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Section 10A .. The Contemporary Church/
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Brian-McLaren
 

Brian McLaren... What Christianity Has Come To

Part II...God's Coming Kingdom and Jesus’ Second Advent

Carol Brooks

INDEX TO ALL EIGHT SECTIONS

Foreword and Introduction: Why Brian McLaren in particular? Who is Brian McLaren?...Short Bio. Index to sections

 Part I...The Secret Message of Jesus: Overview The "secret" message... isn't such a big secret. The New Testament emphasis on doing good works to "the brethren". Do modern day Christians get it?

    You Are Here 001orange Part II... God's Coming Kingdom: Are God's coming kingdom and the second coming of Christ literal physical events, or are they to be seen in a 'spiritual' sense? What does the Bible say? The dual 'now' and 'then' message of the Kingdom. How McLaren redefines the word "Kingdom, the phrase "Eternal Life", and changes God's "will" to God's "dream" in order to 'prove' his points.

Part III... A Gospel of Transformation, Evacuation... or Justice? The wrath Of God.The "amazingly subversive" Book Of Jonah. The justice and judgement of God. While there is no question that, as McLaren says.. Jesus will condemn and destroy evil, who or what, according to the Scriptures, is evil? Revelation...example of the "literature of the oppressed", territory of the lunatic fringe, or our only hope. Does God plan to "destroy creation"?

Part IV... McLaren's All Inclusive Kingdom: God's promise to Abraham... who exactly would be "blessed"? Practicing what he preaches... Brian McLaren and Jewish leaders. Services done to "Tash".... unbelievers saved without explicit faith in Christ. Salvation. Does seeking salvation make a person "self-centered" and "narcissistic"? The Bible's conditions for entrance into the kingdom. Redefining repentance and the word "transgression". Demon worship. What's in a Name? What exactly Is a "Christian"? Did Gandhi seek "to follow the way of Christ"? The inclusiveness AND exclusiveness of Jesus. What determines one's 'status' in the Kingdom? The Pax Christi. Many shall come from the east, and from the west..

Part V... The Lambeth Conference: Three questions asked Brian McLaren after the Lambeth Conference. Should Christianity be seen as a "threat" or "welcome friend" to other religions, and are they caretakers or enemies of the Gospel

Part VI... Glossing Over the Occult: Occult ceremonies are not harmless 'traditions'. Contemplative spirituality...practices learned learned from a myriad of sources outside of Christianity

Part VII... McLaren And The Bible: Is the Bible inerrant, infallible, absolute and authoritative, or are Christians resorting to the authority of extra Biblical words and concepts" to justify their own belief in the Bible's ultimate authority? Is the sole purpose of the Scriptures to equip God's people for good works. Seeing the Bible as narrative, does not mean forgetting the all-important meta-narrative. Genesis literal or "deep mythic language"?

Part VIII... Conclusion: God A or God B? Re-writing and sanitizing the Message. Profane babbling. Brian McLaren, the New Age, and the antichrist. Ideas that blends harmoniously with New Age beliefs. McLaren and the "visionaries"

 

ON THIS PAGE

Spinning The Meaning of Three Key Biblical Phrases

1) God's Coming Kingdom
Jesus' Kingdom Message
Apparently, God Has No Idea That The Word "Kingdom" is Very Passé
A "Kingdom" is Ruled by a Sovereign... However, God's Kingdom Cannot be Compared With Human Monarchies
McLaren's Kingdom Of a Different Sort
The Location of The Kingdom

What The Bible Says About The Nature and Location of The Kingdom
The Dual 'Now' and 'Then' Message of The Kingdom

2) Changing God's "Will" to God's "Dream"

3) Redefining The Meaning Of "Eternal Life"

The Second Coming of Christ
Will Jesus Physically Return?
Jesus Said He Would Return... "Quickly"
The Prophecies about Jesus' Second Coming
The Second Coming, or Parousia of Christ
The "Jihadist" Jesus
Eternal Torture?

 

Spinning The Meaning of Three Key Biblical Phrases
The thrust of McLaren's book is that the church has somehow missed "rich and radical treasures" hidden in Jesus' teachings and that His secret plan may have involved Him coming not to start a new religion (which He didn't), but to "start a political, social, religious, artistic, economic, intellectual, and spiritual revolution that would give birth to a new world" [7]

However, in order to prove his point and show how today's leaders (and every one else) have distorted or suppressed Jesus' essential message, in a perfect example of unsurpassed irony, McLaren takes three foundational concepts from the Bible upon which all our Christian hope lies, and regardless of the original words used, spins them to suit his ideas.

His interpretation of these key concepts are done to sway those who's knowledge of the Bible is extremely limited or superficial. The three phrases are 1) God's "kingdom", 2) God's "will", and 3) "eternal" life


1) God's Coming Kingdom

Jesus' Kingdom Message
In The Secret Message of Jesus (Ch. The Open Secret), McLaren says he was having lunch with a "well-known scholar and writer", who told him that "most evangelicals did not have the "foggiest notion of what the gospel really is". Most of them would (as McLaren did) quote Paul's statements about "justification by grace through faith, the free gift of salvation", and Christ being a "substitutionary sacrifice for sin". When McLaren asked (unnamed) scholar what he would say the gospel message is, he replied...

    "The kingdom of God is at hand. That was Jesus' message. Don't you think we should let Jesus tell us what the gospel is?" [11]

Which is absolutely true. The 'kingdom of God' was a central element in the preaching of both John and Baptist and Jesus Himself. John the Baptist told the crowds to repent... for the kingdom of heaven was "at hand" [Matthew 3:2] and, after John was cast into prison, Jesus took over... preaching exactly the same message.

    "From that time began Jesus to preach, and to say, Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". [Matthew 4:17].

In fact, the phrase "kingdom of God", or the synonymous phrase "kingdom of heaven", appears over 50 times in the gospels, almost always on the lips of Jesus. Mark and Luke usually used the Greek term "Basileia tou Theou", (kingdom of God), whereas Matthew, more often than not, employed the Greek term "Basileia ton Ouranon" (kingdom of Heaven), although he did use "the kingdom of God" on four occasions (12:28; 19:24; 21:31, 43).

Not only did Jesus define his purpose in light of the kingdom saying "I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose" (Luke 4:43), but He continuously talked about the kingdom, likening it to a mustard seed, a treasure, a merchant looking for pearls, and a king who gave a banquet (Matthew 13:44-47; 22:2).

The problem does not lie in the fact that McLaren says that Jesus' message largely centered around God's kingdom, but that he has put his own spin on the word "kingdom".


