We are continuing this morning in our study of 2 John. This brief letter was written to remind the readers of the command to love one another which they received "at the beginning" and to warn them about certain itinerant deceivers who were teaching false doctrine.
In the first six verses John talks about love. We have seen that you can only truly love in obedience to the Word of God. So then, you must know the Word of God in order to love God according to His revelation and to love each other according to His revelation. You cannot live and love in the truth unless you're walking in the truth.
In verse 7 John's attention is drawn to the dangers presented to the church through the teaching of false doctrine by deceivers. We looked last week at verse 7,
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Yeshua the Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. 2 John 1:7 ESV
The common error of the deceivers and the antichrists was Christological. They regarded "Yeshua" as something other than God's Anointed One ("Christ") who had come "in the flesh."
We talked last week about John's use of the present tense of erchomai. I believe that John uses the present tense here to speak of the abiding reality of the incarnation, namely that Yeshua didn't just come in the flesh and then put off the flesh, but that He remains in the flesh. "Coming in the flesh" means, having come—and continuing on—in the flesh. Yeshua was, and continues to be, fully God AND fully man.
Now, I received some questions about this last week. Donna asked, "Is Christ in the flesh in heaven now, or did He return to the same nature that He had with the Father before the incarnation? Then I received an email from Chris asking, "I have been under the impression that preterists generally hold to the view that Christ is no longer (post-ascension) in the flesh, no longer man. Is there diversity of opinion on this in preterist circles?" Chris, I laughed when I read this because preterists don't agree on anything except the second coming. Both of these questions are important questions. This is why I do Q. & A. I want to know what people have questions about.
These questions arose because we were talking about the Incarnation. And so, the question is about Christ's post ascension state. Is He still a Theanthropic person? I want to try to answer this question. This is important because the antichrists were teaching a false Christology. So, let's start at the beginning. When did the Incarnation take place? An angel came to a girl named Mary and told her,
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Yeshua. Luke 1:31 ESV
The name "Yeshua" means "Yahweh's salvation." Prior to this there was no Yeshua. To this Mary responds,
And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. Luke 1:34-35 ESV
Yahweh had an offspring with a human woman and produced the Savior of mankind, Yeshua. John explains this to us this way,
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 ESV
"Became"—is from the Greek egeneto which does not mean that the Word ceased to be what He was before. Rather, to His eternal Deity, He added perfect humanity. Prior to this the Second Person of the Trinity was the eternal Word. But at a point in time, He added humanity to His divine being. He became the God-Man. This joining together has been designated as the hypostatic union.
The term hypostatic is derived from the Greek word hypostasis meaning "personal." Thus, the hypostatic union is the "personal union" or joining of the two natures of Yeshua, (divine and human). Theologian Louis Berkhof helps shed some further light on the terms nature and person as they relate to the doctrine of the hypostatic union. He aptly comments that the "term nature denotes the sum-total of all the essential qualities of a thing, that which makes it what it is…The term person denotes a complete substance endowed with reason, and, consequently, a responsible subject of its own actions." [Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 321].
Let's talk about what happened in the hypostatic union. Christ did not have two personalities because of His two natures. He was one Person with two natures, divine and human. Because He is a man does not make Him less than God. Nor, does His being God prevent Him from being truly a man.
The integrity of the attributes of His divine nature were not corrupted or compromised or diminished by the fact that His divine nature was united permanently with a human nature. Nor were the integrity of the attributes of His human nature corrupted or compromised or diminished by the fact that He was God. His two natures, though united, retain their separate identities. There was no mixture of His divine nature with that of His human nature. His divine attributes are always united to His divine nature and His human attributes are always united to His human nature. Deity remains deity and humanity remains humanity.
The infinite cannot become finite and the immutable cannot be changed. No attribute of deity was altered when our Lord became a man through the incarnation and the same holds true when He died on the cross. To take away a single attribute from His divine nature would destroy His deity and to take away a singled attribute from His perfect human nature would destroy His humanity. The two natures of Christ are not only united without affecting the attributes of the two natures, but they are also combined in one person.
