Saturday, 30 December 2017

Substitution in the Gospels

Tom Wright said something like:

"If you...watched Jesus going around with good humour loving people (loving people): welcoming them, being kind to people...This isn't just decoration - this is telling us something about what God incarnate looks like...This is the victory which has substitution as its means - which means what it means within the story of God, the world, Israel, Jesus and us - and flowing out of all that it is also of course the example...

If a friend of mine and I are walking along a riverbank and the friend slips and falls in, and in an act of dive in to try to save him - but if my friend is standing beside me on the bank, it makes no sense to say "I'll show you how much I love you" and just go and dive in. The cross can only be an example if it's also doing something else. And in the gospels it is winning the victory for people and it's doing so through Jesus as the substitute.

God's Way of Doing Kingdom

Since death was demonstrated to have been defeated, by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, it follows that His death had been substitutionary; that by His death He defeated death; and that His death therefore defeated sin, and hence defeated he who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and disarmed the principalities and powers that are at the back of pagan human rule. It is done - but it's still to be outworked for us, and for God's good creation, each in its own order. 

Saturday, 23 December 2017

What Resurrection Means

Some pagans in the first century already believed in the continuing existence and consciousness of the soul, somewhere, after death. So if that's all the New Testament meant by 'resurrection' too, they wouldn't have needed to distinguish the Christian hope from something many pagans already thought!

But the New Testament does offer something which paganism didn't believe in, by saying: "If the dead rise not, then we are of all men most miserable". They hoped in something extraordinary, and it informed the way they lived.

Many Jews also believed the souls of Maccabean martyrs would be kept safe in God's hands: yet they believed in a resurrection to come even after that, distinguishing it from it.

So: resurrection doesn't mean just the souls of the dead waking up to consciousness, or being transported to heaven - it means bodily resurrection.

Corruptible flesh - flesh susceptible to sin - can't inherit the kingdom of God. Therefore once God has raised up our mortal bodies, He is going to transform it.

A 'physical' body, is this body quickened by the soul; but a 'spiritual' body, is the body quickened by the spirit. Like a 'helium balloon' and a 'hydrogen balloon' - the terms don't describe different balloon casings - but describe what's powering the balloon. Our body, quickened by the soul, is currently corruptible - but when our body is raised and transformed into a body quickened by the Spirit, it will be incorruptible and thus compatible with the kingdom of God.

If a body is so completely decomposed by that Day - no problem to God. Many cells in our bodies are already replaced periodically: yet when they are replaced with new cells, it is still us. A bit like a flowing waterfall: it maintains the same shape, even though it's different water molecules that keep flowing down the waterfall.

However God puts it together, it will be recognisably you. It will be an accepted continuance of you. But made alive by the Spirit, rather than by the physical/soulish combination, it will also be transformed and fitted for the kingdom of God.

Like Jesus' own resurrection. His physical body was raised - it didn't stay in the grave - it wasn't just that Jesus' soul went to heaven. His body was raised - and yet it obviously also had some transformed characteristics: characteristics which fitted it for heaven. It will be exactly the same for the dead in Christ.

Describing the soul of a dead person as going to heaven doesn't defeat death - it merely describes death. Yet the New Testament teaches that Jesus destroyed death on the cross, for us as well.

Resurrection means an undoing of what happens by death. Physical death.

There is a spiritual resurrection too - but the New Testament distinguishes physical resurrection from that.

Resurrection will occur at the last day. It will be the grand reunion of the living with the dead, with Christ. By its own definition therefore, it will be visible and unmistakeable by all.

Early Christians still looked forward to the resurrection, even after AD70. They had no thought that it had happened in AD70, or that it should have, they never redefined it, and all of that they found entirely consistent with a proper reading of the Olivet discourse and other New Testament passages.  

Christianity as History

The thing about Christianity, is that it claims to be history. It claims witnesses. That means its claim is able to be assessed on the evidence. And on the balance of probabilities.
In that sense, it's not merely a 'religion', nor a 'philosophy'. History is either something that happened, or it didn't.
If believing that Messiah died for our sins, and was buried, and that He rose again on the third day makes our whole being in all its multi-facets, and our society seem to just add up right, that also says something.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Narrative and Story

