Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cloud 9 vs. Earth 2.0

I have to tell you, I'm very interested to read NT Wright's new book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church.

That's a lot to rethink. And I'd probably pass it off as another attempt to make a buck at the bookstore if it weren't written by NT Wright.

Besides, the truth is that I've been rethinking these issues already.

The Bible is full of different images of the end times and the everlasting life. At points it seems like it is saying there is a cataclysmic end and a total new beginning in the sky somewhere. At others it seems like the earth itself gets reborn. At points it is cloud #9 and at points it is earth 2.0.

At different points in history, Christians have gravitated to one or the other. Post world wars we have been living in the pendulum swing to the escapist "sweet-by-and-by" version. I grew up under the fear mongering and escapism of this view as it dominated the evangelical mainstream.

But then I read Isaiah. And notice in Revelation that the New Jerusalem comes down to earth, and we don't go to it. And things like that. And I study texts that have been used to support the ideas of pre-tibulational rapture and millenial kingdom and armaggedon and I find them flimsy indeed.

But I don't know what to make of it anymore. And Left Behind has been the only real discussion of this issue in recent decades to be embraced in the church (another issue it is easier to avoid in order to maintain status quo), and unfortunatly it was hardly a discussion, and hardly holistically biblical.

So where to from here? I don't fully know. I have some ideas, but I confess the need to really give this some thought and further study.

Enter NT Wright. I was recently introduced to his take on Mark 13 and Daniel 7 and found it very compelling. (The Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven is a reference to Jesus being vindicated and coming--not to earth from heaven, but from earth to heaven--in vindication as the King of the Jews victorious over sin and death.) I want to hear him out on other matters. Especially this one. Here is a scholar who is decidely focussed on Scripture, and yet allows it to breathe fresh in dialogue with the church past and present, as well as current scholarship and cultural questions.

I recently heard this provocative quote from Wright: "Heaven is important, but it is not the end of the world." Needless to say, he is causing quite a stir. I am going to look into this further. Incidentally, here is a Time interview, a Christianity Today article, and even an interview on The Colbert Report. I'll be looking at these in the next few days and hopefully I'll have more to say about this in the future. Perhaps you'd like to join me in this.

With all the apocalyptic movies out there and the whole rage of "save the world" propaganda inundating us every day, I think that the Christian message has two elements of truth wherein it meets contemporary thought head on and yet needs to sort itself out and decide what it has to say. Truth is, I think it has something to say in the World War era as well as the Green era that should challenge us more than Al Gore ever could. We'd best get to that, else I think our eschatology simply becomes irrelevant fodder for scary movies, and nothing else.

I think the Bible intends to be far more than that.


Steven Carr said...

Hebrews 1
In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will roll them up like a robe;
like a garment they will be changed.

The heavens and earth will be rolled up and discarded, in the way that clothes are changed.

The old clothes that have perished are thrown away, and replaced with new clothes.

The old clothes are rolled up and thrown away.

Wright is very good on explaining this 'clothing' metaphor, which many people up to now have failed to understand.

Tony Tanti said...

I really need to get into NT Wright, this sounds fascinating indeed.

Can I borrow a couple of his books from you this summer?

Raffi Shahinian said...

I'm glad to hear that you're starting to engage with Wright's work on a deeper level. For me, it quite literally saved my faith.

I've posted something on a particular theological/eschatological issue pertaining to Wright HERE, if you or any of your readers might be interested.

Grace and Peace on your journey, brother.

Raffi Shahinian
Parables of a Prodigal World

ElderChild said...

The Hope Of Heaven!

“For the Hope which is laid up for you in Heaven,
which you first heard in the Word of Truth that is
the Good News”! (Colossians 1:5)

The Hope Of Heaven!

There is a “biblical” translation that has been called
“The Good News”, yet what of The Good News(The
Gospel)? What was the promise of The Good News
that The Messiah preached?