Shedd in his Dogmatic Theology writes the following:
Previous to the assumption of a human nature, the Logos could not experience a human feeling because he had no human heart, but after this assumption he could; previous to the incarnation, he could not have a finite perception because he had no finite intellect, but after this event he could; previous to the incarnation, the self-consciousness of the Logos was eternal only, that is, without succession, but subsequent to the incarnation it was both eternal and temporal, with and without succession. Prior to the incarnation, the second person of the Trinity could not have human sensations and-experiences; but after it he could.
The unincarnate Logos could think and feel only like God; he had only one form of consciousness. The incarnate Logos can think and feel either like God, or like man. [Dr. Shedd's, Dogmatic Theology, vol. 2, pp. 261-308].
Okay, so I think we are all on the same page so far. The disagreement comes with what happened after the ascension. And let me tell you right here that preterists are divided on this issue. So, I'm going to tell you where I stand and then you be a Berean and study this out for yourself.
As I said last week, I believe the incarnation was permanent. If the hypostatic union was dissolved there would no longer be Yeshua. Yeshua is the God-Man. If one of these natures was removed, He would no longer be Yeshua.
The Heidelberg Catechism says,
After His ascension, Jesus was localized in heaven and yet with His people no matter where we are (Matt. 28:18–20; Acts 1:6–11)? According to His humanity, Jesus is not on earth, but according to His deity, Jesus is never absent from us (The Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 47).
The hypostatic union did not end with the resurrection or ascension. Yeshua continues as "a high priest forever" (Heb. 6:20), and His priestly office depends on His "becoming like his brothers in every respect" (2:14–18).
John Stott puts it this way, "The two natures, manhood and Godhood, were united already at His birth, never to be divided."
Shedd in his Dogmatic Theology writes, "Though beginning in time, the theanthropic personality of the Redeemer continues forever. This is taught in,
To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. Romans 9:5 ESV
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells [now and forever] bodily, Colossians 2:9 ESV
Hebrews 4:14-15 "We have a great high priest who hath passed into the heavens." [Dr. Shedd's, Dogmatic Theology, vol. 2, pp. 261-308].
To me one of the strongest verses on the permanence of the Incarnation is,
Yeshua the Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8 ESV
Let's first talk about context. This is not to be understood as some theological assertion that is unrelated to the context to which it is found. This verse is here to encourage them that he who yesterday was the source and object of the triumphant faith of their leaders is still today the same all-powerful Redeemer and Lord and will continue so forever. And even though successive generations pass away, Yeshua the Christ remains the same—the Savior of the living as well as of the departed, and the Savior of all to the end of time.
The writer of Hebrews rarely uses the formula "Yeshua the Christ," which makes it even more significant here. Who is the writer saying is the same? It is Yeshua the Christ, the Theanthropic person. He is not talking here about the preincarnate Word. He is talking about the God-Man Yeshua. And of Yeshua he says He, "is the same yesterday and today and forever."
"Yesterday" can only refer back as far as the Incarnation. As I said earlier, if the hypostatic union was dissolved, there would no longer be Yeshua. But the writer of Hebrews says, "Yeshua is the same forever." So, the hypostatic union is forever. Believers, there is a man in heaven who knows exactly what it is like to be human. He knows our pains and sufferings, and as God, He can get us through them.
In his sermon on Pentecost Peter said,
Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. Acts 2:30-31 ESV
David wanted to build a temple for Yahweh, but Yahweh wouldn't let him. But He gave David a promise:
When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 2 Samuel 7:12-13 ESV
God promised David that one of his seed would be set on David's throne and rule and reign forever. The Jews understood that the Messiah was to be descended from David.
Thus far in his argument, Peter has proved that the Messiah must rise from the dead to ascend his throne. Now he proves that Yeshua is this Messiah of whom David had spoken.
This Yeshua God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Acts 2:32 ESV
So, Yeshua, who is the theanthropic person, is the promised descendant of David whose kingdom would be established forever. If the hypostatic union was dissolved, who would reign over this everlasting kingdom?
Back to our text. Because of the threat of the deceivers, John warns his readers:
Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 2 John 1:8 ESV
"Watch yourselves"—watch here is blepo, which means "see." It is used metaphorically here for a warning against evil. You have to protect yourself in the church, be vigilant, suspicious, discerning, on guard because what is at stake is so important.
