Monday, March 9, 2009

The Gift, The Hope, and the Promised Promise

The evangelism of the apostles revolved about three main notions: The Gift, The Hope, and the Promise. To often Christians see these as merely vague terms [or they assume they all mean "life in heaven after I die."]

Putting a fine point on these terms allows not only to interpret individual passages better, but also grants a richer understanding of what apostolic evangelism was about.

Christian Hope

When the apostles speak of "Hope," they do not refer exactly to "eternal life in heaven for believers." The hope they refer to is the idea that what God had done to Jesus already [bodily resurrection], the Almighty would do to everyone later.
To understand why this Hope is so exclusively Christian, you have to understand the culture of 1st century AD. Some Jews believed in a bodily resurrection that would occur far in the future, and many Jews did not. Those outside Judaism generally did not believe in a bodily resurrection at all.

What no one believed was that the Messiah would come, die, and be resurrected before everyone else. Not even Jesus' disciples understood that [which is why they deserted Him... the Messiah was supposed to lead the Jews to victory over the Romans [and everyone else who had oppressed them: Luke 1:71 ] How could He do that if He were dead??

This is why they wonder in Mark 9:10 what Jesus means, since He cannot possibly mean He is going to literally die. It also comes through loud and clear in Luke 24:20-21, they had hoped (but no longer)...and what did they hope for, that the Christ would redeem Israel. Like David, they were waiting for Jesus to take His position as true King. Having Jesus die crushed these beliefs, for they did not understand He had to die [John 20:9, Luke 24:25-27]

So, the resurrection not only proves that the Christian God lives, but gave hope in their own resurrection later. Note the wording of Acts 4:2 and Acts 17:32 --- this was the central message of their evangelism (as well as Jesus as the Christ and Jesus as Judge, see post on evangelism in Acts.) Paul also avers that belief in resurrection of the dead is absolutely required of believers [1st Corinthians 15:12-14].

This Hope in the resurrection of the dead was the main reason Paul was in so much hot water in Acts. It was, after all, directly opposed to the beliefs of the ruling sect of Judaism. [Acts 23:6, Acts 24:15, Acts 24:21, Acts 26:6-8.]

The Gift
People use the term "a free gift" often in evangelism today, but for Paul and the other apostles, the term had a different meaning. The Gift is nothing other than the Holy Spirit.

Jesus uses this to refer to the Holy Spirit in John 4:10, Peter refers to the Spirit as "The Gift" three times: Acts 2:38, Acts 8:20, and Acts 11:17. Luke uses the term in this way in Acts 10:45, and Paul does so in 1st Timothy 4:14, and 2nd Timothy 1:6. The writer of Hebrews follows suit in Hebrews 6:4.

[Note it is important to separate "The Gift" (with the "the") from situations where there is no "the," also there are 3 words for "gift" common in the NT, and only 2 of them appear to be used in this way, the other is more of a term for "offering."]

The (Promised) Promise

And now we come to an interesting term. "The Promise." We know that God promised Abraham to bless the world through his seed, but how was God going to do that? Peter answers this question for us as well, in Acts 2:33. This is the promise Jesus refers to in Luke 24:49, and in Acts 3:26, we find that it is, in fact, the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham.

The Holy Spirit is further referred to as "The Promise" in Acts 2:39, Galatians 3:14, Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 3:6, Hebrews 9:15-(The writer views us as receiving the Holy Spirit as an inheritance from Christ. Note this is definitely referring to the Holy Spirit available now that was not available earlier before Christ died: see Hebrews 9:16, Hebrews 9:8, and, most notably Hebrews 11:39-40, where the Spirit is once again referred to as what was "promised.")

But, the Holy Spirit is not only the fulfillment of a promise, it also acts as a promise...a reminder of the full salvation available when our bodies are transformed and New Jerusalem arrives [ Revelation 21:2]. The Holy Spirit, in granting us power over the desires of a flesh set against God [Romans 6:6] grants us a slice of our transformed future. It allows us to already begin living the life of the next era today. Indeed, it calls us to do so, for we are no longer to live for ourselves, but rather live for Christ.

In this way, the Holy Spirit is then a Promise itself. Not on an individual basis wherein we "know we are going to heaven because we have the Spirit." The Spirit allowed those in Matthew 7:22-23 throw out demons and prophesy in Christ's name, but it did not see them through the Judgment, and Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews 10:26-27, and 2nd Peter 2:20-21 all describe that the Spirit is not a personal guarantee but a global one. God will not be mocked.

