Jan's Personal Journal
August 12, 2007
"Therefore it is said, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men" (Eph. 4:8).
The following was written in response to a friend's question about what the word "salvation" means as used in Heb. 2:3: ("How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him," KJV). I looked up the word "salvation" in Strong's Concordance (# 4991). One definition was "rescue or safety (physically or morally): deliver, health, salvation, save, saving." The other interesting definition was "a present: gift." That's a fascinating description, for organized religion, all kinds, Christian and otherwise, make salvation about something we must do in our own strength, by the choice of our own will, to gain favor with God, thus allowing Him (as though He needed our help), to deliver us from our sins.
Case in point, the daughter of a dear friend showed up at our door one Sunday morning this summer, saying she was here to surprise my mother by weed whacking the ditch out front of the house, which was full of dried grass, trash and tall weeds. She needed a wheelbarrow, which we don't have, and a rake, which we do. When I questioned her about the wisdom of doing hard physical labor on such a hot morning (F 85 in the shade at 10:30 A.M., with 80% humidity). She replied that she didn't believe in church, but she said she thought God expected her to do something good for someone. She later explained that her life wasn't exactly going in the direction she wanted and she hoped God would bless her if she did a good deed, and perhaps He would return the favor to her when she had a need in future.
That began a lively discussion about "working your way to heaven," and placating God so maybe He would bless her. Her parents belong to a tiny sect, which, like the church I grew up in believe they are the only ones with the truth, even though, they know nothing about being baptized in the Spirit.
The Jews knew all about religion, good works, and trying to please God with self effort. They followed the Law, when it was convenient and watered it down to suit them, when it was not. Christ came into that milieu and brought in a radical new idea: fellowship with the Father (Abba). He said regarding Zacchaeus, the publican with whom he broke bread, "Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:9-10).
The word "salvation" occurs 127 times in the RSV. Isaiah, particularly, had a lot to say on the subject. I love this verse: "The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God" (Isa. 52:10).
The Jews were very smug, counting themselves as having right standing with God because they were sons of Abraham. John the Baptist scathingly burst their bubble: "Bear fruits that befit repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, "We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham" (Luke 3:8). Ouch!
Jesus came to replace the organization which Judaism had become with an organism, the Ecclesia (sometimes mistranslated as "church"), which was/is a living fellowship of believers in communion with the living head: Christ Himself. In answer to our friend's other question about where do we find Jesus' words on the topic of salvation, like everything else, His comments are mystical in nature, not explicit like Paul's. Jesus came to manifest a relationship with God based on a change of heart (repentance), not upon religious duties performed.
Like many others, I had missed this point by focusing on what Jesus said, rather than on WHO He was/is. Churches who have turned His words into a religious code, asking, "What would Jesus do?" have missed the point entirely of His higher calling: to reveal the Father. The Kingdom of God does not consist of word or deed, but in the revelation of Emmanuel, GOD WITH US, or more precisely, God within the midst of us.
In John 17, Christ spoke of the union between God and Himself: "I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me" (John 17:20-23).
This glory, which was to reveal that He and the Father and we are one, was not yet revealed, because the Spirit had not yet come (John 7:39).
The "second coming" actually happened on the Day of Pentecost, when the Spirit came upon the believers. It is the Holy Ghost (KJV) who initiates and consummates the communion of the Saints with the Father and His Son. The Holy Spirit makes us ONE with the Father, and gives us the power to live the overcoming life. Without Him, we are helpless to accomplish anything on our own that will survive the flames which burn up all our works not built on the foundation of Christ (I Cor. 11:13-15). To put it another way, all fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Law) will be burned, and only that which comes from the Tree of Life (Christ Himself) will survive. Yet, we will be saved, Paul says, "but only as by fire" (I Cor. 11:15).
John the Baptist said about the flames: "I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (John 3:16). That Holy Spirit baptism is for all believers, as He immerses us into God Himself, for "Our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29).
Thus we see that rather than being something to be feared, the fire is to be embraced, for it burns off the dross; it is a promise, not a threat.
