(This post is part of a series of short studies in Mark's Gospel)
Mark 10: 28 Peter began to say to him, "Look, we have left everything and followed you." 29 Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first."
What did Jesus mean when he promised that his followers would “receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life?” Why is it that some Christians today who have “left everything” to “follow Christ” are not receiving “a hundredfold?”
As a point of historical context, it is first important to note the distinction of “this age,” and “the age to come” to which Jesus refers. “This age” is the age in which he and his disciples were still living—the Old Covenant Age, which had not yet come to an end as the [first, and physical] temple was still standing (cf. Hebrews 9:8-10). And the “age to come” refers to the New Covenant Age, which was still future, and in the process of becoming, to the apostles writing in the first century, but is now a present reality for us, who have received the “eternal life” of which Jesus speaks in this passage. So the primary application of “receiving a hundred fold in this age” is not for us, but rather for those who were in the process of entering the kingdom “through much tribulation” and persecution (cf. Acts 14:22). But as they were enduring this process, their “houses” and “family” and “fields” were indeed increasing—through the building of the church.
But as we are part of the same church, built upon the same “foundation of the apostles and prophets” (cf. Ephesians 2:20), our “houses” and “family” and “fields” are theirs, as theirs are ours, by inheritance of the “riches of Christ” (cf. Ephesians 2:7; Philippians 4:19; Colossians 1:27; 2:2). These are the “riches” of which the Bible speaks.
Jesus’ association of “receiving a hundredfold” with a familial inheritance (“brothers and sisters, mothers and children”) is elucidated by his earlier redefinition of his “family” (cf. 3:32-35) as those who do the will of God. And those who do the will of God are those who believe the Gospel, and thereby become the true children of Abraham, to whom all the promises of God belong (cf. John 6:29; Galatians 3:26-29; 2 Corinthians 1:20).
Unlike the televangelists or ”prosperity gospel” preachers in our day, the Bible does not equate any aspect of the “riches of Christ” or the promises of God of “health” and “wealth” to his children with material goods or physical comfort. As Paul wrote in Romans, “the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (cf. Romans 14:17).
(This post is part of a series of short studies in Mark's Gospel)
Mark 4: 11 And he said to them, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; 12 in order that "they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.' "
What is the "mystery" or "secret" of the kingdom of God that Jesus speaks of, and how does this passage inform our understanding of the kingdom today?
A major key to identifying the “mystery” or “secret” of the kingdom referred to in verse 11 is found in verse 12 (a quotation from Isaiah 6:9-10): those who would not understand this mystery would not be forgiven. Those who have been given understanding of the mystery of the kingdom respond with repentance that leads to forgiveness; whereas those who have not been given understanding do not repent, and remain “outside” and unforgiven.
Mark introduces this association of the “mystery of the kingdom” with the forgiveness of sins from the very beginning of his gospel, when he equates the “good news,” or the Gospel, with the coming of the “kingdom.” This naturally leads us to consider the way that Paul uses the same word for mystery (Gr. Musterion) to refer to the mystery of the Gospel (cf. Ephesians 3:8-11; 6:19) and the mystery of Christ and His church (cf. Ephesians 5:32). I suggest that the “mystery of the Kingdom” is indeed the “mystery of the Gospel,” or “the mystery of Christ,” which “in former generations was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise [Israel’s hope] in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (cf. Ephesians 3:5-6).
The terms “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven” are synonymous in Scripture. Therefore when we consider what it means to “enter” the “kingdom of God,” we should consider also what it means to enter “heaven,” or the presence of God, through faith in Christ. It is also helpful to consider the Scriptures upon which Jesus and the New Testament apostles were basing their understanding of the “kingdom.” For example, Psalm 145 associates God’s mercy (which he performed by the cross) with the power and glory of his kingdom. And Isaiah 52 connects the reign of God in “Zion” (which the writer of Hebrews equates with the church, cf. Hebrews 12:22-24) with Israel’s salvation and the proclamation of the Gospel.