John put it this way in 1 John.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1 ESV
"Test the spirits" is a present active imperative. This is a necessity for every believer. Believers, we need to test the spirits because there is a lot false teaching out there from the New Age Movement to the Masons and the Mormons—often under the umbrella of Christendom. Within the church there is a great variety of opinions. There are the liberals who deny the supernatural and the miracles. There are the ecumenists who want us all to join together even though we have grave and fundamental differences. There are also the Charismatics who want to add to the Bible their new revelations. Who is right? How were they to test the spirits? They were to test everything by the teaching of the Apostolic circle. We are to test them by the Word of God.
This warning is so important today when preaching in churches is contentless, theologically infantile, and insipid. Christian doctrine is not taken seriously or even known by churchgoers. The truth is being lost in the name of tolerance and love. Trying to be relevant, the church becomes absolutely irrelevant.
"So that you may not lose what we have worked for"—there is a Greek manuscript variation in this verse related to the first pronoun: should it be "you" (NASB, NRSV, TEV, YLT, LEB) or "we" (NKJV, JUB, ABP)? The UBS4 text supports "you," meaning the believers addressed might not accomplish the goals of the gospel given them by the Apostolic circle. This could refer to the good deeds that the readers had done, which will be the basis of rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Then he says, "What we have worked for"—loss for John's readers would involve loss for him as well, since he had a share in their lives. This sounds similar to what Paul says in Galatians 4:11.
I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain. Galatians 4:11 ESV
He was speaking to the Galatian controversy, to those Judaizers who were telling the believers they had to obey the law and all the rites and rituals of it. He says, "I'm worried that all this time I've been laboring for you and preaching to you and teaching, that it has been a waste of time!"
The things we have worked for probably refers to the pastoral and missionary efforts undertaken by the recipients of the letter in their own community and surrounding communities. This work would be lost if the opponents with their false teaching are allowed to proselytize unopposed.
What is it that is in danger of being lost in verse 8?
"But may win a full reward"—the word reward here is misthos. According to Strong's it means, "pay for service (literally or figuratively), good or bad: - hire, reward, wages." It is the term for a workman's wage, the payment he is due in exchange for his labor. What does that tell us? This is not talking about salvation. Salvation is a gift of God, not a reward for good deeds done.
R. Brown takes this as a reference to faith itself. He says, "to lose that for which one had been working, that is, the reception of eternal life by those in the community being addressed." This is an assumption that cannot be born out by the text. John is writing this letter to believers (2 John 4). And John has made it very clear in his gospel that eternal life cannot be lost.
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. John 10:28-29 ESV
The construction of the Greek clause "they shall never perish" literally reads, "they will indeed not ever perish." It is an especially strengthened expression. You couldn't emphasize it more in the Greek if you tried. Yeshua had previously said that part of the task that the Father had given Him to do was to preserve all those whom the Father gave Him (6:37-40).
"But may win a full reward"—this is talking about believers being rewarded for their service. No one spoke more about heavenly rewards than our Lord Yeshua himself.
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:19-20 ESV
The terms "treasures upon earth" and "treasures in heaven" were very familiar to the Jews. They had many sayings regarding almsgiving and piling treasure in heaven. So, Yeshua was speaking in a vernacular they understood. They believed that deeds of mercy and deeds of kindness to people in distress were tantamount to storing up riches in heaven.
Believers, it would be a form of self-righteous pride to say that we do not really need heavenly rewards, that we are instead willing to serve from gratitude alone, even though Yeshua clearly told us to lay up treasures in heaven for ourselves. Yeshua was not suggesting that believers lay up treasures for themselves in heaven. He was commanding them to do so.
Believers, eternal salvation is an entirely free gift which can never be lost, but 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 and 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
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. What kind of account will we have to give? In our text in 2 John the issue is guarding against false teaching.
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:
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. Christ's death for us frees us from the fear of condemnation at the Great White Throne judgment (Rom. 8:1). Our abiding life frees us from loss of rewards at the Bema. If the recipients of the letter were to allow the opponents to go unopposed with their false teaching, they would run the risk of forfeiting future rewards.
If you have received God's gift of eternal life in Christ, the Bible teaches that there are rewards for serving Him. Every believer ought to be working for a reward, to be able to hear Him say someday, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" (Matt. 25:21; 2 Tim. 4:7-8). 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.
Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 2 John 1:9 ESV
If someone comes along and claims to have some "new" teaching that cannot be supported by the New Testament, he is not holding to the teaching of Christ. We need to be on guard against any so-called "new" teaching.
John's purpose is, by stressing this, to encourage his readers to resist the pressure being applied by the secessionists and to urge them to hold fast to the teaching of Christ.
"Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ"—this potential heresy is characterized by two present active participles: "goes on ahead" and "does not abide." The first "goes on ahead" may have been a catchword for the false teachers' implying they had advanced truth beyond the eyewitness of Christ's disciples.
The words "goes on ahead" are from the Greek word proago. Ago means "to go"; pro means "before." Proago means "to go before or to go ahead." So, the meaning here is not so much to "transgress" as the KJV translates it, but "to go farther than is right." Proago is a word that we derive our English word "progress" from. So, here the secessionist opponents are described as "progressives" who have gone beyond what is warranted by the eyewitness testimony about Yeshua. They claimed to have superior knowledge.
"Does not abide in the teaching of Christ"—John's use of "abide" indicates that he spoke of a vital personal relationship with God that comes with adherence to the truth. When you go into error, you fail to abide in Christ.
"The teaching of Christ"—this could be "the teaching that Christ gave" (subjective genitive), which is the standard of Christian teaching, or "the teaching about Christ" (objective genitive). John probably meant both things because he frequently uses double meanings. "The teaching" here refers to the truth that Yeshua is both fully human and fully divine.
John says that, Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, "Does not have God"—most commentators say that this means that they are not Christians. Hall Harris writes, "It is clear from the author's statement here that he does not regard the secessionist opponents as genuine believers." Another commentator says, "You have not God. Now this is serious stuff! Salvation is at stake!"
"Does not have God"—in John's literature this is synonymous with to "know God" or to have "fellowship with God" or to "abide in Him." Remember John is writing to Christians. What John is conveying here is that whoever "goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ" does not have the Father abiding in him, and he is, therefore, not walking in the light. The one who "goes on ahead" does not have an abiding relationship with the Father.
Remember the secessionists claimed to have fellowship with God (1:5) and even to live in God (2:6), but such claims are empty when made by people who deny that Yeshua the Christ is God's Son come in the flesh.
John warned his readers of the danger to their intimate fellowship with God that the teaching of those who denied that Yeshua is the Christ posed. If they rejected the Son who had come in the flesh, they could not expect an intimate relationship with the Father.
Zane Hodges writes,
The principle source of confusion in much contemporary study of 1 John is to be found in the failure to recognize the real danger against which the writer is warning. The eternal salvation of the readership is not imperilled [sic]. It is not even in doubt as far as the author is concerned. But seduction by the world and its antichristian representatives is a genuine threat which must be faced. [Hodges, The Gospel Under Seige p. 55.]
When you embrace heresy, you necessarily abaose fellowship with the Father and the Son. Orthodoxy is not just a matter of holding to biblical truth. It is also about walking in fellowship and obedience.
"Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son"—by abiding or remaining in the teaching of Christ, you will abide in the Father and the Son. To abandon the teaching of the Incarnation is to sin, and to sin is to lose fellowship with Yahweh.
Everyone who remains in him does not sin; everyone who sins has not seen him or known him. 1 John 3:6 CSB
The word "remains" here is meno which is John's word for abiding. "Abides," "has seen," and "knows" are words John uses throughout this epistle to refer to a believer who is walking in intimate fellowship with God (1:7; 2:3, 10). It seems to me that John is saying that to abide in a sinless person would mean that we would not sin. And if we do sin, we are no longer abiding in Christ.
Notice what John wrote earlier:
whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:6 ESV
Wouldn't walking in the same way in which he walked include sinlessness? It would have to because verse 5 says, "and in him there is no sin." So, the believer who is abiding in Christ "does not sin." It is not saying that the one who abides in Him does not "keep on sinning."
I see abiding (i.e. being in an intimate relationship with Christ), as a conditional relationship that can be interrupted or terminated after it has begun. All Christians are called to abide, to walk as he walked. At times we abide in Christ and we do not sin. At other times we do not abide and we sin.
We need to constantly be on guard against false teaching. Be cautious about what you hear, be a Berean and take everything you hear to the Word of God. To fall into false teaching is to lose your reward.