Christians, we might be guilty of sculpting the Christian faith to appear sensible to our unbelieving neighbors. We may be tempted to massage the truth hoping to make it reasonable to those who don't believe the truth. But can the supernatural be made natural, or belief acceptable to unbelief? Will this strategy work? Jesus said in 1 Corinthians 1:25 (WEB), "because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."
So perhaps foolishness isn't so bad after all. And two verses later in 1 Corinthians 1:27 (WEB) we read, "but God chose the foolish things of the world that he might put to shame those who are wise. God chose the weak things of the world that he might put to shame the things that are strong." Ok then, so even better, God can use our foolishness and weakness to conquer the wise and strong!
And further in Matthew 10:24-25 (WEB) Jesus says, "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be like his teacher, and the servant like his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more those of his household!" And if we are scorned, no problem. Jesus got worse and yet he still won the greatest victory!
So rather than continue the charade, join me and add ten theological absurdities to your neighborly discussions across the hedgerow. (It is assumed that your conversational repertoire already includes the Trinity, the Incarnation, and Jesus' Resurrection, the big three Christian absurdities to the natural unregenerate mind. So those items are not included in the list below.)
1. Happy are the sad
No doubt the American ideal of democracy promising "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" has found its way to every ear on the globe. While I certainly do not oppose these goals it is curious that Jesus founded his government on vastly different promises. He said in Luke 6 (WEB), "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh." and also "Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep." Wise Solomon likewise said in Ecclesiastes 7 (WEB), "It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men, and the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the face the heart is made good."
These ideas may seem absurd, but only because our TVs, radios, mailboxes, computers, and phones are stuffed full of glad-handed salesmen and sales pitches from politicians to phonies for cars and clothes, diets and college degrees, all promising happiness. Why we cannot even discern that we have been had by the lies that we actually wanted to believe. But we should ask if the glad-handed have made delivery on their promises? It is certain that Jesus will deliver on his promises.
2. Slavery offers true freedom
Perhaps the biggest lie of our time told by the American people and heard the world a round is that 'freedom' is the summum bonum of mankind's very existence. Yet one would think that someone somewhere would ask in the midst of the sales pitch, okay, but before I buy it, 'freedom' from what? Perhaps democracy has obtained freedom from the tyranny of King George, but reading the newspapers it would appear we are now enslaved to a much greater tyranny... the tyranny of ourselves.
Yes, it is true that we no longer have taxation without representation, but honestly I ask, is taxation with representation any better? Jesus invites us to a radical, upside down, inside out, and outright absurd way of thinking. He says in John 8:31-32 (WEB), "Jesus therefore said to those Jews who had believed him, 'If you remain in my word, then you are truly my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.' "
True freedom, according to Jesus, is only found by holding to his teachings, that is obeying Jesus. True freedom is only found in submission, submission to our Creator. This seems to be quite opposite of the proud American brand of freedom, the spirit of independence.
Jesus also says more radically in Mark 10:43-45 (WEB), "But it shall not be so among you, but whoever wants to become great among you shall be your servant. Whoever of you wants to become first among you, shall be bondservant of all. For the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Perhaps some might agree to obey God, since we think we can retain our pride if we only bow to God alone, but now even more absurdly Jesus says true greatness comes only by making ouselves slaves to all. Whoa. Too much for you? If doubting the cost, consider that Jesus has also prepaid your ticket for eternal freedom from a sinful heart and condemnation for sin. So you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by following his example.
3. Our spirit can interlude
To interlude means to "participate in an intervening or interruptive period, space, or event" I once made a casual reference that I could not attend an event due to my schedule, but that I would "be there in spirit." My quick to correct theological friend noted that we are body, spirit, and soul, but that all our components are always at the same place at the same time. Now I only intended to use a common expression without any real meaning to my words.
However, since then I read 2 Kings 5:25-27 concerning Elisha's spirit and 2 Corinthians 12:1-3 concerning Paul's vision. Check it out for yourself. It would appear that the components of our existence may not always need to be at the same place at the same time. Now this has never happened to me, nor do I think we have the power to orchestrate or schedule these events. However, we are the Lord's servants and he will have his way with us, including the possibility sending our spirit on a mission while our body waits for the reunion. Freaky to think about.
