Jesus the Shaman – Healings – Chris Dierkes

Jesus Healing

They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Can you see anything?’ And the man looked up and said, ‘I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.’ Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then Jesus sent him away to his home saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’
(Gospel of Mark, Chapter 8, verses 22-26).

Last week we began examining Jesus-as-shaman. There are a number of classic shamanic healing elements to this story.

First, Jesus takes the man away from the village to a secluded place. Healers like to work alone. While Jesus does not always do this – he does sometimes heal in front of crowds – generally he tries to create private space for the healing act. He is not interested in gaining personal notoriety (see last verse).

Second, he uses spit. The use of natural elements in healing rituals is commonplace: e.g. stones, saliva, water, fire, smoke, etc.

Third, the man’s healing did not quite take at first. Often healings require multiple go rounds, even apparently for Jesus. Or perhaps the man was unable to interpret his new-found sight.

Fourth, Jesus holds conversation with the man – asking him to participate in his own healing process.

Can you see anything?

It’s crucial that the one who is receiving healing also partakes in the process – though to a lesser degree no doubt than the healer.

One of the reasons the healing stories in the gospels have caused controversy is they come from an era prior to modern medicine. Contemporary healing work must make a clear distinction between healing and curing. Healing does not equate to curing (though in the gospel stories it must be said they tend to be conflated). People may work with healers on an energetic level – with unprocessed emotions or past wounds – and they may receive healing but they aren’t necessarily cured in any sense. Healings may have curative physical effects but such physical manifestations need not take place in order for genuine healing to have occurred. I say this in response to the medical establishment’s studies on, say, prayer and healing which define healing solely as curing.

This is a particularly relevant topic in disability theology. Blind people or folks in wheelchairs often groan when these miraculous healing stories are read in church. They’re afraid some perhaps well-meaning but ignorant fellow church-goer will ask them when they’re going to get healed. Or worse, assume that the person’s physical challenge is a sign of their lack of faith.

So we need to be clear that there’s work to be done through healing – these shamanic domains affords insight and resources not available to the rational mind. But this is not to be equated with magical curing.

Coming next week in the Jesus the Shaman series: Jesus and Exorcism.

chrisChris Dierkes is a long time student and practitioner of the Christ-consciousness mystical path. After receiving his MDiv., Chris worked in parish ministry for three years (Anglican Church of Canada) and now maintains a private practice in interspiritual soul work. In addition Chris has studied energy healing, intuitive arts, and shamanic practice. He writes frequently on subjects of spirituality in the contemporary world. He lives in Vancouver with his wife Chloe and their daughter Sage. You can check out his writing and practice here.

Daniel’s Seventy Weeks – Endings and Beginnings

New Covenant Beginnings
In this series, we’ve been exploring Daniel’s contribution to our understanding of fulfilled, or Covenant, eschatology. Last week we examined the unique, transitional role the ‘firstfruits’ Body of Christ played in ushering in the full ‘harvest’ of humanity into the reconciling presence of God. Now we’re ready to dive in to the first half of the six blessings God promised through Daniel to be fulfilled when the Old Covenant world drew to a close, preparing the way for God and humanity to walk together into an open future.

1. “To finish the transgression.” “To finish the transgression” is more properly translated “To restrain transgression.” Some render it “to close the defection.” We must keep in mind that Daniel’s prayer was on behalf of Israel’s transgressions.

Yes, all Israel has transgressed your law, and has departed so as not to obey your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against him” (Daniel 9:11).

In the new heaven and earth, which came in at the end of the seventieth week, transgression would be “finished” or “restrained.” Through the covenant of mercy, the curse of the law (Daniel 9:11) would be removed. The history of rebellion and transgression would come to an end, and the history of restoration would begin. Israel would come into a new state and relationship before God,

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).

The curse would be removed from the city (Revelation 22:3).

Isaiah prophesied this as well:

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.

But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy.

I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people; The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying (Isaiah 65:17-19).

2. “To make an end of sins.” This is also translated “to seal up sins.” The idea here is one of removing it from sight or from view. The expression seems to be taken from the custom of sealing up those things which one lays aside and conceals. Daniel confesses in his prayer that the sins of Israel were open and known by all, “…because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people are a reproach to all those around us” (Daniel 9:16). Ezekiel prophesies of the time when an end would be made of Israel’s sins,

For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will keep my judgments and do them.

Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezekiel 36:24-28).

This prophecy corresponds to the seventieth week of Daniel, and the new heaven and earth of Revelation 21.

3. “To make reconciliation for iniquity.” This also could be “to cover iniquity.” To “cover” sin carries connotations of pardon or forgiveness. The old sins of Israel would be atoned for and covered or forgiven by God.

