Christology

PHeneburyVideo

Christ as the Center of Scripture – Videos 1 & 2

Here are the first two videos of my TELOS Conference presentations of Biblical Covenantalism. These presentations cover the topics of Hermeneutics and Creation.

First Talk: CHRIST and INTERPRETATION

Second Talk: CHRIST and CREATION

These video presentations give a detailed overview of Biblical Covenantalism and the exalted place it gives to the Lord Jesus Christ; a place which is not artificially read onto the pages of the Bible, but which comes clearly from its plain wording – especially from the words of the biblical covenants!

Parts Three and Four

 

The Divine Logos (Pt.3)

Part Two

Jesus as the Word

Even though the teaching of the “Word” or “Logos” appears prominently and explicitly in the prologue to John’s Gospel, the theme runs through the whole of the Gospel.[1]

John stresses the words of Jesus as having special significance as words:

Rhemata is used nine times for His words (5:47; 6:63, 68; 8:20;10:21; 12:47, 48; 14:10; 15:7), and three times for the words of God spoken by Jesus (3:34; 8:47; 17:8).

John employs logos three times in the plural for Jesus words (7:40; 10:19; 14:24).

But it is used eighteen times in the singular (2;22; 4:41, 50; 5:24; 6:60; 7:36; 8:31, 37, 43, 51,52; 12:48; 14:23; 15:3, 20; 18:9, 32). Six times for God’s word and twice for the word of God which Jesus speaks (14:24; 17:14).

According to Gundry[2], John goes out of his way to “multiply references to Jesus” words qua words”, using more than twice as many of these terms as all the synoptics put together (nearly three times if one considers that many of the synoptic instances are repetitions). To these words one should also consider the usage of entole in 14:15, 21; 15:10, 12 with the use of logos as a synonym in 8:51, 52; 14:23, 24; 15:20; 17:6.

Then also we should look at martureo and maturia which occur sixteen times for the witness of Jesus (3:11, 32, 33; 4:44; 5:31; 7:7; 8:13, 14, 18; 13:21; 18:37. See also Rev. 19:13 and Rev. 1:2, 9; 20:4). Again John “calls attention to the voice (phone) of Jesus 9 times” (3:29; 5:25, 28; 10:3, 4, 16, 27; 11:43; 18:37). John records Jesus as saying “Amen, Amen” twenty-five times before important assertions. Fifty out of the sixty-one occurrences of laleo; lalo; and lalia (speak) have to do with Jesus speaking, compared with only nine occurrences in the synoptics (see esp. 8:43).

John refers to believing Jesus’ word or words (2:22; 4:50; 5:47; cf. 3:12; 10:25; 12:38), and abiding in His word (or it abiding in us) in 5:38 and 15:7. In 8:51, 52; 14:15, 21, 23, 24; 15:10, 20 John refers to keeping Jesus’ commands, word or words in a way not duplicated in the synoptics.Finally, (in this study) see 4:26 (cf. 4:10) and Jesus’ emphasis upon Jesus own words.

Jesus, the Logos of God as the Ground of Meaning.

Even a superficial reading of John’s opening verses sets before the reader the absoluteness of his Logos concept.[3] To summarize, the Logos is part of the Godhead (vv1-2); and as a member of the Godhead He is the instrument of creation and providence (v.3). Since all things were made by Him it is scarcely surprising that John tells us that the Logos is the light and life of men (v. 4). He reveals God not through natural revelation alone, or even by the law and the prophets, through whom He spoke – but supremely by means of His own incarnation (vv. 14-18).

Furthermore, it is by the Logos, Jesus of Nazareth, that salvation is offered to sinners and hope shines brightly on our horizon. There can be little doubt that what John is doing at the beginning of his Gospel is putting forth a Christian weltanshauung or worldview. MacLeod has nicely summarized our point.

Today…a wide variety of worldviews exist, and John’s prologue is an antidote to all of them. The Gospel of John presents a true understanding of who Jesus is, so that readers may have the proper framework with which to interpret life and reality – that they may know God and walk in the light of His truth.[4]

As the Word made flesh (Jn. 1:14, 18; 1 Jn. 1:1), Jesus Christ is the “Great Explanation”, both of man’s world and of man’s future (Jn.1:10-13; 17-18). As Carl Henry explains,

“In a day when modern wisdom considers the cosmos devoid of teleology and derives man from purposeless nature, the reality of the self-revealed Logos towers anew as the only intelligible ground and sustaining source of meaning, value and purpose.”[5]

This is what we must insist upon as followers of the risen Lord. We are what we are and this world is what it is because of His grace.Therefore, to pass by the Logos doctrine of John’s Gospel when searching for final explanations is to overlook the source and strength of Reality – a faux-pas which leaves men floundering in metaphysical darkness (Jn. 1:9-10). Rebel man attempts to construct world and life views in this darkness; a darkness that one writer has aptly described as,

“[Not] blindness as such, but instead …a darkness that is willed, that is, …a kind of blindness that does not understand itself to be blind, but on the contrary believes that it sees and that it comprehends reality in its entirety.”[6]

For all its ingenuity, the world of men and women is without a center. It is this way because of rebellious hearts (Eccles. 7:29; Rom. 1:25). John, the last of the Apostles, points us again to the eternal Logos-Son who, “was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” The world has to borrow bits and pieces of the biblical worldview in order to live in this Logos-structured environment.[7] Men forget the very center of their existence by neglecting Jesus Christ. It is as Wells says,

In the Word, then, we are met by the personal and eternal God who has joined himself to our flesh. In Jesus, the permanent and final unveiling of God has taken place, and the center of this truth is coincidental with the life of this man. Jesus is the means through which and in conjunction with whom God has made known his character, his will, and his ways (cf. John 14:6).[8]

Man’s wisdom fails as an interpreter of life when he misses the significance of the Incarnation of the Divine Logos (Lk. 2:8-15; Rom. 1:22; 1 Cor. 1:20). Therefore, we may repeat Henry’s opinion that,

“Taken long-range, the only options are either nihilism or the Nazarene. The Logos of supernatural revelation towers as the only effective barricade against meaninglessness of the world and human life.”[9]

A Christo-Doxological Grand Theme

Theology is not a subject like math or science. It is, under the Holy Spirit, the grand orchestration of worship to God. But theology is bound to Scripture and Scripture is bound to Christ. This world was made not only through Him but for Him (Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2-3). And though rejected, He is to be the Judge of it (Rev. 19:11f.).[10] Theology stems from revelation, and so its springs are in the revealing Son (Jn. 1:18). “Since God communicated himself to the Logos, the Logos could communicate himself to us. (more…)

The Divine Logos (Pt. 1)

With your indulgence, I’m going to repost a set of three studies on Jesus Christ as the Logos of God.  They are a bit long, but hopefully useful.  

