PRESENT but UNSEEN
Where is our Lord Jesus Christ? A most important question. If He, yes He Himself, is not really, actually, present here and now, in me, with me, and among especially His believing community, but also in, with, and among humanity generally---albeit with most as unknown--- we are in deep trouble. A Lord, Savior, Defender, Counselor, Protector, Advocate, and Ultimate Friend, is of little if any benefit off in some far distant (removed from the earth and from my earthenness) "heaven." We need Him; I need Him .Here and now.
"I need Thee, O I need Thee
Every hour I need Thee
O bless me now my Savior
I come to Thee."
If the reader cannot agree with me re: the following thesis, then he or she is not ready for the thrust of this article.
That thesis is simply this: As particularly concerning the summoned gathering (conventionally called "the church"), the body/ bride of Christ is a spiritually lifeless association of religious theorists without the indwelling, accompanying, vivifying presence of our Lord. It is only the shared life of His presence in us, with us - thus "within" us, that gives us spiritual vitality. He (personal pronoun) is our life.
Note: "gives;" that's the accurate translation of the Greek. Life, as communion, is continually shared within the Godness. That communing sharing IS the life of Deity, and so it is in the sequential administration of divine life, that the Son gives us life in regeneration, sharing His life, communing with us, in us, and continues to do so in a now, present, sublime relationship of union. So how is it that we have been taught to divide our focus and expectation between Christ as present, and Christ as needing to return? Strange dichotomy, indeed. May I suggest what is the notion of contemporary, popular Christianity re: His presence?
Well, it goes something like this:
But that's a very immature concept of up and down as is meant in scripture. Within the context of our present study, "above" is the all-encompassing and all-pervasive dimension and quality of spirit. After all, is it true that "up" is different for Australians and Americans at any given time, for "up" is that which surrounds and encompasses us. Spiritually, it's not a cosmically spatial thing. Heaven; God; the Father; Christ; are above us in the sense of Their primacy. We "look up," in the sense of looking to the One from Whom we have come, to That Being within which we have our Being. That, from which we have come is greater than we. Though one with the Father, Jesus testified,
A beautiful gospel song says,
"The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you, therefore that Holy Thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God."
From whence did the Holy Spirit come to impregnate Mary with the Eternal Christ-Seed? From whence came the power of Highest that came upon her to empower her to give birth to Emmanuel? The Holy Spirit and power of the Highest were intrinsic to her humanity, as it is with our own. Pondering these things leads us to understand that God's heaven is within us. The kingdom of God is within/among us said Jesus. It/He came and comes from within that transcendent dimension of our own humanness.
"You men are constantly trusting and continue believing, on into God; you are also progressively trusting and believing on into Me (or, as an imperative: Keep on believing and putting faith into the midst of God, and also keep on putting your trust into Me). Within My Father's house (or: household) are many abodes (staying places; dwelling places; homes; rooms). Now if not, I would at once tell you folks, because I am progressively passing (or: traveling) along to prepare and make ready a place in you (or: for you; with you folks). Even if I should journey on and prepare (make suitable, fit and appropriate) a place (or: a spot; a position; a role) in you folks (or: with you; for you), I am now presently (or: progressively ; repeatedly; habitually) coming again, and then, I will take you folks in My arms and receive you to Myself (directing you to Myself) to the end that where I, Myself, am (or: exist) you men also can be (or: may continuously and ongoingly exist."
Clearly, according to our Lord's words as very carefully translated from the
The Lord is presently with us, near, at hand, close enough to touch, but with regard to our physical sight and touch, He is behind a very thin veil of invisibility. He can easily step through that veil and appear even to our physical eyes as He did with His frightened and still confused disciples on occasions after His resurrection. I have known several dear brethren of unquestioned integrity of witness, and of sterling character and sobriety who have had such "visitations." He appeared to me in a time of great need in a vision. There is dearly needed a careful study, and comparison of meaning, among the New Testament Greek words that cover the whole breadth of meaning re: the Lord's coming, and/or arrival, and/or appearing, and/or unveiling. These must not all be bunched together so as to suffer having projected onto each and all of them that they are speaking of a future second coming. For this task, I now defer to my dear brother, Jonathan Mitchell, of the above referenced translation, to share a scholarly consideration of the distinctions involved in the use of such Greek terms. Jonathan, if you will, take it from here. Thank you, John.
