NEGLECTED KERYGMA OF CHRIST
LECTURE ONE: WHAT IS MEANT BY “EVERLASTING LIFE”?
REPRODUCTION. THE NOTES MAY ALSO BEAR LITTLE OR NO RESEMBLANCE TO THE ACTUAL AUDIO OR VIDEO RECORDED BRI/IMCF YESHIVA LECTURE.
The Neglected Kerygma of Christ Origin of the Name “Christian”
“A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair” – Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
“God then said, “Let us make men under Our Shadow, as Our Representatives; and subject to them the fish of the waters; and the birds of the sky, and the quadrupeds, as well as the whole of the Earth, and every reptile that creeps upon it.” So God created men under His own Shadow, creating them in the Shadow of God, and constituting them male and female. God then gave them His blessing” – Genesis 1.26-28a (Ferrar Fenton Translation, 1903)
“Because He decreed that all perfection should dwell in Him [Messiah]; and through Him He will collect all again to Himself – having made peace by the blood of His cross, through Him – whether upon the earth or in the heavens” –
Colossians 1.19,20 (Fenton Translation)
“Attend above all else to the reading of the scriptures” – Origen (184-253 CE)
It was at that time, and on that occasion, that I decided to one day create the FB Group Associate Students of the International Messianic Community of Faith (IMCF) – which of course is now a steadily growing reality with truth-seekers across the globe wanting to know more about the biblical revelation and the superbly UNIQUE Gospel we share with others.
I say “unique” because as a staunch believer in the GRACE of our God, and Deity’s ultimate purpose for humankind and the universe to be collected “in Christ,” I have analysed this biblical teaching purely from a restored Jewish thoughtform. In doing so I have categorically rejected (and hold in disdain and considerable contempt) any negative response to the proposal of a “universal salvation in Christ” from Calvinist and Arminian theological quarters. Having said this, I also am prejudiced when it comes to the background thinking of even the primitive Alexandrian Greek fathers of the Eastern Church – remarkable thinkers of their day as they may well have been. Just because they articulated a positive belief in a universal salvation (even IN Christ) one must be cautious as to the foundational basis for their conclusions. After all some of these “fathers” were saturated with neo-Platonic philosophy and outright pagan backgrounds. They did not hesitate to inculcate some extremely wild notions to support their new “biblical” positions.
So I have had a measure of success in outreach with the Associate Students on FB. But even in this instance, even though I am spelling the biblical revelation out very clearly to our Associate Students (so that even a child can easily grasp what I am saying) there are a number who seem to (purposely) misunderstand the depth of the Grace of our loving God. I have attempted to make our Teaching Exams on Matters Pertaining to Salvation very simple for our IMCF Associate Students. (See specially No’s 113 to current.) Perhaps it’s just too much for them to think that God could be so forgiving when it comes to personal sins. Their own sins I mean. After all, it is highly difficult for some of us more mature followers of Yeshua to forgive ourselves over some of the errors and mistakes we have committed during our lifetimes. Because we can’t forgive ourselves we fail to fully believe that God could even forgive us. Let alone others. It really boils down to a matter of trust. Maybe I am getting ahead of myself here.
UNIVERSAL SALVATION IN CHRIST – NOT “UNIVERSALISM”
I DO NOT BELIEVE – and I grant no interest in – what is commonly spoken of popularly as “universalism.” I differentiate this heterodox teaching from that of a biblically articulated “universal salvation.” In fact, I ALSO DO NOT BELIEVE IN what is also doctrinalised as “universal salvation.” I DO BELIEVE IN orienting my entire theology around “universal salvation IN Christ.”
In Christ. Not apart from Christ. I am entirely Christocentric when it comes to universal salvation. Yes, it is decidedly God’s the Father’s intention, purpose, plan design and goal to bring His Salvific will into a thoroughly unified status with all that has been created – but that status remains IN Christ, and certainly not apart from him. This is because “GOD WAS IN CHRIST reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Cor 5.19). And then, once the “world” (cosmos = universe) is reconciled by acknowledging the vicarious death of the Son of God the Father, that reconciliation will proceed into an awesome, incredible, astonishingly remarkable SALVATION. The universe will be TRANSFORMED into SPIRIT from whence it fell originally into physicality and materialised into that which it is seen to be today.