4. Not reincarnation but trans-incarnation
Recently I was surprised to meet a man who called himself Christian and also believes in reincarnation. Of course each person is free to believe as they choose, and Hinduism likewise believes in reincarnation. Believe what you may, but this is not Biblical doctrine. So reincarnation is not true, but there may be something that could be wrongly perceived to be reincarnation, and for this discussion I have labeled it "trans-incarnation." The prefix 'trans' means across. With reincarnation the same person is given another incarnation (body) to continue living in their next life. However, with trans-incarnation the same calling or gifts are given to another person to continue the work of the prior person.
The highlighted example of this in Scripture is that Jesus says in Matthew 11 that John the Baptist is 'Elijah' in fulfillment of Malachi 4:5. Yet John also says he is not Elijah in John 1. So who is John the Baptist? John remains John, BUT he is tagged by the spirit of God with Elijah's calling and gifts to continue Elijah's work in a supernatural way. We may also note that apparently God can do this so powerfully that the next person tagged almost appears to be a reincarnation of the prior person. For example some thought that because Jesus' work was so similar to John the Baptist that Jesus was in fact John, raised from the dead, Mark 6:14.
Finally, consider Matthew 17:11-13, "Jesus answered them, 'Elijah indeed comes first, and will restore all things, but I tell you that Elijah has come already, and they didn't recognize him, but did to him whatever they wanted to. Even so the Son of Man will also suffer by them.' Then the disciples understood that he spoke to them of John the Baptizer."
The use of the word 'comes' and 'has come already' implies that the trans-incarnation of Elijah's calling and gifts to John the Baptist was not a singular event. However, don't waste your time trying to figure out if you are Elijah "trans-incarnate." Your mission is to produce fruit in keeping with repentance!
5. The mortality rate is not 100%
Check your Old Testament for stories about Enoch and Elijah for proof. My only question is, are those the only two that didn't die or are there more that dodged the Grim Reaper that are not recorded in the Bible? Wow. Think about it. Imagine being ushered into Heaven, hosts of Angels, God's people, and King Jesus himself without even passing through death! Perhaps, the Lord did this for Enoch and Elijah to remind us that no one is dead to God, but instead we are all alive, whether here or there, or in the flash in between, Luke 20:37-39.
6. The dead will all be raised
And not only is the mortality rate not 100%, even if you do happen to die, you will be raised to life again! The awesome news is that ALL God's people will be raised to an eternal life of bliss with him. Check with Jesus to confirm if you are one of his. A few years ago at the workplace lunch table I turned the conversation to the resurrection of the dead. The discussion turned a tad uncomfortable while my colleagues reflected that it would be 'creepy' to see a deceased loved one alive again. So would we prefer instead that they would just stay dead? Unfortunately our thoughts about these things are impacted more by corrupt horror movies than by the wholesome truth of the Bible. The resurrection will be an amazing day of joy for every believer and I personally look forward to seeing my Christian mother and brother again. Read I Corinthians 15 for more details on that.
7. Not all people are human
Some of you are already joking that a few of your acquaintances are in that category! But seriously, it is true that not all people are human. A person is defined as a being with identity, mind, will, emotion, and personality or potential to develop these attributes. So we see that all humans are people, including the unborn. However, there are more people than just humans.
Jesus is also human, at least since the incarnation anyway. But consider God the Father and also God the Holy Spirit. They are not human, but they are two of the three persons in the Trinity. Consider also all the Angels and Demons. They are beings, but not human beings. Instead they are real and living people with names such as Michael and Gabriel on the good side of things, and Legion and Lucifer on the evil side of things. Hey coolness, mankind is not alone in the Universe! Or maybe you don't think that is cool?
8. Invasion by evil aliens is coming
Now this concept might even be a stretch for my Bible believing evangelical friends, but here goes. Check out the last three verses of the book of Isaiah. Isaiah is an amazing Old Testament prophet who saw past his time all the way to the New Covenant through the Church Age to the last great battle on the Earth. So who are the dead bodies of those that rebelled against God mentioned at the end of Isaiah's book? Mankind has rebelled to be sure, but the bodies are not ours, since we are saved by grace. Furthermore Isaiah's verses make it doubly clear that ALL mankind is worshiping God and ALL mankind is horrified by these dead bodies. Okay, so who are they?
