Elements of Fulfillment: The “Everywhere Israel”

All Families

The scope of God’s promise to Abraham was universal in its blessing power:

All the families on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:3b)

This leads us naturally to the question: Was this universal blessing (all families on earth) meant to be contained to Abraham’s physical descendants – temporal Israel – for all eternity? Or does a fulfilled narrative fulfill God’s promise to bless all families?

Our reflection on the nature of seeds last week leads us to a consideration of the two Israels said to be born of the two kinds of seed mentioned. An element of confusion in prophecy is our interpretative inability to see two Israels born of Abraham. In biblical terminology, there is an Israel “after the flesh” (or temporal), and an Israel after the Spirit – which is to say, not limited to locality, but universally accessible (see Jesus’ dialogue with the Samaritan woman in John 4:19-24).

This is clearly illustrated in the allegory of Ishmael and Isaac (Galatians 4:21-31). Both were born into the household of Abraham, but one (Ishmael) is said to be born after the flesh, and of the other (Isaac) born after the Spirit. Inspiration uses these events to advance the concept of a fleshly (temporal) and spiritual (ubiquitous) Israel.

The first Israel, typified by Ishmael, was born of Abraham and Sarah’s human initiative, and was propagated and preserved under the Law of Moses (See Genesis 16). Concerning them Paul said,

For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,

who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;

of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen (Romans 9:3-5)

The second Israel, typified by Isaac, was born of Abraham’s promised seed (Christ – see Galatians 3:16), and is constituted of everyone who walks not after “the flesh” (the Law paradigm), but after the Spirit (the faith of Christ, or the good news – see Romans 8:1-3). Concerning the distinctions of Isreal, Paul said,

For they are not all Israel who are of Israel,

nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.”

That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed (Romans 9:6-9)

The meaning of this passage is obscure until studied in view of the two Israels as set forth in Ishmael and Isaac. The promised Israel of God in whom Abrahamic promises are fulfilled is constituted of those who trusted in Christ – Jewish and Gentile alike, temporally speaking.

Hoping for a return of Christ to the physical city of Jerusalem at some point in the future to bring literal fulfillment and blessings to a fleshly seed of Abraham is false hope:

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.

And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God (Galatians 6:15-16).

Instead, the scope of God’s vision is much wider and more generous than that – not excluding the historic Jewish children of the promise in any way, but widening the scope to include Gentiles. The God of temporal Israel is revealed to be the God of spiritual Israel – which is another way of saying “The Lord of Heaven and Earth!”

May we dare to open our hearts to this indiscriminately loving God, thus

…acting as true children of your Father in heaven, [who] gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, sending rain on the just and the unjust alike. (Matthew 5:45)

Join us each Monday as we blog through The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King. (And if you get impatient, of course, you can always get the book inspiring these posts here.) Next week we’ll examine the nature of of Israel’s different dimensions as depicted in biblical prophecy.

The Coming of God: War and Peace – Riley O’Brien Powell

Siege on Jerusalem

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the land will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:29-30)

Notice that Jesus is quoting from Isaiah here. Jesus is speaking of a coming of God that brings about covenantal changes and realities. He is not saying that the planet will be shaken; he’s saying that the powers of the Old Covenant, Israel, and the way of being God’s people through the Law of Moses will be shaken. They will give way to a new way of being God’s people through Christ.

Then I looked, and there was a white cloud. On the cloud was seated someone who looked like the Human One. He had a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand…Then the winepress was trampled outside the city, and the blood came out of the winepress as high as the horses’ bridles for almost two hundred miles. (Revelation 14:14, 20, CEB. ‘Son of Man’ can also be rendered ‘Human One.’)

Jesus’ coming to judge came to pass in Jerusalem, in 70AD. Jesus taught his Way of peacemaking and reconciliation; many ‘common people’ rejoiced but those in power – Jewish and Roman – felt threatened; Jesus wept because Jerusalem would not accept the ‘narrow way’ of escape from the inevitable violence of their own cyclical impulses. And so, Jesus’ paradoxical presence was made known as Jerusalem was given over to its own violent strategies via Rome in AD 70, having ignored Jesus’ Way of Peace (See Luke 13:34-35).

Out of the rubble of this tragedy came the first-fruits of genuinely good news for humanity: As the Temple fell, “the end” of the Old Covenant era of a particular people relating to God via Law and sacrifice has strikingly, visually passed away for those seeking something more.

The Kingdom of God is here! And it is coming into the world evermore so through us now. Jesus’ coming, therefore, is not something that is going to happen “to us” in the future. Rather, God’s life, light, love and presence is coming to the world through us – right now.

