Prophetic Observation: The Old becomes New

I read this post by Matheus Lapa recently and asked if I could re-post here. Matheus is not even close to being half my age(!!) but I have a great zoom connection with him on a regular basis. Brazilian, living in Canada, married to Eduarda with soon to be two children. He is certainly one of a new generation ready to rise from Brazil with perspectives that will take the body of Christ out of the ghetto. Enough from me!!

“In this way, if anyone is united with the Messiah, they are a New Creation – the old has passed away; behold: what exists now is different and new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).


Okay… Paul, a widely loved and studied figure in our days, right?! I suspect, however, that during his time it was not the case – for many, if we truly understood Paul, he wouldn’t be accepted by the overwhelming number of people who advocate for a “Pauline theology” today.

Paul was a sign of contradiction to his fellow countrymen and Jewish brothers due to Jesus’ call, the Messiah, on the road to Damascus, and he certainly represented a contradiction to Jesus’ disciples and the churches of his time: not only because he claimed that the apostles, who were considered something, had nothing to add to him (Galatians 2:6), but also by the way he lived his own life.

One of the situations that occurred was in Corinth, a city where Paul worked and nurtured a community. A group of super-apostles sought to undermine his apostolic authority, claiming to possess greater wisdom and authority, highlighting their eloquent preaching.

The marks of Paul’s apostolic authority should be seen in what these super-apostles rejected: his simplicity and humility, weakness, and his sufferings for the sake of the Body of Christ.

The emergence of new apostolic individuals will be characterized by a disregard for conforming to what is already established; they will envision a new path to be taken, which will require new expressions to fulfill what lies ahead. The structure of these apostolic individuals will not be about glamour and fame, eloquence and wisdom as the established order dictates. These men and women will be a contradiction: radically humble, intentionally servants, persevering patiently through the persecutions and resistances that will come their way.


Who will be able to perceive this new apostolic expression? Just like Paul as a new apostolic expression was not recognized and received by everyone as an apostle of Christ, even by those he had worked with for a long time. Only those who have a new perspective, new eyes, will recognize the new authority.

Paul addresses this issue in 2 Corinthians when he declares that he would not assume a posture expected by the super-apostles. The apostle states that “we should not judge anyone by worldly standards” (5:17). What does it mean to judge by worldly standards? It means to rely on human standards, to decide based on what is seen or heard. We judge by worldly standards whenever we fail to see others through Christ.

How can we know people in a different way? This question can be answered when we look to Jesus. As we understand how Jesus saw people, we will understand what our attitude should be toward the world. According to the Scriptures, the Messiah would “not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears” (Isaiah 11:3).

To be inspired by the fear of the Lord is to have our inner being ordered toward the contemplation of God, relating to all things as God ordained. In practical terms, people who do not “judge by worldly standards” will never judge something about someone based on what they see or decide based on what they hear because they know that there is much more than what our eyes can see. God establishes this standard of relationship for the new creation as a break with this age.

Only those who have their perspectives renewed, ordered by the fear of the Lord, will recognize new apostolic expressions and will be developed, participating in the new horizons established by God.


The language of Scripture regarding the New Creation is marked by an imagery of continuity and discontinuity. For example, the vision of the New Creation as the final fulfillment of all things, where there is no more death and suffering, goes beyond the vision presented in the Old Testament. Isaiah’s vision of New Heavens and New Earth, a language used to describe the restoration of Israel, where the sins of the nation would be completely forgiven (Isaiah 65:17), the prophet sees the prosperity of the righteous but does not see the abolition of death: “For the young man shall die a hundred years old” (Isaiah 65:20). Thus, the New Creation (in Isaiah) is not something entirely different. It incorporates an ideal that is recognized by the Jewish mindset that was shaping a new understanding for the people of God – so it can say something about their identity, purpose, and hope for this present world.

Similarly, while this ultimate eschatological horizon, seen by the prophet John in the book of Revelation, has not yet arrived, we also need to articulate a language that is not only able to announce the reality of the New Creation but also generate an imagery that guides and orders life. This was the apostolic challenge of Paul, and I believe it will be ours as well: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17); “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:15). What does it mean to be a New Creation? How is the New Creation shaping today for the future? What are the signs we see today?

The challenge of this journey toward the ultimate eschatological horizon is what Isaiah would face if he had access to what John wrote about the reality of the New Creation: to have a framework capable of embracing both continuity and discontinuity, submitting to the process of being formed into a new form at each stage.


Paul’s apostolic activity is not related to what is now known as ‘church’. Paul was a builder – he was interested in forming New Communities for the New World of God. Thus, his instructions were not limited to ecclesiastical organization, but a social ordering of nations toward the one God and Lord.

The emergence of new apostolic expressions will also mark the formation of new communities that will be much broader in their scope, diverse in their expressions, and above all, marked by love. The context in which we are living as humanity is, in many ways, similar to what the early Christians experienced: they lived in a pre-Christian era, and today we live in a post-Christian era. This means that today we are in the exact context for the emergence of new community expressions.

