What do you see?

Where do you live?

I have posted on Revelation 21 and Galatians over previous days and in those chapters we have the phrases ‘I saw a new heaven and a new earth’ indicating the renewal of creation in totality, and Paul’s stark statement that ‘new creation’ swallows up all other (old) distinctions. All of this is tied of course to Jesus who is the firstborn of all creation; the one who in his resurrection gives us a hope for the future: our resurrection and the renewal of all things (could be translated as the ‘re-genesis’ of all things, the rebirth, re-start of all things – Matt. 19:28).

A future reality? What is the process to get to that future reality? The second question is not easy to say; my conservative nature means we await the parousia in a fairly classic sense: those who have died in Christ return with him (all the language used is the language of the then current empire and all the activity of the Emperor visiting the city is parallel, where he would come with his own into the city for the imperial visitation). Perhaps like those of the OT era who were waiting expectantly a coming Messiah we will get a lot of surprises. However, the easiest way I have found to tie it all together is that we are supplying the material (every cup of cold water given to big wonderful acts of kindness / creation investment) for the age to come.

John saw the whole of creation renewed; Paul says in Galatians:

For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything, but a new creation is everything! (Gal.6:15).

That last phrase is somewhat abrupt, with it being simply: ‘but new creation‘. In contrast to that basic divide between covenant people and non-covenant people, Paul simply says (I imagine him with a megaphone), BUT NEW CREATION!!! That statement changes everything, every human relationship, every value system. Everything is redefined.

It is the same phraseology in 2 Cor. 5:16, 17:

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we no longer know him in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; look, new things have come into being!

Again ever so succinct – if anyone is in Christ, NEW CREATION, with the next part could equally be translated as ‘everything from a former era has passed away’.

I think the megaphone concept works well. The contrast is so great that there is a dramtic before and after. It is the same shock as we get when we read Rev. 21 about the new heavens and the new earth. Same shock and with John we might be able to simply say ‘future… and until then nothing really is different’, but Paul does not let us make that mistake. It is NOW. The only qualification is that we are ‘in Christ’.

It is that location that affects our sight. How we see ‘everyone’. All are called and invited to live in the new creation where we all make a contribution to the future where there is no more sorrow, tears, indeed no more death.

It does not mean we cover our eyes to what is damaging (there is enough of Paul in the various letters where he confronts all damaging behaviour), but the reason for confronting is that the contribution to the fulfilment and appearing of that new creation is hindered every time we fail to live out our lives humanly (this I think gets to the heart of ‘sin’, to fall short of the glory of God). We are not blind to issues but we see through eyes that, in the words of one who has already made a contribution to the future, ‘I have a dream’.

When teaching on the prophetic I like to describe the seeing aspect as being similar to driving a car where one can see the outside physical world, but if there was a piece of paper on the dashboard and the light comes in a certain way one can also see the distracting piece of paper. If driving best not to look at the piece of paper, or to remove it! If prophesying it is best to focus on the piece of paper. Two realities vying for focus. That is the reality Paul writes about. He is well aware of over-realized eschatology that denies living in a fallen creation, but that awareness is placed in the context of ‘new creation’.

Sight. ‘What do you see?’, is a question God asks, e.g., Amos or Jeremiah; one that Jesus asked of Simon the Pharisee.

It is one that we also have to respond to. It is that sight that motivates us in our relationships and causes people to work for the renewal of creation. Ecological problems do not exist in the new creation, and if ‘new creation’ is here…

A run through Revelation 21

Been thinking a bit about Revelation 21 (actually also been thinking would love a tattoo with:

Καὶ εἶδον οὐρανὸν καινὸν καὶ γῆν καινήν (I saw a new heaven and a new earth) combined with:
‘I have a dream’).

Anyway, tattoos or not, the words have been spoken out by John and MLK has echoed them, and they are eternal words with power. Of course we can suggest Revelation is future but only in the sense that in critiquing political / Babylonish power structures we are still longing for the full outworking of what John saw. The book is prophetic not predictive.

