Heresy - Worst in 700 Years|
We are going to review the current, prevailing biblical heresies of anti-flesh, anti-earth and anti-Christ viewpoints. So fasten your seatbelts. Some may find this shocking. But, first look over the following passages:
…Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God… 1 Jn 4:2-3, NASB).
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh (2 Jn 1:7).
If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house…for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds (2 Jn :10-11)
Scripture Says "Flesh"
We need to accept that the Bible says Jesus came in the Flesh, left in the Flesh, is in Heaven in the Flesh, and will return in the Flesh. Yes, Jesus is in His "spiritual" body (or supernatural body). But it is a body which is made up of "flesh and bones." It is "real" as Jesus upheld in Luke 24:39. To believe otherwise makes us guilty of violating the introductory verses listed above.
Heresy - Physical, Bad&Spiritual, Good
Not only did spiritist views of Platonism and Gnosticism gain a foothold into Christian theology, but some still insist that Heaven, our resurrected bodies, and the resurrected body of our Lord are "spiritual" and not physical! This is heresy.
If you have access to a dictionary look up "heresy." Webster defines "heresy" as "a religious belief opposed to the orthodox doctrines of a church," or "any opinion opposed to official or established views." According to this classical definition, many Protestant and Catholic churches and theologians are guilty as charged.
"Guilty of what?" we ask.
Fairy Tale Heaven
Are we guilty of teaching our children and adults that Heaven is like a fairy tale, a place of wispy clouds and half-there ghostly beings, a place where ethereal beings play airy, delicate harps while singing praises accompanied by bells and lights to an imperceptible, invisible God, a place akin to a child's belief in Santa's North Pole, the tooth fairy, or the Easter bunny?
This teaching is not found in Scripture. So how is it that some teach this kind of nonsense or heresy to church believers? How did we get to this place? What can we do to change this misperception?
To understand this we must review a little bit of history. Don't worry. We will attempt to condense it into a few paragraphs. So those who wish to explore further might wish to visit the library.
We have all heard of Da Vinci Code and the Gospel of Judas. The Da Vinci Code is based on faulty, revisionist history - a weaving together of myth and a few facts, while the Gospel of Judas is the result of Gnostic cult writers who mostly lived in the 2nd and 3rd centuries.
From Zondervan's KJV Study Bible we learn that
"Gnosticism was one of the worst heresies in the first two centuries of church history. It elevated "dualism," a belief that matter is evil and spirit is good. From dualism emerged five errors in the early church:
1. Man's body and the physical creation is evil because it is matter, contrasted with God, who is spirit and thus good. This is not biblical. God proclaimed Creation and Man as "very good."
2. Salvation provides escape from the evil body. This is achieved through special knowledge from the Greek word gnosis from which we derive the word Gnosticism.
3. Christ's true humanity was denied. Some said that He only "appeared" to have a real body. This view was called Docetism. Others said that the divine,(spiritual) Christ joined (the physical)Jesus at His baptism and left Jesus before he died. This view was called Cerinthianism named after a teacher, Cerinthus.
This view formed part of the background for 1 John seen in 1:1, 2:22, and 4:2-3. John wrote 1 John to expose false teachers and to give assurance of salvation. "In keeping with his intention to combat Gnostic teachers, John specifically struck at their total lack of morality (3:8-10), and by giving eyewitness testimony to the incarnation, he sought to confirm his readers' belief in the incarnate Christ (1:3)."
4. Asceticism arose from a view that the body is evil. Ascetics treated their own bodies harshly. The ascetic Gnosticism formed the background of part of the letter to the Colossians (2:21-23).
…"why…do you submit to regulations - 'Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch' (referring to things that all perish as they are used) - according to human precepts and teachings?" (Colossians 2:21-22).
5.This view also led to licentiousness because it was thought that the body did not matter. One could do what he wanted with it."
(Zondervan KJV Study Bible 2002, 2552-2553).
Wisdom of Men
From Randy Alcorn's startling book, Heaven, and Francis Schaeffer's classic work, How should we then live, we find that both teach us how we got to the point where the wisdom of men replaced the literal interpretation of the Bible which caused us to lose the reality of a new heavens and earth. Here is a brief summary of their points that especially caught our attention:
"Plato was 'the first Western philosopher to claim that reality is fundamentally something ideal or abstract.' To think of the spiritual realm in physical terms or envision God's presence in the physical world was to do it a disservice. Plato considered the body a liability, not an asset. 'For Plato…the body is a hindrance, as it opposes and even imprisons the soul (Phaedo 65-68, 91-94).'" (Alcorn 2004, Appendix A).
