Church Refugees: Introduction

Church Refugees: Sociologists reveal why people are DONE with church but not their faith, by sociologists Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope, addresses the needs of a class of Christians sometimes called the “Dones” — as in “done with church but not Jesus” — or the “dechurched.”

Church Refugees is based on thousands of interviews with older, mature Christians who’ve left the visible, institutional church to serve God though other means. The authors were unable to calculate how many or what percentage of the church is affected by this movement. After all, there’s no one taking roll of those who’ve left. But they quickly discovered that this is a major movement among all denominations: mature, motivated members who leave because they find they can better serve Jesus outside the visible, institutional church.

They’re done with church. They’re tired and fed up with church. They’re dissatisfied with the structure, social message, and politics of the institutional church, and they’ve decided they and their spiritual lives are better off lived outside of organized religion. As one of our respondents put it, “I guess the church just sort of churched the church out of me.”

Packard, Josh; Hope, Ashleigh (2015-06-01). Church Refugees: Sociologists reveal why people are DONE with church but not their faith (Kindle Locations 183-186). Group Publishing, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

These are not people affected by the Post-modern spirit, moral relativism, or consumerism. Rather, these are members who for many years oversaw major church programs, served on boards as elders and deacons, or even served as full-time ministers. These are people who once were part of the 20% of every church that give generously, serve faithfully, and make things happen.

Neither are these “burned out” people needing a break, who will one day return after they rest up a bit. Nor are the people going through a faith crisis or angry over some perceived slight. Rather, these are former members who’ve concluded that Jesus is better served by means other than the conventional church.

So if you’re questioning the value of the institutional church and thinking of leaving church to form a nonprofit or to take on service projects in your own neighborhood, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. It’ll probably tip you over the edge, because it focuses on the concerns and motivations of those who’ve left. It doesn’t make the case for the traditional church. But it does suggest ways a traditional church might change to keep its mature members. So if you’re open to making changes in how churches do church, this just might be the most valuable church leadership book on the market. But if you’re not in a position to make change in your home church, well, it’ll be a very frustrating read.

You’ll notice that many of the suggestions made by the authors repeat advice I’ve offered in the recent series Advice to a New Elder. I think that’s because (a) I hear from a lot of readers who are among the “Dones” — or are considering joining their ranks — and (b) I’m a retired elder and so find myself asking myself many of the same questions: what should the church do that actually matters?

If you’ve read any of my recent series, you’ll know that I place a very high value  on the local congregation. I believe in church, not just as the set of all saved persons. Rather, “church” is supposed to be saved persons formed into a cross-shaped community — a community visible to the world that demonstrates the light found in Jesus.

Ironically, as a result, I find myself very sympathetic with the Dones — not that I wish to leave the visible, institutional church but because their complaints against the institutional church are often entirely valid. I mean, you can’t defend the behavior of the churches that drove these people out of the church — and it was rarely just one church. Rather, the Dones left because they couldn’t find a church that behaves the way a church ought to behave.

As a result, some Dones form what are, essentially, house churches, gathering weekly with like-minded friends to worship and serve but in often very unconventional ways. Others give up on a weekly assembly and the sacraments and instead pour themselves into service for others. Some replace church with Internet forums, finding a safe place to ask hard questions and to discover God’s will without fear of ostracism just for asking.

Of course, it’s not surprising that some mature members discover that their own congregation is shallow, judgmental, closed minded, etc. What is more surprising is that, having realized the problems at their own church, the Dones were unable to bring about reform and unable to find another church in town that came closer to being true to God’s purposes for the church.

Now, in the interviews quoted in the book, you won’t find profound theology. In fact, the Dones often struggle to articulate their concerns. It would be easy to nitpick their language and dismiss their complaints — just because they don’t express themselves the right way. But if you listen to the concerns behind the words to hear what’s really being said, you’ll find there’s a lot of legitimate criticism of church as we practice church in the United States today.

The authors rarely mention the denomination or location of the church being criticized, which is fine. This is really an “if the shoe fits” kind of book. If your church doesn’t have these problems, praise God and buy a book that suits your needs better. But if your church does have these problems, it doesn’t really matter whether the person doing the criticizing is Anglican or Church of Christ. If the shoe fits …

One former minister said,

But here’s the thing: I don’t think the institutional church is filled with bad people. I think the church in America is an inherently flawed structure that compels people to make poor decisions. You’re basically judged on how well you can preach and the numbers you bring in. I realize the church isn’t perfect, and it’s made up of people who aren’t perfect, and I’m not perfect either, but the church needs to see that there are things that are broken about the structure, not the people

Packard, Josh; Hope, Ashleigh (2015-06-01). Church Refugees: Sociologists reveal why people are DONE with church but not their faith (Kindle Locations 384-388). Group Publishing, Inc.. Kindle Edition. (Emphasis added.)

Perhaps that’s too cynical to be fair. Consider, rather, how your own minister, ministry, or church is evaluated by those who control it — the elders, the contributors, the members, other churches in the denomination.

Is your church judged by its growth or by baptisms?

By doctrinal purity or transformed lives?

By the quality of the assembly or by the lives lived by the members?

I think most churches are judged — externally and internally — by superficialities. That is, we are far more concerned about the assembly — its conformity to doctrine or how exciting the worship is — than the lives lived by the assembled. We are thrilled when we have crowds attending to hear the preacher and care little that these crowds were drawn from other churches in town — with no net gain to the Kingdom.

So who is able to rise above the consumeristic or legalistic expectations that invisibly dupe up into chasing the wrong goals? Well, the mature members with some experience in leadership. And those are the people who are leaving.

 

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in Church Refugees, Church Refugees, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Church Refugees: Introduction

  1. David Himes says:

    I’m very sympathetic with the Dones. Because I also find much of the institutionalized church is counter productive. I don’t even like the word, church, because I think it connotes the institutionalization.

    But in spite of that sympathy, I also value the fellowship with other believers. Which is the principle reason I think God called us to assemble and fellowship. Being a Christian, by yourself, just doesn’t make sense for most people. We are “social” in our nature — at least most of us are. And God, as our creator, understands this better than we do. So, the ekklesia makes a lot of sense.

    But the institutional church, almost by default, makes faith into a set of checkboxes, which regularly needs to be refreshed and checked off again.

    And, for Churches of Christ, we often turn it into a theological proposition, which loses all connection to the realities of living life in the world. As someone admonished us, we are to be “in the world, but not of the world” (paraphrased).

    I just ended a class at the congregation where I worship, entitled, Trending Topics. In the class, we were open to discussing any topic that was on the hearts of the class. Just this summer, we discussed abortion, anti-abortion activism, trans-gender issues, gay marriage, full-time preachers, Calvinism / predestination, judging angels, the intersection of Islam and Christianity (or lack thereof), how do we know when “God is speaking to us”, Clinton v Trump, homosexuality, understanding unanswered v answered prayers.

    Frankly, I never knew what would come up, from week to week.

    The premise of this class was interaction of our faith with the issues of the real world. My view is that it’s good to discuss these issues in the setting of a class with fellow believers, before you discuss them with unbelievers.

    I do not contend this type of class is for everyone. Nor should it be the only type of class. But I’m confident this type of class does something to reverse the “irrelevancy” of the modern institutionalized church, which often appears out of touch with realities of our every day lives.

  2. David Himes says:

    As a follow up, I should add, we should be encouraging our fellow believers to contribute to reinvigorating the institutionalized church, rather than just sitting on their posteriors and “taking everything in.”

  3. Dustin says:

    Rich Little, who was the pastor at the University Church of Christ in Malibu as well as a professor at Pepperdine and Harding, has left the preaching ministry. He had a very interesting conversation with Luke Norsworthy on his Newsworthy with Norsworthy podcast. I highly recommend it if you are interested in this topic. Listen to it on your commute or when you walk.

  4. People need good answers and much encouragement.

  5. Mark says:

    The institutional church takes a lot of effort, time, political capital, and money. This is done before the first good deed is ever done. Committees formed in the 1950s for one purpose should not have been allowed to become the politburo. Meanwhile, the lesser committees and boards, however, serve to remove power from certain people but keeping them placated with a board/committee appointment and busy with writing reports. This, along with backstabbing and some double-crossing, makes a church more like a state legislature. All that is missing is a good sex scandal. Even those occur in a church albeit infrequently.

    I found that there are 4 groups in most churches. The elderly widows hold veto power and control the preacher. The married men 55-75 comprise the official leadership and who, with wives, are the in-crowd. The married couples with children make up their own clique and use the church as a social group and the worship service as a social gathering for themselves and their children. The rest of the people are basically welcome to attend the services but are not really wanted.

    it is no wonder people are done with institutional church.

  6. Dwight says:

    I think we expect too much from our church or assembly. We expect the church to do this or that or both, instead of just being. There is an inordinate pressure to serve the church or give to the church and then those that serve and give find that they are not serving or giving to people, but a thing that then filters it poorly. Many are content with doing just enough, but many want to do more than what can be expressed through their local church. It is not only inefficient, but largely ineffective in doing what the people themselves can do and should be doing on their own.

    It is not enough that the saints meet to inspire and socialize with each other with God in their context and on their lips without pressure to get up in front of hundreds of people on a stage and sing or give a talk as if from a professional.

    Mark, I would gather the last group is wanted, at least for numbers sake, but many don’t want to be involved, but rather to meet their religious quota so they don’t feel guilty and feel justified.
    And then you have many people who just can’t get in a clique to save their lives, thus are excluded. This is where many of the younger un-married and in college or out of college often fall into, unless they happen to go to a church that is in a college town.