The great mystery to us physically-minded earthlings is coming to understand how Jesus is more truly present here with us now than he ever was while he walked the earth. Spiritually, God lives in us, in untold numbers of us at once. And we see him ceaselessly visiting those awakened to this reality, blessing and healing the world.

So there is no justification for Christians to preach a fear-based message of “Repent now because Jesus may be coming soon to end the world and you don’t want to be left behind!” However well-intentioned this may be, it’s little more than fear-mongering. Instead, when you finally see that Jesus did what he said he would do, and came when he said he would come, you can share the story of the great faithfulness of God in Jesus, of his reliability and trustworthiness, of how he spoke accurately and authentically from God.

Jesus did not fail to keep his promise to come to his disciples in their generation and to resurrect them to life anew in the body of Christ, even though we may have massively missed the point in understanding what his coming to consummate God’s Kingdom on earth would look like. I hope this reflection on the symbolic, revealing power of prophetic language gives you a fresh lens through which to consider the content, timing, and trajectory of God’s prophetic promises.

The empowerment in this message is that we can be a part of God’s story of renewal and rebirth in the world. God has chosen to work through us in the world, as co-creators of a Great Kingdom.

What I’d like you to consider from this explorations of the comings of God in history:

  • We are not here alone awaiting rescue from a “fallen” world.
  • The God who redeemed the world is here – now – working through us.
  • Jesus’ invitation to a life of active peace-making and reconciliation is still an open one. What the religion and empire of Jesus’ day rejected, we can embrace, co-creating a future of abundance with the God who keeps divine promises.
  • As God’s waking-up vessels, we can participate in channeling God’s love, blessing and healing to the world.
  • Jesus’ coming, therefore, is not something that is going to happen “to us” in the future. Rather, Jesus’ life, light, love and presence – revealing God as our All-in-all Source – is coming into the world – through us, in us, and as us.

The Coming of God by Riley O’Brien Powell – Complete Series:

Coming of God
The Coming of God: Like Father, Like Son
Comings of God in History
Comings of God in Exile

 

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. You can find more of Riley’s writing on her blogs, at Living the Question and Mostly Raw Mom.

Integral Theology and Structures of the Mind – Part I

Brain

What is “form”? Where is humanity going? How does God develop our thinking from entrenched mindsets to more generative possibilities? Doug King offers a unique perspective on our personal and cultural growth in part one of this two-part series!

Elements of Fulfillment: Seed

Seed
In archetypal language, Scripture depicts two kinds of seeds – temporal (or in biblical language, fleshly) and spiritual. God promises Abraham a great nation through his temporal seed (or offspring), which was fulfilled by Abraham’s biological descendants:

The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you,
those who curse you I will curse;
all the families of the earth
will be blessed because of you.
(Genesis 12:1-3)

But the greater and higher promise of this Genesis blessing finds its fulfillment through Abraham’s spiritual seed, which is Christ.

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.
(Galatians 3:16).

In the New Creation ecology, one is not constituted a child of God by temporal birth of the descent of Abraham, but by birth of the incorruptible seed:

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
(Galatians 3:26-29).

Peter continues this theme of Abraham’s trajectory, “having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Pet. 1:23).

The tragic misunderstanding among the first-century Jewish community was their failure to see Christ as the promised seed of Abraham, through whom the Abrahamic promises and blessings were to be realized. Their vision was clouded with the veil of Moses (2 Corinthians 3:13-16) inasmuch as they anticipated a Messiah whose work would be a literal restitution of the temporal system born of Moses. They could not see beyond Moses to Abraham, and grasp the spiritual significance of the promised seed, which extended above and beyond the types and shadows of the Law. They continually assured themselves of future blessings on the basis that “we are Abraham’s seed” (John 8:33), not realizing that in the New Creation sprouting in their midst, the children of Abraham would be born of Christ – his promised seed (Roman 4:13).

On this basis, John defends the believers in Christ from the charges of heresy and apostasy, showing that the “seed” remains in Christ, and therefore is not lost, but rather maintained by the transition from Law to fulfillment (1 John 3:6-9; Isaiah 66:22). It was this understanding that led Paul to give up the works of the Law, and seek justification by the faith of Christ (Galatians 2:16). Paul’s temporal good-standing in Israel was once a basis for confidence and pride, until he realized that the old must give way to the new, and that the inheritance promised to Abraham’s seed was not temporal, but heavenly or spiritual (1 Peter 1:3). Therefore, it could not come by the Law (Galatians 3:18; Romans 4:13).

Join us each Monday as we blog through The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King. (And if you get impatient, of course, you can always get the book inspiring these posts here.) Next week we’ll examine the nature of of Israel’s different dimensions as depicted in biblical prophecy.