Apparently, God Has No Idea That The Word "Kingdom" is Very Passé
In Chapter 16 (The Language of The Kingdom) McLaren states that Jesus' use of the word kingdom was once "contemporary and relevant" but, for several reasons, is "outdated and distant" in today's world. He also says that kingdoms are a "thing of the past" superseded by republics and democracies etc. Modern day authority rests in constitutions, parliaments and congresses, and "where kings exist, they are by and large anachronisms, playing a limited ceremonial role". He is also of the opinion that the word "kingdom" either conjures up pictures of knights in shining armour, round tables and chivalry, damsels in distress, fire breathing dragons, and Shakespearean thees and thous". Adding that

    "for many people today kingdom language evokes patriarchy, chauvinism, imperialism, domination, and a regime without freedom. Not a pretty picture- and the very opposite of the liberating, barrier-breaking, domination shattering, reconciling movement the kingdom of God was intended to be"

McLaren continues that for these, and other, reasons..

    "If Jesus were here today, I am quite certain he wouldn't use the language of kingdom at all... which leaves us wondering how he would in fact articulate his message today"... "...we must discover fresh ways of translating his message into the thought forms and cultures of our contemporary world, if we are to "teach what Jesus taught in the manner he taught it". [12]

In other words, since we have determined that were Jesus here today, He would not have used the language He did, therefore it is up to us to decide how He would have articulated His message.

I wonder if fans of this book realize that McLaren's statements involve us telling the God of the universe that "we are sorry, but the language you used doesn't cut it any more. We know you could not help it since you walked the earth in far more primitive times, but the world has moved on since then, and we have to find the right words to put in your mouth".

Is anyone getting uncomfortable yet? I certainly hope so.

It is the height of arrogance for any human being to have the unmitigated gall to attempt to put words in God's mouth, or hint at what He should have said. However, McLaren does it over and over again. (See redefining God's "Will", below)

What also strikes me as truly amazing is that anyone can imagine that just because, in our time, kingdoms have largely given way to republics and democracies, these form of government must be God's idea of a society justly, and righteously, governed. While it is true that the image conjured up by certain words tends to change over time, if we can only associate "kingdom" with knights in shining armour, fire breathing dragons, and chauvinism/imperialism, etc... then we are the ones being exceedingly silly.

While it is true that...


A "Kingdom" is Ruled by a Sovereign...
The Greek word Basileia, repeatedly used in the Gospels, most often by Jesus Himself, has been translated into the English "kingdom", simply because it means exactly that... a realm or political/territorial unit ruled by a sovereign.

Claiming that the "kingdom" is a term for a world.... politically, socially, religious, artistically, economically, intellectually and spiritually transformed by man, flatly contradicts several verses (one in the Psalms, and the other three in the book of Revelation), that tell us that the Lord will rule with a "rod of iron", a phrase that cannot mean anything but an absolute government.

    Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. [Psalms 2:8-9]

    And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. [Revelation 12:5]

    And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. [Revelation 19:15]

    And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. [Revelation 2:26-27]

It is only by understanding the word "kingdom" in it's traditional sense, that the verses above make any sense at all. However, considering everything else that the Lord has told us about His coming kingdom, to rule with a scepter of iron, cannot mean a harsh and tyrannical government, but one of strength, firmness and above all... invincibility.

In other words, it has to be kept very firmly in mind that....


... God's Kingdom Cannot be Compared With Human Monarchies
On the one hand, there is little question that the problem with, usually hereditary, earthly monarchies, is that there have always been both good and bad monarchs. History has presented us with tyrants, despots, megalomaniacs, and those more concerned with becoming rulers of the world, and/or building their personal fortunes and power bases than the welfare of their subjects. Even strong and capable kings have had their weaknesses and faults.

On the other hand, thanks to stupidity and greed, democracies and republics have not fared very well either.

Both forms of government are way too entrenched in power struggles and petty bickering to even begin to solve our problems. Poor leadership, political irresponsibility, corporate greed, and a complete indifference to human needs, have left us floundering in a morass in which the government bails out crooked big businesses and banks, but ignores it's ordinary citizens who have lost homes, jobs and, in many cases, the ability to put food on the table. A hyper-competitive, materialistic society is governed by nothing but the bottom line. Civil liberty, and simple common sense have both become things of the past.

When Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God, He certainly did not mean one ruled by a fallible human, but by the perfectly just, and perfectly righteous, King of kings... Himself. When He cared enough about the human race to provide them the opportunity to live forever in His kingdom, common sense should tell us that He did not make such an enormous personal sacrifice just to stick us in a "a regime without freedom".

Why is it that although we can look back in history and clearly see that no kingdom, nor any other form of government, has ever managed to bring about perfect peace and equality, we still seem to be unable to understands that, in contrast to the inequities and partiality which exist, to one extent or another, in every single flawed human government today, God Almighty is the only one in the universe capable of providing a perfect world and a government which dispenses perfect justice. Which, I might add, is what He has already promised us. [All Emphasis Added]

    Thus saith the Lord of hosts: Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; and I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.....For there shall be the seed of peace; the vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit all these things. [Zechariah 8:7-8, 12]

    for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes." [Revelation 7:17 NASB]

    and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." [Revelation 21:4 NASB]

A professing Christian who can, for a even a moment, entertain the idea that "kingdom" language evokes "chauvinism, imperialism and domination" is either ignoring these promises made by the God of the universe, is not taking the Lord God seriously when He says things like every tear will be wiped away, do not trust Him enough, or are fools beyond belief.

What concerns me is that McLaren's attempt to draw a parallel between God's kingdom and very flawed earthly monarchies or kingdoms, is made to cause people to lean towards the idea that any kingdom, including God's, is not exactly a desirable state of affairs... Man could lose his freewill and become no more than a mere puppet dominated by a despotic God.


McLaren's Kingdom Of a Different Sort
McLaren then goes on to paint his own picture of what he imagines the kingdom to be.

    But what is this kingdom that is invading is a kingdom of a very different sort? What is the invasion is one of kindness and compassion rather than force and aggression? What is sick people start getting well suddenly and inexplicably? What if rumors spread of storms being calmed, insane people becoming same again, hungry people being fed, and dead people rising? Couldn't this be the sign of a different kind of invasion - the coming of a different kind of kingdom?

    That's how I have come to understand the signs and wonders of Jesus. They are dramatic enactments of his message; they are the message of the kingdom spread in media beyond words. They combine to signify that the impossible is about to become possible: the kingdom of God - with it's peace, healing, sanity, empowerment, and freedom - is available to all, here and now. [13]

The problem is that this idea fits in perfectly with New Age teachings on the subject. Many in the New Age believe that the present phase of human existence is one of transition from the Piscean Age of rationality, to the Aquarian Age of spirituality, and harmony of all things. Influential New Age thinkers have spoken about a coming global cataclysmic event using varied terminology ... a "Planetary Pentecost", shift, awakening, transition, transformation, global or universal consciousness, rethinking, re-imagining. In other words the present phase of human existence is one of transition.. A radical adjustment in the perception of reality is taking place which will lead to the transition to a new era... also called the "Shift of the Ages".

Incredibly, McLaren even echoes the terminology used by various New Age leaders. He not only held an "Everything Must Change Tour" in eleven cities around the U.S. in early 2008, but a page on the deepshift.org web site quotes him as saying "We Are In Deep Shift".

