts certain ones to spread this message of His victory, and to equip those who are captive and those who have been released from their burdens in sin.  These “offices” are held by fellow-used-to-be-captives who are now equipping other used-to-be-captives in the matters of their great victory of He Who Leads Forth the Captives.  This is the function and role of the Assembly of the saints wherever they may be found; in basements, store fronts, homes, offices, elaborate church structures, shopping malls, the agora, wherever.  The growth of the church, his people, is the means by which he is filling the world.  For this, then, we can see Paul’s constant use of “one another” in this letter.  Anyone who is too good, too sanctimonious, too right, too smug, too defeated, too bitter, too hurt, too judgmental, too loose, too sinful to “go to church” – to be with others (and, yes, that includes that hypocrite Sister Betty who gossiped about your gay son and Brother Bob who was caught cheating on his wife with a woman 20 years younger than he is), then, well, you need to be released from your captivity my friend.

Maranatha

 

 

More on the Ascension of Christ

By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

We have been plowing through the doctrine of the Ascension of Christ.  First off, we have demonstrated that Jesus “sat down” at the right hand of the Father on the morning of his resurrection.  The common idea, totally understandable, is that Jesus did not ascend to the Father until forty days later after his resurrection.  This has been challenged by a handful of scholars.

The main reason for this is that in Acts 1.1-ff is appears that Jesus did not ascend until that time.  Luke, the author of Acts, wrote that Jesus spoke to his disciples “Until the day in which he was taken up” (1.2).  This was in the space of “forty days” (1.3).  Finally, “he was taken up, and a cloud did receive him up from their sight.”  At this, an angel spoke, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come (erchomai -Greek) in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (1.11).  Thus, the “coming” here is related both to his “going” to heaven (here it also equated with a “coming” to heaven).  Some have placed emphasis on the fact that a “cloud”  is mentioned here, and, therefore, the imagery of the son of man “coming” on a cloud “to heaven” certainly ties in what we have been teaching as of late: Daniel 7.13-14/Psalm 110.

As we have been saying, Daniel 7.13-14 and Psalm 110 are most certainly tied together.  They are fulfilled together.  In fact, Jesus conflates both of these references together when he spoke to Caiaphas: “But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26.64).  In Daniel, the “son of man coming on the clouds of heaven”, and in Psalm 110, “sit at my right hand” are joined together by Matthew to form one stream between the two.  This, for me, is confirmation enough.  Every commentary I have consulted notes the same observation.

As we have noted, for Matthew, Jesus’ coming on the clouds of heaven is the parousia (advent) of the “son of man” to the Ancient of Days.  It is his ascension to heaven.  In Daniel, “power” (exousia) is “given” (didomi) to the son of man.  In Matthew 28.18, “all power (exousia) has been given (didomi) to me in heaven and on earth.”  This is announced to his disciples before the ascension scene of Acts 1.  We have already noted that Daniel used the ‘son of man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with parousia (pareimi – the verb form), as does Matthew 24.  If the scene in Acts is depicting the same imagery (“cloud” “taken up to heaven”), then we have further confirmation of our thesis on that note.

However, does this still mean that Jesus did not ascend until forty days later?  I answer, no.  We have already noted that in John’s Gospel, there is no “ascension” scene, as there is with the other Gospels.  This omission has caused a good deal of ink to be spilled.  For John, though, he has already made mention of the ascension: the morning of his resurrection on the third day.  “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).  We have noted that the verb, “ascending” (captured here in the English Standard Version) is Present Indicative in Greek.  We would expect a Future Indicative.  Secondly, there is no mention of Jesus waiting forty days until he then ascends.  Rather, in his lengthy discourse from chapters 13-17, Jesus is “going to the Father.”  This would make sense, then, on the morning of his resurrection to say, “I have not yet ascended…but tell them I am ascending…to my Father and your Father.”  In John 6.64, Jesus said, “What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!”  It appears, then, that for John, Jesus ascended the morning of his resurrection.  There was no need, then, to record what Luke does: his final ascension.

This brings me to Hebrews.  It has always puzzled me that only Luke records Jesus appearing/disappearing for forty days.  Yet, if our thesis is correct, this does not mean that he has omitted an earlier reference to his ascension the morning of his resurrection.  “Now that same day…” – the day of his resurrection – Jesus talks to two men on the road of Emmaus (Luke 24.13-ff).  And he says this to them: ” ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”  The verb in bold is Aorist Infinitive (past tense).  This would be in complete agreement with Matthew 28.18 where Jesus said, “all power has been given to me.”  This equally comports with John.  Jesus ascended, went to the Father, and received all power and glory (in answer to Daniel 7.13-14/Psalm 110).  Finally, forty days later, after a series of appearing and disappearing, he disappears – but not for good.