Re-read #7 above for a clue. Currently demons are not embodied, but apparently one day they will be on the Earth with bodies to match their evil character. Not a pleasant thought. If realized, I can only imagine the massive web of deception already spun by demonic forces for mankind's entrapment through our foolish search for alien brothers in the telescope of non-fiction and for monster thrills in the theater of fiction. If incarnate demons do walk this earth on day, very few humans will recognize who these evil people are or know that deliverance cannot not come from carnal warfare.
9. Forever is not always forever
We Christians often bandy about the word 'eternal' only ever thinking it has one meaning, you know 'forever.' However, pull out your Hebrew lexicon and look up the word 'eternal' and your will find a laundry list of perfectly valid denotations. And certainly 'forever and ever' is one very common meaning. But another denotation is 'forever UNTIL' the person in view is deceased. Read Deuteronomy 15:17 in the Hebrew for an example of that. Another denotation is 'forever UNTIL' God satisfies the terms of the contract. Exodus 31:16 is an example of that when compared with the terms of the New Covenant in Romans 14:5.
Frankly, the ending of the 'forever' terms of the Old Covenant is one of the Jews strongest arguments for justifiably nailing Jesus on the cross. If Jesus was a mere man he would be blasphemous to even suggest the termination of an eternal covenant from God. Yet Jesus does claim to fulfill and terminate the Old and has begun the New AND he wasn't a mere man. He is God and has proved his authority to satisfy the terms of 'forever' through the sacrifice of his own body. This is powerful stuff that has left pundits debating even to today.
Unfortunately, the translators haven't been more clear in their translation of the Hebrew word 'olam' which means 'the duration of the subject in view'. Thus the 'olam' of a man's life is... 70 years. The 'olam' of the Old Covenant was... until Christ abolished it. However, the 'olam' of God's faithfulness is... forever.
We might also ask if this observation about the denotations of 'forever' has implications for our understanding of the New Testament, particularly the sentence of 'eternity' in Hell for unbelievers? The Greek word translated eternal in the New Testament is 'aion'. And the classic work by John Wesley Hanson from 1875 makes it clear that 'aion' is a synonym with the Hebrew word 'olam'. I have written a short review of his work here. Dr. Heleen Keizer has also written a dissertation proving the same titled, Life, Time, Entirety - A Study of Aion in Greek Literature and Philosophy, the Septuagint and Philo. Read her 315 page dissertation online or an abstract of her conclusions here.
Read their books, however, I am convinced that only the grace of God can persuade the self-righteous of this wonderful truth. The answer lies in the verdict of God's grace, not the fickleness of our faith, nor our supposed 'free will', nor second chances. God's grace teaches us that the redeemed were not even saved by a first chance! Jesus blood atonement for his people was not a chance, but his mightiest act of deliberate love for all mankind. However, the unbelieving should be warned that only God's people and no other will gain entrance to glory and that only by the electing grace of God.
10. Hades / Hell is not the Lake of Fire
I mentioned this concept before, but it deserves to be re-mentioned again in our list of top ten Biblical absurdities. I grew up going to a small country church where the theology was quite simple; Heaven was Heaven, Hell was Hell, Jesus is Savior, and we trust in him to be saved. Of course that simple message is still truthful and powerful enough to lead many to salvation from destruction. And that may be your experience with the Christian message as well.
Now I don't have a goal to rock the boat or disturb our understanding unnecessarily, however, it should be noted that if we take a closer look that there is a bit more to the story. Read Revelation chapter 20 and you will see that Hell / Hades is not the Lake of Fire. In fact you we see that all those punished in Hell are safely extracted out of Hell for the final determination of their fate as written in the Book of Life, while Hell itself is cast into the Lake of Fire, empty of all souls. So it would appear that Hell is 'forever' UNTIL God determines it is no longer needed and he discards it into the Lake of Fire forever and ever. Satan is also thrown into the Lake of Fire along with The Beast and The False Prophet, after which the New Heavens and the New Earth commence with no more sin, EVER. Now that is good news for all God's people, and because of electing grace, good news only for God's people.
Well, there you have it, ten theological absurdities. Please do not worry to much that God uses foolish things to confound the wise. Though the above things may sound absurd or disturbing, God is good and he is good all the time. The upshot of all this is that since God can accomplish mighty things with foolishness, he might even be willing to use you for his mighty deeds :-). However, for now join me following Jesus on the next task he places before us whether mighty or mundane.