We have here three things specified in regard to sin and what would happen at the end time. Sin would be restrained, sealed up, and covered. It would be a time of redemption, the blotting out, or taking away of Israel’s sins. It would happen at the end of the seventieth week of Daniel. This is the time that the old heaven and earth gives way to the new heaven and earth, where righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13).

We find further support of this timing of Israel’s redemption in New Testament Scriptures:

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,

And that he may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before,

Whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began (Acts 3:19-21).

We can see three things that were expected upon the coming of the Lord: the blotting out of sins, a time of refreshing, and the restoration of all things spoken by the prophets since the world began.

That your sins may be blotted out” is equal to Daniel’s prophecy of “Finishing transgression, making an end of sins, and reconciliation for iniquity” (Daniel 9:24). Daniel said it would happen at the end of the seventy weeks, and Luke said it would happen at the coming of Christ. We have already seen that these events are the same.

“Times of refreshing” likewise refers to the coming of Christ at the end of that age to restore true spiritual Israel, and plant them in the new heaven and earth. We can see a parallel with the period of “regeneration” Jesus refers to in Matthew 19:28, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of his glory….” It is the same coming, the same throne, and the same glory of Matthew 25:31, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.” This time of refreshing, (renewal or restoration) also is described in the 37th chapter of Ezekiel.

The “restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21) also applies to this same coming of Christ. All unfulfilled prophecy finds its fulfillment at the end of Daniel’s seventy weeks. The law would then be completely fulfilled, for it was a time of reformation or restoration:

It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience-

concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation (Hebrews 9:9-11).

The Scriptures seem to assume that this time – when heaven and earth would pass away – would bring a complete fulfillment of the law:

Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.

For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-18).

Again in the Gospels Christ says, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:34-35). Luke likewise assigns the fulfillment of all things to the destruction of Jerusalem. “For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled” (Luke 21:22).

Another New Testament passage that assigns redemption to Israel at the end time is Romans 11:

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come out of Zion, And he will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;

For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins” (Romans 11:25-27).

The bringing in of the fullness of the Gentiles in verse 25 was accomplished in the period of time from Pentecost to the destruction of Jerusalem. It is the gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of Daniel, or the time that heaven received Christ until his coming again (Acts 3:19-21). The cutting off of the Messiah, or his rejection by the Jews, resulted in salvation to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46).

When would ungodliness be turned away from Jacob, or their sins be taken away? When Christ, the deliverer, came out of Zion. When did Christ come out of Zion? Not at his first coming, but at his second coming. Christ could not come out of Zion until after he had gone there. “Yet I have set my King on my holy hill of Zion” (Psalms 2:6) – this happened at his ascension into heaven, (Acts 2). But he was received into heaven until the fullness of the Gentiles had come in. God’s people eagerly waited for this to happen, “so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for him he will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:28). His second coming would be “apart from sin” and for the salvation of those that waited in readiness.

This picture of Christ’s coming out of Zion to cleanse Israel harmonizes with the prophecy of Joel:

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.

The sun and moon will grow dark, and the stars will diminish their brightness.

The Lord also will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; The heavens and earth will shake; But the Lord will be a shelter for his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.

So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, dwelling in Zion my holy mountain. Then Jerusalem shall be holy, and no aliens shall ever pass through her again (Joel 3:14-17).

This too, is a prophecy of the end time of Daniel’s seventieth week. The darkening of the sun and moon is alluded to in Matthew 24:29 and Revelation 6:12.

The shaking of the heavens and earth is found in Hebrews 12:26-29. This is the time when the Lord shall roar out of Zion and corresponds to Romans 11:26. Then, according to Joel and the writer of Hebrews, “Jerusalem shall be holy” (Joel 3:17). “But Judah shall abide forever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation. For I will acquit them of the guilt of bloodshed, whom I had not acquitted; for the Lord dwells in Zion” (Joel 3:20-21). Joel’s prophecy ends with Judah and Jerusalem dwelling safely in their own land – the new heavens and earth of Revelation 21:1-2 or the heavenly country sought by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Hebrews 11:16), which was promised to Abraham and his seed (Romans 4:13).

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He does not retain his anger forever, Because he delights in mercy.

He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

You will give truth to Jacob and mercy to Abraham, which you have sworn to our fathers from days of old. (Micah 7:18-20).

Join us next week as we continue this ground-breaking study of a faithful God, fulfilled Story, and wide-open future!

Join us each Monday as we blog through The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King, where this post is drawn from. (And if you get impatient, of course, you can always get the book inspiring these posts here.) Please feel free to weigh in below.

