More fun with controversial stuff…

23 Jul

Warning: Be careful, it’s possible to get excited about this stuff.

I’ve started with a few highlights from the book entitled, ‘Victorious Eschatology’ by Harold R. Eberle, but then added my own inspirations and ‘what ifs’… just to shake things up a bit and stimulate our thoughts.    Let’s have fun!   🙂

The thumbnail sketch of the popular view of the ‘end-times’ is one of evil increasing in the world until it deserves the judgments of God unto total devastation and destruction.  And of course for God to preserve His people He would have to extract the faithful remnant from off the globe, thus the ‘rapture’.  So let’s start with one of the favorite verses which seems to support the view of a complete annihilation of earth.

“Then I saw a new Heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.” – Rev 21:1

Obviously, this verse and all quoted verses below are TOTALLY TRUE… no doubt about it.  And if all Scripture is true then separate passages must be harmonious with each other.  But the central question herein is, could the current and popular interpretation of these favorite verses be skewed?

So consider this: If the world is going to be completely obliterated and a new world created, then what about:

Eccl 1:4 – Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.
Ps 78:69 – He built his sanctuary like the heights, like the earth that he established forever.
P
s 104:5 – He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.

We seem to have a problem here if the Rev. 21 verse cites that the earth will pass away… but Psalms says the earth will last forever.  Could it be that “passed away” means something other than what we’ve thought?

Try this: Peter says the earth will be destroyed by fire (II Pet 3; 7, 10) but in the very same context (vs 6) he also says that the earth was “destroyed” by water in The Flood.  But of course we know the earth wasn’t obliterated and removed from existence in The Flood.  Rather it was purged of evil.  Could it be that when the earth is “destroyed by fire” this next time that it isn’t actually obliterated or removed from existence, but rather it is purged from evil by the fiery revelation and presence of God Himself among us?

To further make the point of the permanency of the earth, if the “meek inherit the earth” (Matt 5:5), then what a crazy promise!!!   Just about the time you get meek enough to inherit the earth, then God’s destroys it by fire.  And all the other Christians that didn’t qualify because they were deficient in meekness… they get to go to Heaven.  It’s almost comical when you look at it like that.

And what about all of creation which is eagerly waiting to see the sons of God manifest upon the earth — “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.” (Rms 8:19)  So what’s that all about?  In our ‘destruction’ theology, creation eagerly waits, just to see itself burned up right about the time things start getting good?

Maybe our popular religious traditions regarding the world getting worse and worse… and the impending cataclysmic destruction… have made us ignore other passages in the Bible that would help give us context for how to interpret some of our favorite eschatological verses.

So while we’re talking about The Flood let’s see what parallels Jesus made to that time period.  In Matt 24:37-44, He paints the picture of how it’s going to be at the coming of the Son of Man.

“But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Notice who got taken away… it wasn’t the righteous.  Contrary to the movie, Jesus actually says that the ones taken are the unrighteous… and the ones ‘left behind’ are the righteous ones.  The righteous were left behind to re-establish righteous reign over the earth.  As a result of this clear historical account, which everyone was very familiar with; Jesus applies that same template onto future events and warns the unrighteous to be “watchful” lest that day come upon them like a thief… totally unexpected.  The end result of The Flood was that the earth got purged from evil and the righteous were left to propagate righteousness.  Wow, how’d we get that so wrong?

And as if that isn’t clear enough, Jesus again tells us who’s going to be taken and who’s going to be left in Matt 13:37-43:

37 He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

Notice that it isn’t the “good seed” that gets taken away, rather the “tares” are taken, which “are the sons of the wicked one… the devil”.  The “reaper” angels come and gather the tares and burn them.  The angels gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness… or stand in resistance to the Kingdom of God. When those things which resist are removed, then the righteous (that’s you and me) will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of our Father.”  Sounds like Isaiah 60 to me.  In this scenario, I certainly wouldn’t want to be numbered among those who are ‘taken’!  (Same template: The blood over the doorposts of the Israelites in Egypt prevented them from being taken by the death angel.)