Salvation is a lot more than saving us from our sins, and from hell after we die, which most of the commentaries on Heb. 2:3, suggest. It consists of being baptized into God Himself, who burns off our dross, and restores us to the glory we had in Him before the foundation of the world. Hallelujah!
Now as to our friend's question about whether or not the word should still be confirmed with signs and wonders, I'm a firm believer that the answer is YES!
God always confirmed His promises, His word, with signs and wonders. When Abraham asked Him for a sign that he would bear an heir, God "walked through the pieces with him" (Gen. 15), and to prove that He would deliver what he had promised: an heir in whose seed all nations would be blessed, Isaac was born from Sarah and Abraham's aging bodies. Paul explained that this "seed" is Christ (Gal. 3:16), and the Apostle of Grace called this promise that God would bless all nations in Abraham's seed, "The Gospel" (Gal. 3:8). That's far from what is being preached today, which is little more than a watered down version of Law.
God confirmed Moses' appointment as His prophet with signs and wonders in Egypt and signs and wonders in the desert. When He called each of the prophets, He gave them miracles to confirm that they were speaking for Him. I recently read the account aloud to Lenny of Elijah being taken up into heaven in the chariot of fire drawn by fiery horses (II Kings 2). Elisha was with him and had asked for a "double portion of Elijah's spirit." Elijah replied that if his disciple saw him being taken up, Elisha's wish would be granted, which indeed happened. Elijah dropped his mantle as he left on his heavenly journey and Elisha picked it up. Rolling the cloak up in the same way Elijah had done, he struck the waters of the Jordan River, which parted for him, as they had done when Elijah did the same thing, and Elisha walked across on dry land. Those prophets witnessing the event understood that the mantle of power had passed from Elijah to Elisha.
The Spirit put that account on my heart to demonstrate the difference between those in the Old Testament who had a portion of the Spirit and all who lived after the cross. The Old Testament prophets, the main recipients of the Spirit under the Old Covenant, wore the anointing like a mantle, a cloak, which they put on when God sent them on a mission, such as Moses to Egypt, and Elijah to stand against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (I Kings 18).
Under the New Covenant, which Jeremiah prophesied would be written on our hearts, not on tablets of stone, the Spirit dwells within us, a continual testimony of God's presence and anointing (Jer. 31:31-34). Many Christians have not experienced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire, and their experience falls far short of Christians then and now who have received the Spirit.
Jesus was the greatest prophet since Moses, scripture attests, and He went everywhere confirming His identity, not with words, but with mighty exhibitions of God's power on earth. He said He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and He showed them a better way than they had known.
On the Day of Pentecost, He returned as the Spirit (II Cor. 3:17-18), manifesting Himself as "tongues of fire" on their heads, and giving them power to speak to all men gathered for the Feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem, who heard the Apostles speaking, each man in His own language.
I tell them at Medicalodge how at the United Nations assemblies, each delegate has an earpiece, with which he hears the words of the speaker translated into his own language. God sovereignly did that on the Day of Pentecost without interpreters, without loud speakers, and without any self effort on the part of men.
We were sent to Missouri for Lenny to be a witness to the light, love, and power of God to a group of Baptist men in a Baptist Church here in town. About three years ago now, God told Him that He was not to return there until He returned in power. We have no real idea what that means, but last Fall, when we were prepared to go to CA for the winter, God spoke to Lenny again and said, "California, no. You will return in power." We don't fully understand what he meant, but we stayed home from California, and will do so until we hear otherwise.
Lenny's health deteriorated all winter, resulting in the need for doctors to install two or possibly three stents into his coronary arteries in July. (See link to "A Praise Report," at end). That doesn't look like power to us, but we live in time and God speaks from Eternity. So, we await further marching instructions.
The message He has given us to speak and preach and publish on the Internet is simple, but radically different than what is preached in churches today. The message is this: nothing depends upon you and your works, but everything God wills you to do and be was finished IN Christ from before the foundation of the world (Heb. 4:3). Resting in Him, we flow forth to creation in love, light, and power. On our own, as Jesus said of Himself, we can do nothing (John 5:19,30; 8:28). In Him, we have already overcome the world (John 16:33: I John 4:4).
