BRINGING HEAVEN DOWN

TRAINING OUR PERCEPTIVE POWERS

September 2, 2013

 

 

“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand.  In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

– Hebrews 5:11-14

 

   The above words of the Apostle Paul were addressed to Hebrew Christians in the first century. While they accepted their sonship, they were having problems reconciling the words of Moses and their prophets with the ministry and purpose of Christ Jesus.  Therefore, Paul chose to go back to the beginning, so to speak, and explain the development of the sacred secret of sonship and their heavenly destiny in a way they could understand. The entire book of Hebrews is dedicated to that reconciling.

 

   In some ways, a similar reconciling is needed today. Modern day Christians, even those who accept their sonship, continue to have difficulty reconciling the teachings of Jesus with the words of prophecy. And like the Hebrews, what is needed is a training of their perceptive powers so they can distinguish what is right and what is wrong.

 

   For example, in the prior article in this series, entitled Bringing Heaven Down – Turning Back Destruction, we proposed what we call The Ninevite Possibility.  The Ninevite Possibility is the hope that any foretold destruction of our present day system of things can be averted by repentance and works befitting repentance as it did in the case of the Ninevites, as told by the prophet Jonah. The article posits that our Father is not interested in destruction. His real interest is salvation, as Jesus explained:

 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 

 - John 3:16-17

 

   Most of the emails we received in response to the article were very favorable.  Many found The Ninevite Possibility refreshing and consistent with the loving, wise and merciful nature of our Heavenly Father, as Jesus revealed Him. Frankly, we did not expect to receive any emails in opposition to the Possibility, even from those who disagree.  We suspected they will simply remain silent. So far, they have.  However, we did receive an email from a brother who was confused. Here is his email: 

 

“When it comes to your latest article, I´m a bit confused. The Bible doesn’t mention any “last moment” repentance and turning to the Christ at all. Instead, it tells us about a big “falling away” from Jesus original teachings which probably will lead to the Antichrist´s one world religion during the seven year tribulation and the “mark of the beast.”  What if Jesus return will first be that of a rapture, then followed by the start of the “great tribulation” and that this “Lords day” will end when Christ returns for all to see at the end (after literal 7 years)? “A day for a year” so to speak. Jesus would then establish the kingdom here on earth just after “Armageddon” at the very end of this tribulation period.”

 

   We are very happy to respond to the brother’s email as we suspect there are several of our brothers who are likewise “confused.”  The key to removing the confusion is perception and discernment.  We must not be ‘dull in our hearing’ as Paul wrote. (Hebrews 5:11) We must be able to distinguish plain teachings from parables and from prophecy, and we must understand their relative importance.  When we do that, it will be easy to reconcile all three without discounting either. And it also opens the way for The Ninevite Possibility. We will address the brother’s email below.  But first, let’s distinguish plain teachings, parables and prophecy.

 

Plain Teachings, Parables and Prophecy

 

   Plain teachings are those things Jesus directly taught that are intended to awaken and arouse the spirit in man, and move them to love and fine works. (Hebrews 10:24) The content of the Sermon on the Mount is an example of plain teachings.  Plain teachings have no hidden meanings.  They are totally aboveboard, clear and unambiguous.  Plain teachings appeal to the mind.  They impart knowledge. They are logical, reasonable, practical and usable.  Here are examples of plain teachings:

 

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” 

– Matthew 7:1

 

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.” 

– Matthew 23:8-9

 

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” 

– John 14:6

 

  Parables are teaching tools designed to enhance the plain teachings and stimulate spiritual growth by imparting better understanding.  Parables appeal to the deeper mind, often referred to as “the heart.”  They convey meaning by illustrations and hypothetical situations, usually situations that could occur in a listener’s daily activities.  Plain teachings and parables go hand in hand. Parables explain how to use plain teachings. We might call plain teachings the short form teachings and parables the long form.  Parables are open-ended and allow for continued growth in value and meaning. Hence, our perceptive powers are trained and we gain insight and forethought, but not foresight. Here are examples of parables:

 

“He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.  Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.’” 

– Matthew 13:31-33

 

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?  It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.  Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.” 

– Matthew 24:45-47

 

   Prophecies are proclamations about things that can or will occur in the future as a result of how one responds to plain teachings. Prophecies impart foresight, but not necessarily foreknowledge.  This is because prophecies come in two forms: (1) literal; and (2) hidden.  

 

   Literal prophecies are straightforward and open.  They do not require deciphering or interpreting. They unambiguously set forth the who, what, when, where, why and sometimes even the how of future events. The prophecy of Jonah about the destruction of Nineveh is an example of a literal prophecy.  Another example of literal prophecy are the prophecies given by Jesus concerning the destruction of Jerusalem as recorded in the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke.  Jesus unambiguously foretold who – Jerusalem;  what – destruction; when –  within the generation; why – faithlessness; how –  by the disgusting thing spoken of by Daniel.  The how is the only thing that was relatively obscured.