And what about rising to meet Him in the air… I Thess 4:16-17

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

So the traditional interpretation of “caught up” to “meet the Lord in the air” is that we get taken up and off of the earth to somewhere… to Heaven is the popular answer.  But we’ve already discovered that we have a problem with the interpretation that we are taken somewhere other than the earth (see above).  So what could “caught up” and “meet” mean? Take a look at the same word “meet” (apantesis, in Greek) describing the occasion of Paul traveling to Rome:

And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. 16 Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard…. (Acts 28:15-16)

Notice that the disciples went out to meet Paul, but then continued on in the same direction that Paul was going.  Together they continued on toward Rome.  Now what if we use the same idea to interpret  I Thess 4:16 (above)?  Note Jesus’ direction of travel.  He is descending from Heaven toward earth, then we, like the five wise virgins who have eagerly anticipated His coming, see Him and are “caught up” in this euphoric, transformational… and even transfigurational new reality which comes from being in His Presence.  And because His direction of travel was toward us, we join Him on His way to an earth that now has a new set of rules and realities (due to His tangible Presence), to “always be with the Lord.”

And just so we get that point let’s look closer at the parable of the ten virgins in Matt 25:1-13.  We see the same word “meet” used again.  The five wise virgins went out to “meet” the bridegroom.  The bridegroom did not turn-around and take them back with Him; rather the virgins met and welcomed Him on into the wedding venue where they had been waiting. Verse 10: “And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding…”  The picture seems to show clearly that the bridegroom continued on his approach to the wedding, now joined by the five wise virgins and they together entered the wedding venue.  Could it be that in the same way, we will “meet” Him in the “air” of His glorious Presence and He’ll continue coming to us and live among us and IN us in an exponentially higher way than we’ve ever known?  Could it be that the power of His near and tangible Presence becomes transformational, even transfigurational to us as we behold Him?  And we “with unveiled face behold… we are changed from glory to glory” (II Cor 3:18)  So much so that we become ‘clothed’ with the same glory that He is, like Col 3:4, “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”  Did you catch that… we will appear with Him (alongside Him… even IN Him) in the same glorious state that He is!!!  And with “glorified” bodies, we can adapt to different occasions even as Jesus did at transfiguration, on the road to Emmaus, eating with disciples after resurrection, passing through walls, etc.

Wow, that is high octane stuff right there.  We could just camp out on that note and throw a party.

Consider these ‘What ‘ifs’…

What if “passed away” and “destroyed” means something other than complete obliteration and removal from existence?  What if it means that the current way things are, will be overcome with a superseding power such that the earth will be purged of evil by this powerful force.  (Ex. – In Almolonga, Guatemala, which was reported in the first Transformations video, jails become obsolete because a revival of righteousness… such righteousness that the people and even the land was renewed. The city was purged from evil… or evil was ‘burned up’ (new heavens) and the land became new (new earth).  This is just one modern day micro-example of a “new heavens (spiritual state) and a new earth (the way things are done)”.)

What if “taken” and “left behind” have been misapplied?  Note the religious leaders of Jesus day who so badly wanted a Messiah to deliver them from Rome’s tyranny that they misinterpreted the OT Messianic prophecies to fit their own world view – thus missing the Real Thing.   What if in order to validate our own world view traditions, we’ve overlooked the glaring clarity with which Jesus explains who is in each category?

What if “descending” and “ascending” means the shift of awareness or a change of expression between the unseen and the seen realms.  What if ascending means the increasing revealing and awareness of His Presence?  What if descending from Heaven is as real as Jesus experienced in John 3:13 where he was in both realms simultaneously: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which IS in heaven.”  Note that at that very moment he is standing in front of Nicodemus and yet He said that He was also IN Heaven.  Note that He had already ascended, (He even said that He was IN heaven) and yet He was still standing on His two legs on the earth… and all this “IN Heaven” talk was pre-Cross.  He was in both realms at the same time.  Could it be that ascending and descending has nothing to do with change of elevation in physical space?  Could it be that since Heaven and earth are happening simultaneously right here, right now, that ascending and descending happen when we become acutely aware of and transition from one realm to another?