Every movement within a story, is understood by its place in the overarching narrative.
Every line of any chapter in the Bible, is understood by its place in the book in which its found, and in the overarching narrative of the whole Bible.
The overarching narrative of the Bible, goes something like this:
God created the world, created humans, placed them in a paradise, to play a central role in the world under the Creator, reflecting His image in the world;
But humans fell, chose idolatry, and went into exile from paradise, affecting the whole of creation, and suffer death.
It had always been God's plan though, for Jesus to come as God in Person, to restore God's good creation. And He told a friend of His named Abraham about this plan, in advance. It would all be achieved through his Seed.
He called Israel to be the custodians of that promise, the promise to restore the whole world. In the meantime He gave them a Law. But of course Israel couldn't quite keep it, being also themselves fallen humans just like the rest of mankind. So He also promised them a better covenant in future.
But meanwhile that was all used as part of God's plan. The Son of God came, and took upon Himself the brunt of evil, brought against Him by the blinded state of both Gentile and Jewish rulers; this He accepted on all mankind's behalf, and He rose again, defeating evil and death, and reigning in life, inaugurating the new world.
Believers in Jesus became beneficiaries of the coming new world, in advance - experiencing its power, salvation and justification in the present, through the Holy Spirit. Through their faith and suffering, they extend God's creation-restoring program in the world.
Until the Day when God is present with us again, and finally removes all enemies, and completes the victory over death which He has already inaugurated through the cross, even delivering the creature itself from the bondage of corruption, and dwells with us forever in Paradise in a new fully-restored world.
That's pretty-much the overarching story of the Bible.
So prophecies such as the destruction of the temple, are to be understood by their place in that overarching narrative - not as being the whole narrative itself.
Prophecies such as the coming general resurrection, aren't to be redefined so as to fit inside a temple-narrative - it's meant to keep its place in the overarching story.
Don't reduce the whole narrative down to a narrower narrative which was only ever meant to form part of the larger narrative.
AD70 did see the fulfilment of specific things, as intended - but that was only ever part of the overall story of redemption.
The story begins and ends in paradise; involves the whole of creation, including the physical: it's not only about the temple and Israel; the pivotal moment was not so much AD70, but the cross and resurrection of Jesus - He inaugurated and brought into this present world, the promised eternal life of the coming new world.
The announcement of this is called 'the Gospel'. The task is given to Messiah's Body, the Church, in union with Him.

Narrative Within a Narrative

The overarching narrative of the Bible, is a story which begins with creation, and ends with new creation. 

It begins in a paradise, and ends in Paradise. 

In the beginning it was about all mankind, and all of the creature - and it ends up being all about all nations and about creation itself also. 

The narrative was never just about Israel, and then post-Israel. 

Never just about temple, and then post-temple. 

Those narratives are in the Bible - but they only found their place within the overarching narrative of the Bible. 

The gospel isn't just the climax of the story of the temple, and of Israel - it is that, but it's more than that. The gospel is the climax of the story of creation and the full restoration of creation. It doesn't stop short of that.

'This present age' began when human-kind began in the world - so 'the age to come' means the new earth, inhabited by redeemed mankind.

From a paradise without death - to Paradise where death has been defeated. 

Where God walked with man - to where God dwells with mankind, visibly.

Terms like "This present age', and 'the age to come' encompass a far bigger narrative than just the physical temple/Israel narrative.

'The end of the age' and 'the new earth' means far more than just the end of the Torah and the beginning of the New Covenant. 

All of that fits within it - but the full story is a more over-arching narrative. 

We haven't seen the 'new world' yet. We are still in 'this present age'. 

But the good news is that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the coming new age has already been inaugurated in the present, though we still look forward to its culmination.

So we live in a kind of overlap, where the power of the 'new age' has already begun, in those who believe. 

The announcement of this good news began at the cross and resurrection of Jesus - before AD70.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

The Story of the World

Some people seem to think 'the age' began and ended with the Torah in Israel. But God's overall plan was always worldwide, not just Israel-wide. And it isn't only people-wide - it also encompasses God's physical creation. 

It's a bit hard to pinpoint 
'the moment' between old and new: there's a certain amount of overlapping. But if I was to mark a decisive moment: I would pick the cross and resurrection of Jesus. But still there is a sense of inauguration versus culmination. An already/not-yet sense. 

We do still look forward to the culmination of all things (which will include the general resurrection of the dead). Resurrection-life has already been inaugurated spiritually (at the cross, not in AD70) - but the day is coming when our mortal bodies shall be quickened too. All creation groans, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God, when it shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption. 

Israel's Old Covenant ended at the cross, not in AD70. But there was a historical overlapping in which Israel continued attempting to carry it out, until they no longer could, after AD70. But AD70 still wasn't the be-all and end-all of everything the Bible encompasses when it talks about the coming of Christ and the eternal new age.

The overarching story of the Bible goes from creation to new creation, paradise to Paradise, encompassing not only Israel but all mankind, and not only mankind but the creature itself. And all through JESUS. Beautiful story! 