Of course, this emergence will not be ‘easy’, the gaze of suspicion and distrust will remain, but it will be inevitable – they are already a reality, even if they cannot be seen now. In the coming years, new apostolic voices will present new expressions.

Post Pentecost

Always love the festivals and what took place in them, and thinking as to how faithful we are to what was initiated in them. Pentecost has just taken place and this year I have focused on the post-Pentecost comments:

Fellow Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know—this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up… (Acts 2:22-24).

This Jesus God raised up (Acts 2:32).

Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” (Acts 3:36).

The little words such as ‘this’ Jesus has impacted me. What ‘Jesuses’ were not raised up? Quite pertinent as we all have a Jesus in part of our own making. The religious Jesus, the angry Jesus, the Jesus who looks like me…Those ones were not raised up!! Only Jesus of Nazareth, ‘this’ Jesus.

There has been a debate as to the difference of the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith, and the debate has been at an academic level… but in reality it should be at our level. I believe in Jesus (the Jesus the Christ of my faith… the Jesus of my making) but is the Jesus that I believe in the Jesus that was raised, the one that is identified as ‘this’ Jesus?

The other side of Pentecost there are some that we name Jesus that will increasingly be found to be in the grave. Time to go seek and find the Jesus that God raised… the one who does not look like Martin, and if I can truly leave all the others behind in the grave and can find the Jesus that God raised then I will find that Martin (unbelievably) begins to look a little like him. I will find him through being offended, in measure shocked… but oh what a release.

Back to the end

I’m planning on revising, re-jigging, re-doing… whatever the right word is – I am planning on looking again at eschatology. Not sure how different it will be from the series I recorded some 14 years ago (; probably slightly nuanced and perhaps from occasional different angles but I would expect pretty much along the same lines.

Like most subjects how one reads the Scriptures will determine what one draws out of it, so that is probably where I will start. If the texts (and by that I mean OT texts in the main) are predictions then we will be looking for fulfilments that are literal; if the texts are not predictions by definition they will not have been fulfilled (literally) but if we continue to read them as predictions, guess what, we will be looking for the fulfilment any day soon! Newspaper in one hand, imagination on speed and hey-ho conspiracy theories will prosper!

Here are a few of my foundational approaches:

Prophecy is not history written in advance. The history book can tell me what took place in the (say) 14th Century, but prophecy is not the unfolding of what is about to take place in the 21st Century in the sense of a set of events. Scripture was not written to us, but it is written for us. We are not Jews with prophets giving us a hope for the end of the Babylonic exile; and prophets writing about that hope are not writing to us, but the words remain with power for us.

Prophecy is not always fulfilled. This is a big one to grasp. If within Scripture (and within the same books at times) there is prophecy that reads as a prediction and then it is also recorded that it did not take place this must make us cautious about insisting on a literal fulfilment. Jesus is the centre, not the periphery of prophecy. Even when there is a fulfilment (the young woman will be with child in Isaiah’s day) the fulfilment is through a young submissive woman in the opening pages of the Gospels.

Prophecy releases hope (it is promise not prediction) and the hope is often expressed in the current context: the worship of Yahweh in Egypt and Syria is a case in point (Ezek.19). What a hope! The two powerful nations that sandwiched Israel in the ‘fertile crescent’ taking not only the worship of Israel’s God but being given titles that were given to Israel by God was a hope that would have expanded all vision… Literal fulfilment? Or to be fulfilled when all nations acknowledge the God of Israel? By all means use the Scripture to pray for Egypt and Syria; by all means prophesy a great visitation in those lands… but to hold it as ‘therefore this will take place’. Promise, promise, promise. Promise goes far beyond a literal fulfilment (hence again the point that all the promises of God are in Jesus). As I comment in my article on Galatians ( the coming of Jesus changes everything – so radically that to re-establish what once defined transgression would be to become a transgressor!

And I think we have to connect the end (eschatology) to the beginning (protology). The project that was inaugurated with the words ‘In the beginning God…’ will be completed by God. Burning up, throwing on the scrap heap is not an option. Israel called under her oppression to God; Pharaoh that oppressor. Now the whole of creation calls out under her oppression; humanity the oppressor. But God hears, not in order to destroy but to liberate.

And maybe I have to give some consideration that we have so many words before us in the 66 books that I work with as canon but maybe… If with a whole story line of hope there were many in Jesus’ day who studied the Scriptures but missed the day of visitation, perhaps not just those dispensationalists who work hard (if there was a Greek word behind that term I would translate it as ‘manipulate’), but perhaps the level headed people such as the current writer might also miss what is going on; maybe there will be some twists and it is not as we think. There remains some common hopes – resurrection of the dead; renewed creation; God changing address – but as for the process: ah well I will write and record but in it all hope that is firm and cautious with any series of events.

Hope for all of creation

Easter Sunday has arrived again to remind us… if he is not raised then we are still in our sins; that God raised him from the dead by the Spirit of holiness thus declaring him to be the ‘Son of God’. Not that Jesus is alive, but that he is alive and his body has been raised.

