John Gavazzoni
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The Continuing Coming of the Lord
By John Gavazzoni

Though possibly turning away some potential readers at the very outset, I will nevertheless, state the foundational premise of this article up front: There is only one "coming of the Lord." There are not two advents, nor are there ---as the rapture theory postulates----three comings, i.e., our Lord's coming in individual incarnation, born of a woman; a secret invisible coming to snatch His saints out of a world soon to be ravaged by tribulation; and finally arriving and staying to institute His thousand year reign upon the earth. Yeah; they actually imagine three comings. Talk about the kind of confusion that is intrinsic to spiritual Babylon, there's a perfect example.

The scriptures rightly translated do not speak of Jesus as having departed from this earth to a far off distant heaven, and as such, by some definition, being less than intimately near and dear to humanity, and especially to His summoned gathering (conventionally called "the church"). To bluntly state the fact of the matter, our Lord has arrived, is determined to stay--and indeed He is staying, and will continue to do so-- and His continuing presence is that of One, while present, continues His on coming into the depths of our humanity, until His glorified Humanity, in His union with us all, infuses our humanity with His Deity until, as the early church taught, all humanity will be brought to share in nothing less than His Deity.

In short, in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and we are complete (or brought to fullness) in Him. What completeness, what fullness is that in the context? Clearly His fullness; the fullness of the Godhead, or better of Godness. All proceeds from Him, in whom we live and move and have our being. The Eastern Orthodox Church, with its particular emphasis upon the consensus of the early church fathers in its theology, refers to this doctrine as "theosis," and explains that term as meaning deification, or divinization, or illumination. Note, it is divinization in contrast to divination---a bad concept. It is very noteworthy to what lengths their theologians go to explain that "theosis" should not be understood as a person becoming God (understandably so), but they go to such pains to avoid such a conclusion, that their attempt seems to me to be almost comical in its conceptual complication.

There is one verse of scripture that Jonathan Mitchell, in his translation, has rendered with such detailed scholarly excellence, with such exquisite attention to the Greek text especially in regard to its verb tense, and very evidently setting aside presumptuous biases, that I must begin with it in nailing down our premise of understanding the coming of the Lord as one continuing coming.

We go, in brother Jonathan's translation, to 1 Jn. 5:20: "And we have seen and thus and know that the Son of God has arrived and He is continuously here and has given us thorough understanding (comprehension; thought; intelligence; input throughout the mind) to the end that we should constantly know [other MSS: so that we constantly know] by experience the True One (or: the true, the real and the genuine), and we constantly exist within and in union with the True One (or: in the real [situation]; in the midst of Reality): within His Son, Jesus Christ. This One is the True (Real; Genuine) God, and Life pertaining to, and having the qualities of the Age (or: life having its source in the Age; eonian life; life of, and on through the ages).

In this translation, it becomes strikingly clear as to where our Lord is presently, and what He's up to, with the amazing understanding re: the relationship of the True God, Jesus Christ, His Son, and eonian life. The True God has sent His Son into the world, and He has arrived, bringing with Him the understanding of Him who is True, imparting that to us. All this: the One True God, the present and continuing presence of His Son, causing us to share in His understanding of the True God; all of the above IS eonian life.

For additional scriptural support we have The Concordant Literal Translation of the New Testament in its rendering of Jn. 14:3, "[ Jesus speaking], And if I go I AM coming..." (emphasis mine). It is not, "I WILL come." It is that in going He is at the same time, concurrently coming to His disciples, transitioning from a physical presence to be seen and touched, to their abiding, indwelling, glorified Lord, the Spirit, to be in intimate communion with them as their life. I could have chosen Jonathan Mitchell's translation again, but for brevity sake, I've chosen the Concordant Version. Jonathan's translation brings out the truth that as the One coming anew by going, He is presently, progressively, repeatedly, habitually coming again.

We also have the matter of making a distinction between coming, presence, appearing and unveiling of the Lord. The New Testament presents all of them, though overlapping, as, in some sense, distinct facets in the diamond of God's relationship from the timeless dimension of His I AM Being to, and into our eonian existentiality. As regarding making a distinction between coming and presence, there are many places in the New Testament where "presence" conveys the writers thought better than "coming." Dr. Strong in his Exhaustive Concordance, makes it clear that the root of one pertinent Greek word, conventionally translated as "coming," really conveys "near;" "at hand," and then goes on to offer the option of "presence" alongside, along side of the meaning, "coming."