    A time of transition
    rethinking
    re-imagining
    and re-envisioning" [13b]

However, what is particularly alarming is that a large branch of the New Ager movement believes that the utopian age will only come about under the leadership and guidance of a world leader/teacher. They contend that Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius, Jesus, and many others were "christs", but one greater than all of them... a "World Teacher" will soon come to usher in the New Age. This one-world leader, who is called by various names including The Christ, Sanat Kumara or Maitreya will, in human form, come as a savior to save the world from sliding into chaos, teaching us to live at peace and unity with each other. He will begin preparing humanity for the advent of the Age of Aquarius... a glorious New Age millennium. Many believe that this leader, possibly a man who has achieved "godhood", will possess unparalleled wisdom and knowledge and perhaps psychic abilities to boot. See Overview of The New Age...Page II

In fact, one the main goals of the New Age movement has become a concerted effort to facilitate what is called "The Reappearance of The Christ".

Perhaps the term "world teacher" becomes a little more clear if Christians would wake up and realize that this 'Christ' (messiah) has nothing to do with Jesus Christ of the Bible, which leaves us with but one other choice... the anti-christ that the Scriptures warned us about, who will be permitted to rule this earth for a short time. [See The Antichrist]


The Location of The Kingdom
What McLaren rightly disputes is the idea that Heaven is some ethereal and intangible place somewhere out there, which we go up to. He calls this common, but erroneous, belief "a gospel of evacuation" [14], and "an eschatology of abandonment

    An eschatology of abandonment, which is how I would characterize certain streams of the left-behind approach, has disastrous social consequences. Ecology is marginalized - something we can't afford to do in an age of global warming and species extinction and habitat destruction. The rights of Palestinians are ignored in favor of the Israeli state - as if God is happy to bless some people at the expense of others. Any project geared toward improving the world long term is seen as unfaithful, since we're supposed to assume that the world is getting worse and worse. [15].

(By the way, God does not "bless some people at the expense of others". There is a great deal more to the supposed "rights" of the Palestinians, than popular media would have us believe. While the conduct of the Israeli government often leaves much to be desired, the truth is that Palestine is no more real than Never-Never Land. See Palestine and Other Myths.

In Appendix 1 of The Secret Message of Jesus (Why Didn't We Get it Sooner?), McLaren elaborates ...

    This reading of the Biblical text-that at the heart of Jesus' message is this rich and radical idea of the kingdom of God being "at hand" and "coming down" here and now-accounts for far more of the biblical text than any other I've seen. Traditional readings, which assume Jesus has come primarily to solve the timeless problem of original sin so that we can go "up" to a timeless heaven "by and by" after we die, do indeed account for some of Jesus' words and actions, but not with the intensity and resonance of this reading.

I have to agree that those that believe Jesus came "primarily to solve the timeless problem of original sin so that we can go "up" to a timeless heaven "by and by" after we die", are going to have trouble reconciling Jesus' statements about the "kingdom of God" being at hand or, as He told the Pharisees, was already in their midst [Footnote I]. If heaven is up in the stratosphere somewhere, then Jesus' words make little sense.

    (Note: The completely erroneous (and completely ridiculous) doctrine of "original sin" has been extensively covered in the section A Question of Salvation)

Which brings us to a very, very, important question... Is God's kingdom is a spiritual one that is available to all here and now, or is it is a literal, political kingdom on earth that is yet to come in it's entirety?


What The Bible Says About The Nature and Location of The Kingdom
Please note that this is a topic in itself and is way too long to go into here. It has been covered in detail in the article What and Where is Heaven. What follows are a FEW salient points.

Christians, who accept the Bible as the word of God, believe Jesus has prepared a special place for believers [John 14:1-3], that they will enter the Lord's presence at death [2 Corinthians 5:8], and dwell with the Lord for all eternity [John 11:25-26]. Additionally they also (rightly) assert that Heaven will be a vast improvement on earth, quoting Philippians 1:21, in which Paul says "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain".

And, while there is no question that this is all true, and Christians will live with God in heaven for all eternity, few seem to have any real idea of where heaven is, or what it will be like. Most believers who seem never to have thought the matter through, much less checked what the Bible has to say on the subject, appear to have no more than fleeting, intangible ideas, tucked away in the furtherest recesses of their brains, which rarely emerge to see the light of day. Thus heaven remains a vague and indescribable place somewhere 'out there', in which if we do not exactly spend our time floating around on clouds strumming harps, will closely resembles one unending church service, with everyone present in a nebulous state of disembodied blessedness.

Seriously?

It is interesting that people who are moving to a new city or state, or even planning a short vacation, spend a great deal of time finding out as much as possible about their destination. Yet, Christians who anticipate heaven being the eternal reward of the faithful, are content knowing little or nothing about the place, this in spite of the fact that the Bible tells us a great deal.

And, very importantly, unless we understand exactly what God has in store for us, how can we convince believers that "heaven" is not some pie-in-the-sky fantasy place somewhere out there, but a real, vibrant, world, one that is so enticing that we cannot wait for it to get here.

In order to come to a Biblical conclusion about the location and nature of God's kingdom, we have to do what seems to be very difficult for many Christians... set aside all preconceived ideas (whether our own or some else's), which means not going to the Scriptures to find what we have already decided to believe. Instead we must read what the Bible tells us, in very simple words, about this kingdom.


God's promise to Abraham
This idea of an ethereal heaven (somewhere on the other side of Pluto anyone?) makes absolutely no sense whatsoever in view of the fact that God's promise to give Abraham an entire country for an everlasting possession, is one of the most solemn declarations He ever made.

    "And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you in their generations to be a God to you and your seed after you. And I will give to you and to your seed after you the land in which you are a stranger-all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession" (Genesis 17: 7- 8).

God's words are unambiguous. The land in which Abraham lived as a foreigner, forever belongs to him and his descendants. However, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are all dead, so unless the God of the universe was joking or lying, the only way for this promise to be fulfilled is at the bodily resurrection of believers when Abraham will rise from the dead to receive the land God promised him.

In order to preserve the tradition that a heaven, located somewhere out there, is the reward of the faithful, it is argued that the geographical land of Canaan is a type of "heaven" to be gained at death. However, as the book of Hebrews makes very clear... Abraham physically lived in a geographical location on earth, which was designated as his future inheritance, therefore the land of Canaan can not be considered as a 'type' of a celestial heaven.

    By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; [Hebrews 11:8-9 NASB. Emphasis Added]

The Prophets
A simple reading of the words of many of these men of God, makes it close to impossible to deny that they looked ahead to an undetermined time in the future when God would return to establish a literal, earthly kingdom. Over and over again, they prophesied of a time when the Lord's anointed, a descendant of David and the Messiah, would rule as king, from Jerusalem. Over and over again, the kingdom is seen as a fulfillment of the promise that the Lord would physically return to this earth. For example, the prophet Amos emphasized Israel's regathering to the land she had been given...