In the Western mind Jesus is raised and raised alone but we have in a wonderful Scripture in Matthew:

Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 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: 50-53).

It is such a strange Scripture that many commentators say it was not a literal event but is making a theological statement (possible… I do not suggest either that Jericho nor Ai as reported in Joshua was literal, but theological… historical and archaeological reasons for my perspective). However, this Scripture in Matthew I do think is literal: his reference to eyewitnesses suggest that to me. Matthew is very careful to say that they came alive (and by that I consider he means ‘bodily resurrection’) after Jesus was raised. Jesus was the firstfruits of the resurrection – everything that takes place is after his resurrection.

When he dies everything is shaken:

the Temple and creation. Has to be as creation is the Temple for God. And at his resurrection we can also add ‘time‘ because resurrection is promised to be ours, not when we die, but when he appears, yet here we have bodies raised ‘ahead of time’.

So resurrection is not a lone event. In the Eastern tradition there is a major ‘harrowing of hell’ and the icon in the Greek orthodox church is that of Jesus pulling Adam and Eve out of their graves or out of the fires of hell. That certainly takes it too far for me – hell: it is one thing to believe in hell post judgement but in the time prior to that?

Laying that ‘too far for me’ bit aside it so communicates the victory over death; the final enemy is defeated. Everything changes, the confirmation of it is the resurrection of Jesus. Is there a proclamation to the dead (1 Peter 3:19, 20)? Difficult passage to translate, hard to know what to make of it…

Yes numerous unanswered questions; but it seems so unlikely that there is no activity between cross and resurrection. The cross rips the curtain up – God cannot be found behind the curtain; it causes an earthquake; bodies of those who have passed get ready as the clock changes dramatically. The resurrection indicates he is to be found, but not among the dead; earthquakes continue not now with an eclipse of the sun but when the new day was dawning: the cross pronounced the end of an era, the resurrection the beginning of a new one; time changes and I guess something is released through those who have gone before and never seen the fulfilment of their hopes. Nothing is lost. That is the resurrection hope and assurance.

Sounds – ever so important

I don't understand

It would appear that the first revelation of God came to humanity in a sound:

We heard the sound of you in the Garden.

They knew God was about to appear because they heard the sound in the garden. ‘Those who have ears, let that person hear’. We so need our ears opened so that we discern the sounds.

At Pentecost God came in a sound.

And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting (Acts 2:2).

Language. Through language we both communicate so as others can be included in the conversation or we use language to divide. Identity is strengthened through language. We are first ‘Catalans’ not Spanish is one aspect of language, hence it was no surprise that at times language (such as Catalan or Welsh) was forbidden to be spoken.

Was the language confusion at Babel a good or bad thing? It certainly was a necessary thing, so that they might not destroy the whole future through a united imagination that was focused on making a name for themselves. [Babel and Babylon not only sound alike, but are one and the same… the reason for translating it as babel historically was simply that it communicated the English ‘to babble on’. The chapter is a critique of Empire where one language and one vision will make a name for us. ‘Make the land of anywhere great again’ is not a very smart move!]

Understanding one another is desirable. My mother used to say she could not understand why other people did not speak English… (a little question here that you can easily get the answer to via Google, so no prizes… my family came from Orkney and one of the many words that one does not find in the English language that we always used was ‘peedie’, such as ‘luk at that peedie buey’… so my mother wanted everyone to speak English?). Speaking the same language – wow that would help me and many others!

Yet God seems to honour language difference. The day of Pentecost where the vast majority – if not all – gathered spoke Greek fluently (the language that Peter used when he stood up to address the crowd… common Greek spoken to the people with an accent from Galilee!) yet they heard God speak to them in their own language when the disciples were speaking as a result of the Spirit coming on them. (I have twice that I know of spoken in languages that I have not known – that might take another post to explain.)

Imagine being in a restaurant / bar where each table is from a different language background and everyone is speaking at the same time and all at a volume. In your head you would go from ‘I think they are speaking English at the table over there… I am sure I heard something in German spoken over there…’ but you would be unable to be absolutely sure, as you might hear half a word here and there but each language would be lost in the next one as the words poured out and the volume ebbed and flowed at each table.

I had two experiences within weeks of each other similar to the above. I was present with one other person in a prayer house, and it was dedicated sacred space (don’t like the language but in a fallen world that is what it was). All of a sudden my ears were opened and I could hear angels communicate. It was strange and I could not make out a word. As I tried to focus on something another ‘voice’ came over the top… this continued for some minutes and I thought I am not sure how to describe that.

A few weeks later I was present in a prayer gathering for Europe. Many languages were present and the encouragement was that everyone should read the ‘Disciples Prayer’ in their language. It was the same sensation. Straining to hear a word in one language was almost discernible but was soon overridden by another stream of speech in a different language. It was a strange experience as the overall effect was the same as I had experienced a few weeks earlier.

