Pastor David B. Curtis

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Abiding and the Second Coming Pt 2

(1 John 2:28b-29)

Delivered 9/22/19

In our study last week, we began to look at verses 28 and 29 of chapter 2 of 1 John:

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. 1 John 2:28-29 ESV

The “little children” here are believers. These believers are told to “abide in him.” I see abiding as something that every believer is supposed to do but something that most do not do. We said last week that abiding is a call to discipleship. It is to be a follower of Yeshua. It is to live in fellowship with Yahweh. We abide in Him by spending time in the Word, by obeying His commands, by living as Christ lived, and by loving our brothers and sisters. Abiding in Him is the same thing as what is called in other places "walking in the Spirit" or having "fellowship with Christ." It is what Jude calls “Keeping yourselves in the love of God.”

We talked last week about the “when he appears…at his coming” being references to the second coming of Christ. Which we (preterists) know happened at AD 70 in the destruction of the Jewish Temple. I gave you several quotes last week from John MacArthur about his take on the preterist view. Let me give you one more.

In the sermon that I quoted from last week, MacArthur also stated the following:

But what do they (referring to preterists DBC) do with statements in the Bible that the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout? I don’t know that anybody saw the Lord coming down or shouting or blowing a trumpet in 70 A.D. And did the dead in Christ rise first in 70 A.D.? And did corruptible people become incorruptible and did mortal people become immortal and was death swallowed up? And 2 Peter 3:10 says when that event happens the heavens will melt with a great noise and the elements will melt with fervent heat. That’s the dissolution of the universe, that didn’t happen in 70 A.D. What do they do with all that? Well they just allegorize it away, spiritualize it away, make it mean whatever they want it to mean, which is remarkable to me.

So, MacArthur says that we preterists spiritualize the second coming but he sees it as, “the dissolution of the universe.” I think that most futurists see the second coming as “the dissolution of the universe.” But this is not how the first century believers saw it.   

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 ESV

Paul is talking about the second coming and tells the Thessalonians not to be alarmed by those who were saying that it had already happened. This verse shatters the paradigm that views the Second Coming as “the dissolution of the universe.” Do you see that? If the Thessalonians believed that the nature of the Second Coming was an earth burning, total dissolution of the universe, how could they be deceived about its arrival?

If the Second Coming was, as MacArthur says, “the dissolution of the universe,” Paul could have written them and said, "Look out the window, the earth is not on fire, the sky is still blue, so the Lord has obviously not come." They thought it had already happened, so they must have viewed the nature of the Second Coming differently than MacArthur does. They must have been spiritualizing the second coming. They obviously did not think it was something you could see.

MacArthur says that, “2 Peter 3:10 is about the dissolution of the universe and that didn’t happen in 70 A.D.” We saw from the Thessalonians text that they didn’t view the nature of the second coming as physical. Then what is 2 Peter 3:10 talking about?

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:11-13 ESV

At first glance that does sound like the dissolution of the universe, the heavens being dissolved, and heavenly bodies melting. How are we to understand that? The words, "heavenly bodies" here are from the Greek word stoicheion. In most translations, it is translated as "elements.” MacArthur sees this as referring to the scientific idea of the elements of matter, so it involves all of the atoms of the universe burning up. But is this what the word elements means? The Greek word stoicheion is only used seven times in the New Testament; and looking at its usage, we see it has two main meanings. It is used as "elements of religious training, or the ceremonial precepts that are common to the worship of Jews."

In Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, the literal meaning of the word is "element, rudiment, principle." In other words, this is the elements of religious training or the ceremonial precepts that are common to the worship of Jews and of Gentiles.

But stoicheion is also understood by many scholars to refer to "heavenly spirits." Which is why it is translated "heavenly bodies" in the ESV. Obviously, this "stoicheion" is not about atoms or the destruction of the universe.

The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible states the following:

Given the predilection of many people in the Greco-Roman world for astral religious beliefs and practices, it could also be argued that the elements are planetary or other celestial bodies; or that the elements refer to spiritual beings: such as angels or demons who control earthly affairs and determine human destiny. (Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible; [2nd extensively rev. ed., p. 817] Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans.)

A number of interpreters, perhaps even a majority, have concluded that "ta stoicheia tou kosmou" refers to spiritual powers of some sort. The Testament of Solomon, a Jewish-Christian work, testifies to a belief in star spirits called stoicheia. Seven bound spirits appear before Solomon and reveal their identity: "We are the stoicheia, rulers of this world of darkness [kosmokratores tou skotous] … our stars in heaven look small, but we are named like gods" (T. Sol. 8:2-4).