It may sound somewhat unseemly for anyone to refer to the Lord Jesus Christ as “the Logos of God,” but to conceive of Him (momentarily) in this abstract way opens up new lines of inquiry that are harder to see under His personal name. And, after all, the Apostle John was the first to do it.

If one comes to the term “Logos” with the mindset of the ancient Greek philosophers, the best thing that could be extracted from the prologue to John’s Gospel would be a personification but not a Person. But clearly John is not content with a personification. He has something extremely profound in mind; something that I believe provides a helpful fillip for a fully Christo-doxological motif.

Before we can expound a motif we must clear away the mound of misunderstandings that has been built up over the meaning of John’s Logos.

  1. Meaning of the Term

The basic meaning of the word logos in Greek may be summarized as, “the expression of thought – not the mere name of an object – (a) as embodying a conception or idea, (b) a saying or statement, (c) discourse, speech, of instruction etc.”[i] Thus, the idea of rationality, of a reasoned message of some sort, is central to the term.[ii] Yet, at first glance it seems far from clear why the Apostle chose this designation.

It is clear that the concept of the Divine Logos that one encounters in the opening verses of John’s Gospel is of great importance to his doctrine of Christ. The main verses are given below:

 

In the beginning was the Word [Logos], and the Word [Logos] was with God, and the Word [Logos] was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were created by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:1-5)

He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. (John 1:10).

And the Word [Logos] was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld Him… (John 1:14a).

No man hath seen God [the Father] at any time; the only begotten Son,[iii] which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him. (John 1:18).

 

I have isolated these verses, not because the other verses in the Prologue (vv. 1-18) are unimportant, but solely for the purpose of definition. These are the essential verses for the Logos teaching. We see a connection between the Word and God, the created order, and man.[iv] Clearly, in these passages John is very deliberately linking the Logos who became Christ in the flesh with the Creator God. We know that the Christ was named “Jesus” at the time of His birth (Lk. 2:21). But John is reaching far back before the creation to the relationship of the Logos/Son with God the Father from everlasting (Jn. 1:1-2, 18; cf. 17:5). Therefore, John is facing us with the implication that He who was to be known as Jesus of Nazareth in “the days of His flesh,” is the eternal Logos or Word of God. It is made clear that three great pillars of the Christian world and life view, Creation (1:1, 3), Revelation (1:4, 9, 14, 17-18), and Redemption (1:12-13), are bound to His Person. But we must turn to the question of ancient parallels before exploring these things further.

 

  1. The Uses of Logos in the Ancient World

The use of the word Logos – rendered “Word” in our better translations[v], naturally brings up the question of why the Apostle, under the Spirit’s direction, employed it. To our modern ears it sounds strange, if not a bit abstruse. In fact, the sense of enigma only increases once we begin to study the word and its ancient usages. The different ways logos was used as a technical term has given rise to much speculation as to just whom John was influenced by when he penned the Prologue to his Gospel.

 

The Greeks

From about the 6th Century B.C. the Greeks, beginning with Heraclitus, started to give logos a special philosophical nuance in their descriptions of reality. For example, Heraclitus made it function as “the stabilizing, directing principle of the universe.”[vi] The Logos was conceived of as the explanatory concept of the universe; “the rational power of calculation in virtue of which man can see himself and his place in the cosmos.”[vii] That is, it functioned as the final principle of intelligibility. Stoicism would later teach that it stood for that which gives the cosmos its shape and substance. In other words, keeping in mind the fundamental connection with rationality, the Greek philosophers found Logos most suitable to describe the organizing power of the phenomenal world.[viii] With the Stoics one finds a differentiation between the logos principle which interpenetrated even non-rational matter to give it form, also imparting the power of reason to humans: the so-called logos spermatikos or seminal reason, and the source of all morality and reason in living in the world: the orthos logos.[ix] Furthermore, this idea of the organizing Logos was still current at the time the Apostle John wrote his Gospel[x], although it had undergone some transformation by then.[xi]

 

Wisdom

Other scholars point to the grand eulogy of Wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-31, a passage which still has advocates who see in it a prediction of Christ.[xii] But this connection has its problems. For one thing, the figure of Wisdom in Proverbs is feminine. And for another, the Septuagint, which has been followed by most modern versions, says, “The Lord made me [in] the beginning of his ways for his works. He established me before time was in the beginning, before he made the earth.” (Prov. 8:22-23, LXX); a translation which was used by Arius to prove that Christ was a created being![xiii] When passages like this are joined with those from wisdom writings of intertestamental times, some see a possible association with the Prologue.[xiv]

But the association should be treated with caution due to the fact that “Wisdom” (a feminine noun), though personified, is never actually personalized. What is more, as Boice notes, “any serious personalization would be radically alien to the prevailing Jewish perspective which saw Wisdom as inseparable from the Torah (1 Baruch 4:1, 2; cf. Sirach 19: 20-22).”[xv] Besides, the picture in the apocrypha of Wisdom as a “stern warrior” leaping down from heaven (Wisdom of Solomon 18:15; cf. 9:1; 16:12), hardly encourages one to tie this in with the Apostle’s themes.[xvi] Finally, in Sirach 24:9 Wisdom is said to be created, thus echoing (or influencing) the LXX of Proverbs 8:22-23.