The overall effect I realised was so similar to the sound of rushing water. A flow but as each water movement makes a sound it then gives way to the next and the next and…

And there the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east; the sound was like the sound of mighty waters, and the earth shone with his glory (Ezek. 43:2).

and his voice was like the sound of many waters (Rev. 1:15).

And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters (Rev. 14:2).

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals (Rev. 19:6)

How does God speak? Not in the voice and language of a white Western male. Not in the voice of the majority; not in the voice of Imperial rule. God speaks in diversity; the smallest language group (and culture) carries something of God. We read (and from memory that fourfold description comes 7 times in Revelation):

every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.

The sound of many waters; not one sound dominating – hence the lie of Babylon had to be acted against. If we do not silence diversity something amazing happens… ‘we hear them speak in our language’. God can communicate to us… if we do not silence what we do not understand.

What a day!

Good Friday… what a day to remember. I put up a post yesterday with a perspective on what is taking place on the cross; what the issue that the cross is to respond to. I used the three headings of ‘for God?’, ‘for us?’ or ‘to deal with the bondage to the powers?’. Not surprisingly I move away from ‘for God’ in that sense of turning God toward us. That never has been an issue: God is and always has been for us… we are certainly not ‘saved from God’; the cross saves us and reveals God as Saviour, and not simply Jesus as Saviour. Redemption is the united work of the Trinitarian God for us.

I read a short review yesterday saying that anyone who calls the penal substitutionary view of the atonement as ‘cosmic child abuse’ (I think that term was coined by Steve Chalke) should also then term the virginal conception as a case of ‘cosmic rape’. Really????

The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God…’ (Luke 1:35).

Sex by the gods is a pagan concept – as is appeasement / placating the gods / getting on their good side. The comparison used in the review I do not think comes close to being suitable. The Spirit’s presence is as a divine womb, a divine carrier for the one being carried within the womb of Mary. ‘The Spirit will come upon [Mary]’ is surely parallel to that of the Spirit coming on the disciples at Pentecost, or the Spirit brooding over the waters at creation. God – not defined gender-wise – is described far more as a mother in partnership with the human mother, Mary, in this text.

We cannot, for example, say that ruach (breath, wind, spirit) is feminine and ‘womb’ (rechem: vowels come later in Hebrew so same basic word structure) therefore God in this instance is ‘mother’… but we can see the nurturing element of God. In creation the Spirit is working and draws from the earth the human (Adam, Adamah – from the earth). The transcendent God embracing the immanence of creation to bring forth humanity; the transcendent God entering a room with a sound from heaven and covering those gathered so that something might arise among them, that which will be termed ekklesia.

In all three situations we do not have an image of anything approaching a god who forces entry on creation, Mary nor the disciples in that upper room.

‘Cosmic child abuse’ might be somewhat offensive, but it at least forces a reconsideration of what is being said (‘saved from God?’ or from ‘the wrath of God?’)… but to push back with ‘cosmic rape’ I consider is not appropriate.

Today we remember that we are saved from our sins, that we put Jesus to death; that we can be free from the powers of this age. What a GOOD day.

Why the cross?

For God? For us? 'For' the powers?

I am not one who is familiar with the ‘church calendar’, but do note when it is Easter, Pentecost, Christmas – the big ones. And here we are at Easter. With Noel Richards, I was on an ‘Off grid Christianity’ podcast that is due out this coming weekend. It was focused on Easter and the ‘why did Jesus die on the cross?’ question of course came up. Martin Purnell (interviewer) afterwards said he was anticipating that we would go down the ‘to fulfil Scripture’ route whereas I went down the path of by the Romans as they were nervous of him and he was handed over by the Jews. Crucified as a non-violent resister (if he had been in the camp of violent rebel his followers would also have been crucified) to bring to an end the whole Jesus-movement. That is a take on the human side of things that fits the history, the shock being that the movement did not only continue but grew and affected / infected city after city of that one-world government. [The human element is clear in the NT records; the Jewish high priest stating that it was Jesus or a threat to the Temple / the nation’s freedoms by the Romans – hence sacrifice Jesus for the nation – a whole theme that deserves more than a blog; and the consistent theme in Acts that ‘you put to death the author of life’ – God did not kill Jesus.]

[An important aside: did God need the cross in order to forgive – treading on toes here and this one needs much more than a blog… but for now just a teasing aside.]

Coming back to a more central issue: who was the cross for? There are three main aspects under which a view of the atonement can be placed. For God: either to deal with the ‘wrath’ of God or the ‘righteousness of God’. Here lines up the quoting of ‘My God, my God why have you forsaken me?’ Scriptures… The cross though does not change God – and to get a bigger picture we need to read on in Psalm 22 to see that Jesus was not abandonned, that God did not turn his face from Jesus on the cross. I find it very hard to align such views with what I read in Scripture. In my YWAM days I was heavily influenced by a view presented that a dutch lawyer and theologian seemed to initiate that of ‘moral government’ (Hugo Grotius being the Dutchman, and the theology developed by Charles Finney). It was a move forward from the straight penal substitionary view, suggesting that the cross was the upholding of the law, so that both the law and forgiveness could be in place. A move forward… but not enough. The cross is not for God… God did not need to be reconciled!

that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor. 5:19).