So, what is being dissolved? The Old Covenant Jewish system is being dissolved and the false gods that oppose Yahweh, not the universe. Where do we have a promise about a new heaven and earth? Peter was surely thinking of the book of Isaiah, chapters 65 and 66.

"For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. Isaiah 65:17 ESV

If you read Isaiah 65 and 66 you will notice that before God creates the new heavens and a new earth, He will pour out His wrath against Jerusalem, His rebellious people (Isa. 65:1-7, 11-17; 66:3-6, 15-18, 24). When God created the new heavens and earth, notice that physical death would remain (Isa. 65:20, 66:24), home construction and agriculture would continue (Isa. 65:21-22), people would continue to have descendants (Isa. 65:23, 66:22), the Lord would hear their prayers (Isa. 65:24), and there would be evangelism (Isa. 66:19). The new heavens and earth, therefore, must be referring to a period in human history. This is the period of the Kingdom of God which Christ rules in the hearts of the believers.

Futurists teach that the New Heaven and Earth of Revelation 21 and the New Jerusalem of Revelation 22 is the saved of all ages, the bride of Christ at the end of the millennium when all things have ended and we have embarked into eternity.  Sin, death, Hades, and Satan have all been cast into the lake of fire. Remember that all evil has been disposed of, God has healed the Church of her ills, and sin has been finally purged from her so that only a grandiose description of her can truly tell of her beauty. The futurists teach that the earth will be a physical paradise at this time. But is that what the Scriptures say?

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22:1-2 ESV

When we look at these verses, a question immediately comes to mind. Why would the nations need healing? If one adopts the futurist view, then one is at pains to explain this tree. If however, one adopts the preterist view, the explanation is quite easy. Does the New Covenant gospel age end, or is it truly an everlasting covenant as Hebrews 13:20 says?

Let’s go back to 1 John.

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 1 John 2:28 ESV

In this text, the believers are told to abide for a reason (“so that”hina purpose clause). The reason they are to abide is “so that” at the second coming of Christ “we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame.”  This indicates that there are two possibilities at the return of Christ: you will either have confidence, or you will shrink from Him in shame. In other words, the one who abides in Christ will come confidently into God's presence; the one who does not abide in Christ will come in shame.

Who is the “we”? It is all believers. He is saying that believers would not be ashamed if they continued to abide in Christ. But if they failed to abide they would experience shame. So, if we abide in him, we will have confidence at the second coming; but if we don’t abide in him, we will have shame at the second coming.

When Yeshua "appears," those who have been faithful, who have "abided," may approach God openly and with great confidence. The word “confidence” is from the Greek word parrhēsia and the words “shrink and shame” are from the Greek word aischunomai.  Both of these words are used by Paul in Philippians 1:

as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. Philippians 1:20 ESV

What I want us to see here is that aischunomai can mean more that our idea of shame. The dictionary defines "ashamed" as being "affected by shame," and shame is defined as a painful emotion excited by a consciousness of guilt, disgrace, or dishonor. But this is not the only definition of aischunomai. The Greek word aischunomai can also be translated as "disappoint."

Let me give you a principle of hermeneutics. When you look up a word in Strong's or Young's Lexicon, they will give you the etymology of the word. That is the dictionary definition of the word. Oftentimes that is not how it is used in the Bible. There is another way to find out what a word means and that is by its usage. How is the word used in Scripture? In exegesis, usage always takes precedent over etymology. The reason for this is because word meanings change. So, what we want to find is usage. The way to find out usage is to get a Greek concordance and look up how the word is used in the Bible. As you find its usage, you can determine its meaning. The work is well worth it.

This meaning of "disappoint" for the Greek word aischunomai is unmistakable at several important places in the Bible.

and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:5 ESV

What does hope and shame have to do with each other? This is better translated as:

and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:5 NASB

The word "disappoint" translated "ashamed" in the ESV is kataischuno, a strengthened form of aischunomai. Thayer's Greek\English Lexicon translates this as "does not disappoint." Phillips correctly offers this paraphrase: "a steady hope that will never disappoint us." Kittle, in his Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, says "Extra-biblically the word 'ashamed' was often used for disillusionment."

as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” Romans 9:33 ESV
For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” Romans 10:11 ESV

In both of these places, the words "put to shame" are from the Greek word, kataischuno. The idea is that "No one who trusts in God will ever be disappointed."

