Monday, January 13, 2020

The Old Testament's Revelation of Christ [Pt.4]

by Rudolph P. Boshoff

[Continued from Pts. 12& 3]

III. Jesus in Old Testament Theophanies

James A. Borland (1978:9) describes a theophany as “a manifestation of God in visible and bodily form to conscious man perceptible by human senses, before the incarnation” of Jesus Christ. The validity and fact that distinguish theophanies are evident and we will look at the characteristics and facts of Theophanies in the Old Testament. 

III.a The Characteristics of Theophanies in the Old Testament

Borland (1978:17-19) mentions that it is important to recognize that Theophanies were actual and not imaginary that was initiated by God alone. In Judges 13:8 Manoah prayed; “O my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again to us” and Moses inquired to God to “show me thy glory” (Exo 33:18-34:9) but the Old Testament text unanimously shows that God was always the One that disclosed Himself out of His own will. Genesis 12:7 mentions that He “appeared… and said”; “found her… and He said” (Gen16:7-8). No human petition, prayer, technique, or formula could evoke the presence of God because God’s will revealed His essence and nature where man was the recipient of His self-revelation. Theophanies were therefore always revelatory in that it always revealed something about God or His will to a recipient (Borland 1978:20). 

God would declare a promise to a specific individual like Abraham (Gen 12:1-3), Hagar (Gen16:10-12) and sometimes He would warn or judge as we see with Adam and Eve as well as the serpent (Gen 3:14-19) or Cain (Gen 4:9-12) or Sodom (Gen 18:20-21). At another time God would simply instruct like with Joshua (Jos 5:14-15) or Samson’s parents, Manoah and his wife (Jud 13:3-5). It is important to note that Theophanies were for specific chosen individuals. Many times God would appear to individuals like Adam and Eve (Gen.3:8-19), Cain (Gen.4:9-15), and Enoch (Gen 5:22, 24), Noah (Gen 6-9), and Abraham (Gen.12:1, 7; 17:1-22; 18:1-33), Hagar (Gen 16:7-11), Isaac (Gen 26:2, 24) just to mention a few (Borland 1978:21-22). Another point is that Theophanies were intermittent and did not occur with precise regularity. God appeared as He pleased and there was no hard or fast rule as to these apparitions (Borland 1978:23). 

Theophanies were therefore temporal occurrences that were transitory only for a brief period. Gods preferred self-disclosure is ultimately evident in the persona and manifestation of Jesus Christ (John 1, Col 2:9-10) as perfect God and perfect man (Borland 1978:25). Theophanies also included auditory perception and were both audible and visible (Borland 1978:26). In Genesis 32:30 Jacob expressed amazement when he said, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” and with God’s revelation of Himself at Mount Sinai (Exo 24:11) there was a very similar wonder at the actual visible and aural experience. Even though these experiences were visible and audible, they varied in form. It is a fact that God did appear (Gen.18:1, 4-8) in the semblance of human form (Gen 18; 32, Exo 24:9-11, Jos 5:13-15, Jud 13:3, 6, 8-11, 1 Sam 3:10, 21) that showed signs of change from time to time to where not even Abraham always immediately recognized his visitor from heaven (Gen 12:7, 17:1-22, 18:2) (Borland 1978:27-29). 

Borland (1978:29-30) also mentions that we need to keep in mind that Theophanies were Old Testament occurrences before the incarnation of Christ. There is nothing in the New Testament similarly to these revealed experiences and we know that these appearances were related to the second person of the Trinity as revealed in the New Testament. In the next section, we will look at four Old Testament references that show these apprehensions of God the Son. 

III.b Some Theophanies in the Old Testament

i. Jacob Wrestling With God (Gen 32:24-32)

In this Theophany there is a clear identification of both the form and the person that is Jacob is encountering (Borland 1978:78). This Theophany reveals an appearance of a man and the person is a messenger of Jehovah (Hos 12:3-5). This apprehension of a man asks Jacob his name being fully aware of his promise (v.28). Walvoord (1969:52) indicates that God changes Jacob’s name to Israel, in this culture only God changed names. Jacob was so deeply impressed with this event and was assured that the ‘man’ he struggled with was the place where he saw God ‘’face-to-face’’ and he called the place ‘Peniel’ because he survived (v.30).  Jonathan Stephen (1998:141) mentions here that for Jacob this was the most critical part of his whole experience and in it, God reveals Himself to show himself faithful on Jacob’s behalf. Jacob does inquire of the man to reveal His name, but at the time, it was more then what God was willing to reveal (Stephen, 1998:142).  

ii. Balaam, the Donkey, and the Angel of the Lord (Num 22:22-38)

Borland (1978:79) mentions that the messenger of the Lord stood in the path of Balaam and mentions that the donkey could perceive him but not Balaam. God opened up the donkey’s mouth (v.28) and the eyes of Balaam (v.31). Both the donkey and Balaam saw an individual who ‘stood’ with a sword ‘in his hand’. These speak of human acts that show that God seems dressed for the occasion to fit the social customs and the circumstances of the particular situation. The angel of God warns Balaam (vv.22-35) and even cautions him that what he is about to do is evil in His sight (v.32). God instructs what Balaam must say (v.35) and speaks just as he heard from the man who was God (v.38).  

iii. Joshua and the Commander of the Lord's Army (Jos 5:13-15)