The promise of The Good News for the Jews and “the
lost sheep of Israel”, which The Messiah preached,
was recorded in Matthew 3:12,4:17,10:7, Mark 1:15,
and Luke 10:9, 21:31.

"The Kingdom Of GOD(Heaven) Is At Hand"

And what was the promise of “The Good News” which
Paul preached unto the heathen(gentiles) after The
Messiah “was raised from among the dead”?

“Through the Good News those who are not Jews(heathens)
will share with the Jews in GOD's blessing. They belong to
the same body, and they share together in the promise that
GOD made in The Messiah. By GOD's special gift of grace
given to me through his power, I became a servant to tell
that Good News.” (Ephesians 3:6-7)

And The Good News of The Promise!

“The Kingdom Of Heaven(GOD) Is At Hand”!

A Lively, Living Hope Of Heaven!

When Paul began his ministry, after GOD had “raised up
The Messiah from among the dead”, he testified that
“believers were translated into The KINGDOM OF GOD’s
BELOVED SON”. (Colossians 1:13)


And “The Good News” after the destruction of the earthly
“kingdom” of Jerusalem was:


All Thanks And Praise Be To Our Father!

Believers have a Living Hope of Heaven!

So why is it so many still believe that “The Kingdom of
Heaven(GOD)” is yet to come?

"What is Truth"?

"Pilate" asked The Messiah that question after The Messiah
testified, "You say that I am a king. To this end was I born,
and for this cause I came into the world, that I should bear
witness to The Truth. Everyone that is of The Truth hears
My voice"! (John 18:38)

Do you hear The Messiah’s voice?

The Messiah previously had testified, "The Words that I
speak are not My Words”. “For I have not spoken of Myself;
but The Father which sent Me, HE gave me a commandment,
what I should say, and what I should speak.” (John 3:34,
12:49) Later The Messiah testified to His disciples, "As
GOD sent Me, so send I you"! (John 14:10)

“What is Truth”?

The Messiah bore witness unto The Truth, as He revealed
The Way to The Truth of The Life, both in His Teachings
and His Life example.

And The Truth of “The Good News” promise?

"The Kingdom Of GOD(Heaven) Is At Hand"!

The Hope Of Heaven

Now when The Messiah was raised from among the dead
and ascended into Heaven He was given His rightful place
at the right hand of Our Father and GOD, and "all power
was given Him(by His Father and GOD) in Heaven and in
earth?" "The Kingdom" HAD "Come"! And The Faithful
"were translated into The Kingdom of GOD’s Beloved Son"!

"Giving thanks unto The Father, WHO has made us able
to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in Light:
WHO has delivered us from the power of darkness, and
HAS translated us into The Kingdom of HIS Beloved Son:"
(Col 1:12-13)

All Thanks And Praise Be To Our Father!

And Paul testified of the time when The Messiah would
deliver up The Kingdom unto Our Father and GOD and
The Messiah would be submitted unto Our Father and
GOD once again. (1 Cor 15:22-28)

"Then the END comes, when The Messiah shall have
delivered up The Kingdom to GOD, even The Father;
when The Messiah shall have put down all rule and all
authority and power. For The Messiah must reign(after
He was resurrected), till He has put all enemies under
His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is
death. For GOD has put all things under The Messiah's
feet. But when GOD said, all things are put under The
Messiah, it is manifest that HE(GOD) is excepted,
WHO did put all things under The Messiah.

And when all things shall be subdued unto The Messiah,
then shall The Son also, Himself be subject unto GOD,
HE WHO put all things under Him, so that GOD may
be all in all." (1 Cor 15:22-28)

“Then the END comes, when The Messiah shall have
delivered up The Kingdom to GOD, even The Father.”!
(1 Cor 15:22)

Question is, “The END of what?”

Paul testified, "In that GOD said, A New Covenant,
HE has made the first covenant old. Now that which
is decaying and waxing old is ready to vanish away”.
(Heb 8:13)

That which was decaying and waxing old was the old,
earthly “covenant of laws”, and “The END” was the
destruction of the earthly, natural “kingdom” of Jerusalem!
The earthly “kingdom” would be no more!