The Trinity is not separated (as if this could happen!) through the cross. The cross is a Trinitarian response.

The cross is for us. Here we see such views as ‘moral influence’. The love of God changes us. There certainly is that element present, and this would be much more widespread in the aspects of theology influenced by the Eastern strands of our faith. And from that strand we also get the concept that ‘What Jesus did not assume he did not redeem’ – hence he took on humanity’s situation and walked another path… he finally goes to death – and overcomes. So the cross is not payment to God (payment – that concept is owed to Anselm of Canterbury some 1000 years ago, and moves to the law courts with God as the judge waiting for payment some 500 years ago) but is about opening a new way for us. Hence the cross has to be tied to the resurrection. No resurrection, nothing achieved at the cross. For us? For sure. We are the ones who need to be reconciled to God.

The cross is to deal with the powers (couldn’t simply write ‘for the powers’). Having recently read again Galatians I think this is very central to Paul:

who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age (Gal. 1:4)

And a few verses earlier – the first verse in that book – we have the reference to the resurrection. As the book continues Paul starts to write about the stoicheia, the principles / spirits that shape human life and society. He calls them weak and then with an amazing approach he basically says that what the demonic powers were to the Gentiles the law was to the Jews! It is not possible to get from the history of Israel through to Jesus and beyond to come up with that viewpoint… but it is possible and essential to come to that viewpoint if we start with the future back through the cross to Israel! [Hence we read the Scriptures narratively, historically and eschatologically.]

The cross is to deal with the powers – if they are not shifted there is no deliverance… hence the use of the term ‘redemption’ in the Gospels, being ‘redeemed from the powers’ – all referring to the Exodus where there was no payment for the release. NO PAYMENT. The cross is to set us free from this present evil age – an age when the powers rule; if set free then there is a ‘new age’ within which we live, or as Paul puts ‘new creation’.

The cross – with not just Jesus coming out of the grave but others who were ‘saints’ rising (Matthew records this). Something took place totally out of time sequence, indicating a shift, a major shift, in the tectonic time plates. The future had arrived; the powers stripped and exposed, with the pathway opened for all who wish to walk into freedom.

Jesus death did indeed open the way for the nation to be ‘saved’ (Caiaphas carefully considered words, that John says was a prophecy!). And opened the way for freedom to those beyond the nation.

The cross – not to change God. After all God was ‘in’ the cross. The cross, the result of human sin – literally, we sacrifice Jesus for us; sacrificing true humanity for fallen humanity – our choice; the choice of Barrabas (son of the father) to go free; God embraces our sin, embracing the choice we make to create a door to our freedom. The powers cannot hold their grip in the light of such a ‘God choice’. Love, eternal, self-giving love looses all such holds. Death and resurrection. The cross is for us.

Of course all the above can be reduced to technicalities. But if we see, if we ponder, freedom comes. At the end all the men disappear. The women remain. And one disciple – perhaps the one who had ‘special needs’, who is not looking to ‘understand’ what he witnesses but to ‘see / feel’ it. That is the path to freedom.

Burnt up? NO WAY

Always toward a new creation

I am working my way through some former material on this site and realise that the podcasts on ‘eschatology’ I recorded some 14 years ago. I would still stand by what is in there but would modify some aspects and express other aspects differently. [A revision of those is a forthcoming project… now what date is indicated by the word ‘forthcoming’?]

In thinking about where I would take any revision I am re-visiting the passage in 2 Peter 3: 10-13:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be destroyed with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.
Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and destroyed and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

The one passage in the NT that might be able to be read as the destruction of creation. There is much to comment on here, and most of that will wait the appointed time in a fresh podcast! However, here are a couple of comments:

The flood ‘destroyed’ the kosmos (3:6). That destruction was not what we would term a destruction, but is an appropriate ‘apocalyptic’ word to describe what happened. It destroyed the world as it was known and as it behaved. The language is over-stated (like our statement ‘you frightened the life out of me’ does not mean ‘please now bury this corpse’) but although literally overstating the situation, it is using language to inject meaning into the phrase.

In other words ‘destroy’ (apolluō) does not mean ‘destroy’ but is descriptive of a before and an after. Pre-flood the theology is of Adam and those who follow; post-flood Noah and those who follow. Hence the reference to ‘the world that then existed’ when Peter writes about the world pre-flood.

The current creation (3:7) is being kept for a different order of ‘destruction’ – one by fire. The ‘fire’ element is common to descriptions of the future; fire to purify with the imagery based in the work of the iron foundry where metal is purified through fire, all the ‘dross’ being removed, ‘burned up’ and what remains being pure.

