Saturday, October 8, 2016

Marriage Supper Location - How Often Has Christ Come to the Earth?

Some time ago, Living Church of God taught that when Christ returns He will gather the saints and we take a trip and have the marriage supper in heaven with the Father, then we will come back to rule the earth. Those are my words, LCG might phrase it differently, but the idea is the same. The marriage supper will take place in heaven.

I have not researched this doctrine in detail, nor do I plan to because I consider it a minor doctrine (it doesn't affect how we live today, and when Christ returns we will follow Him wherever He goes). I heard an LCG minister, Mr. Ames I think, give a sermon on the subject, and I tend to agree with LCG's position, based on the Bible evidence given in the sermon, though I have not studied it enough to prove it.

Some people I think are upset over this doctrine. Some might be concerned because it is a change from what the Church taught in the days of Mr. Armstrong. But Mr. Armstrong himself changed his own doctrines and taught us by example to be willing to be corrected by the Bible and to learn new knowledge. Mr. Armstrong was never infallible, and he admitted he made mistakes. One of the last mistakes he made before he died was to teach the Church that we should follow the next pastor general (Mr. Tkach) if we want to be in the Kingdom of God. He never corrected that mistake before he died, and it was obviously a mistake because Mr. Tkach reversed all or almost all of Mr. Armstrong's important teachings which Mr. Armstrong got from the Bible.

Some may be concerned about scriptures that refer to Christ's first coming and second coming, such as this: "so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation" (Hebrews 9:28). They feel that that word, "second", means that there are only two times that Christ ever comes to the earth.

I have not looked up all the places in the Bible where it talks about Christ coming the "first" time, the "second" time, etc. I know of this one verse because it was recently pointed out to me. There may be many such verses - I don't know. But you have to look at the context and compare with other events in the Bible to understand how those words "first" and "second" are being used and what they mean in the context they are used.

I will tell you what I think they mean, and then I will explain why I think this based on other events in the Bible, events most of us are familiar with.

Christ's first and second coming refer to major changes of abode, not short-term visits. Before Christ's first coming, His regular abode was in heaven with God the Father. Then He came to earth as a man, the man Jesus, and lived on the earth as a human being for about 33 years. During that time, His abode was the earth - He lived on the earth. He ascended into heaven in the sight of the disciples as recorded in Acts 1:9. He now lives in heaven - that is His regular abode. When He comes again at the end of this age, at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, in what is called His "second coming", He is coming to once again live on the earth as His regular abode.

But that does not mean that He never makes short-term trips to carry out a purpose.

I will illustrate with an example.

Mr. Gerald Weston lives in the Charlotte, NC area. He is stationed and works at Living Church of God headquarters. That is his regular abode. A few months ago, he was stationed someplace else, the U.K. I believe, and before that it was Canada.

But does that mean he must stay in Charlotte 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year? No. When he was stationed and living in Canada, he made trips, sometimes to Charlotte. Likewise when he was stationed in other places. Any week he might be found visiting a local congregation someplace in the United States or the world. Just because he is headquartered someplace does not mean he does not travel to other places to carry out his duties.

This is what I think the Bible means when it refers to Christ's "first" coming and "second" coming. It is referring to long-term changes in where He is stationed, but He can still take additional short term trips to other places for special purposes.

I said I would state what I think and then where I see evidence of this in the Bible. So now let's review some events in the Bible that demonstrate that His "first" and "second" coming do not refer to all the trips between heaven and earth that He makes.

How many times has Christ come to the earth?

Here are a few. There are probably many more.

He spoke with Adam, apparently face to face. He breathed into Adam's nostrils (Genesis 2:7). I believe the Church and Mr. Armstrong have taught that this was Christ and not the Father, and I won't take the time here to prove that. Adam heard the sound of Christ walking in the garden and heard His voice (Genesis 3:8-10). That seems to indicate Christ was on the earth in those moments. So He must have come from heaven to work personally with Adam and Eve.

Christ appeared to Abraham as Melchizedek (Mr. Armstrong and the Church have correctly taught for years that Melchizedek was Christ), and Christ brought out bread and wine, and Abraham paid a tithe to Christ (Genesis 14:20). How could Christ have done this without making a trip from heaven to earth?

Christ appeared to Abraham, ate the food Abraham served him, and had a personal conversation with him (Genesis chapter 18). He must have made a trip from heaven to the earth to do this.