  7. Monty says:

    Dustin’

    Listened to that podcast and did find it very interesting but also enjoyed the interview with Jonathan Storment Luke did and his responses to what Rich Little said. Obviously Rich has moved way to the left of progessivism, although I’m sure he sees himself being very centered. While there are certainly many who are done with Church the guys give a good short list of those who are coming back to it. Good stuff.

  8. Price says:

    If you’ve read any of my recent series, you’ll know that I place a very high value on the local congregation. I believe in church, not just as the set of all saved persons. Rather, “church” is supposed to be saved persons formed into a cross-shaped community — a community visible to the world that demonstrates the light found in Jesus.

    …….Best summation I’ve read in some time. How radical a thought to focus on the work to the point that the “numbers” become irrelevant. I wonder if more people would show up to be a part of something that actually had a social purpose rather than theological argument.

  9. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Price wrote,

    I wonder if more people would show up to be a part of something that actually had a social purpose rather than theological argument.

    Without a doubt. We’re selling salvation into heaven rather than entry into an alternative society shaped by a cross. This is part of Wright’s argument based on the the New Heavens and New Earth, although it’s much bigger and touches scripture at far more places. In fact, I’d argue that presenting the case via NHNE, while legit, overly understates the importance and significance of the distinction. We get lost in the weeds.

  10. Larry Cheek says:

    I have not read much of Wright’s teaching on NHNE. Jay has presented some of his concepts in discussions here. What I have discerned from those communications is that no one knows what the present Heaven is like but it is for certain that The Heaven that is talked about in the scriptures is not The Earth. These are two totally different objects. The Heaven exists without a area which we can define. We can only imagine it through faith in the communication about it by God and his servants. Earth is the only thing we have experienced and we really believe it to be as God described it “very Good”. Therefore, When God says he is going to create a New Heaven and a New Earth Mr. Wright is assuming that he is also intending to join both together. Must be because of a message from God that he would like things to be done upon earth as it is in Heaven.
    Jesus made this statement.
    Mat 6:10 ESV Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
    But, I have never found a statement from God or Jesus which declares that The Heaven and The Earth will be joined together in to one object. Notice these scriptures and look for any others which do not state that The New Heaven and The New Earth are two objects. Joining them together as one object is not a message in scripture.
    Isa 65:17 ESV “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.
    Isa 66:22 ESV “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain.
    2Pe 3:13 ESV But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
    Rev 21:1 ESV Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
    If the scriptures are not stating that they will be joined as one, who is? It must be men who cannot visualize what a New Heaven would look like. These men only have a visualization of Earth (and it is very good) God stated that, and we believe that. Therefore, let us have a New Heaven and a New Earth joined together which is just like the present Earth then we will have a concept of what it will be like.
    Well that appears to me to be totally backwards of my concept from the scriptures of God’s present Heaven. I believe that it is so superior to the present Earth, that no human could understand or experience it. Only Spirits are allowed there. Following that line of thinking, and knowing that flesh and blood cannot enter there, through our transformed bodies we will be allowed entry into this New Heaven. So what about this New Earth, it is a different object than The New Heaven for certain, but explain where God says we as his redeemed will spend eternity, in Heaven or on Earth?
    .

  11. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry,

    I understand your arguments but you are not being fair to Wright.

    Note —

    1. If the afterlife consists of the new heavens and new earth, then some account must be given for what to do with the new earth. The traditional view only allows for the old heaven – our souls go to heaven when we die and enjoy eternal disembodied bliss. There is no need for an earth, old or new, at all — and no obvious reason for a new heavens.

    2. “New heavens and new earth” in Isaiah and the Revelation clearly are intended to parallel the “heavens and earth” made in Gen 1:1. Again, there’s both in existence — not just the heavens. The parallel makes no sense if there is no post-resurrection earth.

    3. Rom 8 clearly assumes that the present creation — both heavens and earth — will continue beyond the return of Jesus. They will be redeemed and freed.

    So the traditional view doesn’t hold up well at all on close observation. Therefore, the traditional view cannot be supported merely by questioning the merger of heaven and earth.

    Now, turn to Rev 21 —

    (Rev. 21:1-4 ESV) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

    I’ve parsed this verse by verse in the recent series on Revelation, but notice the big picture — the “New Jerusalem” comes “down out of heaven from God”. The resurrected people aren’t described as going up to heaven. Rather, the buildings and residences and palace and temple of the New Jerusalem come DOWN OUT OF HEAVEN FROM GOD and descend to the earth. Then “God himself will be with [his people]” who are on earth receiving the New Jerusalem. And so God will be on earth — where we have the resurrected people and the New Jerusalem — which only makes sense as they’ll need a place to live and worship.

    The references to God dwelling with man echo Exodus in many ways, as well the Spirit’s dwelling in Christians. It’s always God being present on earth with man — the passages alluded to are never about man joining God in heaven.

    Next —

    (Rev. 22:1-5 ESV) Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

    The physics of the NHNE are redone so that God himself replaces the sun. The river of life, throne of God, etc. are descriptions taken from Ezekiel’s prophecy regarding Jerusalem. So this is the New Jerusalem, now situated on the earth so that a river can flow from Jerusalem (to the Dead Sea, according to Ezekiel).

    God’s throne will be in “the city” — rather than heaven.

    So what is presently in heaven — Paradise, the New Jerusalem, the throne of God, God himself, Jesus himself — will descend to earth and dwell with man, and the saved will dwell in the New Jerusalem with God forever.

    There is, of course, no longer a need for a “heaven” separate from the earth, since “heaven” is generally the dwelling place of God. Since God is now on earth, heaven has come to earth — as God’s throne room is the very definition of heaven. If there remains a “heaven” up there somewhere, what is there? Not the sun and moon. God replaces the sun and moon (21:23). Not God. God’s on earth. Not the temple described in Hebrews. The heavenly temple is part of the New Jerusalem — on earth after the Second Coming.

    The replacement of the sun and moon by God doesn’t make a lot of sense unless part of the poetic description is making the point that the heavens, created as light sources in Gen 1, will no longer be needed. Just so, the absence of the “sea” likely refers to the primordial waters of Gen 1:1-2, and these were separated into waters above and waters below — but with the heavens and earth merged, the sea is gone, meaning that the only water source will be from God’s throne — a river of life. And this makes sense if the heavens and earth are merged. In a merged universe, the heavens can no longer serve their old roles — rain, sun, and moon — and so these roles are taken over by God himself and his throne.

    Of course, “heaven” refers not only to the sun, moon, and firmament but also to the dwelling place of God. And this all collapses into the NHNE where God lives with man and his throne is among mankind. I’ll admit to a degree of poetic speculation, but I think the NHNE explanation for these images makes far more sense than just ignoring the text and imagining a spirit-world beyond the sky. That is, we may not know exactly how to interpret every single image, but they clearly point us toward a single understanding — that the dwelling place of God (heaven) will be with man (earth). The will come together in some way.

    So “merger” describes it as well as it can be described in one word. Simply Christian has a great chapter laying the arguments out in more detail. Add that to the arguments made in Surprised by Hope, and Wright seems right to me. At the least, the argument for the traditional view is demolished.

  12. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry,

    PS — Bobby Valentine has recently posted extensively on the meaning of “flesh and blood cannot inherit” in 1 Cor 15. It does not mean that only spirits can dwell in the NHNE. But he’s the expert on that verse. http://stonedcampbelldisciple.com/2016/05/21/what-cannot-inherit-the-kingdom-of-god-1-cor-15-50-51-flesh-blood-the-living-the-dead/

  13. Monty says:

    Jay,

    I’m really buying into this concept of heaven coming down and incorporating the new earth and heaven and earth becoming one. The scriptures certainly talk much about “oneness”. With the NHNE you don’t have to just chalk up the passages in Revelation and in Hebrews 12 as to just being figurative apocalyptic language. My only hold up if there is one is John 14 where Jesus tells his disciples he’s going to “prepare a place for them’ that where he is they can be there too. That raises questions like: Is he done? Has it taken him 2,000 years? Is he still “preparing a place?” Does heaven need to be improved upon or changed in some way for us? It would seem that much, if not most, of the NHNE scenario takes place in the future and “preparing” the earth after or simultaneously with the resurrection. Jesus said, “I go to” – sounds like the place he is going “to” is the place he’s preparing instead of returning “to” prepare a place(NE)? Do you see Jesus still waiting to prepare a place? Thanks.

  14. Dwight says:

    Revelations, arguably condenses a lot of concepts into one picture that is hard for Westerners to come to grips with. Many of the concepts though have happened. Didn’t Jesus come down and merge us into heaven, yes, thus the NHNE concept could have already been met in this.

    (Rev. 22:1-5 ESV) Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
    may not be expressing anything other than Jesus Himself, as He is the “living water” and “the light” that shines through the darkness that came through Israel and presents the “tree of life” that “healed the nations”. As the Kingdom was established during the time of Christ, we assume the Kingdom reigns forever as well as those in the Kingdom.

    Rom.8 the creation is directly tied to the “children of God” and not the earth, as we are God’s creation as well. “even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” What is the redemption of our bodies? I would argue that this is our hope which comes from living in our bodies “in the flesh” and not necessarily that our bodies will be resurrected as is to be the same. Even bottles that are redeemed are taken and converted into other forms that do not resemble or may resemble the bottles, but are not the bottles that they began life as.