Understanding "The Promise" is crucial to getting a handle on Paul's letters to the Galatians and Romans, where the term is used very often.


Webbydizzle said...

Hi David. I've just been looking at your blog and its very interesting...I have jus recently started a blog as well plz tll me what you think or better still make a comment on my blog.

Dumbstruck said...

That's a lot of referencing! I have a few theories on what you wrote but they are best relayed in an email, so perhaps I'll ship you one after I re-read your post so I'm sure i understand the whole thing. :)
Peace and Love,

Bev said...

Great post, David. I agree with your identification of all three terms. I have a couple of questions.

1. In Hebrews 9:8, what do you identify as the "outer tabernacle"?

2. When you say "the Spirit is not a personal guarantee but a global one," what do you mean by global?

Have to run for now but will check back in tomorrow. Blessings to you!

David Rudel said...

Hi Bev, it's always a pleasure to have you comment here.

Let me answer your easier question first. ;)

When I said that the "Promise" was a "global" guarantee rather than a personal one, I could see how that could be taken as hinting at Universalism. That was not my intention.

By a 'global' guarantee, I simply meant it was proof that a further transformation/salvation was in store on the other side of this life... I wasn't implying that that transformation/salvation was going to be for all people...I was just saying it was not an individual guarantee that all those with the Spirit would definitely partake of that further blessing [such a belief would go patently against a number of scriptures and cast several others as absurd: Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews 10:26, 2nd Peter 2:20-22, and Galatians 4:8-11 to name a few.]

Now for your more difficult question...

I think "outer tabernacle" is probably a bad translation. I believe the Greek says "first tent" or "first tabernacle." The question then is whether this "first" means "the first of the two I just mentioned" or "the earlier tabernacle (contrasted with Jesus). While it is true that the same construction "first tent" is used in 9:2 to refer to the "outer" tent, it would see consistent with the context for the "first tent" in 9:8 to refer to the whole ensemble.

...but now that I think about it, I suppose that would be an odd conclusion, since certainly the Holy Spirit was available before the Temple was destroyed in AD 70.

Hmmm...that raises some interesting considerations as to what the term must mean.

Perhaps the writer is using "the first tabernacle" in metonymy to "the first covenant." This would make a good deal of sense if Hebrews were written after 70 that case perhaps the writer was pointing at the physical destruction of the temple and indicating that the Holy Spirit had made it clear to him that the temple had to be destroyed so the Jews could stop relying or backsliding into ritual Judaism? Is this the reason for the curious "_near_ disappearing" in 8:13?

In that sense, 9:8 would somehow be in parallel with 9:16-17.

Anyways...let me know what you think... do you have some insight here?

Bev said...

Good morning, David. Thanks for clarifying what you meant by global. Your comments on Hebrews 9:8 were very helpful. Hebrews 9:6-7 refers to the "outer" (first being more correct, as you said) tabernacle and the "second."

Verse 2 defines the outer or first tabernacle as the place containing "the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place."

Verse 3 seems to define the Holy of Holies as the "second" tabernacle:

Hebrews 9:3-Behind the second veil there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies

Verses 6 & 7 would seem to confirm that, because it says that the priest enters the second only once a year.

The NASB is very confusing in verse 8. It says, "The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing"

The "holy place" would be what was defined above as the outer/first tabernacle. But I'm thinking the KJV, NIV, and others are more precise in translating that as the "holiest of all" (KJV) and "Most Holy Place" (NIV). That is the only way verse 8 makes sense.

I have to cut this short... meeting to go to. I had not considered reading Hebrews from a post-70 A.D. perspective. The NASB reads as though the temple was still standing, which would make it pre-70 A.D. The others (KJV, NIV, NKJV) read as though it could have been written post-70 A.D.

Sorry for this confusing mish-mash of comments!

David Rudel said...

Your comments are always welcome, no matter how mish-mashed ;)

DD said...

Hi David. I recently stumbled into your site. One thing that struck me while reading this post was your reference to the Holy Spirit as an "it" several times. John 16:7-15 tells us the Holy Spirit is a person who acts on our behalf. He conflicts the world of sin and righteousness, guides us into all truth, speaks what He hears, tells us things to come, glorifies Christ and takes what is Christ's and declares it to us.
Be blessed.