End of the World

The Greek word for 'end of the WORLD' in Matthew 24:3 is αἰῶνος 'aionos'.
(Some modern English versions translate it 'age' rather than 'world'.)
The disciples, like most Jews of the time, had a broad concept about 'the aionos' (the world/age).
And they shared concepts with most other Jews (except with the Sadducees) about certain events which they thought (based on the Old Testament) had to happen in relation to 'the end of the aionos'.
The same Greek word 'aionos' is used in Luke 1:70 where it describes not just the period of history in which the ancient nation of Israel existed; not just the period when the Torah - the Old Covenant, which God gave through Moses, was still in force; nor just the period when the Temple existed; nor just the Apostles' generation - the word is used to describe the period of human history from its very beginning.
So the Biblical definition of 'this present age' predates anything Judaean: it encompasses instead the whole of the present world as we currently know it.
That's the Bible-concept, the ancient Jewish concept, the disciples' concept, which Jesus affirmed, of 'the age' and of 'the end of the age'.
So actually the word 'world' isn't such a bad nuance after all for English translators to have perceived as inherent within the disciples' use of the Greek word.
Jesus was talking, in part, about the end of the world.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Thoughts About Preterism - by Marcos C. Thaler

Marcos C. Thaler Preterism's “Proof Texts” Analysed
“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” Matthew 24:34.

This verse is preterism's “proof text” for their theory that Jesus actually came (His Second Coming) in 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. According to preterists, because Matthew 24 refers to both the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the Second Coming, ALL of this must have happened at the same time because Jesus literally said, “This generation [meaning the people who lived in the first century] shall not pass, till ALL these things be fulfilled.”

Preterists use Matthew 24:34 as Exhibit A that the Second Coming of Christ occurred in 70 AD. But does it really say this? Let's take a closer look.

Matthew 24:1 - The disciples came to show Jesus the buildings of the temple.
Matthew 24:2 - Jesus said the temple would be destroyed.
Matthew 24:3 - The disciples asked when “these things” and the Second Coming would occur.
Matthew 24:4-31 - Jesus then listed many signs of the destruction of the temple and also described His Second Coming.

Matthew 24:33 - If reference to the signs, Jesus said, “when you see all these things (the signs), know that it (the Second Coming) is near, even at the doors.” Thus the signs (“all these things”) are clearly different from the Second Coming. Look again: “When you see all these things (the signs), know that it (the Second Coming) is near, even at the doors.” Thus “all these things” must be different from the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and must precede His coming.

Matthew 24:34 “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”

Preterists contend that “all these things” include the Second Coming and that all must have occurred “before that generation” passed away, that is, in 70 AD.

But this is not EXACTLY what Jesus said. He said that before that generation passed, “all these things” (referring to the destruction of the temple in 70 AD) must occur. We have clearly shown that “all these things” DO NOT INCLUDE THE SECOND COMING.

Thus when preterists argue that “all these things” INCLUDE the Second Coming and must have occurred in 70 AD, they are not sticking closely enough to the actual words of Jesus Christ.

The truth is, “all these things” (relating to the destruction of the temple) did occur in 70 AD before that generation passed just like Jesus Christ said.

In the same way, what Jesus said about His Second Coming will also be literally fulfilled. Jesus Himself will “appear” “in the clouds” “with power and great glory” and “all the tribes of the earth” (not just in Jerusalem) will “see” His return. There will be a “great sound of a trumpet” as Jesus descends with billions of shiny “angels” to gather His elect from all over the world. Matthew 24:30-31.

Preterists say we should take verses 33 and 34 literally. I agree. Literally, “all these things” PRECEDE the Second Coming. In the same way, we should also take verses 30 and 31 literally. Jesus said He would come on the clouds, with power and glory, for the whole world to see, accompanied by billions of shiny angels to gather His elect from all over the globe.

We should take verses 30 and 31 literally by believing in a real, visible, future, all glorious second Coming of Jesus.

That's what Jesus Christ literally taught in Matthew 24:30-31.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

N T Wright on the Gospel

"It isn't just that God is becoming king, through Jesus and what he is doing, but that God's kingship is a different sort of kingship altogether."

"The good news is that the one true God has now taken charge of the world, in and through Jesus and his death and resurrection."

"The good news was, and is, that all this has happened in and through Jesus; that one day it will happen, completely and utterly, to all creation; and that we humans, every single one of us, whoever we are, can be caught up in that transformation here and now."

