The assurance of Christ’s final Parousia should offer the faithful the greatest confidence that, despite the appearance of this wayward world, the returning Lord Jesus will redeem us, as well as the Earth itself, to the uttermost. For as He is, so we shall be (1 John 3:2). That means resurrection, but it also means our vindication for having trusted in the Lamb’s Word and person as judgment falls upon mockers of The Way (Galatians 6:7). Preaching the End Times better means preaching things will assuredly play-out not only just as Jesus said, but also that he is the abiding guarantor who leads us from the Incarnation, through Holy Communion, to the Final Parousia.
The false teachers addressed in 2 Peter, no less than today’s End Times pundits, deprive the faithful of such assurances perhaps in no more egregious way than the denial of Christ’s ongoing parousia through His self-giving in Communion. For them, there is no parousia in “is.” The presence of Jesus suffers reduction to mere sentiment. But the Final Parousia is anchored in the two other great “advents” celebrated by the Church, namely the Incarnation of the Son of God by way of the virgin Mary, and the sacramental presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. It is Christmas and Communion. These advents secure a tight linkage with the Final Advent, so there is an unbroken linear connection through time of “the mystery of faith.” So much so, several traditions of the Christian faith have monumentalized this intimate connection by singing the mysterium fidei during Communion itself: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”
As was noted in the preceding segment of this series, there are at least eight essential facts of the Gospel within 2 Peter neglected or denied by those who subvert “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3-4). The seventh of those facts (that the incarnational reality of the Son of God continues in Holy Communion until “the end of the age”) invites further consideration in light of 2 John 7. Whereas it appears that in 1 John 1:1-4, the Beloved Apostle addresses those who denied the physicality of the first great parousia, in 2 John 7 he disabuses those who deny Christ’s ongoing parousia in Holy Communion, which eventually terminates in the Last Parousia. There John writes in the strongest possible terms, like Peter in 2 Peter 2-3 and Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, juxtaposing the deceivers and their lies with the fact of the ever-incarnate, ever-present Christ Jesus.
There have been long-standing issues with the English translation of this otherwise clear and forceful passage about which preachers should be mindful. The ambiguity of our English translations of ἐρχόμενον, as “coming,” gives the impression it refers to a past event only: The first parousia of the Incarnation. But this is not the case, as Bruce G. Schuchard explains in his technical but crucial commentary:
The present tense participle οἱ μὴ ὁμολογοῦντες [those who do not continually confess] describes a characteristic or common action of an enduring and defining kind. The participle ἐρχόμενον [continually comes] is a participle of indirect discourse (do not confess) “that Jesus Christ comes.” It too describes an action that is characteristic, for Jesus is He who came, who comes, and who is to come ἐν σαρκί, “in the flesh.”
The foremost deception of the deceivers concerns the promises of the ever-incarnate Christ to be enduringly present with and for His people. As Ben Witherington states it, “Their error is spelled out here as a failure to acknowledge or confess ‘Jesus coming in the flesh,’” which was itself a feature of a first century belief system inherited from Plato, which disdained the material world (it is easy to see how this carries over into contemporary beliefs that the earth will be annihilated and salvation consists of abiding in “heaven” in a disembodied state). The word “comes” or, better, “continual coming” of Christ in the flesh, argues Marianne Thompson, “Lays emphasis on the lasting, permanent union of the two natures of Christ.” Thus, Schuchard concludes: “[Continual coming] is characteristic characterizing, for Jesus is the coming one, who came, who comes, and who is to come in the flesh.” 2 John 7 allows preachers to capture the full spectrum of Jesus’ presence with and for His people, but also facilitates the sharp edge of truth against falsehood.
2 John 7 allows preachers to capture the full spectrum of Jesus’ presence with and for His people, but also facilitates the sharp edge of truth against falsehood.
