Friday, February 14, 2020

Left Behind

Church history is full of its heresies, most of which center around the person of Jesus. Some say He was created by God, not begotten. Some say that God exists in three persons, not as three persons. Some say the Son is lesser than the Father. Some say that Jesus never really died or, if He did, wasn't resurrected. All kinds of heresies, many of which have required a council of churches to resolve with an official statement and acceptance of doctrine.

One of the heresies that we don't talk about, one that has gotten far less interest (for some reason), is one of the earliest. Paul mentions it in his second letter to Timothy, where he's talking about problems in the church at Ephesus.

There's a guy in the church by the name of Hymenaeus, and Hymenaeus has a lot of problems, apparently, because Paul mentions him by name in both of his letters to Timothy. In the first letter, we discover that he's a guy who can't even live his own faith consistently, so he's struggling to figure out what's what and what to do with it. By the second letter, he seems to be on his way out and like nearly everyone discouraged by the faith or disgruntled by the church, he seems bent on taking as many with him out the door as he can.

So Hymenaeus is at the center of this, along with another guy named Philetus, and the heresy that they're preaching is this:

The resurrection (the second coming) already happened, and you missed it.

Jesus, the one you're waiting for, already came back and took all the faithful with Him, but you weren't here. Heck, you didn't even know about it. But it's all done now, it's all over, and you missed it. You're stuck here now.

Sorry about your luck.

In a lot of ways, this is even worse than simply telling someone that their faith is stupid or that they shouldn't believe in what they believe. What this guy was saying to these people is that they were right! They were absolutely right about everything they were preaching and hearing and praying about and singing songs about. All of it was true, really true. This was the legitimate story. didn't matter to them. They were born in the wrong place and at the wrong time. They came to know this stuff too late. They wasted too much time in the world and not enough time in the church. Because this very right, very true, absolutely wonderful thing...wasn't for them. It already happened, and they were excluded. Jesus, who they said was coming back, has already come back and He's not coming back again. So this broken life you live is yours forever until you die and then, nothing. You missed the resurrection.

It's cruel. It's simply cruel. And it's exactly the kind of thing that could easily raise questions. Some questions of the Christian faith, we have them simply because we cannot possibly know. We can't understand what they relate to. The Trinity is hard for this very reason; we can't quite relate anything to it well enough to understand how it truly works. But this...this heresy of raises questions because the only witness we have to a past that we didn't live through are those who did, and if this guy claims to have information about a time in which we didn't live, how could we possibly argue? If he knows something about a place we were never at, how can we refute that? We can't.

I mentioned this to a friend of mine because it fascinates me (and honestly, I have entertained the question myself from time to time - what if Jesus has already come back and I missed it?) and he said there's actually still a church - one church - that believes this. They're in the Churches of Christ (Restoration Movement) family and worship in central-ish Indiana. That's interesting, although I confess I haven't had time to dig into it yet.

This is just something fascinating that I wanted to bring out of the Scriptures because it's something we don't talk about often, if at all. But it's interesting, isn't it?

And just in case you're wondering...I don't think Jesus has come back. I'm pretty sure He hasn't because this world we live in is still broken, and I don't know of a single human being who has ever been forced to live in a broken world without the hope of redemption and restoration. So we're still waiting, but we haven't missed it. Of this, I'm fairly certain. We're good. 

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