Jesus the Shaman – Chris Dierkes

Anima Mundi
In my long-running Integral theory and practice journal, Beams and Struts, I looked at the remnants of shamanic consciousness on contemporary fairy tale-based TV shows like Grimm and Once Upon a Time. The journey into shamanic forms of experience and healing is one that I’ve found myself on in recent years, both for myself and those I work with. This has been an unexpected but beautiful turn in my life. Up until this switch, I had followed a path that would be characterized, in yogic terms, as one of bhakti (devotional practice), karma yoga (the path of service), and jnani yoga (the contemplative mind). These elements all remain rooted in my being but something else has developed more recently. Or at least something I’m now giving more time and attention to – which for lack of a better word I’ll call shamanic.

Shamanism includes things like kundalini energy or the experience of the chakras (especially the 6th, aka the third eye) and auras. It’s the seat of imagination, intuition, and what is often termed energy work. It’s also the home of The World Soul (Anima Mundi). This realm is often encountered through the use of entheogens or in (genuine) Pentecostal experiences: e.g. speaking in tongues, bodily ecstasy (aka holy rolling),  and so on. While shamanic consciousness is by no means solely reducible to these phenomena, they do constitute an important set of core elements in the shamanic tradition.

In the Western world many of these phenomena, like auras and chakras, are typically thought of as ‘New Age.’ And certainly there are those who would label themselves New Age who are connecting to those forms of experience. New Agers, however, don’t have a monopoly on such experience – these are simply domains of possible experience available to everyone. Human beings (traditionally called shamans) have founds ways of accessing, learning from, and working with those domains for many thousands of years across the globe: aboriginal peoples from Australia to the Americas to the Siberian tundra to sub-Saharan Africa…and even those in the Middle East (as we’ll see in a moment).

My experiences in recent years have opened my eyes to my own sacred scriptures – and to Jesus.

Jesus practiced shamanism.

native jesus
What I find most interesting is that these shamanic forms of practice surrounding Jesus are the stories that embarrass liberal Christians the most: exorcisms, healings, and apocalyptic language. Weirdly, these elements have become largely confined to much more conservative forms of Christianity like evangelicalism and Pentecostalism. They therefore get a bad rap for those of us who have outgrown certain rigid expressions of religion. And yet when we stop running from what’s right in front of our noses, the evidence is overwhelming that Jesus was a shaman.

The reason historically that liberal Christians denied these elements of Jesus’ life were because they were seen as irrational. Influenced as they were by the Western Enlightenment, liberal Christians emphasize reason and tolerance. They see Jesus as a Teacher of Morals and Eternal Wisdom. One great counterexample to this is the late liberal Christian scholar and priest Marcus Borg. Borg’s books on the historical Jesus argue correctly that Jesus was a charismatic healer and exorcist. Borg, however, stayed safely within the domain of the scholar, not a practitioner nor an advocate of this path.

The costs to liberal Jesus-followers of denying this reality are enormous. The New Age gains many of its adherents after they leave churches seeking precisely these forms of connection. In its liberal forms, Christianity tends to become either a very heady exercise or a social justice-only movement (or both). Liberals lack the fire and passion of many of their conservative brethren. Liberal Christians see the shamanic as pre-rational and therefore regressive (hence the embarrassment). They’re unable to grasp that a good deal of what’s going on in this arena is actually trans-rational (post-rational). It is more, not less, than rational.

So what if these shamanic ways are simply practices that could be taken up, interpreted and placed within a different worldview than that of arch-conservative Christianity? Is there something here for everyone?

I do believe many so-called fundamentalist Christians do have these experiences – though it’s clearly an area rife with charlatanism so separating the real from the fake can be tricky. Whether genuine or not, these believers embody these practices largely within a framework of traditional moral conservatism: e.g. anti-gay, patriarchal, non-Christians seen as bound for hell, merged with excessively literalistic readings of The Bible.

What I’m suggesting is to retrieve these practices but place them within a more progressive contemporary moral, political, and social framework, attempting to reconcile the best of both worlds. In this series, we’ll explore a few categories of shamanic work and look at representative stories from the gospels concerning Jesus that illustrate these very categories at work, establishing Jesus’ authentic shamanic identity. I’m not suggesting that this is the only lens through which to see Jesus, of course – but I’m discovering it to be a potent one that impacts me and many whom I serve.

Coming next week in the Jesus the Shaman series: Jesus the Healer.

chrisChris Dierkes is a long time student and practitioner of the Christ-consciousness mystical path. After receiving his MDiv., Chris worked in parish ministry for three years (Anglican Church of Canada) and now maintains a private practice in interspiritual soul work. In addition Chris has studied energy healing, intuitive arts, and shamanic practice. He writes frequently on subjects of spirituality in the contemporary world. He lives in Vancouver with his wife Chloe and their daughter Sage. You can check out his writing and practice here.

Daniel’s Seventy Weeks – Firstfruits Harvest

First Fruits
What is Baptism for the dead? As we examined last week, Paul asks

Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:29).