Jesus avowed the following state of affairs between the first and final advents: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5; see also Genesis 28:15; Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5); “I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you” (Genesis 28:15); “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20); “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). These promises are pure Gospel assurances for the preacher to herald. Jesus’ abiding presence in and as the Eucharist accords with John 6’s “Bread of Life” discourse, but also Christology, particularly the communicatio idiomatum. Deceivers, both then and now, “have abandoned Christ, who comes even now in the flesh of His Supper, which the beloved are blessed to receive,” concludes Schuchard. Incarnate parousia at the First Advent, incarnate parousia in Holy Communion, and incarnate parousia for all to see, even without the eyes of faith, on the Last Day. To confess any other Christ than the one person, with two natures, who came in the flesh, who comes in resurrected flesh, and who will come in glorified flesh for all to see is the work and confession of ὁ ἀντίχριστος, the antichrist. Christmas, Communion, and Consummation of the Age are all characterized by the presence of the enfleshed Christ.
Consequently, even the Ascension must be interpreted according to the logic of Christ’s one-person-of-two-natures and ongoing Gospel work of heralding and miracle-working or, put differently, self-donation in the Word and Sacraments. The Ascension is not Jesus’ disappearing act, or the event which signals His absence, much less His disembodiment. No, quite the opposite and preachers should be prepared to preach it as such. The cloud in Acts 1:9 that obscures normal human sight of Jesus is not any ordinary cloud. Instead, it is the cloud found throughout the Scriptures as the manifestation of God’s abiding presence, known as the Shekinah (Exodus 13:21-22; 33:9; 1 Kings 8:10-13), This cloud was present during Jesus’ Transfiguration, stimulating the idea of Christ’s abiding presence being transfigured. Norman Nagel elaborates:
That cloud was a guarantee of the presence of God. So, at the ascension a cloud is used to mark Jesus’ entry to the realm of God, which we can neither understand nor measure with our present little thoughts and limited experience... The cloud means He is no longer within our ordinary limits. Jesus is now present and does things in the whole range of God’s way of being present and doing things while remaining a man, but a man fulfilled and glorified.
Therefore, the Ascension preaches parousia. Jesus explicitly identified His corporeal presence with His body and blood for the expressed purpose of communio (communion) in order to facilitate unio (union). The apostate’s denial of the Eucharistic Christ or Sacramental Presence constituted beliefs among them which were tantamount to ἀντίχριστος. Hence, Peter’s denunciation of them in 2 Peter 2:2, 18 as “deceivers” akin to John. Whatever “Christ” the deceivers were espousing, it was other than the Christ, that is, the God-man, the ever-incarnate One who “continually comes in the flesh” and presently rules and reigns by grace and mercy through self-donation (John 6:33-69). Once the domino of Christ’s presence in Holy Communion was tipped, then follows the fall of the dominoes of (moving backwards in time) the resurrection, the crucifixion of the Son of God, and the incarnation of the Word. So, as far as the deceivers were concerned, “Nothing had changed.” They had lost the tight connection between creation, prophecy, and the parousia of redemption. Blind and deaf to those things, they were senseless to the impact of Christ’ advents and His apostolic witness. It is no wonder they went off the rails and likewise with today’s believers of the Word but deniers of His presence. Unmoored from the ever-incarnate One, Christianity slips into Gnosticism.
Unmoored from the ever-incarnate One, Christianity slips into Gnosticism.
The parallels with today’s secular humanism or, better, humanitarianism could not be more obvious. In the same way that, as N.T. Wright has observed, the gods of old are back but merely with new names, so too “experts” (read: antichrists) with esoteric knowledge promulgate “cleverly devised myths” and vehemently endorse how human ingenuity will “save the planet” through global governing, renewable energy sources, environmentalism, DNA engineering, vaccination protocols, advancements in artificial intelligence, and population control among other things, but also concerning human origins (macro evolution). Likewise, they denigrate the Word of God as a mere anthropological phenomenon. Christ did not come as the enfleshed Savior of the world, He does not continually come as the enfleshed Bread of Life, and He will not come enfleshed on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead. This “enlightened” vision of reality diverts hope away from the resurrection and toward humanity itself, even as the very same humanity obliterates upon death and the earth succumbs to climate change or an apocalyptic asteroid scenario.
“Communicatio idiomatum (Latin: communication of properties) is a Christological concept about the interaction of deity and humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. It maintains that in view of the unity of Christ’s person, His human and divine attributes and experiences might properly be referred to His other nature so that the theologian may speak of “the suffering of God.”” Kelly, J. N. D. Early Christian Doctrines. A & C Black (1965), 143.
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