Philo, an Alexandrian Jew who lived between 20 B.C. and 50 A.D., introduced Platonic ideas into early Christian theology. He especially liked to allegorize Scripture in contrast to many rabbis who subscribed to a literalist interpretation.
Clement and Origen, although two respected and godly early church fathers, continued the Alexandrian school of thought which allegorized Scripture. Origen went so far as to develop an entire system of allegorizing which equated the biblical literature to body, soul, and spirit. This system became an elitist, Gnostic form of interpretation that was considered superior to a literal approach.
This came to dominate church theology. Even today critical, symbolic methods of interpretation are admired by the intelligentsia. A literalist approach is considered lowly, materialistic, and gauche, especially when it comes to developing a theology of Heaven. The result is an attitude held by many theologians that it is "unfashionable" to discuss or study Heaven. A quick look at many systematic theology text books shows this to be all too true.
In addition to Platonism and Gnosticism, another theological concept blunts the realistic meaning of Heaven to church believers. Theologians often speak of "accommodation," or God accommodating Himself to humans by speaking in understandable ways to his creation. This view of theology presents God as a lofty being who speaks "as if" He came down to visit mankind in the form of a human, Jesus Christ.
However, this view also allegorizes everything, because how do we discern between those things God meant literally and those things he spoke in accommodating terms?
To the contrary, Scripture states that Jesus really DID come in the flesh, he really did rise from the dead in a physical, tangible body, and there really is a REAL Heaven and new Earth upon which the real city of New Jerusalem resides.
Accommodation causes similar problems as Gnosticism and Platonism - Jesus only "appeared" to be in the flesh and Heaven only "appears" to be real.
Prior to the Middle Ages, believers thought of Heaven, our resurrected Lord, and our future resurrected bodies as tangible and real. But three notable theologians, Peter Abelard, Peter Lombard and the famous Roman Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas of the thirteenth-century came to put forth ideas later called "Scholasticism"(Alcorn 2004, 484).
This is a philosophy that places human reason and the Bible on an equal footing with equal authority. Aquinas argued that Adam fell only so far as his will, but Adam's intellect had not fallen. Therefore the teachings of the Church and Popes could be as authoritative as Scripture.
It was this basic shift from the authority of the Bible to the authority of men that led to greater "spiritualizing" of the biblical concepts of heaven. It expanded to the point where, today, focusing on the subject of heaven is not "fashonable" among many modern day theologians and church leaders. Consequently, we get little if any serious teaching about the reality of heaven.
Scholasticism, along with Platonism, Gnosticism, and accomodation put the "final nail into the coffin" of the early Church views of Heaven. The Church has not recovered to this day.
No Planet Earth, Eden, Plants or Animals in Paradise
Although a godly hero of the faith, we nevertheless have Thomas Aquinas and others like him to thank for the modern rational, cold, scientific, views of an ethereal Heaven (Alcorn 2004, 485). It was Aquinas who taught that animals and plants have no reality in Heaven. No longer did concepts of Edenic Paradise offer anything to man. Men were to learn to "contemplate" God alone. In fact, we might conclude that we Protestants, too, have succumbed to a Catholic view of Heaven.
Modern Gnostic/Catholic Heresy
As a result, modern churches and their theologians have succumbed to a Gnostic/Catholic view of Heaven - that Heaven is intangible, wispy, half-there images of clouds and partly invisible ghostly-beings - not the physical reality of new heavens and a new earth as taught in the Bible.
Back to our Roots
However, we can also thank four modern theologians, Anthony Hoekema, Wayne Grudem, Erwin Lutzer, and Randy Alcorn for alerting the evangelical church to the fact that heresy has crept into its dogma. All four of the above scholars are currently teaching seminary students and lay people the following:
-God made Adam and Eve to be spiritual and physical - they were not human until they were both.
- God often took on human form in Old Testament times. He was also likely in human form as he walked in Eden.
-God took on a human body, becoming a man in Christ, not just temporarily but forever.
-God raised Christ in a human body with physical properties, a body that walked, talked, ate, and could be touched. He explicitly states He was not a ghost.
