Training Our Perspective Powers

who are led by spirit

“Concerning him we have much to say and hard to be explained, since you have become dull in your hearing. For, indeed, although you ought to be teachers in view of the time, you again need someone to teach you from the beginning the elementary things of the sacred pronouncements of God; and you have become such as need milk, not solid food. For everyone that partakes of milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”
– Hebrews 5:11-14

The above words of the Apostle Paul were addressed to Hebrew Christians in the first century.  While they accepted their sonship, they were having problems reconciling the words of Moses and their prophets with the ministry and purpose of Christ Jesus.  Therefore, Paul chose to go back to the beginning, so to speak, and explain the development of the sacred secret of sonship and their heavenly destiny in a way they could understand. The entire book of Hebrews is dedicated to that reconciling.

In some ways, a similar reconciling is needed today. Modern day Christians, even those who accept their sonship, continue to have difficulty reconciling the teachings of Jesus with the words of prophecy. And like the Hebrews, what is needed is a training of their perceptive powers so they can distinguish what is right and what is wrong.

For example, in the prior article in this series, entitled Bringing Heaven Down – Turning Back Destruction, we proposed what we call The Ninevite Possibility. The Ninevite Possibility is the hope that any foretold destruction of our present day system of things can be averted by repentance and works befitting repentance as it did in the case of the Ninevites, as told by the prophet Jonah. The article posits that our Father is not interested in destruction. His real interest is salvation, as Jesus explained:

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life. For God sent forth his Son into the world, not for him to judge the world, but for the world to be saved through him.”
– John 3:16-17

Most of the emails we received in response to the article were very favorable.  Many found The Ninevite Possibility refreshing and consistent with the loving, wise and merciful nature of our Heavenly Father, as Jesus revealed Him. Frankly, we did not expect to receive any emails in opposition to the Possibility, even from those who disagree.  We suspected they will simply remain silent. So far, they have.  However, we did receive an email from a brother who was confused.  Here is his email:

“When it comes to your latest article, Ím a bit confused. The Bible doesn’t mention any “last moment” repentance and turning to the Christ at all. Instead, it tells us about a big “falling away” from Jesus original teachings which probably will lead to the Antichrist́s one world religion during the seven year tribulation and the “mark of the beast.”  What if Jesus return will first be that of a rapture, then followed by the start of the “great tribulation” and that this “Lords day” will end when Christ returns for all to see at the end (after literal 7 years)? “A day for a year” so to speak. Jesus would then establish the kingdom here on earth just after “Armageddon” at the very end of this tribulation period.”

We are very happy to respond to the brother’s email as we suspect there are several of our brothers who are likewise “confused.”  The key to removing the confusion is perception and discernment.  We must not be ‘dull in our hearing’ as Paul wrote. (Hebrews 5:11) We must be able to distinguish plain teachings from parables and from prophecy, and we must understand their relative importance. When we do that, it will be easy to reconcile all three without discounting either. And it also opens the way for The Ninevite Possibility. We will address the brother’s email below.  But first, let’s distinguish plain teachings, parables and prophecy.

Plain Teachings, Parables and Prophecy

Plain teachings are those things Jesus directly taught that are intended to awaken and arouse the spirit in man, and move him to love and fine works. (Hebrews 10:24) The content of the Sermon on the Mount is an example of plain teachings.  Plain teachings have no hidden meanings.  They are totally aboveboard, clear and unambiguous.  Plain teachings appeal to the mind. They impart knowledge. They are logical, reasonable, practical and usable.  Here are examples of plain teachings:

“Stop judging that you may not be judged.”
– Matthew 7:1

“But you, do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One.”
– Matthew 23:8-9

“Jesus said to him: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
– John 14:6