Many interpretations have been given of this passage in an effort to avoid a doctrine of vicarious baptism. But vicarious baptism is not taught in this text any moreso than vicarious suffering, or vicarious perfection and acceptance. New Testament saints were not baptized for specific persons or individuals of the Old Testament, but as the firstfruits they bore the responsibility of reaching perfection and embodying God’s acceptance in order to open the way for the acceptance of the entire harvest of humanity. This is the reason for Paul’s concern to present them as a holy and blameless bride at the coming of the bridegroom. Surely they understood their position as firstfruits, knowing that the complete redemption, glory, and manifestation of sons of God of all ages rested upon their eventual victory.

It is in this light that Paul wrote in Romans 8,

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;

because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.

Not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body (Romans 8:18-23).

The glory that was going to be revealed in the firstfruits was that which attended the coming of Christ. This was the time of the manifestation of the sons of God, as these passages demonstrate:

When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:4).

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when he is revealed, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).

Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father… (Matthew 13:43).

It was also the time of their adoption – or their redemption -which was fulfilled in the separating of Ishmael and Isaac, or the fall of Old Covenant and the consummation of the New. Luke applies redemption to this event:

Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near (Luke 21:27-28).

This was the time for which the whole creation was waiting because this too would be the time of their deliverance from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of God’s children (Romans 8:19-22). While every living soul from Adam to Christ would share in the blessings of Christ at his parousia (often translated ‘second coming’ – see 1 Corinthians 15:22), the creation in this text of Romans 8 seems to apply to the body of Israel under the Old Covenant (their redemption assumes the redemption of Gentiles also). This creation was “subjected to frustration.” The word “frustration” here in Romans 8:20 (Greek mataioes) carries the meaning of “emptiness as to results, failing of the results designed, owing to sin.” (W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.) They were made subject to this frustration when placed under the law (Sinai). Paul explains this in Romans 7, where he writes as a personification of this creature or creation of Romans 8:

I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.

And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death.

For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me (Romans 7:9-11).

Paul said he (the creation) was alive once without the law. He was evidently referring to the state of justification by faith, which was achieved by Father Abraham and his descendants prior to the giving of the law. The justification of Abraham by faith (without the Law) is vital to the message of the Roman letter. His faith and manner of justification are the pattern of our justification in Christ. But when the law was added, sin revived, and Paul (the creation) died. The weakness was not the law, but the flesh to whom it was given,

Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.

Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin (Romans 7:12-14).

This then, was the “frustration” that the creature was made subject to -“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

But this did not mean that the creation was left without hope, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:24-25). Christ was the hope of Israel, even though they were in a state of sin, and a body of death. “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it in hope” (Romans 8:20). This hope was not in the law, but in the promise,

Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your seed,” who is Christ.

And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect.

For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator…

Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.

But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe (Galatians 3:16-19, 21-22).

In the fullness of time, then, creation – Israel – would be delivered “because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). Deliverance from the “bondage of corruption” meant deliverance from the law and its curse (Galatians 3:10-13). “The glorious liberty of the children of God” is that perfect state in Christ after the acceptance of the firstfruits or the manifestation of the sons of God. That time had not yet arrived when Paul wrote Romans, but it was near:

For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.

Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body (Romans 8:22-23).

The adoption, the redemption of the body, the inheritance, resurrection to life, and manifestation as sons of God were all part of the promise which was made to all the seed through the faith of Christ, and was received when Ishmael was cast out. This time came at the fall of Jerusalem. It was then that the firstfruits had overcome, reached perfection, and were accepted by God.

Next week we’ll explore how this firstfruits promise fulfills the six blessings promised by Daniel.

Join us each Monday as we blog through The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King, where this post is drawn from. (And if you get impatient, of course, you can always get the book inspiring these posts here.) Please feel free to weigh in below.

Salvation’s Song – How Could We Have Gotten It All Wrong? (Part 6) – Riley O’Brien Powell

Absolut GraceDo you believe that you need to do things or pay money to earn your salvation?

Institutional Christianity lost sight of the sheer gift of divine reconciliation for a long time, only beginning to recover an inkling of it in the 1600s.

As priest and chef Robert Farrar Capon put it,

The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar full of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred proof Grace–bottle after bottle of pure distilate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly. The word of the Gospel–after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your bootstraps–suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started…Grace has to be drunk straight: no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale; neither goodness, nor badness, not the flowers that bloom in the spring of super spirituality could be allowed to enter into the case.
(Between Noon & Three: Romance, Law & the Outrage of Grace)

It was only after the sacrifice and insistence of a few, based upon their convictions from scripture, that bands of believers recovered the idea of salvation by grace through faith. Those who, like Martin Luther, read New Testament letters themselves and saw a message of salvation different from the institution, were threatened with their lives.