Philo

Still others equate the Logos of John with a strong Platonic[xvii] influence, though mediated through Philo – a contemporary of John. Philo’s interpretation of Plato involved the bridging of the platonic separation of the real spiritual realm – the realm of pure ideas, or forms, from the physical realm in which we live. Although he used the term logos in a variety of ways, the two most important were combined in the role of intermediary. Dennis Johnson tells us that “[a]t times in Philo, logos stands for the word by which God created the world (Op. Mund. 20-25). At other times it refers to a mediator between the ideal and the phenomenal.”[xviii]

As mediator, the Logos was, “the means by which the mind apprehends God.”[xix] Philo placed so much emphasis upon God’s transcendence that the concept of the Logos was necessary to bridge the gap between God (in the Ideal realm) and men (in the phenomenal world).[xx] Guthrie notices five things in connection with Philo’s logos doctrine:

 

  1. Philo’s logos was impersonal. While all admit that Philo personified the logos (see below); it was not his intention to lend it the status of actual personhood.
  2. The logos was protogonos huios, God’s “first-born son,” and, “the eldest and most akin to God.” As such the logos was pre-existent, yet no more than a “power” of God.
  3. Philo does not link light and life to his logos.
  4. Philo’s logos belonged completely to the world of Ideas, and could not become incarnated in this lower material realm.[xxi]
  5. Nevertheless, the logos performed, “a mediatorial function to bridge the gap between the transcendent God and the world.”[xxii]

 

These facts make it unlikely that John concerned himself overmuch with his Alexandrian contemporary. It should also be borne in mind that Philo’s logos represented the faculty of reason in humans as well as in God.[xxiii] When one considers the way in which the later Alexandrians, especially Clement, used Philo to develop their logos doctrine, it seems highly unlikely that John would have used him as his starting-point. Of that logos-theory Herman Dooyeweerd wrote,

 

It conceived of the divine creating Word (Logos) as a lower divine being which mediates between the divine unity and impure matter. The Alexandrian school thereby actually transformed the Christian religion into a high ethical theory, into a moralistically tinged theological and philosophic system, which as a higher gnosis was placed above the faith of the Church.[xxiv]

There is too much in John which contravenes Philo, and too much in Philo to derail the Christian community.[xxv] We therefore believe that at best John gave the celebrated Jew a nod of acquaintance and thought little more about it. (more…)

Christ at the Center: Conclusion (Pt.7b)

SERIES: Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism –

1. Introduction: Part 1a, 1b, 1c

2. Jesus and the New Covenant: Part 2a, 2b, 2c,

3. The Covenant God Incarnate: Part 3a, 3b,

4. The Role of Jesus, the Word, as the Ground of Meaning and Significance: Part 4a, 4b, 4c, 4d

5. Christ and the Triadic People of God: Part 5a, 5b, 5c, 5d

6. Jesus and the Restitution of All Things: Part 6a. 6b

7. Christ in Biblical and Systematic Theology: Part 7a,

 

Christ and Systematic Theology

From the things we have already said it is not difficult to see that by placing Jesus Christ at the center of Biblical Theology – a position advocated in these posts and called “Biblical Covenantalism” – it becomes natural to move on to formulating doctrines.

Many both within and without the evangelical tradition have written about the connection between Biblical and Systematic Theology.  In fact, perhaps most scholars who are not evangelicals are less than confident that Systematic Theology is a viable exercise at all.  The reason for this is their findings in Biblical Theology.

The first post stepped right into matters of Christology (unsurprisingly), Creation, and Ecclesiology.  By the end of the second we were on firm Eschatological ground.  In the third post I could write:

Hence, the Plan of God outlined in the biblical covenants converges on the crucified Jesus  and emerges from the resurrected Jesus!

My contention in Part Two was that the other unconditional covenants were channeled through the New covenant, because the salvation realized under the New covenant ensures covenantal continuity into the kingdom era.  Thus, both Soteriology and Providence were in view.  

In Part Three: “The Covenant God Incarnate,” I of course dealt with the Incarnation.  But I also referred to the interesting surmise of Meredith Kline that the pre-incarnate Christ was the antitype of the bodily form of Adam.  Hence, we were dealing with Anthropology.  

My discussion of Christ as the Logos in Part Four brought me round again to Creation and the doctrine of God.  Included in this chapter was something about the connection of the Word as God with the Bible.  I was writing concerning biblical interpretation (Hermeneutics), and so was in the realm of Bibliology.  The hermeneutical question; tied as it is with the Person of Christ as Revealor and New covenant; with the Person of the Father as covenant-Maker; and with the Holy Spirit as the Author of Scripture and agent of eschatological new life, points inevitably to the doctrine of the Trinity, and the doctrine of the veracity of God.  

In all this I was always on Eschatological ground, as every good Theology is.  This led into the important theological issues to do with Israel and the Church, as well as the Nations, and their part in reflecting the Triunity of  God (Part Five).  

Then in Part Six we returned to the Cross and the offices of Christ.  Finally, the Resurrection was viewed as “a glorious anachronism”  which points us all to the fervent hope of His appearing and Kingdom.  

Although this series could not go into much detail in connecting Biblical Theology to Systematic Theology, I truly hope that I have done enough here to arouse the interest of those who want the Lord Jesus Christ to be central to both disciplines, but who, like me, are not impressed by the pretensions of Covenant Theology, with its overwhelmingly inferential way of  “Christotelic” formulations – stuffing Christ into texts where He doesn’t fit; and most Dispensational Theology, where Christ only pops His head in now and again under certain categories of the system.

Biblical Covenantalism brings Christ forward in both disciplines in two main ways.  Firstly, by simply paying heed to what is plainly said about Him in the Bible.  To recall something said in Part 4a:

 

I want to make sure that we have established a very strong connection in our minds between the Bible, the world, and the personal Savior who is our Lord.  Just as the Bible is His, this world is His and we are His; and all these things exist, in the first place, for Him.  He is the judge of all of His creation and He shall rule over all of the creation.  This world is of Him, for Him, by Him, to Him.  If we’re going to have a scriptural doctrine of the Creation it will bear some correlation to Jesus Christ.  I don’t say we must “find Him in it,” only that we must relate it to Him.

