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Chris' (Rivers of Eden) Posts on Various Subjects

Don:

Thanks for your reply

You asked about "conditional immortality" ... What I meant by that is the understanding that only Jesus and those who "saved" have "eternal life." I do not think the scripture teaches that the "wicked" have any existence after physical death. I think the scripture teaches that "hell" is the "grave" which is the last stop (as it were) for those who "live" and then die without believing the gospel for salvation.

After I came to understand the preterist view of eschatology, the concept of "conditional immortality" came next. After that came the realization that the "devil" is not a "fallen angel" or "supernatural being" at all, but is a metaphorical representation of the invisible reality of evil in human nature and society.

Concerning the "resurrection of the wicked" ... This concept has also been a difficulty in my apprehension of preterism. I'm thinking, at this point, that the "resurrection of the dead" that Jesus mentioned is to be understood as a figure of speech. In other words, in the context of talking about the "resurrection of the just," I think that Jesus speaks of the "resurrection of the wicked" in the sense of including all who had died as being permenantly affected by the outcome of the parousia. I don't think that Jesus was referring to a "literal" (or "visible") resurrection of the wicked any more than he was referring to a "literal" ( or "physical") resurrection of the righteous.

One of the traditions of Catholicism and Reformed theology is the concept of the "immortality of the soul" and what is called "spiritual death." In fact, many preterists that I know believe that Adam died "spiritually" on the day he ate the fruit and then they build a lot of theology regarding heaven, hell, and judgment on the foundation of that assumption. I find no mention of "spiritual death" in scripture; I think that all "death" in scripture is with reference to "physical" death (or the death of the soul). The gospel is based entirely upon the actual "physical death" of Jesus; He never died "spiritually" to be our saviour. At least that is how I understand it at this point ...

I think that one of the applications of a preterist eschatology is to understand that Jesus died and rose again to deliver those of us who believe from the inevitable physical death that would otherwise be the "end" of our existence. Because He lives, we will not be lost to the grave, we will live on with him in heaven. To the contrary, those who are living and refuse to believe the gospel will inevitably die and that is the end of their existence. That is what Paul means when he declares that "the wages of sin is death." There is no more judgment; the end of the Law during the destruction of Jerusalem and Judea (AD 66-73) was the "final judgment" that makes the inevitable destiny of believers and unbelievers a simple matter today.

Regarding the "satan" stuff, I think that the realization that he is not an actual "being" helps to alleviate the problem of his destruction at the parousia (AD 66-73). I know a lot of preterists who cannot explain what happened to Satan/Demons because they still hold to the pagan "devil" traditions and associate it with the sin and evil that is still present. They have to conclude that Satan is totally defeated and "cast into the Lake of Fire," but they can't explain why he still appears to operate in the world today.

Well ... what do you think ... I would appreciate your thoughts ... I am alone in Minnesota and do not have any knowledge of, or fellowship with, any other preterists here (for the past five years).

Also, what do you think is the significance of what you mentioned about "Jews" not being used until after the divided kingdom? What implications do you think this has for theology/eschatology??

YOURS, Chris

Ron, Don, and Bruce -

I would understand "he that believes will never die" in this sense (to answer your question).

From the perspective of the OT, "death" (which is physical - returning to dust) in inevitable for all of Adam's descendants. The "grave" (death/SHeOL/hades) in the OT is perceived as a place of "darkness" and "unconsciousness." It is also feared by the OT writers because it is a place of "unknown" things. Their hope is to be "delivered" from the grave. I think that they had no concept of an "afterlife" as we do today. You don't find any passages in the OT that talk about an "afterlife."

I think that the Lord Jesus was simply saying that since he was "the resurrection and the life" (meaning that he was the one who would defeat death by rising from the grave) that those who believed in him and followed him would be also not be subject to the oblivion of the "grave." I don't think that Jesus meant that no believers would "die" physically (afterall, in many passages he talks about people being persecuted to death, and dying before the parousia), but rather the sense here is that they would not be "captive" to the realm of the grave. Jesus also died physically himself too!