 

   Hidden prophecies are given ‘in signs and symbols.’ Their meanings are intentionally obscured so that those reading the prophecy will not know precisely what is going to happen until the day of fulfillment arrives.  The giver of hidden prophecies intentionally obscures them.  They are not puzzles that are meant to be solved, they are hidden so that the meaning does not become evident until the time of its fulfillment. Thus, they are tools designed to keep us awake and alert.

 

“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”

– Revelation 1:3

 

  By peering into prophecy with an open mind, our anticipation remains keen. But the clamor to finalize interpretations is an effort that works against mankind because once we crystalize their meaning, our minds are shut and the hidden prophecies can no longer serve their intended purpose.  Some of the prophecies in the book of Revelation are hidden such as the identification of the beasts, the meaning of the bowls of anger, and the timing of the events.  In fact, to add to the suspense, the book indicates that some of the events may have already happened by the time, or during the time, John wrote them:

 

“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.”

– Revelation 1:19

 

   Our generation is not the first to interpret the book of Revelation. Generations before us and generations before them have been intently peering into the book.  Such peering serves a valuable purpose as long as we keep the interpretations fluid and open to the ever changing activities and understanding of man.  We have seen all too well what happens when crystalized interpretations are not fulfilled as expected. 

 

   In review, plain teachings are the things we should know in order to please God.  Parables provide ways to apply and understand the plain teachings.  And prophecies provide foresight as to the outcome of how one applies the plain teachings. 

 

   Now that we are clear on the distinction between plain teachings, parables and prophecy, the next question is priority.  Which of the three – plain teachings, parables or prophecy – have the greatest weight and which has the lesser when it comes to salvation?

 

   It should be obvious that, of the three, the plain teachings would have the greatest importance since these are the direct teachings of the Master, Christ Jesus.  Plain teachings are the straightforward instructions on how to please God.  Parables are helpful, but not necessary for if we did not have them, we would still know what to do.  And if we apply the plain teachings, we know that whatever prophecies are ahead of us, we will always be on the favorable side of events because we will have done the things that please God.

 

Repeating History

 

   It is folly to give prophecy the greater weight and one’s primary attention as was demonstrated by the nation of Israel.  In their holy writings were numerous prophecies pointing to or describing a coming savior.  These matters were often talked about and were integral to their worship.  In fact, their scribes offered many explanations of the prophecies and asserted their interpretations and expectations as forcefully as they did the Law itself.  Yet when the savior arrived, the scribes and leaders, along with the vast majority of the Jews, failed to perceive him. Why?  Because they put more weight on their prophetic interpretations and their ‘traditions’ than on the plain teachings of Moses.  (Matthew 15:3-9)

 

   Had they paid more attention to the plain teachings of Moses, they would have been more receptive to Jesus and his good news.  Moses was an organizer who instructed the nation on a better way of living so that they would qualify to be that light bearing nation through whom all nations would bless themselves. (Genesis 22:18) But their scribes and teachers added to Moses’ words their own opinions and interpretations.  They went beyond what Moses provided and taught those additions as commands from God.  These added matters became their ‘traditions’ that formulated their expectations and colored their understanding of prophecy. 

 

  Had they kept their promise to strictly obey the words given by Moses, and paid less attention to the commands of men, they would have recognized Jesus as the foretold one, if not by the manner of his arrival, then certainly by the things he said and did throughout his ministry.  But their minds had been blinded by their ‘traditions.’ They could not see past their expectations. 

 

   In particular, they expected a warrior savior who would set up an earthly kingdom in Jerusalem on the throne of David, decimate the Romans and subject all peoples to the Jewish nation.  They were expecting to be exalted and all their enemies to be destroyed. But when the savior came proclaiming love, mercy and reconciliation with God, the savior and his message were rejected.  Instead of salvation, those who were expecting an earthly kingdom were destroyed along with their temple in 70 C.E.  They must have been stunned that it was their city that was destroyed, not that of their enemies!

 

   Why is Christianity determined to repeat the errors of first century Judiasm? Why is Christianity fashioning itself after a failed and rejected people?  Why is it that Christianity refuses to discern and accept our Lord as a Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), not a warmonger?  And why does Christianity continue to seek the kingdom of God on earth, rather than the will of God on earth, as Jesus taught? (Matthew 6:9-10) These are matters for serious consideration for if we do not learn the lessons of the past, we are destined to repeat them!