Comings of God in Exile – Riley O’Brien Powell

Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones, The Knesset Menorah, Jerusalem. Courtesy of Deror avi, Wikimedia Commons.

Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones, The Knesset Menorah, Jerusalem. Courtesy of Deror avi, Wikimedia Commons.

In this series, we’ve been exploring the Bible’s rich, haunting, and sometimes-confusing language of trumpets, clouds, darkening of the constellations, burning up of the heavens and shaking of the earth’s foundations.

What I’m suggesting is that just as Jesus’ “coming on the clouds” was a symbolic way of speaking about the spiritual meaning of first-century temporal events, so there are other recorded “cloud comings”of God in history following a similar pattern. These can shed valuable light on an often-overlooked aspect of biblical prophetic speech.

Last week we looked at several of these cosmic occurrences – predicted and fulfilled – in ancient Israel’s history. This week we’ll examine several more examples that take place during the time of Israel’s exile.

God Comes to Judge Egypt in the Time of Nebuchadnezzar – 500s BC

The day is near, even the day of the LORD is near; It will be a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations. A sword will come upon Egypt, and anguish will be in Ethiopia; When the slain fall in Egypt…And they will know that I am the LORD, when I set a fire in Egypt…I will also make the hordes of Egypt cease by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. He and his people with him, the most ruthless of the nations, will be brought in to destroy the land; and they will draw their swords against Egypt and fill the land with the slain. (Ezekiel 30:3-4,8, 10-11)

Notice the “Day of the Lord” mentioned here is a local judgment – or war – on Egypt. According to the author of Ezekiel, God says the acts of Nebuchadnezzar are really from him, and God intends to make his presence in that war known. The army is used as an instrument of judgment in God’s hand to judge Egypt, just as the Roman army was used to judge Jerusalem.

God Comes to Judge Edom in the Time of Nebuchadnezzar – 500s BC 

YHWH is enraged against all the nations, and angry with all their armies. He has utterly destroyed them…the stench of their dead bodies will come up; and the mountains will melt in their blood. All of the host of heaven will be dissolved. The heavens will be rolled up like a scroll, and all its armies will fade away, as a leaf fades from off a vine or a fig tree. For my sword shall be bathed in heaven. Behold, it will come down on Edom, and on the people of my curse, for judgment. Yahweh’s sword is filled with blood… a great slaughter in the land of Edom…For YHWH has a day of vengeance…From generation to generation, it will lie waste. No one will pass through it forever and ever. (Isaiah 34: 2-6, 8-10)

Notice that Jesus quotes from this passage in Isaiah when Jesus prophesies the Destruction of Jerusalem to his disciples in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). Isaiah says that the whole host of heaven will be destroyed, the very sky will be rolled up like a scroll and God’s sword will be bathed with blood and in the sky. This is cosmic and universal-sounding language describing local events with spiritual implications.

God Comes to Judge Israel at the Time of the Babylonian Exile – 500s BC

…I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there will I enter into judgment with you face to face… All flesh shall see that I, YHWH, have kindled it…Thus says YHWH: Behold, I am against you, and will draw forth my sword out of its sheath, and will cut off from you the righteous and the wicked. …all flesh shall know that I, YHWH, have drawn forth my sword out of its sheath.
(Ezekiel 20:33-35,47-48; 21:3-5, emphasis mine)

Behold, [God] goes up like clouds
And his chariots like the whirlwind; His horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us, for we are ruined! Wash your heart from evil, O Jerusalem, That you may be saved…I looked on the earth, and behold, it was formless and void;
And to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking,
And all the hills moved to and fro. I looked, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens had fled. I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a wilderness,
And all its cities were pulled down Before the LORD, before His fierce anger. For thus says the LORD, The whole land shall be a desolation,
Yet I will not execute a complete destruction. For this the earth shall mourn and the heavens above be dark, because I have spoken, I have purposed, And I will not change My mind, nor will I turn from it. At the sound of the horseman and bowman every city flees;
They go into the thickets and climb among the rocks; Every city is forsaken, And no man dwells in them. And you, O desolate one, what will you do?
(Jeremiah 4:13-14, 23-30)

Notice the references back to creation. Is the prophet saying that God is going to terraform the planet? No. This is poetic and apocalyptic language to describe a war – the end of the world as they knew it.

God Comes To Judge Ancient Babylon Using the Medes – 500s BC 

Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty! Therefore all hands will be feeble, and every human heart will melt, and they will be dismayed. Pangs and agony will seize them; they will be in anguish like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at one another; their faces will be aflame. See, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the earth a desolation, and to destroy its sinners from it.

