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    38
    DIFFERENCES BETWEEN NEW COVENANT AND ORTHODOX EVANGELICAL THEOLOGY

    9 Key Doctrines Examined

    There are not as many differences between New Covenant and orthodox Evangelical theology as people try to make out. If you look through our book of revelations, the Olive Branch, and read some of the footnote commentaries, you will discover that in most areas of doctrine we are united with the broad sweep of evangelical teachings, especially (and most importantly) in the doctrine of the Person of Christ. We are agreed with all Christians in the Apostles' Creed and in the steps that lead to a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Thereafter, like all the denominations, we start disagreeing in some things.

    Here is my own personal list, compiled as a result of years' of dialogue with representatives of different evangelical traditions:

    1. The Pre-Existence.

    Evangelical Christianity teaches that only God and Christ (the Word) have pre-existed this world and creation. New Covenant theology teaches that everyone pre-existed this world as spirit beings which are being incarnated one by one to live but one life here. (This means that we reject the doctrine of multiple physical rebirths, or reincarnation). Evangelical Christians, for the most part, say that we are created de novo both as spirits as well as physical beings. Thus the circumstances we find ourselves in have nothing to do with any pre-mortal condition but are entirely the result of God's will in helping us work out our salvation. Obviously the two viewpoints necessarily mean that we view life's purpose a little bit differently. Whilst we both agree that we are down here to work out our salvation, New Covenant Christians maintain that we have been doing it for a lot longer. For us there are three stages in growth and progression: the pre-mortal life, this life, and heaven.

    For orthodox evangelicals there are only two. I don't think the difference really affects too much how we live our Christianity down here on earth; where it does make a difference is in helping us to understand why we find ourselves in our present circumstances. Even so, adherants of the pre-existence doctrine cannot answer all the why's and wherefores, and indeed probably can't explain very much more than those who believe in de novo creation here.

    Very few revelations say much about the pre-existence and even fewer remind us about what life was like in the pre-mortal worlds. I have only ever seen the pre-existence two or three times in vision and about the only thing I know about it was that there we made covenants with our prospective husbands and wives to seek them and marry them on earth (which is why, I suppose, we are are strongly "attracted" to them sometimes), that we had great learning and knowledge (which we believe accounts for many of the "unexplainable" talents that we are born with -- we don't believe you can explain a Mozart by genes alone), and that it was a place of great innocence and child-like purity.

    2. Eternal Marriage.

    Coupled very much to the New Covenant belief about pre-existence is its teaching about eternal marriage. Not unsurprisingly most evangelicals do not believe in marriage after death, which they base on a single incident of Jesus with the Saducees. New Covenant Christians interpret this passage a little differently, maintaining that earth-type marriages do indeed come to an end at death (since they had a beginning with the marriage vows) but that heavenly ones (that began in the pre-existence) will continue in the eternities after this earth life is over. We believe that whatever God has joined together cannot be separated, neither do we believe that that sacred love between husband and wife will be rudely broken at the resurrection or in the spirit world where we wait for it. What we do believe is that those marriages which are not in Christ will come to an end because without Christ there is nothing of the eternal. And since the resurrection is the realm of the eternal, only that which is eternal will exist.

    Many evangelicals would say that our marriage to Christ will be so intense, and He will be so utterly our focus, that there will either be no room for human marriages or they will simply be swallowed up in our adoration of Christ. To us this smacks a little bit of Hinduism. Christ does not demand that our worship and adoration of Him should reduce our inter-personal love and marriage relationships; our worship of Him means simply that we set Him up as the highest and most important. Our love must always be greatest for Him. In the same way, a child loving his father or mother is not suddenly supposed to lessen his love for his siblings.

    We believe that all pure and noble relationships will be enhanced in the resurrection, and that includes marital love. Otherwise one is saying that God has established a relationship, which he pronounced as being "good" in Genesis, as being something "not good enough" in the resurrection. If one views marriage as having the sole purpose of procreation then there might perphaps be a case for the orthodox position, in our view. But we do not believe that procreation was the only purpose (nor that it necessarily ends after death -- this is not a doctrine that we take a definite stand on, though). Marriage was, first and foremost, given for intimate companionship. As such, then, a special unique relationship can exist which cannot in same-sex affections (I am not speaking here of homosexuality, which is an abberation). Brotherly love can be fantastically deep, as we know, and as David testified in speaking of his friendship with Jonathan, but it is definitely not the same as a marriage relationship. There is an entirely different interraction which alone can make a man or woman whole. The fact that men have an unconscious female anima indicates strongly that there is a real need for this union (as also of the woman who has a male animus). Those who have been married and have become widows or widowers know of the great loneliness that can ensure even though they may have fantastically deep spiritual relationships with others in the faith. There is something within them that keep that marriage alive and which will continue into the next life, I firmly believe, even after the ecstacy of coming into union with Christ. We were created for companionship -- even Adam, who had everything he supposedly needed in Eden -- a type of heaven, incidentally -- was not complete. God Himself said that it was not good that he was alone. Why didn't He give him male companions? Because He must have known that they would not have satisfied that deepest inner yearning which a man has for intimate companionship, quite apart from the fact that he would not have been able to multiply and refill the earth.