Parables are teaching tools designed to enhance the plain teachings and stimulate spiritual growth by imparting better understanding. Parables appeal to the deeper mind, often referred to as “the heart.” They convey meaning by illustrations and hypothetical situations, usually situations that could occur in a listener’s daily activities.  Plain teachings and parables go hand in hand. Parables explain how to use plain teachings. We might call plain teachings the short form teachings and parables the long form. Parables are open-ended and allow for continued growth in value and meaning. Hence, our perceptive powers are trained and we gain insight and forethought, but not foresight. Here are examples of parables:

“Another illustration he set before them, saying: ‘The kingdom of the heavens is like a mustard grain, which a man took and planted in his field; which is, in fact, the tiniest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the largest of the vegetables and becomes a tree, so that the birds of heaven come and find lodging among its branches.’ Another illustration he spoke to them: ‘The kingdom of the heavens is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three large measures of flour, until the whole mass was fermented.’”
– Matthew 13:31-33

“Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.”
– Matthew 24:45-47

Prophecies are proclamations about things that can or will occur in the future as a result of how one responds to plain teachings. Prophecies impart foresight, but not necessarily foreknowledge. This is because prophecies come in two forms: (1) literal; and (2) hidden.

Literal prophecies are straightforward and open. They do not require deciphering or interpreting. They unambiguously set forth the who, what, when, where, why and sometimes even the how of future events. The prophecy of Jonah about the destruction of Nineveh is an example of a literal prophecy. Another example of literal prophecy are the prophecies given by Jesus concerning the destruction of Jerusalem as recorded in the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke.  Jesus unambiguously foretold who – Jerusalem;  what – destruction; when –  within the generation; why – faithlessness; how –  by the disgusting thing spoken of by Daniel. The how is the only thing that was relatively obscured.

Hidden prophecies are given ‘in signs and symbols.’ Their meanings are intentionally obscured so that those reading the prophecy will not know precisely what is going to happen until the day of fulfillment arrives. The giver of hidden prophecies intentionally obscures them. They are not puzzles that are meant to be solved, they are hidden so that the meaning does not become evident until the time of its fulfillment. Thus, they are tools designed to keep us awake and alert.

“Happy is he who reads aloud and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and who observe the things written in it; for the appointed time is near.”
– Revelation 1:3

By peering into prophecy with an open mind, our anticipation remains keen. But the clamor to finalize interpretations is an effort that works against mankind because once we crystalize their meaning, our minds are shut and the hidden prophecies can no longer serve their intended purpose. Some of the prophecies in the book of Revelation are hidden such as the identification of the beasts, the meaning of the bowls of anger, and the timing of the events. In fact, to add to the suspense, the book indicates that some of the events may have already happened by the time, or during the time, John wrote them:

“Therefore write down the things you saw, and the things that are and the things that will take place after these.”
– Revelation 1:19

Our generation is not the first to interpret the book of Revelation. Generations before us and generations before them have been intently peering into the book.  Such peering serves a valuable purpose as long as we keep the interpretations fluid and open to the ever changing activities and understanding of man. We have seen all too well what happens when crystalized interpretations are not fulfilled as expected.

In review, plain teachings are the things we should know in order to please God.  Parables provide ways to apply and understand the plain teachings. And prophecies provide foresight as to the outcome of how one applies the plain teachings.

Now that we are clear on the distinction between plain teachings, parables and prophecy, the next question is priority. Which of the three – plain teachings, parables or prophecy – have the greatest weight and which has the lesser when it comes to salvation?

It should be obvious that, of the three, the plain teachings would have the greatest importance since these are the direct teachings of the Master, Christ Jesus.  Plain teachings are the straightforward instructions on how to please God. Parables are helpful, but not necessary for if we did not have them, we would still know what to do.  And if we apply the plain teachings, we know that whatever prophecies are ahead of us, we will always be on the favorable side of events because we will have done the things that please God.

