The Son’s Delay

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End Times is a big topic. Much ink has been spilled and breath expended on the topic of Christ’s second coming. Eschatology, as it is called by theologians, provides endless fascination (and sometimes distraction) about the End. Shoot, even Nicolas Cage is cashing in on our obsession with the second coming of Jesus.

We’re told this is coming soon, to be ready! “Keep awake,” Jesus warns, “for you do not know in what day your Lord is coming (Mt 24:42).”

Okay, check, got it – he’s coming very soon. Immanence.

Then, we’re thrown a curve ball. Jesus speaks of tarrying, slowness, delay. In Mt 24, he tells a parable about how the Master was delayed in returning. In the next chapter, during the same teaching, he tells another about the delay of the bridegroom.

Immanence and delay. It’s the tension that each believer finds themselves living in. On the one hand, scripture pleads for our preparedness. “Be ready, stay awake!” On the other hand, Jesus himself informed us of a delay. “The Master was delayed…”

Amid all the glitter and glam of Hollywood’s eschatology, the mystery and vagueness of apocalyptic books like Daniel and Revelation, and the hope and anticipation of Jesus’ teaching, remains this one, nagging question that boars a hole in the back of our minds…

Why hasn’t he come back yet?

We look around the world and witness horrible atrocities, irreparable brokenness, and a complete distortion of God’s good creation. “How long, O Lord?” we may cry with the Psalmist (Ps 90:13). How long can you stand by and watch the enemy warp and deform and ruin your good creation?

How long, O Lord? It’s a big question, one I’m not sure we honestly wrestle with enough as believers. Clearly, it was something that the early church pondered. Peter lovingly reassured his church that although people will make a point to mock the delay of Jesus’ second coming, it’s going to happen nonetheless (2Pe 3:4).

Honestly, they were in common company with the whole of Israel even before Jesus’ first coming. We see ancient Israel wondering the same thing. Habakkuk 3:2 declares, “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”

But the question remains, why the delay (if only from our perspective). And if we scratch the surface just a bit, we begin to see why the question remains. We see why we have difficulty living in the tension of immanence and delay.

I believe that reason is the question of God’s goodness.

THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

If God is so good, and there is so much evil in the world, why doesn’t he do anything about it?

This is perhaps one of the longest running objections to the Christian faith. People have been wrestling with this question for years. In fact, this objection (in its various forms) is so famous that it even has its own name – theodicy.

Honestly, though, it’s not that difficult to answer. God is good and he is doing something to quell evil once and for all. That something is the restoration of all things through Christ Jesus.

Yet, even in this answer we see unsatisfaction, maybe even in our own stirring hearts. “Of course, God is doing something, but why is it taking him so long?”

There it is again – the tension of immanence and delay. If God is so good, and he is doing something to quell all evil, why is it taking him so long?

This version of theodicy is, in my opinion, much more formidable than the popular version first mentioned because it hits at the heart of questioning God’s goodness. It pushes us to second guess God’s sovereignty, to disagree with God’s works, to cause doubt to lead us down the path of skepticism.

So, what is the reason for the delay? Hasn’t God seen enough death and destruction and brokenness to move him towards fixing what the enemy has broken?

THE REASON FOR THE DELAY

Herein lies the problem of asking this question – We, along side the enemy, are the reason there is so much death and destruction and brokenness in the world. Lest we forget, we were the ones who hurled God’s gift of existence and creation and community down a flight of stairs, cursing him at the same time.

So, when we ask the question “Why hasn’t God returned to deal with evil in the world?” what we’re really asking is, “Why hasn’t God returned to deal with the evil in me?”

Now it takes on a different flavor, doesn’t it?

God isn’t delaying because he isn’t good. On the contrary, God is delaying precisely because of his goodness!

As Peter explains, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2Pe 3:9).”

The reason the Father has not yet sent the Son is because he wants to offer his creation ample time for repentance. He wants to allow for us to recognize our part in evil and turn from it. He patiently awaits the day when we come running into his arms crying, “Abba, Father!”

It’s not as if God is standing by without care for his creation’s suffering. Quite the opposite, God is restraining himself for the sake of his creation’s repentance! He is not standing idly by, watching helplessly as evil runs rampant throughout the world. Instead, he is sitting on his throne patiently waiting for our own sake.

If we are to question God’s goodness due to the delay of the Father sending his Son, let us not do so with a lack of his goodness in mind,  but the abundance. Let us not ask, “Is this delay evidence of a lack of God’s goodness?” Rather, let us ask, “How far does God’s goodness extend with this delay?”

Remember, at the heart of God’s delay is the delay of our hearts.

The Dual Nature of Christ

How are we to understand the temptation of Christ in light of the doctrine of “Dual Nature”? Meaning, if Jesus was fully God and fully man, how serious was the temptation that he endured in the Wilderness, or for that matter, throughout his entire life?