For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light. I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity…

Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the LORD of hosts in the day of his fierce anger. Like a hunted gazelle, or like sheep with no one to gather them, all will turn to their own people, and all will flee to their own lands. Whoever is found will be thrust through, and whoever is caught will fall by the sword. Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered, and their wives ravished. See, I am stirring up the Medes against them, who have no regard for silver and do not delight in gold. Their bows will slaughter the young men; they will have no mercy on the fruit of the womb; their eyes will not pity children. And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pride of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them.
(Isaiah 13:6-11, 13,15-19, emphasis mine)

Is this verse saying that the earth was blasted with asteroids and falling stars? Were the sun, moon and stars all destroyed so that they wouldn’t shine anymore? Did the earth come out of its usual orbit and shake?

No.

This is apocalyptic and symbolic language describing the shaking of the political powers of a nation – specifically, the ramifications of the Medes on the social, political and religious order of Babylon. The ‘heaven and earth’ or ‘sun, moon and stars’ language here refers to the shaking political order of the nation itself, just like the symbols you see on a nation’s flag today – a red sun for Japan, an earth for Brazil, the crescent moon and star for Islam, the 50 stars for the States of America. All universally recognized national, political and religious symbols. This same use of symbols in language is present in Biblical times.

God Comes During the Maccabean Period

For I have bent Judah for me, I have filled the bow with Ephraim; and I will stir up your sons, Zion, against your sons, Greece, and will make you as the sword of a mighty man. YHWH shall be seen over them, and his arrow shall go forth as the lightning; and the Lord YHWH will blow the trumpet, and will go with whirlwinds of the south. YHWH of Hosts will defend them; and they shall devour, and shall tread down the sling-stones; and they shall drink, and make a noise as through wine; and they shall be filled like bowls, like the corners of the altar. YHWH their God will save them in that day (Zechariah 9:13-16)

Bows and Arrows, Swords and Slings, Wine and Bowls, and altars. Battle meets ritual in this prophetic depiction of war.

I hope the biblical-language paradigm of using symbolic language to uncover the spiritual meaning of  this-worldly symbolic Divine appearings is plain now. Temporal events were interpreted according to their inner significance to the soul of a nation, in a way that their original hearers understood. This stands in marked contrast to the woodenly literal, endlessly-deferred, sci-fi interpretations that – through pious repetition – have lit up our airways, bookstores, and movie screens with tales of a highly abstract future woe.

Join me right here at the Presence blog next week as we return to the setting of Jesus and his first-century followers!

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. You can find more of Riley’s writing on her blogs, at Living the Question and Mostly Raw Mom.

Doug King and Kurt Johnson: Spirituality & Science

Man with conceptual spiritual body artWhat does experiential spirituality have in common with experimental science?

How can both bring us along further in our common human journey?

Join Presence President Doug King as he sits down with Dr. Kurt Johnson to explore fresh contours of science and spirit in a world beyond dogma!

 

Kurt JohnsonDr. Kurt Johnson has worked in science and spirituality for over 40 years, his dual career detailed at Wikipedia. In science, Kurt’s PhD is in evolution, ecology, systematics and comparative biology.  Associated with the American Museum of Natural History (30 yrs.), Kurt has published 200+ articles on evolution and ecology, including the 2011 Harvard DNA sequence study vindicating Vladimir Nabokov’s views of evolution, published in the best-selling Nabokov’s Blues: The Scientific Odyssey of a Literary Genius, co-authored with The New York Times’ Steve Coates.

In spirituality, Kurt is co-author of the The Coming Interspiritual Age, with David Robert Ord, the Editorial Director of Namaste Publishing (publishers of spiritual teachers including Eckhart Tolle and Michael Brown). Kurt was originally a monk and founded, with Wayne Teasdale and others, the InterSpiritual Dialogue Association for exploration of contemplative experience across – and beyond – traditions. Kurt also works with The Contemplative Alliance,  Integral communities, and Forum 21, of which Presence is also a part.

Elements of Fulfillment: Throne

Throne of God
Another type or shadow in the Old Testament was the throne of David, standing for the rule and authority David exercised in the kingdom of temporal Israel. This kingdom was first set up in the days of Saul, when the people demanded a king from the prophet Samuel. This grieved Samuel, because he felt they had rejected him as Judge. But God said they had not rejected Samuel, they had rejected God. God’s displeasure with an earthly kingdom in temporal Israel was expressed in Hosea 13:11:

I gave you a king in My anger, and took him away in My wrath.