    There are many other reasons why we believe in eternal marriage but these are probably the main ones.

    3. The Holy Spirit.

    The Holy Spirit is, according to orthodox evangelical teaching, the third member of the Godhead and is a male Person of Spirit, co-equal with the Father and the Son (see the Trinity doctrine below).

    In New Covenant Christian teaching, this is both an over-simplistic view of the identity of the Holy Spirit as well as going beyond what the Bible actually teaches. Our position is based on a number of observations in Scripture:

    Firstly, the Holy Spirit exhibits both personal as well as impersonal characteristics in such a way that it is sometimes difficult to categorise as either a "person" or simply an "influence". Moreover, when associated with God the Father or God the Son, the Holy Spirit demonstrates male characteristics, but when viewed alone unquestionably shows female or motherly characteristics. When acting impersonally, the Soirit assumes neutral characteristics. As a person, the Holy Spirit is closely associated with the Hebrew Shekinah, a female term indicating "God's presence", with the Hebrew Hochma and Greek Sophia, "wisdom" which, in the Scriptures, often takes on a very personal form which many believe to be more than allegorical. Accordingly the Eastern Orthodox Church maintains sometimes that the Holy Spirit is a female Personage. And the ancient Hebrews looked upon her as the "consort of Yahweh". As far as Hebrew grammar is concerned, the Spirit is always female. The confusion over gender comes as a result of Greek translations where the Spirit is rendered opposite to the Hebrew, namely, male.

    Whilst in various places in the New Testament we see the Holy Spirit as acting like a person in setting men apart in spiritual callings, we also see it conferred as though it were a mere force or "breath" -- Jesus bequeathed the Holy Spirit on His apostles by BREATHING on them. So unless the Person of the Holy Spirit actually lived in Him and could pass through His mouth, we must assume that the Holy Spirit here is His own personal "Spirit", or invisible life-force.

    We are also reminded in this incident of the time when God "breathed" into Adam's inanimate body, thus bequeathing it life. This can only be seen, in this context, as an impersonal force.

    The Bible, moreover, uses the terms "Holy Spirit", "Spirit of God", and "Spirit of Christ" interchangeably, which can somewhat add to the confusion. These obdervations lead New Covenant Christians to tread cautiously. If one adopts the Person theory, scriptures on its impersonality have to be ignored, and vice versa.

    Our view is therefore that the Holy Spirit or Ruach haQodesh is both a female Person - the third member of the Godhead (see below) and our Heavenly Mother - as well as the collective Spirit of the whole Godhead which may be seen in terms of the personalities of the Father or Son and at times as an impersonal force. Whereas in the past we took a neutral position on the Spirit's gender, using the designation "it", we have, when referring to the Person of the Spirit opted to use the reference 'Her' or 'She'.

    4. The Godhead.

    Because we take the position on the Holy Spirit described above it follows that we are not necessarily Trinitarians. We do not say that the Trinity doctrine is necessarily an unbiblical formulation but that it goes far beyond what the Bible actually teaches. Evangelical Christianity has invested an authority in this dogma which we find unwarranted. Worse, it is used by them as a test of true Christian faith. One is, in their eyes, virtually (if not worse than) a heretic if one does not agree to it, reminding us of the spirit of inquisition that marked the apostate Catholic Church of the Middle Ages and the spirit of intolerance that caused the needless suffering and death of so many. In short, the Trinity doctrine often rides an ugly spirit which has nothing to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    We have no objections to the Trinity doctrines as an exercise in speculative theology but to make it a test of faith we object to strongly. It had no part of the New Testament Church, or the Church of the Sub-Apostolic Fathers; Christianity did perfectly well without it then and can do without it today. That the Christians of the third century onwards felt a need for a concise statement to preclude heresy is understandable but its results were, in our view, even more disasterous that the dissention and schisms that took place in early Christian history because people were not agreed. Trinitarianism, alas, is too closely connected with the politicised version of Christianity that supplanted the genuine Spirit-directed original which it replaced, plunging Europe into the Dark Ages of oppression and spiritual darkness.