The flood waters destroyed one order of creation… but only to a level and only temporarily. There is a different order to come. Paul uses the same imagery:

Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— the work of each builder will become visible, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If the work that someone has built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a wage. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire (1 Cor. 3:12-15).

Testing of fire awaits one and all. Material that is appropriate for temple building (Paul’s context in those early chapters of 1 Corinthians) will survive the fire [‘temple building’ is another future podcast… as and when]. That material is related to the ‘work’ that has been done (2 categories of ‘work’: one that burns in the fire and does not come through the fire, and one that survives the fire).

Return to 2 Peter…

and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Old translations have ‘burnt up’ for that final word ‘disclosed’. The NIV (1970s) was the first version to move away from ‘burnt up’. ALL older manuscripts have the word (literally) ‘found’ as that final word. Only later manuscripts carry the alternative reading (‘burnt up’) – it is certainly wrong, and has (almost) clearly been changed because of a world-view. That world-view being one of earthly existence ceasing and we ‘all float off to the sweet by an by’ (a wonderful fulfilment of Greek hope and a total anathema to Hebraic hope!). Anyway, my point is that the final word is ‘found’ (same verb that we and the ancient Greeks used to shout out ‘I have found / discovered it’: Eureka!).

Further the text translated as ‘everything done on it’ (NRSVue) is literally… OK let me go back a little:

The heavens passing away, the ‘stoicheia’ will be burned up, with a loosing result that the earth and the works will be found!

A complicated verse to translate, but it seems to me that Peter is communicating a major shift of order (‘stoicheia’ is used to refer to principles that bring order / oppression and often seem to refer to heavenly powers – see my notes on Galatians); then the final part of the verse having the verb ‘to loose’ perhaps being connected to the last part of the sentence or to the whole shift of order… but whatever part it connects to, something is loosed.

And as far as the earth is concerned. It is found and the ‘works‘ (literally: ‘and the earth and the works within it’). Now we can see the link to Paul – the works will be ‘revealed’ by fire.

The earth – burnt up? No way. It will be found – the real earth, not the one we have polluted and oppressed. (Another podcast? The comparison of humanity to Pharaoh; Pharaoh oppressed Israel; humanity oppressed creation; Israel cried out groaning; the earth groans for release / redemption…)

So, the one passage, the ONE passage, that could be construed to be a burning up of creation does not stack up. It only indicates a burning up if we first come at it with a belief that that is the future (a Greek world-view); that we do not allow the word ‘found’ to be the correct word in the manuscripts of the text; and if we disconnect ‘fire’ both from the ‘water’ reference within the same text and the wider use of ‘fire’ in the New Testament of the future; and that we twist apocalyptic language / imagery to be literal.

And if in doubt Peter goes on to say

But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

A new creation (using the adjective ‘kainos’, not the adjective ‘neos’: kainos being ‘renewed’, ‘neos’ being ‘something that was not there before’).

That is the one hope that is consistent in Scripture. A ‘I saw a new heaven and a new earth’ hope, of which all statements that ‘I have a dream’ points to. ‘Let your kingdom come’.

All sorted

The last couple of posts were (as labelled) perspectives… now having worked it all out I am ready to write the definitive answers to the future of the universe. Alternatively, when I re-read this one later I will call it ‘that was really only a perspective, nothing more’. Good to have alternatives!

What I am seeking to address is somehow in response to these kind of questions:

  • Why was Paul doing what he was doing?
  • Did he have a plan as to what he would seek to work toward once he had an ekklesia in city-state after city-state? (Or, alternatively, are we to have an idea what we should be working toward?)
  • How does the apostolic work (as per Paul and all those who follow in each generation) relate to the Great Commission?
  • How does the Great Commission relate to the Creation mandate?
  • Is the hope for Creation beyond the parousia or could it be this side?
  • And the parousia itself? Have we got that one sussed?

Even before I write I realise this is going to be one of those perspectives and certainly not the final word, however, I recognise when situations come up that challenge previous thoughts it normally indicates some fresh directions are coming into view. So let’s launch in.

Humanity, earth and temple

The primary goal is not to prepare people for heaven but to live on earth, both in the here and now and the age to come. Genesis and the creation accounts I think indicate this. The seven day preparation mirrors the 7 days preparation for the opening of Solomon’s Temple (2 Chron. 7:9). Creation – heaven and earth – is a temple with the heavens as the throne and the earth as the footstool, with humanity as the image (we could almost say idol) placed inside the temple, in line with Ancient Near Eastern culture. Eden itself then is a mirror of creation, it being something of a temple itself.

Matthew 24 and the Great Commission is about temple building, it being a repeat of Cyrus’ commission to build a temple in Jerusalem for God (2 Chron. 36:23 and Matt. 28:18-20). Nothing, though, related to Jerusalem in it, but to the ‘ends of the earth’, and no physical building work involved. The earthly Jerusalem had a temple, or to put it more accurately, it was a temple-city, with around 20% of the land space being occupied by the temple and its buildings. When coming to Jerusalem one could only say, ‘I saw the temple’. It was no Canterbury with a cathedral, it was the Temple with some add-ons! Contrast this to John in Revelation: ‘I saw no temple’ in the new Jerusalem. The contrast is complete. A city with no temple is a statement far beyond ‘a new Washington with no capitol building’.