Now to Hebrews.  Psalm 110, the most often quoted and alluded to psalm in the NT, is sprinkled throughout this letter.  Indeed, the letter opens with it: “when he had made purification of sins,  he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1.3).  There is no indication whatsoever that he waited forty days, then sat down.  Rather, “when” he made purification for sins, he sat down.  This is repeated: “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (10.12).  The son of man suffered, then entered his glory.  He descended and ascended for forty days until he finally ascended – where “it is necessary that heaven receive him until the times to restore all things” (Acts 3.21).  The word “times” here (chronos) is the same in the question asked at his final ascension: “Are at this time you to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  Jesus answered: “It is not for you to know the times (chronos – plural) and seasons the Father has set” (Acts 1.6,7).  Hence, Peter, in 3.21 notes the ambiguity of when: heaven must receive him (ascension) until the times (chronos) of restoration of all things.  “All things” and restoring the Kingdom to Israel was a fixed idea in Second Temple Judaism (First Century) theology: a new heavens and a new earth for Israel (God’s People made of all Nations by faith).  This answers to Psalm 110: sit at my right hand until I make all your enemies your footstool.  And, further, in that same psalm, “he shall rule in the midst of his enemies.”  The author of Hebrews picks this up: “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (10.12,13).  What is he doing now?  Ruling in the midst of his enemies.  Paul wrote, “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15.24-26).

As we have noted, in conclusion, is that Jesus’ parousia – his coming on the clouds of heaven – is his ascending to the Father.  It is what he is doing: the son of man comes on the clouds of heaven before the Father.  “For Jesus is not entered into the Holies made with hands, the patterns of the true: but into Heaven itself, that he may appear now in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9.24).  This is his parousia before the Father.  He appears before the presence of the Father on the clouds of heaven which have received him, the son of man, in heaven.  And this coming on the clouds of heaven (parousia) is his reign in heaven and earth (“all power has been given to me in heaven and on earth”).  “Behold, he comes with the clouds of heaven” (Revelation 1.7).  The verb there is Present Indicative.  It is descriptive of his current glory in the heavens: he who comes in the clouds of heaven, the son of man.  That John has Daniel 7.13-14 in mind is found in Revelation 1.13, where Jesus is called, “one like to the Son of man” (echoing Daniel 7.13).  Jesus, the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven (where he is), appearing before the Father on our behalf and as our High Priest.  Every eye will see and acknowledge him – for it is appointed unto man once to die.  If you do not know him now, when you die, you will know him then – for you will see him.

What has happened in these things is that our descriptions here have become grouped up into single, future events.  Thus, the coming on the clouds has come to be seen as a wholly future event – a single act.  When Jesus said to Caiaphas and the Jerusalem Court assembled together at his condemnation, that they would “see the son of man at the right hand coming on the clouds” he was not saying “in a few decades, or hundreds or thousands of years from now.”  Rather, when they died, they would see who Jesus Is.  It is Jesus who hold the keys of death and the grave (Revelation 1.18).  He can come personally to you at any moment – like a thief if you are not “eagerly expecting” him.  Eagerly expecting Jesus simply means that one is worshipping Jesus here and now, being filled with the Spirit and renewed daily through prayer, meditation, worship, adoration, and obedience – conforming to His Life.  Such worship causes us to long for His presence!

That there is a final descent of the Lord Jesus is found readily in the NT (most notably, 1 Thessalonians 4.16-ff; and several other places).  But we know not of that time, when heaven and earth shall pass away and be restored by the creative power of God (Genesis 1.1-ff).  However, Jesus can come at any moment.  Revelation 3.20 pictures it as such: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”  The Judge is standing at the door.  My sons and daughter were traveling to Indianapolis last week and noticed on the East Bound side traffic had stopped.  A car and several trucks were mangled.  We found out later that a person died.  My heart immediately thought and hoped that this person was not caught by the One who holds death and the grave in his hands unexpectedly.  That Christ had been invited in to eat and dine.  That this person, upon expiration, saw Him who comes on the clouds of heaven in heaven with praise and worship.  We worship Him, even though we do not see Him – but we know the revelation of His glory: that He is in heavens at the right hand, coming in the clouds of heaven before the Father, ruling in the midst of his enemies, suffering with the world as we suffer as He gathers them out of the world together into himself, making one new man, building stone by stone (people by people) his house until all those he has called and knows from eternity are his.