    Sadly, Trinitarians in many quarters still shun and persecute those who do not espouse their doctrine. This is not the Spirit of Christ, but the spirit of another who seeks to enslave through dogmatic propositionalism.

    New Covenant Christians approach the Godhead question on two levels. Firstly, we believe in a minimum doctrine which we call presently "Proto-Trinitariansism" which is basically 'simple Trinitarianism' with the understanding that the Person of the Holy Spirit is female and our Heavenly Mother. Secondly, we have a much deeper formulation called the Echad Doctrine which is the result of two decades of intensive and careful exegesis on the subject.

    I know that many in the openly anti-Trinitarian camp find this unsatisfactory and may even feel that we are "selling out". We feel that we are simply being cautious. The great (justified) fear of Trinitarians is that other Godhead formulations rob Christ of His Deity. Ours does not. We maintain that Christ is Yahweh, the great I AM. Therefore they need not fear on this score. We do insist, however, that He is not fully co-equal, even though God the Father has declared Him to be so from a jurisdictional point-of- view. He remains eternally subject to the Father. We read also in the Bible that this jurisdictional authority will be retured to the Father at the end of the age, underlining completely His position of submission. And yet He is acknowledged as the Eternal Father by Isaiah and elsewhere as the Eternal God.

    Trinitarianism has tried to resolve this apparent paradox in its Godhead doctrine, a legitimate exercise, but one that does not take all the scriptural postulations and factual statements into account. In our view there is not enough data to come to a dogmatic statement on the Godhead and we did not wish to artificially crystalise one that will quench the Holy Spirit and inhibit free enquiry. That is why we have the two approaches described. To know that Jesus is God is, in any case, all we need to know for our salvation. The ultimate reality if the Godhead may, in any case, be far beyond our grasp. We must learn to be satisfied with what we know and not go racing ahead. We feel Trinitarianism goes beyond the mark of revealed scripture, creating an unnecessary dogma that historically has proven itself an excuse for persecution. Other studies, indicating that it may be linked to the Babylonian mystery religion serve only to set off various spiritual alarm bells. That it remains the official Godhead doctrine of Churches that have a terrible spiritual track record is also disconcerting though this in and of itself does not necessarily negate its validity.

    Jesus obviously did not feel it necessary to say any more than He did. In answering Philip's request to be shown the Father, He evidently felt it was enough to tell the puzzled apostle that He was looking at the Father in the person of Christ. He refused to say any more, so why should we demand Christians accept any more to have fellowship with them? If we kept things that simple we could avoid unnecessary quarreling and heated debate. Finally, then, the cry of "heretic" might die down. But sometimes I wonder if people are more interested in defending a tradition than the biblical revelation.

    5. The Person of Christ.

    I admit this is a complicated one too. Here, though, New Covenant ideas are much clearer and unapologetic. Part of the Trinity formulation insists that Christ is "fully man and fully God" and it goes on to talk about various "substances" that are shared by members of the Godhead.

    We teach that Christ is "fully God and fully man" too but don't quite see it the sasme way as all Trinitarians (there are different ways of looking at Trinitarianism). A "man" is his spirit and body which constitute what is called a "soul" (only one passage in the Bible seems to give another interpretation, but this is more hyperbolic). Like evangelicals, we believe that the soul is immortal, not of itself, but because of God. That is to say, it cannot exist in an immortal condition apart from God. We reject the teaching espoused by Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians, Seventh-Day Adventists, and the Wordwide Church of God who teach that the spirit of man is merely God's breath that returns to Him (see section above on Holy Spirit). We believe that there are TWO spirits in man -- his own (his personality) and God's (which gives him life). Obviously such a doctrine is connected in some way with our believe in a pre-mortal spiritual existence (see above).

    I have never been entirely clear what Trinitarians means when they say Christ is "fully man and fully God" but the impression I get is that they view His physical body as throughly intertwined with spirit, and vice versa. I suppose they mean that the body of Christ was as divine as the spirit as well as being human.