The whole earth as a temple (creation) and the New Jerusalem (the size of the then known earth, and the shape of the holy of holies) as temple, with the Great Commission being that of temple building. This is the overarching framework I suggest that has to shape us. There is indeed a parousia but before then, what?

Ekklesia as movement

Jumping back a step we have Paul planting (right verb?) an ekklesia in city after city. He did not plant a sunagoge but an ekklesia. That word tying back to the calling of Israel, to listen to the voice of God and consciously act out any instruction, and (important in the hitorico-cultural context of the all-under-one-rule of the oikoumene known to Roman Empire) tying into the assembly of those who were qualified to have a say in the current and future culture, shape and activity of the city. (We can use the rather rigid translation of ‘called out ones’ (ek kaleo) provided we understand that it is to those called out for the purpose of something bigger than themselves.) Hence, as I suggest in my books, the people called in such a way are predominantly a movement with the ‘one another’ of community within that movement. If we lose sight of ‘movement’ (a new world movement not a new church movement!) we will end up with a wrong importance placed on ‘church’, with an importance in itself, not an importance based in its mission. It is the earth that is the Lord’s and all its fullness – ironically we are ’emptying’ the earth at this time.

I suggest that the ekklesia was not called to be separate but to be within the context as it was to take responsibility for the context. Leadership within was to watch over (episkopoi – translated as bishops but literally ‘over seers’) what came in / out and influenced that community (hence we read of ‘elders’, comparable to those who sat in the city gates). They were there to give the ekklesia the best possibility of developing to fulfill her destiny. Care within (community), teaching, etc. all fit that scenario and were all to lead to the growth of the body to do the works of service; the goal and context for those works were as per in the beginning the work within creation. We are created in Jesus for ‘good works’, surely to be understood as works that mimic the Creator who worked and at the end of each day proclaimed ‘it was good’. God observed that he had done a good day’s work; work forever therefore was to be defined as that which enabled creation to move from any level of chaos toward shape and fullness.

Work is not defined as ‘what job do you do?’ but ‘what contribution are you making to the future?’ Money, as in pay packet, does not define value to that kind of work, but what time (part of who we are, each person being given time in packets of minutes, hours, days etc) have you given that sows into where God wants the world to go? Perhaps we can call the difference as being between chronological and redemptive-eschatological time: redemptive as it addresses the mess that is here and eschatological as it is shaped by the vision of what is to come.

Ekklesia in Jesus

This is how Paul distinguished who he was writing to from the already-existing ekklesia in the same geography. The contexts were big (taking Corinth as an example, around 250,000) and the ekklesia that he left behind that would have no need of him in the future, if their faith was to increase, was probably around 50 people, as they could be hosted within one house, the house of Gaius (we know this from how he references this in the letter to the Romans).

Size apparently was not important, nor was social status. Faith and purpose seems to be paramount. Or to put it bluntly, growing the church, pulling more people out of the burning building, planting new churches… none of that was of first importance. OUCH! But if it is not about getting people ready for heaven but for living here now and living here then that maybe ties together. And if it is helping contribute to the shape, culture and essence of where people live, thus responding to the groan of creation. That groan that is waiting for the ‘daughters and sons to come to their glory’ (Romans 8), and glory I consider is the reversal of sin, it is the coming to the stature as humanity. The incarnation, the incarnation that shows that God is not SO different to humanity. Totally different to fallen humanity, but not so different to true humanity. Hence God could become human; humanity can be created ‘after the likeness of God’; we can be transformed into the image of Christ.

The next stage?

Here an ekklesia, there an ekklesia, everywhere an ekklesia, and then? Probably shake it all about. Not waiting for it to grow (numerically) but looking for it to grow up into (toward?) the fulness of Christ, the fullness of him who fills all things in every way, who descended to the lowest depths and ascended to the highest heights… for the ekklesia. He ascended and descended throughout the whole of creation, the temple.

Growth, taking responsibility. Understanding that all authority in heaven and on earth is implicitly given to the people who are seeking to disciple the nations. A shaping of the heavens, a restriction on the powers that are operating with the authority originally given to humanity; an authority on earth over the context (‘what kind of human is this that even the winds and waves obey?’). Cyrus had claimed, so did Rome all authority in earth. In so doing they had to make sure they did not anger the gods; Jesus with all the eternal favour of God stood before the protypical ekklesia to release again the stalled temple building project; to show that there was no glory in Rome but that glory would rest on people, who would work until there was ‘no temple’ to be found within any city.

I think Paul was working toward Spain, that western end of the empire and then! Well we have to answer that one… answer the what now that stage 1 is complete.