Remember, that in Acts 2, Peter refers to the Psalms passage about "death and hades" not being able to "hold" Jesus. I think this idea of being "hopelessly" anticipating a future in the "grave" is what Jesus was getting at. He was saying that the believers could look to the fulfillment of resurrection rather than the despair of the inevitability of a long time in the grave like the OT believers feared.

CHRIS

Dear Don:

Thanks for your prompt reply ... I will reply to your comments ...

My comment about "hell" was too general ... you are right, "hell" seems to make more specific reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. "Sheol" and "Hades" are the terms that I think make reference to "the grave" in general. Because I cannot find any explanation of "spiritual death" in either the OT or NT, I am inclined to think that the ancient writers used "Sheol" and "Hades" to describe the "unseen" realm of death. From their perspective, physical death was the end of one's sensory perceptions and existence. You are right about the meaning of "Gehenna" in the NT.

I did not comment on "demons." I am inclined to think that "demons" were an extension of the metaphorical language the ancient Jews used to describe the sickness and diseases (like schizophrenia, palsy, blindness, epilepsy, etc.) that they could not understand or cure. I get the impression that you are "deaf." In Biblical terms, then, you would have a "demon." Albeit, I don't think the Biblical writers would have thought you were "possessed" by some immaterial "fallen angel" in the sense that many Christians today would define the term "demon." I think that there is almost conclusive evidence in the language of scripture that the terms "Satan," "demons," and "evil spirts" are NT era metaphors for evil and certain illnesses. These words are used in the same way that we might say that someone has a "demon" when they have a drinking problem or gambling problem that seems to cause extraordinarily compulsive and destructive behaviors. Or, we might say that someone is a "lunatic," although we do not really believe that the "moon" (lunar) is controlling them or "possessing them."

With regard to angels in general, I just cannot find any explanation of any "angelic rebellion" in the Bible. All of the angels that are found in scripture seem to be doing God's service. Even the ones that appear to do "evil," like the "Satan" who was sent by God to test Job and the "lying spirt" that was commissioned by God to tempt Saul. These were good angels who were commissioned by God, just like the "destroying angels" that took care of Sodom and Gomorra, etc.

Also, I am inclined to believe that it was such an angel (a "good" angel) that was sent to tempt Jesus during the wilderness experience. Your explanation of the experience of Jesus in the wilderness would be my second choice; however, I think that there is more evidence that an "angel" was actually the tempter. The text just doesn't say anything explicit about Jesus "wrestling with his own desires." I think that throughout the OT, "the Tempter" is personified, and this seems to be assumed in the Matt 4 account. But neither explanation is conclusive.

You have a good point about the term "resurrection" and what it conotes ... I did not do an adequate job of explaining my understanding of the "resurrection of the wicked." I need to clarify my t hinking further ... perhaps I will come across a sufficient linguistic parallel that will clarify my position. In some sense, the "wicked" are "resurrected" whether literally or figuratively.

Regarding your questions about Adam and Eve and the "sin nature" ... At this point, I would have to conclude that Adam and Eve had the ability to "choose" to eat of the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil." This seems to be self-evident in the command by God not to eat of it. It seems that the "serpent" was created to tempt the woman to eat from the tree. This seems evident because this is what the serpent did, according to the record. I would also argue that the "sin nature" (as you call it) was the result of the fruit of the tree itself. God told the man that he would "die" if he ate of tree. In Genesis 3, God explicitly pronounces the "return to dust" (physical death) upon the man as a consequence of his disobedience. Nothing is said about "spiritual death" or "total depravity" or a "sin nature." I take it that the man was created "good" and that he was tempted of his own desires, and thus brought the "knowledge of good and evil" upon himself, thus making himself accountable for choosing what is "right" and "wrong" and thus making himself suseptible to judgment.

I won't go into detail on this, but I do regard the "us" in Genesis and the plural form (Elohim) to indicate that the angels (gods) are involved in the creation along with Jehovah. Throughout the rest of scripture, the angels participate in God's judgment and are sometimes sent to "tempt" man. Also, the evidence in scripture seems to suggest that all appearances of "God" in the Bible are actually appearances of angels who represent him. It is interesting to not that man was "created in the image of God," yet "no man has ever seen God" which seems to imply that our physical form is patterned after angels who almost always appear in a "human" form in scripture. Food for thought, hmmm ....