 

The Course of Wisdom

 

   We believe a wiser course is to go back to the drawing board, so to speak.  Go back to the plain and open teachings of Jesus and build our faith upon that foundation.  Perceive the difference between plain teachings and prophecies, let go of all the prophetic interpretations that are now being taught as if they were facts, and reexamine them in the light of the true character of our God and our Lord.  This is indeed where true discernment comes in.  

 

   Man’s intellectual sophistry often gets in the way of the plain and open teachings of Jesus and actually clouds our spiritual vision.  All the more does this generation need to train its perceptive powers so they can create in themselves wisdom that will lead to the accurate knowledge of truth.

 

    For example, we know our Lord is the Prince of Peace.  We know Jesus taught us to love our enemies, not fight them.  And we know Jesus is neither a hypocrite nor a schizophrenic.  Therefore, any prophetic interpretation that pictures him in any other light is error –  plain and simple.  Perhaps the character depicted in the prophecy is not Jesus.  Perhaps the aggressive acts are not literal.  And perhaps, just perhaps, the prophecy has been tampered with.  

 

   Since we do not know for a certainty which of these things has occurred, we believe it is wiser to back off of prophecy a bit and focus on what we can know for a certainty – that God is the Father of every man, and that every man is our brother; that we are all part of a large dysfunctional family that has lost its way; and that, like the parable of the Prodigal Son, our Ineffable Father will welcome into His heavenly kingdom and His loving merciful arms all who turn away from badness and serve Him.  That is the good news of the Kingdom!

 

   Now, to our brother’s email.  What you have done is cull together various scriptural texts and created a story.  Parts are taken from the books of Daniel,  Thessalonians, Corinthians and Revelation.  What you have omitted are the plain teachings of the will and character of our God and Father, and of His Christ as recorded in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  Here is what your interpretation supposes:

 

1. That even before Christ came, God decided he was going to destroy the vast majority of mankind; 

 

2. That God pre-determined that the message and ministry of Jesus would be ineffectual and unable to capture the attention of the vast majority of creation;

 

3. That all of the advances of mankind in spiritual understanding, in brotherly love, in respect for life have no real value; 

 

4. That mass destruction of life and property is God’s means to accomplish His will;

 

5. That all faithful Christians will be taken to heaven before God’s war against the remainder of mankind, but Jesus would establish a kingdom on earth for the survivors who were not good enough to be raptured.

 

6. That the sophistry of the Antichrist is more powerful than the good news;

 

7. That Jesus Christ will have not only a second coming, but a third coming; and foremostly,

 

8. That there is nothing we can do, not matter how many people turn to God, that will turn back the anticipated calamity.

 

   These are assumptions and presumptions we cannot assent to. They simply are not consistent with the God Jesus plainly revealed, with the character of Jesus as he displayed when on earth, nor with the peaceful and hopeful teachings.  Since your interpretation is an opinion, we cannot say you are wrong because opinions are neither right nor wrong.  They are simply opinions to which we are all entitled.  However, we caution you about asserting your opinions as if they were doctrine, especially in light of the implications of your interpretation.  

 

   And we hope we have persuaded you to reconsider your opinion based on the information we provide above and these scriptural thoughts:

 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” 

– John 3:16-17

 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

– John 16:33

 

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” 

– Matthew 28:18-20

 

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” 

– Matthew 6:33-34

 

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.  Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”  

– Philippians 3:13-16

 

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” 

– Colossians 3:2

 

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 

– 2 Peter 3:9

 

    Yes, these may be ‘terrible times’ (2 Timothy 3:1-7), but we must not be among those who are ‘having a form of godliness but denying its power’ (2 Timothy 3:5) by denying the ability of the good news to save our world.  As Paul wrote to Timothy:

 

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.  For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.  This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance.  That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.” 

- 1 Timothy 4:7-10

 

  No, the Father does not desire anyone to be destroyed (John 3:16), neither should we. We should be spending our time and energy in spreading the good news of the kingdom – glad tidings instead of instilling fear.  We cannot emphasize this enough.  As the saying goes, it is insanity to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. We cannot reasonably expect an outcome any different from the first century Jewish system if we fail to discern the plain teachings of Jesus and the subordinate position of prophecy. We must learn from history or we are destined to repeat it. Remember, it was not the nations that were destroyed, it was the people who failed to perceive the superior and merciful purpose of the Father and His loftier ideals as represented in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  

 

   In our next article, Bringing Heaven Down - The Perfect Will of God, we continue in the theme of ‘bringing heaven down.’ We will seek to clear away the baggage of old wine, and look to the new wine – the present day will of God – with keen spiritual perception.

 

   We welcome your comments.

 

"Your Brothers in Faith"

 

Bringing Heaven Down Introduction

 

 

 

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