Then with no focus on numbers but the atmosphere changes, people get turned on with the breath-taking, deeply practical vision of a transformed world. The battle is big, consumerism has consumed and the supply is diminishing, but a vision of a future, not one shaped by fear, but by faith. New ideas emerge of how to reverse the CO2 issue, the loss of species (maybe a measure of a new evolutionary process?) as we ‘see’ a new creation. People coming on board (my obsession with the Asiarchs of Acts 19) who don’t know Jesus at a personal level but contribute to the future, and if we are to be judged by ‘how we build’ and the building project is temple building, maybe some of them will more than share in the age to come; and along the way as darkness is pushed back, as the battle in the gates is won, some of those Asiarchs and a whole bunch of others will find that God is not a theory but is found in a response to the face of Jesus, who literally puts a face to the name.

Does ekklesia disappear?

I think the better focus is to ask what is to appear, for that is important. A bit like Jesus – it is better that I go away, for then… It is the then that has to grab us. No point in trying to get something to disappear nor to worry about that; better to focus on what we need to see appear – signs of the new creation.

In the meantime what is vital is that the story is kept alive. Israel lived around 3 festivals (synagogue, developed in exile, around a weekly setting). Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. The big story embedded in their psyche and re-emphasised yearly. Passover, for they had to remember they were once in slavery. Liberation, freedom from… and we need to fill in the blanks, but surely liberated from the consumerist activity to that of the ‘life giving Spirit’ activity. Pentecost, celebrated then as the giving of the law, the giving of the community shaping instructions, that related them to God, to each other and to the land; for us the giving of the Spirit. We are not alone. We do not strive alone. We are weak, but… And Tabernacles, living in the wilderness in our tents but God dwelling there as a sign that tells us we have not arrived, yet we are not static, God has tabernacled among us, and one day there will be a dwelling of God with us, not a dwelling in a temple, but a dwelling in a creation-temple.

Until then, the story is kept alive. Until then there will be an ekklesia in Jesus, but this ekklesia people will be everywhere, a people of hope who inspire. All around them will be those who have come close to the kingdom, and those who fall into the kingdom, who wander all around the kingdom, who do the work of the kingdom, on whom God smiles. Yes maybe some ‘tares’ also but a whole lot of wheat, and I am sure some of the ‘wheat’ never used ekklesiastical language nor rituals.

Liberation… come on earth… don’t stop groaning… maybe we will hear you.

In / Out or Direction?

Been a little silent on here for the past few days as caught up with a bunch of other stuff, including right now with Gayle (and Andrew Chua) in Silicon Valley. Great connections for now and with potential for the future. Principles of participating in ‘city’ shift / transformation seem so transferable to corporate / global life. Two of the important hurdles to get over for those working within corporations are that they are not employed by the corporation – I guess that one should be pretty obvious, but when not acknowledged it is very difficult to outwork something of a kenarchic (kingdom) movement. It is also difficult with that approach to effectively disempower mammon.

The second aspect is that believers are not involved with the purpose of converting people (a side effect).

It is that barrier that is essential in the shift to ‘transformation’ / discipling nations. Maybe as a way in to it we can consider the two paradigms of in / out and that of direction. The in / out paradigm borrows heavily from the presentation of Jesus to a religious leader in Jerusalem where he needed a spiritual experience, so radical that it was akin to a birth-again; this would enable him to see the kingdom and to be like the wind – unpredictable in activity but consistent in character. However, I suggest that there is another paradigm that Jesus presented where the direction of a person was very important, and that he put a measurement along a spectrum:

And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions (Mark 12:34).

Proximity to the kingdom. Direction, headed toward seems to have value. Paul maybe is indicating the same thing in Romans when he talks about those whose behaviour is in line with kingdom values, where a judgement will be made on that great day according to their behaviour (Rom. 1:12-16).

Could it be that there are those ‘born again’ that are not very close to the kingdom, and those who are not ‘born again’ who are close to the kingdom?

Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper (Jer. 29:7).

The above Scripture is a challenge to the inward looking prayer (if it goes no further) of praying for the peace of Jerusalem. Prosperity of the city is not to be understood primarily as ‘economic’ and certainly not when it is tied to (defined by?) peace / shalom. A city that prospers (BABYLON!!) is one that is nearer the kingdom, it is one where there is a tangible measure of the kingdom having come, the will of God being done, the culture of heaven on earth. It is moving in a direction… ever closer to the kingdom.

And ‘you too will prosper’? Again not be thought of in terms of ‘economic’ prosperity (and this kicks back to who is the employer). Prosperity for the believer is that their life seeps out, that seed falls everywhere, including on good and honest soil.

The relationship is symbiotic. We need the corporation to be moving closer to the kingdom if we are to prosper. It is not ‘I am prospering (saved?) and I am calling for you as individuals to cross over and be in’, but ‘I am sowing, working, praying and immersing myself in a way that you will experience (corporately) shalom’ and as I do that ‘our / my life is overflowing (being saved) so that the Christ in me becomes visible’.

Early thoughts above… let them marinate.