Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Parousia and Deity of Christ.

The Old Testament gives us a very specific definition of the parousia, but what they saw is not believed by the religious world or teaches about the coming of the Lord. But honest students cannot ignore biblical language..

Without question, the nature of the parousia is at the heart and core of the controversy surrounding Covenant Eschatology. Did Jesus predict that He was to return physically, bodily, on literal clouds at the (end of time), or did he predict a "spiritual" coming at the (time of the end) of biblical Judaism?

The key to understanding any passage of Scripture has always been a good grasp of their language, culture, and historical setting in which Scripture was ORIGINALLY written.

In order to understand the manifestation or Parousia of the "Son of man" on the "clouds of heaven," one must understand the language of Israel's Old Testament prophets. After all it was Israel’s Jewish prophets who first taught the notion of the Parousia in the first place. It seems quite reasonable to respect their opinion more than anyone else’s opinion today.

The New Testament unvails or reveals many truths that are in the Old Testament. One such turth is how God uses the landuage of clouds.

In biblical language "clouds" are symbolic of God's wrath and judgment against the enemies of God's people. David said that the Lord delivered him from his enemies while descending on clouds. (please read Psalm. 18:3-15). Of course. clouds also speak of God's majesty and divine presence and power.

In the Old Testament Jehovah came many times. He came on the clouds, with fire, with angels, in judgment, and "heaven and earth" passed away. He came when he delivered Israel from Egypt (Exodus 3:8). He came in the fall of Babylon (Isaiah 13-14). He came in the fall of Edom (Isaiah 34). He came in the destruction of Egypt at the hands of the Assyrians (Isaiah 19-20). He came with fire and the shout when He defeated the Assyrians as they besieged Jerusalem (Isaiah 30, 37).

Each of these events was the coming of the Lord. They were "theophanies," manifestations of the majesty and glory of God in judgment. They manifested God's sovereignty and justice (Isaiah 26:9). The fulfillment of His predictions to "come" showed Him to be the true God (Isaiah 41:21f).

The Lord said that He would ride into Egypt on a cloud to punish them: Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud, and is about to come to Egypt. The idol of Egypt will tremble at His presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them. (Isaiah. 19: 1). In this verse the Lord did NOT literally ride on a cloud. However Egypt did receive this judgment at the hands of the Assyrians (Isaiah. 19; 20:1-6) . When God used the means of a nation or people to carry out a judgment He was said to come on the clouds. (Isaiah 19:1-4) The dat of the Lord was tumultuous, frightening and awesome. But God did not visibly appear. (Psalms 18)

This apocalyptic language was well known to all in the Jewish and early Christian communities. This language was studied by all the congregation of Israel on the Sabbath in the synagogue. It was spoken in homes and by the rulers of Israel. This is the reason Jesus chose to use apocalyptic language as He described His SOON return to the people of His day.

Speaking to (the High Priest Caiaphas) Jesus promised that he would "see the Son of man... coming on the clouds of heaven." ( Matthew. 26:63-65). By this statement Jesus was claiming to be divine, Israel's Messiah, and the Son of God. This is how Israel's prophets said the Son of Man would come in the clouds of heaven.

Notice the language. "I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed. (Daniel. 7:13-14). This is highly messianic.

Caiaphas understood that only Deity rides the clouds (see Psalms 104:3) and he, as a ruler of Israel and fleshly seed of Abraham who rejected his Messiah, would SEE His return in judgment. That is the reason why he yelled out “Her has spoken blasphemy! (Matthew 26:65) Only Jehovah rides the clouds. (Zephaniah 1:14-15)

The New Testament references to Jesus’ coming with clouds, the majority of scholars agree that Jesus is pointing back to this passage, referring to Himself as the “Son of Man” in Daniel. Was the main point of Jesus in doing so to assert a “physical, bodily” coming, or was it more to identify Himself with that Son of Man who was to receive glory and a kingdom that would not end or pass away (see Daniel 7:14)? Preterist believe the latter

A fleshly literal concept of Jesus riding on the clouds was contrary to the nature of Caiaphas' understanding of the Old Testament prophets. Jesus’ claims identifying Himself with Yahweh of the Old Testament. It confirmed His claims to being the divine Messiah. In my opinion, this is actually the capstone of the preterist view, that the language of Jesus in describing His second coming was a bold, undeniable claim to deity. Does this put preterist outside of orthodoxy?

The inspired apostle John stated that the Jews sought the more to kill Jesus because He was making himself equal to God (John 5:18, 8:58). Only the God of Israel could ride the clouds of heaven in judgment.