    And I will bring back the captivity of my people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be plucked up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God. [Amos 9:11-15]

I am sure that there are those who will claim that this prophecy was fulfilled when Israel was declared an independent nation in 1948. However, the verses immediately preceding the ones quoted above show that this cannot be the case. Amos said that God would sift the house of Israel, and all the sinners of His people would die by the sword, which did not happen in 1948. Nor was any "sinful kingdom" destroyed from off the face of the earth.

Micah clearly states that Jesus was to be ruler in Israel, which did not happen during His first advent. Was Micah sadly misinformed, or is the ruling part yet to happen?

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. [Micah 5:2]

A recurring theme in Isaiah's prophecies is when the Lord returns to Zion, Jerusalem will be redeemed, His people will be comforted, and the effects of His salvation will be seen to the ends of the earth.

The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. [2] Now it will come about that In the last days The mountain of the house of the Lord Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. [3] And many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths." For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. [4] And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war. [Isaiah 2:1-4]

    Note: In The Secret Message, McLaren quotes the second half of verse 4 (above) in the context of "a new world order" being both possible and on it's way (Pg. 22). However, he conveniently leaves out the first half of the verse, which clearly says God will "judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples". I am not sure how God is going to manage this if He is not the ruler of those nations unless, of course, He plans to use the U.N. (Sarcasm intended). He also ignores the fact that verse 1 specifically says that this was a prophecy concerning "Judah and Jerusalem". And verse 3 says "all the nations will stream" to God's mountain", and that they will go to "the house of the God of Jacob" so that He would teach them His ways".

In the account of Daniel's interpretation of king Nebuchadnezzar's dream, is it logical to believe that the first four kingdoms, represented by various parts of the statue, were real earthly kingdoms, but the rock that fills the whole earth is not. Or does a simple reading of the account tell us that God will destroy all earthly kingdoms, and inaugurate His own. Since, as several verses in the New Testament show, Christ is referred to as a rock, it is logical to believe that it is He who will bring about the destruction of man's kingdoms and, on His return, will inaugurate His own literal and everlasting kingdom.

Jesus
A simple reading tells us that Jesus was, more than likely, referring to simple geographic directions when He said...

    "...many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God" (Matthew 8:11 and Luke 13:28, 29).

It is particularly telling that when the disciples asked Jesus if He was about to restore the kingdom to Israel, He did not correct them, which He would have done had their expectations been baseless. Jesus simply told them it was not for them to know the times and the seasons (when that would happen), but that they would have the power of the Holy Spirit to enable them to be His witnesses.

    They therefore, when they were come together, asked him, saying, Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath set within His own authority. But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. [Acts 1:6-8]

Paul
While it is true that Paul says we will "meet the Lord in the air" and always be with Him, a closer study of the paragraph indicates that we will turn around and return to the earth with the Lord. [See Raptured! But Where Are We Going?]

The Book of Revelation
While the word "kingdom" itself is not used in the book of Revelation, the concept of a traditional kingdom is obvious. For example, chapter 21 speaks about God dwelling among men, and Christ sitting on His throne.

    And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell (Gk. skenoo) among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And He *said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true." [Revelation 21:3-5 NASB]

    Note: The Contemporary English Version renders verse 3 as ... "I heard a loud voice shout from the throne: God's home is now with his people. He will live with them, and they will be his own. Yes, God will make his home among his people" (Emphasis Added).

The English word "dwell" is the Greek skenoo, which means to occupy, reside or dwell. This word has not been used very often in the New Testament, but a couple of examples clearly show that it literally means "to live amongst".

    And the Word became flesh, and dwelt (Gk. skenoo) among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. [John 1:14]

    And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell (Gk. skenoo) in heaven. [Revelation 13:6]

    "For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell (Gk. skenoo) in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time." [Revelation 12:12]

These verses, taken in tandem with what many of the prophets said, leads to the inescapable conclusion that Christ's throne will be in the Holy city (the New Jerusalem), from which He will rule.

In short, there is no "eschatology of abandonment" to be found in the Scriptures. We don't go up anywhere, since Heaven isn't somewhere out there.

Heaven will be right here on earth. Which leaves us with one question. What could Jesus have possibly meant when He made, what seems like two contradictory statements ... The Kingdom of God Is "At Hand" [Matthew 4:17], and "Upon You" [Luke 11:20].

See What and Where is Heaven.


The Dual 'Now' and 'Then' Message of The Kingdom
It is very easy to see these two phrases as contradictory. While "at hand" meant that the kingdom had come near, the phrase "upon you" implied that it was already there. However, the problem is not a very difficult one, as long as we understand is that the word "kingdom", as used in the Bible, means both reign and real estate.

In the New Testament, the word translated into the English "kingdom" is the Greek word Basileia which, bearing in mind that Jesus probably spoke in Aramaic, is a translation of the Aramaic malkutha (Hebrew malkuth). Although in modern English, we tend to think of a "kingdom" solely as being the real estate ruled by a particular monarch (King Abdul-Aziz rules the kingdom of Saudi Arabia), basileia does not necessarily mean the realm itself, but also the reign of the monarch. As said by The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon, Basileia means "royal power, kingship, dominion, rule not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom" [16]

Reign: There are plenty of Old Testament verses that clearly indicate that when the author used the word malkuth, he was speaking of the reign of a particular king. For example [All Emphasis Added]

    Of the Hebronites was Jerijah the chief, even of the Hebronites, according to their generations by fathers' houses. In the fortieth year of the reign (Hebrew malkuth) of David they were sought for, and there were found among them mighty men of valor at Jazer of Gilead. [1 Chronicles 26:31]

    So they gathered themselves together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign (malkuth) of Asa. [2 Chronicles 15:10]

    And it came to pass in the seven and thirtieth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, in the five and twentieth day of the month, that Evil-merodach king of Babylon, in the first year of his reign (malkuth), lifted up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah, and brought him forth out of prison; [Jeremiah 52:31]

    In the third year of the reign (malkuth) of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. [Daniel 1:1]

In fact, the phrase "Kingdom of God", used some 55 times in the Gospels, is translated "reign of God" in Young's Literal Translation. For example ...

    But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you [Matthew 6:33 KJV]

    But seek ye first the reign of God and His righteousness, and all these shall be added to you. [Matthew 6:33 YLT]

    But if I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you. [Matthew 12:28. KJV]

    But if I, by the Spirit of God, do cast out the demons, then come already unto you did the reign of God. [Matthew 12:28 YLT]

In the parable of the wicked servant in Luke 19, this is exactly how Jesus used the term. He spoke of a nobleman who "went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return" (Vs. 12). The nobleman didn't go to get a new region over which to rule, but rather to be appointed king. This practice was a prevalent one in Judea in the time of the Saviour. Local rulers received their authority from Rome, and frequently had to travel there to obtain the authority and right to govern. [Details]. In the parable the nobleman represents Jesus Himself who goes to the right hand of the Father, not to obtain a new realm over which to rule, but to establish His authority over all the earth. When, in keeping with the practices of the day, Jesus said

    My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. [John 18:36]

He was not saying that His rule has nothing to do with the world, but rather that his authority (or kingship) comes from God, not man.