Even though this is the shortest theophany in the Old Testament, it is worth noting as it corresponds once more with the two previously mentioned examples that I have given. Joshua encounters a man standing with a drawn sword in his hand (v.13). Joshua immediately inquires of the man if he is for them or against them (v.13). The reply from this man is ‘neither’ (v.14) which seems a bit confusing but the then mentions that He is the commander of the Lords army. Joshua immediately bowed down with his face to the ground (v.14) worshiping asking what the Lord wants from him (v.14). As with Moses at the burning bush when He encountered God (Exo 3:1-15) the commander of the Lord’s army instructs him to take of his sandals as He was in the presence of God and the place where he was standing was sacred to which Joshua complied (v.15). Borland (1979:79) states that Joshua does not use the word ‘Adam’ but ‘Ish’, which clearly denotes a being that appears to be human but do not have a human nature. Joshua’s immediate reaction is worship to which a monotheistic Jew clearly held as only reserved to the God of Israel (Deut 6:4) but interesting to note that this theophany held both the appearance of a man and the designation of God.   

iv. Gideon Questioning the Angel of the Lord (Jud 6:11-23)

The author of the book starts of by attributing personalized traits of a man who ‘sat under a tree’ (v.11) and in his encounter with Gideon, he calls him ‘sir’ (v.13). Clearly, Gideon at first had no idea who he encountered and in this instance thought, he was encountering an ordinary man. He carried a staff (v.21) and spoke (vv.12-23) with questions that evoked a deep skepticism in Gideon’s mind (v.13). When the Lord turns to Gideon, he asks for an additional sign to confirm it is God speaking to him (v.17). Gideon brings the Lord a meal in where the Lord stretches out His staff and consumes the food with fire (v.21). Gideon mentions that he had seen the God face to face (v.22) but the Lord immediately gives him peace that he would not die because Gideon had seen him (v.23) (Haasbroek 2004:95).  

III.c Summary

This chapter sets out to show what scholars reveal about what the Son of God was actively present in the combined testimony of the Old Testament. He was prophetically present in the Old Testament and we recognize that he was the fulfillment of the coming expected Messiah. He is also seen as portrayed and signified through the lives and typologies evident in all of the people, places, and prophecies. Lastly, we maintain that the Son did not just exist in the mind of the father but that He was in fact active and communicated directly with various individuals in history even before His incarnation. We can therefore affirm that the reality of the Old Testament is truly given to the Jewish people, and in retrospect for us, to come to the full understanding of the revelation of Jesus Christ who explained that all of the Scriptures evidently speaks about Him (Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39; Heb 10:7; Matt 5:17). These theological perspectives agree therefore that Jesus transcends both space and time and He seems to be the very central focus of our faith in both the Old and the New Testament. In the next chapter, we will look at a textual analysis that affirms this reality.

[Continued in Pt.5]

Saturday, January 4, 2020

God As My Witness: The Local Church Movement Redux

[NOTE: This article originally appeared as a chapter in Counterfeit Religion: A Biblical Analysis of Cults, Sects, & False Religious Movements, (Torrington, CT: Church Militant Pub., 2019).]

The CRI Debacle

In 2009, the Christian Research Institute (CRI) published a special edition of the Christian Research Journal with the phrase “We Were Wrong” on the cover. In the feature article, president of CRI, Hank Hanegraaff, recanted on the previous position of his organization regarding the local churches (LC).[1] The late Walter Martin, founder of CRI, had concluded on theological grounds that Witness Lee and his local church movement constituted a cult. Martin cited a variety of theological problems present in the LC, chief among these was a modalistic conception of God which confused the persons of the Trinity. Hanegraaff’s article was a complete reversal of the position taken by Martin, as Hanegraaff insisted the LC affirmed the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.[2]

CRI’s reversal was a surprise to many who had come to respect the considerable scholarship and ministry of Martin. Additionally, it had become well known that the LC had initiated a number of lawsuits against evangelical ministries which had identified it as a cult. This decades long litigious behavior was consistent with a cultic disregard of the Bible’s clear prohibition of lawsuits among Christians.[3] Christian authors and publishers have been sued for millions by the LC, all for their assessment of the LC as a cult. The most notable of these lawsuits was issued against John Ankerberg, John Weldon, and Harvest House Publishers at the Supreme Court of Texas. Ankerberg and Weldon had rightly identified the LC as a cult within their Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions, and subsequently, the LC sued them and lost.

In 2007, over sixty evangelical scholars signed an open letter outlining the considerable theological problems in the teaching of Witness Lee and the LC. The letter called the LC to refrain from further lawsuits against Christians and ministries, and to abandon its unorthodox teaching.[4] Seemingly in response, LC published a pamphlet featuring the testimony of Hanegraaff, Gretchen Passantino, and Fuller Theological Seminary’s School of Theology, vouching for the alleged orthodoxy of LC. In this pamphlet Hanegraaff wrote, “The local churches are not a cult from a theological perspective… I stand shoulder to shoulder with the local churches when it comes to the essentials that define biblical orthodoxy.”[5] There is good reason to question what Hanegraaff means by “biblical orthodoxy,” both because LC doesn’t affirm the Bible’s teaching on a number of key doctrines, and because Hanegraaff left evangelical Protestantism for Eastern Orthodoxy in 2017.[6]

Marshaling Fuller Theological Seminary to vouch for your orthodoxy is akin to using Charles Manson as a character reference. Fuller, and then president Richard J. Mouw, left biblical Christianity long ago, trading biblical inerrancy and a variety of other central Christian doctrines for the wasteland of modernity.[7] Mouw is well known for his attempt to mainstream Mormonism among evangelicals.[8] If anything, Fuller’s lack of orthodoxy should detract from the credibility of LC’s claim to orthodoxy.