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16 ESV

The word for "ashamed" here is epaischunomai. Paul is saying that he has never been disappointed in the gospel. Paul wrote this to the Romans who took pride in their power. The Roman legions had conquered the civilized world. The gospel possesses a power that does not disappoint the Christian.

Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 1 Peter 4:16 ESV

The word here for "ashamed" is aischunomai and would be better translated "disappointed."  

which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. 2 Timothy 1:12 ESV

The word "ashamed" here is epaischunomai and should also be rendered as "disappointed.” Paul was not disappointed because he knew that God was going to deliver him through all his suffering. This is a banking metaphor as seen in: “he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” Paul says that He has no disappointments in life because his life is Christ and Christ will not disappoint him.

I said all that to show that aischunomai is broader than just the idea of shame. And maybe here both ideas of disappointment and shame are to be seen.

Let’s look at the word “confidence” which is from the Greek parrhēsia (“courage, confidence, boldness, fearlessness, especially in the presence of persons of high rank.”) (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Bauer, Arndt, & Gingrich [University of Chicago Press], second ed., p. 630).

John’s point here is that if believers abide in Christ (following the teaching they heard from the beginning and which the anointing, the Holy Spirit, continues to teach them), then, when Yeshua the Christ appears and judges his people, they may be confident and unashamed before him.

Because we believe that the second coming happened in AD 70, how were the believers who were living then confident or disappointed at the coming? Did those living then see Christ at his coming? No, they did not. His presence was made known in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Roman army. Just as Yahweh’s presence was made know to the Egyptians by the Assyrian army in:

An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them. Isaiah 19:1 ESV

We know from chapter 20 that God used the Assyrians as instruments of His wrath on Egypt, yet it says, "The LORD is riding on a swift cloud…Egypt will tremble at His presence." Yahweh came to Egypt. Did He physically come to Egypt? No. How did He "come" to Egypt? He came in judgment. His presence was made known in judgment. But it was the Assyrians who were literally present.

We must understand this if we are going to properly view the Second Coming of Christ. Christ's Coming was not physical in nature. It was the same as His Father’s—a coming in judgment. Christ did not appear in bodily form as a man. He came in judgment against Old Covenant Israel as evidenced by the destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70 by the Roman army.

So, if Christ was not visible at the second coming, how were believers either bold or disappointed in themselves at his coming? Here is how I see it. I see the respective boldness or disappointment as something that takes place after the second coming at the Bema seat judgment. Even though eternal salvation is an entirely free gift which can never be lost, the New Testament makes plain that the believer must give an account of his or her Christian life in the presence of Christ:

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat [bēma] of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Romans 14:10-12 ESV

Paul is speaking here to the Roman believers. He has a similar message to the believers in Corinth:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat [bēma] of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV

In the context, it is clear that in both incidents, Paul is addressing Christians, not unbelievers. Unlike the Great White Throne judgment of unbelievers, the Bema Seat of Christ is not for the purpose of condemnation. Christ has already borne our condemnation.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Yeshua. Romans 8:1 ESV

"Now no condemnation"—reading this in the original text the emphasis rests upon the word "no." "There is now therefore no condemnation.” That's the emphatic word in the Greek text.

The Greek word that Paul uses here for "condemnation" is katakrima (katakrima is the normal word for condemnation). Katakrima is only used three times in Scripture, all of which are by Paul in Romans. Paul uses katakrima twice in Romans 5:

And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. Romans 5:16 ESV

We see here that Adam's sin resulted in judgment, ( krima)—a sentence or a decision on the part of a judge. This sentence from the judge resulted in condemnation, (katakrima). Katakrima is defined by Suttor in his Lexicon as the punishment following the sentence. It is in a passive formation in the Greek and it is not likely to refer to the sentence as an edict from the judge but rather to the punishment. Adam's sin is imputed to all. This is condemnation, which is spiritual death or separation from God.

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. Romans 5:18 ESV

Again, in this verse we see the same idea. Adam's transgression resulted in condemnation, (katakrima) or spiritual death to all men. When Adam sinned, he sinned as our federal head or representative. Adam's sin is imputed to the account of every individual in Adam's race. Everyone is born spiritually dead and, therefore, separated from God because of Adam's sin. His act was a representative act, and you and I, as being represented by our federal head, participated in Adam's sin.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Yeshua. Romans 8:1 ESV

This promise is only "for those who are in Christ Yeshua"—only those "who are in Christ have life." Some are in Him and some are not. Paul assumes this everywhere in his writings. There are those "in Christ" and there are those "outside." Paul is not a Universalist.