  15. Bob says:

    Jay,
    You wrote

    “These are not people affected by the Post-modern spirit, moral relativism, or consumerism. Rather, these are members who for many years oversaw major church programs, served on boards as elders and deacons, or even served as full-time ministers. These are people who once were part of the 20% of every church that give generously, serve faithfully, and make things happen.”

    It seems to me that these people are the ones responsible (or partially responsible) for the environment in the local church. Yet it is that environment that they claim drove them from the church. Am I wrong in my analysis?

  16. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Bob wrote,

    It seems to me that these people are the ones responsible (or partially responsible) for the environment in the local church. Yet it is that environment that they claim drove them from the church. Am I wrong in my analysis?

    Right but over-simplified.

    In most cases, in the Church of Christ context (although this is a problem much bigger than the CoC), the Dones have been in the church long enough that they began as legalists and probably helped teach that same legalism — until by one means or another they saw through the legalism and found grace. At that point, they sought to spread the Good News and change the church from within — and many have tried and failed — and they left or maybe were asked to leave. Most did not leave the visible church but rather transferred to another denomination. And sometimes they found judgmentalism and legalism (or other problems we’ve not yet covered) in their new church home. After all, we in the CoC have no patent on these things. And then they gave up on the institutional church, either forming a house church, finding a neighborhood Bible study group, joining someone’s small group but not their church, or just staying home.

  17. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Monty,

    Kudos on picking up on the importance of Heb 12 — a passage I find fascinating and almost entirely ignored.

    I just taught on John 14 (the recordings were posted — but I don’t listen to mp3s either. Too slow.)

    (Jn. 14:1-3 ESV) “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

    I have my theories. But it’s late on Friday. Let’s turn to the commentaries —

    He is going away, and the disciples are naturally anxious about where he’s going and whether they will be able to follow him. So he speaks of ‘his father’s house’. The only other time he’s used the expression it referred to the Temple (2:16). The point about the Temple, within the life of the people of Israel, was that it was the place where heaven and earth met. Now Jesus hints at a new city, a new world, a new ‘house’. Heaven and earth will meet again when God renews the whole world. At that time there will be room for everyone.
    This promise is made as a way of assuring the disciples that, though he’s going away, it will be for their benefit; he won’t forget them, he won’t abandon them. But it reaches out, beyond the disciples on that dark spring evening, and embraces all of us. These words are often used at funerals, and we can understand why. We can’t see the way ahead, and we need to know not only that there is indeed a way into the unknown future, but that we will be able to find it.

    Tom Wright, John for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 11-21, (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 58–59.

    Another take I heard from Ray Vander Laan. In the First Century Jewish world, when a couple was betrothed, the groom would build a room onto his father’s house for the couple to live in. They would share a kitchen and other spaces, but they needed their own room. Once the room was finished, he’d gather his friends and they’d go across town to the bride’s house to marry and then move into the new room.

    The NT frequently refers to Jesus as the groom and the church as the bride — and Jesus often used a wedding as the basis for a parable. So that may be behind Jesus’ words. “Take you unto myself” sure sounds like a wedding to me.

    Personally, I think that Jesus also had the New Jerusalem in mind — which kind of heaven itself but heaven prepared for habitation by transformed humans once heaven and earth come together. Many see the New Jerusalem as the church, because Rev 21 describes it as a bride — but that puts the dead in Christ in the wrong place (they were just resurrected from their graves) and contradicts the vision of heaven we see in Hebrews — where the true Temple is in heaven — in the New Jerusalem — which is an idealized, perfected place to worship and live with God — Jerusalem as promised by the prophets (lots of passages).

    Regarding “preparation” —

    I am going there to prepare a place for you: the words presuppose that the ‘place’ exists before Jesus gets there. It is not that he arrives on the scene and then begins to prepare the place; rather, in the context of Johannine theology, it is the going itself, via the cross and resurrection, that prepares the place for Jesus’ disciples. And if he takes such trouble, all to prepare a place for his own, it is inconceivable that the rest should not follow: I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

    D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 489.

    or, it might be argued, the preparation is the merger of heaven with earth — so all the elements for eternal bliss would be in one place.

    Or Jesus could have been laying out doilies and fluffy pillows. But I would think the point is he’s leaving so that the afterlife can happen — and so it’s a big deal, and the bigness of the Resurrection and Ascension will demonstrate how important saving us is to God — and hence assure us that God will keep his promises.

  18. Bob says:

    Jay,
    I have been preaching for 38 years in churches of Christ. Schooled initially at Sunset School of Preaching, finished my Bachelors at Rochester College, and have a Masters from Harding School of Theology. I have been preaching grace since I started (1977) and have not experienced any problems. I spent one year as a youth minister in California. I was pulpit minister for 17 years in Northern New Jersey. Congregation was constantly changing. Mostly southerns transferring in and then out again. Never had any question my understanding of grace. Spent 10 years in southern New Jersey at a fairly stable congregation, slightly right of center. No problem teaching grace there. Now, 10 years in Central Florida and again no problems. In fact it’s been my experience over the years that the people I serve want to hear lessons on grace.

    Not trying to doubt your analysis since I haven’t spent any time in the Bible Belt or other parts of our fellowship. I have not found that situation to be true in my experiences and congregations. Is this the conclusion of the authors of Church Refugees? I know this is the introduction and will probably learn more about their views. I look forward to hearing more.

  19. Bob says:

    Monty and Jay,
    Another take on John 14. When I was at Sunset School of Preaching, Jim McGuiggan and Richard Rogers had an unusual understanding of the passage. They both taught that Jesus is telling the disciples that He was going to the cross and thus death, where they could not follow Him. He would rise again and come back to receive them into His Father’s house (the church, the household of God). Don’t know if Jim still teaches this. Richard has passed away so I don’t know if over the years he changed his mind. I’ve revamped my understanding somewhat. I think Jim and Richard are essentially correct that Jesus is talking about the cross and resurrection but I think this is the inauguration of the “yet, not yet” era that we are currently in. I believe firmly that Jesus will come back again and that we will all rise from the dead and be changed (1Cor.15:35-58). That is our hope. There will then be a new heavens and a new earth. However, when we are in Christ we are a new creation and the old is past (2Cor.5:17). We live by faith and not by sight (2Cor.5:7). I believe the age to come was started at the resurrection and will be fully realized when Jesus returns.

  20. Bob says:

    Jay,
    Didn’t read your quote from Carson before submitting my take on John 14. Sounds like I need to read Carson’s commentary. I think he might be in league with Richard and Jim.

  21. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    I did follow your suggestion to read this post.
    Jay Guin says:
    September 1, 2016 at 1:45 am
    Larry,
    PS — Bobby Valentine has recently posted extensively on the meaning of “flesh and blood cannot inherit” in 1 Cor 15. It does not mean that only spirits can dwell in the NHNE. But he’s the expert on that verse.http://stonedcampbelldisciple.com/2016/05/21/what-cannot-inherit-the-kingdom-of-god-1-cor-15-50-51-flesh-blood-the-living-the-dead/

    You have represented him to be the, “expert on that verse” and I will admit that he has covered that verse with much documentation. You have also inserted the NHNE as the dwelling place, I will be supplying along with is group of posts documentation which challenges that concept. But, I will also state that he has not portrayed the concept as to the reality of the message delivered through the inspired writers. I see that he testifies that many others follow or endorse the same rendering of this verse, but I am expressing that they are not the authority either upon this concept, this verse in its own context can be proofed as they express, but the rendering they are applying is not in synchronization with the context of the message. This message about the encounter of men with the risen Jesus contains very powerful information concerning the recognizing of Jesus as the same individual who was crucified. Not one word of this text is conveying a message that we will be in the same form as he was while on earth when we are raised from the dead. There will be no problem with us being transformed as we are raised from the dead, because it will not be necessary for physical humans to believe that we are raised from the dead. It is vitally important that we look at the complete picture that is being displayed rather than separating it into portions of the message to understand the message to be comprehended. Let us look at this text again.