I am of the camp that we await a very specific appearing of the age to come through the Person of Jesus, and in that sense I am very conservative, but I am also very cautious in that ‘who knows’ and are we going to be more right in our expectation than the Jews of the first Century were? And whether conservative or cautious the one thing that seems clear (I hope it is clear!!) is that we are to pray for the kingdom to come, the will of God be done on earth as in heaven. So maybe this is to be the future , it certainly has to be the way we pray – hence I have no time for ‘AntiChrist will come with a one world government’. I have no time for it primarily because to make that idea work one has to combine all kinds of scriptures one with the other, and it is certainly not clear that they are all speaking of the same thing.

If the above is unclear let me try one more time… I expect the fullness of the ‘new creation’ to only be manifest when we have what we term ‘the return of Christ’… but given that we are to pray ‘let your kingdom come’ maybe we have misunderstood the return of Jesus, and that the return of Jesus is the restoration of all things. Either way we pray, long for and work for a transformation of this world… not through domination but through going wherever the Lamb travels.

[And a little ‘footnote’ I don’t think this has anything to do with replacing those in power with some good little Christians so that they take over and make all things nice (meaning crush nasty people and dictate that only things God likes will prevail and be implemented! As well as being as un-kenotic as it comes such an approach also assumes too much that the shape is OK and all we need what fills it to be different. There are three steps in creation – CHAOS, shape and fullness. We have shapes – shaped from Babylon, and we pretty much have fullness of those shapes. A future must first go back to CHAOS, so that we can find some shapes that are worthy to be filled, that can be viewed by the God who hopefully will then say ‘that is good’.]

The first verse of Rev. 21:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 

‘Heaven and earth’ here and in Gen. 1 is a merism for ‘all creation’. It takes the two end points with an inclusion of everything in between: ‘I searched high and low’ does not mean I did not search anything in between! So John saw a new (kainos) creation. Jesus is the firstborn through the resurrection of creation; creation has a hope because of Jesus; indeed part of material creation has gone ahead, for his body (material physicality) is not to be found in the grave. The resurrection is the hope for us all… and the hope for all of creation. This was a central theme in Paul (and something he insisted was a present and not simply a future reality)… the only thing that counted was ‘new creation’, and this changed everything. To hold on to old ways of being holy simply meant that the person was now a transgressor(!) and that our sight of everyone (not simply those who were ‘in Christ’) was transformed; and that all old categories were abolished.

John uses the kainos word for new, not neos. Kainos newness is not ‘I destroyed the old thing… look here is something totally new’, but rather carries the sense of ‘re-newed’, or we might use the term ‘transformed’. The transformation of the whole of creation – a vision beyond one that we carry, for sure, but one that includes everything we hope for.

And in this newness he did not see any sea, for it was ‘no more’. In the original creation we have three elements: heavens, earth and the middle element of ‘waters’. Waters above and waters below. Everything from heaven could only come to earth through the element of the waters. The waters / sea were symbolic of resistance, of everything that was not controllable. The disciples were amazed at one who could control the waves (‘what kind of human is this?’); Jesus walked on the water… The beast that arises out of the earth follows the beast that arises out of the sea in Revelation; the sea was the means by which trade took place in Babylon / Rome; the trade being unjust and also involved trading in ‘human souls’.

For us now there is a sea… there is a resistance… we pray for heaven to come but we have to deal with the unruly for it come… Maybe even we can read in this verse the need for and a vision of the transformation of all trade. It is for this reason we need to take note of ‘they will not be allowed to trade (buy and sell)’ with caution about all we are involved in economically but also to realise that there is another interchange in Scripture, that of giving and receiving. It is more blessed to give than to receive, so the shift has to be into ‘what I have I give to you’, rather than how can I earn money (and using such an approach we have to radically redefine how Scripture uses the term ‘work’)… and in that we discover that God gives an increase to the giver, hence of the increase of his government there will be no end. The giver receives and there are no losers!!

A new creation – where ultimately all who have passed away and are in Christ will be resurrected (hope was always in Scripture for the receiving of the blessings of God here… not there) is what we pray for. We live in the light of it, so our actions are to be a witness to the hope that is in us; it is not here yet… maybe we await for the parousia, maybe the parousia awaits this to happen… either way we need our vision corrected on a daily basis (what do we see?) and we pray ‘let your kingdom… the fullness of creation come… on earth as in heaven’.