N. T. Wright

Question About Dispensational Pre-Millennialism

It seems to me that Dispensational Pre-Millennialism has to say that Revelation's vision of a 'Great White Throne Judgment' does not represent Paul's 'Judgment Seat of Christ' - otherwise, their system has some humans being raised to life to enjoy reigning with Christ on the earth for a thousand years, and other humans not, without anyone's eligibility or non-eligibility having been determined at any sort of judgment.    

Monday, 11 December 2017

The Gospel as News

"What good new regularly does, then, is to put a new event into an old story, point to a wonderful future hitherto out of reach, and so introduce a new period in which, instead of living a hopeless life, people are now waiting with excitement for what they know is on the way.

The Christian good news is supposed to be this kind of thing. The gospel of Jesus Christ comes as news within a larger story. It points to a wonderful new future. And it introduces a new period of waiting that changes our expectations"

- Tom Wright

Sunday, 10 December 2017

The Overarching Story of the Bible, according to N. T. Wright

When N. T. Wright was asked to summarise his understanding of the overarching story of the Bible, he answered something like this:

"If I can try and summarise the whole Bible in a couple of sentences, which is always a ridiculous thing to do, but it is remarkable how in a book composed of many books written over the space of more than a thousand years, there is a sustained narrative which is about a good creation in which humans play a central role under the Creator; then about the dramatic 'fall' so-called, in which humans rebel and refuse this purpose;

then about the call of Israel to be the people through whom God puts both the human race and the whole world right, and how they get it wrong as well, so we have a double-bind now;

then of course about the coming of Jesus Himself as God in person, who is both Israel in person and human-kind in person, to sort out the double-problem; and then about the way in which, through the coming of Jesus and then through the work of Jesus' Spirit in and through His followers, um the plan gets back on track, leading to an eventual future in which Jesus Himself will be the One uh who has flooded God's whole creation with the justice and peace and joy and purpose and fruitfulness which was always the Creator's purpose.

So that's the big story. And once we see that big story, it's hugely exciting to see how all the different bits of it as it were come up in three dimensions within it."

Tuesday, 5 December 2017


Some historians date the Jewish Diaspora back to AD136, more so than to AD70.
Certainly the Temple was destroyed in AD70, and Jews of Jerusalem were taken as slaves to Rome. The loot from the Temple funded the construction of the Colosseum.
But Jews weren't always disallowed from living in Jerusalem, from that moment on.
And they were still allowed to carry on their 'religion', what was left of it.
Christianity still wasn't completely distinguished from Judaism, as far as Rome was concerned.
In AD115, Jews managed to revolt again, killing 200,000 Romans in Cyrene, and 240,000 in Cyprus (according to Greek-Roman historian Cassius Dio, born AD155).
Then in AD133, the Jews managed to regain control of Jerusalem, including 985 surrounding villages and 50 fortified strongholds. The leader of the revolt was regarded as a Messiah - they even minted coins with the inscription "Year Two to the Freedom of Israel". Hundreds of thousands of Romans were killed.
Emperor Hadrian sent in 12 legions of troops, including troops from Britannia and Egypt. An estimated 580,000 Jews were killed.
This time the city was renamed.
Jews were banned from living there.
Many survivors were sent as slaves to Egypt.
Practising the Jewish religion (what was left of it) was banned all over the Empire.
At that point it became clearer to the Romans that Christianity was distinct from Judaism.
In light of that history, is it possible we try to squeeze too much significance into the AD70 box?
At least I can say this: there's no historical or literary evidence, as far as I know, that early Christians thought the resurrection had happened, or had to have happened, either in AD70, or AD117 or in AD136...
But there's plenty of evidence they still looked forward to it happening, in the future.
And they didn't see any conflict between that and what Jesus said, or what the Apostles had written.

A Quasi Torah Debate

If the Temple still stood, and the Levitical priesthood was still functioning, maybe the Torah-debate that raged in the first century BC would still be a valid debate to have today. But it doesn't, it isn't, and so it no longer really is the same discussion today. 

No matter which way we explain the place of the Torah today, after it's all said and done, it really only boils down to two lifestyle differences between us: diet, and days. And those two things could hardly make a person a Torah-keeper.

Overdoing AD70

AD70 was bad, but we can try to squeeze a bit more significance into it than was intended, I think. 

The resurrection didn't happen (Paul said the dead will rise, at Christ's coming).

Marriage didn't end (Jesus said marriage won't exist in the new age).

The time of the Gentiles didn't finish (there were at least two more wars with the Romans).

The Jews weren't fully dispersed (that happened more fully about 66 years later).

The Jews' problems didn't end. 

Persecution of Christians didn't end - it was really only just starting. 

Rome didn't stop causing problems. Rome itself wasn't destroyed. That came hundreds of years later. 