Fiery Flames

By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

It often boggles my mind how I can read a translation of a verse or two and simply take for granted my own interpretation.  However, upon closer, critical analysis, what I thought was there is not there at all.

A recent brother from Italy was asking me some questions concerning 2 Thessalonians 1.7,8 and wondering if this was in reference to 70 AD and the war of the Romans against Judea.  First off, let’s read a sampling of translations:

“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,  In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (King James Version).

“and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (English Standard Version).

“and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels” (New International Version).

“and to you who are troubled — rest with us in the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven, with messengers of his power” (Young’s Literal).

“and to grant rest along with us to you who are undergoing afflictions, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his mighty angels” (New American Bible).

This is enough to show me, as one that reads Greek, that something is going on.  So upon reading the Greek text Paul is not saying anything that relates to 70 AD, a Second Coming, or anything like that at all.

First, the Thessalonikans were undergoing “persecution and affliction” from their “fellow country men” as Paul noted.  This is a “judgment of God” (1.5) in that those who are being troubled for the Gospel of Jesus are being “counted worthy” of the Kingdom (1.5).  They are not being judged, but, instead, are being refined.  Those troubling them, however, are being judged.

“For it is a righteous thing with God to repay…” (1.6).  Repay who?  The Dative Case follows, “to the ones afflicting you” (1.6).  Now, God’s “repayment” does not stop with them.  Rather, the Dative Case also includes the Thessalonikans: “and to you (1.7) the ones being afflicted, rest…”  In other words, God is repaying those who are doing the afflicting, and he is repaying those who are being afflicted with rest (anesis in Greek, and here in the Accusative Case, the object of the Infinitive, “to repay”).  This is not something that is going to happen, but is happening.

Now, the text does not stop with anesis, but describes the source of this rest that they have.  “And to you, the ones being afflicted, rest with us in the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with angels of his power in flaming fire.”  Now, this is where the translations get sideways.  “en te apokalupsei” is translated, amazingly, as “when the Lord Jesus is revealed.”  But, as one can see, “in the revelation of the Lord Jesus” is a prepositional phrase.  There is no verb here.  Jesus has already been revealed as to Who He Is.  They are to find “rest” and “comfort” in the fact of the revelation of Jesus Christ from heaven, who is with his angels in flaming fire!

Now, in my studies in Daniel, that phrase “flaming fire” caught my eye, because I have seen it before.  In Daniel 7.10 the Ancient of Days’ throne is described in the Greek Version of the Hebrew Bible (the Septuagint, used by the Apostles) as “a flaming fire”.  The words there are the same here.  In Daniel 7.13-14 we have been noting that the son of man, the Lord Jesus Christ, with the angels, is presented “with them” before the Ancient of days.  It is now revealed who this son of man person is.  This is the One that made the Gospel they preached, and the Thessalonikans believed, liable to suffering and persecution.

Jesus, the son of man, is “in heaven”, and “from heaven” it has been revealed (“revelation”) that he is with the angels in flaming fire.  Paul is saying to them, “yes, you are being troubled for this revelation.  But, this is a judgment from the Throne to them, and to you, find rest in that you know the revelation of Jesus Christ who among the angels in flames of fire.”  Jaw dropping.

But, we are not finished.  Jesus, in heaven with the angels in flaming fire, “is giving full vengeance to the ones not knowing God and to the ones not obeying the Gospel” (1.8).  This is not someting going to happen.  It was happening (and still does, for the Lord Jesus repays from heaven from heaven those who trouble his people – marking them, while all they yet refining through tribulation those that are his: conforming them to his image).

What is the future of those who do not repent at his repayments of judgment?  “…who, justice, they will suffer, eternal destruction from the face of the Lord…” (1.9).  And when is this?  Well, the indefinite subjunctive is used with an aorist subjunctive: “when he comes to be glorified in his saints, to be adored in all the ones who have believed the testimony of us to you – in that day” (1.10).  That is, when “all” stand before Him in that day, the last day.  Paul gives no hint at all as to “when” – in calendar times – that happens.  It wasn’t 70 AD.