This one, in particular, struck me: How could the church lose sight of redemption and reconciliation at God’s initiation – the very heart of Jesus’ message? How could this happen? Furthermore, attempts to recover it were adamantly opposed by the mainstream religion for a long time. When Reformers tried to recover it, arguing from Scripture, they were met with great opposition. This heart of Good News was recovered through great sacrifice – even martyrdom. The call to reform, to re-examine assumed truths, set off an entire Reformation against the established beliefs, mainstream practices and institutionalized ‘truths’ of the church.

This particular paradigm shift – the Protestant Reformation – was forged into the mainstream of Christianity and into the minds of believers, by great intentionality against the established norms. Today, these gains are taken as a given. Debated still, but you won’t be jailed or threatened with death in most places around the world for affirming God’s accomplished redemption of humanity.

Looking back, many Christians today would agree that these changes – big, vast, scary to the original people experiencing them – were necessary improvements in the life of faith and everyday spirituality.

Most importantly, these changes give modern believers access to an ever-clearer vision of what an All-in-all God and co-creative humanity looks like.

It is more harmonious with our sacred Narrative, and bears more beautiful fruit:

I believe God, as the ultimate scientist, supports human scientific discovery because all creation bears witness to the glory of God. I believe the heart of Jesus’ message, and the consistent belief of every New Testament writer, is that salvation – making friendship with God through faith in Messiah – is a free gift of God’s grace, poured out upon everyone.

I hope these “Five S’s” serve to remind us how far we’ve come, and cause us to be open to reflecting upon the necessary changes we need to embrace in the future. Now that we’ve familiarized ourselves with just a small handful of religion’s former erroneous beliefs, hopefully we can more clearly see that the community of faith is a work in progress.

When I assess contentious issues today in the evolving landscape of faith and practice, I think of these past mistakes and they humble me. What are we not seeing today? What beliefs do we hold today that our spiritual communities will teach the opposite about in the future?

Covenant Eschatology, for one. A fulfilled and open Story. It is time for a major paradigm shift in our hearts and communities so we can get on with embodying the Goose News and loving a world in need. Lets not waste any more time waiting in a holding pattern for someone else to come down and fix things for us.

RileyRiley O’Brien Powell earned her BA in Art History from Wheaton College, M.Div from Princeton Seminary, and M.A. in Education from Harvard University. She is a mother of four, raising them with her husband, Skip Powell, MD. She is a covenant participant and theologian-in-residence at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and a board member of Presence. You can find more of Riley’s writing on her blogs, at Living the Question and Mostly Raw Mom.

Daniel’s Seventy Weeks – Six Promised Blessings

FirstFruits
Before leaving the seventy weeks of Daniel, let us take a look at the six blessings to be ushered in at the end of that time period. Keep in mind that the first part of Daniel 9 contains Daniel’s confession of the sins of Judah and Israel, and his plea for mercy and pardon. He prayed for the restoration and divine acceptance of Jerusalem. It was during the course of this prayer that Gabriel came to give him understanding of Israel’s future, and inform him that “seventy weeks” must first pass before his prayer would be answered.

It is here where the six blessings that were to come are named:

Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy (Daniel 9:24).

Seventy weeks are given to the people and the holy city, which means that Israel’s restoration and blessings could be expected at the end of that time. This would bring us to the time of the fall and destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

But how can a people and a city be destroyed and blessed at the same time?

Actually Daniel’s prophecy includes both blessings and curses, all in the same “week.” The blessings promised were to be received by the new or heavenly Jerusalem of Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 11:10, 16; 12:22; and the one envisioned by John which appeared after the end of the old heaven and earth.

On the other hand, the city and people destined to destruction were temporal Jerusalem and the people contained in her. These two cities and their children were to receive their rewards simultaneously, at the coming of Christ, in this final week of Daniel’s prophecy. Ishmael and Isaac were permitted to co-exist for a while, but Isaac’s blessing and inheritance demanded the casting out of Ishmael, the child born of the flesh. Even so, Daniel’s prayer for Israel (the true seed) could not be answered until the end of the seventieth week, when the tares were separated from the wheat (Matthew 13:37-43; Matthew 3:12).

The six blessings promised to Daniel’s people were to come in fullness not on Pentecost, but the fall of Jerusalem, because the perfection of Old Testament saints depended upon the victory and acceptance of the “firstfruits” of the gospel. According to the law (Numbers 15:18-21; Leviticus 23:10-11); a firstfruits offering had to precede the gathering of the harvest, and this firstfruits offering made that harvest holy. James calls the early believers “a kind of firstfruits” (James 1:18). Their suffering, growth, and eventual perfection and victory (pictured as the 144,000 of Revelation) paved the way for the rest of the harvest – that is, all humanity. This is the import of Hebrews 11:40, “God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.”