Repeating History

It is folly to give prophecy the greater weight and one’s primary attention as was demonstrated by the nation of Israel.  In their holy writings were numerous prophecies pointing to or describing a coming savior.  These matters were often talked about and were integral to their worship.  In fact, their scribes offered many explanations of the prophecies and asserted their interpretations and expectations as forcefully as they did the Law itself.  Yet when the savior arrived, the scribes and leaders, along with the vast majority of the Jews, failed to perceive him. Why?  Because they put more weight on their prophetic interpretations and their ‘traditions’ than on the plain teachings of Moses.  (Matthew 15:3-9)    

Had they paid more attention to the plain teachings of Moses, they would have been more receptive to Jesus and his good news.  Moses was an organizer who instructed the nation on a better way of living so that they would qualify to be that light bearing nation through whom all nations would bless themselves. (Genesis 22:18) But their scribes and teachers added to Moses’ words their own opinions and interpretations.  They went beyond what Moses provided and taught those additions as commands from God.  These added matters became their ‘traditions’ that formulated their expectations and colored their understanding of prophecy.

Had they kept their promise to strictly obey the words given by Moses, and paid less attention to the commands of men, they would have recognized Jesus as the foretold one, if not by the manner of his arrival, then certainly by the things he said and did throughout his ministry.  But their minds had been blinded by their ‘traditions.’ They could not see past their expectations.

In particular, they expected a warrior savior who would set up an earthly kingdom in Jerusalem on the throne of David, decimate the Romans and subject all peoples to the Jewish nation.  They were expecting to be exalted and all their enemies to be destroyed. But when the savior came proclaiming love, mercy and reconciliation with God, the savior and his message were rejected.  Instead of salvation, those who were expecting an earthly kingdom were destroyed along with their temple in 70 C.E. They must have been stunned that it was their city that was destroyed, not that of their enemies!

Why is Christianity determined to repeat the errors of first century Judaism? Why is Christianity fashioning itself after a failed and rejected people?  Why is it that Christianity refuses to discern and accept our Lord as a Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), not a warmonger?  And why does Christianity continue to seek the kingdom of God on earth, rather than the will of God on earth, as Jesus taught? (Matthew 6:9-10) These are matters for serious consideration for if we do not learn the lessons of the past, we are destined to repeat them!

The Course of Wisdom

We believe a wiser course is to go back to the drawing board, so to speak.  Go back to the plain and open teachings of Jesus and build our faith upon that foundation.  Perceive the difference between plain teachings and prophecies, let go of all the prophetic interpretations that are now being taught as if they were facts, and reexamine them in the light of the true character of our God and our Lord.  This is indeed where true discernment comes in.

Man’s intellectual sophistry often gets in the way of the plain and open teachings of Jesus and actually clouds our spiritual vision.  All the more does this generation need to train its perceptive powers so they can create in themselves wisdom that will lead to the accurate knowledge of truth.

For example, we know our Lord is the Prince of Peace.  We know Jesus taught us to love our enemies, not fight them.  And we know Jesus is neither a hypocrite nor a schizophrenic.  Therefore, any prophetic interpretation that pictures him in any other light is error –  plain and simple.  Perhaps the character depicted in the prophecy is not Jesus.  Perhaps the aggressive acts are not literal.  And perhaps, just perhaps, the prophecy has been tampered with.

Since we do not know for a certainty which of these things has occurred, we believe it is wiser to back off of prophecy a bit and focus on what we can know for a certainty – that God is the Father of every man, and that every man is our brother; that we are all part of a large dysfunctional family that has lost its way; and that, like the parable of the Prodigal Son, our Ineffable Father will welcome into His heavenly kingdom and His loving merciful arms all who turn away from badness and serve Him.  That is the good news of the Kingdom!