St. Paul added clarity (not disagreement) to the message of The Twelve, who, until Paul came along only stressed the gift of the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower believers, whereas Paul, through whom God expanded the apostolic message, explained that the gift of, and indwelling of, the Holy Spirit, and God's gift of His Son were one and the same Gift, Experience, and Presence. Both Peter and Paul make it clear that God does not abide in some far-off "heaven," but that He lives in His holy temple, which temple we are: "The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are," Nothing conveys exactly where God's presence is specifically more than Him being in His temple. If one needs some stuff for pondering, ponder that truth and what we ought to infer from it: Just what is the relationship of heaven as God's abode, and the habitation of God in the Spirit, the habitation constructed of living stones right here on earth in the ages?

Truly, our Lord is named, "Emmanuel, which being interpreted, is God with us. The net effect of the conventional concept of two (or with some eschatologies, three) advents is to diminish the force of the truth that God, in Christ, in Spirit is really in every possible sense with us in the here and now. The general sense that the New Testament gives us is of One who is continually, progressively, habitually coming, YET so, as One present. In a recent home-church meeting, when the subject of this article came up, I contributed the simple illustration of how it is that the Lord is nigh; near at hand, and yet coming by offering the analogy of how often my wife Jan, near at hand in our house, has come to me from, for instance, the kitchen into the family room to get my full attention. Not a wholly adequate analogy, but hopefully helpful for some of my readers.

The Continuing Coming of the Lord: Part 2

To be as edifying as possible as an expositor of scripture, among other things, there is the need to develop a sense of the how the Bible treats a subject in general terms before trying to advance to very detailed specifics on any given subject. Too often, those who would be teachers, by analogy, spend their time in excited examination of the twigs of some biblical revelation, with little thought to even the immediate branch to which the twig is attached, much less the larger branch from which it grows, and/or of the great trunk with its grounding and sustaining roots.

So it is with the coming of the Lord. As in the case of this servant of the Lord, there developed a general sense of the subject by the Spirit pointing out some very simple facts, among them: 1) Nowhere after Jesus' death and resurrection, do any of the apostolic writers, as conventionally translated, add the adjective "future" to any of their references to "the coming of the Lord," and that's laying aside for the moment that, at the very least, in many cases where that phrase appears, "presence" is preferred over "coming" in the translation of the Greek. And: 2), how utterly spiritually dull is the understanding that the ecclesia could exist with any vitality at all without Jesus' real, present, active Presence in the midst of the seven golden lampstands, as pictured in Revelation. Then: 3) Even if the option of "coming" is chosen over "presence," note that "coming" is singular.

A much different sense of the writer's thought is conveyed, for instance, when "the coming of the Lord," is treated as a future eschatological event, rather than it being a matter of His "presencing." Yes, I've coined a word there. He who is present, nigh, near at hand, "presences" to us, from within and among us, to one another and to the world. It is one thing for the Lord to EXIST everywhere, but it is another thing, when He "presences" (verb), as He did in the upper room where the disciples were together for fear of the Jews.

Often the fact that He appeared to them on that occasion, "the doors being shut," leads expositors to explain that in His resurrected body, our Lord could pass through solid doors. It's rather, that He, being present among them, "presenced." He appeared. No earthly appearance of the Lord requires of Him a trip back from a distant heaven to earth, or to step through a door from one side to the other.

He, in whom all things were created, exists within all that is in Him. He holds it all together from above and from within. He is both the transcendent and imminent Reality of the whole. He "presenced" first in the creation of Adam, sharing in Adam's creaturehood, yet while being the Son, begotten, not made, before all worlds. (Nicene Creed). Luke, in His genealogy, traces Jesus back to Adam, as the son of God. The Son of God began His presencing in the earth sharing Adam's creaturehood while His divine Sonship was veiled.

The "Seed of Christ" was within Adam as our dear Brother J. Preston Eby has acclaimed. Then came the time when the Sonship within all creation was unveiled, in that mystery of Godliness: God, manifested in the flesh as the historical Jesus of Nazareth, not by the natural sperm of Joseph, but as the Divine Seed, by the Holy Spirit, penetrated the natural ovum of Mary, and One who was both the Son of God and the Son of Man was conceived. It is noteworthy that Jonathan Mitchell, in his translation expands on the meaning of Son of Man as equaling Son of Adam.