-God made mankind in His image, and because humans are physical beings - though God is spirit - there must be something in our human bodies that reflects God's identity.
-God's Holy Spirit indwells human bodies and calls them his holy temples.
-God will raise people with eternal physical-spiritual bodies, and then come down to inhabit the New Heaven and Earth with them.
(Alcorn 2004, Appendix A, pages 480-482).
Heaven is where God lives
The dominant theme running through Scripture holds that Heaven is where God lives. This means that Heaven is not only a place, it is a person. Heaven is a personal intimate relationship with the creator of the universe who loves His creation and wishes to "dwell" among His people. The pleasures and sensations we gain from living in the company of Jesus the God/Man, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, involve us both spiritually and physically.
Prototype, Ark of the Covenant
In our future, Heaven and Earth will no longer be separated. The entire universe will be regenerated and be a unified part of the New Heaven and New Earth. Alcorn says, "Currently Heaven contains an actual sanctuary - God's dwelling place - which served as the pattern for the earthly tabernacle (Hebrews 8:5, 9:11, 23-24). In heaven there's a temple that contains the prototype ark of the covenant (Revelation 11:19, 15:5)." (Alcorn 1999, 39).
In the New Heaven and New Earth however, no temple will be necessary because God and Jesus will dwell with us - not apart from us! (Rev. 21:22)
God will cause His Holy City, the New Jerusalem to come down to rest above the earth. This city will be the capital of Heaven and from it God will live among and rule His people.
As evangelical believers it is now our job to restore belief in the New Jerusalem as our true, tangible, real home in Heaven.
Teach your Children Well
Parents and grandparents, rid yourselves of the heresy of Gnostic Platonism and have fun teaching your grandkids the following:
- The "new heavens and new earth" (Revelation 21:1-2) is the same real universe as, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1).
- The holy city which comes down from God (3rd heaven) is real just like a space-city is presented to us as tangible and real (Rev. 21:2).
- The holy city is 1500 miles wide, long and high (Rev. 21:16).
- It is a perfect cube containing 2.25 million square miles, (enough to accommodate one hundred thousand billion people), Rev. 21:16. (Hitchcock 2005, 134-135).
- The present or intermediate heaven contains the prototype ark of the covenant and sanctuary where God dwells (Hebrews 8:5, 9:11, 23-24, Rev. 11:19, 15:5). But, in the new heavens and earth there is no need for the temple or sanctuary because God dwells with man. (Rev. 21:22). (Alcorn 1999, 39)
- This is what Jesus referred to when he said, "In my Father's house are many rooms…I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2-3).
- The New Jerusalem's walls are 216 feet thick and 1,500 miles high, and made out of crystal clear diamond. (Rev. 21:17-18).
- The gates are made of pearl and are inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel - showing that a memorial to earth history is important to God (Rev. 21:21).
- New Jerusalem has a lovely golden main street (suggesting that we might travel on it (Rev. 21:21).
- There is a river flowing through it which suggests there may be streams, lakes, and waterfalls, too - gorgeous waterfront property (Rev. 22:1).
- The tree of life will provide us with the ultimate health foods (Rev. 22:2).
- There is no need for a sun or moon because of God's brilliance in the city - which does not mean there "is" no sun or moon - only that we need no sun or moon (Rev. 21:23).
I'm ready…Are you? "Please beam me up, Lord!" (1 Thess. 4:17).
Alcorn, Randy. 2004. Heaven. Appendix A: Christoplatonism's false assumptions. Appendix B: Literal and figurative interpretation. Wheaton, ILL: Tyndale.
—- 1999. In Light of Eternity. Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press.
Elwell, Walter. 2001. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd. edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
Grudem, Wayne. 1994. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Chapter 57: The new heavens and new earth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Hitchcock, Mark. 2005. 55 Answers to Questions About Life After Death. Sisters, OR: Multnomah.
Lutzer, Erwin. 1997. One Minute after You Die. Chicago: Moody Press.
Schaeffer, Francis. 2005. How Should We Then Live? Wheaton, ILL: Crossway.
Authors Valorie Emilio holds an MA in History from UCLA having specialized in Christian origins. Ken has an MA in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University. They both believe they are just a mist that appears for a little while and they must make the most of their days remaining (Jas 4:14, Eph 5:15).