    If this is their meaning (and I have read several theories from Trinitarians) then we do not agree. We believe that as to His body He was fully human but as to His Spirit He was fully divine. Thus the Spirit of the eternal God (Yahweh) somehow entered the mortal body of the offspring of Mary to become the "God-Man", much as we, as pre-mortal spirits, enter the body of living flesh "created" by the union of our parents. Ours is essentially a "hand-in-glove" doctrine -- the spirit enter the body must as a person puts a glove on his hand.

    This is, of course, over-simplistic because the body has a far more intimate conection with the spirit than that. The spirit inter-penetrates every cell, co-existing in the same space-time continuum with it. Thus, to all intents and purposes, there is a single identity. However, the one is mortal and the other is not, and when the body is killed, the spirit departs from it and continues to live.

    Our doctrine has sometimes been likened to Nestorianism. Perhaps it is, but it is one we believe is consistent with Scripture. It in no way lessens the atonement because in virtue of the close intimacy of spirit and flesh, atonement is effective on both spiritual and physical planes.

    Opponents of this doctrine would argue that the Bible -- and particularly the Old Testament -- make no such spirit-body distinctions. And they would be partly right provided one understands that the Old Testament did not have a developed theory of spirit or life-after-death. It took the New Testament revelation to add depth and insight into this topic. As you will find discussed in the footnote concordance of the Olive Branch, the ancients perceived of death as little more than the grave though there was a resurrection hope from the earliest times (Job). Jehovah's Witnesses and others have simply focused on these passages and chosen to ignore the greater light of the New Testament, creating variations on a similar theme that has more in common with primitive Hebrew thought than the revelation of the apostles.

    For the New Covenant Christian, Jesus is the God-Man -- God in His Spirit and Man in his flesh. The latter was obtained from the Virgin Mary and the genes manipulated by the Holy Spirit to (a) ensure the flesh was male, and (b) to make the flesh free of defections and deformity (had there been any, which we don't know -- we only know that Mary was "pure") which was a requirement of a perfect sacrifice. By virtue of the fact that the Spirit of Christ was in this flesh (as our spirits are in the flesh of our parents), so He was fully God and fully Man.

    Another theory views Jesus' flesh as being of entirely supernatural origin and whilst there is much merit in this position it is not, in our view, bourne out by all Scripture.

    Though our teaching is perhaps a little different from classical Trinitarianism the consequences are the same as far as the atonement is concerned -- the atonement of Christ was eternal acffecting both the physical and spiritual world.

    There are other important reasons why we believe this doctrine to be important and that concerns a rather touchy issue as to whether Jesus was - or could have been - married or not, and whether He had any offspring.

    If the classical Trinitarian interpretations as to His deity are correct, namely, that He was divine in both spirit and the flesh, then obviously any progeny would be partly divine. It may well be for this reason, part, that 'orthodoxy' has insisted that Jesus must have been unmarried, to preclude demi-gods being sired.

    (There are other reasons 'orthodoxy' will not admit to the possibility of Jesus being married, and that is that they are influenced by gnostic ideas that sex and marriage are somehow 'evil' or 'bad' (in start contrast to traditional Jewish teaching) and that someone as pure and holy as the Son of Man could not, therefore, ever be seen to participate in such a 'dirty' thing. This idea New Covenant Christians reject as being totally anti-biblical and, as far as the Protestant world is concerned, an unfortunate left-over of Catholicism which exalts the unmarried state as the highest ideal, following a misunderstanding of the apostle Paul's statements on marriage. But that is another matter).

    But for New Covenant Christian views of the Person of Christ no such difficulties exist in Him being married and fathering children because the children would not inherit His divine Spirit but only His mortal flesh. Thus any children of Christ would incarnate into mortal flesh (from Jesus viā Mary) and from Jesus' (speculative) wife, and their own spirits from the pre-existence. Thus the New Covenant doctrine of Christ precludes the possibilitiy of the creation of a super-race of demi-gods.

    There are numerous traditions which suggest that Jesus was married but as there is no direct evidence from the Bible that He was (or, for that matter, any evidence that He was not), we leave the matter as speculative. However, we wish to point out that our teaching of the person of Christ does allow for the possibility of His being a husband and a father.

    6. An Open Canon.

    There are not many churches these days which acknowledge an open Canon of Scripture and those which do (like the Mormons and Christian Scientists) teach a doctrine so at variance with Biblical Christianity that we shall say that New Covenant Christians are probably the only Bible-believing (as well as Bible-implementing) people who acknowledge the possibility an open canon.