    1Co 15:44-54 ESV It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. (45) Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (46) But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. (47) The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. (48) As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. (49) Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (50) I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (51) Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, (52) in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (53) For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. (54) When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
    Paul is stating emphatically that there are two kinds of bodies. One is natural it is from the dust of the earth and has the image of the man Adam. The other is spiritual; the spiritual is the second body replacing the first. The first was sown (when something is sown, there is an expectation that what is produced will be different than the sown object) seeds do not sprout seeds, seeds produce a plant which has the ability to produce another seed. No human expects to sow a seed and see a seed just like the seed which was planted to be growing out of the ground. Verse 49 states that we have been in the image of Adam but we will be in the image of the Jesus of heaven. Is it so hard to remember that Adam was flesh and blood prior to the fall? The fall did not change the image of Adam; it only changed the relationship between man and God. All the communications in this verse about the image of man are referring to him being made out of the dust, the dust was not what became fallen it was the image the dust was formed into which fell. The product man was what fell. Man was not made into the image of flesh and blood; flesh and blood is only a part of man. What about the bones they are identified as also being a part of man, not only flesh nor blood? The image of man could not be complete unless it is identified as flesh, blood and bones. Yes, there is a communication in scriptures which is identifying that man has desires of the flesh which are not in obedience of God’s directives and these deviations are the object being named fleshly, but nothing that man can do will change the image that God designed into man’s physical body when he was created.
    The question on our minds then is what is the image of Jesus of Heaven? Whatever your belief the body is that we are now in, it is like the body of Adam. Does that mean only, that it is perishable? Is there anyone reading who would believe that they are not (flesh and blood) like Adam? Can we separate the flesh from the blood and still be like Adam? Both of these objects are contained in Adam. Noticing again verse 50, the term “flesh and blood” is not a reference to the fallen man; remember those Christians who are living when Christ comes will also be changed. If the living were to be changed to match the description with which Jesus describes himself, our blood would have to be removed, because he did not have any blood, that was what he had shed. Peter also has a message about “all flesh” are we to understand that to mean that the flesh of Christians is not perishable. When we are born again we are not perishable.
    Are we not assured that we have eternal life?
    Joh 3:36 ESV Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
    Joh 5:24 ESV Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
    Joh 6:40 ESV For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
    Joh 6:47 ESV Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

    Joh 6:54 ESV Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
    Joh 10:28 ESV I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
    Joh 17:2 ESV since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.
    Joh 17:3 ESV And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
    Act 13:48 ESV And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
    Rom 6:22 ESV But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
    Rom 6:23 ESV For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
    There are so many verses which assures the Christians of present eternal life, I will allow you to search out others if you need. We will not have to be changed to have eternal life we who are living or dead will have to be changed into a body which will be like Christ is when he returns. Not the one he had while here. How am I assured that, Jesus had flesh while on earth and even after he was raised from the dead, because the Eleven and disciples inspected it. Peter explains flesh in this passage. The flesh he speaks of here includes Christ followers.
    1Pe 1:22-25 ESV Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, (23) since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; (24) for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, (25) but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

    Further proof why Jesus had to present himself in the form of a fleshly body. Notice the context of this message. I’ll discuss it at the bottom.
    Luk 24:15-32 ESV While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. (16) But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. (17) And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. (18) Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (19) And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, (20) and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. (21) But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. (22) Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, (23) and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. (24) Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” (25) And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! (26) Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (27) And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (28) So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, (29) but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. (30) When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. (31) And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. (32) They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

    Jesus used these Two men to help us identify that the messages of the their brothers and sisters about seeing visions from Angels telling that he was alive was not convincing that he was risen from the grave. He then entered the conservation stating, “And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” Then he spoke, (27) And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
    After this they still did not believe, only after he opened their understanding, did they begin to understand, then he vanished. Men did not believe the messages of the Prophets or the eye witnesses. Now interject his presence with the Eleven and other disciples.
    Luk 24:34-37 ESV saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” (35) Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (36) As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” (37) But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.

    Well they all believed immediately. No. Notice what even the Eleven thought, “they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit”. The Eleven who had been with him throughout all their training still did not believe. They thought he was a Spirit, do you suppose they had ever seen one? Notice, it does not say that he did anything to keep them from recognizing him! They did not believe the testimonies.
    He began to speak to them, then they believed? No. Not until he opened their minds in verse 45.

    Luk 24:38-51 ESV And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? (39) See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (40) And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. (41) And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” (42) They gave him a piece of broiled fish, (43) and he took it and ate before them. (44) Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (45) Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, (46) and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, (47) and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (48) You are witnesses of these things. (49) And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

    If Jesus had really appeared as he was in Heaven prior to coming to earth, they would never have believed. They would not have become eye witnesses to his resurrection.
    Now, for one more important message to us, which most have overlooked.
    1Jn 3:2 ESV Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
    He will not be like us unless, The inspired Word is wrong!

  22. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    I have been and am continuing to listen to the picture that you and others are displaying about the NHNE, but I have more problems with your theories than with what you have called the traditional. I really do not consider myself as capable to portray this concept as convincingly as I understand it, but I guess with your nudging me in that direction I will try.
    One of the foremost concepts that we must keep in mind while reading Revelation is, that it is not a chronological message. Each chapter is not a continuation of the previous chapter to painting the picture that we are to visualize. Even within any given chapter the subject can change several times. In other words Chapter 21 is not a continuing build from Chapter 20. After reading Chapter 20 and starting to read 21, the first words we encounter is “Then I saw” which creates an illusion that the message following is continuing the story from Chapter 20. Is it really? Well we must read into Chapter 21 to verify if it is a continuing story.
    With this understanding in mind, let us look at the message again with our present knowledge of The Kingdom.
    Beginning with, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more”.
    I would suggest this understanding of the vision. NHNE is the relationship between The Universe, The Old Covenant and The New Covenant. The first heaven and the first earth had passed away. I know that many have a problem with this following concept, but I have not seen a very convincing comment about an alternate meaning.
    Heb 8:13 ESV In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
    This with many other supporting scriptures releases us from the bondage and rituals of the first covenant. I see that even though many of the basic concepts are totally reproduced in the new covenant, the authority for those concepts is totally embedded in the new covenant. To refer to the old as if it is (the grandfather) of the message and therefore an authority (unless we are instructed in the new to do that to a specific practice) is to misuse the scriptures. So, to what is this “the sea was no more” referencing? I have in the past referred to this to verify that there was no sea or water in the new heaven. But, I now do not believe this has any reference to water. The “Sea” referenced here could be representative of the Gentiles. Gentiles were not the chosen people of God they were not allowed to come into the Kingdom, except through special commitments. Remember, the message to the Apostles, fishers of men. How was that applicable to the body of God’s people (Israelites)? The terminology of any Israelite being in the “sea” is not expressed. So to illustrate this concept more correctly, “there was no more sea”, no more Gentiles, no humans who are not acceptable to inter the new covenant because of nationality.

    Now as we begin to read verse 2, we will notice the direction of movements of the bride.
    Rev 21:2 ESV And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

    The New Jerusalem is Christ’s Bride! The New Jerusalem is prepared as a bride. What? Isn’t the Bride the church? What was it doing in heaven? How did it get there? If it was there, was it not already dwelling with God? Evidently it was not. At least the Bride was not at that time considered the wife of the husband, Christ. So if the church or kingdom which belongs to Christ was in heaven as the New Jerusalem, did it ascend there in the second resurrection? If it did then were the new bodies compatible to both the heavens and the earth. Should we then believe that God did not dwell with this church or kingdom prior to the resurrection or during the time they were in heaven? Can we connect that concept with the next message?
    Rev 21:3 ESV And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
    Or should we not believe the messages about Christ and God dwelling in us today. Should we believe he will only dwell with man after man has obeyed God then has risen from the dead, gone to heaven to become a part of the city called the New Jerusalem and returned to the earth? Until then he has not been our God?
    Eph 3:14-19 ESV For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, (15) from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, (16) that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, (17) so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, (19) and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
    Jas 4:5 ESV Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?

    Jay in your quote below, notice you are changing the makeup of the New Jerusalem into (buildings, residences, a palace and a temple). You have God building a structure for us to live in and to worship him in, he has never done that throughout history, but men have built those things with God’s instructions.
    “I’ve parsed this verse by verse in the recent series on Revelation, but notice the big picture — the “New Jerusalem” comes “down out of heaven from God”. The resurrected people aren’t described as going up to heaven. Rather, the buildings and residences and palace and temple of the New Jerusalem come DOWN OUT OF HEAVEN FROM GOD and descend to the earth. Then “God himself will be with [his people]” who are on earth receiving the New Jerusalem. And so God will be on earth — where we have the resurrected people and the New Jerusalem — which only makes sense as they’ll need a place to live and worship.”
    Is God contained within the Temple which has come down? Since “The New Jerusalem” is being delivered “out of heaven” and “from God” leads me to believe that the text is not identifying that God is contained in the “New Jerusalem” and that God and Heaven is being moved from its present location to be incorporated into the earth.
    As I attempt to make an application of the theory that you are expressing God cannot be with us today. This seems to be out of synchronization with these scriptures.
    1Co 3:16 ESV Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
    1Co 6:19 ESV Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,

    In this block of text Paul explains in verse 16 that God is dwelling with and walking with us right now, while we are the Temple of the living God.
    2Co 6:14-18 ESV Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (15) What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? (16) What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (17) Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, (18) and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

    1Jn 3:2 ESV Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

    You have mentioned that the New Jerusalem would contain a Temple, but notice this message. John said.
    Rev 21:22 ESV And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.
    Why is there no Temple in this New Jerusalem? Probably because The Temple of the Lord is constantly within us; we can and should worship continually.