You asked whether or not I believe in "supralapsarianism" or and "sovereign grace" ... well, these are loaded theological terms that I am familiar with. I could not answer that unless I know what scriptures you would use to defend something like "supralapsarianism." I have a different take on some the the terminology that is commonly used to debate the concepts of predistination and election and the order of the decrees.

For example, have you ever noticed that the dimensions of the "garden of Eden" in Genesis 1-3 are almost exactly the same as the dimensions of the "promised land" given to Abraham in Gen 12-17? I am currently doing a lot of study in the book of Genesis and its relationship to the NT. I am inclined to think, at this point, that the account of the "creation of heaven and earth" in Genesis 1-2 is best understood as an explanation of the beginning of the land of Israel, and not the physical universe (albeit the universe is involved in the text - i.e. I certainly don't think that the "sun, moon, and stars" are metaphorical).

As you know from being a preterist, the language of "heaven and earth" and "geophysical calamity" is used throught the rest of the OT and NT to refer to the rise and fall of nations, much more often than it has anything to do with the geophysical universe as we know it. It would be a lot easier for preterists to explain "apocalyptic language" if they would connect it with the book of Genesis, instead of always pulling it out of the later prophets. I think that the reason Moses, the Prophets, Jesus, and the Apostles use the apocalyptic language is probably because Moses describes the "creation" of the "promised land" in terms of "light, darkness, heaven, earth, sun, moon, stars, etc. from ,the very "beginning" in Genesis 1:1. Afterall, the consummation of all prophecy is concerned with the land of Israel, Jerusalem, and the Temple, not with the physical universe, right? So is the very beginning of divine revelation?

This all has to do with your question about "supralapsarianism" you know! Hang on ... there's more!

I find it interesting that Paul calls the "new covenant" a "new creation." The "old creation" seems to be the "old covenant" order that had been established by the Law with its "feasts, sabbaths, new moons, etc." When you study the OT Law, you find that the calendar of time is based upon the "sun, moon, and stars" that were visible about the Land. Moreover, "time" itself is established by the worship cycle of sabbaths and feasts which were not explicitly gi 3ven or required of the people of Israel until Moses delivered the Law.

It is also very significant that Paul draws his theological conclusions about "salvation by grace through faith" for Jew and Gentile alike from the promises made to Abraham BEFORE the Law came by Moses. Thus, I think that when Paul often refers to "before time began" or "before the foundation of the world" in his epistles (with regard to election/predestination) he is not referring to a time prior to the "creation" of the universe, but rather to the time of Abraham before the "old covenant world" was "created" through the Law given by Moses.

Well, this is getting quite long ... let me know your thoughts ...

I enjoyed reading your testimony about preterism ... we have many things in common ...

YOURS, Chris

Guys -

I have to disagree with the "spiritual death" idea here in Gen 1-3. First of all, there is no mention of any "spiritual death" anywhere in these chapters ... nor anywhere in the Bible (as far as I can tell from my concordances). When the passage says "on the day you eat it you will surely die" it doesn't say you will "die spiritually."

Also, it is certainly possible too translate the passage "on the day you eat of it, dying you shall die." The emphasis here in the Hebrew text is the certainty of "death" and not the timing of it. Also, it is evident throughout the OT that "in the day" does not require a 24-hour period.

I have to insist that there is more evidence that the reference is to physical death (returning to dust). The serpent's statement also says nothing about a "spiritual death." When God pronounces judgment on the man and woman, there is nothing said about a "spiritual death." It seems that "toiling until physical death" is the meaning of the judgment. Also, throughout the OT, it is the "soul" that "dies" and not the "spirit." Remember, the "spirit" returns to God "who gave it" (Eccl). Adam was a "living soul" and not a "spirit."