Not long after the CRI Journal published its defense of LC both in the aforementioned article by Hanegraaff and the full-length apologetic written by then editor-in-chief Elliot Miller, evangelical scholars Norman Geisler and Ron Rhodes issued a blistering rebuke citing the obvious problems with CRI’s new perspective.[9] Geisler and Rhodes identified the mass of contradictory theological statements issued by the LC and their publishing organization Living Stream Ministry, and the continued theological error in LC’s understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity. 

As for CRI’s evaluation, Miller’s article, to put it plainly, is a puff-piece. It is as though Miller published the arguments of LC on their behalf. To demonstrate the validity of my assessment, I have provided a fresh evaluation of the major theological error of the LC movement below. 

The “Trinitarian” Theology of the Local Churches

In 2017, I completed my doctoral work on the theology and Christology of Oneness Pentecostalism. In the course of that work, I read virtually every piece of extant literature published up to that time that was written on the subject. I spent years documenting and detailing the theology of Oneness Pentecostalism such that I could offer an evenhanded critique that properly represented the movement and its beliefs. I mention this because the expertise I gained in that study granted me a great familiarity with modalistic theology. I found that while there are various forms of modalism (e.g., the sequential modalism of Sabellianism, and the incarnational iteration espoused by groups like to UPCI), each form boils down to the belief that God is a single person who has revealed himself in three manifestations. Unitarianism is the presupposition of all modalistic religion. 

In studying the materials published by the LC, I have no doubt that the LC espouse a form of modalism. While the movement may object to that categorization, it is evidently and objectively true. As Geisler and Rhodes have pointed out, there are many contradictory claims made in the literature of LC. LC claims the co-eternality of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and then explicitly confounds the persons of the Trinity. One could derive either orthodox trinitarianism or modalism from their teaching within the span of a single paragraph. Hence, the problem is not with LC’s orthodox statements, but their unorthodox statements. From the perspective of this author, CRI has capitalized on the orthodox statements of LC, while neglecting their evident heterodoxy. 

When the LC movement published A Confirmation of the Gospel: Concerning the Teaching of the Local Churches and Living Stream Ministry, a sixty-page doctrinal statement, it intended to clarify its doctrine such that it would convince evangelicalism of its orthodoxy. Despite the intention, this work is likely the greatest evidence of the LC’s modalism. The book dismisses historic trinitarian hermeneutics as “external theological con-structs”[10] which “obscure” “biblical facts concerning a deep reality that exists in the Godhead.”[11] Instead, while criticizing the claim that it affirms a form of modalism, LC embraces classic modalistic interpretations of the Bible, suggesting that Jesus is God the Father. In response to this apparent contradiction, LC invokes its belief in what it calls the doctrine of “coinherence:” 

Because of this marvelous reality of the coinherence of the three in the Trinity, we believe that frequently the Bible identifies the hypostases with one another, sometimes to the chagrin of less-nuanced systematic theologies.[12]

Coinherence, or what has been more popularly known as perichoresis, is a biblical doctrine which refers to the indwelling, interworking, and complementary function of the persons of the Trinity.[13] What this doctrine does not refer to is the confusion of the identity of one divine person with another; the precise error of LC. 

The example I will use to demonstrate LC’s modalism is its teaching concerning the phrase “Eternal Father” as it is used of the Son of God in Isa. 9:6. LC understands the phrase “Eternal Father” to be a reference to God the Father: 
The Father is eternal; this can be proven by Isaiah 9:6, which refers to the Father as the “Eternal Father.”[14]
LC concludes, “The Son is called the Father,”[15] and goes further to state, 
The Son given to us comes to us bearing in His every action the inseparable operation of the Eternal Father and thus can be called, as Isaiah predicts, the Eternal Father.[16]
Lest one think that the what the LC means by this is that Jesus is called “Eternal Father” in a metaphorical sense, it says, 
We do not need to relegate Isaiah’s prophecy to an Old Testament metaphor… Rather, we wish to afford the passage its full textual force, understanding that the Son who came to us in incarnation was in the Father and that His works were as well the operations of the Eternal Father.[17]
We may conclude therefore, that LC believes that Jesus is called “Father” in the sense of God the Father and that his action is inseparable to that of the Father. Witness Lee’s literature confirms this modalistic interpretation:
In Isaiah 9:6 there is a parallel line; that is, “A Son is given to us;... / And His name will be called... / Eternal Father.” It is abundantly clear that the Son mentioned here is Christ, yet the Son is called “Eternal Father.”…The Son is called the Father, so the Son must be the Father. We must realize this fact. There are some who say that He is called the Father, but He is not really the Father. But how could He be called the Father and yet not be the Father? If I am called a brother, I must be a brother. The Son is called the Father; therefore, He must be the Father. Can we drop Isaiah 9:6 from the Scriptures? It clearly tells not only that a child, the very one born at Bethlehem, is called “Mighty God” but also that a Son given to us is called “Eternal Father.”[18]
The Son is the eternal Father. It is indeed difficult to fully explain this matter, yet this is the word of the Scriptures. “A Son is given...and His name will be called...Eternal Father.” Does this not plainly say that the Son is the Father? If the Son is not the Father, how could the Son be called the Father? If we acknowledge that the child of whom this verse speaks is the mighty God, then we must also acknowledge that the Son of whom this verse speaks is also the eternal Father; otherwise, we are not believing the clearly stated revelation of the Scriptures. However, we deeply believe that according to the words here, the Lord Jesus who became the child is the mighty God, and the Lord Jesus who is the Son is also the eternal Father. Our Lord is the Son, and He is also the Father. Hallelujah![19]