If one enters this “kingdom” (which is “heaven”) through belief in the Gospel, then it is understandable that those who expected a kingdom inaugurated through political deliverance from Roman oppression in the first century were those who were blind to the mystery—to the kingdom’s true nature--and that this blindness prevented them from “turning again and being forgiven.” And it is no different today, as there are those who are looking for a physical fulfillment of the kingdom of God, or “Heaven on earth,” and are blind to its true nature, and missing the joy of its present reality.
 It is indeed appropriate, when reading and reflecting on the Scriptures theologically, to associate one writer’s teaching on the kingdom and the Gospel with another’s. Paul proclaims the Gospel that was the fulfillment of Israel’s hope, anticipated by her prophets. Mark states from the beginning that his Gospel (which he associates directly with the coming of God’s kingdom) is the fulfillment of those very same prophecies. Both Mark and Paul associate the “mystery” (of the kingdom, or the Gospel, respectively) with the forgiveness of sins. Mark and Paul both read the same Scriptures, and both saw Christ as fulfilling them.
(This post is part of a series of short studies in Mark's Gospel)
What is the significance of Jesus’ claim that the “Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins?”
Old Testament prophecies of salvation and the forgiveness of sins often include the language of physical healing, associating disease and sickness with sin, and health and wholeness with the forgiveness of sin. For example, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits—who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases (Psalm 103:2). And in this description by Isaiah of the New Jerusalem, wherein God dwells with his people, which we understand to be fulfilled in the church (cf. Hebrews 12:22-24; Revelation 21:2, 9-10), the eradication of “sickness” is accomplished by the forgiveness of sins:
Isaiah 33:24 And no inhabitant [of the New Jerusalem] will say, "I am sick"; the people who live there will be forgiven their iniquity.
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus comes on the scene healing, and specifically according to Isaiah’s prophecy, he heals the blind, deaf, lame and the mute, as well as many other diseases (cf. 1:29-34; 40-45; 2:1-12; 3:1-6; 5:21-41; 6:53-56; 7:31-36; 10:46-52). In addition to healing physical disease, Jesus casts out many “unclean” or “demonic” spirits (cf. 1:21-28; 32-34; 5:1-11; 7:24-30; 9:14-29).
When Jesus responds to the faith of the paralytic and his friends by saying to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven,” the scribes charge him with blasphemy, as only God can forgive sins. Jesus’ reply to them confirms that their understanding is indeed correct: only God can forgive sins. And just “so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” (in other words, so that you know that I, the Son of Man, am indeed God, “your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel”), he says to the paralytic, “stand up” (cf. 2:1-12).
 Isaiah 35:5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. (See also Luke 7:21-22.)
 “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine... For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior...I am the Lord and beside me there is no Savior...Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel... I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King... I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (cf. Isaiah 43:1,3,11,14,15,25).
In John 17, Christ prayed:
John 17:22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; so that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
For those who may suggest that we have yet to be glorified with Christ, or that He has been glorified, but we have not yet, please pay attention to this (and by all means, look at the entire context in John 17):
The glory which God the Father had given Christ...
He was giving to His disciples...
they would be one...
with each other, and with Him.
AND so that...
He would be in them.
AND so that...
the world would know that God sent Christ...
and that God loves them....
Now, regardless of the verb tenses here, and the timing of the accomplishment of this glory, the goal of it is our oneness.
Are we one in Christ? Then we have been glorified. With the same glory that the Father gave the Son. If we have not been glorified, then we have not yet been made one in Christ. And the world cannot yet see that "You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me."
Does He dwell in us, and us in Him? That is our glorification.