In His beautiful vine and branches metaphor found in John 15:5, Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." As I've written countless times, the Old Covenant (Law) was about what man could do by his own works to approach God. He could not hope to have his sins forgiven, but only rolled forward year after year. Trying to live by law did not work, which God knew before hand, and thus, Jesus came clothed in flesh to write the New Covenant upon men's hearts. He came to live in us so that by His presence and the power of the Holy Spirit, we could be in continuous communion with the Father, even as Jesus was when He walked the dusty roads of Galilee.
Harry Fox loaned me an old book by a renowned Theologian, Emil Brunner: The Misunderstanding of the Church. I'm reading it aloud to Lenny and both of us are amazed to find confirmation of what we've come to see by the Spirit's leading. Brunner makes the point that the translation of "Ecclesia" (which he defines as a "communion of persons") as "church" is entirely wrong, as exemplified by the organization of the Roman Church and most Protestant churches as well. I want to quote two paragraphs so you get the flavor of his writing, which is very rich with meaning and inference about the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, and the difference between church organizations today and the community of believers we read about in the New Testament:
"He, the Lord, present through the Spirit, is the life-principle of the Ecclesia. But since the Spirit is the present gift of salvation, he is also the earnest of that which is to come. As the communion rejoicing in the here-and-now presence of the Savior, the Ecclesia at the same time yearns for the future consummation with tense expectancy. And precisely that gift which is present miraculous possession, the Holy Ghost, is the link which as a pledge united her with the coming, future One.
"So finally the question whether Jesus 'founded the Ecclesia' is seen to be of small moment (importance): the Ecclesia is in any event rooted in Him and interpenetrated by Him, since He is the head of the body which is the Ecclesia. The gift of the Holy Ghost and the sharing in the invisible presence of the Master are so closely connected that it is hardly possible to distinguish between them, but rather it may be said: "The Lord is the Spirit" (II Cor. 3:17). So then the fellowship of Jesus is the true people of the covenant, whose history doubtless begins with the old covenant, but which only attains full reality through the living presence of the Risen Lord. But because the fellowship is nothing else than this people of God dwelling in the Spirit, it is in no sense an institution, but the living body of the living head." End Quote.
When we realize anew that we are part of the body of Christ, not an institution envisioned and governed by men, it makes the gift of salvation easier to understand and allows us to rest in God's goodness rather than in our own works.
Our friend's questions sparked me to dig deeper, once I got a moment to ponder them and take them to the Lord for clarification. If all we have of salvation is what we can earn or work out, how impoverished are we truly, but if salvation means, as I believe it does, the impartation of God himself to us through the gift of the Spirit, we indeed are joint-heirs with Christ, beneficiaries of all that God Himself has for us now and in the ages to come.
The reason salvation is unexpected is precisely because since Adam disobeyed God and ate of the fruit from the "poisoned tree," all mankind has had inner and outer voices condemning him thoroughly. Based upon what our physical eyes can see, this is justified, which is another reason that the Law could not make anyone perfect. It took God incarnate, flesh fulfilled in Christ, to reckon us perfect, not because of who we are or what we do, but because of Who lives in us and in whom we dwell: Christ Jesus our Lord. Hallelujah! Escaping the clutches of constant self recrimination and self loathing comes only when the Spirit reveals the risen Lord to us, and we see that when He looks at us, He does not see our warts and zits and many flaws. He sees Jesus. When we learn to see ourselves and each other this way, all judgment will cease.
Like Paul, we pray that by His power, we may comprehend "how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you (and we) may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God" (Eph. 3:19). "...For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell" (Col. 1:19). Salvation is a gift flowing continually from the living Head to the living Body of believers, empowering, enlightening, and transforming us from glory unto glory by the Spirit and Fire of God. I believe this is the true meaning of salvation for us all!
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
A Praise Report
The Glory Road
We're always happy to hear from you
This page was uploaded to the web on 08/13/07
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 11/25/07.