Friday, August 26, 2011

The Beginning and the Ending: Spiritualization of the Bible

Dr. David R. ReaganWatch PDFBy

This article is one I have been ruminating about for some time. It was about three years ago when the Lord laid the title on my heart. I began praying about it and searching the Scriptures and turning it over and over in my mind.

Finally, the message began to burn in my heart for a release, and so I decided to pull it together for presentation at our annual Bible conference.

I consider it to be a personal testimony about my faith. As such, you may not agree with what I have to say, but I hope you will respect it, even as I respect those fellow believers who would disagree with me.


Introduction

Let's get started by taking a look at the words that begin and end the Bible.

The Bible begins with these words: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1).

The Bible ends with these words: "He [Jesus] who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming quickly.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20).

The Bible begins with a revelation. The Bible ends with a promise.

Do you believe these words? Do you really believe them without reservation?

If you do, then you are an exception to the norm, for the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of professing Christians — both Catholic and Protestant, including even Evangelicals — do not accept the plain sense meaning of these verses.

The reason is that the beginning and ending of the Bible are the two most abused areas of God's Word. That's because they have been spiritualized into meaninglessness.


The Abuse of Spiritualization

For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, spiritualization, let me explain that it means to argue that the plain sense meaning of Scripture is not its true meaning.

Let me give you a classic example of spiritualization taken from the writings of a theologian by the name of Loraine Boettner. It has to do with his interpretation of Zechariah 14:1-9.

That passage says that in the end times Jerusalem will be surrounded by enemy forces and will be ready to fall to them when the Lord will suddenly return to the Mount of Olives. When His feet touch the Mount, it will split down the middle. The Lord will then speak a supernatural word that will instantly destroy all the enemy forces. And on that day, the Lord will become King over all the earth.

In his commentary on this passage, Boettner completely spiritualized it.1

He argued that the Mount of Olives stands for the human heart. The enemy forces symbolize the evil in this world that surrounds and attacks the heart. The Lord's return represents what happens when a person accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Thus, when Jesus comes into a person's heart, their heart (the Mount of Olives) splits in contrition, and all the evil influences in the person's life are defeated, and Jesus becomes king of that person's heart.

That's what I call an exercise in imagination!


Personal Experience

I personally know a lot about spiritualization because I grew up in a church that specialized in this perversion of Scripture. Let me give you an example, and once again, it relates to Zechariah 14, verses 1-9.

I discovered that passage when I was 12 years old, and I couldn't believe my eyes when I read it, because all the preachers I had ever heard had been hard core Amillennialists — people who do not believe that Jesus will ever return to this earth to reign for a thousand years. Over and over I had heard these preachers proclaim, "There is not one verse in the Bible that even implies that Jesus will ever put His feet on this earth again."

Well, here was a passage that did more than imply. It said point blank that the Messiah will return to the Mount of Olives and that when His feet touch ground, the mountain will split in half!

So, in fear and trembling, I went to my pastor, showed him the passage, and asked what it meant. He studied it a long time, and then he stuck his finger in my face and said, "Son, I don't know what this passage means, but I will guarantee you one thing, it doesn't mean what it says."


Why People Spiritualize

People love to spiritualize the Scriptures because when they do so, they can make the Bible say whatever they please, and in the process they get to play God.

Most professing Christians today are members of churches whose leaders use spiritualization to play fast and loose with the beginning and ending of the Bible. The preaching and teaching they hear is based upon spiritualization, and it converts the opening chapters of the Bible into a mythical story, and the ending of the Bible into mythical promises.


In the next part of this series on the beginning and the ending of the Bible, I'll look at how people spiritualize the Creation account.


Notes

1) Loraine Boettner, The Millennium (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Co., 1957).

8 comments:

lily said...