Realm: However, when a king rules, there obviously has to be a particular realm over which he reigns. Malkuth is also used in the sense of real estate.

    So the realm (malkuth) of Jehoshaphat was quiet; for his God gave him rest round about. [2 Chronicles 20:30]

    And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of thy kingdom (malkuth); and their laws are diverse from those of every people; neither keep they the king's laws: therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them... And he sent letters unto all the Jews, to the hundred twenty and seven provinces of the kingdom (malkuth) of Ahasuerus, with words of peace and truth, [Esther 3:8, 9:30]

    And in every matter of wisdom and understanding, concerning which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his realm (malkuth) . [Daniel 1:20]

    But the prince of the kingdom (malkuth) of Persia withstood me one and twenty days; but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me: and I remained there with the kings of Persia. [Daniel 10:13]


The Reign of God on Earth
Keeping in mind that the Greek Basileia is also used in the sense of both "reign" and "real estate", it is easy to understand that Jesus was not saying that the kingdom was arriving in fullness, but that its initial stages, in the form of the reign of God, had come. This is why He preached that the kingdom of heaven was at hand" [Matthew 4:17], told the apparently sensible, and pious scribe that he was not "far from the kingdom of God" [Mark 12:34] and, referring to the fact that He cast out demons by the "finger of God", told the Pharisees that the kingdom of God had come upon them

    "But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. [Luke 11:20. Also See Matthew 12:28]

Jesus' words about the kingdom was a warning that, with His coming, the three stage emergence of God's Kingdom had begun. In other words, Jesus came to earth to initiate the reign of God on earth, warning those that would listen that "God's realm was at hand". The final and complete establishment of the kingdom of God on earth takes place in three stages, two of which have already past.

    Stage 1: While there is no question that the end of this age (at the seven bowls) will signify the dawning of the Millennium Kingdom, followed by an eternity of God's rule, the King had entered the world, verifying who He was by fulfilling prophecy, and demonstrating the arrival of the reign of God with mighty deeds...

    Stage 2: Shortly after Jesus physically left earth, His kingdom, which until that point had consisted of a handful of discouraged followers, took a gigantic step forward at Pentecost. It literally exploded on to public consciousness with the arrival of the Holy Spirit, causing a rapid multiplication of disciples.

    Stage Three: However this kingdom (in every sense of the word) will only be fully be realized when Jesus physically returns to earth and takes full control of it, destroying His enemies and ruling from Jerusalem, which has always been the ultimate goal.

Therefore, it is no surprise that many of the references to the kingdom of God in the epistles, had a dual now, and not yet message.

One of the most outstanding examples of the disciples understanding of the three stage emergence of the kingdom, led to them using different tenses, and slightly different wording in otherwise parallel Gospel verses.

    "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS. "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." [Matthew 16:27-28]

    "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." And Jesus was saying to them, "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God come with power." [Mark 8:38-9:1]

    "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. "But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God." [Luke 9:26-27]

As Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament points out

    Matthew has "see the Son of man coming" (erchomenon, present participle, a process).

    Mark has "see the kingdom of God come" (eleluthuian, perfect active participle, already come) and adds "with power."

    Luke simply says "see the kingdom of God,"

In other words, all three tenses are covered. The kingdom arrived "with power" on the shoulders of it's king. It continued growing by gathering disciples (like the mustard seed Jesus likened it to) and, finally, it will take over the entire earth.


The Apostles Understood This Perfectly
If you read through the New Testament from the 'already and not yet' perspective, much that may seemed like a contradiction, will fall into place. For example, in Romans 14:17 and 1 Corinthians 4:20, Paul indicates a 'present' kingdom, which embodies "righteousness and peace and joy" and "power"...

    for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. [Romans 14:17]

    For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. [1 Corinthians 4:20]

Yet, entrance into a future kingdom is mentioned in many New Testament passages.

    And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, and to Iconium, and to Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God. [Acts 14:21-22]

    envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. [Galatians 5:21]

    For this ye know of a surety, that no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. [Ephesians 5:5]

    Hearken, my beloved brethren; did not God choose them that are poor as to the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to them that love him? [James 2:5]

    for thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. [2 Peter 1:11]

So when, as Brian McLaren himself pointed out in the chapter The Open Secret,Paul referred to the kingdom of God as an already present reality, for which people presently work and suffer...

    The Colossian believers were "delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of the Son (Colossians 1:13), the Thessalonians had been called into "his own kingdom and glory". (1Thessalonians 2:12), and were proving themselves worthy of the kingdom of God for which they were suffering (2 Thessalonians 1:5), while Paul's colleagues were described as "fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God" (Colossians 4:11)

    ...yet seemed to lean toward a "future or coming reality of the kingdom of God" (pages 92 and 93)

    Then cometh the end, when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power. [1 Corinthians 15:24]

    The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. [2 Timothy 4:18]

It is clear that the apostle, well understood that God's reign had already come into the world, but would only be fully realized at the Second Coming. At the moment the entire world is in the grasp of the evil one [1 John 5:19]. It is only after Jesus returns to earth, and Satan is finally dealt with, that God's kingdom will consist not only of His reign, but the realm itself.


2) Changing God's "Will" to God's "Dream"

It is impossible to ignore the oft repeated theme of "will" of God in the Bible, especially since Jesus even instructed His disciples to pray that God's will would be done on earth as it was in Heaven. Therefore, since the traditional understanding of God "will" being brought about on earth includes His judging a huge percentage of the population unworthy to enter into His kingdom (an idea that is as distasteful to inclusivists, is as it is Biblical), it becomes necessary to change people's perception of what His will" means.

In the chapter entitled The Language Of The Kingdom, McLaren says he frequently tries to put the prayer of the kingdom [what we call "the Lord's prayer"] into his own words so that he does not recite it on autopilot, saying the words without really considering what he is saying. He says he sees the clause "your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" as being another way of saying "your kingdom come", but often struggles to paraphrase it. Because, in his words... [Emphasis Added]

     .... "the will of god" can evoke the idea of a despot, a tyrant, a puppeteer, a deterministic machine operator imposing His will, turning a prayer for liberation into a plea for an end to freewill. (of course, if God was such a controlling God, it's hard to imagine how such a prayer would ever become necessary in the first place!) Since the language of "will" can take us down the trail of control, domination, and coercion, and since I don't believe those ideas are in Jesus' mind at all, I have looked the other words.

    The Greek word that lies beneath our English word will can also be translated wish. But to say, "May your wish come true sounds rather fairy tale-ish and creates other problems.  But I have found the idea of "the dream of God for creation" does the job quite nicely. "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven": could thus be rendered "May all your dreams for your creation come true." This language suggests a more personal, less mechanistic relationship between God and our world. It would resonate, for example, with a mother who has great dreams for her child, or a coach who has great dreams for her team, or an artist who has great dreams for a novel or painting or symphony he is creating, or a teacher who has high dreams for his students [12]

In the first place the suggestion that the "will" of God can "evoke the idea of a despot, a tyrant, a puppeteer" etc, and take us down the trail of "control, domination, and coercion" comes across as absolutely asinine to anyone who is familiar with the character of God (I can only assume that either McLaren does not believe anything that God has revealed about Himself in His Word). Therefore he suggests we substitute the word "dream" for "will" which, according to him, does "quite nicely".