Though displeased with the people’s request for a king – removing as it did the opportunity for God to offer direct guidance to Israel – God granted their request, and allowed the kingdom to come to earth, but only for the purpose of pointing to the eternal kingdom to come. The time would come when a new Israel would be born, and the kingdom would be raised from an earthly to a heavenly state. The one who would accomplish this work was to be born of the seed of David, and possess the throne of David forever.

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. and his name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this (Isaiah 9:6-7).

The gospel of Luke tells us that Christ is the fulfillment of this prophecy:

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David.

And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Luke 1:32-33).

The great controversy in these passages has to do with the time and manner of Christ’s being on David’s throne. Because of the “literal” concept of the kingdom and the throne of David, many believe these prophecies await a future fulfillment. But the Scriptures plainly establish the fact that Christ was on David’s throne during the time of the apostles (cf. Acts 2:22-36) and that his kingdom has come right on schedule (Matthew 16:27-28; Mark 1:15; Daniel 2:44).

Expecting a literal fulfillment of this prophecy forces many to construct a postponement theory that destroys the credibility of prophecy by separating it from the time of its fulfillment. If the time element involved in a prophecy can fail, so can every other aspect of the prophecy. But the failure is not in Scripture, the prophecies, or the time of fulfillment, but rather in conventional concepts of how these prophecies “must” be fulfilled. The literal principle will not work, and is without scriptural support. On the other hand, the spiritual principle of interpretation is not only demanded in the Scriptures, but it has a harmony and consistency that meets every demand of prophecy in relation to time, history, typology, and manner of fulfillment. The disharmonies and inconsistencies arise out of a materialistic and literalistic field of interpretation.

Some have Christ on the Father’s throne now, only to be given David’s throne at a later time. This either makes David’s throne greater in power and glory than the Father’s throne, or else Christ is going to be demoted later when he changes thrones. But the Scriptures make no distinction in God’s throne and David’s throne – see 1 Kings 2:12 and 1 Chronicles 29:23. Nowhere in Scripture is Christ given the promise of two thrones, nor is there any indication that he is going to leave one in order to occupy another.

Others object to Christ’s being on David’s throne in heaven, asking how it got from earth to heaven. But, the question could be reversed: How did it get from heaven to earth? God didn’t want the throne on earth, but allowed it to be for a time (Hosea 13:11; 1 Samuel 8:7). It was God’s purpose to return or restore, at a future time, the throne to its proper place.

Overthrown, overthrown, I will make it overthrown! It shall be no longer, Until he comes whose right it is, And I will give it to him. (Ezekiel 21:27)

An earthly kingdom and throne for eternity could no more contain God than an earthly tabernacle, priesthood, or temple. Thus, Stephen argues the change from the temporal to the spiritual in these words,

But Solomon built him a house.

However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:

Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the Lord, Or what is the place of My rest?

Has My hand not made all these things? (Acts 7:47-50).

Thus, Christ came to raise up or deliver (1 Corinthians 15:24) a kingdom that had come to earth through rebellion and disobedience, which was eventually overturned, waiting the coming of him whose right it was. A literal throne on earth could not answer God’s purpose of restitution and restoration, inasmuch as the imperfection or weakness of the first was due to its contingent existence. The same reasoning may be applied to the argument that Christ, in order to fulfill the Davidic promises, must rule over temporal Israel in their own land (Palestine). But the rule of Christ was to be over restored Israel in their restored land, therefore the identity of this Israel and of this land must come from the New Testament Scriptures, dealing with the work and nature of restoration under Christ on its own terms.

What of the identity of Israel and the Land? We’ll be delving into this in weeks to come. Join us each Monday as we blog through The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King. (And if you get impatient, of course, you can always get the book inspiring these posts here.) Next week we’ll begin looking at the meaning of the ‘Seed.’

Comings of God in History – Riley O’Brien Powell

Are the "comings of God" in biblical prophecy like Stan Lee cameos in Marvel films, or something else entirely? Read on, True Believer..!

Are the “comings of God” in biblical prophecy like Stan Lee cameos in Marvel films, or something else entirely? Read on, True Believer..!

In this series, we’ve been exploring the possibility that Jesus’ “coming on the clouds” was a symbolic way of speaking about the spiritual meaning of the one of the most significant events in the First Century CE: The Jerusalem civil war, and subsequent Roman attack, culminating in the destruction of the Hebrew Temple.

But is this the only time Scripture describes God “coming on the clouds”? If there are others, do we see these “cloud comings” of God in history following a similar pattern of nature and timing?

Here I want to show how the nature of the rich, evocative language of trumpets, clouds, darkening of the constellations, burning up of the heavens and shaking of the earth’s foundations are ways the biblical writers envisioned God coming with armies in judgment.