The world's problems didn't end. Earthquakes, famines, wars, and pestilences all continued. 

The Gospel still hadn't reached literally every tribe in the world. And it still hasn't, actually. (If anyone is willing to go and preach to an unreached tribe, inbox me for potential placement.)

But some predictions were fulfilled in AD70. And yes, it was bad.

Thoughts About the Olivet Discourse

When the disciples asked Jesus about His 'coming', they didn't at that time have a concept that Jesus was ever going to go away in the first place, did they?

I know Jesus told them He was going away. But Phillip asked "Where?" Did they know He meant, 
Go to heaven? Maybe, or maybe not.

If not, then 'coming', in their minds, maybe didn't necessarily mean only that He must descend to planet earth. He was already on the earth! And they may or may not have known He was going to leave the planet.

So could what they were in effect really asking have been something like: 

"When are you going to take this to the next level".

"When are you going to gear this up."

"When are you going to show this for what it really is".

"When are you going to really show yourself up".

"When are you going to wrap this up".

"What actions or events will mark the occasion".
"What can we expect in the lead-up".

And they knew what it would ultimately involve: the end of this present world, and the start of the new. 

They also knew the righteous-dead would be resurrected, to participate in the new world. That was a given (only the Sadducees didn't believe that, but pretty-much everyone else did). The disciples also saw no need to later redefine what was meant by 'resurrection' either.

But now they were being told that the Temple was going to be destroyed too. And Jerusalem was going to fall. That meant, not all Jews were going to enter the new world just because they were Jewish. That was sobering, but not entirely a new idea - the Qumran community, and the Pharisees, and probably the Essenes warned of the same. As did John the Baptist, who was from a priestly family.

After Jesus' ascension the disciples more clearly understood that the heavens must receive Jesus until the time of the end of all things - until the time of the restitution of all things - then He would come back again the second time. 

But for now, in the disciples minds, might they have been basically just asking Him:

"When are you really going to hit your straps?"

"What events will happen in the lead-up?"

So Jesus mentioned a number of things, so they wouldn't be alarmed when they happened. All of which, even their own generation would see, Jesus said. Not necessarily His immediate audience (Peter, James, Andrew and John), but their general generation. 

These things were all 'the beginning of sorrow', early contractions, 'signs' - not the 'birth' itself, Jesus said (of 'that day and hour' knoweth no man) - these were still all lead-up things to that ultimate Day.

That generation saw all of those lead-up signs. And many of the same things kept occurring in subsequent generations. And still do. But the final end - when death shall be swallowed up in victory - when the resurrection will occur - and all enemies political shall finally be put down - and all things end, and all things are made new - that's still to culminate in future, and no-one knows when.

Monday, 4 December 2017

New Jerusalem

I think there will come a real new heaven and earth, for sure. But the Book of Revelation describes the New Jerusalem as a present reality too, in some way. It's in heaven. It's coming. It'll establish itself on the new earth. Heaven and earth will kind of be joined together! But in the mean time, the river flows. On either side are the tree of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.

That describes a present-day function, not a future one. Because after the final judgment, there won't be any more healing for the nations, will there? It describes sinners being outside the city, but still living. That's the case now - but you wouldn't describe the situation after the final judgment like that, would you? 

So the New Jerusalem is a present, heavenly, spiritual reality, and we on earth belong to it, have come to it, and are interacting with it - even though it is yet to come in all its final glory. 

Not every symbolic detail in Revelation is meant to happen chronologically in history only after the previous symbolic detail has seen its fulfilment in history. A key to understanding the Bible, I think, is to understand when there's an 'already' and a 'not yet' aspect to the kingdom of God.

Some Thoughts

When 'Hebrew-Roots' folk say they're following 'Messianic Judaism', I think to myself, "Which of the Judaisms are you incorporating into your Messianism?" Because there were numerous Judaisms, from the first century BC to the first century AD.

Upon hearing that, a lot of the Messianic-Judaism folk look a little puzzled, and just retort that the Torah is quite simple and that we should of course take it on face-value. But the differences among the Judaisms of the first-centuries BC and AD, each of whom were reading the same Torah, were as great if not greater than the differences among organisations today who are each reading the same New Testament.

The answer of course, is that Messianic Jews don't adhere to any of the Judaisms of that period. No Jews do. Pharisaic Judaisms (there's reason to believe there likely was more than one type of Phariseeism, or at least variety among Pharisees) were likely able to adapt after the destruction of the Temple (circa AD70) better than some of the other popular forms of Judaisms were able to - but even the Rabbinic forms of Judaisms (which putatively resulted from those adaptations from Phariseeisms) underwent further variations, and some forms of Judaisms didn't start looking very much like their modern forms of Judaisms until centuries after that again. And of course today the differences among denominations within 'Judaism' still vary significantly. But none of them look very much like any of the first-century Judaisms. As the joke goes, two Jews three opinions.