The same applies then to the doctrine of the Revelation of God.  Here the danger of abstraction becomes a very real one.  The teaching about the Bible has got to be in accord with the worldview which springs from the Bible.  And, as we hope we have begun to make clear, a world and life view that is a truly biblical one will have to be centered in the Person of Christ.

The Bible puts the Lord Jesus in the middle of everything!

In the second place, and this point calls for some reflection: Christ has been “set forth” (cf. Rom. 3:25) by the Father and exegetes Him (Jn. 1:18).  Christ is witnessed to by the Spirit; so that to know the first and third Persons one must go through the second Person.  What this yields, I believe, is a starting assumption of doing Systematic Theology first Christo-centrically.  Many theologians have started Trinitarianly, and I am not decrying that.  But the makeup of Scripture places the access to the Divine Trinity through Jesus Christ.  He is the Designer, Creator, Sustainer, Archetype, Savior, Covenant Guarantor, Restorer, King and Judge over all Creation.  The Father has willed it be so.  The Spirit makes sure it is so.  So the Lord Jesus is the means by which Biblical and Systematic Theology live in harmony.  As Word and Covenant Jesus Christ puts all around Him in its proper place!   

           

Christ at the Center: Conclusion (Pt.7a)

SERIES: Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism –

Introduction: Part 1a, 1b, 1c

Jesus and the New Covenant: Part 2a, 2b, 2c,

The Covenant God Incarnate: Part 3a, 3b,

The Role of Jesus, the Word, as the Ground of Meaning and Significance: Part 4a, 4b, 4c, 4d

Christ and the Triadic People of God: Part 5a, 5b, 5c, 5d

Jesus and the Restitution of All Things: Part 6a. 6b

Jesus Christ in Biblical and Systematic Theology

Christ and Biblical Theology

As I bring this study to a close I want to do two things.  First, I want to recap on where we’ve been, and to show how Biblical Covenantalism is extremely Christ-focused, but not through any forced theological predetermining or eisegesis.  Christ fits within the Story of the Bible so naturally because of His function at the very core of it from beginning to end.  One doesn’t have to go looking for Him in every verse, determined to see Him whether He is present or not.  I am not advocating such a fallacious course of action.  And we must guard ourselves from those who, with pretensions to piety, speak to us about finding Jesus in each verse of each Book of Scripture.  Our imaginations were not given us to overlook the obvious while collecting a useless and confusing melange of types, allusions, and the like.  These things we have often brought with us and our searching will inevitably be productive if we pretend to discover those things which we have spread so liberally.  The truth is, Christ is not in every verse.  Nor indeed is he to be found in very many chapters and verses.  It is not impious to speak the truth.  But the truth can sometimes sound impious to those with a manufactured piety.

These studies have sought to show that Christ’s Person and offices lie behind the Plan and Purposes of God, and that though there are many verses where He is absent, still He cannot be removed from any Act in the Story.

I started out in Colossians 1,  There I aimed to show how Paul makes Jesus Christ preeminent, not by employing religious rhetoric, but by simply stating the reality of who Christ is: Creator, Upholder, Owner.  Further, the future regeneration of the whole of creation depends on Christ. Thus far the Introduction.  But although the apostle is writing of the church’s relation to its Head in Colossians 1, it would be a mistake to limit the fallout of his words to the Church alone.  There is more to the Plan of God than the Church, and Christ’s relationship to the New Covenant in His blood proves this (Part 2).  We saw that the covenant promises of the Old Testament are guaranteed literal fulfillment through their association with the Coming of Christ to reign on earth.  The Second Coming is more important fulfillment-wise, than the First coming, crucial as that was.  This is because covenant fulfillment centers in Jesus Himself, who encapsulates the New covenant upon which the other covenants rely.  Since the covenants name this world as essential to their purposes, the roles of Christ as covenant guarantor and Christ as Second Adam combine in His earthly reign.

Here we encounter our main thesis (Part 3):

Our main thesis is that Christ will perform all this restorative and promissory work by the New Covenant, which in Him (Isa. 49:8) provides the requisite cleansing unto righteousness that obligates God to fulfill His covenants.  This Christ-centered approach is what I call “Biblical Covenantalism.”

The incarnation does more than just make it possible to “kill” the Second Person of the Trinity.  It highlights the importance of creation to God, especially God’s image-bearer.  Simply put, if there were no incarnation there could be no resurrection.  If no resurrection, then no hope would remain for us, and God’s telos in making the world would have fallen into nothingness.

Part Four now displays the worldview implications of all this.  He is the measure of all things.  But He is also the way of seeing all things correctly.  The last two posts in Part Four try to tie together the outside world as created and upheld and redeemed by Christ with the actual hermeneutics of Christ as found in the Gospels; the one confirming the other.  This sets us up for Part Five where the teleological and eschatological goals of creation and redemption take on a triadic appearance in the coming Kingdom.  This is in line with covenant expectations too.  The triadic peoples of God image the Trinitarian God whose stamp appears on everything.

In Part Six I rehearsed the Cross and Resurrection work of Jesus to remind us that all our value and all our hope is in Christ.

Thus, Christ is ubiquitous, even if He is not in every verse of Scripture.  Big things as well as small things find there anchor in His Person and covenant work.  And it is this fact of the pervasiveness of Christ in a Biblical Theology built mainly upon the covenants of Scripture that lends ‘Biblical Covenantalism’ its coherence and its power.  These two things, as we shall show, make it natural to go from biblical Theology into a Christ-centered Systematic Theology.

Final installment

 

Christ at the Center (Pt.6b)

SERIES: Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism –

Introduction: Part 1a, 1b, 1c

Jesus and the New Covenant: Part 2a, 2b, 2c,

The Covenant God Incarnate: Part 3a, 3b,

The Role of Jesus, the Word, as the Ground of Meaning and Significance: Part 4a, 4b, 4c, 4d

Christ and the Triadic People of God: Part 5a, 5b, 5c, 5d

Jesus and the Restitution of All Things: Part 6a

Jesus is supremely an eschatological Figure.  By “eschatological” I have in mind a broad definition including God’s Plan in Christ, not just a message about End Times.  Eschatology is bound to teleology and should therefore be studied progressively.

