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Chris' (Rivers of Eden) Posts on Various Subjects - Part 2

I am 34 years old; I work as a marketing consultant for the phone company, GTE ... How about you?

In answer to your question about Romans 5. I have struggled with the interpretation of some of the elements of this text, and I've tried to study many different interpretations of it. Let me share my convictions with you; let me know what you think of them.

First of all, I think that one of the keys to understanding the theology of Paul is to recognize that his "gospel" is a message primarily directed to the Gentiles. He was exclusively the "apostle to the uncircumcision" (Gal 2:1-10). When speaks of "all men," he is referring to "all nations" (i.e. "Jews and Gentiles as they are separated by the Mosaic Covenant). He is not talking about individual "persons."

Paul wrote Romans to explain that the "gospel" is "the power of salvation" to both Jew and Gentile alike (hence "all men"). When he speaks of "the transgression" coming by "one man," he is referring to "Adam" who existed and "sinned" BEFORE the Law came by Moses. This is significant because it is the "Law" that put the distinction between Abraham's descendants and made "all men" either "Jew or Gentile" up until, and including, the time of Paul.

Paul explicitly teaches in Romans 2-4 that the "promise" to Abraham was made to "all men" since there was no distinction between "Jew and Gentile" at that time. Of course, their was not distinction when Adam "sinned" either. The significance of this is that Paul draws all his conclusions about "salvation by grace through faith" on the basis of the "faith of Abraham." All who accept Christ by "faith" alone are "descendants of Abraham" and have the "inheritance." (Rom 4).

In Romans 5, Paul is simply drawing a "typology" between the "one" man Adam who "sinned" and caused "death" to come to "all men" (i.e. all nations, since they are all descended from him - according to the OT genealogies). The Lord Jesus was "one man" who lived a "righteous" life, and cause "life" to come to "all men" (i.e. all nations). In other words, it was the transgression of Adam that brought death to all nations, it is the obedience of Christ that brings "righteousness" to all the nations (assuming, of course, that the individual Jew or Gentile is a believer).

Paul is drawing a simple analogy in Rom 5. He is saying that it only took one man to bring death to all nations, so it is just for God to offer righteousness and life to all nations on the basis of the one man, Christ. The text and analogy have nothing to do with "individuals." If it pertains to individuals, then we end up with "universalism" which is explicitly contradicted throughout the rest of Paul's teaching. However, throughout Paul's letters, he speaks of "Jew and Gentile" as groups. This is consistent.

Here is what I think is the key to understanding the difficult verses (5:13-14). The key is the parallel passage (Rom 4:13-16). Read the two side by side. In Rom 4:13-16, Paul is explaining that "salvation by faith" is based upon the "promises" made to Abraham BEFORE the Law (i.e. BEFORE the Jew/Gentile distinction). What he is saying is that since "death" came BEFORE the "Law," then "life" could come to those who live apart from the "Law " because "faith" (the basis of "grace" and "life") is based upon Abraham's faith which came BEFORE the Law.

Paul is simply saying in Rom 5:13 and parallel passage Rom 4:15 that God's wrath could not condemn Jew or Gentile "believers" because their "faith" was based upon the promise made BEFORE the "condemnation" of "sin" came under the Law. In other words, God can forgive "all men" (Jews and Gentiles alike) on the basis of what the "one" man Christ did, because God has no reason to condemn anyone who "believes" the promise made before the "Law" came in and multiplied transgressions and brought condemnation. Hence, the Jews who trusted in the Law, were being condemned by it because it was the "power of sin" (I Cor 15) that cause sin to "reckoned to them." Whereas, the Gentiles (or believing Jews) who had the "faith of Abraham" had no "condemnation" because they did not put themselves under the Law which was the "beginning" of the imputation of sin.

This is the whole key to Paul's "gospel." He is trying to show the Jews why their "Law" cannot save them. He is also trying to show them that because God justly condemned "all men" because of the "one transgression" (of Adam), he could save the same "all men" on the basis of the "one" righteous man (Christ).

Now the part about "the likeness of Adam's transgression." Here is what I think this part means. Paul seems to be saying that even though the "all men" who died after Adam didn't commit the same "transgression" as Adam (Rom 5:14), this serves as an "type" of Christ since "all men" can become "righteous" through the "free gift" that is based upon the "one" righteous act of the "one" man Christ. In other words, it only took one man to kill everybody, so it only took one man to save everybody!