It is easy to understand how Jesus as a man would undergo temptation as it is common to the human experience. So, it would seem that the issue lies within the implications of Jesus’ deity. James 1:3 says, Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” But in Hebrews 4:15 we are told that “…we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One (Jesus) who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” These two passages seem to create a conflict between the two natures of Christ.

Before I tackle this issue let me first demonstrate from Scripture that Christ indeed had two natures within his singular being:

As God, Jesus:                                                          However, as man, Jesus:

-was worshipped (Mt 2:2,11; 14:3)                             -worshipped God (Jn 17)

-is prayed to (Acts 7:59; 1 Cor 1:1-2)                          -prayed to God (Jn 17:1)

-is called God (Jn 20:28; Heb 1:8)                               -was called man (Mk 15:39)

-called the Son of God (Mk 1:1)                                  -was called son of man (Jn 9:35ff)

-is sinless (1 Pt 2:22; Heb 4:15)                                   -was tempted (Matt 4:1)

-knew all things (Jn 21:17)                                            -grew in wisdom (Lk 2:52)

-gives eternal life (Jn 10:28)                                         -died (Rom 5:8)

-and is indwelt by the fullness of God (Col 2:9)        -had a body of flesh (Lk 24:39)

Do you see the difficulty of synthesizing these texts into an easy to understand doctrine of Christ’s deity and humanity? Well, I am going to give it my best shot in 300 words or less. Here it goes:

We see in Scripture that the divine nature and human nature of Christ coexisted within his person. The scriptures mentioned above tell us that God cannot sin and is not even tempted by sin, and yet the passage from Hebrews states clearly that Christ has been tempted in every way as we are and yet he remained sinless. From the vantage point of the divine I think it would be safe to conclude that Jesus could not have sinned. But from the human perspective Jesus MUST have been truly tempted. So the question becomes, if the divine nature of Christ keeps him from sinning then how could he have even been truly tempted?

Everything Jesus did, he did by looking at the Father. In John 5:19 Jesus said “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner…” Here is my question… Is this anything different than what our own experience should be? I would say no. Jesus was modeling for us, in every aspect of his life and ministry, exactly what we are supposed to do and be. Since we are not divine beings but are indwelt by the divine, I believe Jesus modeled this aspect of redeemed humanity for us. Looking to the Father and empowered by the Spirit.

Here is another example: In Matthew 12:22 Jesus was casting out demons. The Pharisees accused Jesus of casting them out by the power of Beelzebub (Satan). Jesus accused the Pharisees of being guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Why the Holy Spirit? Why not Jesus? I believe it was because every miracle he preformed he did by the power of the Holy Spirit, just like the apostles. If Jesus operated in his deity, it would seem that all of his miracles would have been done in his own power, but over and over again Jesus performs the miraculous through the power of the Spirit and by the prompting of the Father.

Last point for this short blog: Jesus said he came to fulfill the law. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says, “17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them…” I believe that Jesus is speaking of his humanity here. God has no reason to fulfill his own law, the law was created for man. God would have no problem fulfilling His own law, but man has always fallen short of God’s law. It makes sense, that in his humanity, not in his deity, Jesus came to show how a human should live under the law of God. Again, Dominion of the world was given to a man, was lost by a man, therefore I conclude it must redeemed by a man. This is why Paul says in Philippians 2:5,  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Paul seems to be saying that Christ laid aside his deity to embrace and live in his humanity. This doesn’t not mean that Christ ceased to be Divine, only that he worked from the perspective of his humanity as an example of servanthood and humility for us. Also in 2 Corinthians 4:4, In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” This is an obvious allusion back to the creation narrative in reference to the creation of man in Genesis 1:26. In 1 Cor. 15:45 Paul says, 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” So, Paul seems to picture Jesus as the prefect human, the perfect image of God, His perfect likeness. Jesus is what Adam should have been but he sinned. Therefore, Jesus is the perfect example of what man was intended to be from the beginning.

Ask yourself this: If there is no way Jesus could have sinned, what was the purpose of the temptation in the wilderness? To prove who he was to Satan? Nope, Satan already knew who he was. Was God trying to prove it to Jesus? Nope, He already knew too. It seems to be because Jesus could have really given in to the temptations and yet he never did. Notice that the first two temptations consisted of Satan trying to get Jesus to exit out of his humanity and make use of his deity. The last temptation is Satan tempting Jesus as a human to take a short cut in reclaiming lost creation.

Jesus never sinned because, as man, he kept his eyes on the Father, keeping perfect fellowship with Him… and yet, as the Divine he was the Word. As a man, Jesus was sensitive to the Spirit’s leading in his life, and because he did these perfectly, he never sinned. Could Jesus have sinned? Sure, he was human, but because he trusted in the power of the Spirit and the Word of God and the will of his Father, he did not succumb to temptation and he never sinned. Also, from the perspective of the Divine nature, Jesus would never choose sin. The issue has more to do with capacity than it does with weakness. There are many things in my own life that I have the capacity to do, but because of my predisposition I will never act on that capacity. I believe the same is true of Christ and his nature and capacity.