Also, Jesus died "physically" and not "spiritually" for our redemption. I think this is important. Jesus explicitly "commended his spirit to the Father" (Matt 26), his "soul" went to hades (Acts 2), and his "body" was laid in a tomb.

With regard to the comments about "separation from God." I'm also leary of this because God communicates "face to face" with people throughout the OT (by means of angelic manifestation - just like in the Garden - elohim). If man is somehow "separated from God," then why is "Yahweh" having lunch with Abraham, wrestling with Jacob, and talking face to face with Moses etc ... you see what I'm getting at. Jesus was living on earth and God was "with him" too.

I think the point of leaving the Garden is simply to avoid the "tree of life." This is the explanation given by the Elohim, anyway. I don't think they say anything about "separation from God." Perhaps the mortal Adam and Eve could have eaten of this tree and somehow inherited immortality. Or, this could be (as Ron might think) a "spiritual" kind of analogy to the temple in that when there came "sin," Adam and Eve could no longer enter the temple (the Land - Garden) in order to serve Him.

I don't mean to seem really disagreeable, but terms like "separation from God" and "spiritual death" come from Catholicism and Calvinism, and are not found in scripture, let alone explained anywhere in scripture. I'm just leary of expressing my beliefs in terms that are not the words of God. I think if we are going to understand what these ancient writers meant, we need to think in their terms.

Thoughts?

Chris

Dear Don:

In answer to your "two questions" ... With regard to "Christadelphians" ... No, I am not a "Christadelphian." I've read some of their publications, but I don't know any members of that denomination. I know, however, that they have a very high regard for scripture, so I don't hesitate to consider their interpretation of things. In particular, they have a unique perspective on Angelology, Christology, and Soteriology. Unfortunately, they are radically Dispensational.

My view on "water baptism" is this ... I think the evidence in both the OT and NT suggests that "water baptism" was an OT cleansing ritual (by sprinkling or pouring) that had prophetic significance for the Jews during the ministry of John (the Baptizer) and Jesus. I don't think that "water" baptism had anything to do with the Gentiles any more than did "circumcision." Hence, Paul, in Corinthians 1:14-21 seems to regard "water" baptism as an insignificant and undesirable aspect (like circumcision) of his ministry to the Gentiles. I also think that the book of Hebrews (which I think is Luke's editorial collection of Paul's final days of argumentation with the Jews during the Roman imprisonment - Acts 28) puts "baptisms" completely within the perspective of the passing of the Law and its ordinances.

With regard to my understanding of "water baptism," I also find a significant distinction between the ministry of the Twelve and that of Paul. I think that Jesus and the Twelve ministered exclusively to the Jews, and that Paul was later appointed to minister to the Gentiles. In my opinion, Luke did not write Acts to explain the ministry of the Twelve, nor did he write it about the Holy Spirit. I think that Luke wrote Acts to Theophilus (who was probably Paul's defense attorney in Rome for his appeal to Caesar Nero) as an eyewitness account to be used in Paul's defense. Most of Acts details Paul's "blameless" activities among both his Jewish accusers, as well as the church in Jerusalem and its leaders. This is why I think that the book ends abruptly, and does not detail the death of Paul. It seems to me that the book is written to justify Paul's calling by God to preach to the Gentiles, despite the resistance that he got from the Twelve and the unbelieving Jews.

In Acts, "baptism" with the Holy Spirit becomes the "proof" that God was justifying both Jew and Gentile alike by means of Paul's unique ministry. Unlike the Jews, the Gentile, Cornelius, received the Holy Spirit apart from both "water baptism" and the "laying on of the Apostles' hands." This was a big deal, and later proved to Peter, James, and John that Paul's ministry was legitimate, since he could also "lay hands" on his Gentile converts (or someone else's Jewish converts - Acts 19) and give them the Holy Spirit apart from "water baptism." Most of the last half of Acts are eye witness accounts of Paul's trials on the way to Rome that are designed to show that e ven "impartial" Jewish and Gentile rulers found him innocent of any crimes that his accusers might bring before Caesar.

