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Do Christians Spiritualize Too Much?
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Interpretum
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Do Christians Spiritualize Too Much?

Hi Folks

It might sound like an odd topic, but I think they do.

(By the way, I apologize in advance for the generalizations in the title.)

For me, the perfect example of this is the idea of the nation of Israel being replaced by spiritual Israel, the so-called "Israel of God".

All of the blessings of Israel are then transferred to the spiritual "Israel of God" (although curiously, none of the curses!) and applied to the Christian church.

However, it seems to me that some prophecies make this extremely difficult to do. For example, I recently came across this prophecy in Ezekiel 47. I am quoting it from the Net Bible, which seems to bring out its full flavour:

"Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I had returned, I noticed a vast number of trees on the banks of the river, on both sides. He said to me, “These waters go out toward the eastern region and flow down into the Arabah; when they enter the Dead Sea, where the sea is stagnant, the waters become fresh. Every living creature which swarms where the river flows will live; there will be many fish, for these waters flow there. It will become fresh and everything will live where the river flows. Fishermen will stand beside it; from Engedi to En-eglaim they will spread nets. They will catch many kinds of fish, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and its marshes will not become fresh; they will remain salty."
http://net.bible.org/#!bible/Ezekiel+47:6

Notice the geographical location: It talks about the Arabah (which is a region of Palestine), the Dead Sea (a small sea currently between Israel and Jordan), the Great Sea (the Mediterranean) and two additional locations: Engedi and En-eglaim.

Engedi is actually a location beside the Dead Sea, as you can see from the following map:



(Sorry it doesn't show up too well in this image. Engedi is in the red square I've highlighted.)

The prophecy implies a LITERAL fulfillment, because...

(1) It uses REAL geographical locations, like Engedi, the Arabah, the Dead Sea and the Great Sea (the Mediterranean).

(2) Its literal fulfillment would be a miracle, because currently the Dead Sea cannot support life, being too salty. This geographical fact is acknowledged in the statement that "its swamps and its marshes will not become fresh; they will remain salty". (Incidentally, the "Dead Sea" is also known as the "Salt Sea".)

(3) Fishermen will fish there, and catch fish like the Great Sea (the Mediterranean). These are not "spiritual" fish, but REAL fish.

Now, over the past 2,000 years many Christian commentators HAVE attempted to spiritualize passages like these.

For example, they claim that the "fishermen" would be like the apostles, becoming "fishers of men".

This is a clever interpretation... but there is a major objection to this which I will explain.

This prophecy in Ezekiel 47 is alluded to in Revelation...

"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life – water as clear as crystal – pouring out from the throne of God and of the Lamb, flowing down the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life producing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month of the year. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations." (Rev 22:1-7)

Firstly this is a vision once "New Jerusalem" has come down out of heaven from God, and the tent of God once again resides with mankind.

The prophecy says that the water is for HEALING. Ezekiel's prophecy does not DIRECTLY say this, but the implication is there, with the Dead Sea being restored and swarms of living creatures, reversing its salty nature.

In other words, John's vision does NOT equate the waters with the gospel, but with HEALING. In fact, John's vision goes on to say... "And there will no longer be any curse..." (Rev 22:3) ...implying that there WAS a curse before (curses usually cause the opposite of, or are usually antithetical to, healing).

So, what am I saying?

Well, I think even Christians are missing part of God's BIG PICTURE, by spiritualizing too much.

Revelation 21 is the ultimate seal to Christians that God will fulfill ALL of His prophecies.

It is the ultimate and real "And they all lived happily ever after..."

However, it doesn't quite answer the MECHANICS of it. How EXACTLY are the nations going to "bring the grandeur and the wealth of the nations into it", or how EXACTLY will the leaves of the trees be for the healing of the nations?

I don't think Revelation answers these questions clearly for two important reasons...

(1) It is simply making the point that God's promises WILL be fulfilled, and

(2) The MECHANICS are given in detail ELSEWHERE in the Bible!

In other words, if you want to know exactly HOW the leaves will be for healing, go to the parts of the Bible that talks about this.

And one of the places is Ezekiel 47...

...and there we read that God will restore the Dead Sea, and the region will miraculously receive water from the Temple, flowing down into the Arabah... and this is where the trees will be located!

In other words, Revelation is not actually a NEW prophecy as such... but a CONFIRMATION of the old prophecies! The statement, "It is done!" (or "They have come to pass!" - NWT) in Rev 21:6 is the statement that all of God's promises WILL come to their eventual fulfillment.

Of course, I can see why the historical Church has spiritualized prophecies such as Ezekiel 47... because it believes all the action is in Heaven.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that God is spelling out pretty clearly that the action is actually going to be here... on Earth, and especially in the region around the currently salty and lifeless (could we say... cursed?) Dead Sea!

This is why I asked the question, "Do Christians spiritualize too much"?

I think the answer is Yes... and by doing so, we miss the ways God has already REVEALED to us how He intends to do things.

I think we "spiritualize" when we don't quite understand... or especially if a prophecy conflicts with our beliefs. (As I said, most Christians believe the action is going to be in Heaven, so they don't want or need any healing to be in the Dead Sea region of Earth!)

Also, a LITERAL fulfillment of this prophecy has other major implications, which makes many Christians uncomfortable... but I will leave it here for now, and perhaps leave room for some actual discussion on this subject :)


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05-30-2011 09:55 PM
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RR144
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RE: Do Christians Spiritualize Too Much?

That was one of the bigger changes that the Judge made. Replacement Theology. Attributing all the prophetic blessing of natural israel to the Jehovah's Witnesses. Which is why much of their prophetic commentaries have the Watchtower Society embedded into them.