What if “caught up” doesn’t actually mean a change of elevation in physical space, but rather means being overcome, love-struck, even ‘on-fire’ with passion, in a euphoric and empowered state of heart and mind to the point of being transformed… even transfigured… (Ex. — Jesus, who is our forerunner in all things… and what about Moses and Elijah on the Mt of Transfiguration)?

What if “meet” doesn’t actually mean that we change any physical position on earth or in space?  What if it means that we arise in newly stimulated faith and awakened zeal and our passions become joined with His? (Ps 110:3 – Your people will volunteer freely in the day of your power)  Could it be that this unveiling of Jesus causes us to rise in sufficient maturity “into Him” so as to be joined with Jesus? (Eph 4:15 — the body…grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ)  On that note consider Lk 9:58 where Jesus states, “but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head (ship)”.  Consider: what if the body of Christ wasn’t then sufficient to rest His full headshipbut as ‘the body’ has increased in maturity and “in all things” it is now ready to “meet Him”?  What if our rising in maturation in all things and His “descending” in increased revelation of Himself catalyzes the marriage of the “head” with “the body”?

What if “in the air” doesn’t mean the space above earth… or someplace in outer space commonly called Heaven?  What if “in the air” is symbolic of a new ‘atmosphere’ of His Presence… a new M.O… new conditions in which we operate? (Think of something even better than the Israelites living with a tangible cloud and pillar of fire of His Presence among them.)

What if “we shall always be with the Lord” means the wedding is happening, the marriage has occurred.  The long awaited and anticipated union has come to pass.  The work is done.   The 7th day of rest has arrived. Jesus will now “rest in His love(us)” (Zeph 3:17) never to leave.  He now has what He always wanted, us… and we have Him.

What if some of these ‘what ifs’ are already beginning to happen NOW?  What if we have been deceived by the forces of poverty, sin and sickness; deceived by the lies of the enemy making us think that Heaven has lost ‘faith’ for our world; deceived by the lies of the enemy making us think that we weren’t highly favored in God’s eyes… and deceived by the lies of the enemy making us focus on our sin (rather than our righteousness in Jesus) trying to disqualify us from thinking that we can rule and reign in this life and in our world?

What if our minds were “renewed” with God’s perspective of our righteous status in His eyes?  What if we believed what is being “revealed to us by his Spirit” (I Cor 2:10) about all the things that God has in store for us… and we celebrated being “filled to all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19)… and we were confident in this “love that passes knowledge” (Eph 3:19)?   What if a greater grace to see and believe these things overcame us and transported us into a new Heaven and new earth?   What if our awareness and hunger for our imminent marriage with our Bridegroom created such a ‘pull’ on our Bridegroom that He looks over at the Father and with great longing says, “Father, can I go now?”

I’m telling you, if we keep going down this direction, we’re going to get happy and totally excited about an eschatology that unlocks our latent spiritual DNA as sons and daughters of our Wonderful God.  Jesus may begin to feel the pull of desire and eager expectation such that it hastens the day of His appearing (II Pet 3:12). And He may actually find a supercharged “faith on the earth” (Lk 18:8) that compels Him to “come quickly” (Rev 22:20).    May it be so!!!

This presentation isn’t intended to establish chronological order or detailed accuracy of eschatology.  Rather it’s about giving us permission to begin to rise to meet Him in the air.  And it’s about fanning the flames of love-struck hearts eager to be united with our beautiful Bridegroom. 

Just exploring out loud…

— MLH

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One Response to “More fun with controversial stuff…”

  1. Phil Thomas July 24, 2012 at 1:58 PM #

    Concerning the earth, Psalm 37 states 5 times that the righteous will inherit the earth. Verse 29 says they will live on it forever. I am in agreement with your line of thought.
    Some thoughts concerning the “rapture theory”. It was not a part of the church’s belief and teaching prior to a dream of a young lady early in the 1800’s. In other words, the theory is based on her dream.
    Someone pointed out that in John 14, when Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you… that where I am, you may be with me.” He said, “…where I AM…” not, where I will be. Just another thing to think about.

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