The resurrection, although it occurred in our space/time, does not “belong” in this history, but in our future history.  It signals the future.  The glorified body of the man Christ Jesus awaits the time when the Lord returns and brings to pass the “regeneration.”  This regeneration will see the 12 Apostles seated on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  The need for judgment in the regenerated kingdom is seen in many OT places, like Isaiah 11 and Micah 4.  The regeneration cannot be the New Heavens and Earth, because no judging is required in that perfect kingdom.

The Logic of Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus Christ does not really belong in this age.  In an important sense, it is an anachronism.  When the atheist assures us that people do not rise from the dead we have to agree with him – at least in general.  Of course, if they assert it like some scientific law we will beg to differ.  Jesus is risen!  But what a strange declaration.  Amid the countless human beings who have come and gone upon the stage of history only One has had His physical Body resurrected.  This singular event; which occurred very many years before we were born, is the anchor of our Christian hope.  Without it, as Paul says it, “we are of all people the most pitiable.”  Contrary to some points of view, the uniqueness of an event does not invalidate its credibility.  In the strictest sense, every event, or, if that is too much to contemplate, very many events, are unique, just because they often include things which are not repeated in similar events.  Just so, as there is only one Savior of the world, and all restoration hope is tied to Him, one would not expect another to be resurrected independently of his resurrection or, indeed, His timetable.  The Christian Story is predicated upon such a simple logic.

But the resurrection does not merely fit nicely inside the Christian Story as a necessary article of faith; it actually fits within a necessary world and life view.  I might say it is pivotal to any accurate world and life view.  This is not at all to say that the resurrection is recognized for what it is in the world, any more than Christ Himself is accorded the recognition which is His due.  It is just to say that the explanatory value of the Empty Tomb, at the level of the Big Questions of Life is immense.

This earth is cursed and will stay cursed.  God’s curse on the material realm cannot be ameliorated.  Notwithstanding, the resurrection of Christ does counter its affects.  Resurrection is from death.  It follows from this that the resurrection only makes sense in a cursed world.  Its necessity and powerful counter-influence are only needed in this world.  No resurrection is necessary in the New Creation.  While it is true that the resurrected body must go into the New Creation, the New Heavens and Earth are maximally physical, as well as maximally spiritual.  Thus, God doesn’t need a reason to create another pure physical realm to replace the present cursed one other than the fact that He has to do away with what He had cursed.

Could God make a new material realm by fiat and create glorified bodies for the saved souls of the saints in conjunction with that creative work without the requirement of resurrection?  Conceivably yes, but then there could be no place for the resurrection.  The logic of Resurrection requires a state of physical imperfection which is renovated or restored by dint of its connection to resurrection.

Some systems of eschatology treat this present material realm as a mere transportation system for the bodies of the elect.  Or, more pointedly still, it is treated as a stage for the outplaying of history with no primary importance to God other than to deliver the elect into heaven.  After that it is to be cast off and destroyed.  Hence, in amillennialism particularly, wherein the planet serves in a reductionistic sense only as a mere carrier, the Christian worldview is impacted in the area of the purposes of this present earth.

A Glorious Anachronism

It could also be shown that any proper acknowledgement of Jesus as Lord and Christ brings with it a corresponding acceptance of and exalting in His bodily resurrection in heavenly glory.  And it is just this fact which makes the resurrection a sort of anachronism.

Jesus is the only Savior of sinners because He Himself is without sin.  Moreover, to no other man could Divine attributes be spoken about.  It is these attributes of full deity which qualified Jesus to bring sinful mankind to God.  But bringing mankind to God must include God’s original intention for man and woman.  Nothing can be left out.  Human beings were created to combine spiritual and physical qualities in a unique combination, and in so doing, to reflect the spiritual and material realms of creation within the image they had been given.  But the material was cursed, and death has wrought its dismal effects upon our physical frames until they can be remade.

As I write this I look out at a great many various changing shades of green – in the leaves and the grass and the surrounding hills.  But for all its splendor I look at bearers of the curse with which God struck the ground for Adam’s sake.  Created from that earth, his body was doomed to fall back into it, until the time the material creation was ready to be restored.  That event would itself be triggered by the physical glorification of the Church when the savior came for it near the end of this “present evil age.”  But the transformation of believing humanity and the repristination of our environment does not have its source in a mere decision to act from the Throne of Glory.  It finds its source in the historical fact of the empty tomb and the declaration “He is not here, but is risen!”  And because He is risen we shall rise and this earth shall be pervaded with peace and its languishing beauty, so rarely glimpsed as its Creator wanted it to be experienced, shall come through under the hand of the King who reigns from Jerusalem.  (more…)

Christ at the Center (Pt.6a)

SERIES: Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism –

Introduction: Part 1a, 1b, 1c

Jesus and the New Covenant: Part 2a, 2b, 2c,

The Covenant God Incarnate: Part 3a, 3b,

The Role of Jesus, the Word, as the Ground of Meaning and Significance: Part 4a, 4b, 4c, 4d

Christ and the Triadic People of God: Part 5a, 5b, 5c, 5d

Jesus and the Restitution of the All Things

Grace has to be present where God is present in His covenants.  Because the “Seed” of Genesis 3:15 would endure a crushed heel (at the Cross), and will eventually inflict a deathblow upon the serpent, grace rests upon all of human history after the Fall until this world is presented to the Father prior to the New Creation.  Grace carries the world through.

Grace did not first emerge at the Cross, but it was procured at the Cross.  Calvary is the source of all the hope for the world.  It represents the reason why THIS fallen world still exists.  The Cross was seen from the beginning.  God knew that the humans He made to reflect His own image would seek to do that image to death in His Son.  Jesus would have been murdered in any era and by any people.  Men would ever have done it willingly, without any push from the outside, so that they could remake themselves after their own image.