In response to Geisler and Rhodes, LC published four books defending its orthodoxy. In the second of these books, LC produced one of the most damning confirmations of its modalistic theology. So clear is the modalism in this book, that any claim to the contrary must be rejected until it is fully retracted. This book criticizes Geisler and Rhodes for rejecting the plain reading of Isa. 9:6.[20] “Witness Lee, on the other hand, affirms what the Bible affirms.”[21] Just what does that mean? It means that Witness Lee believed that Jesus is the Father:
When the Bible says that the Son is called the everlasting Father, I say, “Amen, the Son is the Father.”[22]
Lest anyone doubt the clarity of that statement, LC confirmed and clarified just what Lee meant. So that the charge of taking Lee out of context cannot be substantiated, I have provided the entire quote below:
Furthermore, Isaiah 63:16 says, “Thou, O Lord, art our Father; our Redeemer from eternity is thy name” (Heb.). And Isaiah 64:8 says, “O Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we are the work of thy hand.” The prophet Isaiah used these two verses as a further development of what he prophesied concerning Christ as the Father of eter-nity in Isaiah 9:6. In 64:8 Isaiah tells us that the Father of eternity in 9:6 is our Creator, and in 63:16 he tells us that the Father of eternity is our Redeemer. In the whole Bible, Christ is revealed as our Creator and especially as our Redeemer (John 1:3; Heb. 1:10; Rom. 3:24; Titus 2:14). The Father of eternity being both our Creator and our Redeemer not only confirms but also strengthens the understanding that the Redeemer, Christ, is the Father of eternity, the holy Father in the Godhead. Hence, to say that the everlasting Father, or the Father of eternity, in Isaiah 9:6 is some kind of Father, other than the Father in the Godhead, is not according to the context of the whole book of Isaiah.[23]
Amazingly, LC went on in to spin Lee’s teaching to comply with that of Benjamin B. Warfield, the great defender of trinitarian orthodoxy.[24] This is the same tactic utilized by other cults, especially the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Neither Warfield nor the rest of orthodox Christianity has ever affirmed that Christ is “the Father in the Godhead.” 

Lee consistently described God in modalistic terms: 

Why is it so important to understand that the Holy Spirit dwells in man’s innermost depth, deeper within than his organs of thought, feeling and decision? 
Therefore, the Bible clearly reveals to us that the Son is the Father, and the Son is also the Spirit. Otherwise, how could these three be one God?[25]
When addressing the problem of communication with modalistic theology, Lee explains:
If you say that the Son is the Father, then how could the Son pray to the Father? This is not difficult to explain… We have previously pointed out that in relation to the God of Abraham, the main emphasis is that He is the Father; with the God of Isaac, the main emphasis is that He is the Son; and with the God of Jacob, the main emphasis is that He is the Spirit. So He is not only the second person of the Triune God; He is also the whole God. He is the first person, the Father; He is the second person, the Son; and He is also the third person, the Spirit.[26]
Why could it not be that the Lord is the Son who prays and also the Father who listens to the praying? The Father who listens to the praying is the Son who prays, and the Son who prays is also the Father who listens to the prayer.[27]
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not three separate persons or three Gods; they are one God, one reality, one person. Hence, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are denoted by one name. The name denotes the person, and the person is the reality of the name. The name of the divine Trinity is the sum total of the divine Being, equivalent to his person. God is triune; that is He is three-one. In some theological writings, the preposition in is added between three and one to make three-in-one. However, it is more accurate to say that God is three-one. Being three-one, He is one God, with the Father, the Son and the Spirit as his reality, his person. Thus the name of the Triune God is Father, Son, and Spirit. Father, Son and Spirit are not three different names; they are the unique name of the divine Trinity. Such a name is a compound title…The compound name in Matthew 28:19 is composed of three parts—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[28]
Lee provided his own analogy to explain his modalistic conception of God:
The electricity in the lights in the meeting hall is, on one hand, in the meeting hall; on the other hand, it is also in the generator; it is in both places. These are not two different electricities but one. At the end in the power plant, electricity is generated, while at the end in the meeting hall, it illuminates. Thank the Lord, He also has two ends: at the end in heaven, He is the Father, and at the end on the earth, He is the Son; at the end in heaven, He is the One who listens to the prayer, and at the end on earth, He is the One who prays. He is both the One who prays on earth and the One who listens in heaven.[29]
LC’s modalism is even seen in its hymnody. Consider Nee’s hymn Experience of Christ In the Spirit:
Lord, when the Father ne’er was known,The Father came through Thee below,That we who lived in ignoranceMight through Thyself the Father know.But, Lord, when Thou wast here on earth,How scarce were those Thyself who knew;A veil there was ‘twixt Thee and them;They crowded ‘round, but saw not through.Now as the Spirit Thou hast comeE’en as the Father came in Thee;As we through Thee the Father know,Now through the Spirit we know Thee.Not with the flesh Thou now art clothed-Then must Thou walk with toil around;But as the Spirit in our heartThou dost supply Thyself unbound.Thou, Lord, the Father once wast called,But now the Holy Spirit art;The Spirit is Thine other form,Thyself to dwell within our heart.By knowing Thee as Spirit, Lord,We realize Thy life’s outflow,Thy glory and Thy character,And all Thy being’s wonders know.Praise to Thy Name now floods our heart;There is no one as dear as Thee;For since we know how real Thou art,No other one could lovelier be.[30]
Nee’s theology was not unlike Lee:
Because unless the child of God perceives this, invariably he shall seek His guidance in his soul…The Holy Spirit lives in the remotest recess of our being; there and only there may we expect His working and obtain His guidance. Our prayers are directed to “our Father who art in heaven,” but the heavenly Father guides from within us. If our Counsellor, our Paraclete, resides in our spirit then His guidance must come from within.[31] 
The singular glory of this dispensation of grace is that God’s Spirit indwells believers in order to manifest the Father and the Son.[32]
Clear As Mud