Europe is dying?

Flew back to Spain a few days ago and with a few hours to spare in the airport I went for a quick peruse through the book store. I saw this book ‘The Strange Death of Europe’ which caught my eye, but quickly moved on. At the other side of the shop I had this strong impression – go back and buy that book. So I picked it up and bought it. If I had skimmed through it I probably would not have done so, it is not exactly on my page!! Glad though I have read it, and if one follows the trajectory laid out, the destination does seem to be ‘the death of Europe’. Of course, I am of a different persuasion (and biased) that Europe is being privileged and carrying a responsibility to open a whole new path regarding the kingdom of God. I with faith / optimism / delusion hold to the rebirth of not simply Europe but of the globe with the seeds sown from the first Century truly coming to fruit… a ‘reformation’ (not sure that is the right word) beyond that of the 16th Century. Also given that reading is a challenge for me, let me get in to it!

Why will Europe die? Murray draws the three strands together that are in the sub-title: immigration, identity and Islam. We cannot afford to allow immigration as is happening to continue, for the identity of ‘who / what is Europe?’ will be radically altered. Europe will no longer be Europe, compounded by the incredible increase of Islam eroding the shaping foundation of the Judaeo-Christian values and faith will further mean that no longer will Europe be connected to its roots and in an embrace / appeasement of Islam Europe as Europe will simply no longer exist. This death of Europe has started and the final outcome is in sight. Facts, figures and stories abound in the book, and I suggest if we project from here to the not-too-distant future his thesis is indeed compelling.

I could argue of course that what we have is a far-right perspective and so say ‘typical’ (OK maybe I cut the post short now and simply say that!), but what really provoked me was what might a faith response look like? Murray is a ‘Christian’ atheist, one who does not believe in God but in the core values of the Judeo-Christian tradition (as he sees them), hence the projection from the past is important, and the only framework he has. Across the pond the same appeal seems to be being made, hence the trajectory there can be seen in what takes place here. Re-birth becomes possible if faith is involved, otherwise we should simply begin to write the obituaries now, and write them without hope. We could slow the death, and really make re-birth difficult with (my opinion) the ‘between the lines’ appeal by Murray. Stop the immigration, restore sovereignty to the nation-state, legislate from the centre…

He is no fan of any form of identificional repentance, nor sees the validity of Imperial seed sown and the reaping of that later. Confessing guilt for the past, for colonisation, trampling over cultures has no place and only adds guilt and the accommodation of foreign cultures and values. He does not accept that what has been sown is coming back to be reaped. And of course on Christendom, this is where he as a ‘Christian’ atheist and myself part company. This is not to suggest that society has no benefits from that era of dominance, much like the fall involved in the monarchial institution in Israel was not without its benefits, but those benefits being due to God being willing to go where we go, and certainly not due to God’s approval of either monarchy nor Christendom.

But a vision?

If anyone is in Christ… sight changes. I understand that when one looks at where we are, and draws the graphs forward there is little of good cheer involved. But what if we were to be crazy. What if we thought there was ‘new creation’? What if we did not despair, but any looking to the past drew great hope from the context that the small Jewish sect (followers of the way) that grew up in an obscure Roman province, and who carried a message that was offensive to their own people (crucified Messiah) and foolish to the wider audience (one crucified of countless thousands) that was not simply being branded about in evangelistic settings (raise your hand) or in revival settings (I will put my hand on you), but in the darkest, occultic, multi-faith, politically oppressive scenarios… Hope and then… a huge big ‘forget that, for I do a new thing’. Hope from the past but not shaped from the past. WOW.

Immigration. Always a sign of new stewardship coming. Multi-faith – I don’t like that – but do we have to learn about true faith. If we start with faith defined in a box it will be very difficult to find faith. This is the biggest days of opportunity, amidst chaos, and the ‘dust of death’ to see something birthed that will be incredible. Maybe ‘The Sure start of something to get on board with in Europe’ might be a good title (yes I know a little too long, but we can work on it).