So, the Bema is not a judgment of condemnation or a determiner of salvation. There are two purposes for the Bema Seat. First, according to Romans 14:10-14, believers are to "give an account" of themselves to God. "Give an account"—is an expression often used for the keeping of financial records. It is to Yahweh that we all have to answer to. What kind of account will we have to give? In our text in 1 John the issue is abiding in Christ. 

A second function of the Bema Seat of Christ is that of God rewarding us for our service and good deeds.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat [bēma] of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV

We are going to receive what we are due for how we have lived. This is not an isolated teaching in the New Testament. Yeshua said:

For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Matthew 16:27 ESV

 And in the very last chapter of the Bible, Yeshua said:

“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. Revelation 22:12 ESV

In other words, how you live is important. Notice what Paul said to Timothy:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Yeshua, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:1-2 ESV

Who is to judge”—should be rendered “who is about to (mello) judge.” The judgment was near in the first century. Paul is saying, “I’m telling you, Timothy, preach the Word because you are going to stand one day before the judge.” We’re all going to stand before the Lord.  We are all going to be there at the Bema seat of Christ, and our lives are going to be evaluated.

Believer, living in the light of eternity is a motive for abiding in Christ. Living with the realization that you are going to face the Lord one day and give an account of your life. The believers who were living at the second coming had to give an account to the Lord at their death, and so will we. Some of us will be bold, and some will be disappointed. How you live now will matter for eternity.

If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. 1 John 2:29 ESV

If you know that he is righteous”—this is a third class conditional sentence that means potential action. This phrase does not refer to whether Yeshua is righteous or not, but rather to whether the readers have realized that Yeshua is righteous.

"You know"—this is either a present active indicative, which states an ongoing knowledge, or a present active imperative, which speaks of a believer's necessary knowledge. John's usage of "know" as the possession of all who have the Spirit dictates that it is indicative.

The righteousness of God is spoken of all through the Scriptures.

For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face. Psalms 11:7 ESV
Righteous are you, O LORD, and right are your rules. Psalms 119:137 ESV

When used of God, the concept of righteousness involves opposition to sin. God instructs Moses to write the song that would be taught to the whole nation and passed down to following generations. Known as the Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:1-43), the nation of Israel would sing it at the ceremony during which they would renew their covenant with God. They would acknowledgment their obligation to obey Him and the righteousness of His judgment when they were disobedient.

When Moses opens with God's song, God's righteous is one of the first characteristics mentioned:

For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he. Deuteronomy 32:3-4 ESV

Because this is the song that God has Moses write, it is God Himself who reveals that He is righteous. Although it is not clear what the character of righteousness meant, it is associated with a behavior of fidelity ("faithfulness"), justice ("without injustice") and honor ("upright").

You may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him”—when someone is born of someone else, there is almost always a family resemblance. You say, “Look, she has her mother’s eyes” or “He has his father’s nose.” Well, the children of God have a family resemblance to their Father in heaven. He is righteous, and he reproduces righteousness in every abiding Christian.

God is righteous and is, therefore, the source of all righteousness. When a man is righteous, we know that the source of his righteousness is God. It is the righteousness that he did not possess in his fallen nature but acquired by the new birth.

Yeshua taught the Jews this in the Fourth Gospel:

They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Yeshua said to them, “If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works Abraham did. John 8:39 ESV

Yeshua is saying that the children resemble the Father.

“Has been born of him”this is a perfect passive indicative, conveying a settled condition brought about by an outside agent—God the Father.

Commenting on this verse Zane Hodges writes,

We must not make this verse say more than it does. John certainly does not say, 'Whoever does not do righteousness is not born of Him.' That would be an inference in no way justified by John's statement. He is not talking here about how we can decide if a person is saved. If we know that a person believes (cf. 1 John 5:1 …), we can know he is saved. But here, John is clearly concerned with the deduction which we can make if we know that God is righteous. If that is known, it follows that one who to any extent reproduces His righteous nature is actually manifesting that nature and can rightly be perceived as born of Him." [Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John, p. 127].

This verse does not say that everyone who is born of God practices righteousness. Believers can walk in darkness and sin (1:6, 8; 2:1). The point here is that when a child exhibits the nature of his or her father, he or she is perceived as the child of the father. Practicing righteousness is normal—but it is not inevitable for one who is born of God.

Let me sum up what I see John saying here. He is telling believers (“little children”) to abide in him because one day we are all going to have to face him and give an account of our life. Will you be confident before him or will you be disappointed because of shame?

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