The words translated as "come" or "coming" in the common translations have not normally been rendered accurately. Let us consider two forms of this one Greek word, and then a word that is a synonym:
The first word is ERCHOMAI. Its basic meaning is: come, or, go. The present tense in the Greek language primarily signifies continued, repeated, habitual or progressive action, and within context can signify something that was presently happening.
"Keep on asking and it will be given to you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives, and he who keeps on seeking finds and to him who keeps on knocking it will be opened."
What is not fully rendered are present indicatives in verse 8 (receives; finds).
These renderings of "coming or going" or "coming and going" give a very different understanding of what is being said than the common rendering "to come" (e.g., NASB, NRSV, KJV, NIV) which renders the participle as an infinitive and wrongly conveys a "future" meaning. But before we form any conclusions, let us look further. Note that I have presented both meanings of the verb.
Here the word "arrive" is HEKO, and its form here is either a future or an aorist subjunctive. But note that he was speaking to a historical community. Within the context of the 1st century churches to which John sent this letter,
"You see, where there are two or three people that have been led and gathered together into My Name, I am there (in that place) within the midst of them."
"I will not leave you abandoned or send you off as orphaned ones (or: folks without family). I am repeatedly (or: habitually) and now progressively coming toward you people."
"... and My Father will love him, and, facing toward him, We will come to him and will be making (constructing; forming; creating; producing) a home (an abode; a dwelling place; a place to stay) with him (or: at his side and in his presence)."
Here we have a future tense of the verb ERCHOMAI, "come." But note the circumstance and requirement for this, stated in the first part of the verse:
"If anyone continues (or: may be habitually) loving Me, he will be constantly watching over so as to observe, guard, preserve and keep My word (My thought, idea and message)..."
So Jesus said that anyone who does this has the promise of Jesus and the Father making their abode with him. This applied to the people of the 1st century! The promise was made to them! They, and now we, became God's temple, which is a word that signifies the home of a deity. Recall why Yahweh told Moses to build a tabernacle (a tent):
"Thus they will make for Me a sanctuary, and I will live in a tent (or: will tabernacle) in their midst."
The purpose for the tabernacle was to have God dwell among them; it is for this same purpose that Jesus and His Father made us to be God's temple - his abode in the earth. Returning to
"Consider! I have stood, and continue standing upon the door (entrance), and I am constantly knocking; if ever anyone may (or: can) hear My voice (or: sound) and would open the door, I WILL ENTER (come or go in) toward him so as to be face to face with him, and I will eat the evening meal with him, and he with Me."
This was a present situation in the church of Laodicea, one of the communities to which this letter was sent. This was not to be some far-off future event, unless we place an artificial construction upon the plain reading of the text. As it pertained to them at that time, so it pertains to us. He walks in our midst, and when necessary knocks on the door of the gathering, seeking a covenant meal with us.
Now let us move to
"Consider! God's tent (the Tabernacle of God) [is] with mankind (the humans), 'and He will continue living in a tent (dwelling in a Tabernacle) with them, and they will continue being His people, and God Himself will continue being with them [some MSS add: their God].'
These verses are traditionally set as speaking of a future time and event, but note all the OT references in vs. 3: these reference Israel's history, but point to the fulfillment in the Messiah. Note that there ARE tears in the context of vs. 4, above, but He promises to wipe them away, or anoint them. Now look at the last phrase of
"Consequently, since someone [is] within Christ (or: if anyone [is] in union with [the] Anointed One), [there is] a new creation (or: [it is] a framing and founding of a different kind; [he or she is] an act of creation having a fresh character and a new quality): the ORIGINAL THINGS (the beginning [situations]; the archaic and primitive [arrangements]) PASSED by (or: went to the side). Consider! New things HAVE come into existence (have been birthed; or: It HAS become new things; or: He HAS been birthed and now exists being ones of a different kind, character and quality)."
The last clause here carries us back to
"Consider this! I am presently making all things new (or: habitually creating everything [to be] new and fresh; progressively forming [the] whole anew; or, reading panta as masculine: periodically making all humanity new; progressively creating every person anew; constantly constructing all people fresh and new; continuously renewing everyone)!"