The book is sobering, but it is not the content of the book that is depressing. It is for me how much we as the body of Christ just long for a return to where things were. That might be understandable for a ‘Christian atheist’. The challenge for us as believers is whether the ‘god’ we have believed in, the ‘god’ we have commanded the Scriptures to confirm, is truly the God who makes all things new or not. Maybe not ‘atheism’, but…

More than meets the eye

The eye… what one looks at, or more precisely ‘how’ one looks at ‘someone’ is important for us all. A central element in Paul seems to be that something has already happened, for

… if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Cor. 4:17).

That is pretty comprehensive: ‘there is… everything… everything.’ The preceding verse states that ‘we regard no one from a human point of view’. Sight has changed, how we view everyone. That is a challenge beyond a challenge. Vladimir Putin is included? I guess so, for when Paul said no one, he had to be including Caesar and that particular one who raised the sword against him – Nero, the person who sparked the ‘antiChrist’ theme of Revelation (666 / 616 both being how his name was numerised).

Now to a Jesus’ text on how we see.

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matt. 5:28).

Sight…

In John 8 we read of the woman ‘caught in adultery’ and of course we do not read of ‘the man caught in adultery’. Patriarchal world-view, let’s pin the blame where it belongs… and enough in Proverbs to back this up biblically. So Jesus saying ‘but I say to you’ is not simply going from action to the heart (via the eyes) but is also going against the flow of biblical patriarchy (yes I did write that). If we only had Jesus we would be reading the ‘man, and only the man is guilty’.

We have then a wonderful correction to patriarchy. We see the same thing with his statements with regard to divorce where he (unlike the culture of his day) gives equal rights to women as to men.

The purpose of the ‘look’ is central to what Jesus is saying, interestingly the word ‘lustfully’ does not actually appear. It is the Greek word, epithumeo, the same word that Jesus said when he spoke to his disciples that he desired to eat the Passover with them (Lk. 22:15), and is the word used to translate the 10th commandment:

You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife (Exod. 20:17, LXX).

The text is a whole lot deeper than ‘control your sexual desires’, for that 10th commandment includes coveting donkeys and animals. When we combine it with Paul I think it is informing us that our sight is important. Whether that concerns sexual boundaries, or other boundaries, but essentially it is to do with our desires of possession. If there is a new creation we can have our sight changed. Old (patriarchal) definitions have gone, indeed old creational definitions have gone. We do not ‘see’ anyone that way. Ticking the box concerning sexual ‘lust’ gets us so far, but there is much further to go. No-one is here to meet our expectations, nor to be the fulfilment of our desires. They are first seen as living in this new creation and so cannot be classified nor objectivised.

Favourite verses

You must be born again / from above (John 3:7).

That is a favourite verse… spoken to one person… but to be fair it also says ‘no-one can see the kingdom of God without being born again’. So perhaps justified as a ‘favourite verse’.

Go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor… (Matt. 19:21).

Not such a favourite verse, spoken to one person, but maybe with some justification it is not universally applied (just wiped my brow with relief right then).

It is amazing how we choose some verses over others, and thankfully maybe just about come down on the side that is OK-ish.

I was totalling up the other day who intimidates me:

Those with more money than me5%
Those who are not of my gender50%
Those younger than me92%
Those smarter than me91%
Total: thank God the battery on my calculator ran outQuite a lot

So a favourite Scripture of mine is:

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Cor. 5:16,17).

My short list above has a left-sided column that is composed of categories ‘from a human point of view’. Not surprisingly then the right side column is not a pretty sight. ‘See’ is the command. Now there is a challenge. See there is ‘new creation’. This current one is groaning, currently visible in the Ukraine, but groaning when Martin sees with old eyes. One is visible to all via TV; the other I can keep hidden… though the fruit will be visible to anyone who approaches me.

I think maybe this (2 Corinthians 5:16,17 quoted above) is my (current) favourite Scripture. If the born again Scripture is a favourite it seemed that Jesus said the sign that we really are allowing the reality of what we favour to be true for us is that we are unpredictable. If I allow the content of the verse that I claim as favourite to transform me then my categorisations need to go. Got a lot of work to do… or find another favourite Scripture. The latter will be easy, the former… not really sure I know where to start.

Perspectives