The timing of these ‘Day of the Lord’ judgment events is within one generation of when the prophet spoke the words of warning.

Jesus and his earliest followers stand in precisely this lineage of the Hebrew prophetic pattern when they proclaim a coming of God in the coming judgment on Jerusalem and the new paradigm that was emerging.

Let’s take a look at several of these Hebrew prophetic precedents.

God’s Coming to End Saul’s Kingdom – 1000 BC

Then the earth shook and quaked, the foundations of heaven were trembling and were shaken, because he was angry. Smoke went up out of his nostrils, fire from his mouth devoured; coals were kindled by it.

He bowed the heavens also, and he came down with thick darkness [on the earth] under his feet. And He rode on a cherub and flew;

And he appeared on the wings of the wind. And he made darkness canopies around him, a mass of waters, thick clouds of the sky…The Lord thundered from heaven…And he sent out arrows, and scattered them, lightning…at the blast of the breath of his nostrils.
(2 Samuel 22:8-16, emphases mine)

Notice the descriptions: God came down and God appeared. Did God visibly appear, like a Stan Lee Marvel movie walk-on cameo?

This would be difficult to comport with the worldview of the ancient biblical writers. God is Spirit, and later Scriptures say that no one has seen God (Exodus 33:20; John 1:18; 1 John 4:12). So we have no reason to believe that these prophetic authors held that these ‘comings of God’ were bodily or even visible. Nonetheless, they were very real and perceptible in the spiritual and social worlds of their hearers, for those who had “eyes to see” and minds to perceive the spiritual significance of divine involvement.

Notice also that the ‘shaking of heaven and earth’ were symbolic ways of describing the decline of a nation. For example, in Haggai,

Tell Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, that I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations…
(Haggai 2:21-22)

For thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations…
(Haggai 2:6-7)

Likewise, the shaking of the temple system of Old Covenant Israel is symbolically described as God shaking the ‘heaven and earth’ of old in 70AD:

Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.’ And this word, ‘Yet once more’ symbolizes the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken…
Hebrews 12:26-28

God Comes in a Cloud Against Ancient Egypt – 700s BC 

Behold, Yahweh rides on a swift cloud, and comes to Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall tremble at his presence; and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it. I will stir up the Egyptians against the Egyptians.
(Isaiah 19:1-2)

Notice that God’s coming to Egypt is described as sending the Egyptians to fight a war. The Egyptians are depicted as acting as God’s instrument, doing the divine will, in this prophesied war.

God Comes to Judge Nineveh – 600s BC

The Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries, and He reserves wrath for his enemies…in whirlwind and storm is his way, and clouds are the dust beneath his feet. He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers. Bashan and Carmel wither; the blossoms of Lebanon wither. Mountains quake because of him and the hills dissolve; Indeed the earth is upheaved by his presence; the world and all the inhabitants in it.
(Nahum 1:2-5)

In this cloud-coming judgment God’s presence is prophesied to destroy the world. But we know from the context and from history that the biblical authors mean the world of Nineveh – not planet earth.

I hope you’re beginning to see a biblical-language paradigm for this-worldly symbolic Divine appearing, in the form of temporal events whose spiritual significance was intelligible to their hearers as fulfilled within a generation of their prophesying. This stands in marked contrast to the literalistic, far-futuristic, science-fiction caricatures that – through our collective cultural amnesia – have pervaded our public discourse on prophecy and eschatology.

Join me right here at the Presence blog next week as we look at five more Hebrew biblical examples of God’s comings in history.

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. You can find more of Riley’s writing on her blogs, at Living the Question and Mostly Raw Mom.

The Spiral Axis of Interspirituality: Evolving Beyond Religion – Doug King

NautilusWelcome to mid-March. If you’ve been following the all-new Presence blog in 2015, you’ll notice that we’ve been sharing fresh content three times each week (and if you haven’t noticed that, please subscribe on the upper-right so you don’t miss a thing!) – re-framing eschatology, sharing the good news of what we call Integral theology, and presenting the life-changing insights of many of our friends. As President of Presence, I wanted to pause for a moment today and give you a bird’s-eye view, from my perspective, of why we’re doing all this.

Simply put, the evidence has become overwhelming: Religion is evolving, and is now poised for an evolutionary leap – transcending religion itself.

Should we be surprised that religion (by which – as Presence – we’re speaking first and foremost of our inherited tradition, Christianity) is changing so quickly?

For those who continue to understand the Biblical narrative through a traditional lens – what Spiral Dynamics names the Blue Meme – these are troubling times. The children of families with a long Christian heritage are abandoning the institution of church and Christianity itself. Their buildings are emptying. How should this be understood?