Not only is "will" the original word used in the Holy Scriptures, but an examination of will and dream shows absolutely no similarity in meaning.

    Will: The Greek word usually translated "will" is thelema, which Strong's Hebrew and Greek lexicon defines as a determination, choice, purpose, decree, desire, pleasure, will.

    Dream: The only possible definitions of the word "dream" that can be used in this context are: to regard something as feasible or practical, to conceive of, to imagine, or a condition or achievement that is longed for

Quite simply, thelema does not convey any sense of dreaming, longing for, conceiving, or imagining. In other words, the emphasis has been steered away from the objectives that God intends to achieve, to what he "imagines" or "longs for". This resonates with the modern and popular ideas of an elderly and benevolent old gentleman in the sky, who is certainly not going to impose His determination or purpose on anyone or anything, but sent His Son down to earth to gently remind us of what His "dream" for the world is. And, of course, He has His fingers crossed that we, or at least some of us, will go along with said dream and create a kinder and more beautiful world.

I can see this as nothing but an attempt to steer people away from any thoughts of the judgement to come, and thus lose all "fear" of God.


Can The Word "Dream" be Substituted for "Will "
Looking up all instances of the word "will" in the New Testament is quite enlightening.

Paul very clearly ties a person's will to the decisions, or determinations, he makes. [Emphasis Added]

    But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will (thelema), and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well. [1 Corinthians 7:37 ]

Additionally, let us see how substituting "dream" for "will" works in other instances when thelema is used. For example, God did not imagine, or long for Paul to become an apostle of Jesus Christ, but knocked him off his horse and blinded him. It seems that God's actions were kind of drastic for one who is merely dreaming of something.

    Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will (thelema) of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: [Ephesians 1:1 ]

Remember Jesus' word in the garden of Gethsemane? Since both boulomai and thelema stem from the same root word, try substituting dream for either.

    "Father, if You are willing (boulomai), remove this cup from Me; yet not My will (thelema), but Yours be done." [Luke 22:42]

And was the crowd screaming for Jesus' blood 'dreaming' of something, or does it make more sense that they got what they wanted

    And he released the man they were asking for who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, but he delivered Jesus to their will (thelema). [Luke 23:25 ]

And how can anyone be born of the "dream" of man.

    who were born, not of blood nor of the will (thelema) of the flesh nor of the will (thelema) of man, but of God. [John 1:13 ]

Finally, did God dream, imagine, or long for, the world He created, or did He actively speak the words and create.

    "Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will (thelema) they existed, and were created." [Revelation 4:11 ]

So let us avoid altering the meaning of words to suit our own agendas, and remember that when the Bible speaks of the "will of God" it means His desire, purpose, or determination, which He fully plans to achieve, and which, since He is God, will inevitably, inescapably, and unfailingly come about.

I run into a brick wall when I try and figure out why anyone could have issues with the fact that God fully intends to have His will done on earth. God's will for this earth is simply this.... a planet without sin, and all the accompanying misery sin causes. How could any sensible person not wish that God's will be imposed on earth. Besides which I wonder if the victim of domestic abuse, the battered child, that murdered person who's body, dumped somewhere, has never been found, the person struggling with incurable disease etc. would prefer that God's "will" of a sinless, disease free world, come about tomorrow, or wait to see if and when men realize that there is a "possibility" of the kingdom of God and 'adjust and arrange their lives to be part of it'? [13] Until then how many more people will become victims of other people's evil hearts?

And let us also remember that God's "will" also gives us the opportunity to freely choose our own destinies, at great cost to Himself

    who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, [Galatians 1:4. Emphasis Added]

 But, let us choose wisely, because

    The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. [1 John 2:17]



3) Redefining The Phrase "Eternal Life"
The word "kingdom" is not the only one that Brian McLaren has redefined. He has also played with the phrase "eternal life" in an attempt to substantiate these very treacherous teachings.

On page 37 of The Secret Message, he refers to John 17:3..."And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ", and says

    "The Greek phrase John uses for "eternal life" literally means "life of the ages," as opposed, I think we could say, to "life as people are living it these days." So John's related phrases-eternal life, life to the full, and simply life- give us a unique angle on what Jesus meant by "kingdom of god": a life that is radically different from the way people are living these days, a life that is full and overflowing, a higher life that is centered in an interactive relationship with God and with Jesus. Let's render it simply "an extraordinary life to the full centered in a relationship with God."" [18]

The problem here is that the word translated into the English "eternal" is the Greek aionios, used some 70 times in the New Testament. Strong's lexicon defines aionios as .... perpetual, eternal, for ever, everlasting. It is derived from the Greek aion (an age or perpetuity), and is where we get our English word eon or aeon, which means an indefinite, even immeasurable, long period of time. Although it is used most often in tandem with the word "life", there are verses that clearly show that aionios means exactly what Strong's says it does. For example, in the book of Romans, Paul refers to God as the "Everlasting (aionios) God", and, in the book of Timothy, says God's power is "everlasting" (aionios)

    Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting (aionios) God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: [Romans 16:25-26]

    Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting (aionios) .... Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, [1 Timothy 6:16, 19]

The Gospel is also described as eternal

    And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting (aionios) gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, [Revelation 14:6]

And two verses in Corinthians clearly contrast aionios (everlasting), with that which is temporary.

    While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal (aionios). [2 Corinthians 4:18]

    For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal (aionios) in the heavens. [2 Corinthians 5:1]

McLaren's fanciful idea that "eternal life" literally means "life of the ages," as opposed to "life as people are living it these days" provides, in his mind, a "unique angle" on what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God. Sadly, since aionios literally means "eternal" or "everlasting", McLaren's theory stays in the realm of pure hog wash.

But wait! McLaren isn't done yet. In order to further his theories about the kingdom, he has to show that there isn't going to be a "Second Coming"... Jesus will not physically come again.

 


The Second Coming of Christ

Will Jesus Physically Return?
In his book Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope, Brian McLaren says "The phrase " the Second Coming of Christ" never actually appears in the Bible" [20]

While there is no question that the precise phrase "Second Coming" does not occur in the Bible, the concept of Jesus physically returning is a recurring theme in the New Testament, provided the reader is willing to do a little digging of their own, rather than blindly accepting McLaren's claims at face value.

To begin with we should consider Jesus' own promise...