But why was Jesus crucified?  Why not thrust through or shot?  To ask this is not the same thing as asking why He died.  Aside from the obvious need for the blood of Christ to be shed, I am not in any position to give a complete answer to that question.  But surely these facts are involved in any which could be provided:

  • Crucifixion was humiliating
  • Crucifixion was denigrating
  • Crucifixion was open and public
  • Crucifixion was lingering
  • Crucifixion bore all the appearance of the most abject defeat.

I could add to this that in handing over their Messiah to be killed by Gentiles, the Jewish leaders were representatives of all that fallen mankind had become.  Instead of showing themselves to be God’s sanctified people, they proved that they belonged to the same ungodly “world” they outwardly despised.  Think about their hypocrisy; they would feign worship God right after murdering His Son (Jn. 18:28).  The Cross of Christ epitomizes human history.  Being lifted up in humiliation (Jn. 12:32; cf. 3:14), becoming a spectacle to be scoffed at by men and demons, His suffering nevertheless covered the sins of humanity.  Crucifixion lifted its victims up between earth and sky as curses (Gal. 3:13).  But the blood shed there (better, offered up there) fits believers for the kingdom of glory to come.

The depth of sin which crucified Christ has not passed us by.  We are all children of the Fall.  We must take the Fall that seriously.  This is what makes Calvary our only refuge.  If sinners are to be finally saved it must be through the travail and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Because salvation is centered on Christ (Acts 4:12; cf. Gen. 3:15), and because the world was made for Him and is upheld by Him (Col. 1:16-17), it comes as no surprise to read that He has special rights concerning this world’s future.

In Revelation 5 we read,

And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, was able to open the book, or to look into it. 4 And I began to weep greatly, because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look into it; 5 and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” (Rev 5:1-5)

No one is found worthy, not even among the exalted sinless beings in heaven, to open the seven sealed scroll.  Only the Lamb, Jesus Christ is finally found to be worthy of the task.  Why?

“Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10 “And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” (Rev 5:9-10)

I bypass the question of whom the 24 elders represent (they might represent the Church).  My main interest is with two truths found within these verses.  Firstly, Revelation 5:1-5 make Christ the only One in creation who is qualified to open the seals of the Book.  The Book is filled with calamity for the earth-dwellers, and is best seen as a prophetic overview of the time from the revealing of the antichrist till the second advent (read ch.6 and study Tony Garland’s exegesis of the chapter).  None of these judgments happen until the Lamb opens the seals.  Thus, their occurrence is contingent upon Christ’s timing.  It is Christ who controls this history.

In the second place verses 9-10 record praise for redemption wrought by the Lamb, but they also speak of what Christ has “made them” to be in the future kingdom on earth.  Therefore these kingdom blessings are tied to the redemption mediated by Christ along with the blessing of salvation.  This brings up two further considerations.  In the first place we must recall that the blood of Christ is New Covenant blood.  So we must repeat emphatically: all redeemed sinners are saved by New covenant blood!  Secondly, the mediation we have spoken of relates to His priestly office.

The Priest-King

It is clear enough that the priestly office of Christ was inaugurated at the Cross (Heb.9:11-12) and continues with His intercessory work on behalf of the saints (Heb.4:14-16; 7:25).  But Messiah is a king-priest (cf. Zech. 6:12-13), just as His precursor (Heb.7:1).  The two functions can be seen in Psalm 110:1 and 4.  It is very important to pay attention to the occasion when these two roles will be assumed.  The NT makes it quite clear that Jesus is now functioning as our High Priest.

But Isaiah 49:8 says,

Thus says the LORD, “In a favorable time I have answered You, And in a day of salvation I have helped You; And I will keep You and give You for a covenant of the people, To restore the land, to make them inherit the desolate heritages – Isaiah 49:8

This is a New Covenant passage.  But notice how Christ’s covenant function includes restoration of the land.  As He is, like Melchizedek, a Priest-King who combines both roles, we must ask whether the two functions are coterminous.  (more…)

Christ at the Center (Pt.5d)

SERIES: Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism –

Introduction: Part 1a, 1b, 1c

Jesus and the New Covenant: Part 2a, 2b, 2c,

The Covenant God Incarnate: Part 3a, 3b,

The Role of Jesus, the Word, as the Ground of Meaning and Significance: Part 4a, 4b, 4c, 4d

Christ and the Triadic People of God: Part 5a, 5b, 5c

A Summary of the One People in Three Concept

A triad is a group of three.  As used by theologians like John Frame it refers to the three-in-oneness of an entity.  In Appendix A of his The Doctrine of God, Frame lists many examples, some of the most obvious being:

1. Length, width, height

2. Beginning, middle, end

3. I, you, he

4. Faith, hope, love

5. The world, the flesh and the devil

6. Thought, word, deed

7. Liquid, solid, gas

8. Past, present, future

9. Husband, wife, child

10. Melody, harmony, rhythm

Some of the more interesting ones have to do with Speech-Acts: locution, illocution, perlocution; Ethical perspectives: teleological deontological, existential; and Divine disclosure: revelation, inspiration, illumination.  Frame himself has become known for his triad of “Lordship Attributes”: Control, authority and presence; as well as his viewing of things from situational, normative, and existential perspectives.  These are all Three-in-one and One-in-three.  They reflect the world as it is in both its material and immaterial aspects.  All I am calling attention to in this section of the series highlighting the central place of Jesus Christ in Scripture is that it should not seem surprising to anyone that those made in His image would compose a triad of peoples.

I have explained that the Father’s particular connection with Israel and the Son’s particular relation to the Church is set forth quite plainly in the Bible.  I can find no similar teaching concerning the relation of the Nations to the Holy Spirit, but since in the age to come “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea” (Isa 11:9), it is feasible at least that a special Spirit – Nations relationship will be revealed in the future.  If not, the silence cannot be used as an argument against the Father – Israel relation (Isa. 54:5), or the Christ – Church relation (Eph. 5:25, 29).

