Micah Redding — Christian Transhumanism: faith, technology & the future

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Apocalypse: Been There, Done That

I've just finished writing up an article about why I believe the Second Coming has already happened. It's relatively short, far from comprehensive, and is only an attempt to look at the basics. Essentially, it's an overview of the story of the New Testament, and the times the New Testament authors perceived themselves to be living in.

Apocalypse: Been There, Done That

More important than understanding the WHEN of the Second Coming, is understanding the WHAT and the WHY. And I attempt to address that.

The real damage done by pre-millennialism and other religious eschatologies of the last 200 years is that they rob us of an understanding of what God has already done, why Jesus did what he did, and what God is truly interested in.

If we can discover a better understanding of eschatology, we can recover a better understanding of God.

I'd love to discuss this. Feel free to leave comments on the article below.


Next: His enemies beneath his feet...

Lawrence:

Micah,<br/>I appreciate your study of the destruction of Jerusalem as to how it fits into the promises of Jesus. I have had a hard time reconciling all the things the Bible says about a second coming. I think your approach fits with much of the language of the Bible. The question that comes to my mind now though is, "what is left?"<br/><br/>Thanks for the prodding to consider these matters.

micah:

There are definitely lots of things to reconcile, in thinking about concepts as big as this.<br/><br/>As for "what now?", I'm not sure there's one answer. What now in terms of Christian mission? What now in terms of how to live life? What now in terms of what we can expect from the future? These different questions will all lead to different answers and different paths of study.<br/><br/>But I think one important thing to think about is God's ultimate purpose.<br/><br/>God set out on a path to reconcile himself to humanity. He had to deal with humanity's sin issues. And the bible teaches us what answers will work, or rather, what answers WON'T work.<br/><br/>And the biggest thing we learn is that ultimately, all the change has to come from inside. God can't fix humanity by wiping out the unrighteous, by setting up the perfect government, or the perfect law, or even the perfect moral code. The ONLY thing God can do to create the humanity he wants is to live INSIDE us.<br/><br/>And that leads me to expect that God is done with physical catastrophes and judgments. Because they can do nothing compared to the effect of God-in-us.<br/><br/>Just as looking to restore the temple leads us away from understanding what Jesus has done, looking for Jesus to return and destroy or remake the earth misses God's focus.<br/><br/>No physical tribulation, kingdom, or return in clouds, could possibly accomplish what God really wants.<br/><br/>So I think that God's purpose is to live with us, and become part of us. And our purpose should be to live in that reality, to let it work its way into us and through us.<br/><br/>And let that change everything.

Lawrence:

If "God in us" is what we need as opposed to conflagrations, upheavals, and changes in God's administrations, I see us coming up short. There doesn't seem to be enough of God getting into people to propel us into the new world of righteousness that would seem to be the goal. The inner conflict between flesh and spirit needs to be resolved. The present dispensation doesn't seem to be accomplishing that. I John 3: 1-3 refers to a time of being like Jesus when we see him as he is. I think many of us are hoping for a time of ditching the carnal nature in a way that is not possible under present circumstances.<br/><br/>Don't we need a higher octane rating of some kind?

Becca:

I am constantly struggling with myself when it comes to these ideas. Mostly because, while the premise makes sense, the conclusion is hard to accept. It is opposite of what I have lived my life for in the past 17 years. Perhaps it is due to the mindset that I was at first, surrounded by, and then as I became older, chose to believe in, but it extremely hard to grasp the concept that 'heaven' is here. Due to religious blinders and just plain bitterness about the state of our world today. <br/><br/>"This is it?" is the main question I have found myself asking. Although I don't know nearly enough about this to agree with it, if this is "it," if this is truly how God intended it to be, that we need to open ourselves up to his presence in the world today, then that is and should be plenty. I cannot deny that people do not live up to their potential for many things, but many people don't even have the desire to improve. Like I said, I'm not ready to agree just yet, but if it is true, I will be honest in saying that I am selfish. I like my view of Heaven; the thought of it makes me happy. It may be absurd, but I'm not willing to give that ideal up, even though I have always slightly pictured Heaven to be like the Land of Oz…but with mansions instead of midgets.<br/><br/>Also, do you believe that pre-millennialism has really robbed us of an understanding of why Jesus "did what he did"? By that do you mean his death or how he chooses to live his life? <br/><br/>I am a little confused about what exactly, if this theory is the most right so far about what God IS looking for. Does he desire people to open themselves fully to his greatness, and how does that even begin to manifest itself in our world today? Or does he desire something less quantifiable?

micah:

If creating a sinless humanity didn't work, if destroying all evil people didn't work, and if delivering the perfect moral code didn't work, what would? The answer is a total upheaval in God's administration. That upheaval was the New Covenant, where God has totally and fully dealt with sin, all by himself.<br/><br/>The New Covenant meant a world in which humanity would never again have to work to have access to God.<br/><br/>This doesn't mean erasing sinners from the earth (Rev 22 shows people still outside the gates). And I don't think it means doing away with our physical bodies. The New Covenant access was blocked by sin, the Law, the accuser, and the curse. And all of that has been dealt with by Jesus. What is left is to realize and accept that access.<br/><br/>I think whether we choose to enjoy that access or not is up to us. How we orient ourselves in relation to the light streaming from the New Jerusalem is our choice, and will always be our choice. Just like the spies entering the promised land - we can see God's accomplished work, or we can see giants. It is fully possible to live in the promised land and not see it.<br/><br/>The struggle between spirit and flesh that Paul dealt with seems to be the struggle between defining himself in relation to physical things, and defining himself in relation to his identity through Jesus. He wasn't referring to the physical body, since his audience was not "in the flesh" anymore (Rom 8:9). By "flesh", he meant the part of the mind that found identity in relation to physical things, including the Law (Gal 3:1-3).<br/><br/>To live in the spirit was to define himself in relation to God, through his faith in what Jesus had accomplished. That erased his feelings of guilt and separation, and allowed him to enjoy that access.<br/><br/>Our task now is to realize more fully what God has done, so that we can enjoy our access to him.<br/><br/>I'm not sure this has addressed your question. I guess that I'm suggesting God's purposes are more about changing the world of our relationship to him, rather than what we do in that world. And that access to God is probably as fully available as we could ever want. That itself requires some discussion and thought.<br/><br/>Is this addressing your thoughts or not? Please help me clarify.

micah:

Becca,<br/><br/>For one thing, I don't think this necessarily means giving up your idea of heaven. There's an afterlife in which our relationship with God continues on. What's important is to realize that relationship NOW...and Jesus defines that relationship as eternal life.<br/><br/>As far as the nature of the afterlife, the Bible doesn't really indicate. So maybe it is like the land of Oz. ;)<br/><br/>As for all the stuff we normally associate with heaven (golden streets, mansions, etc)...all that tells us something about life and relationship now. And is more meaningful because it does.<br/><br/>As for understanding Jesus, a misinterpretation of Revelation makes pre-millennialists think Jesus' earthly life was his "wimpy phase".<br/><br/>The biblical writers wanted to convey that Jesus' self-sacrifice was more powerful than all the empires of earth, so they used imagery like swords and warhorses. This imagery expressed the supreme power of Jesus' meekness.<br/><br/>But pre-millennialists and others take swords and war as Jesus' basic nature. Our perception of the end controls how we view the rest.<br/><br/>If we think Jesus ultimately wants bloodshed, or to set up a physical kingdom, or to help us get rid of our physical bodies, or to remove us from this planet...well, that will change how we view his teachings on love and his kingdom being among us and the nature of the world God created.<br/><br/>And that ultimately warps our view of the power of the cross.<br/><br/>As for what God wants...let's discuss that more fully on its own.

micah:

Here's a short thought-piece on what God wants from us now. This is by someone I know.<br/><br/><a HREF="http://www.friktech.com/rel/LifeAfterArmageddon.htm" REL="nofollow" rel="nofollow">http://www.friktech.com/rel/LifeAfterArmageddon.htm</a>

Lawrence:

Are we getting away from the idea that the resurrection of Jesus guarantees our resurrection and that we live for the world to come?

micah:

I would say the resurrection of Jesus does guarantee our resurrection. But that resurrection is a big thing...that resurrection is eternal life. And eternal life is not just the future, but now (John 11:25).<br/><br/>"We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Romans 6:4)<br/><br/>Paul saw this as partially accomplished in his time - he had already been freed from regulations (Col 2), but was waiting for total freedom from condemnation to come when the temple fell (Gal 4).<br/><br/>This freedom is intrinsically tied up with the Law.<br/><br/>"54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory.' 55'Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?' 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law." (1 Cor 15:54-56)<br/><br/>The Law was the power of sin, and sin was what gave death its sting. So death would be fully swallowed up when the Law was gone.<br/><br/>So I would say resurrection is always about consciousness of sin and separation from God. Just like the death Adam experienced. When that is removed, the resurrection has occurred, and people are free to live a transformed life. And that transformed life can never be taken away - even at physical death.<br/><br/>So - we live for God.<br/><br/>Paul was looking for the age/world to come, in which righteousness dwelled. And I would say that age has come. I think the "age to come" was always a prophecy of the time when the Messiah would have sat down on his throne. And that time would be now.<br/><br/>I don't think we live for the afterlife. The afterlife should just be a continuation of what we have here.

mr.redding:

Paul claimed that he would most be worthy of pity if he had hope in this life only. It seems obvious that he was living for the afterlife. It seems apparent that a resurrection is a remedy of death. The death was physical. The resurrection will be in kind. It sounds like you are making resurrection a parable or metaphor for something spiritual. While the resurrection will be attended by spiritual ramifications I don'<br/>t think a spiritual condition is all that is involved. If old saints allowed themselves to be tortured in hope of a better resurrection what kind of resurrection did they have in mind?

micah:

Paul said, "to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).<br/><br/>I interpret this as meaning that he was living for Christ, regardless of his physical life or death. Naturally, he didn't want the end of his physical life to be the end of his relationship with God - which is why he said that about being pitied in 1 Cor 15:19.<br/><br/>Paul's most apparent discussion about the nature of resurrection is in 1 Cor 15:42-49. According to Paul, the body that dies is a natural body, but the body that is raised is a spiritual (not-physical) body. There is a clear distinction: physical death is not remedied by physical resurrection, and physical death does not tell us what spiritual resurrection is like.<br/><br/>Paul sums up his discussion in 1 Cor 15:50, by saying that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God". He then goes on to connect the moment of resurrection to the moment the Law is taken away (1 Cor 15:56).<br/><br/>At that moment, the dead would be raised imperishable, which Paul has already indicated means without flesh - in spiritual bodies. It would be the moment when the dead locked in Hades (from Abel to Abraham to Zechariah) would be free to enter into God's presence.<br/><br/>Also, the people still living at that time (Paul says "we", indicating he might still be alive), would have their "perishable" (their flesh) clothed with the "imperishable" (the spirit).<br/><br/>In other words, when the resurrection happened, it wouldn't involve the people still living losing their physical bodies. Instead, they would experience the same spiritual relationship the dead were experiencing with God. This relationship would be "on top of" their flesh.<br/><br/>And that relationship was tied to the removal of the Law. According to Paul, this "clothing" of flesh with spirit (while the flesh was still alive) was the MEANING of "Death has been swallowed up in victory" (1 Cor 15:54). You can see this is true in Isaiah 25:8, where removing death is tied to removing condemnation.<br/><br/>So I don't think the resurrection is "only symbolic". I DO think it's a spiritual reality. The resurrection of Abraham did not involve the removal of some dust or bones from a grave. It involved him being given a spiritual body with which to approach God, and leaving Hades forever.<br/><br/>There is physical reality and there is spiritual reality. Both are fully real. But spiritual reality usually has to be talked about symbolically, simply because normal words can never accurately describe spiritual reality.

mr.redding:

"To live is Christ" means Paul was engaged in the work of Christ on Earth.<br/>Dying would be gain in that he would go on to enjoy his reward which would be better than what he could experience in this life. <br/><br/>I do not understand your assertion that the moment of resurrection is connected to the moment that the law is taken away.<br/><br/>Jesus said there was to be an hour when the dead would be raised. Has that hour come? Is it still here?<br/><br/>Jesus resurrection emptied a tomb. How does the unseen resurrection of people from Abel to Abraham to Zechariah fulfill the promise that Jesus' resurrection proposes? It all seems too concocted. If there were no discomfort in the 2000 year postponement it would be hard to entertain such a concept. Not that the scenario itself is absurd but applying the language of the Bible to your ideas is a little hard.<br/>I am used to thinking of resurrection as something visible, not arguable. <br/><br/>It seems I need to read whatever you have been reading. Must be Max King.

micah:

<b>About the "visibleness" of the resurrection:</b><br/><br/>In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul tries to comfort the Thessalonians who were afraid that the coming of Christ, the day of the Lord, and the gathering together with him (the resurrection) had already occurred. He tells them, no, that day can not come until certain things have happened. He then lists those things.<br/> <br/>If the resurrection of the dead were a physical event, with the literal tombs being ripped open - why did they even entertain these thoughts? And why did Paul not say, "Look outside! Of course it hasn't happened!"<br/> <br/>The Thessalonians obviously understood this event to be a spiritual event, one that POSSIBLY could pass them unseen. Paul doesn't correct their notion of the event. Instead, he tells them the SIGNS that have to happen first.<br/> <br/>Signs exist to point to spiritual realities that we might otherwise miss. The historical events Paul was witnessing (and would witness) were signs indicating what was happening spiritually.<br/> <br/>And, all the things Paul told them would happen first, have happened.<br/> <br/>So, the resurrection was a spiritual event. Physical historical signs pointed to it, letting the Thessalonians know it was coming, and letting us know it has happened.<br/><br/><br/><b>About the Law's removal being connected to resurrection:</b><br/><br/>When I read 1 Corinthians 15 with a traditional understanding, it seemed to change subject suddenly at the end, when it begins talking about the Law. I thought, where did the Law come from?<br/><br/>Traditionally, this was confusing. But now I see that he's talking about the same thing. He explains it himself.<br/><br/>According to Paul, resurrection is all about the fulfillment of this verse:<br/>"Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (1Cor 15:54-55)<br/><br/>How will death be swallowed up in victory? By taking away its victory, and removing its sting.<br/><br/>What is the sting of death? According to Paul, sin. Thus, the resurrection is about removing sin's sting. But what powers sin? According to Paul, the power of sin is the Law. So in order to topple this whole system, and bring about resurrection: the Law must be removed, removing the power of sin, and removing the sting of death.<br/><br/>Thus, the removal of the Law is the removal of the power of sin to separate us from God.<br/>Thus, the removal of the Law is the removal of the sting of death.<br/><br/>And that removal is what Paul calls resurrection: the entrance of humanity (dead and alive) into God's full presence.<br/><br/>When we compare this to Revelation, we see the removal of the dead from Hades, the destruction of Hades itself, and the judgment of all the dead. Who was in Hades? Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for starters. They could not enter into God's presence, because sin had not been dealt with. But Jesus' death paid the price, and his return signaled God's acceptance of that sacrifice, and the removal of all the obstacles.<br/><br/>What does this mean for us? It means we no longer have a "waiting place" between death and being with God, but have unbroken fellowship with God, through the process of physical death.<br/><br/><br/><b>About Jesus' "hour" of resurrection:</b><br/><br/>The "hour" of the resurrection of the dead of ages past happened in AD 70. The "hour" when those who believe in Jesus will "live even though they die" (John 11:25) is ongoing. That's what we hope for as Christians. That's what we're guaranteed as believers.<br/><br/><br/><b>About the language of the Bible:</b><br/><br/>When looking at the Old Testament prophets, there is a clear indication of HOW to use prophecy. Prophecy is always fulfilled according to the TIME given for it. The actual nature of how the events unfold is almost never given - instead, we are shown a spiritual vision of the MEANING of those events. One can only see that the fulfillment has occurred by looking backwards, and comparing the time and signs given.<br/><br/>Isaiah (chapter 13) talks about the destruction of Babylon. It gives grandiose, cosmic language to describe that happening. We don't know much about the physical details of how it would play out. But once it had happened, we would be able to see, "yes, the stars were shaken, and that meant...".<br/><br/>In other places, we see prophecies of God coming on the clouds to judge the earth. These prophecies take place, and no one "sees" God riding on a cloud. Instead, people look back at what had happened, and see that the prophecy has been fulfilled.<br/><br/>We could go on...but I think that is how we should approach everything. None of Jesus' followers could know the exact details of the Second Coming. But they are given signs, time limiters, and events to watch for. Jesus tells them these, Paul tells them more details, Revelation gives a whole symbolic schedule.<br/><br/>And we always see a vagueness about the precise nature of what will happen. John says they didn't know what would be their nature after resurrection (1John3:2), and Paul says it was a mystery (1Cor15). But both of them lock in the timing of when this would happen (1John 2, 2 Thess 2).<br/><br/><br/><b>About books to read:</b><br/><br/>Max King's book (The Spirit of Prophecy) does a good job showing the absolute correlation between all the things Jesus, Paul, Revelation, and everyone else said about the Second Coming. And it connects it all to the transition of the Covenant - the Bible's most important subject.<br/><br/>But I didn't get the idea that resurrection was connected to the Law from that. I read a commentary by Frank Daniels, and saw that the connection was Paul's whole meaning in 1 Corinthians 15.<br/><br/>I got most of this understanding from from various books, internet articles, and the sheer necessity of dealing with Jesus' time statements. But when I got around to reading Max King, I saw that he puts it in a context that makes sense of everything - and makes sense of WHY God chose to do things this way. <br/><br/>As far as commentaries, I would recommend Frank Daniels.<br/><a HREF="http://www.scs.unr.edu/~fdaniels/rel/rev.htm" REL="nofollow" rel="nofollow">Short Commentary on Revelation</a><br/><a HREF="http://www.friktech.com/rel/over1.pdf" REL="nofollow" rel="nofollow">Full commentary on Revelation</a><br/><a HREF="http://www.friktech.com/rel/LifeAfterArmageddon.htm" REL="nofollow" rel="nofollow">Life after Armageddon</a><br/><a HREF="http://heroinc.fortunecity.com/rel/rel.htm" REL="nofollow" rel="nofollow">Frank Daniels</a>

micah:

By the way, I see what you're saying about Paul perhaps wishing he could die. I don't guess I'm trying to deny that a person in a bad situation might look to death and the afterlife as relief.<br/><br/>I think I'm saying that we shouldn't be waiting for something to happen to have relationship with God, and joy, and peace, and love. God wants us to have that now, and to whatever extent we're waiting on something...we haven't realized what Jesus has accomplished.