Paul's point about "death reigning from Adam to Moses" but "sin was not imputed until the Law" is simply his way of demonstrating that God can offer salvation and forgiveness "apart" from the Law because the original promise of "eternal life" was made BEFORE the Law came and increased transgressions and declared judgment for sins. Again, Paul is simply defending his offer of salvation to the Gentiles by faith by showing that he is basing it all on the promises made BEFORE the Law ever came. Thus, no one could gain "eternal life" through the Law, because the Law does not contain the "free gift" of faith.

I hope you understand what I am trying to say ... this is very difficult to express without discussing face to face. I know that I am probably leaving out many important points. Please let me know what you think? Did I answer your question? What is your concept of this ...?

Chris

Dear Don:

Regarding your question about the word "kosmos" ...

I am inclined to think that it is reference to the "world order" that the apostles understood to be determined by the Old Covenant distinctions between Jew and Gentile. In other words, the "kosmos" refers to the order of things that existed among men (Judea, the nations) during the last days.

For example, when John says in 1 John 2:2 that "He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world (kosmou)" he is saying (to his Jewish audience - John agreed to go "only to the circumcision" Gal 2:9-11) that Jesus is not only the "propitiation" for the sins of the Jews (as heirs of the covenant) but also for the rest of the "nations." I think that this would include both the Jews of the Diaspora (which Luke calls "the nations" in Acts 2 and James calls the "Twelve Tribes in James 1), as well as the Gentiles (which Paul calls "nations" in his letters).

I think that "world" (kosmos) means essentially the same as "all men" as it is used by Paul. It designates the "world of men" that is composed of Jews and Gentiles ("all men" or "all nations") which is the corporate distinction that comes out of the Law and its ordinances which make the Israelites a "peculiar poeple" set apart from all the other nations of men. When it is used by Jesus in the context of his "ministry to the circumcision" I think it probably has the narrower connotation of the Jews/Samaritans who were inhabiting the Land, and perhaps even the Israelites of the Diaspora as well who probably were present to hear Him during the feasts.

Another example is the Pauline version of 1 John 2:2 stated in I Timothy 4:10 which refers to "the living God" as "the Savior of ALL MEN, especially of believers." You could substitute "kosmos" hereś for "all men" (meaning Jews and Gentiles as "nations" and not "individual" men and women) and get the same meaning.

Of course, I don't think that either 1 John 2:2 or 1 Tim 4:9-10 teaches "universalism" because this doctrine seems to contradict a lot of other explicit statements made by John and Paul, as well as Jesus, Luke, Peter, and James. That is why Paul adds the phrase "especially of believers" at the end of verse 10 ... he is making a distinction between the general "all men" (i.e. all Jews and Gentiles as whole nations of people who were "hearing" the gospel) and the "remnant" of those "all men" who are believers who will be saved.

I take it that your "Calvinism" would probably lead you to interpret these passages differently, so let me know what you think!

I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO YOUR REPLIES ..

CHRIS

Don -

Thanks for the encouraging words with regard to the "website" reply. You are looking at things in a positive way! I think that since I've been "alone" so many years as a preterist, perhaps I've begun to think that I am "totally" on my own. You make me think of God's words to Elijah when he thought that he was on his own - "I have 5,000 men who won't bow the knee to Baal!"

Hopefully, someday, I will get around to writing some material. I've spent a great deal of time reevaluating systematic theology in light of the preterist hermeneutic (no boasting intended). I read extensively, and I've taken every opportunity to consider the viewpoints of the various denominations and "cults" on almost every controversial doctrine (which seems to be just about all of them!). I'm still learning new things all the time, so I'm not ready to formulate anything yet.

This is why I value our interaction on the internet. I think that perhaps your "CI" perspective will sharpen my understanding of many passages of scripture, whether I end up agreeing with the whole thing or not. I've never heard of it before, but it sounds somewhat like the old "British-Israelism" of Herbert Armstong's World Wide Church of God. I will read the rest of the articles on the website this weekend and we can go from there. I have a feeling that God is going to show me some new things through you!