    That leads us to the resurrected bodies. The resurrected bodies will be changed from the previous mortal body into a body which is like Christ’s body when he returns. If we are like Christ, would we be bound by physical elements? I mean doors, walls, etc. Could we walk on water? Would we not have all knowledge and be able to be omnipresent? There is no text in scriptures which explains that we will be in the form that we are now. Now if we will be like him and he is like God, why would we need clothes, man was created without clothes. Why would we need houses, there will be no storms, no adverse weather conditions, no hot summer or cold winter, time and seasons will not exist. We would have no need to have a roof to shield us from the rays of the Sun; in fact we won’t even be able to hide from the light if we wanted to, then if we were to have that concept we probably would not be there. You have mentioned that we’ll, “need a place to live and a place to worship”, but that is one of the main differences between the OC and NC. The Jews of The OC were commanded to have a temple and to assemble there for worship. We have no such commandment, which is in complete unison with this context.
    Joh 4:21-24 ESV Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. (22) You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. (23) But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. (24) God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

    Even in the description of the New Jerusalem we find no Temple.
    Rev 21:22-27 ESV And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. (23) And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (24) By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, (25) and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. (26) They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. (27) But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

    This next portion of the visions of John is very interesting. Notice, that the scene appears to be before the Throne of God. We have been taught that this is a picture after the resurrection in heaven. But, notice more carefully as the text places a time into the picture which would not be possible after the resurrection. This is found in verse 14, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”. The narrator states that these are coming out (present action) at the time he is speaking. He also testifies that it is during the great tribulation (which testifies that the tribulation is in progress as he speaks). Then he specifies an action which they performed which has placed them there. Do you find any evidence that they died and were resurrected prior to their presence there? If we would suggest such a thing then we would be modifying the narrator’s message. The narrator stated specifically the action was present action, and occurring as they are washing their robes in the blood of the Lamb (baptism also contains the same message). Can you be washed in blood through faith?
    As we read into verse 16 can we explain how we expect to have hunger, thirst, sun shining upon us, or scorching heat as part of our environment in heaven. Oh and verse 17 will Jesus still need to be our shepherd and guide us to living water after we have been given eternal life and entered into this Heaven? Is eternal life not eternal without living water? How would Jesus need to wipe tears from our eyes after we are in heaven? What would bring tears to our eyes? Happiness?
    Rev 7:13-17 ESV Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” (14) I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (15) “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. (16) They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. (17) For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

    Therefore, this must be a picture which is doing exactly what was needed by the early Christians, giving them hope, trust and assurance that the battle has been won and Christ is victorious. Satan cannot overcome them even when they are isolated from an association of believers on earth.
    This is a picture of our life here on earth now. He has provided a place of safety from all the horrors of this world even while we are still living here. Nothing of this world can harm our connection between God and each of his children if we endure until the end. Our treasure is being built in Heaven and we can be with our treasure in Spirit.

  23. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    You have referred to these OT messages regularly in support of a NHNE and the joining of heaven and earth, upon earth. When I went and looked at these references I wondered why you have not seen what I see. Read both of them again and I’ll explain my understanding below them.

    Isa 65:17-20 ESV “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. (18) But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. (19) I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. (20) No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.

    Isa 66:18-24 ESV “For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, (19) and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. (20) And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the LORD, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the LORD, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. (21) And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the LORD. (22) “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain. (23) From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD. (24) “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

    In Chapter 65 he speaks of, creating a “new heavens and a new earth”. Then he speaks of creating “Jerusalem”. This Jerusalem appears to contain people who are glad and joyous. This appears very much like it could be the place we would recognize as God’s reward for his people. Then we notice something within that place that we would not expect to be in heaven or you would not expect to be the NHNE. Within verse 20 we find, “for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed”. There is death in this “Jerusalem”. There are sinners and they will be accursed.

    Notice chapter 66:22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain.” Verse (23) then states, “From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD.”
    Isaiah is stating that The Lord says, all flesh will come to worship me. Remember about the changing of our bodies which will take place as we are resurrected and even whoever is still alive when he comes. I must expose a concept here that has been created by men to alter the meaning of the word “flesh” whenever they desire to fit their definitions of a theory. You should understand where I am going here, “flesh” as referring to the worldly other than those who have chosen God as their savior. Well in this context that concept will not fit. All “flesh” in this concept is not those who are not Godly, it is the physical part of man and the obedient to God. This is the part of man which dies and is destroyed by the elements. It is only called flesh when there is life in the flesh; dead flesh is never identified as flesh.
    These things will not be in the heaven which is being prepared for the Saints, therefore this new heaven and new earth of this context cannot be a NHNE as has been described by our previous discussions. I am sorry if that is in opposition to what N. T. Wright is teaching he has established himself as an authority, because of his teachings. But, he cannot rewrite these scriptures to interject his beliefs.

    You are still not convinced? Look at the Romans 8 chapter that you refer to as a proof text of the NHNE in your statement.
    “Rom 8 clearly assumes that the present creation — both heavens and earth — will continue beyond the return of Jesus. They will be redeemed and freed.”

    You have documented that you believe that creation (from Gen 1) is under bondage to corruption. You are telling us that you see, the following scriptures supporting that concept.
    Rom 8 (20) For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope (21) that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

    If you are suggesting that God placed a curse upon the Gen 1 creation you would be correct from this scripture.
    Gen 3:14-19 ESV The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. (15) I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (16) To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (17) And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; (18) thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. (19) By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
    But, it would be very important to look at a few more scriptures from an event just a few generations later.
    The Prophesy.
    Gen 5:29 ESV and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”
    The event.
    (Gen 8:21 ESV) And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.

    The “bondage to corruption” and the “subjected to futility” referred to in Romans 8 cannot be a relief to the ground or to living creatures of any kind except mankind because of God’s promise in Gen 8:21. Mankind is the only part of creation still under bondage.

    So what is the object that is being relieved from “bondage to corruption” and “subjected to futility”? To identify what Paul is speaking of we must listen carefully to Paul’s communications and use of the word which he has used to describe what we have assumed to be the “creation” from Gen 1. Let’s look at all his usages of this word.
    Rom 8:19-25 ESV For the [creation] waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. (20) For the [creation] was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope (21) that the [creation] itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (22) For we know that the whole [creation] has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (23) And not only the [creation], but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (24) For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? (25) But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
    To help us see how Paul used the word [creation] we need to see how he used it in his other messages.
    (Rom 1:20 ESV) For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the [creation] of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
    (Rom 8:39 ESV) nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all [creation], will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
    (2Co 5:17 ESV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new [creation]. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
    (Gal 6:15 ESV) For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new [creation].
    (Col 1:15 ESV) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all [creation].
    (Col 1:23 ESV) if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all [creation] under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
    (Heb 9:11 ESV) But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this [creation])

    In 2Co 5:17, Gal 6:15, Col 1:15, Col 1:23 creation is used in a way that is isolating it from the creation of Gen 1 to a present creation involving only humans.

    In Rom 8:19 it refers to the whole of mankind.
    To help us understand his use in Rom 8:20 we need to look at the word “furtility” this word has never been used in relationship to the creation of Gen 1. But Paul used it in Eph as a condition of human minds.
    Eph 4:17-19 ESV Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. (18) They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. (19) They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

    In Rom 8:21 creation is used in relation of something which is subject to bondage, notice the event above. It cannot be anything in this world except bondage of humans to the sin.
    In Rom 8:22 creation is limited to the portion of creation which produces children.
    In Rom 8:23 creation is all humans including we that are the first fruits of The Spirit and eagerly wait for the adoption of sons and the redemption of our bodies. Nothing in this verse is representative of any part of the Gen 1 creation except mankind.

  24. Dwight says:

    I am befuddled by this NHNE theology because it has us coming here or never really leaving, after all our Spirits are from the Father and then basically staying here, our Spirits are not going back to the Father.
    This is what John argues in John 16:28 “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.”
    Now this wouldn’t work if the Father is actually coming to John and John isn’t going anywhere.
    It appears as though there is a theology being built around a concept that is limited in its references in the scriptures.
    While we will be resurrected, we are not told in what form, other than “like the angels”, which are presumably like God in spiritual form. The whole point of the scriptures are for us to be more spiritual (walk in the Spirit), not more fleshly or earthly. This is as backwards as going back to the Law.
    In I Cor.15 “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.” so Jesus is going to deliver the Kingdom to God, but not if God gets here first????
    Since we are already in the Kingdom and will be resurrected here, then it will be just a matter of God coming down to us…no heaven to go to…no delivery needed.
    If we are going to be flesh again, then what in the world are we transformed to in the twinkling of an eye. Jesus was transfigured so that he could be with God, will we not also be?

    Larry, as you have expressed, the traditional concept still hold more water than the new NHNE concept.

  25. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Dwight wrote,

    I am befuddled by this NHNE theology because it has us coming here or never really leaving, after all our Spirits are from the Father and then basically staying here, our Spirits are not going back to the Father.

    Dwight, you seem to confuse the human spirit (life) with the Holy Spirit (a person). The Bible never teaches that our spirits come from God. Plato taught that souls pre-exist birth and are given by the gods to babies. But the Bible says nothing of a pre-existing soul or spirit.

    The closest reference to any such thing is that God breathes the breath (spirit) of life into Adam — but this is not about eternal spirits but the fact that God gave Adam life — not an eternal thing at all unless God gives immortality to someone (1 Cor 15 and several other passages speak of immortality as a gift from God given to the saved — not all. The mortal must put on immortality. It’s a change from mortal to immortal.)

    This is what John argues in John 16:28 “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.”
    Now this wouldn’t work if the Father is actually coming to John and John isn’t going anywhere.

    JESUS says that he came from the Father, and he is unique in this respect. And Jesus quite literally returned to heaven to be with the Father at the Ascension. This is not about the ordinary Christian. Just the Christ.

    It appears as though there is a theology being built around a concept that is limited in its references in the scriptures.
    While we will be resurrected, we are not told in what form, other than “like the angels”, which are presumably like God in spiritual form. The whole point of the scriptures are for us to be more spiritual (walk in the Spirit), not more fleshly or earthly. This is as backwards as going back to the Law.

    Simply not true. We are told that we will be like the resurrected Jesus in very plain language.

    (Phil. 3:20-21 ESV) 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

    (1 Jn. 3:2 ESV) 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

    The reference to “like the angels” is from where?

    (Matt. 22:30 NIV) 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.