Reportedly, Gamaliel II, when challenged by his students for not obtaining permission not to say the Shema at his wedding night, replied that he would not cast off from him the responsibility of the kingdom of heaven, even for a moment.

That implies that, in their minds, the Shema had a political import (there is only one universal King); and so did 'the kingdom of heaven' - it wasn't just about piety.


Flavius Josephus reportedly wrote that the Pharisees believed in a measure of freewill, not just in Divine sovereignty, unlike the Essenes:

The Antiquities of the Jews, 13.172

Flavius Josephus  translated by William Whiston
172Now for the Pharisees, they say that some actions, but not all, are the work of fate, and some of them are in our own power, and that they are liable to fate, but are not caused by fate. But the sect of the Essenes affirm, that fate governs all things, and that nothing befalls men but what is according to its determination.

And Paul said that he had been a Pharisee. Yet some people want to impose onto Romans 9-11 the kinds of meanings which would be more Essenian than Pharisaic.


Ways to Evangelise

Ask God, "What do you want me to do?"

And expect an answer within two weeks!

Then step out in faith.

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Matthew 7:7,8).

Prayer opens a door of utterance.

"Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:Jesus is the opener of doors" (Colossians 4:3).

"And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel," (Eph.6:19)."For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries" (I Cor.16:9).

Jesus is the opener of doors.

"I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name" (Rev.3:8).

"And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open" (Isaiah 22:22).

God gave to Peter the keys of the kingdom.
"And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:19).

Pray for boldness to speak, and also for the opportunity to speak boldly.

And you shall receive! 

True in General v True in Particular

Some statements in the Bible, while of course true in the sense in which they are made, might not be true in another sense that the Bible discusses a related topic.

For example, baptism. Peter said baptism saves us, and that's true. Baptism is part of the salvation-package. But it would be wrong to say a believer who hasn't been baptised isn't saved - because Cornelius' household believed and even received the Spirit and spoke in tongues, before being baptised.

So, it's the same with being filled with the Holy Spirit. It's true to say all believers have the Spirit of Christ. But it's also true that receiving the Spirit is, in another sense, a distinct experience to salvation - because most of the time in the Bible, believers received the Spirit as an experience distinguishable from the moment they first believed, even separated by a number of days sometimes.

And it's the same with spiritual gifts. All functions in the Church are 'gifts' in a sense, but there's another sense in which only the nine manifestations of the Spirit listed in I Cor.12:7-10 were being discussed as gifts.

Salvation is another topic. The Bible says Jesus is the Saviour of all men. But that doesn't teach universalism. Only believers are truly saved.

Israel. It's true to say all Israel will be saved. But if we want to examine the question in more detail, we might find it doesn't literally mean all citizens of the modern State of Israel. The Bible itself might unpack "all Israel" for us, in its own detailed way.

And yet many times people establish a whole doctrine on taking isolated statements a certain way. What we really should do is examine the Bible's treatment of such topics as a whole.

Synergy of Idealist and Other Views on Revelation

Some say it's mainly about a special period of future-history immediately before the second coming of Christ. Others say it's mainly about the destruction of Jerusalem and related events, which occurred around AD70. Others say it's a timeline of events spanning the entire age of the Church.

But someone else has written that it's all mainly about not so much a sequence of historical events or eras, but sort of about the single reality that "through the awful turmoil and trouble of the world, God is establishing through Jesus a people who, following the lamb, are to bear witness to God's kingdom through their own suffering, through which the world will be brought to repentance and faith, so that ultimately God will be king over all".

So we have futurist, preterist, historicist, or...what would you call the fourth view - idealist? 

New Perspective Gospel Tract?

If Tom Wright wrote a Gospel tract, approximately the same size as Bill Bright's 'Four Spiritual Laws', or Jack Chick's 'This Was Your Life', what would he likely say?

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Robert Lackie 1. As the highmark of his good creation, we were made to be God’s image-bearers in the world, dwelling in his presence.
2. When our worship of him turned to worship of the created, sin entered the world and our exile from God began. 
3. God sent Jesus 
was rescue and restore his creation, taking evil and death upon himself and launching, through his life and death and rising on earth, his New Creation.
4. When we worship him and live with Him as our Lord, we become part of that New Creation which has started with Jesus but is not complete until he brings all things fully under his Rule.

