Vol. 4, No. 12
Since You Asked
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I read in Hebrews 12:22-23 that the Church and the new Jerusalem are the same thing, is this true? ~ David Peery
The Methodist commentator, Adam Clarke, reflects your assessment of Hebrews 12:22-23. "[The heavenly Jerusalem] This phrase means the church of the New Testament..." (Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Biblesoft) Jerusalem was literally the capital to ancient Israel and home to many Jews of antiquity. Further, Jerusalem is used figuratively in Scripture to represent the home of the people of God in the Christian Age on earth (Isaiah 2:2-3; Joel 2:32; Hebrews 12:22-23) as well as their eternal home in heaven (Galatians 4:26; Revelation 3:12; 21:2, 10; 22:19).
Where is the future Kingdom of God in the new earth in the article intitled: "The Simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus?"
Presumably, the reference above is meant to put forth a belief in a future habitation of God's people on earth instead of or in addition to an eternal habitation in heaven. With so little information contained in the quotation above, it is difficult to ascertain with any degree of certainty precisely what the querist had in mind. Further, I am guessing that the questioner reflected on verse 13 of the following biblical passage.
"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:10-13).
The supposition that the righteous in the future will inhabit a made-over earth as opposed to heaven is an error owing to a miscomprehension of the difference between literal and figurative language. The passage above employs both literal and figurative language. Interestingly, in ordinary life, even young children successfully differentiate between literal and figurative language, but commonly adults fail to employ the same skills when literal and figurative language appear in biblical passages. Employing the same communicative skills for both everyday language and biblical texts will go a long way to improving one's understanding of God's message to mankind.
Clearly, 2 Peter 3:10 avows that the physical universe, including the earth and everything on it will be consumed or destroyed in the last day. The earth on which we live will no longer exist to be refashioned into some sort of future habitation for the righteous. The Greek word for "shall melt" means "shall be dissolved" (Vincent) whereas the Greek word for "shall be burned up" in verse 10 means "to be wholly consumed" (Strong) or "to burn up, burn utterly" (Vine).
Further, the makeup of persons after the second coming of the Lord and Judgment is not suitable for a physical habitation, such as this earth, even were it to be refashioned with the 'melted elements' with which it was formerly fashioned (1 Corinthians 15:35-54). Pay special attention to the part of the passage quoted below:
"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory" (1 Corinthians 15:50-54).
In addition, at the second coming of Christ, the resurrected righteous and the living righteous will meet the Lord in the air, and the indication is that they will never return to the earth (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Even more, Scripture uniformly portrays only two eternal destinations for souls, hell or heaven. The foretaste of each of these two eternities appear in Luke 16:19-31 regarding departed spirits awaiting the final Judgment. Jesus described the eternality of the two eternal destinations following Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus Ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9-11; 1 Peter 3:22) and promised to take his faithful followers to where he is (John 4:2-4).
Therefore, reference to "new heavens and a new earth" in 2 Peter 3:13 does not pertain to some future, physical and literal habitation on a planet in the material universe. The language including "new heavens and a new earth" is figurative and represents a new, spiritual habitation rather than a literal, refashioned earth.
Dear Brother Rushmore, A few years ago a man, during a Bible class, mentioned that the four books of the gospels should not be included in the New Testament because they were only written to the Jews concerning matters of the law of Moses. This was the first time I had ever heard such an idea. I heard the same statement made just today from someone from a different congregation in another part of the country. Are you familiar with this "idea" and how would you answer someone who holds this point of view? Your sister in Christ, Teresa Rachels
Usually, there is an underlying reason why one imagines that the Gospel records do not belong in the New Testament canon. It has nothing to do with the proper placement of the Gospel records in either the Old Testament or the New Testament. It has everything to do with a doctrine in the Gospel records that some earnestly desire to disassociate from contemporary amenability. The doctrine is found in Matthew 5:32; 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18. In these verses, Jesus Christ disallowed divorce and remarriage except for a single reason -- "fornication." Further, our Lord permitted remarriage to the innocent party alone. Understandably, Christ's words are far from popular in society, and unfortunately, little more popular sometimes among Christians.
There are a number of reasons why any proposal to dislodge the Gospel records from the New Testament canon is misguided and incorrect. (1) There are 400 years of divine silence between the close of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. That by itself is a sufficient line of demarcation between divine revelation of the Old Testament and new revelation pertinent to the New Testament. While it is true that the revelation from God, which when written appears in the Gospel records, was received while Patriarchy (for non-Jews) and Judaism (for Jews) were still effective, the Gospel records were preparatory to and pertained to the Gospel Age. Jesus made a clear distinction between what was permitted under Judaism, for instance, and what he as the Son of God demanded; consider his statements in the Sermon on the Mount when our Lord said, "But I say unto you" (Matthew 5:18, 20, 22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44).
(2) The Gospel records were written well after the Law of Moses was replaced with the New Testament and many years after the church began (Acts 2). The first three Gospel records were written about 30 years after the events they chronicle occurred. The Gospel of John was penned 60 or 65 years after the events in it transpired. Obviously, the instruction in these Gospel records was intended for people amenable to the Gospel, after the Law of Moses and Patriarchy had long since ceased to have God's approval.
(3) The reason that there are four Gospel records has to do with the different segments of civilization to which each appeals. Matthew was written for the Jewish reader. Mark was written for the Roman reader. Luke was written for Gentile readers. John is a universal Gospel record written for any and every person. Each Gospel record tells the same message, each worded in a way to communicate best with a specific audience. Obviously, Gospel records tailored for Romans, Greeks and people of all races, ethnicities and nationalities pertain to audiences beyond those of Jewish ancestry or those keeping the Law of Moses.
(4) Jettisoning the Gospel records from the New Testament canon to dispense with our Lord's teaching about marriage, divorce and remarriage also dispenses with other Bible doctrines. For instance, what is often called the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47) and the Christian responsibility to evangelize the world with the Gospel is lost to us when the Gospel records are discarded from the New Testament. Some of our Lord's parables are styled kingdom parables because they provide valuable insights into the kingdom or church (Matthew 16:18-19), but these teachings are lost to us if the Gospel records are discarded from the New Testament. The emphasis placed by many on the red-letters representing the words of Jesus in the New Testament (mostly in the Gospel records) is largely lost if the Gospel records are disallowed their place in the New Testament. The Gospel records are full of teaching applicable to the Christian Age that are diverted from contemporary application if the Gospel records were removed from the New Testament canon.
(5) The Greek physician Luke and writer of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts represented the volumes he penned as companion volumes. The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts overlap their accounts to provide an uninterrupted narration. Both books were not only penned by the same person, but they were written to the same recipient. No one imagines that the Book of Acts does not belong in the New Testament; it contains cases of conversion and the history of the early church. Consequently, it is obvious that both the Gospel of Luke (as well as the other Gospel records) and the Book of Acts rightfully belong in the New Testament canon.
(6) The Jews have never included the Gospel records in the Old Testament canon.
(7) Anciently, the Gospel records have been included in the New Testament canon equally with other books that also appear in the New Testament.
Doubtless, other considerations could also be enumerated that substantiate the rightful place of the Gospel records in the New Testament canon. These points above, though, are sufficient to establish the fallacy of discounting the inclusion of the Gospel records in the New Testament.