The tabernacle later became the temple, in Israel's story. So in
"Have you folks not seen, and know, that you people continuously exist being God's Temple (Divine habitation; holy place and holy of holies; inner sanctuary), and God's Spirit is constantly dwelling (God's Breath is making Its home; the Wind which is God is housing Himself; the Attitude from God is progressively co-habiting) within the midst of you folks?"
This is a presently existing situation and realm of being! In
"within the midst of (or: in union with) Whom you folks, also, are continuously and progressively being formed a constituent part of the structure (or: being built together into a house) - into God's down-home place (place of settling down to dwell; abode; permanent dwelling) within [the] Spirit (or: in spirit; or: in the midst of a Breath-effect and an attitude)."
Speaking of "dwelling," Jesus told His disciples that a branch needs to dwell and remain within Him (John 15:4-5). He has many branches (or: members, as Paul put it in 1 Cor. 12:12
"He jointly roused and raised (or: suddenly awakens and raises) [us] up, and caused [us] to sit (or: seats [us]) together within the things situated upon [thus, above] the heavens within and in union with Christ Jesus."
Heaven (which includes the sky and our breathing atmosphere) is right here. Consider the picture described in
I emphasized the location-function (the "locative") of the dative case of the nouns throughout this passage. This is where we are, folks. We HAVE approached (the perfect tense of a past completed action) so that we ARE NOW at Mt. Zion. We are no longer at Mt. Sinai, which was a type of the Law (cf Gal. 4). Then in
This second alternate rendering of vs. 4 means that whenever your life manifests Christ, then your own life will also be set in clear light and manifested, together with Him, in that situation. This applies to right now. Next we proceed to a 1st century situation, noted by Paul concerning himself, in
For the looking away and watching with the head stretched forward alertly (or: peak expectation; premonition; intuitive opinion; or: = the concentrated and undivided focus) of the creation is constantly receiving and taking away from out of the unveiling of God's sons, or the disclosure from God's sons.
The compound verb which I have rendered
"we ourselves also continually sigh and groan within (in the center of) ourselves, continuously accepting, and with our hands taking away from out of, sonship (the open recognition and placing as a son; the setting in position of one having the quality and character of the Father; the placing in the Son; or: = technical adoption [Greek or Roman law])."
We are "continuously accepting... taking away from out of" this sonship. In Rom. 8:14 we are informed that if we are being led by God's Spirit, then we are God's sons. And in
"Now, because we exist being (are presently and continuously) sons.... So that, you are (you exist being) no longer a slave, but rather, a son..."
So rightly rendering this verb (apekdechomai) also gives a different understanding to
This verse does not speak of a "second" coming, but of Christ being MADE VISIBLE out of "the second [place]," within His temple - the second chamber referred to in vss. 9:3 and 7, earlier in this chapter - i.e., from out of us, His temple. Much of what applies to us now has been erroneously postponed to some future time, robbing us of our present enjoyment of our inheritance in Christ and the real presence of Jesus. The Lord constantly comes to us, yet is also continuously present with us and within us. We must keep in mind that what Paul said in
"... if even we have intimately, by experience, known Christ ([the] Anointed One) on the level of flesh (or: = in the sphere of estranged humanity; or: = in correspondence to a self oriented to the System), nevertheless we now (in the present moment) no longer continue [thus] knowing [Him or anyone]."
Another word that has sometimes been mistranslated as "coming" is the Greek PAROUSIA. This word is composed of "ousia," which is a present participle of the word "to be; to exist," and means "being." Prefixed to this is the preposition "para," which means "beside; along side of," so "parousia" means being alongside, or, being present - as opposed to being absent.
"The Lord is presently with us, near, at hand, close enough to touch."
We embrace Him when we embrace one another (cf Matt. 25:40). We should let these Scriptures sink deep within us and drink in from the ontological reality of which these metaphors speak - and live our lives as truly being "in Christ," with Christ within us. Paul spoke of a tangible reality:
"You see, within the midst of and in union with Him we continuously live (or, as a subjunctive: could be constantly living), and are constantly moved about and put into motion, and continue existing (experiencing Being)."