Saying all this does not mean that the Father does not bear a loving relationship with the Church, nor that the Son does not bear a loving communion with Israel.  We are not forced by any of this to regard the Divine affections as split between competing parties.  The Trinity loves and blesses all His elect.  The unique relations which at least two of the Divine Persons have toward Israel and the Church respectively should perhaps be seen as expressions of the unique attributes of each hypostasis: paternity, sonship, procession in an extra-trinitarian movement.

The covenantal relation of both groups to Christ is a fundamental fact of salvation and hope.  Christ is “set forth” by the Father and the Spirit to bring humanity to the Godhead, and I am suggesting that this will be done with Israel, the Church, and the gathered Nations enjoying special (though not exclusive) relationships with Father, Son and Holy Spirit respectively.

Be that as it may, let us not miss the main point.  The Bible reveals that three people-groups from human history will be present in the eschaton.  This is assured by the covenants which God has made and shall make with these parties; covenants which He has placed Himself under obligation to fulfill.  And God will certainly fulfill His own covenant word in accordance with His truthful and unchanging character.  The means by which this three-in-one scheme will be achieved is through the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Israel’s Messiah, the Church’s Head, and the Nations’ Light (another triad).

Next installment

Christ at the Center (Pt.5c)

SERIES: Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism –

Introduction: Part 1a, 1b, 1c

Jesus and the New Covenant: Part 2a, 2b, 2c,

The Covenant God Incarnate: Part 3a, 3b,

The Role of Jesus, the Word, as the Ground of Meaning and Significance: Part 4a, 4b, 4c, 4d

Christ and the Triadic People of God: Part 5a, 5b

Let me start Part 5c by repeating my main thesis:

My main thesis is that Christ will perform all this restorative and promissory work by the New Covenant, which in Him (Isa. 49:8) provides the requisite cleansing unto righteousness that obligates God to fulfill His covenants.  This Christ-centered approach is what I call “Biblical Covenantalism.”

I have gotten as far as showing that there is a solid case, given the promises of God vouchsafed to the nation Israel (especially in the OT), and to the Church (exclusively in the NT), together with the separate “betrothals” of Israel to God the Father (e.g. Isa. 54:5), and the Church to the Lord Jesus (Eph. 5:31), to distinguish between them in the eschaton.  I see no reason to paper over these distinctions for the sake of some forced union.  The passages I have called attention to are as authoritative as anything else in the Word of God and must not be ignored simply because they make people uncomfortable.  Attempting to force together biblical texts which point to a plurality of redeemed people-groups and make them refer to one group for the sake of perceived theological tidiness always results in the debasement of “uncooperative” texts.  Either this or else a plain avoidance of them.  As David Allen wrote recently, “There is a difference between union and unity. Two cats with their tails tied together have union. They sure don’t have unity!”  I believe Christ brings covenantal unity but in plurality.

If the Bible, which is one Book, declares that God will save and restore Israel nationally (and it certainly does), after which time Israel will act as a magnet attracting the nations (cf. Isa. 2:2-4; Ezek. 37:20-28; Zech. 8:22-23; 14:16-19), and this turn of events is yet to occur, then that teaching must find a place within a person’s theology.  A man who will not make peace with the passages we have adduced, but who instead enters into a kind of skirmish with them, is not placing himself under their authority.  I am not saying counter-arguments cannot be brought forward.  If they can be then they should.  But when clear declarations of Scripture are passed over because they do not square with a certain theological preference, we cannot say that there is a true commitment to the whole counsel of God.

a. Before Israel

There was a lot of time which passed and a multitude of people who were saved before the call of Abraham.  Prior to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the twelve tribes there was no “chosen people” whom God singled out for His own (Psa. 114:7; 1 Ki. 8:48, 53; Isa. 2:3; 43:1, 21).  Sinners were saved but they were not within Israel.  This hardly requires any proof.  Since these saints were not part of Israel (which was not yet in existence), which people-group will they be in at the close of history?

Job was probably contemporary with Isaac and Jacob, and he certainly entertained hope of a resurrected life (Job 19:25-27).  Was he an Israelite without knowing it?  Is it not more likely that he joins those like Noah and Melchizedek within another set of saved humanity?

b. Before the Church

We have shown that the Church was not in existence until after the Resurrection of Jesus (e.g. Eph. 1:20-22; 4:7-12).   We cannot therefore avail ourselves of the rather too convenient remedy of placing the saints of all ages into the Body of Christ.  This answer can have absolutely no warrant unless someone can demonstrate how this can be (see the last post).  Nobody yet has; although many unsatisfactory arguments have been used to try to accomplish it.  If the Church is not in the Old Testament and there are people outside of Israel who were saved (before or during the era of the Abrahamic and the Mosaic Covenant), they can neither be in Israel or in the Church.

c. After the Church

We realize that there is no salvation outside the Body of Christ (Eph. 2:20-22), but we must also realize that the Body of Christ hasn’t always been here.  nor will it be here after it has been removed once “the fulness of the Gentiles has come in.”  In fact, Paul’s argument in Romans 11:11-30 is of great importance here.  I reproduce it with some notations:

I say then, they did not stumble [cf. Rom. 9:32-33] so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. 12 Now if their transgression be riches for the world and their failure be riches for the Gentiles [the world is “the Gentiles”, who we have said are the main peoples to comprise the Church], how much more will their fulfillment be! [there is to be a future “fulfillment” for Israel]13 But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. [Paul is aware that only some Israelites will be saved now] 15 For if their rejection be the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? [Though Israel has been “rejected” they will be “accepted,” which fits Hosea 2] 16 And if the first piece of dough be holy, the lump is also; and if the root be holy, the branches are too. [this begins the Olive Tree metaphor, which is so often misunderstood] 17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you [Gentiles], being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, [since Israel are the branches broken off, the “root” cannot BE Israel] 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. [whatever the root is, it is firstly Israel’s root] 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches [Israel], neither will He spare you. 22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.[which may perhaps allude to the future apostasy in 2 Thess. 2:3?] 23 And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. [how can Israel be grafted into Israel?] 24 For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree,[probably the world system] and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? [the question to be answered, then, is, “what is the olive tree?”] 25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel [the natural branches] until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in; [Israel must wait for this “until,” which awaits the “fulness of the Gentiles”] 26 and thus all Israel [the nation, see 11:1-3] will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, [Jerusalem; more precisely, the city of David – 1 Kings 8:1] He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” [again showing the nation is in view] 27 “And this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” [this is the New Covenant since that is the covenant which takes away sins] 28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob] 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. [When God gifts a people and makes covenant promises He will ensure the gifts get to those to whom they were given, and the covenants will be fulfilled in precisely the way He made them.  IT IS THESE COVENANT PROMISES WHICH ARE THE OLIVE TREE – Rom. 9:4-5; 11:26-27].