Prior to LC’s attempt to defend itself from evangelicalism, there was plenty of evidence suggesting that LC affirmed a form of modalism. Any doubt, however, should have been eradicated by the defenses published since 2009. No credible denial of Lee’s modalism has ever been established because the evidence to the contrary is enormous and unrelenting. I have provided but a small fraction of the available evidence. Much more could be said about LC’s interpretation of John 14:10, 2 Cor. 3:17 and other passages.[33] Both the argumentation and conclusions Lee drew were consistently modalistic, confusing the persons of the Trinity.

The claim that the charge of modalism is due to a contextual and linguistic difference doesn’t survive the evidence. Lee had lived in the United States since 1962 and become a prodigious writer with a sound grasp of English.[34] He routinely interacted with orthodox writers in his own volumes and yet insisted upon rejecting orthodox trinitarianism. 

It is only until relatively recently, when LC came under the scrutiny of evangelical counter-cult specialists, that it transparently coopted the doctrine of perichoresis (i.e., coinherence) to account for its modalism. LC’s attempt at portraying itself as orthodox is betrayed by its vast publications both during its many failed lawsuits and now. Much the same can be said about LC’s doctrine of deification, and its repudiation of Christian denominations. 

Recovery of What?

Living Steam Ministry publishes the The Holy Bible Recovery Version. The Recovery Version is alleged to have been translated from both the Nestle-Aland 26th Edition of the Greek New Testament and the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia Revised Edition. I scoured both my own copy of the Recovery Version as well as the publisher’s literature and website in order to find our who is responsible for this translation. The only name I was able to find was that of “The Editorial Section Living Steam Ministry” and Witness Lee. Given Lee’s lack of training and exegetical and interpretive abilities, I found that claim dubious. I called Living Stream Ministry to inquire who was actually responsible to the Recovery Version, and other than insisting Lee’s responsibility and that of “others,” the representative of Living Stream Ministry refused to say. The representative advised me to email Living Stream Ministry and she told me that someone would promptly send me a list of translators and their credentials. As of the writing of this work, I have yet to receive that list. 

The Recovery Version is a study Bible that is filled with LC’s commentary. It contains a few bizarre readings that seem to betray the claim of professional translation. For instance, the Recovery Version renders John 1:14 as follows:
And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us (and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only Begotten from the Father), full of grace and reality.
The term that is translated in every other English translation as “truth” (Grk. alētheia) at John 1:14 is translated by the Recovery Version as “reality.” While alētheia can refer to a real state,[35] there is absolutely no exegetical or translational ground for this rendering, except that of LC’s theology. That the Recovery Version translates alētheia “reality” and “truth” intermittently betrays its claim of translational accuracy.[36]

In its New World Translation, the Watchtower has resorted to changing the Bible to fit its doctrine. LC uses the Recovery Version’s copious footnotes to accomplish that task. LC’s modalism is throughout this commentary. For example:
To be baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus is the equivalent to being baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, because the Lord Jesus is the Triune God…[37] 
The Holy Spirit is a general title of the Spirit of God in the New Testament; the Spirit of Jesus is a particular expression concerning the Spirit of God and refers to the Spirit of the incarnated Savior who, as Jesus in His humanity, passed through human living and death on the cross. This indicates that in the Spirit Jesus there is not only the divine element of God but also the human element…[38]
The LC’s claim that all other churches are illegitimate is also made plain in these footnotes:
Without the local churches, the universal church has no practicality or actuality. The universal church is realized in the local churches.[39 
Since the reformed Protestant churches are dead, they will be unaware of the Lord’s coming…[40]
Just as the reformed church, prefigured by the church in Sardis, was a reaction to the apostate Catholic Church, prefigured by the church in Thyatira, so the church of brotherly love was a reaction to the dead reformed church. This reaction will continue as an anti-testimony to both apostate Catholicism and degraded Protestantism until the Lord comes back.[41]
To the recovered church, the Lord is also the One who has the key of David, the key of the kingdom, with authority to open and to shut. The Lord uses this key to deal with the recovered church.[42]
The reformed church, though recovered to the Lord’s word to some extent, has denied the Lord’s name by denominating herself, taking many other names, such as Lutheran, Wesleyan, Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist, etc… To deviate from the Lord’s word is apostasy, and to denominate the church by taking any name other than the Lord’s is spiritual fornication.[43]
“Confusion” or Truth?