Although I do not believe in "verbal plenary inspiration" as it is defined by people like John MacArthur, I do believe that the scriptures were written and compiled by "men of God who were moved by the Holy Spirit." In other words, I believe that the scriptures are a true historical testimony to the redemptive works of God and the Lord Jesus. As the evangelical apologist, Josh McDowall, would say, it is far and away the most reliable legal-historical record of the things of God. Therefore, I study it diligently so that I can understand true spiritual things. Therefore, I am open to any interpretation that is a sincere effort to better understand and worship God in "spirit and in truth."

Don't be afraid to let me know what you really think ... I think you will find that I try to have a very "scholarly" approach to understanding scripture, but also a "child-like" acceptance of anyone who "believes in Christ," regardless of the denomination or cult that they might belong to.

Like you, I am also not attending a church right now. My reason is that to really be a "member" of any of the denominations or cults that I know, you really have to be willing to accept the doctrinal statement of the church. At the present time, I find myself in agreement with about half of any particular group's theology, since most of the creeds and doctrinal statements are similar, but also have "controversial" elements that make each group a unique entity. I've gotten the impression that my "openness" to opposing theological views is deemed a hindrance in most churches, since we live in a time when most Christians are making particular points of theology like "baptism" or "the Trinity" tests of salvation, and calling them "essentials" of Christian "orthodoxy."

For example, I don't think there is really much difference at all between a "Roman Catholic" and a "Reformed Baptist" or a "Reformed Presbyterian" or an "Evangelical." 90% of what these people believe is the same. Quite frankly, I don't think the "Reformers" are any more competent than the "Pope" to interpret scripture. It is the spirit of controversy that really separates these groups.

Same thing with Charismatic, Pentecostals, and non-Charismatic "Evangelicals." About 98% of what these "warring factions" believe is the same, right? And about 90% of that come from the historical "orthodox" creeds of the Roman Catholic Church! From my perspective, none of these groups have the "Holy Spirit" indwelling them one way or the other anyway! Would the Spirit be divided against Himself???

I think that this is true of most "cults" as well. Of course, I am referring only to those that preach "Christ" from the Bible, as the determining authority of what God really said. I certainly am not interested in "world religions" that are not Christian in origin. I am grateful to about a dozen (so far) "cult" leaders who have enlightened me about particular aspects of theology even thought they never did accept me as a fellow "believer" or "Christian."

I really appreciate your acceptance of my different opinions, I hope that we learn from each other. I don't expect us to agree on every detail.

SINCERELY, Chris

Dear Don:

As far as I can tell from scripture, the flood did destroy all but 8 people of Adam's lineage. But if you think that there is evidence in scripture to the contrary, please point it out.

As I said, I will read the rest of that CI website this weekend which will help me to better understand where you are coming from. I would really like to engage on this subject in the hope that God is trying to teach me something new ...

You ask about "non-Adamites." I really don't know, other than that I have always assumed that the non-Caucasian races also descended from Adam (at least, according to scripture - but, I could be wrong). On the other hand, if you are specifically referring to scientific evidence that might pre-date Adam, or if you are trying to find the "origin of the universe" in the Bible, I would say that I don't think it is there. In other words, I don't think the purpose of Genesis to Revelation is to explain these things. This is also why I would have difficulty with Calvin's definitions of "predestination" and "election" and things like "the divine decrees." I will refer back to this in reply to the other e-mail where you asked about that.

You are right that the Bible speaks specifically with regard to the "covenant people" and their origin and destiny. But, I've always assumed that this affects everybody in history. Perhaps your views with Leighton me on something I am missing!

CHRIS

Don -

Hello ... again! I hope you are having a good weekend! Here is a reply to more of your questions ...

You asked what I "believe" about "predestination" and "election" and "5 points of Calvinism" ...

Well, as I indicated before, I think that it is important to recognize the distinctive character of Paul's commission to the "nations." As I think we agree already from Romans 4-5, Paul makes the focus of his "gospel" of salvation to "all nations" based upon the "promises" made to Abraham apart from the Law. Since the "promise" and the "free gift" came apart from the Law, so then can God offer salvation to "the nations" apart from Law.

Before I became a preterist, I was a "supralapsarian" or "5-point Calvinist" (in fact, I don't think you can be a "Calvinist" unless you agree with all 5 points). I attended Bethlehem Baptist church in Minneapolis for about 5 years. This is where John Piper is the Pastor, he is a staunch and well known Supralapsarian author and seminary teacher. However, after becoming a "full preterist," I began to realize that the Calvinism/Arminianism debate is not biblical at all. In other words, I think that Calvin misunderstood "election" and "predestination" in the same sense that "futurists" today misunderstand "heaven and earth."