Examining the history of the Christian religion through the lens of Spiral Dynamics, the answer becomes clear. As we explore this, questions emerge: What can we learn from the history of Christian religious evolution? Where is the world’s largest religion going?

We want to be careful, of course, when discussing something as complex and diverse as the last 2000 years of Christianity. Even so, we want to raise bold questions and imagine, together, where the next steps into Interspirituality and beyond can lead.

Presence sees the human quest for knowing God (or Spirit if you prefer) as a process. While we trace historical developments and suggest a new meta-narrative for a future beyond religion, we are thankful for all of God’s children who are contributing to the evolution of spiritual consciousness and understanding. We are richer for having access to multiple – even divergent – lenses. Here is ours.

The seedbed for what became Christianity – and its institutionally-controlled place in the world – stood on the foundation of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and the apostles in the first century CE. At this time in history, the center of gravity for human consciousness was solidly rooted in Blue (or traditional) ways of being. The Spiral model helps us see the primary elements of this worldview.

Don Beck(For those not familiar with Spiral Dynamics, please see our posts on this tool, and Dr. Don Beck’s excellent site here.) These Blue Meme traits can be observed in their understanding of empire and institution. Going back to the Moses tradition of Hebrew religion, God was mediated by a (male) hierarchy that took responsibility and authority for the masses, expressed socially through temple and priesthood. In the Traditional epoch, one did not question this authority. The same element could be observed in the Roman Empire and its power structures. People were judged to be good citizens not by questioning, but rather by being loyal. In religion, this would translate as “being faithful.”

Given this paradigm, it’s logical to understand how the teachings of Jesus and his apostles were seen as merely a new religion among many, either superseding or displacing an old one. After all, didn’t Jesus’ earliest apostles frame what was occurring as a New Covenant replacing an Old Covenant?

The impact of a supercessionist worldview established Christianity as another form. The boundary markers for this form were many, consisting of various creedal statements, dogma, and sacraments. The internal form was represented by the boundaries of faith and belief.

Note: in a traditional Blue Meme worldview, boundaries of identity come from self-as-source. You must believe and you must have faith. How else can you be known as “Christian”? When Jesus is reframed, we propose that salvation is the trans-forming of both faith and belief so that they point away from self-as-source.

Continuing a Spiral approach to Christian history, let’s fast-forward some 1500 years. This general era denotes the advent of modernity – known in Spiral nomenclature as the Orange Meme. For the first time on a significant cultural scale, a few bold people started asking questions. This would be the beginning of deconstructing long-held paradigms. This deconstruction would be marked by several significant separations: including science from religion, church from state, the contemplative from the cerebral, and the questions that led to an eventual split of the Christian religion into Catholic and Protestant factions.

History seems to be telling us: attempts to maintain spiritual identity cannot be achieved through self-as-source –either by attachment to internal or external forms. In fact, the continued attempts to this day to maintain a common Christian identity have not only failed, they have produced thousands of denominations. The very word denomination means to separate.

As humanity progressed through the Orange consciousness of modernity (and still does for an estimated 30% of earth’s population), the emphasis on physics over metaphysics further separated science and religion, even while the former brought Form-Critical Schools to the study of the Biblical narrative in its influence over the latter. No creed, dogma or belief was safe from critique. Some of the Form-Critical School’s proponents included Herman Gunkel, Martin Debelius and Rudolph Bultmann. While this approach contributed to the overall understanding of the historical setting and applications of the narrative, it offered little in the way of deep spirituality. A spiritual void was created, and people were again hungering for connection to something greater than themselves.
Ken Wilber - Sitting
Now enters postmodernity, known as Green Meme in Spiral Dynamics. For the last few decades, many have sought a more universal connection with Spirit, as well as with our fellow brothers and sisters in common humanity. In the postmodern age, attempts for coming to oneness have lead to a relativizing of religions. In his book A Theory of Everything, Ken Wilber calls this postmodern effort flat-landing. Through the Green Meme lens, each tradition is to be respected and held equal with all other traditions.

One of the fruits of this worldview is interfaith dialogue. The positive (and deeply spiritual) aspects of this interfaith initiative are the peace and love expressed between those who seek common identity. This stands in complete contrast to the Blue Meme, where each religion defends itself as absolutely true. History is painfully clear regarding the fruits of this absolutist understanding.

But while postmodernity contributes greatly to interfaith movements, it reveals a barrier – one which prevents a full flowering into an Integral worldview.

The postmodern/interfaith proposes attaching to any or all forms rather than fighting over “one, true” form.

The challenge remains, though, to find spiritual identity beyond attachment to a form – which is to say, a religion.