Christ appeared to seventy elders in ancient Israel. They ate and drank and "saw the God of Israel" (Exodus 24:9-11).

Christ appeared to Joshua as commander of God's armies (Joshua 5:13-15). This could not have been an angel, for He allowed Joshua to worship Him. Christ must have made the trip from heaven to earth to appear to Joshua.

Christ was apparently, as one like the "Son of God", in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego (Daniel 3:24-25).

These events all happened before the "first" coming of Jesus Christ as a human being born of Mary.

Is the Bible wrong, or are we wrong, to refer to Christ's birth as the human Jesus born of Mary as His first coming? No. Even though Christ made many trips back and forth between heaven and earth to work with mankind to work out the Father's purpose, His coming in human flesh was not a short-term trip but a major change in location from which He would do His work in the next 33 years. It is like an executive evangelist like Mr. Weston being transferred from Canada to the United Kingdom or from the United Kingdom to Charlotte.

Christ's regular abode was transferred from heaven to earth for about 33 years. It was in that sense of a major, long-term transfer of residency or location from where He will work that it is called His "first" coming.

But that is not all.

After He was resurrected, He made at least one trip to heaven and then back to earth, and maybe He made several. The Bible makes it clear He went to His Father in heaven after His resurrection, and then returned. After Mary Magdalene saw Christ, He said to her, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God' " (John 20:17). That is the NKJV. The KJV version has, "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father". Yet later, He appeared to His disciples and said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing" (John 20:27). Notice this was before His ascension into heaven in as recorded in Acts 1:9-11.

Then He ascended into heaven and His disciples saw Him ascend (Acts 1:9-11).

Then, was that it? Was that the last time Christ was on earth till the seventh trumpet?

No. He also apparently appeared to Paul in Arabia. I say apparently, because the Bible does not say this directly, but there is circumstantial evidence, enough to convince Mr. Armstrong, that Christ was with Paul in Arabia. "Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?" (1 Corinthians 9:1). Then, "But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ....But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus" (Galatians 1:11-17).

While these verses may not be absolute proof that Christ was personally with Paul on the earth, Mr. Armstrong was convinced, and he is the one that those who disagree on the marriage supper being in heaven like to refer to.

I believe I have heard the suggestion in the past, I even think while Mr. Armstrong was alive, by some in the Church that Christ will teach the Church personally in the place of safety for three-and-a-half years. I do not remember who said this or taught it, or if it was speculation or doctrine. But I mention it because the idea that Christ might come to the earth for a special purpose and job before His return to set up the Kingdom is not some strange idea to the Church.

Christ has made the trip between heaven and earth many times, and these are not all counted as His major first coming as a human born of Mary or His major second coming to rule the earth as King of Kings.

Now, if Christ can make the trip from heaven to earth, not part of His first or second coming, but for special purposes, and then to return to heaven, why can He not make a special trip, after His second coming, to heaven for the marriage supper and return?

In any case, when Christ returns, He will confirm where the marriage supper will be and will take us there. We won't miss the marriage supper because we have the wrong address. Christ has the right address, and He will take us there personally. Like a man who drives his car to take a woman on a date, He will do the driving. We can relax and enjoy the ride wherever He takes us.

What can cause us to miss the marriage supper is being so concerned over a minor issue, perhaps in a carnal desire to find fault with the ministry, that we neglect supporting those who are preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning effectively on TV, in print, on the Internet, and in public Bible lectures. Because, if we do not warn the world as effectively as we can, hopefully motivated by love for our neighbors, but perhaps motivated by fear of God (both are good motivations), then the blood of the people will be on our heads. God may count us as murderers, and THAT can cause us to miss the marriage supper.

Imagine two men. One knows where the marriage supper will be, but he fails to show mercy to his neighbors by supporting the gospel message, and he is locked out of the marriage supper for his lack of mercy. The second man does not know where the marriage supper will be - he thinks it is in one place but he is wrong, it is in the other place - but he shows mercy to his neighbors by supporting the gospel and the warning. Christ will take him to the marriage supper because he showed mercy.

It is mercy that counts. Honest mistakes in Bible knowledge can be corrected.

2 comments:

Fran├žoise DUVAL said...

It is Gerald Weston, not Westin...

author@ptgbook.org said...

Thank you, I have made the correction.