I get the impression that you are a "staunch" Calvinist yourself, so I hope that this doesn't offend you ...:o) I am certainly open to discussing any objections you have!

In my opinion, "predestination" and "election" are terms that Paul uses to explain his "gospel" of "salvation by grace through faith and not of works" for "the nations" based upon the promises made to Abraham. I do not believe it has anything to do with so-called "divine decrees" made in "eternity past." Paul is always referring to the Abrahamic covenant and promises. This is evident because he always speaks of predestination and election in the context of "all nations" becoming "heirs" of the "inheritance" promised to Abraham and his descendants.

Take Ephesians and Colossians for example. The talk in Ephesians 1 about God "choosing" and "electing" and "predestinating" is the introduction to his great explanation in Ephesians 2 and 3 about Jesus "abolishing in His flesh the enmity of the Law of commandments and ordinances" making "all nations" to be "one" in Christ. When did God "chose" to do this and make this "promise" that Jesus fulfilled. He did it with Abraham which is what Paul means by "in ages past" and "before the foundation of the world." Just like you see as a preterist in eschatology, the "world" here is a reference to the covenant relationship of "all nations" as it had been determined by "the Law" and was still the situation in Paul's day.

One very important thing to remember is that the biblical writers do not explicitly indicate that they had the Greek philosophical concept of "time vs eternity" that people like Calvin assume. As far as the OT is concerned, "the beginning" is when "God created the heavens and the earth." Whether you think this refers to the promised land (as I do) or to the whole geophysical universe, this is the beginning.

As far as the NT is concerned, "the beginning" is when John and Jesus appeared and began to "preach the Kingdom of Heaven" (John 1:1-5; Mark 1:1; Luke 1:1-3; Acts 1:20, etc). Albeit, the word "beginning" is always determined by its usage in a particular context, and can certainly refer back to Genesis too (Matt 19, for example). However, even in the NT, there is no explicit reference to any "eternity past" idea.

The biblical writers use terms like "OLaM" and "aion" that are best translated "ages" and always connote that there are generations of people living in them. In particular, the OT concept of "time" is based upon the genealogies of living people and their descendants. When the Law came, it established "new moons, Sabbaths, and feasts" (Col 3) that regulated "time" for the old covenant "world" as Paul and the other NT writers new it.

As we recognize in full preterist eschatology, the "heaven and earth" or "world" of the NT writers is the "world" of the old covenant with its "dividing wall" between Israel and "the nations" (2 Cor 5:17-21). When Paul talks about "the promise of eternal life which God "foreordained before the beginning of time" (Titus 1:1-3) he is referring to the "promise" made to Abraham BEFORE the Law came and divided "the nations." The main reason I think this is because the "promise" that is the basis for Paul's theology is the one made to Abraham. This is what Paul always uses to defend his "gospel." The NT writers never call anything "divine decrees" nor do they give any "order of the decrees." They speak of "covenants and promises," and Paul explicitly states in Acts that his teaching is based upon "Moses and the Prophets" and "nothing else."

Furthermore, as far as the Bible record is concerned, there are no "promises" made to anyone before Genesis. If promises were made "before the foundation of the world" (in Genesis 1:1 - as most people interpret it), who would have been around to get the "promises?" Aren't these promises supposed to be applicable to Paul's hearers who were descendants of Abraham in one way or another? When Paul defends his concept of atonement in Rom 4-5, he does so on the basis of what is contained in the OT scriptures about Abraham and Adam - he says nothing about supposed "divine decrees" in some "eternity past."

Throughout Rom 3, 9-11 Paul bases his arguments about "election" on Abraham and his descendants as well, and is arguing in the context of the "distinction between Jew and nations." I think that Paul understands the "Law" to be the "foundation of heaven and earth" as far as his hearers are concerned. Because Paul must defend "justification by faith" apart from "works of Law" in order to validate his commission to "the nations" and to put the Judiazers at bay, he bases his arguments upon what was promised to "the nations" prior to the "foundation" of Israel and the "alientation" of the "nations" that came by the Law. Remember that the preterist hermeneutic teaches us to understand things in the context of the original readers, not in the context of subsequent Greco-Roman and Scholastic philosophical speculations that plagued the Church Fathers and Reformers.