The thing that strikes me about this, is that here is a guy (for whom I have great respect for what he's taught me) who totally sensualizes and physicalizes and futurizes "heaven" and every prophetic text referring to the kingdom of Christ, and the new heavens and new earth. And then he takes this passage, which in context, is only fulfilled by resurrection, and applies both the presence of God, and the experience of that presence (which he actually believes doesn't happen until we physically die!) to the physical pleasures that God has given us in this life to enjoy. Now, I don't have a problem with that application, with the qualification that these things picture, and demonstrate, and make tangible to our understanding the eternal, spiritual, invisible kingdom that is within us. (See again Ward's article.) And yes, we are enjoying them now, as we are enjoying the reality and substance of God's presence now. But again, according to this passage, and probably a hundred others, that presence is brought about by our resurrection. And not until.
So...can a futurist really apply all these benefits and experiences of resurrection and heaven (ie, God's presence) to their present time? Whether they are applying these word pictures metaphorically *or* literally, they are applying them *prematurely*, according to their paradigm of redemption, and the timing of its fulfillment.
And it struck me as ironic in a way, that as preterists we get accused of making the Bible irrelevant to our day? By honoring the time statements? And yet, we have way more Scriptures to apply to our lives right now, than any futurist has any hope of doing. Anytime soon.
(with due respect to one of my favorite teachers)
Recently we were having a discussion with some friends about "heaven." We had all attended a church service a few evenings earlier, the theme of which, coincidentally, was "what will heaven be like?" One of the passages the pastor quoted at church, and that we again referred to in our dinner discussion, was this from Revelation 21:
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Revelation 21:4).
Our futuristically minded neighbors agreed with us that this is a description of heaven. A place of no more tears and no more sorrow. So we went on to discuss some other passages which identify the tears and the sorrow, and what removed them…we discussed the cross and the nature of our redemption. We discussed the "Revelation of Jesus Christ" and how it was not about the history of our planet, but the history of our redemption in Him, the restoration of innocence and presence with God. It struck me that while much "food for thought" had been brought to the table, the same question was still being asked, and the query remained pretty much unsatisfied: "Is this all there is?"
This is all very related to discussions even among "preterists" who acknowledge with their lips a completed redemption and yet in their hearts are far from experiencing the full impact of forgiveness. Could this be why the preterist view fails to be convincing to futurists? That often times those who present it focus on proving something that happened in the past, and have still not even experienced the impact of what they are "proving" for themselves? I am speaking of the power of the cross.
What we need, preterists and futurists alike, is revelation: The Revelation of Forgiveness. Because forgiveness *is* heaven. Forgiveness *is* home. Our futurist friends look forward to "going home" someday. So many of our preterist friends do too. No wonder we have nothing to offer to those who are seeking (regardless of their perceptions or paradigms) ultimate satisfaction and eternal comfort and rest.
As I was contemplating my neighbor's responses afterwards to our discussion of "heaven", it was very apparent that no "time statement argument" of what happened empirically in 70 AD was going to reveal forgiveness to her. And it is only *that* revelation which will answer the longing in her heart for her heavenly home. If the Bible equates forgiveness with heaven, and even supposed believers in heaven fulfilled are not acknowledging that *all* of their sin has been forgiven, then doesn't it stand to reason that this is where our focus as preterists needs to be?
Fulfilled eschatology = fulfilled redemption. I get really perplexed when people say they want to focus on soteriology rather than eschatology. The two cannot be separated, because either eschatology is fulfilled, or neither is our salvation. I just think there are a lot of "preterists" out there who have not really grasped the impact or the context of the forgiveness of sin and until they do, their "AD 70 message" is going to fall flat.
Psalm 16:11 Thou wilt show me the path of life: In thy presence is fulness of joy; At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
Our appreciation for the worth of something is always dictated, and the degree of it is enhanced, by our understanding of what it cost. I value gifts from people relative to this, either consciously or subconsciously. I am not just talking about money. I actually value many gifts from people much more than material gifts...the gift of their time and presence most of all.
The same applies to the worth I assign to my redemption in Christ. The more I understand about what it cost, the more glorious it becomes to me. The more I understand of the depth of His love, and the extremity of His sacrifice, the more I love Him. I will never understand it fully, but I will always be understanding it more.