    Our claim to continuing to be Bible-believing Christians, in spite of having an open canon, lies chiefly in the fact that we regard the Protetsant Bible as primary canon and everything else as secondary. We also insist that any secondary scriptures harmonies, or be legitimate expansions of, the truth already found in the Bible. In this alone we distance ourselves completely from Mormons and others who (a) claim that other scriptures have equality with the Bible (and sometime greater -- the Mormons place the "Book of Mormon" higher than the Bible), and (b) who teach doctrines which are completely disjunctive with the Bible, contradicting its teachings in important areas of revealed truth (such as the Godhead -- Mormons maintain there are three Gods in the face of the Shema which teaches that there is only one).

    Not suprisingly, opponents of the New Covenant work are keen to associate us with Mormon claims and, in so doing, effectively categorise us with what they call the "cults". But we do not belong to such a category by virtue of our position on the Bible. We acknowledge God's providential hand in providing us with the Bible, on the one hand, but deny that this is all of God's revealed Word to mankind. And we make this denial on the sole basis that nowhere in the Bible books do we find any hint or reference to a "Bible" coming into existence as a sole, self-contained Word of God.

    Those who defend such a doctrine are forced to stretch scriptural passages far beyond their original meaning and, in so doing, adopt tactics similar to the "cults" which they so vehemently oppose for doing the very same thing. And one of the most abused passages, to be found in the concluding remarks by the Apostle John about "not adding or taking away" from the Word, is a reference not to any Bible (which did not even exist at the time this revelation was written) but solely to the prophecy he was penning at the time. Interestingly, though the Book of Revelation appears at the end of the Bible, it was not the last biblical book to be written -- the epistles of John are known to be of a much later provenance.

    Thus New Covenant Christians come with a doctrine of canonicity which, whilst respecting the Bible canon as such, and upholding it as primary canon, challenges directly the unbiblical tradition that the Bible is all of God's Word, and that no more will ever be added.

    The more enlightened evangelicals -- and there are many -- acknowledge that God could add more Word if He wanted to but wonder how this could ever be agreed upon by Christendom at large. And they are right to a certain extent. There never would be universal agreement. There is already disagreement between Protestants, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic, and other traditions over the canon, and they are unlikely ever to agree. What binds Protestant Churches together, in all their diversity, is essentially two things -- the Bible Canon and the Trinity Doctrine. And within Protestantism there are the Evangelicals who maintain the same prospositions. These alone would make us non-Protestants, since we do not belong to the same historical or theological tradition.

    If we are into defining Christian churches according to doctrinal propositions then people will have a hard time defining the New Covenant Church of God. People have tried to slot us into various categories. The truth is we are a category on our own whilst at the same time sharing the same Bible as Protestantism and the same Apostles' Creed as the whole of Christendom. Perhaps, in the light of this, categorisation is not a very helpful activity.

    Whilst New Covenant Christians acknowledge that some or all their secondary scriptures may one day become primary, they do not anticipate this happening for a very long time and certainly not before the Millennial and Christ's return. We are content to let Christ decide that when He comes back. If it took the first Christians three centuries to agree on a Bible canon then it is not unreasonable that a similar length of time would be required with the New Covenant scriptures. But as such an action would only serve to alienate us from the wider Body of Christ it is not something that we are likely to consider as it would work against fruitful inter-denominational relations. Thus we are not intent on persuading other Christians to accept anything more that the Protestant Canon and are more than willing to lay aside our secondary canon if needs be.

    7. Modern-Day Apostolic Ministry and Church Organisation.

    New Covenant Christians believe in the same Church structure that obtained in Jesus' day, allowing too for the evolution of structures which meet the needs of today. Though increasing numbers of Evangelical Christian groups (particularly in the "Faith Movement") are acknowleding the need for modern apostolic and prophetic ministry, and send out leadership with these particular "calls", none is organised quite the same way as the New Testament Church.

    Part of the problem with the Protestant paradigm is that it is, at heart, anti-structural and anti-organisational. Though it must, and does, admit to some sort of structure and organisation, it shies away from going the whole hog because if any one denomination were ot organise fully, with 12 apostles, it would be tantamount to denying that all the denominations -- or at least all those who are truly born again within those denominations -- formed a single Universal Church. I suppose that is what they would conclude. Thus these ministries, in order to defend their church paradigm, must be "shared" out so that if one denomination wants/has an unspecified number of "apostles", it can, so long as others are given the freedom to have the same. (They would, of course, disagree amongst themselves according to their various traditions). Thus in practice, there are considerably more than 12 men serving under the "apostolic mantle" (they would not dare call themselves apostles like the New Testament ones).