Well, I'll be interested to get your perspective. I haven't tried to deal with any specific verses because it would get too lengthy. I hope that you will bring up a few that you think contradict what I am saying. Perhaps, then, we can go further. I hope that my arguments are making sense to you ...

I will answer your question about "substitutionary atonement" in another reply ...

YOURS, Chris

Don:

Thanks for your continued prompt replies ...

The word "Leighton" should have been "enlighten;" apparently "Leighton" is a word in my spell checker! I meant to say that "your views may enlighten me" ...

You mention the "sons of God" and the "daughters of men." This is an interesting text. Here is what I've heard about it. The "sons of God" could be "angelic beings" (like MacArthur) would teach. There seems to be some linguistic evidence that "sons of God" is an OT phrase for "angelic beings." If so, then I would think that the allusions in 2 Peter 2 and Jude would indicated that these "angels" were condemned and judged during that era. It seems that "angels" appear in male human forms and there isn't enough evidence to conclude that they couldn't cohabit with women.

One of the interesting things in this regard is that Hebrews 1-2 and Acts 7 both indicate that heavenly "angels" were the "rulers" who delivered the Law to Moses and controlled the administration of the old covenant. As I mentioned before, whenever there is an "appearance" or spoken word from God in the OT, it is either delivered by an "angel" or a prophet. I do not think that God Himself ever appeared. According to the NT, "no man has ever seen, nor can see God" (1 Tim 6 and John 1). I think that this is also consistent with the plural form of God (Elohim) used in the OT, as well as the plural pronouns used in Gen 1-3. It was the "host" of heaven that carried out God's doings from "creation" and throughout the old covenant dispensation. Of course, God sent "the man Christ Jesus" in the "last days" who is "greater than the angels."

With regard to "scientific evidence" I always keep in mind that almost everything is open to interpretation. I don't think that the scripture has many answers in this regard. Things like "carbon dating" are certainly not accurate enough to be conclusive. Even "astronomical" data can only be "proven" by observation. Since it is impossible to "observe" things as they were back then, we cannot derive anything more than theories that are based upon extrapolation. This is no different than have "faith" when you really think about it. One thing I've learned from studying scripture (especially the Hebrew and Greek) is that many things are "open to interpretation" and not hard scientific fact like most people assume. I watch the Learning Channel a lot, and I often laugh at how these scientists find 3 or 4 bone fragments and then build a whole theory of some "lost civilization" on it.

Maybe there were "pre-Adamites" and some of the "scientific evidence" that we have is part of that "race." However, apart from the writings of scripture (which are the only reliable ancient documents), we don't have any confirming authority. Passages like Genesis 1- 6 and Job 1-2 may be evidence that "angels" once inhabited the "land." Job's "Satan" seems to be an angel who was "going to and for" throughout the "land."

One way that I have found even "preterist" theories disappointing is with regard to "dating" the OT. We have no accurate records of dates any earlier than about AD 1000. Almost the entire "BC" and "AD" dating system is a matter of conjecture. Nobody even knows precisely when Jesus was born, let alone when to start BC and AD dating. It is interesting to me when preterists try to "date" the 70 weeks of Daniel and struggle with when they "started" and "ended" when the Bible gives no such "dates." The Bible does gives historical events that mark the 70 weeks. This is all I think we need to know ...

What do you think?

CHRIS

Don -

This is an addendum to my previous comments on "election and predestination" ...

I think I forgot to give you a definition of what I think these terms mean. Basically I think that "predestination" is the fact that "all nations" are included in the scope of receiving the "inheritance" promised to Abraham. The Israelites were "elect" in the sense that they were heirs by descent to the "covenants and promises." On the other hand, the "nations" were "predestined" to receive the same "promises" if they accepted Christ "by faith." Paul explains in Rom 9-11 that only "believing" Israelites were actually the "elect" of Israel because they had to accept Christ "by faith" as Abraham did, otherwise they were not among those "predestined" in the words of that "promise."

"Foreordination" is basically the same as "predestined." God "foreordained" the "nations" to receive the "inheritance" in as much as he promised Abraham that "all nations would be blessed" through him. Paul makes it clear that it is on the basis of "the faith of Abraham" and not the works of Law that Israel and "the nations" are saved. These terms have nothing to do with "individuals," but rather with Israel and the nations as they are related to the old covenant.

What do you think ... I hope this makes sense of what I believe.

CHRIS

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