These are just my thoughts, and I do see this as a third order issue. Therefore, there can be disagreement and continued fellowship. However, I believe there must be agreement that Christ was fully divine and fully human. That is non-negotiable. How those two natures were utilized (or unutilized) will always be an interesting inquiry!

5 Reasons Why Prosperity Theology is Bankrupt

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1. The Bible Never Promises a “Financial Blessing” After Tithing in the Way Prosperity Theology Teaches

When we think of financial blessing in terms of prosperity theology, a divine pyramid scheme comes to mind. If we place $1,000 in the “storehouse” of so-and-so’s ministry, God will bless us in abundance for our faith.

In fact, many so-called preachers tout verse after verse in order to bolster their message that God wants you to test Him in this. One popular passage is Malachi 3:10…ish. (By …ish, I mean they conveniently leaves some parts out.)

 “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse…and thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing…”

Sounds good, right? Bring your tithe to the storehouse (ministry) and put God to the test to see whether or not He will bless us (give us a bunch of money). The problem with this, as with many passages prosperity theology teachers use, is that the passage is far removed from its context.

Malachi 3:6-8 is a chastisement against Israel for disobeying God in His command to care for the needy. He then challenges them to bring their tithes and contributions of food (not only money) to the storehouse in order to witness His blessing of seeing the poor’s needs (not wants) completely met. Here again is Malachi 3:10 in full and proper context.

“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

The Bible teaches us that we are given to so that we can give. We aren’t given to so we can hoard and become rich for our own gain. Whenever we come across passages throughout scripture that speak on God’s blessing us, it’s meant for us to return that blessing.

2. Jesus Never Taught Prosperity Theology

Jesus never once taught anything that remotely resembles prosperity theology. In fact, the prosperity “gospel” teaches that if you have enough faith in Jesus you don’t have to live like Him.

To the contrary, Jesus was a homeless itinerant rabbi who didn’t have enough money to pay his taxes. But, He was blessed enough by God to feed thousands of people!

This is a clear example of a biblical blessing from God. Our Father gives so that we may, in turn, reflect His charitable character. He gives so that we may give; He blesses us so that we may bless others.

Furthermore, the Bible warns us against the possibility of money becoming our object of affection and worship. Jesus teaches us in Luke 16:13 not to let money replace God in our lives because,

“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

This is not to say having money is wrong, neither is the accumulation of wealth evil, but the selfish withholding of what God has given us to bless others is infuriating to Him.

Bottom line: If you are the leader of a multimillion dollar “prosperity ministry” , have your own personal jet, and stay in hotels that cost $10,800 a night, then you’re far from following Jesus.

Remember, if you come to Jesus for money then He’s not your god, money is.

3. Prosperity Theology Gives False Hope

If the Bible never promises a “financial blessing” in the way prosperity theology claims and Jesus never taught it, then prosperity theology gives people false hope. In fact, it’s helpful to view such a system of theology (along with its teachers) as predatory towards the poor, elderly, and needy, since it is generally these three groups that contribute the most.

Essentially, there is no difference between a prosperity theology “ministry” and title lending or payday loan businesses. The fact that Benny Hinn’s ministry website does not end in .biz should be a crime.

4. Prosperity Theology is Wholly Unknown to the Early Christians

In fact, they seemed to have objected to the acquisition of personal wealth for greedy purposes. In the early days of the church, we see Christians selling their belongings and property in order to ensure the needs of the down-and-out were met.

Acts 2:42–45 gives a clear picture of the church as an institution which proclaimed the gospel and helped out the poor. Nowhere do we see them giving a tithe and expecting ten-fold in return for their own gain.

Likewise, we never see an early church leader rolling up to a village on a Merdeces-Benz donkey wearing a Louis Vuitton tunic. They were more concerned with the needs of others than with the needs for themselves. The second-ever church position created (after pastor) was the office of deacon, whose responsibilities included the daily distribution of food for widows. One early church not only gave above their means during extreme poverty, but begged to be part in the relief of the saints.

The early church gave, not expecting in return. They gave and saw God’s blessing, just not the way prosperity theology teaches. They saw the blessing that God promised in Malachi 3.

Imagine the world if we postured ourselves like the early church! Did you know it would cost $30 billion for everyone in the world to have clean drinking water?[1] That’s less than how much Americans spend on gambling per year.[2]

If we stopped going to Vegas for one year, the entire world could have clean drinking water. Now that would be a blessing.

5. You Have To Wear A White Suit To Teach Prosperity Theology

As a general rule, any theology which is preached from a pulpit by a guy in a bright white suit is always wrong.

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[1] Laurence Smith, The New North: The World in 2050 (London: Profile Books, 2011), 92.

[2] American Gambling Association, 2013 State of the States: The AGA Survey of Casino Entertainment (Washington, DC: American Gambling Association, 2013), 5.