Often times I hear the argument that Acts chapter 1 is speaking of a literal physical coming of Jesus Christ. I have heard this argument over and over. Actually, a host of futurists quote this verse to support their contention that Christ’s coming will be visible and bodily. I will not dispute that this passage teaches a future coming of Christ; but, then, I see this as happening from the standpoint of the apostles forty days after Christ’s resurrection. The destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 was still in their future. Is there another biblical alternative for these three verses?

Let me also say that preterists will not argue that the coming of Christ was literal. In every episode in the Old Testament where God “came” in judgment, it was a literal appearing to pour out His wrath. When God came upon Jerusalem in 586 B.C., it was a literal destruction of that city. So we believe about Christ’s coming in judgement upon Jerusalem in A.D. 70 – it was a literal coming literally destroying the literal temple and the literal city.

Here is the passage in its context: Never is valid understanding exegesis and hermeneutical science all of this more critical than when dealing with the text this treatise is concerned with, namely, Luke's record of the words concerning the return of Jesus in (Acts 1:9-11)

“And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.’”

I would like to offer a some commentary on this passage in order to assert that this verse cannot be used to verify a bodily, visible coming of Christ.

First, I would like to look at the passage in its context. Note that there is not one word in this passage describing the body of Christ, physical or otherwise. That this passage teaches Christ’s second coming as “bodily” is drawn only from inference and reading into the text.

However, if we wish to find a clue as to what the men in white meant by “(in just the same way),” shouldn’t we look at the context of the passage? After all, isn’t it just good hermeneutics to gain your interpretation of a passage by looking at the context?

This passage plainly tells us — without having to read anything into the text — two specific things about Jesus’ ascension. The first is that “(a cloud received Him)” and the second is that it was “(out of their sight).

Second, let me just briefly note that the context of Acts 1:9-11 has Jesus being taken up “out of their sight” (literally in the Greek, “away from their eyes”). What more can I say on this? If you apply a literal interpretation of the Scriptures (as many insist upon), then it means, according to the men in white, that Jesus will return invisibly “out of their sight.”

Perhaps they could explain why these two plainly and contextually stated things — “a cloud received Him” and “out of their sight” — could not be the grammatical antecedents explaining the phrase “in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

Now I would like to make some broader observations about this text and compare it to other passages on the coming of Christ It is clear that the New Testament teaches that Jesus’ coming was to involve clouds (Matthew 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:27). Wanting to interpret Scriptures by the Scriptures (as you rightly insist “that Scripture MUST interpret Scripture”), let us look at some Old Testament passages that would help us to understand the New.

Exodus 16:10 – It came about as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.

Exodus 19:9 – The LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that the people may hear when I speak with you and may also believe in you forever." Then Moses told the words of the people to the LORD.

Exodus 34:5 – The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD.

Leviticus 16:2 – The LORD said to Moses: "Tell your brother Aaron that he shall not enter at any time into the holy place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, or he will die; for I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.”

Numbers 11:25 – Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him....
Note that in several of these passages, Yahweh is said to have “come,” He “descended,” “came down,” and “appeared.” This is language similar to that which Jesus used in reference to His own second coming. Question: was the “body” of Yahweh seen at these times or was it just that the cloud signified the presence of Yahweh? Were these manifestations of Yahweh “bodily and physical?” The answer is obvious.

Psalm 18:9-12 – He bowed the heavens also, and came down with thick darkness under His feet. He rode upon a cherub and flew; and He sped upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness His hiding place, His canopy around Him, darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies. From the brightness before Him passed His thick clouds, hailstones and coals of fire.

Psalm 97:2-3 – Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. Fire goes before Him and burns up His adversaries round about.

Psalm 104:3 – He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters; He makes the clouds His chariot; He walks upon the wings of the wind...

Isaiah 19:1 – The oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and is about to come to Egypt; the idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.

Daniel 7:13 – I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.

Joel 2:1-2 – Blow a trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming; surely it is near, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness. As the dawn is spread over the mountains, so there is a great and mighty people; there has never been anything like it, nor will there be again after it to the years of many generations.

Nahum 1:3 – The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. In whirlwind and storm is His way, and clouds are the dust beneath His feet.

Zephaniah 1:14-15 – Near is the great day of the LORD, near and coming very quickly; listen, the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly. A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness...

Note also that many of the references to Yahweh coming in or with the clouds has to do with His bringing judgment upon His enemies and those who rebelled against His covenant. Again, there was no physical, bodily coming of Yahweh at these times.

The contention of the preterist is that Jesus taught that He was going to come “in the glory of His Father” (Matthew 16:27), meaning that His coming was to be in the exact same manner as His Father's was in the Old Testament. This is language that the people of His generation would understand. It is the language that the high priest understood when he charged Jesus with blasphemy (Matthew 26:64-65). They understood that Jesus was identifying Himself with Yahweh Himself and claiming all the glory of deity!