John Gavazzoni
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The Gavazzonis'

By John Gavazzoni

"Preaching Christ crucified, risen and coming again." That was a description I chose many years ago - though not original with me - to sum up what I believed should be the theological ground an evangelist's message, so, in a letter to a number of churches introducing my ministry, I assured them that they would find my preaching to be thus centered.

I had, since age sixteen, served out an internship under older mentors as a gospel singer, but on occasion, I was also called upon to preach. Barely out of my teens, I felt it was time to launch my own ministry. I wanted the pastors of the churches I was contacting to know that I would center my message in the essentials of the faith, and I would not be "majoring in minors," as the saying goes.

For me, at that time, having been schooled in the conventional fundamentalist understanding of the core issues of the gospel, assuring pastors that I would be"preaching Christ crucified, risen and coming again," I felt would be sincerely portraying myself to them as standing on solid theological ground, so they would seriously consider having me for some future evangelistic series of meetings.

Now, at the time of this writing--- fifty plus years later---I find myself still preaching Christ crucified and risen with all the glorious implications in that which theologians call "the Christ event," BUT looking back in amazement at how I, and those pastors I was contacting, could consider it so very important to preach Christ coming again, when, in fact, quite clearly, according to scripture, HE NEVER LEFT.

Yep! that's what I said. Jesus never left. Since He came into the world, sent by the Father, born of a woman, to be the Savior of the world, He has been Emmanuel (God with us). He is not the dearly, beloved, departed Lord. He has been true to His word, "Lo, I AM with you always, even to the end/consummation of the age." Did you get that? As our Lord stood on the mount of ascension, with His disciples gathered around Him, about to be "taken up from them," He assured them, ".... I AM with you always ..."

However you might understand what happened as He was taken (received) up, it cannot be understood to mean that He was leaving them. Dear ones, He never left, so from whence has come this centuries-long deluge of concern, teaching, prognostication, exhortation and fixation about Him returning? "Lo, I AM with you always, even to the consummation of the age." Hello! Anyone out there?

Even if one interprets the Lord's promise as primarily referring to the consummation of the age of the law, looking forward to the complete dismantling of the central elements of the Old Covenant in the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, surely it must be inferred, that if He would continue being with them in that transition, He would not absent Himself in the age of the unveiling of the New Covenant, since His indwelling presence as our life, is the very essence of that glorious relationship.

Surely, anyone instructed at all in scripture, must understand the centrality of the presence of Christ, dynamically in, and among those of the community of the faith, and latent within all men, as the very dynamic of the continuing aionian administration of God as the Spirit of Christ causes us to participate in His Person, death, resurrection and glorification.

Having established that, dare we make a difference between Him being with us in Spirit, and actually being with us personally, when Paul sounds the note over and over again, that Christ, Himself, lives in us, that it is He, the Lord, who is "the life-giving Spirit," and He is our life?

Connect the dots, dear ones. If we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and Christ lives in us; if Christ is our life, and if the Lord is the life-giving Spirit, dare we even suggest that, in some strange sense, we should be expecting Him to return to us from somewhere "out there?" Where did we get the notion that we'll have to depart this space-time continuum in order to "be with the Lord?" From whence came the notion that the Lord will have to make an aionian re-entrance at some time in the future? The average believer simply does not appreciate, nor understand, our Lord's complete, resolute, and irrevocable commitment to be in us, and with us, IN the aion(s),

Well, of course, the claim is made that scripture does teach the return of Christ. Possibly more than any other proof-text - one that colors the interpretation of all other passages about "the coming of the Lord," - the commentators settle upon our Lord's promise as conventionally mistranslated in John 14:3. Quoting from the NAS translation - which I for years preferred, and considered very reliable: "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."