Spiritualization seems to be a way to make man feel like a god. These 'theologians' take it literally that man is made in God's image so ... he is a god also. Forgetting the fact that an image is just a reflection of the real thing. Just as a mirror is a reflection (image) of a man but is not, actually, that person. Man knows he is very important to God, just look at what He did; our God died for our sins. However, man seems to take the 'importance' and distorts it into a monster image. Spiritualization is this monster. I too was told Adam and Eve was just a story;Noah and the Flood just a story;Revelation,well it was ignored. Only because of the Holy Spirit did I question those who taught me. God forgive them. Thank you for your testimony of the truth. I am so blessed because of your ministry.God Bless and stay safe. I am now at a relatives waiting to see if my home last through hurricane Irene. I live on the coast of NC. But no matter the outcome I know my true home is being prepared in heaven. Marantha!

Nathan Jones said...

Thank you for those encouraging words, Lily! So good L&L could be a blessing to you. Let us know if you fared the storm.

Anonymous said...

Does this concept apply to all verses like the one below or to only the ones you decide?
Revelation 21 King James Version (KJV)
2And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
9And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife.
10And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

Anonymous said...

As noted in your post, "Spiritualization" is flat wrong. However, Spiritual revelation is very important to undertstanding the scriptures. The Holy Spirit will teach us, 1 Corinthians speaks of this wisdom, Spiritual wisdom preserved for God's people. That said, the "Revelations" and to the extent "Spiritualization" (in proper perspective) must be supported by scripture, it must be clear. The Word of God is Gen 1:1 to Rev. 22:21; and Godly wisdom will help us receive the full revelation of the Word. A perfect example is the Ethiopian Enuch, he was reading scripture Isaiah, and the Apostle taught him the Word within the scriptures and the Enuch understood. The Apostle did not come up with his version, he took the scriptures and exponded on them to teach.

God Bless

Expected Imminently said...

Anonymous

I know where you are coming from; but ‘spiritualization’ (allegory) is in opposition to the literally declared Word of God.
When God does use allegory in His Word, it is as a literary device, and it isn’t left for us to guess what it means, but is fully explained elsewhere. The literal sense is NEVER changed, but enhances or confirms what is plainly written. It is Scripture that interprets Scripture, never our own theories, feelings or impressions.

It takes the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Word to our understanding, but that isn’t the same as ‘spiritualising’ the text to mean other than what the text actually says.

God bless
Sue :)

Nathan Jones said...

Anonymous, Rev. 21 says "as a bride," not "is the bride." Like and as are comparators, so there's no spiritualization going on in this passage. It's reporting that there is a literal city called the New Jerusalem which in the eternal state will be Heaven on the New Earth.

Spiritualization is when one takes the plain sense meaning and applies to it an ethereal meaning that was never meant in the text. A spiritualizer for example would take the reference to Jesus going up to teach on the mountainside in Matthew 5 to "really" mean that Jesus was "climbing the unyielding hardness of man's heart." Obviously nonsense.

Anonymous said...

What baffles me is when people dispute very clear verses of scripture and say they don't mean what they clearly say they mean.

For example, I've heard people say that Col. 3:4 ("When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.") does not mean that Christ Himself is our very life.

And I've heard people say that it's impossible for God to remember our sins no more (Heb. 8:12 and 10:17).

People even (somehow) say that Col. 2:6 ("Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him") doesn't mean what it clearly says it means!

It's baffling to me, but maybe I'm just simple in this regard: God says what He means.

Sometimes I wonder--have these people fallen into the trap of thinking: Well, it doesn't make sense to ME; therefore, how it can't be true.

To which I say, 1) so you obviously don't believe in the trinity either because that's inexplicable, and 2) putting God in a box that's limited to what you can comprehend is very, very foolish.

When the plain sense makes the most sense, don't go looking for another sense!

Stan Feldsine said...

Dr. Reagan and Nathan,

There seems to be a rising spirit in the world today that is causing this liberal thought. Of course it started with case based law replacing Bible based law in the 1850's or so, and has continued to today. It seems to have picked up steam corresponding to the removal of school prayer, but in the last few years, it has accelerated even more with the election of Obama.

It has also spilled over to our US Constitution. Liberals today are telling us that the Constitution doesn't really mean what is says either.

It seems that Satan has started with the Bible, and now that much of the church is either asleep, or has no idea what the Bible literally says, he has moved on to the city on a hill, America.

The literal Word is our only hope, all else is shifting sand. Thank you for standing firm.