Therefore, Paul is saying to those being persecuted, and to us as well, that Jesus, the son of man in heaven with the angels in fiery flames, before the throne of God, repays those who persecute the faithful in all generations.  That, as believers in the revelation of Jesus Christ, that he is before the Father, that he is the Son of Man, the Son of God in heaven, we should find rest and comfort in this, knowing that if those who create trouble for the Church do not repent, they will be judged when Jesus comes to be glorified in all the saints who have believed, ever.  On that day they will be given eternal destruction, but the saints will be glorified in Him, eternal life.  Such wonderful encouragement to the faithful who still believes the Gospel of the Apostles.

 

 

The Parousia

I have been developing the idea that the parousia of the “son of man” (Jesus, the Christ) stems from two main texts of the Hebrew Bible (HB).  The first, of course, is Psalm 110.  The United Bible Society Greek New Testament lists 14 allusions in the Greek Scriptures (the New Testament) and 10 direct quotations in the same of this psalm.  The first message of the Apostle Peter, filled with the Spirit, directly quotes the psalm (Acts 2,34).  His commentary is clear: “God has made this Jesus…both Lord and Christ.”  The psalm is a picture of royal enthronement.  The author of Hebrews attests (1,13) and equally makes plain that Jesus, after his resurrection, “sat down at the right hand of the majesty in heaven” (1,3).  “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (10,12).  “Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven” (8,1).  “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (12,2).

Equally plain, is that Jesus foretold, “When the Son of Man comes (erchomai) in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne” (Matthew 25,31).  Further, “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Revelation 3,21).  There can be no further proof needed from the Scriptures that Jesus, upon his resurrection and ascending to the Father (John 20,17), was enthroned.  The other psalsm that are frequently used are Psalm 2, 8, 16 and 18.  All of these are used as texts from the Hebrew Scriptures that are used by the NT authors as pointing to Christ, the “son of man” as Jesus commonly called himself.

It is the “son of man” reference that brings us to Daniel 7,13-14.  There, we read, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came (erchomai) one like a son of man, and he came (parousia) to the Ancient of Days and was presented (parousia) before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”  This is a vision of Daniel which speak of the enthronement of the son of man coming in his “kingdom” with “angels”.  “He was presented” is passive (in Aramaic, the Haphel form is passive) in that he is brought forward by the angels (the verb is plural).  Jesus comes before the Father, the “Ancient of Days” as he is called in Daniel, and “given power” and a “kingdom.”

Likewise, we find Jesus stating he had been “given all power” (Matthew 28,18) after his resurrection and ascending to the Father.  Jesus also told his disciples that they would not finish going through the cities of Israel “til the son of man comes (erchomai)” (Matthew 10,23).  This passage has long puzzled some commentators because the time it would take to sweep through the cities of Israel would be relatively short (a couple of years, tops).  How is it that Jesus would say that he would come before that time?  By understanding Matthew’s heavy reliance on the Danielic passage, the “son of man” and “comes” are two of the same phrasings taken from the Greek Old Testament translation, the Septuagint (or, the Alexandrian Version).  If Jesus here has in mind his ascending as son of man, his arrival to heaven as son of man, once dead, now raised from the dead, to receive his “kingdom” (as Daniel saw) with the angels, then it makes complete sense as to his statement in Matthew 10,23.  Before the Gospel had time to erupt and go through the cities of Israel, Jesus would have died, been raised, and ascended (“come”) to the Ancient of Days, God the Father.

Further, Jesus stated that the nearness of this event would be before some of the multitude hearing his message would die.  There can be no more striking way of illustrating the imminence of Christ’s “coming”.  “For the Son of Man is going to come (erchomai) with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.   Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming (erchomai) in his kingdom” (Matthew 16,27).  It should be readily noticed in the parallel vision of Daniel 7,13-14 that the son of man “comes” (erchomai) with the angels, and is presented before the Father and receives a kingdom.  This would make complete sense to stress the imminence: the son of man will die, “then enter his glory” – the word “glory” here in Matthew is the same found in the Greek translation known by Matthew in Daniel 7,13-14.  Indeed, how else can Jesus, the son of man, enter heaven in such a state to receive all power, even power over death, unless he first died?  A man must first die in order to be raised and receive power.

Thus, it has often been misconstrued that the “coming” passages mentioned above refer to Jesus descending rather than ascending.   Although I can refer to a relatively large group of men and women scholars on this point, in the common pews this understanding is often amiss.