    It is quite confusing, really. And though New Covenant Christians recognise that God is working in this muddled huddle of denominations, to the extent that they let Him, and are willing to cooperate with them, at least as far as making simple converts to Christ is concerned, we are unable to support what we regard as an essentially unbiblical approach to church structures with "boards", "synods", "Elders Conferences", etc., etc.. Various theological devices are used in support of the Protestant organisational systems such as (typically) that the structure that is to be found in the New Testament was simply to "get the Church established and on its feet" (a similar argument is applied by Baptists and others for denying the spiritual gifts of prophecy, talking in tongues, etc.) or that the Church can be expressed in different ways in different cultures...which of course is true if you believe in religious syncretism.

    Part of the problem that needs addressing here is what exactly the Lord wanted with the first Christians and what actually happened historically. This is a controversial subject, into the fray of which New Covenant Christians have eagerly hopped at the risk of being severely burned by hostile adherants of a very old tradition.

    The New Covenant Church teaches that the Church of God is Israel -- the theocratic nation. Not so much a "New Israel" (though it is that too) replacing the old nation of Israel, but a fragmented part of Israel. Most modern churches (including those which have traditions going back to earliest times) have espoused an anti-biblical teaching called "Replacement Theology" which in essence says that the "Church" has replaced the nation of Israel as God's covenant people. The Bible, by contrast, declares that those who receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour are adopted into the nation of Israel. Paul in Romans explains this by likening Israel to a vine tree. Those false Jews, represented as natural branches, who reject the Messiah are cut off and gentiles (non-Hebrews) who accept Christ (being unnatural branches) are grafted on. Thus the true Church of God is the vine of Israel onto which gentile converts have been grafted as adopted sons and daughters of Abraham.

    To be grafted into Israel means to accept the New Covenant Israelite Theocracy. The trouble is Israel as a nation ceased to exist after the first century and so theologians invented a false doctrine transferring theocratic rule to Rome (or Constantinople, depending on your tradition). Thus Rome became a kind of gentile "Israel". This is the basis of the Roman Catholic claim. They, and most other Christians, therefore see the promises made earlier in the Old Testament to Israel as belonging excluively to this Gentile Church. They don't. God has not cast away Israel - Israel is those who accept Christ and obey the commandments. The promises hold fast and do not belong to "gentile Christians". They do, however, belong to Christians who are grafted into Israel.

    What does this, in practice, mean? Firstly, on the national level, it means that the only true Israel is in the Holy Land -- the land presently occupied by the modern Republic of Israel. Christians and Messianic Jews do not possess that and probably won't until the Millennium - it's a secratian state. It is occupied by many kinds of people: (a) non-Christian descendants of Jacob who have a conditional right to be there so long as they accept Christ by the time the Millennium starts -- if they don't, they will have no residential rights; (b) non-Christians, secular descendants of Jacob, who are also given the opportunity to repent; (c) converts to Judaism who have no Hebrew genealogical line -- they have no right to be there (e.g. the descendants of the Khazars); (d) Messianic Jews who automatically have a right to be there, so long as they embrace the fullness when Christ comes; (e) Christians, whether Arab, Druze, Samaritan, or other, who have the conditional right to be there so long as they accept the fullness of the Israelite Gospel by the time Christ returns; (f) those from other religions like Islam who have no right to be there unless they repent and accept Christ; and (g) the descendants of Ishmael (Arabs), who have certain rights within Israel so long as they forsake Islam; those who war against Christ have no rights to be there.

    This is rather simplistic (though it looks complex)! The fact of the matter that there is a mixture of unbelievers and believers, unconverted Jews and converted Jews, Semites and gentiles. The tares are fully mixed in with the wheat and will be separated, quite violently, I'm afraid, at the end of the dispensation.

    The Republic of Israel is not, then, a true Christian Israelite theocracy. It's not even strictly-speaking "Israel". Far from it. But it will come there. Thus there is no true Christian Church on the face of the earth...yet. There is only a pot pourri of all kinds of Christian traditions, organisations, teachings, etc.. In short, a mess. Yet, miraculously, and in spite of men, and because of grace, God is working. The whole porridge is being stirred up and God is creating something new. He is dividing the pot into two -- the old, who will not reform but who insist on clinging to their traditions no matter what -- and a remnant who are desperately seeking for more light and truth and are willing to put tradition aside for the sake of truth.