Jesus Said He Would Return... "Quickly"
By far, the biggest reason to believe that Jesus will physically return is because He said He would. In the book of Luke He asks whether or not He will find faith on the earth when, not if, He returns

    "I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" [Luke 18:8 NASB. Emphasis Added]

In the parable of the wicked servant in Luke 19, Jesus spoke of a nobleman who "went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return" (Vs. 12). The nobleman didn't go to get a new region over which to rule, but rather to be appointed king, and then return to rule His kingdom. This practice was a prevalent one in Judea in the time of the Saviour. Local rulers received their authority from Rome, and frequently had to travel there to obtain the authority and right to govern. [Details].

In the parable the nobleman represents Jesus Himself who goes to the right hand of the Father, not to obtain a new realm over which to rule, but to establish His authority over all the earth, then return to rule it.

Besides which, in the book of Revelation, Jesus specified five times that He would come "quickly".

    'Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. [Revelation 2:16 NASB]

    'I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. [Revelation 3:11 NASB]

    "And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book." [Revelation 22:7 NASB]

    "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. [Revelation 22:12 NASB]

    He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. [Revelation 22:20 NASB]

However, in view of McLaren's diabolical efforts to mislead Christians, and misconstrue the entire Gospel message, the question has to be asked whether Jesus will, in some way, return, not physically, but in a 'spiritual' sense. What does the Bible say?


The Prophecies about Jesus' Second Coming
A very large percentage of the Scriptures (in the range of 25-27%), is devoted to prophecy.

While the actual numbers may vary, it is estimated that, in the Old Testament, there are at least twice as many prophecies about Jesus' Second Coming than there were about His first.

And, when it comes to the New Testament, not only do twenty-three of the twenty seven books refer to to the Second Coming, but it is figured that one out of every 25-30 verses make mention of this event. All of which means that, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is the subject most spoken of in the New Testament, second only to the Gospel message.

When Jesus Christ's birth occurred exactly as Old Testament prophets foretold, why would we not believe that His second advent will also occur exactly as prophesied.

And exactly how do the Scriptures prophecy that Jesus will return?

The angels themselves unambiguously told the disciples Jesus would return in just the same way as He left

    And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven." [Acts 1:9-11 NASB Emphasis Added]

John echoed this message

    behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. [Revelation 1:7 NASB]


The Second Coming, or Parousia of Christ
The apostles spoke often of the return of Jesus, using different Greek words.

Paul called this event “the blessed hope",

    looking for the blessed hope and the appearing (epiphaneia...manifestation or appearing) of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, [Titus 2:13 NASB] (epiphaneiais used some six times in the New Testament)

and told the Corinthians that they should be eagerly awaiting the revelation

    so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation (apokalupsis or appearing, coming) of our Lord Jesus Christ, [1 Corinthians 1:7 NASB]

Parousia: However, the word used most often is the Greek parousia, which Strong's Hebrew and Greek lexicon defines as presence.

    As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming (parousia) , and of the end of the age?" [Matthew 24:3 NASB]

    so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. [1 Thessalonians 3:13 NASB]

    Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming (parousia) of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. [James 5:7 NASB]

    Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming (parousia) ? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation." [2 Peter 3:3-4 NASB]

In fact, Jesus Himself not only used the same word to describe His return, but did not correct the disciples for associating His coming (parousia) with the end of the age [Matthew 24:3]

    "For the coming (parousia) of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. [Matthew 24:37 NASB]

    and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming (parousia) of the Son of Man be. [Matthew 24:39 NASB]

What is significant about the word parousia is that it is used 24 times in the New Testament. Of the five times it is applied to humans, it obviously means their physical presence.

    I rejoice over the coming (parousia) of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have supplied what was lacking on your part. [1 Corinthians 16:17 NASB]

    But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming (parousia) of Titus; [2 Corinthians 7:6 NASB]

    For they say, "His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence (parousia) is unimpressive and his speech contemptible." [2 Corinthians 10:10 NASB]

    so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming (parousia) to you again. [Philippians 1:26 NASB]

    So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence (parousia) only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; [Philippians 2:12 NASB]

Therefore, there is absolutely NO reason to believe that, when applied to Jesus, the meaning of parousia suddenly changes to "spiritual presence".

Since it is obvious that Jesus has not yet returned, we can only draw two conclusions from the wealth of prophecies about the Second Advent, and the Greek words used to describe this event.

Either the apostles, the angels, and the Savior Himself, were lying in their teeth, were mistaken, or He will return in just the same way as He left, which means He will  physically descend from above.


The "Jihadist" Jesus
McLaren's statement about the phrase " the Second Coming of Christ" never actually appearing in the Bible was followed by the following

    "Whether or not the doctrine to which the phrase refers deserves rethinking, a popular abuse of it certainly needs to be named and rejected.  If we believe that Jesus came in peace the first time, but that wasn't his real and decisive coming-it was just a kind of warm up for the real thing-then we leave the door open to envisioning a second coming that will be characterized by violence, killing, domination, and eternal torture.

    This vision reflects a deconversion, a returned to trust in the power of Pilate, not the unarmed truth that stood before Pilate, refusing to fight.  This eschatological understanding of a violent second coming leads us to believe (as we've said before) that in the end, even God finds it impossible to fix the world apart from violence and coercion; no one should be surprised when those shaped by this theology behave accordingly.

    If we remain charmed by this kind of eschatology, we will be forced to see the nonviolence of the Jesus of the Gospels as a kind of strategic fake out, like the feigned retreat in war, to be followed up by crushing blow of so called redemptive violence in the end. The gentle Jesus of the first coming becomes a kind of trick Jesus, a fake me out Messiah, to be replaced by the true jihadist Jesus of all violent second coming." [21]

The problem here is that McLaren's theology is so wrapped up in his idea that this planet can be transformed by man, without any form of apocalyptic intervention on God's part, that he seems not to realize, or has conveniently overlooked, the fact that much of humanity does not want God's kingdom to be established here on earth.

    "This is the judgement, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. "For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. [John 3:19-20 NASB]

This opposition to the kingdom comes with especial force from those in power, since the advent of God's kingdom would mean an end to theirs. The beginning verses of Psalm 2 were quoted by the apostles, in Acts 4, when they were commanded by the rulers, elders and scribes "not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus" (Vs.18).

    Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, "Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!" [Psalms 2:1-3 NASB]

    When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, "O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the holy spirit, through the mouth of our father david your servant, said, 'why did the gentiles rage, and the peoples devise futile things? 'the kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the lord and against his Christ.' "For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. "And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, [Acts 4:23-29 NASB]

Although David possibly composed this Psalm after he had taken Jerusalem from the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5:7-9), there is no question that David was a "type" of Jesus, and the Psalm looked forward in time to the victory of the Gospel over the unreceptive Jews, and the heathen governors of the Roman empire. Finally, the Psalm told of God's ultimate victory over the kings of the earth.

It is to be very strongly noted that the kings who go to war with the armies of the Lord, are not only instigated and empowered by the "beast", but are gathered together by the spirits of demons to wage war against the Lamb. The language indicates that it is they who will oppose God's kingdom and attempt to halt it's final arrival by all out battle.

    for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. [Revelation 16:14 NASB]

"The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. "These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast. "These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful." [Revelation 17:12-14 NASB]

War there will be, and with good reason.