Of course, as a preterist, I believe that both "water" baptism and "Spirit" baptism ended when the Apostles completed their ministry and the Law was fulfilled during the Jewish War (AD 66-73). Since Luke indicates that the "Holy Spirit" was received by the "laying on of the Apostles' hands" (Acts 8), I am inclined to think that the indwelling and manifestations of the Spirit were limited to that era. I do not believe that there is any kind of "indwelling" or "miraculous power" of the Spirit present today. People who had the Holy Spirit during the NT era had to have the proof in manifestations, and it was evident to all . You and I can't look at anybody today and find evidence of the Holy Spirit, we can only judge one another on the basis of the scriptures and works of righteousness.

Regarding the "Lord's Supper" ... I see no reason to do it ceremoniously today. Some preterists offer linguistic arguments that might suggest a continuing function of the Supper in the Kingdom now, but I don't find any conclusive evidence for it or against it. I think that the significance of the Supper among Jews and Gentiles (I Cor 11) was the fellowship of Jew and Gentile as one body. This, however, may have been more significant back then, because the Law still applied to the Jews until the destruction of the Temple and City. So, I'm leaning in the direction you are leaning on this ...

With regard to your question about "the Jews" and the "divided kingdom" ... I'm not sure I understand precisely what you think are the implications of this, but it sound like you are seeing a difference being maintained (to some degree) between Jews and Gentiles throughout even the NT. If so, I think that you are seeing some of the distinctions that I see between the ministry of Jesus and the Twelve (to the circumcision) and the ministry of Paul (to the uncircumcision). Or, maybe I am totally misunderstanding your thoughts ...?

By the way, what is this "Christian Identity" group that you mentioned ... I've never heard of them ...

I'm looking forward to your thoughts and comments on this reply ...

SINCERELY, Chris

Hello Don ...

Thanks for taking the time to reply again ... I am also enjoying out discussions ...

I thought I'd give you a little background about myself.

I was raised in a traditional Roman Catholic home. I did not really take any interest in the Bible until I was about 18. Then I began to study it everyday. At some time along the way I began to really believe that Jesus is the Lord and Savior. I heard John MacArthur preaching on the radio one night, and I began listening to him as often as I could, and ordered hundreds of his tapes. Naturally, I ended up becoming a quasi-Reformed Dispensational Evangelical like him ...

I went to Bible College here in Minnesota (with the intent to become a "pastor-teacher"). During that time I was exposed to some different viewpoints through other Christians so I began to study more of the different options in eschatology, etc. About half-way through college, I decided not to go into the ministry because I did not feel as though I had the right answers to a lot of the controversial issue s like election/predestination, the "rapture," the millenium, tongues, etc. So, I just kept studying the Word and went into secular employment.

At one point about six years ago, I decided that I needed to get eschatology figured out. I was determined to give all the views a fair hearing. I bought about 70 books (from as many viewpoints as I could determine) from Great Christian Books and Christian Book Distributors and spent the next year reading them all. As I read them, I gradually began to see that Dispensationalism was really not as "Biblical" as I'd thought.

The last of the books that I read were "Before Jerusalem Fell" by Gentry, "The Cross and the Parousia" by Max King, "What Happened in 70 AD" by Ed Stephens, and "II Peter 3: The Late Great Kingdom" by Don Preston. It was Preston's book that caused me to see the importance of the preterist hermeneutic and to adopt the "full preterist" eschatology. I then traveled to Ohio to meet with both Max & Don, as well as Ed Stephens in Pennsylvania. They were all gracious, and answered some of my questions.

Of course, Max & Don also went out of their way to try to sign me up with the "Church of Christ" denomination ... but that's another story ... I gave them some "food for thought" about "water baptism" that I don't think they'd every heard before, so I think they just decided I was just "ignorant" of the "true gospel." They even had me talk to William Bell (from Tennessee) to try to answer my arguments about "water baptism." Bell admitted that he need to "study" things further. He insisted on recording our conversations, but then he never got back to me!

After realizing how wrong I'd been about eschatology, I began doing a thorough study of some of the other areas of systematic theology like Christology, Soteriology, Pneumatology, Angelology, etc. I really want to make sure that I give a fair hearing to all the different perspectives on all of the many "controversial" doctrines. This kind of study has been very rewarding, and most of all, I've learned to appreciate a lot of other Christian denominations and groups because I realize that most of them have a little bit of the truth that the others don't.