Now, to our brother’s email.  What you have done is cull together various scriptural texts and created a story.  Parts are taken from the books of DanielThessalonians, Corinthians and Revelation. What you have omitted are the plain teachings of the will and character of our God and Father, and of His Christ as recorded in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  Here is what your interpretation supposes:

  1. That even before Christ came, God decided he was going to destroy the vast majority of mankind; 
  2. That God pre-determined that the message and ministry of Jesus would be ineffectual and unable to capture the attention of the vast majority of creation;
  3. That all of the advances of mankind in spiritual understanding, in brotherly love, in respect for life have no real value; 
  4. That mass destruction of life and property is God’s means to accomplish His will;
  5. That all faithful Christians will be taken to heaven before God’s war against the remainder of mankind, but Jesus would establish a kingdom on earth for the survivors who were not good enough to be raptured.
  6. That the sophistry of the Antichrist is more powerful than the good news;
  7. That Jesus Christ will have not only a second coming, but a third coming; and foremostly,
  8. That there is nothing we can do, not matter how many people turn to God, that will turn back the anticipated calamity.

These are assumptions and presumptions we cannot assent to. They simply are not consistent with the God Jesus plainly revealed, with the character of Jesus as he displayed when on earth, nor with the peaceful and hopeful teachings. Since your interpretation is an opinion, we cannot say you are wrong because opinions are neither right nor wrong. They are simply opinions to which we are all entitled.  However, we caution you about asserting your opinions as if they were doctrine, especially in light of the implications of your interpretation.

And we hope we have persuaded you to reconsider your opinion based on the information we provide above and these scriptural thoughts:

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life. For God sent forth his Son into the world, not for him to judge the world, but for the world to be saved through him.”
– John 3:16-17

“I have said these things to you that by means of me you may have peace. In the world you are having tribulation, but take courage! I have conquered the world.”
– John 16:33

“And Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth. Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”
– Matthew 28:18-20

“Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these [other] things will be added to you. So never be anxious about the next day, for the next day will have its own anxieties. Sufficient for each day is its own badness.”
– Matthew 6:33-34

“Brothers, I do not yet consider myself as having laid hold on [it]; but there is one thing about it: Forgetting the things behind and stretching forward to the things ahead, I am pursuing down toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus. Let us, then, as many of us as are mature, be of this mental attitude; and if you are mentally inclined otherwise in any respect, God will reveal the above [attitude] to you.  At any rate, to what extent we have made progress, let us go on walking orderly in this same routine.”
– Philippians 3:13-16    

“Keep your minds fixed on the things above, not on the things upon the earth.”
– Colossians 3:2    

“Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.”
– 2 Peter 3:9

Yes, these may be ‘critical times hard to deal with’ (2 Timothy 3:1-7), but we must not be among those who have a ‘form of godly devotion, but who prove false to its power’ (2 Timothy 3:5) by denying the ability of the good news to save our world.  As Paul wrote to Timothy:

But turn down the false stories which violate what is holy and which old women tell. On the other hand, be training yourself with godly devotion as your aim. For bodily training is beneficial for a little; but godly devotion is beneficial for all things, as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come. Faithful and deserving of full acceptance is that statement. For to this end we are working hard and exerting ourselves, because we have rested our hope on a living God, who is a Savior of all sorts of men, especially of faithful ones.”
- 1 Timothy 4:7-10

No, the Father does not desire anyone to be destroyed (John 3:16), neither should we. We should be spending our time and energy in spreading the good news of the kingdom – glad tidings - instead of instilling fear.  We cannot emphasize this enough.  As the saying goes, it is insanity to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. We cannot reasonably expect an outcome any different from the first century Jewish system if we fail to discern the plain teachings of Jesus and the subordinate position of prophecy. We must learn from history or we are destined to repeat it. Remember, it was not the nations that were destroyed, it was the people who failed to perceive the superior and merciful purpose of the Father and His loftier ideals as represented in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

In our next article, Bringing Heaven Down - The Perfect Will of God, we continue in the theme of ‘bringing heaven down.’ We will seek to clear away the baggage of old wine, and look to the new wine – the present day will of God – with keen spiritual perception.


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