Saturday, July 30, 2016

THERE WAS NO TEMPLE

(A Continuation from the pervious post - Here Comes the Bride)
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It was then that John noticed something else unusual about the city. This time it was not for what the city had, but for what it did not have. “I saw no temple in it,” John says. The absence of a temple indeed would be unusual for John, since the temple of the New Testament times was almost synonymous with the city of Jerusalem. To travel to Jerusalem was to go to the temple.

However, it was immediately quite clear to John why there was no temple in the New Jerusalem. In the same breath he says, “For the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”

This is understandable to us in a spiritual sense, since the temple in the Old and the New Testament was a place where Jews would go to worship God. God was unseen to the people, and intangible, except for the times early in their history when he revealed himself as a blazing fire or as a cloud. The Jews had been taught that the temple was the dwelling of God. Even God himself had indicated this. At Solomon’s dedication of the temple that he had made in Jerusalem, the glory of the Lord came and filled the temple to such an extent that even the priests could not enter it (2 Chronicles 7:1-2). 

Two Words

It is significant to know that there are two different Greek words in the New Testament that are both translated simply as temple in the English. The first is the word hieron, which has at its root a word to indicate something that is set apart or sacred, as an actual temple building made of wood and stone would be. It was not a multipurpose building. It was set apart and dedicated to use for worship. The other word is naos (from naiō – to inhabit). This is a word that refers to an inner but unseen spiritual life that is within a person or even an object, such as the life that is within the buildings of the temple.

These two words often seemed to be used interchangeably in the New Testament. It may be much the same as when we use the word church. When we commonly speak of the church, such as, “This morning we are going to church,” we mean it in terms of the church building. However, we also know that any building made of bricks, wood and glass is not the true church, as when the Bible speaks of the church.

The true inner life of the church is the lives of the believers in Jesus. Sometimes people refer to this as the invisible church, since it is the true church which cannot be seen and is in other ways mostly intangible. However, this is the true inner life of the church of Jesus Christ which does not depend upon a building. The actual life of the church resides in the believers, not in the building.
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Saturday, July 23, 2016

HERE COMES THE BRIDE

The Presentation of the Bride  - (From Revelation 21:9-21)

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, ‘Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb’” (Revelation 21:9 NAS).

What follows in the text, what the angel showed John, is perhaps to me the most mysterious of any of the Biblical accounts. And I am not alone in this sentiment. When the Apostle Paul was speaking on the theme of husbands and brides and in referring to them, he said, “This mystery is great, but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32, NAS).

By using the word mystery, Paul did not mean it and I do not mean it in the sense in which we usually think of a mystery. To us, a mystery is Sherlock Holms or Colombo putting many seemingly insignificant clues together to solve something that was before unknown. The clues were always there, it just took someone with a superior power of observation and reasoning to put them all together.

That is not exactly the sense of a mystery in the Bible. In the Bible, mystery (mustērion) is a word that conveys the idea of one closing his mouth. (From mueō – shut the mouth). It means that there are many things concerning what John was shown about the bride of Christ that are not yet told to us. There are many things about all of this that are not yet revealed. We do not yet have enough information to really understand what John saw, nor did he have the words to communicate properly and fully what angels showed him.
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Saturday, July 16, 2016

IN DEFENSE OF A “PIE IN THE SKY” FAITH

Some years ago I saw a promotional notice for a spiritual growth seminar to be held in a church in the city near where I was living at the time.  Part of the promotion read:  

Why does God let me go through such painful circumstances? Why does he seem indifferent to my prayers?
We’re tired of spiritual pie in the sky. We want authentic, God-as-he-really-is faith – the kind that holds us together when our world is falling apart and equips us to offer strength and hope to others. 

Whether or not the promoters of this workshop realized it, the phrase “pie in the sky,” comes from the anarchist and syndicate labor organization of the early 1900’s called the Industrial Workers of the World, or commonly referred to as the “Wobblies” (actually still in existence).

I am certain that the Wobblies had many grievances that were worth consideration in those days and probably still do.  And, since the group was originally involved with organizing migrant and day workers, they no doubt represented many people who otherwise felt helpless against big industry.  However, the Wobblies had another side to them as well. They had a perspective of life that ridiculed any thought beyond this present life. The Wobblies especially derided those who looked at life as being in some ways being a preparation for eternity. They mocked those who placed their hopes in eternity.

One of the ways that the Wobblies did this was through the singing of distortions or parodies of popular hymns of the day.  Pie in the Sky is one of those parodies.  This was a perversion of the hymn, In the Sweet Bye and Bye.  This hymn (the real one) was often sung by the Salvation Army, a Christian organization for whom the Wobblies held considerable disdain.

The labor organization despised the view that the true reward for virtuous living would come not in this world, but only in heaven. They accused the Salvation Army for not caring for the earthly needs of people – a view, I think, that came more from prejudice than from actual fact.

The phrase “Pie in the Sky” came from the chorus of the parody of the song, In the Sweet Bye and Bye:

Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what’s wrong and what’s right;
But when asked how ‘bout something to eat
They will answer with voices so sweet: 

You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die. 

The Eternal Perspective

As in most issues, there are extremes on each end.  I am sure that the promoters of the workshop which was to take place at the church in the city would not have shared the same view as the Wobblies. Rather, they were merely seeking a present-day reality to their Christian faith as well as the future promises.  I understand this desire and longing of these Christians.  I have felt the same way.
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