    Jesus isn’t saying that we’ll be like the angels in every respect, but like them in that they do not marry. And we don’t really know what kinds of bodies the angels have. We should base on thinking on what’s revealed, and it’s revealed that we’ll have bodies like the “glorious body” of Jesus. And we know a little about the post-resurrection body of Jesus from the Gospels. Not a lot, but enough to tell us that he was no disembodied spirit and yet neither was he subject to the limitations that bind us. He could walk through locked doors, for example.

    In I Cor.15 “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.” so Jesus is going to deliver the Kingdom to God, but not if God gets here first????
    Since we are already in the Kingdom and will be resurrected here, then it will be just a matter of God coming down to us…no heaven to go to…no delivery needed.

    “Deliver” doesn’t mean relocate. Rather, the idea behind 1 Cor 15:24 is that Jesus will cede ultimate authority over the Kingdom to God — God will be enthroned in the Kingdom. There’s no need to ship the Kingdom to a distant heaven. Indeed, if Jesus gives ultimate authority over to God for the Kingdom, the natural thing is for God to descend from heaven and claim the throne where the Kingdom is — on earth. Even better would be if he brought heaven with him and brought heaven and earth together so that the realm of God and the realm of the saved will be the same.

    The same word appears in —

    (1 Cor. 5:5 ESV) you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

    “Deliver” doesn’t mean the person is being literally shipped to hell. It means he’s been removed from the realm of the church and given over to world, which is ruled by Satan. No physical relocation required. It is not about geography.

    If we are going to be flesh again, then what in the world are we transformed to in the twinkling of an eye. Jesus was transfigured so that he could be with God, will we not also be?

    The word is “body” not “flesh.” And we’re being transformed into a body like Jesus’ post-resurrection body. In the case of the transfiguration, the true nature of Jesus is revealed. For us, it’s kind of some of both. We’ll be transformed into this new nature (1 Cor 15) but we already have some of the new nature because of the work of the Holy Spirit in us —

    (Rom. 8:19-21 ESV) 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

    We will be “revealed” and “set free” so the creation itself will obtain the glory that we already have. (Dan 12:2; Phil 2:15).

    I question that “Jesus was transfigured so that he could be with God.” He had been with God before. He needed no transfiguration to be with God. Rather, the apostles were allowed to see him in his glorified state — something closer to his true nature. But he still had a body. He didn’t become disembodied spirit. He still looked like Jesus — but he was very different but not utterly different.

    (Matt. 17:2 ESV) 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.

    He still had a face. He still wore clothes — and so his body was tangible enough to wear clothes.

    Now, obviously, our new bodies will be very different from our old bodies. The laws of physics themselves must be rewritten or else entropy will make the NHNE finite. The point is not that we’ll be trapped in limited bodies as is true now. Our bodies will have a different kind of glory — no more like our present bodies than a tree is like the seed from which it grows or the sun is like the moon. There are different kinds of bodies and different kinds of glory. But the details are not yet revealed.

    But we will not float off to heaven as disembodied souls. Jesus didn’t. And text is plain that our bodies will be like his. So far everyone who argues to the contrary ignores the key texts referenced here and in my other posts and comments. Explain what Rom 8 and Phi 3 and 1 Cor 15 and 1 John 3 mean if I’m wrong.

  26. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry (part 1),

    You’ve written quite a lot and won’t be able to respond all at once. I mean, I have a bit of insomnia tonight, but not enough to completely reply. Be patient with me.

    Beginning with, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more”.
    I would suggest this understanding of the vision. NHNE is the relationship between The Universe, The Old Covenant and The New Covenant. The first heaven and the first earth had passed away. I know that many have a problem with this following concept, but I have not seen a very convincing comment about an alternate meaning.

    Jesus instituted the new covenant with the Passion week — the Lord’s Supper and his death, burial, and resurrection — decades before the Rev was written. For example,

    (Lk. 22:20 ESV) 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

    It would be extremely odd for John to end the Revelation with a reference back to a prior event.

    So, to what is this “the sea was no more” referencing? I have in the past referred to this to verify that there was no sea or water in the new heaven. But, I now do not believe this has any reference to water. The “Sea” referenced here could be representative of the Gentiles. Gentiles were not the chosen people of God they were not allowed to come into the Kingdom, except through special commitments. Remember, the message to the Apostles, fishers of men. How was that applicable to the body of God’s people (Israelites)? The terminology of any Israelite being in the “sea” is not expressed. So to illustrate this concept more correctly, “there was no more sea”, no more Gentiles, no humans who are not acceptable to inter the new covenant because of nationality.

    I am aware of no prior use of “sea” to refer to Gentiles or the damned in Jewish apocalyptic literature or Jewish literature in general. The context uses words like “heaven” and “earth” and “sea”, all of which call to mind Gen 1. The allusion is actually pretty clear. “Sea” therefore seems to refer to the primordial abyss of Gen 1:1-2–

    (Gen. 1:1-2 ESV) In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

    “The deep” and “the waters” are references to the primordial waters that preexisted God’s creative words, beginning with “Let there be light.”

    (Gen. 1:2 NET) Now the earth was without shape and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the watery deep, but the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the water.

    I’ve read dozens of commentaries on this passage, and none even mention a reference to the damned or to Gentiles.

    Some commentaries prefer to treat “sea” as a reference to the ocean, and there’s an argument for that. The Jews were not a seafaring people, and they considered the ocean fearsome: the abyss.

    Granted the difficulty of certainty, I see no argument in favor of “Gentiles” as the meaning of “sea” in that passage.

  27. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry (part 2),

    Now as we begin to read verse 2, we will notice the direction of movements of the bride.
    Rev 21:2 ESV And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

    The New Jerusalem is Christ’s Bride! The New Jerusalem is prepared as a bride. What? Isn’t the Bride the church? What was it doing in heaven? How did it get there? If it was there, was it not already dwelling with God? Evidently it was not. At least the Bride was not at that time considered the wife of the husband, Christ. So if the church or kingdom which belongs to Christ was in heaven as the New Jerusalem, did it ascend there in the second resurrection? If it did then were the new bodies compatible to both the heavens and the earth. Should we then believe that God did not dwell with this church or kingdom prior to the resurrection or during the time they were in heaven? Can we connect that concept with the next message?

    It is of course true that the church is sometimes referred to as the bride of Christ. But nothing says that the New Jerusalem is the bride of Christ — only that it’s adorned as a bride. You’ve assumed “of Christ.”

    Interestingly, the commentaries uniformly reject this interpretation, even though it’s a widely held view. Here’s why —

    1. There’s quite a bit in the NT and OT on the meaning of “New Jerusalem,” and it doesn’t mean “the church” or “the saved.” It’s a reference to a place — and idealized Jerusalem prepared by God for his people. (And there are similar references in the intertestamental Jewish literature). I could go on for pages, but one example should suffice —

    (Gal. 4:25-26 ESV) 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.

    Paul plainly anticipates a replacement of the “present Jerusalem” with the “Jerusalem above.”

    4:26 / The name and symbol of Jerusalem appear to have had a strategic position in the rhetoric of the rival evangelists and of Paul (see esp. 1:13–2:21). The troublemakers were no doubt claiming that the authority of the Jerusalem church stood behind their gospel. Paul is willing to concede that his opponents may have the present Jerusalem on their side, but he asserts that he too can claim the backing of Jerusalem—the Jerusalem that is above, that is free, that is our mother.
    Paul assures his readers that they already have all they need through faith in Christ when he supplements the metaphor of a son inheriting the father’s will with the image of the “Jerusalem above” as the mother of believers. The statement is a simple declarative one in which Paul states what he considers to be a fact: his converts have been born from the free woman, which is to say that they are the ones “born as the result of a promise” (4:23). It follows that the Galatians should stop seeking the promise through the present Jerusalem, which can offer only the inheritance of slavery (cf. 4:24–5).

    L. Ann Jervis, Galatians, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book, 2011), 124.

    The symbolism of the heavenly Jerusalem or mother city of God is contrasted to the earthly city. This contrast is also pictured in Hebrews (Heb 11:10, 16; 12:22, 13:11–14) and Revelation (Rev 3:12; 11:8; 21:2, 10–22:5). The idea of the heavenly Jerusalem may originally have grown out of a theory about a divine archetype in heaven being associated with the Tabernacle and Temple (Exod 25:40; 1 Chr 28:19; cf. Bruce 1982:221). Such ideas were given greater shape during the pessimistic times of the apocalyptic writers, when hope did not seem to lie within the world order (e.g., 1 Enoch 90:28–29; 2 Enoch 55:2; 2 Baruch 4:2–6; 4 Ezra 7:26; 10:7, 25–28; cf. also 1 QM 12:1–2). These thoughts of a divinely ordained mother city were probably suggested to writers by verses such as Psalm 87:3, 5 and Isaiah 54:1 (cited by Paul in the next verse).

    Roger Mohrlang, Gerald L. Borchert, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 14: Romans and Galatians, (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007), 311–312.