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5 hrs

On Freewill

A lot of us read Romans 9-11 with 16th-century dichotomies in mind, rather than first-century dichotomies: as if the two dichotomies, with regard to God's sovereignty, are Calvinism or Arminianism.
But in the first century AD, the two dichotomies, with regards to God's sovereignty, weren't a choice between Calvinism or Arminianism: there was the Sadducees' view and the Pharisees' view.
And the question that was being asked, with regard to God's sovereignty, was not "how and why do some individuals get saved while others don't" - it was more to do with "how must Israel's restored kingdom come about".
The Pharisees believed (or at least one school among the Pharisees believed) in a certain amount of freewill - that is, they believed they had a role to play in bringing about the kingdom, a somewhat military/political role; while the Sadducees believed God would bring it about all by Himself in His own good time and that the Jews shouldn't engage in any activism to try to make it happen. 
The questions Paul was answering, with regards to God's sovereignty, in Romans 9-11, had more to do with the interaction between God and Israel and Israel's status in the kingdom - a different issue entirely to the Calvinists' issues with Arminians in the 17th century. Interestingly, Paul's background was Pharisaic, the most hands-on type of Pharisee at that, the type that believed most strongly in freewill with regard to Israel finding its place in God's purposes. 

Paul's Paradigm

As readers of literature, it's important that we seek to understand a writer in terms of his own worldview, narrative, stories, questions, problems and solutions - rather than in terms of our own.
I think Paul has often been read through the eyes of 17th century theological and ecclesiological issues and questions - when really Paul's thought should be located within first-century thought, within first-century questions and issues, especially within first-century Jewish story and worldview.
First-century Jews believed they were part of a national story that was going somewhere. Israel had been created out from slavery in Egypt; and their nation had subsequently been exiled, and restored - but they felt their restoration was still incomplete, morally and politically. Then by early in the first-century AD, expectation that the Anointed should come and set everything right, reached fever-pitch, and was soon to reach breaking-point. The Anointed was to come and complete Israel's story - the righteous-dead would be resurrected to participate in that new age.
Israel saw their national story as fitting within a larger story: the story of Abraham and his promised seed. And they saw Abraham's story as fitting within the still-larger story: of Adam and Eve, and of all mankind. Creation itself had begun in paradise, and should be restored to Paradise again. The earth - mankind - were somewhere along the timeline of that unfolding story, and Israel were privileged to be the main actors in it.
The Jews felt their nation was called by God with a special vocation - privileged to be the custodians of that promised-restoration - and agents in bringing it about. They were marked-out for that privilege, they believed, by the 'Torah', their special law - circumcision, and other things - given to them by God, through Moses, through angels.
The Sadducees (and maybe some others too) didn't believe in angels or resurrection - but apart from that detail, pretty-much all first-century Jews lived within the same overall worldview, the same national-story.
But in the fist century, there was a new problem in the 'hood. Rome had recently occupied the land of Judea, and were administering it with an increasingly heavy hand. The Roman rulers were pagans. Idolaters. Uncircumcised. Without Torah. Being under their rule didn't fit Israel's story, looking forward.
Meanwhile they had the Scribes telling them that based on the Scriptures, it was time for the Anointed to arrive.
So what should the Jews do at this juncture? Should they do something to bring-about this 'kingdom'?
"The problem is, the current priesthood just isn't up-to-scratch," said the Pharisees, "We need to start observing the Torah properly."
"Lets be activists in that cause," said the Shammaite school of Pharisees, "there's too much pagan-influence."
"We'll even coerce our fellow-Jews, using violence if necessary," said some of the more zealous ones.
"No, let's not resort to aggression - let's just use more stringent rhetoric," said the Hillel school of Pharisees.
"Yeah, God will bring-about His plans all by Himself, without our help," said the Sadducees, as loath as they were to ever agree with a Pharisee on points of the Torah.
"No, the Temple-priesthood is too far gone," said the Qumran community, "a pure Zadok-priesthood must be restored".
The Temple-building included baptismal pools, but the Qumran community started performing baptisms of their own.
"We'll be like a true Israel within Israel," they said, "Messiah's kingdom will revolve around us, and the rest of 'Israel' will miss out!".
And the Essenes pretty-much agreed with them.
For every two Jews, as the saying goes, there were three opinions.
Enter: John the Baptist. He was from a priestly-family. But he came baptising, not in the Temple, but outdoors (a bit like the Qumran community maybe; the Temple also baptised) - but John's baptism was different: it was a baptism of repentance, promising the forgiveness of sins. Hoards of people turned-out to be baptised by him, but some sects didn't like his popularity.