Further, I cannot say that I am gratified by the commonly emphasised notion among some heretics of God’s ultimate plan and purpose culminating in a divine “universal reconciliation,” or “universal restitution” let alone a “universal restoration.” Such teachings as these “three R’s” – if you have studied them at any time – plainly leave the Salvific intention of God hanging by a thread of uncertainty and incompleteness. As I have said on numerous occasions, mere reconciliation (while wonderful in itself) is but a practical prelude to salvation and yet is bereft of it.
“EONIAN LIFE” IS NOT ETERNAL LIFE
Paul wrote: “But when this corruptible shall have put on incorruptibility, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the word written: Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor 15.54).
This is the ONLY Scriptural text, that I have confidence in, expressing that endless life is ours by virtue of immortality and incorruptibility.
It is decidedly NOT because of aeonian life that a believer’s life is ENDLESS (as Christ assured us it is) but because it is in fact IMMORTALISED. Read very carefully the above mention by Paul. You will see I am correct in this matter.
When the NC texts speak of “aeonian life” it does so in the manner of Jewish expectation that emerged from the intertestamental period. I wrote back in 1994 (from earlier BRI Bible Class Study Notes of the early 80’s) the following:
“Maccabees and other Apocryphal books speak of the new doctrine of the resurrection of the physical body in a neat and tidy progression from the view of Jesus the son of Sirach. This was not a resurrection to eternal life by any means. But a resurrection to aeonian life (mistranslated into English from the Greek LXX as “for ever and ever”) as revealed in Enoch and other sources. EVEN THE “LIFE” OF THE RIGHTEOUS IN DANIEL’S WRITINGS CONSISTED OF A GLORIFIED BODY WHICH WOULD EVENTUALLY BE ECLIPSED, just as any star in the heavens eventually dies (Dan 12.2,3)” (Is Man the Phoenix?  The Apocryphal Writings Bear Witness).
Further, “It is not readily understood by the Church, but Jewish teaching immediately prior to the first Advent of Our Lord expected that while the kingdom of God would never end, the life span of those resurrected WOULD BE LIMITED to the Messianic Aeon (age)” (Is Man the Phoenix?  Enter the Shades).
Moreover, “Enoch testifies that the righteous resurrected would live for “five hundred years” or as “long life on earth as [their] fathers lived.” These were the biblical patriarchs who lived into old ages just short of a millennium. THE RESURRECTED WOULD ULTIMATELY DIE (1 Enoch 10.10; 25.6 The Book of Enoch, trans. R.H. Charles, Introduction by Oesterley, 1917)” (Is Man the Phoenix?  Proceeding With Caution).
Only with a broader educational perspective and an appreciation of the thinking of the Intertestamental years in Jewish history – the thinking that immediately preceded the mid-to-later Second Temple period which brought forth the Yeshua Messianic Movement and the apostles including Paul – can we grasp some of the deeper issues to be located in the present canon of the New Covenant Scriptures. Realising the Hebrew references to “age-lasting life” that I have already mentioned (some references to which can be found in the scroll of Enoch and others which are scattered through Jewish literature mainly the Pseudepigrapha) were to be equated with the Greek language as “eonian life” enables us to joyously receive the words of Christ that we are passed from “the death” to “the life” in the Gospel of John.