I hinted above that the Greek term, parousia, is mentioned in the passage in Daniel.  The term the Greek Jews used in translating Daniel, which, all agree was used by Matthew, is pareimi.  Parousia is a noun.  Pareimi is the verbal cognate of this noun.  Ousia is a derivative of eimi (“to be”).  Para-ousia, para-eimi are in the same class in terms of meaning.  We find this even in Saint Paul’s usage.  Speaking of what his critics said of him, “For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence (parousia) is weak, and his speech of no account” (2 Corinthians 10,10).  “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence (parousia) but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2,12).  “It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present (pareimi) with you” (Galatians 4,18).  “I wish I could be present (pareimi) with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you” (4,20).  This is enough to demonstrate that Paul could speak of his “presence” among his churches by using either parousia or pareimi.  Equally, parousia is equivalent of pareimi, the former being a noun, the latter a verb.

Therefore, upon such a brief analysis, (Liddell-Scott Lexicon lists the terms together), it is strikingly impressive that Daniel 7,13-14 reads, “….the son of man coming (erchomai) to the Ancient of Days.  He was presented (paren – of pareimi), and they presented him, they were present (pareimi) to him.”  The plural is because it is the “angels” in attendance before the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7,9-10) brings the son of man forward “to him.”  With all of the key words referring to this “vision” of Daniel found in Matthew, can we not firmly conclude that this vision was a vision of the parousia of the “son of man”?

When we further investigate the matter, relating the enthroning of Jesus the Christ to the parousia of Daniel’s vision, we find further confirming testimony from the Apostle John.  It is necessary to hear Daniel 7,9-10: ” As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. 10 A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.”  And, again, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came (erchomaione like a son of man, and he came (parousia) to the Ancient of Days and was presented (parousia) before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

And now let us hear the Apostle John: “Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth…and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever…Behold, he is coming (erchomai) with the clouds….one like unto a son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle…The hairs of his head were white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters….and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” (Revelation 1,5-7,13-18).  John is seeing the risen, exalted “son of man”.

We have already quoted Jesus to John wherein he stated that he “sat on his throne” (Revelation 3,21).  The more remarkable feature is that in Revelation 4 we see a vision like Daniel’s concerning the Ancient of Days.  There, the “myriads” of angels are in attendance, alluding to, or at least using the exact same phrasing as Daniel.  This continues in chapter 5 where the Lamb of God, the Seed of David, a Lion of Judah (all indicating the “son of man” dimension of meaning) is brought before “the one who sits on the throne” and takes from his “right hand” (Psalm 110) a seven-sealed scroll.  “…because thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God, in thy blood, out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation: and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth…Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,  Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might and honor, and glory, and blessing…To him that sitteth on the throne and to the Lamb, benediction and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever.”

The Lamb, who is the “son of man”, was “slain” and now is pictured before the Father with the myriads of angels and receiving a kingdom and all power.  There can be no doubt that the vision of John’s experience is one that Daniel also saw centuries before concerning “one like a son of man”.  The exact parallelisms are too numerous to be ignored (highlighted in bold type).  The exaltation and enthronement of the son of man is the “coming on the clouds” of heaven – heavenly clouds and is a description of who he is.  “He comes with the clouds” is in direct reference to Daniel 7,13 and is in the present tense in John’s Greek.  He has ascended (came with the clouds of heaven to the Father), he is ascended (he comes with the clouds of heaven before the Father), and he shall descend with the clouds of heaven.  These three aspects all depict the single parousia of the son of man.  The parousia is not something that will happen, but has happened, is happening, and will forever happen.  His reign, the reign of the son of man is eternal.