All Praise And Thanks Be Unto Our Father!

So believers were, and are, exhorted to,

"Set their affections on things above(Heaven), not things
of the earth"! (Col 3:2)

Believers are exhorted to, “Be not of those whose god is
their belly, and whose glory is in their shame because
they mind earthly things.” (Phlp 3:19)

Now why such exhortations?

“Spiritually Reborn!” A believers “citizenship (Life) was,
and is, in Heaven"! (Phlp 3:20)

And believers “had been translated into The Kingdom of
GOD’s Beloved Son”. (Col 1:13)

They Had A Living, Lively Hope of Heaven!

So “We do not look at the things which are seen, but at
the things which are not seen, for things seen are
temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
We know that our body, the tent we live in here on earth,
will be destroyed. But when that happens, GOD will have
a house for us. It will not be a house made by human
hands; instead, it will be a home in Heaven that will last
forever. But for now we groan in this tent. We want GOD
to give us our Heavenly home, because it will clothe us
so we will not be naked. While we live in this body, we
have burdens, and we groan. We do not want to be
naked, but we want to be clothed with our Heavenly home.
Then this body that dies will be fully covered with Life.
This is what GOD made us for, and he has given us The
Spirit to be a guarantee for this New Life. So we always
have courage. We know that while we live in this body,
we are away from GOD. We live by what we believe, not
by what we can see. So I say that we have courage. We
really want to be away from this body and be at home
with Our Father for our only goal is to please HIM whether
we live here or there.” (2 Cor 4:18, 5:1-9)

The Kingdom of GOD’s Beloved Son HAD Come and
believers were translated into The Kingdom! (Col 1:13)

The END” of the old, earthly covenant was At Hand, for
it was “decaying, waxing old”, and would soon “vanish

And it did! Thanks Be To Our Father!

When Old Jerusalem was destroyed The END came. It
was then that The Messiah delivered up The Kingdom
unto Our Father and GOD! The Heavenly, Spiritual
Kingdom of GOD WAS, and always WILL BE!

"THY Kingdom” HAD “Come"!

"And as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned
with goodly stones and gifts, The Messiah said, As for
these things which you behold, the days will come, in
which there shall not be left one stone upon another,
that shall not be thrown down. And they asked Him,
saying, Master, but when shall these things be? And
what sign will there be when these things shall come
to pass?

And He said, Take heed that you are not deceived: for
many shall come in My name, saying, I am messiah;
and the time draws near: do not go after them. But
when you shall hear of wars and commotions, be not
terrified: for these things must first come to pass, but
The End is not by and by. Then said He unto them,
Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against
kingdom: And great earthquakes shall be in divers
places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights
and great signs shall there be from heaven. But before
all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute
you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons,
being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake.
And they shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it there-
fore in your hearts, not to meditate before what you will
answer: for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all
your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.
And you shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren,
and kinsfolk's, and friends; and some of you shall they
cause to be put to death. And you shall be hated of all
men for my name's sake. But there SHALL NOT A HAIR
OF YOUR HEAD PERISH. In your patience possess your

And when you shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies,
then know that the desolation thereof is at hand. Then let
them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them
which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that
are in the countries enter there. For these be the days of
vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give
suck, in those days! For there shall be great distress in the
land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the
edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all
nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the heathen,
until the times of the heathens are fulfilled. And there shall be
signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon
the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the
waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking
after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers
of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of
man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when
these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up
YOUR heads, for YOUR redemption draws near.

And He spoke a parable to them; Behold the fig tree, and all
the trees; when they now shoot forth, you see and know of
your own selves that summer is now close at hand. So like-
wise YOU, when YOU see these things come to pass, YOU
know that The Kingdom of GOD(Heaven) is close at hand.