As to the cursings? They are quick to apply those to Christendom.

The promises made to Israel as a nation, are made to Israel. No matter how you twist the scriptures, they cannot be applied to a spiritual israel. Besides, God himself says:

"My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips." Psalm 89:34

Replacement Theology is an alteration. Plain and simple.


We are called to be witnesses, not lawyers or judges.

05-30-2011 10:41 PM
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Beau Wetini
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RE: Do Christians Spiritualize Too Much?

I spiritualise EVERYTHING! :D


LIVE THE KINGDOM NOW!!


05-30-2011 11:54 PM
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Interpretum
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RE: Do Christians Spiritualize Too Much?

Hi RR144

Good to see you around these parts again!

You know, the more I learn about Rutherford's doctrinal changes, the more I wonder whether he might have been some kind of Jesuit plant! OK, that's an unfounded conspiracy I just thought up... but given Russell's skillful dismantling of the Catholic Church's theology and authority... I wouldn't be at all surprised if Rutherford turned out to be a Jesuit implanted to "tame" the Watchtower!

RR144 Wrote:
That was one of the bigger changes that the Judge made. Replacement Theology. Attributing all the prophetic blessing of natural israel to the Jehovah's Witnesses. Which is why much of their prophetic commentaries have the Watchtower Society embedded into them.

As to the cursings? They are quick to apply those to Christendom.


That's kind of clever, in a twisted way. Unscriptural, but clever. I guess they never noticed the fact that the original blessings and curses in Deuteronomy applied to the SAME nation (Israel)... it just depended on Israel's attitude towards God at the time.

Quote:
The promises made to Israel as a nation, are made to Israel. No matter how you twist the scriptures, they cannot be applied to a spiritual israel. Besides, God himself says:

"My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips." Psalm 89:34

Replacement Theology is an alteration. Plain and simple.


I agree, and yet millions of Christians still believe in it. I find it funny that two people can read, say, Romans 11, and come to two completely different conclusions.

I suppose Replacement Theology is popular because the Church wants the good stuff promised to Israel, and also because practically everybody goes to Heaven (from their point of view), there's not much point in God doing much with Earth.


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05-31-2011 12:14 AM
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Interpretum
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RE: Do Christians Spiritualize Too Much?

Beau Wetini Wrote:

I spiritualise EVERYTHING! :D


I bet you don't.

I bet you consume PHYSICAL food...

...and maybe the occasional LIQUID drink or three.

:)


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05-31-2011 12:18 AM
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COMankind
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RE: Do Christians Spiritualize Too Much?

The more accurate phrase might be "attach a broader meaning"

To spiritualize everything, to Beaus point, sounds like something I'd WANT to achieve :) and I'm a so-called preterist too.


philia, COMankind

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05-31-2011 10:24 AM
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ablebodiedman
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RE: Do Christians Spiritualize Too Much?

Interpretum,

I think there are good scriptural precedents to spiritualize that scripture.

For example:


Isaiah 1:24-31
Therefore the utterance of the [true] Lord, Jehovah of armies, the Powerful One of Israel, is: “Aha! I shall relieve myself of my adversaries, and I will avenge myself on my enemies. 25 And I will turn back my hand upon you, and I shall smelt away your scummy dross as with lye, and I will remove all your waste products. 26 And I will bring back again judges for you as at the first, and counselors for you as at the start. After this you will be called City of Righteousness, Faithful Town. 27 With justice Zion herself will be redeemed, and those returning of her, with righteousness. 28 And the crash of revolters and that of sinful ones will be at the same time, and those leaving Jehovah will come to their finish. 29 For they will be ashamed of the mighty trees that YOU people desired, and YOU will be abashed because of the gardens that YOU have chosen. 30 For YOU will become like a big tree the foliage of which is withering, and like a garden that has no water. 31 And the vigorous man will certainly become tow, and the product of his activity a spark; and both of them will certainly go up in flames at the same time, with no one to do the extinguishing.”


and both of them will certainly go up in flames at the same time, with no one to do the extinguishing = fire that cannot be put out



and:


Matthew 7:17-20
17 Likewise every good tree produces fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces worthless fruit; 18 a good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, neither can a rotten tree produce fine fruit. 19 Every tree not producing fine fruit gets cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Really, then, by their fruits YOU will recognize those [men].


thrown into the fire = fire that cannot be put out?


and:


Matthew 21:42-44
42 Jesus said to them: “Did YOU never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone that the builders rejected is the one that has become the chief cornerstone. From Jehovah this has come to be, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 This is why I say to YOU, The kingdom of God will be taken from YOU and be given to a nation producing its fruits. 44 Also, the person falling upon this stone will be shattered. As for anyone upon whom it falls, it will pulverize him.”


and:



Isaiah 61:1-4
61 The spirit of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah is upon me, for the reason that Jehovah has anointed me to tell good news to the meek ones. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to those taken captive and the wide opening [of the eyes] even to the prisoners; 2 to proclaim the year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah and the day of vengeance on the part of our God; to comfort all the mourning ones; 3 to assign to those mourning over Zion, to give them a headdress instead of ashes, the oil of exultation instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of the downhearted spirit; and they must be called big trees of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, for [him] to be beautified. 4 And they must rebuild the long-standing devastated places; they will raise up even the desolated places of former times, and they will certainly make anew the devastated cities, the places desolate for generation after generation.


In Christ

abe


the spiritual man examines all things

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05-31-2011 11:03 AM
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