It's just a shame that so many groups have formed because they make issues like "the gifts of the Spirit," or "the mode of baptism," or "the Diety of Christ," etc. the grounds for alienating other Christians who are just as sincerely trying to follow the Bible. Since I was "deceived" for so many years, I find it hard to be as judgmental toward those who disagree with me now. I've learned so much from being open to all the Biblical evidence. I hope that this glorifies God!

I'm going to check out the CI website stuff ... I'll let you know what I think. I've got to go to work now ...

YOURS, Chris

Don:

I started reading a little bit of the stuff on the CI site ... I read the "Adam & Eve" part.

I agreed with the remarks about Adam & Eve not being the first people on the planet Earth. The questions that they raise about "Cain's wife" and "the other nations in the land" are good ones. I've encountered these remarks in my study of Genesis, and it is part of the reason that I think the "creation" account pertains only to the "promised land" of Israel and not to the beginning of the geophysical universe ...

On the other hand, the linguistic stuff about "ADAM" meaning "a caucasion man with pinkish cheeks" is not well-substantiated. The word "fair" does not require the meaning of "pink cheeks." It could simply mean "attractive" or "clear complected" with would not require a specific racial denotation.

I will read the rest of the sections too, since I am open to hearing other ideas. Perhaps the stuff on the "tribes of Israel" will be a little more compelling ...

Hope to hear from you soon, CHRIS

Don -

At this time I have no plans to write articles on a website ... I really don't know who would have an interest in the direction of my studies in theology ...

There doesn't seem to be any progress being made with regard to the implications of the preterist hermeneutic and eschatology. I'm getting the impression that there are a few denominational factions that have adopted the full preterist eschatology namely the "Church of Christ" preterists, the "Reformed" preterists, the "Sovereign Grace" preterists, the "Charismatic" preterists, and the "Biblical Unitarian" preterists.

Unfortunately, these congregations will not openly fellowship with the other factions on account of the denominational teachings (like "baptismal regeneration," "the Trinity/Diety of Christ," "Calvinism" etc.) that alienated these groups before they adopted the full preterist eschatology. For, example, I've been asked on several occasions by Max King, Terry Siverd, Don Preston, Jack Scott, and William Bell to speak at the annual Covenant Eschatology seminars in Ohio, but only on the condition that I be "water baptized for the remission of sins" in order to join the Church of Christ denomination. Until I am willing to submit to their "water baptism" requirement, they will not regard me as a "brother in Christ," just as they would not consider Ed Stevens or Ward Fenley or Wanda Shirk or J.E. Leonard as "brothers in Christ."

This is unfortunate since I think it will hinder any progress in other areas of systematic theology. Many fear to consider the implications of preterism because they might be shunned by their brothers in the denomination. And, I think that many are afraid to alienate their friends further, because they find that most will not even consider "full preterism" because it has been labeled as "heresy" and "apostasy." If these people avoid "preterism" with such resistance, imagine how they will react to questions about "the Diety of Christ" or "Substitutionary Atonement."

I also fear that the reason this is happening is because many of the preterist leaders are trying to make "full preterism" fit into traditional theology and creedal formulations rather than coming to the realization that eshatology is the ultimate goal and paradigm for the whole of biblical and systematic theology. All theology must be reevaluated in light of the preterist hermeneutic; all traditional theology (Catholic/Reformed) has been based upon the assumption of a delay of the parousia. Therefore, I think that the foundation of all theological categories has been shown to be false. This would seem to mandate building a new systematic theology that is based upon the true "biblical eschatology." In my opinion, a "full preterist" eschatology cannot be "Evangelical," or "Reformed" or "Restoration Movement" no matter how hard one tries to make it fit. Eschatology is not a mere "footnote" to systematic theology that can simply be "updated." It is the very skeleton that underlies all the theological categories.

Any thoughts? Do you think I'm crazy?

CHRIS

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