    In vs. 26 Paul makes this apocalyptic and eschatological situation quite clear. There is another Jerusalem to which Christians should be pledging allegiance, the Jerusalem above which is not only free but is ‘our mother’, i.e., that of the author and the audience. Paul is here drawing on early Jewish apocalyptic ideas which he has reshaped for his own ends. It is clear enough from a text like Phil. 3:20 that Paul can speak of this entity in several ways. It is instructive to compare 4 Ezr. 10:53ff. and 13:35ff. which speaks of the new Jerusalem appearing from heaven which is visible at present only to the apocalyptic seer (4 Ezr. 8:52; 10:25–27). Especially interesting is the fourth vision in 4 Ezra where the earthly Jerusalem is depicted as a barren woman (cf. below) who is given a son only through divine intervention. Less compelling but worth mention is 2 Bar. 4.2–7 which speaks of the heavenly Jerusalem as pre-existing and also as the eternal home of the saints. Notice that this does not cause the writer to give up on the present Jerusalem. Rather he believes it will be transformed in the age to come (2 Bar. 6.9; 32.4). Finally we may refer to the heavenly journey of Enoch as recorded in 2 En. 55.2 which speaks of him going up into the highest heaven, the highest Jerusalem.
    There is some evidence that Is. 54 was seen in early Judaism to refer to the heavenly Jerusalem (cf. B. Baba Bathra 75b; Ps. 87:3), a text which Paul will quote in vs. 27, but perhaps even more important is the evidence that there was a rather widespread tradition in early Christian circles about a heavenly and new Jerusalem (cf. Heb. 11:10, 14–16; 12:22; 13:14; Rev. 3:12; 21:2). Of importance for us is the difference between Paul’s handling of this whole tradition and the sort of handling we find in the material in early Judaism. “Whereas in 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra the heavenly Jerusalem guaranteed that in principle the earthly Jerusalem, whatever its present condition, would eventually fulfill its role in eschatological expectations, here in Galatians 4 there is no such hope for the present Jerusalem, for it is now classed as part of the old age and subject to the forces of that age, the law, sin and death.

    Ben Witherington III, Grace in Galatia: A Commentary on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 334–335.

    The commentators therefore see the New Jerusalem as a place, because it has roots in prophetic writings that speak of it as a place.

    2. Read the text carefully —

    (Rev. 21:2-3 ESV) 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

    The “New Jerusalem” is a city and dwelling place. The idea is that God used to dwell in the New Jerusalem (in heaven), and now that the holy city is descending to earth, God will dwell with man. Well, since “heaven” is where God is said to dwell in the scriptures, this equates the New Jerusalem with heaven. Heaven itself — as God’s dwelling — is coming to earth so that God may dwell with man.

    And that puts man on earth. Why descend to earth if the saved are already in heaven? God would already be dwelling with man. But it was necessary that the geography of heaven and earth be reworked so that there would be no separation of God from man.

    3. This is a change. God has ALWAYS dwelt on the earth in the sense of being omnipresent. But now he will dwell on earth in the sense of the earth being the realm in which his kingship has no rival. Satan and the principalities and powers will have been defeated, and so now God will live among those who bow their knees to him — and there will be no others.

    This is not yet true. This will be true when Jesus returns and the world is purged of all who deny Christ. But this has not yet happened. And so this earth continues to be a battleground between God and Satan — as 1 Cor 15 makes clear. The last enemy has not yet been defeated, and so Jesus has not yet turned the Kingdom over to God. Paul speaks in future tense — and many other texts speak in the same terms.

  28. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry (Part 3),

    Even in the description of the New Jerusalem we find no Temple.
    Rev 21:22-27 ESV And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. (23) And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (24) By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, (25) and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. (26) They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. (27) But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

    I’ve never disagreed with the statement in Revelation that God and Jesus themselves himself will be our temple in the NHNE.

    Rather, my point is that, at present, the Hebrews writer describes Jesus as our High Priest in heaven, where the perfect tabernacle/temple exists. Speaking of the new Jerusalem, we have,

    (Heb. 13:10-14 ESV) 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

    We are not to use the altar in the present Jerusalem but the altar in heaven.

    (Heb. 4:14 ESV) 14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
    (Heb. 6:19-20 ESV) 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

    Jesus is pictured as going to the holy of holies in the New Jerusalem/heaven — in his role as high priest.

    (Heb. 8:1-2 ESV) Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.

    Jesus is again pictured in heaven ministering in the “holy places, in the true tent [tabernacle] that the Lord set up, not man.” There is thus a tabernacle in heaven at which Jesus ministers as high priest.

    (Heb. 9:11-12 ESV) 11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

    Same image — it permeates Hebrews. Plainly, there is a tabernacle in the New Jerusalem/heaven.

    Now, therefore it is permissible to speak in these terms. But Rev says God/Jesus are the the temple themselves. Is this a change or a revelation of the nature of the “tent” mentioned in Hebrews? I don’t know. Either theory works for me. What does not work for me is an effort to suggest that there is no temple/tabernacle in the New Jerusalem. There is. Whether it it God himself or something that will be done away with at the end of time, I do not know — nor am I much interested in the question.

  29. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry (Part 4),

    This next portion of the visions of John is very interesting. Notice, that the scene appears to be before the Throne of God. We have been taught that this is a picture after the resurrection in heaven. But, notice more carefully as the text places a time into the picture which would not be possible after the resurrection. This is found in verse 14, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”. The narrator states that these are coming out (present action) at the time he is speaking. He also testifies that it is during the great tribulation (which testifies that the tribulation is in progress as he speaks). Then he specifies an action which they performed which has placed them there. Do you find any evidence that they died and were resurrected prior to their presence there? If we would suggest such a thing then we would be modifying the narrator’s message. The narrator stated specifically the action was present action, and occurring as they are washing their robes in the blood of the Lamb (baptism also contains the same message). Can you be washed in blood through faith?

    It would help if you’d cite chapter numbers as you go. You seem to be referring to chapter 21 or 22 (“This next portion of John”) but you quote from 7:14. You only give the verse number.

    (Rev. 7:13-17 ESV) 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

    Hendrickson makes perfect sense to me — and he’s been followed by countless commentators —

    The elder tells John that these people who are clothed around with the white flowing robes come out of ‘the tribulation, the great one’. This one tribulation is great because it is all-inclusive: all the persecutions and trials of God’s people, symbolized by the seals, are included in it. That gives unity to this entire section, chapters 4–7. The point is that the saints come out of their trials. The Dutch have a term for ‘dying’ which literally means ‘to get over (or beyond) suffering’. It expresses the truth whenever a believer dies.
    These saints whom John, in the vision, beholds, have washed their flowing robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb (cf. 1 Jn. 1:7; Heb. 9:14). In other words, they have placed all their trust in the saving blood of Jesus Christ. This blood, representing the complete atonement which our Lord has rendered, has cleansed them of the guilt and the pollution of sin. By means of the red blood of Christ they have been made white.
    Therefore are they before the throne of God. Only those who have placed their confidence in Christ and His atonement appear before the throne. They worship Him; that is, they render to Him the spontaneous, glad, and thorough devotion of the heart. It is an unceasing worship. These redeemed saints in glory, moreover, experience the sweetest, fullest, and most intimate fellowship with God through Christ; they worship Him in His sanctuary, that is, in His immediate presence. The One who sits on the throne treats them as His own dear children, for such by grace they are; He spreads His presence like a tent over them. Negatively, their salvation consists in this, that they are delivered from every care and hardship, from every form of trial and persecution: no more hunger, thirst, or heat. Positively, their salvation means this, that they enjoy the most perfect bliss; the Lamb is now their shepherd (cf. Ps. 23; Jn. 10:11, 14). Think of it, a Lamb being a shepherd! This Lamb leads His flock to life’s springs of water. Water symbolizes eternal life and salvation (Is. 55:1; Jn. 7:38, 39). The springs of water indicate the source of life, for through the Lamb the redeemed have eternal and uninterrupted fellowship with the Father.
    Finally, the sweetest touch of all: ‘And God shall wipe away every tear out of their eyes.’ Not merely are the tears wiped or even wiped away; they are wiped out of the eyes so that nothing but perfect joy, bliss, glory, sweetest fellowship and most abundant life, remains! And God Himself is the Author of this perfect salvation.

    William Hendriksen, More than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1967), 114.

    You instead argue,

    This is a picture of our life here on earth now. He has provided a place of safety from all the horrors of this world even while we are still living here. Nothing of this world can harm our connection between God and each of his children if we endure until the end. Our treasure is being built in Heaven and we can be with our treasure in Spirit.

    No, it’s not.

    What is the “Great Tribulation” if this has already happened?

    People, even Christians, still hunger.

    They still suffer from the heat of the sun.

    They still mourn and cry.

    I’m sorry, but you seem to be arguing for some sort of Preterist interpretation, and the language of the blessings of the Afterlife has just not yet come true — not in full. If this is a picture of life on earth now, then why do we still mourn those who die?

    (Rev. 21:4 ESV) 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

    If this has already happened, why do I live in constant, chronic pain?

    I just don’t buy the Preterist view. I don’t see how it solves any problems. I’ve read through Foy Wallace’s book. I’m not sold. No idea whose work you’re following, but I’m not persuaded. I particularly find it difficult to imagine someone picking up the Revelation and reading it as though it has ALL happened before the Fall of Jerusalem, at Pentecost, which seems to be your argument. The grammar just doesn’t fit that interpretation.

    If you’re arguing for a Fall of Jerusalem interpretation, I’ve covered that before more than once. It just doesn’t fit history as it happened. The Roman destruction of the Temple ended OT Judaism in many ways, but it didn’t usher in a glorious golden age of Christianity.

    PS — It would really help if you’d state your thesis more concretely. Just what is the interpretation that you’re arguing for? If it’s not Preterist, what is it?