This insight helps to explain the many passages concerning the “coming” of the son of man.  First, Jesus depicts the parousia as a “flash of lightning” (Matthew 24,27).  Matthew also uses an interesting description of the angel of God’s presence, “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow” (28,3).  Further, “For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day” (Luke 17,24).  In Luke, the “day of the son of man” is his exaltation, which Jesus stated that his disciples would long to see it visibly displayed, “but you will not” (17,22).  He compares those days to Noah and Lot, where both Noah was taken away and “entered the ark” (17,27), and Lot “went out from Sodom” (17,29) – neither were seen again by their contemporaries.  If Jesus ascended into heaven (“entered” or “went out from” them and entered heaven) where the “days of the son of man” in his glory before the Father (his parousia) transpire, then it is plain that Jesus knew his followers would “long to see one of the days of the son of man, but will not.”  Understanding that, on one hand, “seeing” the son of man come in his kingdom with glory in heaven in terms of knowing, and “seeing” the brilliance of his radiant glory which is all consuming are two aspects of how his parousia is related to believers then and now (we do not “see” his all consuming radiance, but we do “see” it in terms of knowing that “Jesus is Lord, and his day has come, is, and shall come”).  The Gospel writers make these distinctions which have too often become confused by scholars not seeing these distinctions.  Because the son of man has ascended into heaven, sat down, rules at the right hand of God, and has received a kingdom and has come on the clouds of heaven, many have thought that Jesus’ predictions of an all consuming judgment were to be completely and entirely fulfilled within that generation.  The “coming” language of the Scriptures in reference to the son of man cannot be bound up into a single event.  Even the mighty Karl Barth spoke of the “full range of content of the concept of parousia“, relating it to the Easter Event, Daniel 7,13, the outpouring of the Spirit and his final judgment of all men and things (Church Dogmatics: A Selection, 238, Gollwitzer; trans. by  G. W. Bromiley).  It is not a single event that happens, then that’s that.  Rather it is the Event that happens, continues to happen and will happen in that upon the Exaltation of the son of man, he is forever exalted – coming on the clouds of his exaltation before the Father is an eternal state of being of Who He Is.  He is “the one who comes upon the clouds” – “the son of man”.  Every eye will see him (which, again, is not a single event, but an experience of every individual after this life.  There is not one human being who will not see Jesus in his glory for Who He Is).

When seen from this standpoint, the letters to the churches in John’s revelation takes on an aspect that conforms to Jesus’ announcement that in his coming in his kingdom, his receiving a kingdom, he rewards each man according to his deeds.  This is not something, again, that just takes place at the end of history (and it certainly will), but something that Jesus does in heaven to those on earth now.  He does so because he has been given all power and authority to judge, and judges render verdicts.

The seven churches John wrote to were real churches in real cities located in Asia Minor (modern Turkey).  Hear what Jesus said, how he said it to the members of these congregations.  To each of the churches, Jesus stated, “I know your deeds.”  Also, at the end of each section to the separate congregations, he spoke of his rewards, the crown of life, power from the “second death” (which is eternal death, the “Lake of Fire”), authority, and so on.  Then, in the middle of these letters, he threatens to “come” to them, each of them separately if they “do no repent” of the matters that concern him and their deeds.  What is often missed is the force of the Greek syntax: if they do repent, he will not come to them, for there would be no need.  As one who has come on the clouds of heavenly exaltation in heaven, Jesus can flash judgments on earth from the throne of God: “From the throne came flashes of lightning…” (Revelation 4.5).  To the church in Laodicea, Jesus announced that he “Here I am!  I am standing at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and eat with him, and he with me (Revelation 3,20).  One hears James 5,9: “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.”  Jesus said, “So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates” (Matthew 24,33).  There, in Matthew 24, Jesus is asked what would be the sign that his parousia had occured.  That is, when he, the son of man, is exalted and receives a kingdom (Daniel 7,13-14), what sign would be given that such has happened.  Jesus’ answer, in the words of Matthew, are lifted straight out of the Greek Old Testament translation (the Septuagint).  “and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in the heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth smite the breast, and they shall see [the sign of] the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of the heaven, with power and much glory” (24,30).  The sign is the “son of man in heaven” – his heavenly exaltation upon his resurrection and ascension as shown in Revelation 5.  This sign is not itself his exaltation, but rather points to the fact that the son of man has been exalted upon the clouds of heaven in heaven.  The Fall of Jerusalem (66-70 AD) was the sign that the son of man, upon his resurrection and ascension, is who He said He was.