LC has engaged in a disturbing tactic, attempting to prohibit people from quoting the literature made available on its website. Living Stream Ministry has placed the following note on many of the webpages which feature Lee’s and Nee’s writings:
For the sake of avoiding confusion, we ask that none of these materials be downloaded or copied and republished elsewhere, electronically or otherwise. Living Stream Ministry retains full copyright on all these materials and hopes that our visitors will respect this.[44]
It is the author’s opinion that this statement is an attempt to prevent evangelicals and other critics of the LC movement from letting the cat out of the bag regarding LC’s continued doctrinal problems. The only “confusion” that might result from quoting Lee or other LC author’s is that of doctrinal aberration and heresy. By law, a copyright cannot preclude fair use in a work of scholarship.[45]

[1] The Local Church movement is also called “The Lord’s Recovery.”
[2] Hank Hanegraaff, 2009, “We Were Wrong,” Christian Research Journal, Spec. Ed., 32.6, 4.
[3] 1 Cor. 6:1-8.
[4] 01/09/2007, An Open Letter: To the Leadership of Living Stream Ministry and the “Local Churches,” Accessed 05/03/2019.
[5] The Local Churches: Genuine Believers and Fellow Members of the Body of Christ, (Fullerton, CA: DCP Press, 2008), 10.
[6] Ben Hawkins, 04/17/2017, “’Bible Answer Man’ embraces Eastern Orthodoxy,” Baptist Press, Accessed 05/03/2019.
[7] See John MacArthur, Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World, 3rd Ed., (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 87, 118-9.
[8] See the resultant book Richard J. Mouw, Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012).
[9] Norm Geisler and Ron Rhodes, A Response to the Christian Research Journal’s Recent Defense of the “Local Church” Movement, Accessed 05/03/2019.
[10] A Confirmation of the Gospel: Concerning the Teaching of the Local Churches and Living Stream Ministry, (Fullerton, CA: DCP Press, 2009), 15.
[11] Ibid., 16.
[12] Ibid., 18.
[13] For a helpful explanation see Vern S. Poythress, Knowing and Trinity: How Perspectives in Human Knowledge Imitate the Trinity, (Philipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2018), 52-62.
[14] A Confirmation of the Gospel, 17.
[15] Ibid., 16.
[16] Ibid., 19.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Witness Lee, The All-Inclusive Spirit of Christ, (Anaheim, CA: Living Stream Publishers, 1969), 4-5.
[19] Witness Lee, Concerning the Triune God: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 1.8, Accessed 05/03/2019.
[20] Brothers, Hear Our Defense: Concerning the Divine Trinity, (Fullerton, CA: DCP Press, 2011), 61.
[21] Ibid., 63.
[22] Ibid.
[23] Ibid., 64.
[24] Ibid., 66. 
[25] Lee, Concerning the Triune God, 1.10.
[26] Ibid., 1.12.
[27] Ibid.
[28] Witness Lee, The Triune God to Be Life to the Tripartite Man, (Anaheim, CA: Living Stream Ministry, 1996), 48-9.
[29] Lee, Concerning the Triune God, 1.13.
[30] Watchman Nee, “Hymn 490,” Hymns by Watchman Nee & Witness Lee, Accessed 05/03/2019.
[31] Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man, (New York: Christian Fellowship Pub., 1968), 233.
[32] Ibid., 431.
[33] See pp. 83-4 of Burgos, Counterfeit Religion: A Biblical Analysis of Cults, Sects, & False Religious Movements. concerning John 14:10. For a consideration of 1 Cor. 3:17 see Michael R. Burgos, Against Oneness Pentecostalism: An Exegetical-Theological Critique, 2nd Ed., (Winchester, CT: Church Militant Pub., 2017), 140-7.
[34] See the 47 volume set Collected Works of Witness Lee, (Anaheim, CA: Living Stream Ministry, 1985).
[35] BDAG, 42-3.
[36] Using John for example, John 3:21; 4:23-4; 5:33; 8:32, vv. 40, 44-6; 16:7; 17:17, v. 19; 18:37-8; 1 John 4:6 use “truth” while John 1:14, v. 17; 14:6, v. 17; 15:26; 16:13; 1 John 5:6 use “reality.”
[37] The New Testament Recovery Version, (Anaheim, CA: Living Stream Ministry, 1991), 511, n. 16.
[38] Ibid., 547, n. 7.
[39] Ibid., 1234, n. 4.
[40] Ibid., 1254, n. 3.
[41] Ibid., 1255, n. 7.
[42] Ibid.
[43] Ibid., 1256, n. 8.
[44] e.g., “Tables of Contents from Selected Titles
by Watchman Nee and Witness Lee,” Living Stream Ministry, Accessed 05/03/2019.
[45] See 17 U.S. Code § 107.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Old Testament's Revelation of Christ [Pt.3]

by Rudolph P. Boshoff

[Continued from Pts. 1 & 2]

II.c Jesus in Old Testament Typology

Patrick Fairbairn (1969:42-43) describes typology as the dramatic unity of Scripture by looking at Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament Christian faith foreshadowing God’s revelation in Jesus Christ.  John Walvoord (1969:63) adds to the fact that typology is concerned with (1) typical people; (2) typical events; (3) typical things; (4) typical institutions; and (5) typical ceremonies. Walvoord (1969:64) mentions five points to describe how Jesus fulfils Old Testament typology and we will reflect just on a few of these:

i. Typical People

Aaron – Aaron was a type that revealed the Christ in the function of His humanity and priestly work. Aaron was man and Christ was truly man acquainted with our human weakness to identifying with us and being our intercessor. As Aaron Christ would become the perfect mediator that would aid all humankind in their stance before the God of Israel. Even though Aarons extent of ministry was solely to the nation of Israel, Jesus in the full extent of His grace became the intercessor to all those who are His. The Book of Hebrews gives a clear indication that Aaron was a type of Christ. Aaron was appointed to a Sacred office as Christ to His Priesthood (Heb 5:4-6) and represented ministry in the earthly realm as Christ would be appointed to the heavenly (Heb 8:1-5). Aaron’s duty was to administer the old Mosaic covenant but Jesus would minister the new covenant sealing it in His blood (Heb 8:6). Aaron had to sacrifice as a daily institution but Jesus would offer sacrifice once and for all in His blood (Heb 7:27). 