    This remnant is still in a state of confusion itself. Though the light is breaking through to it, it still cannot clearly see the way. It is to this remnant that the New Covenant Church of God is addressing the Good News that the Lord is organising spiritually and visibly.

    But it will take time -- the truth often takes a while to percolate through. Amongst this remant groups will organise to varying degrees, seeking to be faithful to the Biblical revelation. They are all over the world and are coming out of every Christian and semi-Christian tradition imaginable and remind one of the first dazed Christians after the death of Christ waiting for a spiritual endowment -- aware of the hostility and and corruption of the established churches and not sure what to do. Many are going back to their worldly trades to wait and see.

    The blueprint for the Church of God in the last days now exists in outline. It is called the Olive Branch. It contains not only spiritual truths but details on how the Church of God should organise as a theocracy. Since the Church cannot organise in Israel until Christ returns, the Lord has decreed that tiny colonies should be organised within existing countries where theocratic rule -- Israelite rule -- can occur. It is a fully appostolic Church and will, finally, have 12 apostles like the first apostles of old. God has already started calling them both within the New Covenant Church of God and outside in the disorganised remnant waiting to gather. In the end, they will gather to the New Covenant Church -- where they can see the Israelite theocracy -- Zion -- in action.

    This in-gathering of the remnant, which started in the 1980s, will take two to three generations at the most, and may possibly be accomplished within one. The final result will be twelve self-sustaining firstborn coolonies where Zion is to be found and where God's Shekinah (presence/glory) is to be found. Each will be named after one of the 12 Tribes of Israel and will pass through the Great Tribulation unscathed, to then gather to the Holy Land where Christ will rule as King. These 12 colonies will then receive portions of land as decsribed by the prophet Ezekiel. They will contain Messianic Israelites from all the tribes plus gentile converts who will be adopted into the tribes. These will be the true Israel and therefore the true Church.

    Such a view is, of course, radically different from Evangelical Protestantism which has invented the biggest non-biblical cop-out doctrine ever -- the "rapture" of the Church (all true Christians suddenly, without warning, being "whisked into heaven" before the Tribulation), thus removing the unpleasant (for them) task of acknowledging any responsbility other than to make "personal Christians". It will never happen. We are all going through the Tribulation, good and bad Christians -- but only those who gather will escape the Antichrist's pogroms. And, sadly, it won't be many.

    Thus the organisation of the New Covenant Church is both spiritual as well as practical in the sense that it will create an alternative culture. Removal from the world culture will take place in stages -- first, by the creation of local congregations in the world called colonies; second, removal to proto-firstborn colonies where the saints learn to live cooperatively together; and thirdly, the twelve final Firstborn Colonies where Israelite theocratic government rules absolutely for seven years during the great Persecution (tribulation) before transfering to Israel itself.

    There is nothing like this anywhere in Christendom though Satan has raised up some pretty diabolical counterfeits like the Branch Davidians and some milder versions like the Mormons' Deseret. None have succeeded. A few evangelical Christians are gathering, especially Patriarchal Christians who have been persecuted by the main-line churches, and we view this as a positive movement. We will see more of this anon.

    8. Progressive Salvation and Sanctification.

    Evangelical Christians are somewhat divided over the issue of what it is to be saved. Some (the more radical) say that they are saved instantly they receive Christ as Saviour through mouth-confession, are completely sanctified (made holy), and are sinless. The evidence of their lives proves the opposite. They, like a great number of evangelicals, confuse jurisdictional salvation (that which is "legal") with the process of salvation called sanctification. Indeed, the Bible speaks of manuy different types of salvation, some of which are instantaneous and others of which are gradual, requiring a whole life-time of active discipleship.

    New Covenant Christians believe that they are legalistically saved as soon as they start - and continue - trusting in Christ as Saviour and Lord (leader) much as a criminal is released from prison having received a pardon, irrespective of whether he was worthy or not. As sinners we are not worthy of God's pardon (forgiveness) and we receive this free gift the moment we are exercising faith in the Lord and claim His covering blood. Many evangelicals maintain that once you have obtained this forgiveness you are forever protected by the blood, no matter whether you apostatise or not. This we reject. A man may as easily leave the protective cover of Christ's atoning blood as he entered under it. Thus a man may lose his salvation. But to do this he must completely apostatise -- we remain under that cover even if we continue sinning so long as we are sincerely repenting and not exploiting grace.