The suffering of the firstfruits (New Testament saints) in overcoming their present world, or age, led not only to their own perfection, but also to the perfection of Israel. The resurrection of the firstfruits resulted in the resurrection of the Old Testament saints. It was in view of this truth that Paul asked, “Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:29). Paul’s argument here concerning the resurrection of the dead is based on the law of the firstfruits. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then there can be no harvest of Old Testament saints.

If there is no harvest, why should there be an offering of the firstfruits? Why should gospel saints be baptized, suffer, strive to bring the faith to perfection, if such sacrificial labor does not result in the establishment of a paradigm through which both the firstfruits and the harvest are accepted by God?

These are the questions we’ll explore next week.

Join us each Monday as we blog through The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King, where this post is drawn from. (And if you get impatient, of course, you can always get the book inspiring these posts here.) Please feel free to weigh in below.

Scripture’s Scarcity – How Could We Have Gotten It All Wrong? (Part 5) – Riley O’Brien Powell

Holy Writ
Do you believe that it should be illegal for non-“specialists” to own a copy of the Bible and read it? Can you imagine living in a time when it was against the law – the law of the official state religion – to own a Bible? Welcome to the Middle Ages in Europe. This was the position of the Roman Catholic Church until the 1600’s. Many people were burned alive simply for advocating that non-clergy ought to be able to read their own a Bible. For most of Christian history, ministers gave only themselves the right to read the Bible. They had exclusive rights to interpret what it said (hence practices like the selling of indulgences could become rampant).

The irony? Today pastors teach the opposite. In fact, many people feel guilty if they don’t read the Bible every day and do ‘devotionals.’

To give more detail on this, in the 1300s, John Wycliffe was a Roman Catholic in good standing with a doctorate in theology. He took issue with certain Roman Catholic beliefs. He believed that Scripture cut through confusions in belief to reveal truth. He did not agree with papal infallibility; he is considered to be a precursor to an important shift, the Reformation.

Wycliffe also produced the first complete English version of the Latin Bible, the Vulgate, making Scripture available to the common person. This was considered a heresy at the time. Having and reading a Bible was heretical. The Council of Constance declared Wycliffe in 1415 to be a heretic and under the ban of the Church. Because Wycliffe was considered a heretic, church officials dug up his bones (decades after he died!) and burned them for opposing their authority.

Can you imagine? It was decreed that his books be burned and his remains be exhumed in 1428. At the command of Pope Martin V, his remains were dug up, burned, and the ashes cast into the River Swift.

…and now, Scripture: important aspects of our lives and spirituality that we can be tempted to see as frozen in time, fixed in their place in the universe. When in fact, our attitudes toward each of these has continued to refine – and I believe, improve – over time. What might God be calling us to rethink next..?

RileyRiley O’Brien Powell earned her BA in Art History from Wheaton College, M.Div from Princeton Seminary, and M.A. in Education from Harvard University. She is a mother of four, raising them with her husband, Skip Powell, MD. She is a covenant participant and theologian-in-residence at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and a board member of Presence. You can find more of Riley’s writing on her blogs, at Living the Question and Mostly Raw Mom.

Daniel’s Seventy Weeks – An End to Sacrifice

Letting GodThe first half of Daniel’s prophesied seventieth week is pictured in Revelation 11, which is a tribulation period for the saints:

And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.

These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.

And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner.

These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.

When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them (Revelation 11:3-7).

Something happened in the middle of the seventieth week that stoked the fires of the Jewish people against the Romans, and this marked the beginning of unparalleled tribulation and destruction for the Jewish people. John doesn’t tell us what exactly happened, and there isn’t much in secular history to tell us. In A History of the Jewish People in The Times of Jesus by Emil Schurer, we have what might be a clue. Because of the people’s distaste for the Roman governor, Florus, efforts were made to have him removed as governor, but to no avail. This laid the foundation for more drastic action in expressing hostility toward Rome. Schuler records this information, as taken from Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 11.17, 2-4,

At the instigation of Eleasar, son of the high priest Ananias, it was now also resolved to discontinue the daily sacrifice for the emperor, and no longer to admit of any offering by those who were not Jews. The refusal to offer a sacrifice for the emperor was equivalent to an open declaration of revolt against the Romans. All attempts of the principal men, among the chief priests as well as among Pharisees, to induce the people to recall this foolhardy resolution were in vain. They firmly adhered to the decision to which they had come. (A History of the Jewish People in The Times of Jesus, pp. 245‑247.)

Interesting in this bit of history is the fact that a daily sacrifice was being made for Nero, the emperor. We are not sure when this practice started, but it speaks of the friendly relations between Rome and Israel up until the time (reflected by Josephus’ lamenting its ending, above) the daily sacrifice was taken away, which was some time in the fall of A.D. 66. This seems to be the catalyst for the beginning of the war of Rome against the Jewish people, which reached its climax in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in the summer of A.D. 70.

