Articles From the June 1994 Unification News


Waiting for the Holy Spirit Association

Over the past year and a half, a group of distinguished Catholics and Evangelical Protestants have carried on a consultation on the subject "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium." The context of their discussion, which resulted in a statement published in the May, 1994, issue of First Things, is their statement that "We together, Evangelicals and Catholics, confess our sins against the unity that Christ intends for all his disciples."

"We recognize that there is but one church of Christ," profess the Catholic and Protestant conversants; "There is one church because there is one Christ and the church is his body. However difficult the way, we recognize that we are called by God to a fuller realization of our unity in the body of Christ."

The published statement is replete with references to the expectancy for the second coming, an event which lends both urgency to the need for Christian unity and hope for its accomplishment. "Indeed, " they write, "these differences [between Evangelicals and Catholics] may never be resolved short of the Kingdom Come." They admit that they do not know when it will come, and it fact "It may be that Our Lord will return tomorrow."

The authors and supporters of the document, a remarkable cross-section including Charles Colson, Fr. Avery Dulles, S. J., Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, John Cardinal O'Connor, Bill Bright and Pat Robertson, expect that the Holy Spirit will guide Christianity into this ultimate unity. "Christ has promised to his church the gift of the Holy Spirit who will lead us into all truth in discerning and declaring the teaching of Scripture. (John 16)" Hence they proceed "by trust in the promise of the Holy Spirit's guidance until Our Lord returns in glory to judge the living and the dead."

It is of greatest interest to us that this document would surface in May of 1994, the month of the 40th anniversary of an association dedicated, both in name and in practice, to nothing other than the realization of the ideal of Christian unity, that organization being the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity.

Given their commitment toward realizing the unity of the church, and toward the proposition that this unity will come only through the Holy Spirit, one wonders in dismay at the poor reception, which these leaders certainly at least countenance, granted a group of Christians coming in the name of the Holy Spirit for the purpose of Christian unification, that organization being named explicitly the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, founded by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon.

Christians are well-trained to stand in rhetorical awe before the topic of Christ's second coming. Such is the tone of the First Things Evangelical-Catholic consultation. Other than regularly-placed pious and awestruck-sounding phrases with reference to the resolution of Christian disunity through an eschatological act of God, the document does not the least bit enter into discussion of, or even raise the question of, the method, signs or way that the Lord might be returning.

That is, the resolution of their entire project hinges upon an event which everyone agrees will happen and hopes (desperately?) will happen, but as to its nature, no one even dares utter a speculation! In fact, the question is not even raised! Well, let's do the impolite thing of raising the question. Let's consider two of the possibilities for how the second coming could take place. Is the second coming the return of Christ in the spirit to the believing Christian? If this were the case, then the second coming took place on the isle of Patmos, when Jesus spoke in the spirit to John. Indeed, it took place on the road to Damascus when Jesus appeared to Paul. Let's take it back even further: it took place in the Upper Room. The fact is, no Christians believe these events 2,000 years ago, nor any of the multitude of similar occurrences through the centuries, constitute the second coming. There is no reason they should believe that the same thing taking place today would either.

Is the second coming to take place "on the clouds"? I think that if you scratched the participants in this consultation, you'd find that they all believe "this same Jesus" is coming on the clouds, or, if he's not coming on the clouds, then someone very convincing will have to come on the clouds to tell them so.

Now, ask yourself: is there any biblical precedent for a cloud coming? Did any of the patriarchs of Israel come on the clouds? Did Moses? How about David? Did any of the prophets arrive on the clouds? No, they were all men born of women, and the women who loom large in the Bible didn't come on the clouds either. Did Adam come on the clouds? No, and neither did the second Adam, Jesus. Everyone in the Bible was born on the earth. No one came on the clouds.

Does this make belief in coming on the clouds unbiblical? Maybe not, but it tends to, and it at least should be weighed when interpreting those passages which prophecy a cloud-coming Messiah. And this should be done sincerely, not just treating it as a bothersome objection necessary to argue out of the picture for the sake of an apriori faith commitment, as, for instance, when the object of Old Testament clouds prophecy (Daniel 7) is peremptorily shifted to a second coming, in the face of the fact that the OT writers give no indication at any point that they expected two messianic advents.

That having been said, there was one prophet who had something to do with clouds. He didn't come from them, but he departed into them. I am referring to Elijah. That same Elijah was expected to return to make straight the way of the Messiah. Would he return in the clouds, in the way that he departed? Jesus didn't think so; he asserted that Elijah returned as a physical man. There is no evidence of anyone accepting Jesus' view at the time, but we as Christians are bound to accept Jesus' view, are we not?

So, Jesus' personal theology included belief that a prophet who left on the clouds returned as a man born of a woman. After declaring this, Jesus encountered Elijah "in a cloud" on the Mount of Transfiguration. Did Jesus then issue a "how my views have changed" paper and rescind his contention about Elijah's return? No, not at all.

There is something very important going on here, the exploration of which goes beyond the parameters of this paper. However, let it be stated that the biblical instance of the return of a man who departed in the clouds was fulfilled, according to Jesus, by a man born of a woman.

It should be noted further that this man born of a woman, who fulfilled the prophecy of a coming "Elijah," had a new name; it was John the Baptist. Elijah himself remained in the spirit world; Jesus met him there. At the same time, Elijah returned in the flesh in John the Baptist, according to Jesus' testimony. This

One more matter for consideration is that we have had one Messiah (and only one) upon which to base any logical inference about "the way in which Messiahs come", and that is Jesus. David Hume argued, if you recall, that there is no historical example of a God creating a universe upon which we can infer that our present universe was also created by God. However, there is a historical example of the coming of a Messiah. He didn't come on the clouds; he was fully man.

Actually, there is no record of any founders of any religions, of any saints, of any prophets, of any gurus, of anybody, coming on the clouds. Spirit men can float in from the sky. No spirit man has founded any religion. Even Jesus as a spirit had to work through Peter and Paul, who had physical bodies, to found the church.

In other words, Christians who expect Jesus to come on the clouds have no historical grounding whatsoever upon which to base their expectation, and are in fact ignoring and rejecting the undisputed and unqualified evidence of history, including the heilsgeshickte. God breaks into history by means of men born of women; it has never been otherwise. Amen.

There is a further danger for the cloud-coming believers to consider in weighing the wisdom of this doctrine. Along with the historical evidence that God works only through men born of women is the evidence that Satan will use every possible means to turn people against those who come in the name of the Lord. It is typical, in fact, that the most effective means Satan uses against God's work is to turn the guardians of civilization's highest values against God's chosen instrument. To do so, Satan portrays that very instrument as the enemy of God, or at least as the enemy of true religion, even of social stability; as a blasphemer, in other words, as a criminal, as false, as self-proclaimed, as a fanatic.

It worked when Satan used it against Jesus. It was not criminals and scoundrels who designed the crucifixion. It was serious men who could explain their actions in terms of the highest values of their religion and society.

How ironic would it be, how miserably sad, if the serious men and women of the present era, who fashion their lives in terms of upholding the highest values of religion and society, reject and crucify the second coming because, when it came down to it, they did not carefully examine their belief that the Messiah would come on the clouds.

How immeasurably tragic if such trained Christian intellects, the legates of 2,500 years of western thought, miss their historical moment due to their maintenance of such an abjectly silly superstition.


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