  30. Dwight says:

    Jay, I was referring to Eccl.12:7 “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it.” and not the Holy Spirit. This is not to imply that the spirit of man is pre-ordered and awaiting delivery, but that the origin of man’s spirit is from God to which the spirit will return to. Eccles. makes the difference between the flesh and spirit.
    You are of course right Jesus did argue in John 16:28 “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.”
    But this seems to relate that Jesus would have to change form to be with God, who we know is spirit, unless God isn’t really spirit and is flesh, of which Jesus became, because he wasn’t before.
    This cuts very closely to Mormon theology that God is really flesh, just a higher form of flesh and He is as we were or will be.

    You wrote ”
    (Matt. 22:30 NIV) 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.
    Jesus isn’t saying that we’ll be like the angels in every respect, but like them in that they do not marry. And we don’t really know what kinds of bodies the angels have. We should base on thinking on what’s revealed, and it’s revealed that we’ll have bodies like the “glorious body” of Jesus. And we know a little about the post-resurrection body of Jesus from the Gospels. Not a lot, but enough to tell us that he was no disembodied spirit and yet neither was he subject to the limitations that bind us. He could walk through locked doors, for example.”

    But the fact is that we will be as Jesus became, not as he was on this earth.
    Jesus could pass through a crowd of people from one point to another like butter when he wanted to and He did at times. Even while living on the earth he wasn’t limited by his physical constructs when he didn’t want to be. This didn’t mean he was spirit here as we know that he was God in the flesh.

    You wrote “But Rev says God/Jesus are the temple themselves. Is this a change or a revelation of the nature of the “tent” mentioned in Hebrews? I don’t know. Either theory works for me. What does not work for me is an effort to suggest that there is no temple/tabernacle in the New Jerusalem. There is. Whether it it God himself or something that will be done away with at the end of time, I do not know — nor am I much interested in the question.”

    I must have missed this, but where is God and Jesus called the Temple themselves?
    I might have missed it, but I couldn’t find it.
    What I did find were references to the Temple of God in heaven.
    And this Rev.3:12 “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.” which seems to indicate that the saint will go the heaven and be a part of the Holy structure and a fixture.
    But then again we are called “the Temple” which God lives in as well in numerous places. I believe Paul referred to his body as a tent.
    Now if what you wrote is true, that we are the temple of God, then we must live in the New Jerusalem as we speak.

    The fact is that we do not know what form we will be, except like the angels, but this implies that we will not be like we are now.
    To me this seems like a waste of time in arguing for NHNE or heaven or resurrected forms and a distraction from concentrating on what should inspire us…the Love of God and the application of it.
    If we don’t have this love and exercise it, then it won’t really matter on the back side.
    Although I guess if the NHNE concept applies to a resurrected body on a reformed earth and we are sinners, we might end up in a reformed Detroit as punishment. Or maybe the sinners will be deferred to Mercury.

  31. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Dwight (Part 1),

    Re Eccl 12:7, the NET Bible translates,

    (Eccl. 12:7 NET) and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the life’s breath returns to God who gave it.

    “Spirit” in Hebrew (ruach) can mean life, breath, Spirit, or spirit. Context governs. The word is not “soul” but spirit — and so the verse doesn’t support the Greek view that God gives out souls that are immortal to the unborn. Rather, the likely meaning is that God gives life — which is taught throughout the OT.

    The NET Bible translators comment,

    The likely referent is the life’s breath that originates with God. See Ecc 3:19, as well as Gen 2:7; Gen 6:17; Gen 7:22.

    Notice the use of “ruach” in —

    (Eccl. 3:19 ESV) For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity.

    If the author means by ruach “immortal soul” then he wouldn’t say the humans lose their spirit/breath/life just as animals do. Indeed, this passage would argue against an immortal soul that separates man from beast.

  32. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Dwight (Part 2),

    I must have missed this, but where is God and Jesus called the Temple themselves?
    I might have missed it, but I couldn’t find it.

    (Rev. 21:22 ESV) And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.

  33. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Dwight (Part 3),

    You are of course right Jesus did argue in John 16:28 “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.”
    But this seems to relate that Jesus would have to change form to be with God, who we know is spirit, unless God isn’t really spirit and is flesh, of which Jesus became, because he wasn’t before.
    This cuts very closely to Mormon theology that God is really flesh, just a higher form of flesh and He is as we were or will be.

    Please don’t put words in my mouth. I have never argued that God is made of flesh. Not ever. He is obviously able to take on fleshly form — as he did with Abraham — but Jesus says he’s “spirit” and so he’s spirit. Does that mean Jesus must also exist as spirit to be God? I know of no such rule. Jesus exists in a glorified state, and we’re told that our bodies will be like his —

    (Phil. 3:20-4:1 ESV) 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

    Paul says Jesus has a “body.” Therefore, he has a body.

    Can I define that exactly? No, but that doesn’t let me turn “body” into “disembodied spirit.”

  34. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Dwight (Part 4),

    But then again we are called “the Temple” which God lives in as well in numerous places. I believe Paul referred to his body as a tent.
    Now if what you wrote is true, that we are the temple of God, then we must live in the New Jerusalem as we speak.

    This makes no sense. Things change when Jesus returns. The NT plainly says that individual Christians and the church are the temple of the Holy Spirit. That doesn’t also make us the Temple in Jerusalem. Two different temples.

    Hebrews says there’s a temple in heaven at which Jesus serves as high priest, and in chapter 12, he says this is the New Jerusalem. Does that mean Paul lied when he said Christians and the church are the Spirit’s temple? Of course, not. Two different temples.

    (Rev. 3:12 ESV) The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.

    Notice that this passage re-affirms that the New Jerusalem will descend to earth, which it will be the “city of my God.” So the verse support my conclusions.

    Now, just when will the one who conquers be made a pillar in the temple? Today? When we die? When Jesus returns? It doesn’t say. But the author himself talks about the time when the temple comes down to earth — which suggests that this is when he has it mind.

    How does this fit with the idea of God himself being the temple? That’s either a contradiction or an example of theosis — the unity of Christians with God. Jesus prayed for that unity — and it’s easy to imagine John the Revelator seeing that Christians as individual/corporate temples will join with God to become a part of the temple that is he.

    (Jn. 17:20-21 ESV) 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

    So I see no inconsistency with God himself being the temple and a Christian being a pillar in the temple. That would imply a remarkable unity between saved and Savior, worshiper and God — but I think that’s part of our hope. I mean, Eph 1 and 2 pictures Christians as the body of Christ sitting on heaven’s throne as a part of Jesus. Different image but to the same effect.

    Can I explain this promised unity with God? Not really. But I rejoice in the promise.

  35. dwight says:

    Jay, See this is where I have the problem. I don’t perceive the spiritual form to be a “disembodied spirit” and I would imagine that God in the spirit has a “glorified body”, but we know that it is not fleshly, because Jesus came in the flesh, which He wasn’t before. What we have is either spirit or flesh as the two types, unless there is a third category I do not know of. So it is understandable in my thinking that Jesus when he went back to be with God, assumed the spiritual form, but with the knowledge of his life here on earth.
    I guess the question will be when Jesus comes what form will he be in and if he will take a different form to be with us who are raised in the flesh?, unless we are raised in the spirit, which is not the flesh, but has the same “glorified form” of God.
    It almost sounds as though we cant imagine the spiritual, so we must default to the flesh, even as we recognize that the form of God is not flesh and is “glorified” even as we speak.
    Not to put words in your mouth, and I’m sorry if that is how it felt, but it appears as though when Jesus ascended to God, that he did not take on the form of God, but was a hybrid, not fleshly, but not spirit either, even as he sat at the right hand of God who is spirit.
    I gather that our understanding of what the spirit is does much disservice to what we can imagine in our limited thinking. The scriptures never argue that the spiritual form has no form or that it has no shape or that it no density or power. But the spirit at least has the ability to be wrapped by the flesh, as Jesus was and as the demons were, and if we take the concept that HS lives in us.

    If Rev.21 is literal, then John saw the NHNE and the New Jerusalem already in its form, but not yet descended. But this NHNE and New Jerusalem must be spiritual in nature due to God being the “temple” in the city. So the undescended, but spiritual city inhabited by the spiritual God, had form.
    So is the NHNE and New Jerusalem real or an allegorical in nature, I mean we have a “Lamb”, which must be Jesus or it is a real Lamb? If the NHNE earth is literal, then so is the Lamb. What I see is that we are trying to force a literal meaning on things that are symbolic in nature, to where we accept some things as real, but not other things. Are they real streets of gold, etc?
    And the timing is hard to predict after all we read in “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” so John was literally watching the new earth pass away to be replaced by the NHNE. So it appears that this had already been done, so why will it be done again. John watched “the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.”
    So while I admit that Rev.21 does say, “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” it is hard for me to see that this is literal, after all John said he didn’t see a temple, but did see God and Jesus, who he regarded as the temple.

    So Jay these are some of my issues. It is a question of how much literalness we mine from passages that also are crammed with symbolic images. Are there 144, 000 elders? Is there a dragon? Will there be a limited number that are taken to heaven and the rest will be on this newly reformed earth? Etc. Where do we draw the lines on what is literal and symbolic or can we when talking about the NHNE and the New Jerusalem? Can we truly argue that this hasn’t happened yet or will happen as John was viewing it?

  36. Monty says:

    I just wanted to say in the famous words of Tom Petty: “You don’t have to live like a refugee.” 🙂

  37. Alabama John says:

    And yet most Christians will argue there are no aliens, especially that have come to this earth.

Leave a Reply