John even publicly identified who the Anointed One was: a man named JESUS. Everyone knew what that implied: it meant their long-awaited 'kingdom' must be at hand; and with Roman soldiers keeping a watchful eye and always ready to be a bit too interventionist for Israel's liking, such an announcement about the kingdom couldn't have come too soon.
Move forward a few years. A zealous young Pharisee is on the highway. He's got authority from the main priests at Jerusalem to imprison any Jews who he thinks aren't quite doing Torah right. In Gentile cities like Damascus, perhaps the Jews were acting, he thought, a bit too pagan. And those ones who believed in this Jesus! With a name like Saul, Israel's first king, he may have seen himself as helping bring-about Israel's covenant-promised kingdom.
Then as you know, Saul encounters Jesus. "Who are you, Lord?" he asks. "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting".
This meant to Paul that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. Saul knew the resurrection belongs immediately before the kingdom-age. The fact it had happened to Jesus, means the kingdom must have been inaugurated already in some sense at least, in some very real and powerful way.
It meant God evidently had approved of Jesus. His resurrection meant death had been defeated. Since death came by sin, it meant sin had been defeated.
It meant Jesus' death had been no ordinary death: His death had been substitutionary, and it meant His death had won the decisive victory: over sin, over death, and therefore over the rule of evil.
And the fact Jesus was now appearing to him in glory: meant Jesus was reigning already as Messiah and as Lord!
Paul knew that all this had been the goal of the Torah. It was where Israel's story was always meant to end-up. And now it all appears to have happened, in advance, in Jesus.
That meant JESUS was central to what Abraham's story was all about.
It's what the Old Testament Prophets were foreseeing.
It meant, the new and real way to be 'Israel', to fulfil 'Torah', to be Abraham's 'children', to experience what the Prophets foretold, is to belong to JESUS.
To worship Him.
To spread this good news - the glad announcement - to Jews of course, but also to the whole world, since the original idea was that through the Seed all nations would be blessed.
The light dawned. JESUS is the King! He has won the victory through His substitutionary death, and resurrection, in accordance with Old Testament shadow and prophecy, God has visited His people, acted in history. Jesus reigns victorious over sin, death, the devil, and all enemies political.
All who believe on Him, reign in new life with Him, through baptism.
They can receive the promise of the Spirit, right now.
This is it!
The blessing is for all nations - as Abraham was promised - Israel's vocation (to bless the world) has been fulfilled through God's faithful servant Israel - that is, God's own Son.
Since all this had been God's plan all along, it means that God justifies (declares to be 'in the right') the community of believers in Jesus - even Gentile ones - without them needing to become proselytes to the old Judaisms.
Many ethnic Jews were still unbelieving, like Paul (Saul) himself had been. But that didn't mean God's promises had failed, because many Jews had believed.
It was because of unbelief that the Jews handed their Messiah over to be crucified - but it was through His crucifixion that salvation came to the Gentiles, and also to the Jews themselves. How amazing is God!
That didn't mean God's mission to Jews was over: He was still seeking to save Jews, while ever Gentiles also were still getting saved.
In that scenario, promises concerning Israel were seeing their exact fulfilment.
And then Jesus will come the second time. And complete the salvation-story. God's mission to Jews was over: He was still seeking to save Jews, while ever Gentiles also were still getting saved.
In the meantime we must carry-on exhibiting His kingdom, even through suffering if need be, like He suffered. God is love. If we suffer with Him, we will also reign with Him.
Paul was a changed man. He still had the same big-picture, but now he understood that JESUS is at the centre of it, and some old ways dropped off the side.
His new message created some conflict with Caesar's empire; and not least with the Jews, and even with ex-Pharisee Christians who wanted Gentiles to become proselytes to Judaism, and there was also the possibility that Gentiles, particular in the city of Rome, might think too lowly of Jews.
Those were the kinds of issues and questions Paul addressed. So when he uses terms like predestination, election, justification, the law, "all Israel", kingdom, and salvation - it all fit within his larger worldview, his story, Israel's story.
It wasn't, for example, intended to answer the questions which Calvinists disputed with Arminians over, in the 17th century.
It mightn't even have been intended to make a point which trending 'Hebrew-Roots' people want to make about the 'law', or Dispensationalists want to make about Israel's future.
If we don't identify what questions Paul was answering, we won't understand properly what his answers are about.
Paul was explaining how the gospel fits in, and explains, the first-century Jewish worldview and narrative. How the gospel-scheme of things, as it was seen in the first century Church, exactly fulfilled Old Testament promise.
That's the good news! It's the message which still has power to save today.