In Genesis, the Lord spoke to the woman, Eve, of her Seed which would crush the head of the seed of the serpent. You see, that Seed passed down to Mary within her and Eve's common, but holy, humanity. It/He did not have to enter Mary from outside her, It/He was within her all the while.

Paul was so insightful in showing the relationship between the light that shown out from within the darkness in first formative act of creation and the light that that shines into the heart of one who turns to the Lord: "For God, who caused the light to shine out of darkness, has shined into our hearts to give us the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

From where did that light shine? It is so very clear. It shined "out from within" (as the literal Greek has it), the darkness of our unregerate hearts where it/He had always been. It ought not to be hard to see from Paul's statement how he viewed his own conversion on the road to Damascus, i.e.: The bright light that shone all about him causing him to fall to the ground came from within the midst of the darkness of his Jesus-hating, Christians-hating heart. Oh, what a God!

The Continuing Coming of the Lord: Part 3

In his Translation of the New Testament, Expanded, Amplified, [with] Multiple Renderings, Jonathan Mitchell has Jesus saying, in the beginning of Jn. 14;3, "Even if I should journey on...." in contrast to the more conventional, "And if I go away..." Jonathan's rendering ought to give us a sense of what was involved in Jesus' transition, through death, resurrection, ascension, and glorification, from being a physically observable presence to becoming the believers' very life as He and they become joined in oneness of union: "He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit."

The sense that is conveyed by that more careful rendering of the Greek is that our Lord was about to undertake the final leg of that journey begun in solidarity with Adam. As the Greek of the New Testament often has it, the co-walk of faith, a walk of participating in Christ's faith by grace, means to "continually believe into Christ." Rather than saving faith merely being a one-time decision to believe in Christ, it is a life of faith whereby one journeys on further and further into His breadth, length, height, and depth, which is a journey into His love.

That pertains to our being in Christ, but it also follows that Christ in us involves a continuing penetration of His saving Presence into our lostness, our brokenness, our disease of soul.

He keeps coming. He keeps journeying on until He has reclaimed all the territory of our creaturehood. Nothing can deter Him from having all that we are, and nothing can deter His work of calling us into all that He is, so that all that He is belongs to us, and becomes us.

This is a penetration INTO, FROM Within. Profound is the divine insistence and persistence in this process: "For whom He did foreknow, He did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son." Toward the consummation of that predetermined and inevitable human destiny, the Son of God continues to come, to presence, to journey on until He has reclaimed by redemption all that belongs to Him, and to transform it by His saving grace.

The Continuing Coming of the Lord: Part 4

Well, dear reader, we've come to the final installment of our little series, and what have we found to be the issue in regard to our Lord's spatial relationship with the called out assembly, with all of humanity, and with the whole of creation? In a word: Presence. He arrived, stayed, continues staying, is presently here, and will be so through the age of the ages. Though there is the actuality of a consciousness of separation from man's side, contrarily, from God's side no essential separation is possible, otherwise He would be denying Himself, for it is of His very Spirit-substance that we are all made.

But there is one matter to be covered before we close the series, and that is the principle that to whomever the Lord presences from His present Presence, He does so in order to presence (as a verb) to others as divine election works out incrementally and sequentially, until "the knowledge of the glory of the Lord shall fill all the earth as the waters cover the sea." With each incremental and sequential unfolding of the elective process, the chosen reveal from God's relationship with them, how He relates to the whole.

He reveals Himself to the world by the presencing of His Presence in them, by them, and through them, yet to express it thusly falls short of the whole truth, for those in, by, and through whom He reveals Himself are elect to BE His presence in the earth.

The Christ has become a people; and a people have become the Christ. He is Himself, but He is also a many-persons-membered body. The individual body of "Jesus of Nazareth glorified" has become also the Greater Christ of the New Testament as a collectively embodied people, each a member of the body which, "so also is Christ." (1 Cor. 12:12)

This open-ended process of election will end as the whole body of humanity becomes the body of Christ on earth. In a sense, the kingdom of God will only have One Subject, the One New Man inclusive of us all. All creation shall emanate Christness. This will be the glory of God filling all the earth. But it will be the complete New Man, with His Greater Eve out from His riven side, as His Bride. All creation will play and sing the symphony of their romance. This is really the subject of the Bible: The Great Romance.

John GavazzoniJohn Gavazzoni
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