Resurrection appearances

As per many of you I have been reading of the resurrection this morning. None of it reads as if the disciples were having a series of hallucinations, nor is the belief simply in ‘he is alive’ but that ‘his body is not to be found in the tomb’… resurrection.

There were so many cosmic occurrences that surrounded the death and resurrection of Jesus and one that has caused puzzlement is the tombs that were emptied in Jerusalem:

The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many (Matt. 27:52,53).

It has puzzled some commentators and the report is reduced to a ‘theological’ statement separating it from a historical event (R.T. France) – partly because it is only recorded in Matthew. But the language is so similar to that of the language used for the resurrection of Jesus with the ‘appeared to many’ statement.

I think Matthew is very careful in his language – the tombs are opened at his death, but it is only after his resurrection that they are raised. This is not a ‘Lazarus’ resurrection’ but an experience of the resurrection, something that is our hope beyond the grave and seemingly always coinciding time-wise with the parousia of Jesus. Something happens that causes a very real disruption to time in this event.

The dramatic, visible shift to time, the physical manifestation of the ‘new creation’ was present. Our challenge is that ‘new creation’ is here; that we do not have to simply wait for linear time to arrive at the future.

The early disciples did not suffer from hallucinations; they did not need to imagine he was alive; they were rooted in the experience something has visibly and tangibly changed. Easter Sunday – then and now.

An intense season

Yesterday I put out one of our ‘irregular newsletters’ to bring those interested more up to date with where we are at and what we are up to. Inevitably there were some perspectives in there that are personal viewpoints on the wider context, the wider context of both the ‘church’ and the world. Any such viewpoints are ‘in part’, never the whole picture.

It is always possible to say ‘it is a new day’ as the Lord makes all things new on a VERY regular basis, but it is also easy to assume that a new day will give us what we were longing for yesterday. Perhaps it is a new day, but I consider it might be better to look at the season that is here. Seasons can be broken down into smaller units, but it appears to me that there is a prolonged season here currently, one that probably spans 20 years, from 2020 to 2040. 2020, helpfully suggested that it would be a year of sight, and sight is not seen by all for Jesus said ‘let those who have eyes see’. We can proclaim sight and be accurate about that, but then fail to see it. We can have a mouth but not have eyes. (Now I am in danger of assuming I have sight,as Jesus advised the Pharisees that it might be better not to claim to have sight – otherwise ‘our guilt remains’…)

2020 was indeed a year of great sight… the pandemic changed so much and was globally visible.

Now the intensity is ramping up, with hierarchical leadership being chopped down. Many years ago I heard Tom Marshall say that when truth flows in one direction and is responded to with honour and respect flowing in the opposite direction we have a problem. The labelling of any challenging perspective as ‘fake news’ is the response we have seen… what is sown by the body is reaped beyond. There is a huge move toward authoritarian leadership in many so-called democratic scenarios… and after all Rome moved from a sort-of democratically republic to an Imperial context. Many antiChrists have come said one much wiser than I numerous centuries ago, those who set themselves as an authority to be a substitute for Christ (anti: in the sense of replacing) pave the way for what is set in opposition to (anti: in the sense of opposing). 1 John 2 neither affirms nor denies an antiChrist (‘you have heard that antiChrist is coming’) in the sense that popular eschatology wants to teach it, and I take the same position, that of agnostic… but I want to be alert to the trajectory. Unchecked we are on a trajectory of an antiChrist, whether global or personal to my situation.

The trajectory has to be arrested, hence I see 18 months of trauma with self-appointed headship and self-affirming tellers of truth experiencing great pressure and under pressure there are leaks and exposures.

The last two nights have not been great nights of sleep as I have wrestled with the sense of whole movements being shaken top to bottom. Not everything to be exposed will be accurate, nor will the attempt to cover everything be successful.

The far east will become an ever more present reality in the world, and the geography from where many re-alignments will take place. I have long held the view that Jesus dies in Jerusalem for no prophet could die outside of Jerusalem (Lk. 13:33) for religion in whatever form is opposed to the prophetic; Jesus’ death puts an end to that necessity, and launched Paul as one who had to go to the centre that flows from Jerusalem – to Rome. Religion to the powers that shape the oikoumene / the empire. I am grateful to those who focused on ‘rolling up the Roman road’ in the early 2000s and deeply incarnated in the (literal) walk to Rome arriving there on 21st December 2005 (thanks Steve Lowton and companions). However, in these past months I have been contemplating that Scripture covers those two geographies and proclaims that the gospel had been proclaimed throughout the whole oikoumene / world. But… the far east? Maybe we have both become accustomed to the powers that rule over the west, perhaps we have both accommodated them and resisted them… but the powers manifesting in the far east?

These next years will force us to consider the powers that have to be ‘exorcised’ there, and of course they are already beginning to confuse us as they have been busily eating the west, thus strengthening themselves through hiding behind what we consider we already know. As cyclical time (east) meets linear time (west) we can be in danger of being losing sight of the times and seasons but can also be provoked to gain sight of a longer horizon… the day gets longer post December 21.

