Saturday, August 21, 2004

The Journey - The Soul to Earth or the Earth to the Kingdom

This site is about a few things. First, I want to cover practical issues of discipleship but I also am attemtpting to show how foundational philosophical and worldview "pre-suppositions" effect such practical things as our personal devotional life and our methods of discipleship.

One such issue is our understanding of the eternal state.

This sunday I am preaching from Acts 3:21: "He (Jesus) must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything as He promised long ago through His holy prophets". The topic will be "The Return of Christ". The basic point is that the eternal state is living on Earth in a rstored and regenerated body. Why is this doctrine important to us trying to renew the church into living a practical and effective witness in the present. Well, it is all about worldview. The faith that God has great plans for our physical bodies. We are not just spiritual beings but physical beings living in a physical world that is destined for restoration. The hope we have is not that our souls travel to heaven someday but that God comes and restores our society and our culture and our bodies and our community and our church. We are on a journey not to heaven in the sky but heaven on Earth. This is our ultimate goal. This heaven on Earth ultimate goal effects our proximate or short term goals and our perspective on our purpose. Here is a piece from an essay I wrote back a while ago:
Greek versus Hebrew Views of History
We have already shown that the faith of Abraham was the believing of the LORD’s work in history. We have said that Abraham journeyed toward the promised land but he never saw the fulfillment of the vision the LORD had given him. Abraham’s journey is the beginning of the redemptive story and it is precisely this understanding of the journey of the faithful that draws a distinction between the beliefs of the pagans and the faith of the Hebrews.

What is the Journey?
The key to understanding the biblical meaning of faith is the answer to this question “what is the journey?” To the pagan or Hellenistic mind the journey is from Earth to Heaven. To the Greek, pagan idol-worshipping mind, earth is the place where suffering and evil resides. The spirit realm, the realm of the mind or the soul or the spirit is the realm of the good. The journey of the soul is from earth to heaven. That is the journey is from a static earth to a static heaven with the soul being delivered if it lives in the spirit and not the earth. This worldview is the essence of Greek dualism. Buddhism is exactly the same. To the Buddhist the soul travels from a static earth to a state of Nirvana. The change and maturity of the soul is to come to live not in the illusions on earth but in the mind of the spirit. In fact, the great escape is to escape the endless cycles and bondage in the body and to reach Nirvana. This process of escape is the final destination and the great purpose of life. Notice the ultimate purpose is to escape the realm of the earth and the flesh and to find peace in the realm of the spirit of “mind”. This worldview sees the earth as always in a place of suffering and pain. The pagans have a cyclical or static view of history and a static view of heaven. The journey is the movement of the soul from earth to heaven. BUT THIS IS NOT THE JOURNEY.

The journey according to the biblical worldview is the journey of the earth, the realm of time and space and moral living, from evil to good. The journey is the trajectory of life toward holiness in our individual lives and the life of mankind. The history of man on earth has a trajectory and a purpose. We are not pagans who see history as static but we see history as teleological or with trajectory and purpose. The kingdom is coming to “earth as it is in heaven”. The LORD Almighty is going to change life here through His mighty saving acts. This change in the realm of earth is the journey of the biblical saints. The journey is not of the soul toward heaven but of heaven toward earth and of heaven, the LORD, coming into the life of mankind on earth to bring the earth from the place of pain and suffering to a place of “perfect” moral beauty. History on earth is on a journey toward moral beauty and holiness through the gospel. This is the journey of redemptive history.
This worldview regarding the purpose of life to bring the city (the morally beautiful community) from heaven to earth cannot be overstated. This is the meaning of Jesus’ message that the kingdom of God is at hand repent and believe. This proclamation of Jesus means that in Jesus the rule and reign of God is within reach repent and enter into this moral deliverance and see the manifestation of the purpose of history. Look at the Hall of Faith from this distinctly Hebrew mind, “These journeyed (pursued the purpose of history to bring the quality of life of heaven to earth) but did not see its fulfillment, but God has provided something better for us. In us the fulfillment is to come for we are entering into a better covenant which actually takes away our sin (our deep moral depravity) and makes us holy. Therefore, because we have so great a salvation let us pursue the purpose of God in history with even more diligence and endeavor for in us the Glory of God’s moral beauty is being manifest through the Gospel. This faith for righteousness on earth is essence of biblical faith.
This fulfillment of God’s will on earth to build a morally beautiful community is the meaning of Jesus’ statement “do not think I came to abolish the Law and Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” What is the purpose of the Law? The purpose of the law is what all law is intended to do. Law is created to lead us to a morally beautiful society. Moses was creating through the word of Law the Promised Land. That, at least, is the Hebrew understanding of the purpose of the law. But the Law “weak as it is” is not able to produce righteousness, but the Gospel, because it is the power of God through the Spirit, is able to produce actual righteousness in our life on earth. Jesus is saying, “I have come to make the faith of the Old Testament and of all the Old Testament saints a reality. I have come to fulfill the law and the prophets and bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. I have come to fulfill the law”. Therefore, we come to the conclusion that the intention of the gospel is not to save our soul only but to redeem our life and living in today.
In fact, the extent to which we participate in bringing this heavenly quality of life to earth is what we will be held accountable. We are making a case for accountability and the movement of moral beauty into the history of the church and thereby participating in God’s Ultimate Purpose is the substance of what we are being held accountable for.

The Biblical Meaning of Faith
Understanding the Hebrew worldview with respect to history helps us to understand clearly the biblical definition of faith. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith by saying “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. But this definition is understood by the numerous examples which follow this definition. The remainder of the chapter talks about people taking journeys on earth to build morally just communities on earth. The thing these Saints hoped for was not to go to heaven but they longed for and labored for the ultimate revelation of a God Glorifying Community on earth and this faith was based on the beliefs in the unseen God. Therefore, if we look at the context of the saints in this chapter on the nature of true faith and we look at the Hebrew understanding of a history as a journey with a purpose and a trajectory toward holiness, then we must also see faith as primarily faith in this context. Faith then is a combination of TWO element:
Faith in the static truths concerning God and his salvation
Faith in God’s promises to bring our history and the history of our communities to a place of holiness for His name sake.
This faith is faith for a new story based on our beliefs regarding the person and work of Christ revealed in the scripture. Thus biblical faith is a dynamic faith based on static and immutable truths. Biblical faith is the belief that God encounters and moves our history because He is good and that this movement of our personal and community history toward righteousness according to His ultimate purpose to reveal a City filled with His glory. Faith for the journey is not faith for the journey of our soul as I travel to heaven. Neither is faith belief that Jesus died for our sins. These are the necessary foundations upon which faith stands but Biblical Faith is the faith that God will encounter our history and allow us to participate in His plan to reveal the Holy City on Earth. This Hebrew understanding of faith becomes the ultimate purpose of our life which becomes the context of all our actions in life. God’s Ultimate Purpose becomes Our Ultimate Purpose. Every activity of our life comes under submission to the Will of God when every activity of our lives is lived with in the context of participation in God’s redemptive purpose to build a morally beautiful community. We are laboring to build and restore the church in our generation and pass an ever increasingly morally beautiful community to our children.

OK that is that: I know this is a bit of a read but it is important. Let the shift continue


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