Israel will receive its covenanted gifts through first receiving salvation via the New Covenant (11:26-27).  The Church will receive those covenant blessings meant for it (Gal. 3), again through the New Covenant.  But is there a third people group?

(more…)

Christ at the Center (Pt.5b)

SERIES: Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism

Introduction: Part 1a, 1b, 1c

Jesus and the New Covenant: Part 2a, 2b, 2c,

The Covenant God Incarnate: Part 3a, 3b,

The Role of Jesus, the Word, as the Ground of Meaning and Significance: Part 4a, 4b, 4c, 4d

Christ and the Triadic People of God: Part 5a

Due to Christ’s central role as the Redeemer, and owing to the fact that His redeeming blood is wholly  “the blood of the New Covenant” (Heb. 12:24), all who will ever be redeemed – whether they live before or after the Cross – will be redeemed under the terms of the New Covenant.  As I have been at pains to emphasize, Christ is Himself the New Covenant!

Saying that He is the New Covenant does not mean that it is all Christ is.  He is far more than that.  But as pertains to the salvation of sinners, I have stressed Jesus’ unavoidable role.  And unless someone can show that Christ’s blood is only partly the blood of the New Covenant (with part left over to apply elsewhere?), we must conclude that all redemption is, in the end, New Covenant redemption.

This does not mean that all the redeemed are incorporated within the Christian Church however (nor indeed within Israel).  Such a teaching is alien to Scripture and is sustained only by inferring doctrine in spite of Scripture.

In the previous article in this series I said that in the end, at the consummation of history, there will be one humanity reflected in three differentiated peoples of God: Israel, the Church, and the Nations.  We are now ready to look at the second of these groups – the Church.

The Church is a New Testament Institution

First of all we must dismiss this view, held by many pious men throughout history, that the Church is in the OT.  No New Covenant was made in the OT.  The NT records the making of the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood (Lk. 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25).  This is why Jesus spoke of the Church as future in Matt. 16:18 (Jn.7:39).  The Christian Church is the Body of Christ and is inescapably joined to the resurrection of Christ (Eph. 2:4-6; Col. 2:12; cf. 1 Cor. 12:13; Rom. 14:9).  Thus, it was quite literally impossible for the Church to exist prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The Apostle Paul writes,

Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. – Rom. 7:4

The Great Commission could not be given until “all power” was given to the Risen Christ (Matt. 28:18f.).  The preaching in the Book of Acts relies on the resurrection (Acts 2:14, 24; 4:2; 10:40; 13:22-23; 15:6-11; 17:18, etc.).  Paul’s admonitions to holiness in Romans 6 are predicated on our vital connection to the resurrection.  Moreover, the Church is built upon Christ (1 Cor. 3:11. Cf. Rom. 10:9), and “the apostles and [NT] prophets” (Eph. 2:20).  If the Church is a New Covenant community (as it is in 2 Cor. 3), it stands to reason that it could not be in existence before the New Covenant was made.

All this means that those saved before the inauguration of the Church, both among the Nations and in ancient Israel, are separate from the Church.  Israel was (cf. Hos. 2:2; Jer. 3:8) and shall be (Hos. 2:19) married to Yahweh – whom we equate in most instances with God the Father.  The Church shall be married to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25, 32; Rev. 19:6-9).  We cannot entertain a theology which has these OT saints in some suspended animation until Jesus has died and risen, and then joined to the NT Body of Christ.  Though we insist that their salvation was firmly grounded in the foreseen merits of the Cross, that is not the same thing as declaring them all within the sphere of the Church.  There is no necessity forced upon us by Scripture to include the saints of all the ages within the Church.

The Church is Intentionally Gentile

Another thing which is often overlooked but which ought to be thought about, is the frank truth that the Church, although it has its seeds in Jewish soil (Acts 1-7), is intentionally predominantly Gentile in constitution.  The Apostolic teaching is that the Church’s design is to bring the Gentiles into relationship with God.  This can be viewed along at least two related lines:

  • The Jews rejected Christ and are judicially blinded to this very day (Rom. 11:8-10, 25, 28).
  • We are awaiting “the fulness of the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:25).  Once this period has concluded God will once again turn to Israel – the natural branches (one of the worst exegetical foul-ups is to equate the Olive Tree with its branches!).

Although any Jew who today repents and receives Jesus as Savior is incorporated into the Church (Eph. 2:12-16), Paul teaches that God will yet deal again with the nation of Israel, “the natural branches.”

What is the Church?

It is, at its core, a called together population of redeemed peoples, Jew and Gentile, but mostly Gentile, permanently indwelt by the Spirit, and betrothed to the Risen Christ.  Because this conception is unknown within the pages of the Old Testament, the Church as “the Body of Christ” is called “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.” (Col 1:26).  It is not, contrary to some, that the concept of the Church was known by OT saints but not realized until the New Testament era.  That blatantly contradicts Paul’s statement in Colossians 1.  Rather, the idea of the Church was  “hidden in God” (Eph. 3:9); it was a secret (musterion) that no one but God knew about until God disclosed it.

Everyone understands that the OT is filled with promises of salvation for the Gentile nations.  It is the presence of these promises which smooth out the transition between the Testaments and explain the “lack of surprise” at the church’s existence in the Apostolic writings.  But this turning to the Gentiles because of the neglect of Messiah by Israel is no more foreseeable from an OT perspective than a huge time gap between the first and second advents was foreseeable. (more…)