Abel – Walvoord (1969:64) mentions as Abel was slayed for his righteous sacrifice because of the jealousy of Cain, so Christ was slain for the world, because of His righteousness proclaiming the new promise by the religious Jews. The reason God ultimately accepted the sacrifice of Abel was because he offered a sacrificed by faith (Heb 11:4) and so Christ’s sacrifice was accepted. Abel believed what was revealed concerning the sacrifices and offered a lamb as a blood sacrifice in contrast to Cain’s bloodless offering. Abel is therefore a type of Christ in life as a shepherd as well as his manner of sacrifice foreshadowing the necessity of His death. Jesus Christ is presented as the true Shepherd who made a blood sacrifice to God in obedience to the legal requirements of God.    

Adam – Walvoord (1969:64-65) says that both Adam and Christ entered into creation through a special act of God absolutely sinless acting on behalf of those whom God considered in them representatively (Rom.5:14). Adam is the head of the Old Creation but Christ of the new Creation. Adam was disobedient by Christ is contrast as the one who remained obedient to death (Rom 5:12-21). The very terms “first Adam” and “last Adam” are applied to Adam and Christ representing the first representative of God on earth and the future representative of God both in heaven and earth (1 Cor. 15:45-47). There is also a reference to Adam being the husband of Eve as a type of the bridegroom in relation to the Church as the bride. 

Benjamin – Benjamin foreshadowed in his two names, two aspects of the person of Jesus Christ in that He would suffer and ultimately be raised to glory. Benjamin’s mother Rachel with her dying breath named her newborn son ‘Ben-oni’, meaning “son of my sorrow.” Jacob, however, named him Benjamin, meaning “son of my right hand.” As Ben-oni, Jesus Christ is depicted as a son of sorrow to Mary (Luke 2:35) and would be subjected to suffering and ultimate death. As Benjamin, Jesus Christ would be “the Son of my right hand” to God the Father (Heb.1). Benjamin was also victorious as a warrior tribe and so Jesus would be victorious overcoming sin and spiritual death for us (Walvoord 1969:65). 

David – David is most commonly recognized as a type of Jesus Christ. David is depicted as first a shepherd and then King. David was called by God and was rejected by his brethren having to face danger and threat of death by the then anointed King. In David’s exile, he took a gentile wife and later ruled over Israel in complete sovereignty and power. Jesus Christ is depicted as the great shepherd of the sheep before ascending to the throne as the Messianic King. Jesus was also called by God but rejected by the Jewish religious system and brethren, facing danger and death, because of the claims he made. Jesus also did not come just for the lost sheep of Israel but ultimately brought all those who were lost in even the gentile world unto Himself subjugating them to His rule and authority as King (Walvoord 1969:65). 

Isaac – Walvoord (1969:65) mentions that Isaac is regarded as a type of the Church which composes the spiritual children of Abraham (Gal.4:28) which becomes new creatures with new natures as a result of the working of the Holy Spirit of God being redeemed from the old sinful nature [Ishmael] (Gal 4:29). Both Christ and Isaac have miraculous births anticipated in advance being the ‘only begotten’ (John 3:16, Heb 11:17). The Sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22 foreshadows the promise of a lamb, Jesus Christ, in which He was our substitute for our sins. Genesis 24 also depicts a type of prophetic picture of the Holy Spirit securing a bride for Christ relating to all the details of the story of Isaac and Rebekah. 

Joseph – Joseph’s life is paralleled as a type in numerous instances of Christ’s work and ministry, and his life is seen as one of the most compelling examples of this fact from the Old Testament. Both Jesus and Joseph were born because of special interventions from God (Gen 30:22-24, Luke 1:35). Both Jesus and Joseph were dearly loved by their fathers but hated by their brethren (Gen 37:3-4, Matt 3:17, John 3:35, 15:24-25). Both Jesus and Joseph were rejected as rulers over their brethren and robbed of their robes, conspired against and thrown in a pit of death (Gen 37:8, 18, 23; Matt 21:37-39, 26:3-4, 27:35-37; John 15:24-25. Both were sold for silver and became servants which was condemned even though they were innocent (Gen 39:4, 11-12, Phil 2:7, Isa 53:9, Matt 27:19, 24). Both Jesus and Joseph were raised from humiliation to exaltation by God, and in their exaltation, even the gentiles were blessed (Gen 41:1-45, Acts 15:14. Rom 11:11-12, Eph 5:25-32). Both finally receive recognition as savior and redeemer [Christ in the future] (Gen 45:1-15, Rom 11:1-27) being elevated to a place of honor and safety (Gen 45:16-18; Isa 65:17-25) (Walvoord1969:66-67). 

Joshua – Joshua means “Jehovah saves” and is the equivalent of the Greek name ‘Jesus’. Joshua as a type signifies Christ as being a successor to Moses, Christ succeeds both Moses and the Law (Joh.1:17, Rom.8:2-4, Heb.7:18-19, Gal.3:23-25). Jesus Christ was victorious as Joshua in an area where Moses had failed (Rom.8:3-4) and both Christ and Joshua interceded for their own before God (Josh.7:5-9, Luke 22:32, 1 John 2:1). Joshua distributed and allotted land to his people and Jesus Christ allotted gifts and rewards to His Church (Josh.13, Eph 4:11-13) as the ruler of His Church just as Joshua was the ruler of Israel (Walvoord 1969:67). 

