Dean Johnson Ministries

Maranatha (Part 1)     

Originally, I started out this page with the intention of sharing ideas about the comings of the Lord. It has been a very humbling topic to consider.
Knowing the immensity of the topic, I have questioned the Lord if I should even share my understanding, as it seems so limited. Nevertheless, knowing my place in the body of Christ, I will humbly share the little that I do understand.

Our philosophical outlook of the future is optimistic. We are a spiritually minded people, now looking for a divine intervention, personally and corporately, with God working out his plan for all creation, through the revelation of Christ within the Church, and a manifestation of the sons of God.

Concerning the coming of Christ:
Christ returned to the believers at Pentecost, and still comes to the believer today. He also returned at the destruction of Jerusalem 70 A.D. to bring to an end an old world of temple sacrifices, and to bring to a conclusion the age of reliance on Mosaic law. These are the foundational  thoughts of this page.
     I have come to feel that the common understanding of the second coming with its wrath, judgment, and end of the world scenarios has bread fear in many of us. Much of this fear is not the fruit of truth. Through these writings, I have struggled to bring comfort and encouragement for we are not like those who are without hope. The thoughts of this article are the fruits of this labour. I elaborate on these understandings, trusting that truth will set us at liberty.
Please accept these thoughts as a work in progress, even as we are.

The Comings of The Christ.

Many Visitations, Comings, Appearances, and Manifestations of Christ are mentioned within scripture.
In recent years many Christians have forced many of these passages into the single mold of a future physical return of Christ to rule the earth. This is not always appropriate, and has lead to some confusion. In this article I will not be focusing on a future physical return. The purpose of this page is to broaden our understanding by considering other views concerning the comings of the Christ. It is hoped that this will lead to a more accurate and spiritual understanding of Scripture that will set our hearts free.

One difficulty with the common premillenial rapture and second coming, that is seldom addressed, is that it presents God as still angry and wrathful. This is often portrayed in ways that seem inconsistent with the reconciliation of the world accomplished in Christ. God is not angry with humankind. God's proclaimed friendship with humankind is often ignored in an erroneous attempt to project the horrors described in Revelations and other end of the world scenarios into the future. It is possible to understand these passages without imposing these events on future generations. There are solutions that are faithful to these texts and yet harmonize with the gospel of peace revealed in Christ. Some of these solutions will be considered. The comings of Christ are good news of great joy to all men. Grace and truth are much more satisfying spiritually and emotionally than the law and wrath of the covenants of bygone dispensations.

Many believers are still feeding on a spiritual diet of fear that is reminiscent of the blessing and curses mentality of the old covenant. They are trying to earn God's favor. This is impossible. We are now the righteousness of Christ receiving the grace and favor of God through Christ. And this good will is not just to the believer but to all men. Jesus was not just the propitiation for our sins, but also for the sins  of the whole world. For God to pour out his wrath on mankind now would be to ignore the accomplishment of Christ on the cross.

Many of us remember the evangelical paranoia at Y2K. It was an embarrassment to us. It not only exposed to the world our deepest fears about God, and our lack of trust in Him, which were born of our faulty theology. It also revealed many weaknesses in the common eschatological time lines that lead to such psychological trauma. End of the world paranoia is not only embarrassing, but down right harmful. Thankfully, it has helped many of us to reevaluate what we believe.  

Hopefully, our understanding of Christ's appearance has matured and spiritually developed.

Several "Spiritual" comings are clearly described in scripture.

Christ comes to the believer:       
1. Christ does not leave his disciples comfortless, but returns to them on the day of Pentecost through the Holy Spirit.  
2. Christ comes to the believer and makes his abode with him when invited.
3. Christ appears within believers as a manifestation of himself.

There is another coming of Christ that was also spiritual in nature, that is vital to a proper understanding of the New Testament, but is often overlooked. This is probably because it presents such a threat to the current popular eschatology.

Christ comes to the unbelieving Jews:
4. Specifically, Christ returned in 70 A.D. at the destruction of Jerusalem, and the temple. This coming of Christ is one component of the view known as Preterist theology.
There are four main views of Eschatology.

1. The Preterist View sees the eschatological events as having been fulfilled within the generation of the New Testament writers. This tends to focus on a spiritual coming of Christ at Pentecost, and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. I tend to work partially within this perspective.
Other Universalists that appear to have espoused variations of the preterist position include:
Mike Williams At Gospelogic
Gary Amirault At Tentmaker
Gary Sigler Ministries
However, that these ministries have proclaimed preterist tenants does not limit them from holding other eschatological positions as well. I do not want to label or pigeonhole anyone. However, if you would like to hear more from a Universalist Preterist viewpoint, they may be good links to investigate.

There are also many non-universalist preterist sites that may be beneficial to understanding Christ's return.
Some links to investigate Preterism for yourself include:
The Preterist Archive
Fulfilled Prophecy: God's Perfect Church
Planet Preterist

2. The Futurist View sees most of the Parousia passages being fulfilled in the future.
     This is the common evangelical view.
     There are also Universalists that see no incongruity between a period of future wrath and the eventual reconciliation of all things.To them, the wrath and punishment of God is seen as remedial and within the love of God for the purposes of restoration.

The Concordant Publishing Concern is one such group.
The Concordant Publishing Concern

However, such a view sees the Old Testament prophecies as unfulfilled and look to the future for their completion. If the law and the prophets have already been fulfilled in Christ, a yet future coming and wrath is not necessarily still required.
Some theologians see a double fulfillment of prophecy. They recognize the historical fulfillment of parousia prophecy in 70 AD, but still look for a future fulfillment as well. I tend not to believe in a future coming against unbelievers, but recognize that Christ still comes to believers, and I look for Him to reveal himself in even greater ways.