There was a price to be paid, and He paid it. At great expense to Himself, far greater than my mind could ever fathom. He became ashamed for me. God did. I don't know how to explain that, but I just know that He did that. And if He hadn't done it, I would be lost.
The "idealist" would reduce the cross to a mere metaphor, or symbol, denying that the cross was necessary and effectual for salvation--for the forgiveness of sins, to bring us to God. But these past couple of years that I have spent reading the prophets, the thing that has so gripped me is the way they were so desperate for their Savior. Waiting, hoping, longing....for that Day. And they were afraid and lonely and in despair when they contemplated death, because they knew what the grave was. It was a place of non-existence, and separation from the presence of God. And it was the cross--the historical event of the cross in time and space-- that made the difference for them, the difference between death and life. Between separation from God and presence with God. And it was the cross that made the difference for me. And this is how much it cost:
Psalm 69:1 Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. 2 I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. 3 I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God. 4 They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away. 5 O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee. 6 Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel. 7 Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face. 8 I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children. 9 For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me. 10 When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach. 11 I made sackcloth also my garment; and I became a proverb to them. 12 They that sit in the gate speak against me; and I was the song of the drunkards. 13 But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O LORD, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation. 14 Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters. 15 Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me. 16 Hear me, O LORD; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies. 17 And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble: hear me speedily. 18 Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it: deliver me because of mine enemies. 19 Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all before thee. 20 Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. 21 They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. 22 Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap. 23 Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake. 24 Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them. 25 Let their be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents. 26 For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded. 27 Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness. 28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous. 29 But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high. 30 I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. 31 This also shall please the LORD better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs. 32 The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God. 33 For the LORD heareth the poor, and despiseth not his prisoners. 34 Let the heaven and earth praise him, the seas, and every thing that moveth therein. 35 For God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah: that they may dwell there, and have it in possession. 36 The seed also of his servants shall inherit it: and they that love his name shall dwell therein. --Jesus
I was asked the question:
What do you think happens to the unbeliever at physical death, Scripturally speaking?
To which I answered:
I think we have to get away from this idea (because I can't find it in Scripture) that physical death is the doorway to some new status with God, or that it is an event of any efficacious quality bringing about the fulfillment of some prophecy which has not already been fulfilled, or granting us additional redemptive blessings we don't already have (as those who believe we "get an immortal body" upon physical physical death would maintain: they look to physical death as a reward of some kind, instead of seeing that *Christ* is our inheritance. He is our promised land. *He* is *heaven*.)
It is not physical death which translates us into the kingdom (heaven); it is faith in the shed blood of Christ for the remission of sins which translates us into the kingdom. So, if physical death is not the doorway to the presence of God for believers because they are already there; then physical death is not the doorway to separation from God for unbelievers, because they are already separated from God. The issue for both is faith, or lack thereof; not physicality, or lack thereof. So to your question, what happens to them? They *remain* separated from God. I don't know how that might be differentiated, experientially, apart from a physical body in comparison to being in a physical body, anymore than I know what heaven (which is where we *already are*) will be like for us, experientially, when we no longer have physical bodies. I can only imagine.
But again, I think it is really important that we stop looking to physical death as this "big bang" event, with creative powers. He has already made all things new! When we attach redemptive significance to physical death, we take away from Christ, and His finished work.
I have been married to my loving husband Keith for 26 years. We have three beautiful and brilliant children, ages 24, 22 and 20. Nothing cheers my heart more than having them all at home, yet nothing is more satisfying to my mind than watching them grow from afar. My personal passion is theology: the knowledge and experience of the Truth and Mercy found only in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and displayed in the lives and communion of His people. My husband and I love to travel, and because our children are often out and about in the world, we get lots of opportunities to see it! And we also love to fill our home with friends who love us, and love our wine collection.