In Acts 1:8-11 there is recorded a scene that defies the intellect and the imagination at the same time. It is one thing to declare the resurrection and ascension to have happened but another to describe the scene as an eyewitness account. Despite any misgivings about the veracity of this passage we want to discuss the ideas concerning the promised ‘second coming’ of Christ in the context of literal interpretation, but with a ‘bonus’, guiding method called ‘Intuitive Bible Study’.
If we apply the standard methods of interpretation to the Bible while engaging our Spirit led intuition, we can gain a much clearer picture of the nuances of the narratives. We have already written, in a previous blog, of the various verses in the Bible that place the ‘second coming’ within the near future of first century Christians. The Apostles, Peter, John and Paul, as well as the recorded words of Christ all point to ‘the end of all things’ being ‘at hand’. And those living in that first century were told to prepare for they would ‘see’ these things take place. These references are the ‘clear statement’ passages that would negate any ‘obscure passages’ that may be used to place the second coming sometime in ‘our’ near future.
So here in Acts we have Jesus floating out of sight while two men in white appear to give the great promise of his return. “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (v.11) Before we look back at the words of Jesus to his disciples let’s consider that phrase “in like manner”. Theologians use the principle of ‘comparing scripture with scripture’ to come up with their doctrines. So they would look at the reference in I Thessalonians 4 to confirm the belief that Jesus would return exactly the way he left, floating down on a cloud.
However, if we check the Greek meaning of the words ‘like’ and ‘manner’ we come up with the idea of ‘type’, ‘mode’, or ‘fashion’. It does not refer to the outward appearance, as in “What will he look like?”. Even though everyone knows he is a white male with long silky hair and beguiling azure eyes. Okay, just getting a point across. One of the illusions of religion is all the millions of portraits of Jesus hanging on people’s walls. Anyway, the ‘like manner’ phrase is simply that it is to be a coming back down from above.
In John 16:16-25 we have the record of a conversation between Christ and the Apostles. Jesus, who can read minds, attempted to explain the ‘going away/coming again’ construct when he realized they were still “in the dark” about it. “Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, do ye enquire among yourselves that I said, A little while and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while and ye shall see me? Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. and ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” (vs. 19-22)
Using the context principle and asking the ‘W’ questions gives some insight as to the meaning of this passage. they have had “The Last Supper” and are now working their way towards the Garden where Jesus is betrayed with a kiss. He is making every effort to give his followers last minute instructions and encouragements. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1) “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (v.15) “If ye abide in me and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you.” (15:7)
He was preparing them to carry on the grassroots movement he started. They had a difficult time understanding why he had to die and they resisted the idea. Then they heard him speak of going away for just a short time and returning again ‘to see them’. This added more confusion. Jesus used the metaphor of childbirth to explain the nature of this ‘quick trip’. We can relate to the elation of a mother with a newborn infant and how the pain is forgotten.
Who is speaking? Jesus the Messiah, To whom is he speaking? The eleven disciples., What was the occasion” The walk to the Garden of betrayal., When did this take place? Just hours before the arrest, trial and crucifixion, in the first century. Keep in mind that the context principle must include the ‘big picture’ context. Where did the events take place? In the Roman Empire during violent times. and When? 2000 years ago. Therefore the sayings relate to first century peoples in Asia minor and any ‘prophetic type language would apply to the foreseeable, near future of that generation.
I believe that verses 25-33 we have clues that show this passage to be much deeper than the linear, literal interpretive model goes. The word ‘proverbs’ in verse 25 means “an enigmatic or fictitious illustration” of a principle. He was not speaking ‘clearly’ as the disciples said in verse 29. He questioned their faith in his words and said their actions would prove that they were still “in the dark”. (v. 31-32)
The blog post entitled-“Jesus and the second coming” gives more evidence that a literal return is not what is taught here. If it was to be a literal ‘in the skies’ return and it was to have happened in their lifetime then Jesus simply gave false hope. I believe that Jesus and the Father and the Spirit are “one” just as the Bible says. And that they are representative of the many faceted entity described as ‘universal consciousness’ that is omnipresent, omnipotent, immutable, ultimate love, mercy, justice and all the rest of the greatest desirable qualities that we can conceive of.
Further I believe that they (or it) are/is within us and we can experience the second coming by approaching the divine as “newborn babes” desiring the “sincere milk of the word”. (I Peter 2:2)
Intuitive Bible Study-A New Interpretive Model available on amazon