Johnson OrdAs we consider the evolutionary leap of spiritual identity beyond form or religion, let’s think a moment about the concept of interspirituality. For those not familiar with this paradigm, please see the ground-breaking work of Dr. Kurt Johnson and David Ord, The Coming Interspiritual Age.

Even in interspirituality, the common postmodern prefix of “inter” is employed. Moving from inter-faith to inter-spirituality represents continued growth and seeking of a universal unity consciousness. Even so, we can’t escape the implications of the prefix, “inter,” which points to combining forms.

chart2Presence sees Spirit as formless – which is to say, without boundary, founded on God as the source of identity. In this way, faith and belief are trans-formed from first-tier boundary markers into second-tier aspects that play a role or function; they point away from themselves as source and toward God as source.

Presence supports both interfaith and interspiritual discussions and fellowships as a beautiful movement from the violence, prejudice and even hatred that is the shadow of our shared religious past. Even so, we ask: “What would identity look like in a truly Integral setting, where all humans are simply spiritual offspring of that which we understand as God?”

At Presence, we believe that the Interspiritual movement represents the beginning of transformation into an Integral understanding of universal spiritual identity. This last step of first tier-consciousness, if you will, is the ceiling for the continuation of Christianity and religion as an identity. We’ll continue to explore this bold proposition, right here: from theology basics to the application of Integral consciousness to the connectedness of quantum physics, the identity of every human is the same: simply spirituality itself.

It is here that God is Source, not small-self.

We see the goal of the biblical narrative of one as religious-self transcendence – where God is revealed to be All-in-all, not All-in-some.

Recommended Reading:

ElzaSpiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change by Don Beck and Christopher Cowan
Emerge!: The Rise of Functional Democracy and the Future of the Middle East by Elza Maalouf
The Coming Interspiritual Age by Kurt Johnson and David Ord
The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King

Elements of Fulfillment: Sacrifice & Temple

Lamb Sacrifice
In this series, we’ve been looking at the prophetic transitions from temporal elements to spiritual fulfillment. We’ve witnessed the transformations of Tabernacle and Priesthood from Old Covenant to New; today we’re going to examine the changed nature of Sacrifice and Temple.

Sacrifices

The change from fleshly to spiritual sacrifices is evident in the biblical narrative. The letter to the Hebrews critiques fleshly sacrifice, then shows us what it was pointing toward.

But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:3-4).

The animal sacrifices served only temporarily, inasmuch as:

It was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (Hebrews. 9:23-24).

Under the gospel paradigm there is not a repetitious sacrificing for sins, “For by one offering [Christ] has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14) The typology of animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant found their fulfillment in Christ, who is named as the Lamb of God that took away the sins of the world.

That said, the spiritual priesthood under Christ is not without sacrifice:

You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

It should be noticed that the term spiritual is applied both to the priesthood and the sacrifices offered. This is in contrast to the temporal priesthood and sacrifices of the Old Testament.

Hebrew Temple

Temple

Let’s turn our attention now to the temple. Volumes have been written on the glorious temple of Solomon, commonly referred to as the “house of God.” (1 Chronicles 22:6-10) But like other shadows under the law, this too was typical of another temple to be built by Christ, the seed of David. What is the nature of the perfected temple? Should we expect it to be of the same substance as the original temple? If we employ our interpretive scheme consistently, we should expect a spiritual temple, and we should look for confirmation of this in the New Testament.

We find this confirmation in passages such as 2 Corinthians 6:16, 6:19, 20; Ephesians 2:19-22; Acts 7:47-50. Like the true tabernacle, the true temple of God is not made with hands – that is, it is not of material substance. It is a spiritual house, being constituted of souls redeemed by Christ, in whom God now dwells. This is the house of God described in 1 Timothy 3:15.

To look for a future fulfillment of Zechariah 6:12-13, and the rebuilding of the temple on the basis that no such literal temple has yet been erected, is to miss the true meaning and symbolic interpretation of Old Testament prophecy. The spiritual, not the literal, prevails under Isaac. Ishmael was born after the flesh; Isaac after the spirit. Humanity’s freedom is not realized in Hagar the bondwoman, who typifies the temporal system of the Law, but in Sarah the freewoman, who stands for the New Covenant, the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2). Demanding the rebuilding of a literal temple in Jerusalem sets the stage for Paul’s question to the Galatians, “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3). Do we seek to draw our energy from literal law or expansive fulfillment?

Join us each Monday as we blog through The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King. (And if you get impatient, of course, you can always get the book inspiring these posts here.) Next week we’ll begin looking at the metamorphosis of the Throne as we move from shadow to fulfillment.