This strikes right at the matter mentioned above where in Luke Jesus flatly said that they would “not see the days of the son of man” because he is in heaven – his glorious radiance and all consuming brilliance – would not be seen by them.  However, they would “see” the sign of the heavenly days of  the son of man, knowing that He is Who He said He Was.  It is, then, in this fashion that Jesus “comes” to individuals in terms of what Barth spoke of as in the Spirit, which was given as a direct result of his parousia in heaven (being given all power, he has the authority to send the Spirit as well, to the glory of the Father).  He stands at the door and knocks on each heart.  If the door is opened, he comes in.  This is the life of regeneration and faith in the here and now, and the one who “overcomes” to the end of his or her life will receive the promised rewards – indeed, even participate in those rewards in the here and now through the assurance of the hope that Jesus has “come in” through your door.  He knocked.  You opened.  He eats with you, and you with Him.  Keep eating his flesh and drinking his blood, and you will be given more than you can handle: eternal life.  The reason such invitation has come is precisely because he has come upon the clouds of heaven in exaltation to the Father.  The Father has given him all things, and this includes the Spirit.  Through the son of man, the Spirit proceeds at his direction.  By the Spirit, Jesus, the son of man in heaven, is directly made present and stands at the door, ready to judge, ready to reward.  The Lord is near.  His Kingdom is near.  He is not far from each of us.  as he stood ready to those churches, so he now stands ready today and knocks.  Those who open the door and dine with Him are promised eternal life, when, in the new heavens and new earth, God will, through the son of man, raise the dead of those who have fallen asleep in Christ, glorifying their bodies with indestructible, eternal life.  As it is, he has sent out his angels at his authority, and he is rendering his judgments “in the midst of his enemies” (Psalm 110).  He is gathering the nations, calling out of the nations those who open their doors to him, gathering them together to form one innumerable People of God, so that they might inherit a new heavens and a new earth.  Maranatha!

 

 

 

Pray for the President?

By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

 

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior” (the Apostle Paul’s personal letter written to Timothy, a fellow believer and disciple of Paul – circa 60-62 C.E./A.D.)

In the Book of Common Prayer (used by Anglicans/Episcoplians worldwide), the 1928 prayer states, “A Prayer for The President of the United States, and all in Civil Authority.  O Lord, our heavenly Father, the high and mighty Ruler of the universe, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth; Most heartily we beseech thee, with thy favour to behold and bless thy servant THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and all others in authority; and so replenish them with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that they may always incline to thy will, and walk in thy way. Endue them plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant them in health and prosperity long to live; and finally, after this life, to attain everlasting joy and felicity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Now, for those who claim that Jesus is Risen, that He is Lord, whether they be Democrats, Libertarians, Republicans, Leftists, Social Democrats or what have you, are you following this entreaty of Paul?  For, as he stated, this is good and pleasing to God.

Now, in Paul’s day, when he wrote this, Nero Caesar was in power (54-68 C.E.).  If you know anything about Nero, he eventually became intolerable to the Senate and the people due to his bloodthirsty rages, his lust for boys, and his insane, narcissistic implementations of Roman law.  How would you like to have as President someone who cut off the heads of Christians and torched their bodies to be used as lamps in their patio?  And, yet, here we find Paul’s words.  It is a strong tradition in Christianity, possibly rooted in historical fact, that Paul suffered death under Nero.

Praying for the President does not mean an endorsement of the President.  Praying for the President does mean a total acceptance of him, his personal life, or his demeanor or candor.  Equally, it does not mean, either, an acceptance of his policies.  What it does mean, however, for Paul anyway, is that God places in authority whom He wills.  We may not like it.  We may, in fact, be completely against it.  But, it is, nonetheless, established.  We may seek to work against it in accordance with the laws and policies that have been established.  But, one thing, regardless, that we are not off the hook of is prayer.  If our current President is not to your liking, that is fine – let each person be persuaded by their own opinion- however, if such dislike causes you to not even pray for him – then your problem is not with the President, but with God.  If your heart has such contempt that even prayer cannot be said, then the issue is much deeper, for did not God love you and send his Son to die on your behalf, O’ miserable soul that you are?  “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”  If you are not able to pray for our President, then perhaps what this is saying is, is that you are not so wretched, but that he is.  That you are, maybe, a tad bit better on the totem pole of “good”.  That perhaps you are a little more deserving of the blessings of God on your life, but not on his.

Just a thought.

What is Gnosticism?

Samuel M. Frost, Th. M.

“Gnosticism” is a terms that gets thrown around a lot.  In this vein, it usually is  a slur, a pejorative for an view that is so “spiritually minded that it is no earthly good.”  There have usually been two polar sides of perennial issues that involve the physical and the metaphysical; that each of these considerations can be lopsided.  To use Carl Sagan’s famous quote, “The Cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.”  This would be a materialist position, devoid of any sense of spirit, soul, mind, Good, Evil, which are all metaphysical concepts and ideas.  Usually, with these types, since the cosmos is all there is (Naturalism), then pleasure becomes the main normative impetus for carving out a life to be lived.  Taking care of yourself and the planet.  Nature itself is the only real thing to be marveled at and adored.