But clearly, “endless life” (eternal life) is to be differentiated from promises of “eonian life.” I am not making a mountain out of a mole hill with this issue. All I am attempting to accomplish is to get the TEXT RIGHT and our understanding of it correct in our minds. An appropriate comprehension will then automatically follow. It’s a lot like the contentious issue that exists in certain Christian circles between a repetitious acceptance of “pardon of sins” with that of “justification” – which latter term includes “forgiveness” but cannot be revoked as in the case of a mere “pardon.” In point of fact, justification rather than a bare pardon of sins, ought to be aimed at by all of us who name the Name of Christ because one (pardon) is very much capable of being treated with contempt – see Christ’s parable in Mt 18.21-35 – and the other (justification) is intensified in God’s Grace toward us.
SO WHAT IS THE KERYGMA OF CHRIST?
After the death and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah the chosen apostles of Christ began to proclaim their Christocentric Gospel about Christ as Saviour of the world. In Greek, the word that covers this proclamation is kerygma. This proclamation, however, was not developed overnight as most would claim. First the apostles preached to the Jews (later the Gentiles as well) about Yeshua being the prophesied Messiah, and they gave a due emphasis on the expectation of Yeshua’s second Advent as coming Ruler over the Messianic Kingdom of God which would destroy Rome and restore the Jewish people to a pre-eminence and which would last a thousand years ushering in peace to the entire world. This emphasis on the Kingdom of God (called the “Gospel of the Kingdom”) which was shared by both the Essene Immerser as well as the Messianic Pretender (I use this term in its original intention and meaning), soon shifted to a message embraced and promulgated by the heirs of the Messianic Movement in the mid-second century and beyond about the Person of Christ – which eventually proved so powerfully attractive it early eclipsed the original Gospel completely. While this is the case, when Paul was converted he began to teach and preach an expanded Gospel of God’s loving GRACE and near his death he began to broaden widely the extension of salvation to the entirety of the universe. It is THIS proclamation of GRACE with which IMCF has been called and commissioned to share in a teaching ministry so that the world – and the churches of this world – may be finally prepared to IDENTIFY and to meet its authentic GOD and CREATOR.
Due to the fact that modern Christians sometimes retain their hostility to anything and everything Jewish, they reject unwittingly a restored Jewish thoughtform to the Gospel and especially to the Pauline kerygma. They condescendingly speak of belief in a “universal salvation in Christ” as mere “hope” or “hopefulness” in a doctrinal position which cannot be proven from the Word of God. One such scholar whom I personally believe would like to accept universal salvation at its core goes beyond referring to the doctrine as “hopeful” and speaks of it as “assertive” or “affirmative” universalism. He wonders aloud, “Is there such a promise by God to save everyone?” And then he states confidently, “the phenomenon falls short of biblical ‘hope’ and might be thought of as a form of mere ‘wishfulness’ or ‘wishful thinking.’”
I am reminded of one noted gentleman’s comment about universal salvation that was made back in 1987:
“The destiny of human beings created in the image of God, and who are to be confined to ultimate separation from him, is a topic of such tragic nature that our major concern ought to be showing others how to avoid this awful destiny. The thought of hell should bring tears to our eyes, and a compassionate desire to point out the only way to sure salvation. The lost will perish indeed. But Christ died to save the lost.”
This sincere evaluation is from one who was sadly saturated with the proceeds of a millennium of European-Christian thoughtform, sharpened by the anti-Jewish delusional views concerning salvation advanced by the rebels of the Protestant Reformation. This same man adds a further comment, which reveals precisely how misguided he was in reference to “universal salvation in Christ.” He writes with a determined posture, “Universalism [yes, there’s that term again] makes a mockery of the Cross since it suggests salvation can be experienced without it” (Roger Nicole [d. 2010] was professor emeritus of systematic theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Fellow of the Christianity Today Institute, quoted in Christianity Today magazine, March 20, 1987).
In my view, we cannot discard God’s ultimate intention and promise to save the world from the kerygma (the proclamation) of Christ as Saviour of the world. God the Father sent His Son armed with a direct and powerful Message to share with the Jewish people and then through the apostles to the whole Gentile world. When people heard the message (especially as thundered by Paul) their lives became transformed and they in turn became witnesses of Christ and God’s Salvific will for humankind.