Well, that would seem to settle it, wouldn't it? Isn't it clear that Jesus spoke of going, and then coming again; of a departure and a return? No, in fact, it isn't clear at all. Wouldn't those words as translated cause one to scratch their head in bewilderment in the light of what I've pointed out thus far? Wouldn't it amount to a clear-cut contradiction if His real, personal, unbroken, continuing presence is intrinsic to the aionian economy of God?

The problem is easily solved by determining, without theological bias and agenda, what the original Greek has Him actually saying. I will refer the reader to Jonathan Mitchell's translation of this passage as thoroughly accurate and rich in meaningful nuance. You can read Jonathan's translation by simply clicking on the Link at the end of this writing to access our brother's deeply appreciated labor of love.

But for now, for the sake of brevity, I will quote from the Concordant Literal Translation of the New Testament as fundamentally accurate but not quite as probing of the Greek as Jonathan's: "And if I should be going and making ready a place for you, I am coming again, and I will be taking you along to Myself, that where I am, you also may be."

Did you get the difference? It is strategically important to do so. It is NOT, "And if I go - I WILL come again - " It IS, "And if I should be going - I AM coming again." (emphasis, mine). If you do not treat scripture with careful, proper respectful examination, you can easily miss the very obvious. That is that His going and His coming again were concurrent.

They were two aspects of one transition. In going, He was coming. By leaving them as a merely external presence, He was simultaneously coming again to them to indwell them. A simultaneous transition was about to occur. His going in one mode became His coming in a new one. He reiterated the same as recorded in the Sixteenth chapter, Verse Seven of the same Gospel: "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you." (NAS)

Now stay with me, dear reader. Let's be "rightly cutting the word of truth." The very same author, John, in his first epistle, instructed the church that we have that Helper/Advocate/Consoler, and He is none other than Jesus Christ, the righteous One. Add to that, going back to John 14:18, where Jesus says, "I will not leave you bereaved, I am coming to you.' (Concordant literal version). The coming one was, on one hand, "the Spirit of Truth," (14:17), yet also to be identified as Christ Himself, who IS "the way, the TRUTH, and the life." (14:6). Obviously, the Spirit of Truth, and Christ, the Truth, cannot be separated.

In going, our Lord, simultaneously sent forth Himself as - as Paul wrote - "the Lord, the Spirit." "The Helper, the Holy Spirit (14:26), must not be understood in contradistinction to the Person of Jesus Christ. There is a juxtaposition of the Holy Spirit and the Person of our Lord that conventional evangelical theology handles with extreme clumsiness.

It was primarily via Paul, that Jesus would explain Himself more clearly as He promised He would, saying that He had more to say to them but they were, at that moment, not able to bear the further revelation (16:12). He, later, speaking mostly through Paul, clearly revealed that the Spirit they had received was Himself glorified.

I cannot think of anything more cunningly deceptive, in respect to what ought to be the focus of the believer, than a teaching that has the effect of removing our Lord off to some distant heaven, when the truth is that the heaven of our Lord is the regenerated human spirit where He lives in the glory of His Father. What has been called "the Lord's prayer, opens with "Our Father, who art in Heaven - ." I shall never forget asking the Lord what that meant. I was at least clear that the heaven of God's abode was not, as the gospel song says, "over the sunset mountain," or something of that sort.

His answer to me was quick and wonderfully summary: "I dwell in the transcendence of my own glory." Christ is the radiance of God's glory. The Father is in the Son, and the Son is in the Father, and They are in us. Enough of this childish foolishness that would divorce the presence of Christ from the core of our humanness.

When Jesus came, born of the virgin Mary, conceived of the Holy Spirit, "the Word became flesh, and we beheld His glory - ." If you would find Christ, look for Him in the humanness He shares with us. But you must look beneath the encrustation of "the outer man," the man of the self-created, self-perceived persona. Look beyond the man of sin, to the man whom God, in making His Son to be sin for us, has made to be His righteousness.

The New Testament by Jonathan Mitchell -

Go to this series: Part One, Part Two, Part Three or Part Four, Part Five

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