And The Messiah testified, "Truly I say unto YOU, that this
generation shall not pass, till ALL these things be done."
(Mark 13:30) "Truly I say unto YOU, This generation shall
not pass, till ALL these things be fulfilled."(Matt 24:34)
(The word "YOU" in the above testimonies referred to those
whom The Messiah was speaking to at that time, not two
thousand, or more, years after!)

Simply, with the destruction of the earthly, natural Jerusalem,
that "which waxed old" DID "vanish away"! (Heb 8:13)

The Kingdom no longer had a physical presence, in a precise
location on the earth, The Kingdom of GOD was now fully of
The Spirit, Heavenly. The END of the Old, earthly kingdom
WAS! "THY Kingdom" HAD "Come" indeed and Truth, and
believers were, and are, translated into The Kingdom of Our
GOD and Father! A Living Hope of Heaven!

And so it is believers were and are exhorted to “love not the
world, neither things that are in the world, for all that is in
the world, the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the
pride of life is not of Our Father, but is of the world”!

Believers knew that their “citizenship” was now in Heaven,
and that “whosoever would be a friend of this world was the
enemy of The Only True GOD”! (Phlp 3:20, James 4:4) And
The Messiah testified that “the works of the world were evil”
(John 7:7) And John testified, “the WHOLE world is under
the control of the evil one”! (1John 5:19) And Paul?

Paul testified, "WE WHICH ARE ALIVE and remain SHALL
BE CAUGHT UP together with them in the clouds to meet
The Messiah in the air: and so shall WE ever be with The
Messiah."(1Thes 4:17:18) and Paul testified, "I was
delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And GOD WILL
PRESERVE ME UNTO HIS Heavenly Kingdom: to WHOM
be Glory for ever and ever. Amen(Let it be so)”(2Tim4:17-18)

I believe that Paul was alive and taken up "in the clouds to
meet The Messiah in the air" when the physical, earthly
Jerusalem was destroyed. At that time “The Messiah came
in the clouds". And at that time of “the END" of that old age,
The Messiah delivered up The Kingdom unto Our Father and
subjected Himself unto HIM once again.

All Thanks And Praise Be To “Our Father”!

The Messiah had testified, "Behold, I COME QUICKLY: hold
that fast which YOU have, that no man take YOUR crown."
(Rev 3:11) “Behold, I COME QUICKLY: blessed is he that
keeps the sayings of the prophecy of this book."(Rev 22:7)
Behold, I COME QUICKLY, and My reward is with Me, to give
every man according as his work shall be."(Rev 22:12)

And the apostle John testified, "He Who testifies concerning
these things said to me, "Surely I COME QUICKLY". Amen
(So be it). Even so, come Yahshua Messiah!"(Rev 22:20)

And The Messiah DID Come Quickly!

The Messiah came at "The END" of the old covenant when
the natural, earthly kingdom of Jerusalem was destroyed!

And so it is today that The Faithful desire to be taken Home,
for their "place has been prepared for them"! Home! Home
at last! The Faithful await their final transformation, "caterpillar
to butterfly" indeed and Truth.

The Faithful Have A Living Hope Of Heaven, and such a Hope
gives them the strength and courage to heed The Call of The
Only True GOD and "Come Out Of Her(this world and it's
religions), MY People"!

Peace, in spite of the dis-eases(lies) that are of this wicked
world and it’s systems of religion, for “the WHOLE world is
under the control of the evil one” indeed and Truth……..

Tony Tanti said...

what's with elderchild copying and pasting in a sermon?

There's some unspoken etiquette rules in leaving blog comments and I would suggest that one of those rules is that the comment should never be significantly longer than the actual post.

jon said...

i'd never heard that before tanti but that's a decent peice of etiquette.

you got some pretty relevant scripture passages there francisco/elderchild, but why don't you come out and say (in a brief paragraph or so) what you are trying to say (as it relates to this blog post)? I could speculate, but it is probably better if you help me out. and if you weren't necessarily trying to interact with my blog post, maybe start by reading nt wright's Time interview. any thoughts on that?