Indeed, once we heard the true Gospel what was our attitude? Didn’t we feel the need to tell our closest friends and family members of the saving Grace of the Lord and didn’t we witness with enormous momentum to the cross? Of course we did. We all have the scars to prove it. We lost most of our friends and were often alienated (and treated as very peculiar) by our family. Many of us persecuted others with the Gospel. Our hearts were right, but we lacked balance and propriety and were so often thoughtless as to the sensitivities of friends and associates. Still, Christ was preached.
Then after some years it all wore off, and when Christ opened our eyes to the enormous message of the authentic GRACE of our God we were so overwhelmed we just stared it in the face and enjoyed the banquet that was being served by the Ruach HaKodesh giving evangelism very little thought. Over the decades Satan has worn some of us out. Some of us are exhausted. Good works have dissipated.
Michael Cole in his little book He is Lord (1987) notes – and I take this statement seriously indeed… “If we are not taking an active part in Christian witness, we are not just ineffective, we are positively in revolt against Christ. It is sheer hypocrisy to pay lip service to the Lordship of Jesus if we do not heed His command to evangelise” (84. The quote was not originally his own, but was uttered by Alan Flavelle in John Wallis [editor], We Believe in Mission, 1983, 46).
The apostles, particularly Peter and John – as we have grasped recently in our last series of lectures on the Canon – were deemed credible witnesses because they not only had met and lived with the Person we know as the Messiah but they had formed a deep and mystical relationship with him. It was Peter and John (and of course James) who were accounted worthy to join the Lord Yeshua in the Mount of Transfiguration and to whom Christ gave them the commission to create the Messianic New Covenant Scriptures. Both Peter and John were able to speak from first-hand experiences which they had shared with the Lord. John writes,
“What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon, and touched with our own hands… What we have seen and heard we proclaim [announce, declare] now to you!” (1 Jn 1.3).
The apostolic experience of the Salvific will of God in Yeshua the Messiah created in them the enormous desire to proclaim and share the FULL GOSPEL to any and all whom they met. Peter himself had admonished his congregations to “always be capable and prepared to render an account for the hope that is within us” (1 Pet 3.15)
The heart of the Gospel is God’s will to save others – all others. Gentile Christian proclamation has become lame. God’s salvation now revolves on the idea of man’s free will to choose to be saved and to follow the Lord Yeshua. Jewish Christian proclamation as evidenced in the IMCF is to declare with vivacious vitality by the feminine Ruach that God possesses a SALVIFIC WILL TO SAVE OTHERS – ALL OTHERS. The true Gospel is being RESTORED and it is high time the lost kerygma is once more to be heard in a mighty VOICE that will take the authentic Gospel to the ends of the earth in preparation of the Second Advent of the Jewish Messiah who – since his resurrection from the dead – possesses “ALL authority in the heavens and on the earth” (Mt 28.18).
So what is missing in today’s modern evangelists who prefer to sit on their seats, self-satiated, instead of being “out there” communicating the wonderful essentials of God’s Salvific character and Nature? Easy! What’s missing is a personal relationship with Yeshua. If they possessed this they would find it very difficult indeed to allay the urge to spread the Good News. It’s not just “good news” that we own. It’s GREAT NEWS. These “arm chair evangelists” need to cultivate a personal relationship with their Messiah that will shine through them and INTO those with whom they are dealing informing in an intelligent, persuasive, educated manner their witness to Yeshua before others.
We have on the IMCF Members Discussion Board a veritable GOLD MINE filled to the brim and overflowing with messages on HOW to develop a lasting relationship with the Lord.
When was the last time YOU took advantage of it?
In our next lecture in this series on THE NEGLECTED KERYGMA OF CHRIST we shall undertake to explore many more aspects to the proclamation that Yeshua is indeed Sovereign Lord of All and that God will one day bring about His intention of becoming “ALL in all.”
THIS CONCLUDES THE FIRST LECTURE IN THIS CURRENT SERIES ON UNIVERSAL SALVATION IN CHRIST