If we allow the Lord of the harvest to do the sowing, and we resist the temptation to pull up what we think are weeds… we might just have a wonderful set of years, a ‘new’ season that goes beyond Scripture on the trajectory to harvest… beyond Scripture in the sense of catapulted forward from the last word in the book that records Paul’s presence and gospel was in Rome… akolutos – unhindered.

Well out of order person (to come?)

I am currently seeking to slowly (and I mean way slow) put together material on eschatology, a) insisting that a) no one agrees with me, b) stating that I am agnostic on certain aspects, c) holding to a considerable amount is past (both in terms of the first Easter Events and also the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD), and d) that all eschatology is deeply practical asking us to respond to the question ‘in the light of this how am I to live?’.

An area where I am agnostic is over a future ‘one-world-leader’ known as ‘the antichrist’. I observed something quite amusing the other day while perusing what is on YouTube that might interest me – videos on a certain former president of the USA as being ordained and anointed from on high (God looking down in 1946 and seeing this child as the one of destiny to save the nation) and videos presenting evidence why he is the antichrist that has been prophesied!! To save time I will give you my discernment – neither of the above. The fascination with the antichrist is of course something that has been around for a long period of time, with so many people put forward as ‘definitely the one – we need not look for another’.

To get to a fixed view on the antichrist one has to fit together Scriptures that are then claimed to speak of the same person although they use different language. In this post I am simply going to pick up on Paul’s language in 2 Thessalonians concerning the ‘man of lawlessness’. I cover this with some extra detail in an extended pdf article: Second Horizon.pdf.

I will simply pick up on what I consider is a translation error in this post, the part related to the text that I have emboldened below – see what you think.

Let no one deceive you in any way, for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction.  He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you? And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned (2 Thess. 2:3-12).

First the reference is future – future for the readers, but now past for us. Future for the readers – into the ‘second horizon’ of the fall of Jerusalem and what Jesus termed the ‘abomination that causes desolation’, something that the ‘pagan’ Romans effected with their pollution of the Temple.

As for the translation bit – virtually every version has two ‘comings’ (parousia – often referring to the ‘second coming’ of Jesus, the word meaning presence or arrival and in the Roman context of the arrival of the emperor or imperial presence). By making it two ‘parousias’ it pushes the event to the future – our future.

A little bit of Greek in vv. 8,9, jump over and refer back:

ὃν ὁ κύριος Ἰησοῦς ἀνελεῖ τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ καὶ καταργήσει τῇ ἐπιφανείᾳ τῆς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ, οὗ ἐστιν ἡ παρουσία κατ᾽ ἐνέργειαν τοῦ Σατανᾶ ἐν πάσῃ δυνάμει καὶ σημείοις καὶ τέρασιν ψεύδους

Parousia occurs twice (παρουσία), the first one is often translated as being the parousia of Jesus who destroys ‘antichrist’ with the manifestation of his (Jesus’) coming, and the second one translated concerning the ‘coming’ (παρουσία) of antichrist who comes with the work of Satan….

However, and there is a HUGE however, the second parousia if translated ‘normally’ qualifies and describes the first parousia (supposedly the coming of Jesus…!!!!) so we would read the manifestation of his coming (τῇ ἐπιφανείᾳ τῆς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ), which is the coming according to the works of Satan (οὗ ἐστιν ἡ παρουσία κατ᾽ ἐνέργειαν τοῦ Σατανᾶ)!! Hardly a reference to the coming of Jesus. No, no and no! The manifestation of the ‘man of lawlessness’ is that which comes according to the working of Satan

What we have is one coming – the coming of ‘the man of lawlessness’ who Jesus will destroy in the time or context of the manifestation of his parousia in the temple, that parousia that was in accordance to the working of Satan.

All the above a little technical, but I am pretty convinced about this being the only valid way to translate this section, and the change being only made because of a prevailing concept that this is future for us. Another example of assuming Scripture is somehow written to us. It was written in early 50s and fulfilled in their lifetime.

Whatever we make of a future one-world-ruler I do not believe at any level this passage can be pulled in to defend that view. Paul lived in the time of ‘the one world ruler’, Caesar in Rome who claimed to be ‘king of kings’… that rule manifested in 70AD with the desolation brought to the Temple. All indicating Caesar’s conquest according to what was visible, indeed a decade after the conquest an arch is erected in Rome to mark the deification of Titus (who conquered Jerusalem) and to mark the conquest over the Temple. The end of an era… and for those with eyes to see the breath of Jesus marked the end of that era and the continuance of another era, the one who is the ‘king of kings’.

I find so much eschatology twists Scripture to fit a system, but that is not my main objection (for I could be guilty of the same) but that it leaves us with speculation always looking to the immediate future with it always remaining future. I think – even if I am wrong with this passage – better that we seek to align with the breath of Jesus in a way that my breath also seeks to annul everything that opposes God and exalts itself. Otherwise I too might be deluded – even if I can prove I know the truth!