      Many Universalist Latter Rain groups, though not emphasizing a future physical coming, also give assent to a futurist view. Again, this physical return will not be the focus of this article.

3. The Historical View sees events as being fulfilled throughout history.
Some events are past and some are yet future. For example, the letters to the seven churches of Revelation are seen as pictures of the church down through history. The Laodicean church is often thought of as an illustration of today's lukewarm church.

4. The Symbolic or Idealist View considers eschatological truth to be timeless, and not sequential nor necessarily historical. Seeing Revelations as a picture of the church in worship is one example. Within this school of thought, the controversial timelines and charts of most eschatologies are conspicuously absent.

Perhaps, there is a sense in which all four views contain some truth.
They are not mutually exclusive. Being open to all four views may help us to let the various scriptures speak for themselves rather than trying to inappropriately force every passage into any one viewpoint.

There are also several important philosophical questions that determine our outlook in life. For example, are we paranoid or are we optimistic?
How we answer these questions often depends on which view of eschatology we adopt. Our worldview or view of the world ultimately depends on what we see happening to it. Let's look at five such questions.

Our Eschatalogical Worldview:

1. Is the future pessimistic or optimistic?
Currently, popular eschatology is often pessimistic, threatening, and providing little hope, sometimes even for the elect. I have heard some Christians respond in dismay when they heard the prayer, "Come quickly Lord Jesus." It definitely was not something they looked forward to. I understand this mentality, because there was a time when I had felt the same way. However, the coming of Christ should be anticipated, not feared.  I believe that our faith should provide peace and comfort. If an eschatology doesn't provide comfort, then I suspect there is probably a misunderstanding.  One of the main purposes of eschatology is to encourage the believer. Paul wrote,
"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.        
Wherefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thes 4:13,18).
This return of Christ is good news.  
        Whether we see the future as pessimistic or optimistic determines how we will live our lives. If we see the world as being destroyed we will have little motivation to do anything to improve the world. Our efforts would be destroyed anyway. If we see an optimistic future we find ourselves encouraged to make an effort.
2. Is the future determined by divine intervention or by human effort?
Are we passively awaiting a divine intervention that will destroy the world and God's enemies, or do we see Christ working through his corporate body to accomplish God's loving plan. If we cheerfully look forward to His working we will yield ourselves as vessels, holy and acceptable to God. If we wrongly associate his coming with destruction we may unconsciously resist or recoil in fear even from a loving touch.
3. Is future hope for the church alone or for all men and creation?
Many see the return of Christ as for the believer only. This is why so many Christians fear the future. They believe the age of grace and the door of opportunity is closing. Loved ones, friends, and failing Christians could be left behind or even left out. If the coming of Christ is only for the benefit of the faithful then it would be hard for sensitive Christians not to mourn the loss of loved ones who miss out. Such Christians are like those unbelievers who have no hope.
They can not say the simple prayer "Maranatha - Our Lord come". They can not desire His coming. Because of a limited future hope they fear the loss of loved ones. This lack of desire for our Lord betrays a wrong understanding of the coming of Christ.
     When we understand the Presence of Christ in the believer to be a promise for mankind and all creation we look forward to the future with confident anticipation. Longing and expectation replaces fear and mourning. All creation waits for the manifestation of the Sons of God. To limit the work of Christ within the believer to the church alone creates fear. Knowing the promises of God to His creation provides hope and peace.
4. Are the promises fulfilled one person at a time, or is it a cosmic transformation?  
There will be a universal recreation. However, a cosmic transformation can begin one person at a time, every man in his own order, and be fulfilled after all have entered in. There is a very real sense in which "there is a new creation" already, and we simply become aware of this new kingdom that already exists. Knowing that God will work through us as the body of Christ to bring the realization of this kingdom motivates us to surrender ourselves as vessels in His hands. The Spirit within is a down payment of the fulfillment or completion of the promises. Christ in us is the hope of glory not just for us, but for all creation.  However, those looking for something or someone outside of themselves to come back to instantly transform the world has left many Christians demotivated, and feeling uninvolved and detached from the process of salvation.
5. Is the emphasis this-worldly or otherworldly?
This is also not a mutually exclusive answer. Being spiritually minded does not mean that we ignore God's plan for the physical creation. God created all things good. Nevertheless, we are a spiritually minded people. We set our affections on things above, not on things on earth. Our emphasis is spiritual. It is through the manifestation of the sons of God that all creation is set free.

To restate: our philosophical outlook of the future is optimistic. We are a spiritually minded people, now looking for a divine intervention, personally and corporately, with God working out his plan for all creation, through the revelation of Christ within the Church, and a manifestation of the sons of God.

Concerning the coming of Christ:
Christ returned to the believers at Pentecost, and still comes to the believer when Christ is invited. He also returned at the destruction of Jerusalem 70 A.D. to bring an end to the old world of temple sacrifices and reliance on Jewish law.

I understand this is not a majority position and may be opposed by some. I have no intention to debate, only to discover truth. Eschatological doctrine was not given to produce division in the Church, but rather to bring comfort. My prayer is that this article will not be an occasion for carnal confrontations, but rather an opening of our hearts to the Spirit of Christ. May God, by His Spirit guide us into truth.

Dean Johnson Ministries

The Resurrection of the Spiritual Body of Christ

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