We can see Daniel’s prophecies coming to fruition in the course of history. Regarding an “end of sacrifice and offering” prophesied in Daniel 9:27, a strong case could be made for this being the end of the sacrifice on behalf of Nero, but this may not be the only explanation. It may also have reference to the cessation of the Jewish sacrifice within the temple, which had continued up until this time. But according to history, did not actually cease until sometime in July of A.D. 70, due to famine and lack of manpower. It is possible that the cessation of the sacrifice and oblation has typical reference to the daily, sacrificial, evangelistic labors of the saints on behalf of Israel from Pentecost. In any case, when it came to the sacred efforts of the age – be they imperial cult, Old Covenant faithfulness, or covenant-transition in-gathering, the end had come – time could be no longer (Revelation 10:6-7).

And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.

He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.

And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work…”

He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:10-12, 20).

Daniel 9:27 continues, “And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate…” This could likely have been the coming of the Roman Commander, as affirmed by Jesus in Matthew 24:15. It also suggests Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 23:38: “See! Your house is left to you desolate.” The seventieth week pictures the casting out of Ishmael and the rise of Isaac. It’s the end of the world as they knew it – the cessation of their old world and the beginning of the new, as predicted in Matthew 24 and envisioned in Revelation.

Join us next week as we look at the six blessings also promised in this unusual prophetic text.

Join us each Monday as we blog through The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King, where this post is drawn from. (And if you get impatient, of course, you can always get the book inspiring these posts here.) Please feel free to weigh in below.

Science & Fear – How Could We Have Gotten It All Wrong? (Part 4) – Riley O’Brien Powell

Eagle Nebula
Rethinking can be scary.

At Presence we’re committed to re-imagining what it’s like to be found in a here-and-now relationship with God, each other, our world and our very selves. In this re-imagining process, we’ve deconstructed limiting beliefs that others hold as sacred – particularly in the area of eschatology. As we’ve been exploring in this series, one common objection in daring to rethink long-held beliefs, and re-imagine alternative futures is How could we have gotten it all wrong? Are you really saying my _____ (church, country, family, Other Venerable Institution) could have missed the mark for decades? Centuries? Millennia?

By way of encouragement via some discouraging beliefs, we’ve looked at how people of faith have generally outgrown beliefs around:

…and now we’re going to look at science!

Do you believe that the Bible teaches, scientifically, that the earth is the center of the universe, and that the sun revolves around the earth?

You don’t? You heretic! Don’t you know that Ecclesiastes 1:5 states

The sun rises and sets and returns to its place.

?

This poetic passage was used to “prove” geo-centrism (an earth-centered universe) and call helio-centrism (a sun-centered universe) heretical for thousands of years.

Geocentrism was the orthodox teaching of the Christian Church for most of the past two thousand years. Early Church Fathers such as Origen argued against the truth of helio-centrism, or a sun-centered universe, put forth by the Greeks as early as the 3rd century. This debate raged long before Copernicus’ predictive mathematical model proving helio-centrism in the 16th century. Copernicus’ heliocentric idea was very controversial; nevertheless, it was the start of a change in the way the world was viewed. Copernicus initiated the Scientific Revolution, which was continued by Galileo. Galileo’s heliocentric theory of circular orbits was further refined by Kepler and his theory of elliptical orbits. This is the view that the modern scientific community holds today based on proof ascertained by measuring the parallaxes of stars and based on Einstein’s theory of relativity.

For most of church history, official dogma taught that certain verses in Scripture meant that the earth is the center of the universe, and the sun revolves around it. Eventually people of faith came to accept that scriptures which say that the “sun rises in the east and sets in the west” were poetic ways of speaking from one’s point of view, descriptively. And the author was not trying to assert a scientific truth, prescriptively.

Would it surprise you to know that people were persecuted, put under house arrest and excommunicated for questioning the church’s belief of geocentrism? Helio-centrism was seen as contradicting the Bible until the Scientific Revolution changed religion and the way it viewed the world. Similar questions now confront people of faith, and our communities at large, around evolution and climate change. Emotions still run high, and jobs are still lost, over different responses to these questions. Can we continue to grow in a way that isn’t threatened by new discoveries?

Today most – but not all! - people agree that the earth revolves around the sun. Because of the independent thinking and sacrifice of a few, developmental history has progressed. But it was a process, and the change was built on the cumulative work of many thinkers building off of each other’s work over time. It seems that this is one way God likes to teach us; giving many people different pieces of the puzzle over time and forcing us to work together to come to the best conclusions.

RileyRiley O’Brien Powell earned her BA in Art History from Wheaton College, M.Div from Princeton Seminary, and M.A. in Education from Harvard University. She is a mother of four, raising them with her husband, Skip Powell, MD. She is a covenant participant and theologian-in-residence at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and a board member of Presence. You can find more of Riley’s writing on her blogs, at Living the Question and Mostly Raw Mom.