Eternal Torture?
When McLaren says "we leave the door open to envisioning a second coming that will be characterized by violence, killing, domination, and eternal torture", I am afraid he has, yet one more time, not done his homework, but blindly formulated his theories in response to completely erroneous mainstream teachings.

Anyone who takes the time to do an in-depth study of the subject will find that the Scriptures provide no support for the case for eternal torment. However, the belief that Hell is a place of unending torment has been so strongly held throughout the history of Christianity that few have dared to challenge it. Besides which, since most modern challenges come from the cults, a person who dares to question the traditional viewpoint runs the risk of being labeled a cultist. However, the deeper one delves into the subject the less persuasive the argument in favor of the traditional view become.

The Bible versions most people rely on are extremely misleading, simply because several separate and distinctive Hebrew and Greek proper names have been translated into the single English word 'hell'. The Greek Hades is the New Testament counterpart to the Old Testament Sheol, which is presented in the Old Testament, not as a place of fire, brimstone, and torment but as place of darkness, silence, and forgetfulness, where there is no work, knowledge nor wisdom. Besides which the duration of Sheol/Hades is made clear in 2 Peter 2:9, where the apostle very clearly says that the unrighteous are being held until the day of judgement. [Emphasis Added]

Most of the church believes that the soul is immortal, assuming that the idea has it's origins in the Bible. It does not. The idea of an afterlife or an immortal soul predates Christianity, and was very common among the ancient Egyptians, and popular with the Greeks. Of the many references to the spirit in the Bible, never once is it said to be immortal, imperishable, or eternal. Instead, it is made very clear that only God has eternal life, and immortality is conditional, depending upon one's acceptance of Christ. It is a gift of God which He gives to the redeemed when they are resurrected.

Over and over again, the words "life" and "eternal life" are strictly associated with the righteous. Eternal life is contrasted with death, which is reserved for the unrighteous. In fact there are some fifty New Testament verses that speak of "death" as being the fate of the unsaved.

Even John 3:16, one of the best known, and most comforting, verses in the Bible says "whosoever believeth on him should not perish". The word perish has been translated from the Greek apollumi which means to 'destroy fully' or "kill".

Over and over again, Christians routinely go through some astounding verbal and theological gymnastics to take the word death, and make it mean eternal ‘life’ in hell, and take the word "perish" and make it mean "never perish". [See What and Where is Hell?

CONTINUE ON TO PART III... A GOSPEL OF TRANSFORMATION, EVACUATION... OR JUSTICE? The wrath Of God. The "amazingly subversive" Book Of Jonah. The justice and judgement of God. While there is no question that, as McLaren says.. Jesus will condemn and destroy evil, who or what, according to the Scriptures, is evil? Revelation... example of the "literature of the oppressed", territory of the lunatic fringe, or our only hope. Does God plan to "destroy creation"?
 


Footnote I. "Within You", Or "In Your Midst"
Once when Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered,

    "The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There it is!' For, in fact, the kingdom of God is entos hymon" (Luke 17:20-21).

In the various translations, the Greek phrase entos hymon has been rendered either "within you", or "in your midst". The only one other instance of the Greek word entos in the New Testament, occurs in Matthew 23:26 where it necessarily means the interior or inside of.

    "You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside (Gk. entos) of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.

However, we have to take into consideration that, in Luke 17:20-21, Jesus was speaking, not to His disciples, but to the Pharisees, on whom Jesus pronounced "woes" [Matthew 23] they were "full of robbery and self-indulgence" [Vs. 25], whose 'insides' needed cleaning. He also said they were "like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness" [Vs. 27], and that although they appeared to be righteous, they were "full of hypocrisy and lawlessness". [Vs. 28]. Additionally they wanted to destroy Him (Matthew 12:14).

Therefore, since the Pharisees were not exactly the kind of people who could look into their own hearts and see the kingdom of God,  it is unlikely that Jesus was telling them to do so, but was informing them that the the kingdom of God was right there, in their midst. They should look, not into their own sinful hearts, but at Jesus Himself, His words and works showing anyone who had ears to hear that He was the Promised One, the Messiah, who would be King of Kings in God's Kingdom. The Pharisees who, along with many others, probably expected the kingdom to begin with a successful revolt against the Roman occupiers, were so spiritually blind they did not see that Jesus was referring to Himself when He said "the kingdom of God is among you". The kingdom had come to earth in a most unexpected way, and eventually like the mustard seed, it would touch and encompass everything and everyone on earth. [PLACE IN TEXT]


Footnote II
This expression is derived from the state of things in Judea in the time of the Saviour. Judea was subject to the Romans, having been conquered by Pompey about sixty years before Christ. It was, however, governed by "Jews," who held the government "under" the Romans. It was necessary that the prince or king should receive a recognition of his right to the kingdom by the Roman emperor and, in order to this, that he should go to Rome; or, as it is said here, that he might receive to himself a kingdom. This actually occurred several times. Archelaus, a son of Herod the Great, about the time of the birth of Jesus, went to Rome to obtain a confirmation of the title which his father had left him, and succeeded in doing it. Herod the Great, his father, had done the same thing before to secure the aid and countenance of Antony. Agrippa the younger, grandson of Herod the Great, went to Rome also to obtain the favor of Tiberius, and to be confirmed in his government. Such instances, having frequently occurred, would make this parable perfectly intelligible to those to whom it was addressed. By the nobleman, here, is undoubtedly represented the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ; by his going into a far country is denoted his going to heaven, to the right hand of his Father, "before" he should "fully" set up his kingdom and establish his reign among men (Albert Barnes) [PLACE IN TEXT]

 

End Notes
All URLs were good at the time of writing (July 2012)

[10] ibid. Pgs. 90-91 Ch. The Open Secret

[11] ibid. Pg. 139. Ch. The Language of The Kingdom

[12] ibid. Pgs 140-141. Ch. The Language of The Kingdom

[13] ibid. Pg. 203. Ch. Seeing the kingdom

[14] ibid. Pgs. 220-221. Appendix 1: Why Didn't We Get It Sooner?

[15] Brian McLaren. Sermon Ideas for Everything Must Change.
http://www.brianmclaren.net/emc/archives/imported/sermon-ideas-for-everything-must.html), or "an eschatology of abandonment

[16] interview with Planet Preterist, Jan. 30, 2005, http://planetpreterist.com/news-2774.html

[17] Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts. What Was the Message of Jesus? http://www.inplainsite.org/html/the_message_of_jesus.html

[18] Brian McLaren. The Secret Message of Jesus. Thomas Nelson Paperback Edition (April 2007). Pg 37 Ch. The Hidden Message of Jesus

[19] ibid. Pages 92 and 93. Ch.The Open Secret

[20] Brian McLaren. Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope. Thomas Nelson (October 2, 2007). Pg. 144

[21] ibid. Pgs. 144-145

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Brian McLaren Part 1... The Secret Message of Jesus:

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