Kinsman-redeemer – Christ is foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament as our Kinsman-redeemer. He had to be a relative related to the person or inheritance to be redeemed (Lev 25:48-49, Ruth 3:12-13, Heb 2:14-15). Jesus fulfilled this by becoming a man having the sins of the world imputed to him where redemption was accomplished by a payment of the price (Lev 25:27; Rom.3:24-26; 1 Pet 1:18-19; Gal 3:13). Walvoord adds that the entire order of redemption is a prophetic picture of Jesus Christ that would come and redeem the world through the sacrifice of Himself (Walvoord 1969:67). 

Melchizedek – Walvoord (1969:68) mentions that Melchizedek (Gen.14) was a King who was blessed by Abraham with a tithe after his conquest with the Kings. So Christ is also a priest forever like Melchizedek (Ps.110:4, Heb 5-7) and he will also be the King of righteousness as Melchizedek’s name foretold bringing forth bread and wine as a sign of the new covenant of his blood.    

Moses – Moses predicts that one will come like unto himself (Deut.18:15-19) where he foreshadows the reality of Christ. Like Moses Christ will be a redeemer and saviours (Exo.3:7-10, Acts 7:25) rejected by their brethren (Exo 2:11-15, John 1:11) during a period where they would be separated and redeem a quality people (Exo 2:16-21, 2 Cor 11:2, Eph 5:25-32). Both Moses and Jesus are received by Israel at their second coming (Exo 4:19-31, Rom.11:24-26) being both priests and advocates (Exo 32:31-35, 1 John 2:1-2) prophets (Num 34:1-2, John 12:29) intercessors (exo.4:19-31, Heb.7:25) and rulers and Kings (Deut 33:4-5; John 1:49). Like Christ, Moses died before the Israelites could enter the Promised Land. Now let us turn our attention to events that would foreshadow the coming of Jesus Christ.

ii. Typical Events

Clothing of Adam and Eve – In Genesis 3 we see the devastating effect of the Sin of Adam, as a result both Adam and Eve realize their nakedness and god clothes them (v/21). God clothes them because of their physical needs but there is also a deeper reality in that God was foreshadowing a promise that he would supply them complete garments of righteousness that would be wrought through the death of His provisional lamb (v/15-16) as seen throughout scripture (Walvoord 1969:69). 

Preservation in the Ark – An extraordinary type is depicted in the judgement of God of humanity in a flood (Gen.6-8). Noah and his family are commanded to build an Ark as a type of refuge to the coming tides that would allow them to escape the coming wrath and destruction of God. Similarly, the arrival of the person of Christ is a sign of judgement on the wicked but secures the place of God’s people in Christ (2 Pet 2:5, 7) (Walvoord 1969:70).   

Deliverance from Egypt – Walvoord (1996:70) recognize that the entire story of Israel being delivered from Egypt being brought to the Promised Land is a type of what Christ achieved for every single believer in his or her salvation. All the elements of deliverance, the plagues, and even the Passover to the crossing of the Red Sea are connected to what Jesus achieved in and through the Cross. Israel is delivered through the same waters that killed the Egyptians; similarly, Christ suffers the death that brings forth our salvation. In the wilderness Israel receives manna from heaven (Exo.16:4) which foreshadows Jesus being the bread of life while the water from the rock speaks of Christ smitten so we can have eternal life (Exo.17:6).   

Entrance into the Promised Land – Israel’s crossing the Jordan with its piled up waters into the Promised Land is a shadow of the death of Christ as a means of victory. The Angel of the Lord, which is Christ in His preincarnate form, went before the Israelites and by His power; they achieve victory in their conquest (Walvoord 1969:70-71). 

iii. Typical Things

Old Testament Sacrifices – The Sacrifices of the Old Testament are clear types of what Christ would suffer as the coming Messiah (Walvoord 1969:71-72). Just to mention a few examples; Rosen (2006:32-33) indicates that the Passover lamb was to be one without blemish and we know that the New Testament text reveals the reality that Jesus was perfect and without blemish (Deut 15:21, Isa 53:7; 2 Cor.5:21, Gal.2:20, 1 Pet.1:19-20). The Passover lamb was marked for death and Christ was marked for death (Isa 53:7, 1 Pet.19-20). It was also ordained that none of the Passover lambs bones was to be broken (Exo 12:3, 5) and we recognize that none of Jesus Christ’s bones were broken (John19:32-33). Israel was instructed to consume the lamb with bitter herbs (Exo12:8) because bitterness speaks of mourning (Zech 12:10) of the firstborns that was slayed in Egypt (Exo 12). The blood of the lamb had to be painted on the doorposts and lintels (v.7) as it resembles the reality of the cross Jesus would die on.     

The Tabernacle – Louis Talbot (1942:11-12) mentions that the tabernacle was a typical presentation revealing a spiritual reality designed by the God of Israel to provide a temporary place of worship for the children of Israel in their wanderings prefiguring the person and work of Jesus Christ. The tabernacle included the service of the high priest and his sons where Jesus Christ is our faithful high priest and his believers are priests. The court and the gate prefigure Christ being the way to the Holy God and the tent of the congregation represents Him dwelling in the midst of His people. The brazen altar foreshadows the cross and the offerings upon the altar Christ as our sacrifice and the laver of brass represent Christ as our cleanser. The golden candlestick shows Christ to be the light and the table of shewbread reveals Him as the bread of life. The golden altar of incense portrays Christ as our advocate with the Father and the Ark of the Covenant and the mercy seat shows Christ as our God at the throne of grace. The Day of Atonement also reveals the cross and Christ returning into His glory. The Shekinah Glory upon the finished tabernacle reveals the favor of God on the temple and foreshadows the presence of God within the temple and Christ.

[Continued in Pt.4]