    Being forgiven is not, however, to be santified. Sanctification -- the inward trannsformation of our spirit by the Holy Spirit -- occurs only as long as we are true and faithful to the commandments and walking in holiness. Though a man may be pardoned for a crime and released from prison this does not automatically make him guiltless within. he has got to change his life. Similarly, Christians who have received the free pardon of Jesus Christ must work to pruify themselves. They cannot do it in their own strength (no man can) and rely on the empowering of the Holy Spirit. We are thus enabled, by God's Spirit, to be obedient. This obedience beings with it an inner cleansing making us purer and purere until we are perfect, like Christ. Not until we are fully sanctified may we say that we are fully saved. Yet even if we do not complete the race, we still belong to Christ and to heaven, and will receive the rewards there of our works, unless we repudiate Him whilst in the flesh. As I said, evangelicals look at the question of salvation and sanctification somewhat differently even amongst themselves. Part of the problem is discerning where faith and works begin and end. We are saved by faith because we cannot save ourselves by works -- in that we are pure evangelical Christian. The evidence of a man's salvation is his works, assuming he is not incapacitated and cannot do them. Most evangelicals say that our works are merely an expression of gratitude. We would agree but we would add that these works sanctify us. The key is not working to be sanctified but working with sanctification working unconsciously in the background. It's a suble use of words and whilst we may appear to be saying different things sometimes we are, in fact, saying the same thing. Are we saved by faith or by works? In the first instance, faith; ultimately, both.

    9. Monogamy and Polygamy.

    Now here's a hot cake! Ever since the Roman Code of Justinian outlawed polygamy in the sixth century, the officially state- and church-sanctioned form of marriage in the Western (Catholic and Protestant) and Eastern (Orthodox) Churches has been monogamy. Time, and Roman cultural biases, has erased the distant memory of European and Middle Eastern Christians living polygamy like their Hebrews forebearers.

    Not any longer. If my research on the Internet is anything to go by. increasing numbers of evangelical Christians, who have left the denominations and are trying to get back to Biblical Christianity, have entered polygamous marriages and found that they not only work but cen be spiritual blessing for the men and women alike if lived properly.

    One of the characteristics of the Millennium is that Christians, at least in Israel, will be living polygamously (Is.4:1), and posssibly this will effect the whole world (though the Bible speaks only of Zion). Accordingly, we should not be surprised to learn that those of the remnant who are moved by the Spirit of Zion will be increasingly drawn to this principle.

    Whatever our cultural biases (and they are strong) those who claim to be of the remnant must at least be theologically preparing for this principle. In our view, few are ready for it and won't be until the Millennium. For this reason we discourage the practice of the lifestyle but encourage an intimate theological knowledge of it. It follows that those who belong to the Gentile churches will reject this principle out of hand as "barbaric", as they always have done, despite their prolific immorality.

    Therefore it would be true to say that whilst the majority of evangelical protestants are vehemently opposed to polygamy, increasing numbers of them, who belong to the remnant church, will embrace it. I suspect that Christians' attitudes to this patriarchal principle will determine whether or not they are of the remnant. For obviously someone opposed to the principle will not fit in culturally in the millennial Israel, and those who persecute those who live it will not receive the Lord's approbation. They at least have the time before the Millennium to spiritually work it out!

    New Covenant Christians believe that celibacy, monogamy and polygamy are the only sexual or non-sexual biblical lifestyles approved by God for men and women, and that each must choose which they will live according to the leading of the Holy Spirit. In the time before the Millennium, this is effectively celibacy or monogamy. As Christians we are not to judge since all are biblically acceptable, and have been since the beginning of time. Whether the adherants of our gentile traditions accept or reject any of these is utterly irrelevant.

    10. Observing the Seventh-Day Sabbath and Festivals of God

    A test of faith and of our love of Jesus is whether or not we obey the commandments. These include the commandment to observe the seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday) and the seven annual festivals of Yahweh (Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles). The true Sabbath is rejected by almost all Evangelicals (secept Seventh Day Baptists) along with all the mandated destivals. In their place, pagan traditions such as Christmas, Easter and other pagan practices have been introduced and adopted wholesale by Protestants as an ungodly inheritance from Catholicism. In respect of these observances, New Covenant Christians are in general agreement with Messianics (both Jewish and Israelite) and the Churches of God. Obedience to the commandments means obedience to Torah.

    This page was created on 16 October 1997
    Last updated on 6 November 2007

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