Then, too, you have the Gnostics.  Gnosis is simply a Greek word that means ‘knowledge’ (kno-gnoledge for the stem).  In the case of the Mystics, the Buddhists, and much of Hindi thought, Mysticism is an attempt to enter the blissful, the nirvanic, the escape from this world of matter, things, and appearances and achieve harmony with Spirit, Good, Ultimate Sense of Purpose, Goddess Power.  Razors and showers usually do not come with these type of folks.

Mircea Eliade’s masterful three volume work, A History of Religious Ideas, notes that a gnostic is, in general, believes that “the only object worth pursuing was the deliverance of that divine particle and its reascent to the celestial spheres” (p.374, volume 2).  There are several (and I mean several) forms of Gnosticism(s) floating around in the second century and their precursors before then.  The body is a prison house to be escaped (coming from Plato).  For most of the Gnostics, though, there are some shared ideas.  First, matter and spirit are forever to be separated.  Creation – that is, this cosmos – will burn out eventually.  “God is not interested in man as such but in the soul, which is of divine origin…” (394).  “The body is demonic by nature” (394).

Basically, the Scriptures present Creation as that which is pronounced good by God who made all things.  Gnostics have no end goal for creation other than it eventually burning out of existence, along with all material things.  Material creation has been so corrupted by flesh that it is “fallen” and “beyond reclaiming.”  It was never, in fact, meant to be the home of man, but a transitory, temporary place for enlightening man for his original Higher Goal: Spiritual Bliss.  Man is not to look at things seen, but is to transcend these things through “knowledge” of the Suprasensable World above – the true, heavenly world of the Divine.  That world is the real world, whereas this world will never come to “know” that world, and never be transformed by it – since that is reserved for the Soul only – the true essence of man.  The idea, as Eliade notes, that the human body would be raised from the dead and enter into the Transcendent World permanently was “madness” to the Greeks.  Yet, that was the very controversy the Early Church Fathers preached from the get go.  Jesus, the man born of a woman, the seed of David, the son of man, ascended into heaven bodily and remains for eternity.  This idea simply could not be fathomed.  It is not that it could not be understood, but that it could not be explained as to why God would redeem that which is so corrupted by Evil.  What would be the purpose of redeeming that which is utterly lost?  What concern would the God of the SupraWorld have for placing the stamp of eternality to matter?  The whole point of matter, fallen as it is, is to contrast that with the spiritual life that comes from above and releases us from this world to that world.  What, then, would be the reason for such redemption of this world?

It was this idea, the idea that Jesus, a man with a “rational soul and body” as the Orthodox defined him, could be redeemed with that same rational soul and body and permanently remain as a heavenly, exalted man, that confounded the world.  Christianity brought together the two things that could not ever meet: matter and soul in the Incarnation (in-carnis – flesh) of the Logos with the “man, Christ Jesus.”  In Jesus God affirmed his creation (matter and body), raised it, glorified it, and made it to ascend to his right hand.  Also, he affirmed the invisible qualities of creation and soul by offering renewal to it as well.  Both were affirmed in the resurrection, glorification and ascension of Jesus, son of man.  This was shocking then, as it is shocking now.  For the materialist, the idea of a long dead, long, wind blown scattered ashes of a few thousand year old corpse being “raised from the dead” is the height of absurdity of all foolish absurdities.  For the spiritualist, it is simply something that has no purpose in happening since the soul is already redeemed, and is the only true essence of who we are.  The idea of God reuniting a body to it – a fallen body – is simply and equally absurd.  Of course, some so called Christians have tried to “middle man” the issue by offering the idea that the soul gets a fresh, brand new, never tainted by sin or death body when they expire (or are freed from this mortal shell).  But, Paul’s words are emphatic: the body that is sown, that very body is the one that is raised.  And, his main proof for his assertion is Jesus and the empty tomb, and the fact that he is ‘in heaven at the right hand of the Father’ as the Church has confessed in unison for 2000 years.  Christianity is most alive when it still shocks the mindset of human thinking.  It when it stops shocking it that I begin to worry.  A Christianity “at home” in the world is not a Christianity that is needed; a Christianity that turns the world upside down is.  And the Incarnated Son of Man in heaven does just that, for in that message is contained the idea that God “will quicken your mortal bodies” in the same manner as Jesus.  Will the son of man find faith, or will he find scoffers?