Daniel’s Seventy Weeks – Daniel, Interrupted

Pattern InterruptWe’ve been exploring Daniel’s epoch-spanning “70-weeks” prophecy, and have arrived now as the 70th week itself – a week that’s been divided from the other sixty-nine weeks. Why is this?

Several factors set it apart. First, it was divided in the middle, with each period consisting of forty-two months, or three and a half years. This division is marked by an event referred to as “the end of the sacrifices and offerings.” The seventieth week is clearly seen as a time of tribulation and destruction,

…And the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it will be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined (Daniel 9:26).

Verse 27 seems to indicate that these things would take place in the second half of the final week:

And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” (Daniel 9:27).

We must look, now, for some event that might be the fulfillment of this prophecy. First, it seems fairly evident from the text itself that the event in question is the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus alludes to Daniel’s prophecy when he speaks of “the abomination that makes desolate” in the Olivet Discourse. Daniel’s vision of the seventy weeks was a prophecy of the time from Israel’s release from captivity to the time of the end. A problem we face is that Israel’s end did not come in a seven-year period immediately following the crucifixion. Instead, it came nearly forty years later when Rome sacked Jerusalem. This suggests a break in our chronology, a gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks. Given that our hermeneutic speaks strongly against reinterpreting time frames, we should have a very good reason for suggesting such a gap, and an abundance of evidence that might justify this gap. Let’s take a look at this.

First of all, there is a textual division in Daniel 9:24-27 between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week. The seventieth week is treated separately. At the end of the 69th week, Messiah is “cut off.” Does the expression “cut off” mean that Christ was through with national Israel? Not at all – the “day of the Lord” was still to come. Christ, though cut off, would still deal with temporal Israel:

Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city,

that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

See! Your house is left to you desolate;

for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’  (Matthew 23:34-39).

Matthew 24 is a continuation of the predicted fate of Israel, in which we have the Lord’s prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem. It is in this context that Christ mentions the “abomination of desolation” spoken of by Daniel the prophet (Matthew 24:15), which identifies the seventieth week with the destruction of Jerusalem. Where does the gap come in?

First, Christ was received into heaven until the time “of the vengeance of God,”

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,

and that he may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before,

whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:19-21)

The gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week was from the time of Christ’s going into heaven until he came again. His coming, according to Matthew 24, was the time of the end of the world, or the consummation of the age.

Christ went away, but with the promise of coming again (John 14:1-3). His return was accompanied with blessing and destruction – blessing for true spiritual Israel, but destruction for unbelieving fleshly Israel. His coming was the receiving of one (2 Thessalonians 2:1), and the rejection of the other (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). According to Acts 3:21, it was a time of fulfillment of all things spoken by the prophets of God. This also is affirmed in Luke 21:22, “For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” Luke 21:22 agrees with Acts 3:21, and both refer to the war leading to the destruction of Jerusalem – the coming of Christ.

Peter refers to the period of time between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week while Christ was away as the longsuffering of God:

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance…and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation… (2 Peter 3:9, 15).

It was a time of preaching the gospel, and sealing the servants of God, before “the great day of his wrath has come” (Revelation 6:17). God gave national Israel an opportunity to repent before closing out their age:

After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.

Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea,

saying, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”

And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed. (Revelation 7:1-4)

Luke 19 seems to suggest a gap or space of time between the cutting off of Christ and Israel’s destruction:

Now as he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it,

saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side,

and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation. (Luke 19:41-44)

Consider Christ’s words in verse 43, “For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you….” Those days of destruction would not immediately follow the crucifixion, but they would come in that generation (Matthew 23:35-36; 24:34).

Another reason for a gap might be that a continuous chronology of Israel’s future would have defeated God’s purpose in keeping “the day or the hour” of Christ’s coming in secrecy. Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matt. 24:36). Because the seventieth week did not uninterruptedly follow the sixty-ninth, the “times and the seasons” would remain in the Father’s own power, to be shared by no other (Acts 1:7).

The seventieth week of Daniel also sheds light on the chronology of the book of Revelation, especially the later chapters. Revelation deals with the end time, the fall of Jerusalem, and the rise and glory of spiritual Israel. The seventieth week of Daniel, Matthew 24, and Revelation are synchronous – all dealing with the time of the end. The remarkable harmony of these prophetic sections of the Bible is a reflection of God’s wisdom and the inspiration of Scripture.

Join us next week as we look at the mystery of Jerusalem’s destruction.

Join us each Monday as we blog through The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King, where this post is drawn from. (And if you get impatient, of course, you can always get the book inspiring these posts here.) Please feel free to weigh in below.