The Mystical Teachings of Christianity by Jim Lewis
The theme of a dying, resurrecting savior god and his return is a common theme in many primitive expressions of religious faith. It is usually associated with the seasons of the year. In the fall the plants and trees seem to die; in the spring they are resurrected to new life. This resurrection saves, for it brings forth fruit; the people eat the fruit of this new life and are “saved” or given new life.
The god dies and is resurrected for us since we cannot do it for ourselves. Primitives felt if they could imitate the action of some event in nature through rituals, it would help to bring forth the event and the good results. A rain dance therefore was believed to be able to produce rain; religious sexual acts would bring fertility; war or hunting dances would effect victory.
As humans we think and feel we are separate from God. We yearn for a return to or a first time experience of a feeling of oneness. Traditional Christians feel that God paid a visit or revealed Himself to man in Jesus Christ. This is the First Coming of Christ. It is believed that one day He will return again and that things will be quite different the next time. There will be no more control by the powers of evil; instead, they will be overthrown and His righteous rule will be established.
This Second Coming of the Christ is called the Parousia. It is a Greek word that has been transliterated and used to describe this event. It simply means the “arrival” or “coming”. As adopted and used in Christianity it means specifically the event of Jesus’ return.
What will happen when He returns? There are a number of theories. It was also thought that some of these things would happen when the Messiah came the first time. Since they didn’t happen then, it is believed that surely they will happen with the Second Coming.
For one thing it is believed that history will come to an end. The present world as we know it with all of its problems, evils, and difficulties will end. In its place will be brought forth a totally new existence.
At this time the dead will be resurrected; their bodies will come out of the tombs. Because of this belief, great emphasis has been placed upon preserving the physical body. But it is believed that for those who were not able to preserve the physical integrity of the body, the parts or ashes will be gathered together and re-formed and the individual will come back to life.
After this occurs there will be a last judgment. Everyone will be brought before God and will be judged according to his or her past. Some will make it, for it has been preordained that they would make it. Others, probably the majority, will not make it. Some believe that they did not have a chance to make it in the first place, for God predetermined ahead of time that they wouldn’t. They will be cast into an eternal fire to suffer forever.
There is another view that the final judgment will not come immediately when Christ returns. It is believed that there will first be a thousand year reign of Christ, during which there will be peace on earth. At the end of this thousand year reign the last judgment will take place.
How will He come? Here again, there are various views. Some hold to the idea that He will come this time leading an army of men and angels. He will have power, mastery, and dominion over all nations. He will be a super-king and everyone will be subject to Him.
Others hold a more apocalyptic view, that He will come quite suddenly and dramatically out of the heavens. The sky will be parted; He and a heavenly host will come down and with unusual spiritual powers will assume mastery and control of all nations.
Another view is that He will come again as He came the first time, in a quiet and unobtrusive way as a “son of man”. Only this time all evil powers will be subject to Him and His followers.
The doctrine about the end of things is called Christian eschatology. It is similar to an eschatology in primitive and other religions; it might be well for us to become familiar with some of these other viewpoints to see how they influenced Christianity.
The first we will consider is Zoroastrianism. Zoroaster, who lived in the sixth century B.C., taught that after death the soul would wait by the individual’s grave for three nights before it began its journey into the new life experience. On the fourth day it would arise and go to the great bridge that everyone must cross, the Bridge of the Requiter. Before he could begin the crossing, he must first be judged in the light of his past deeds. If his good deeds outweigh his bad deeds, the soul is able to cross the bridge and enter heaven. However, if his bad deeds outweigh his good deeds, things are going to be quite different. For an evil person, the bridge will be too narrow and as the soul attempts to cross it, he will fall off and plunge into hell, which in this case is cold and dark. This is not the end, however; there are still others living and the world still exists.
It is taught there will be a final confrontation between the forces of evil and the powers of good. Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord, will be victorious this time and will defeat Ahriman, prince of demons. Ahura Mazda will then bring about a general resurrection and he will preside over a last and final judgment. The world will be restored to goodness in the process and will be enjoyed by those saved. Those condemned will have no part in this new life of joy, happiness and peace.
The ancient Egyptians also had an eschatology. According to this view, when a person died he was judged, or at least his heart was judged. The heart was placed on a balance and weighed by the god Anubis. If the heart was a “light weight” this indicated a good person and the soul was allowed to enter a blessed region ruled by Osiris, god of the dead. However, if the person’s heart was heavy this indicated that he was bad and his soul would be destroyed by Devouress.
You will now recall that the Hebrews spent many years as freemen and slaves in Egypt. Our scriptures tell us that Moses was trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. We like to think that all the stories in the Bible relating to Moses and the Hebrews are original stories of actual historical events, but this is not the case. The Hebrews were influenced by the Egyptians. The concept of one God, for instance, was not original with the Hebrews, for they were not monotheists at all under Moses. They may have affirmed they believed in only one God, but they believed there were other gods which they felt were more powerful at times than their Jehovah-God.
The Hebrews also spent time in Babylon during that same sixth century B.C. when Zoroastrianism was dominant. They picked up the religious heritage of that culture and made it a part of their own. After all, their god had been defeated and they were in bondage. They were disheartened, dismayed, and discouraged; they wondered what had happened. Being overwhelmed in this way it would only be natural for them to think the Babylonian god might be for real. When they came back from their captivity they brought with them much of this religious heritage, only now it was Hebrew or Judaism.
No Christian can question the fact that Christianity has been influenced by Judaism—we use the Old Testament, and Jesus and His early followers were all strongly indoctrinated in Jewish theology. Paul states that he was a “Hebrew of Hebrews”. So, much of Christianity as we know it today is a product of this past syncretism. Paul and the other Christian writers of the New Testament were influenced by the apocalyptic hopes of the times; Bible scholars are hard put to try to tell the difference between what Jesus might have said and what these people say He said. This in no way denies all value to our Scriptures, but it does mean that we should use the discriminating power of the Holy Spirit to help us discern the difference.
Actually, the phrase “Second Coming” does not occur in Christian usage until the time of Justin Martyr in 150 A.D. Paul and the others of his time were expecting an immediate reappearance of Jesus. In fact, Paul thought he would be alive at the time of the event and would take part in it. Read I & II Thessalonians for his thinking on this subject. They did not think of this as a Second Coming, but just as a continuation and further development of the First Coming. Paul was wrong, for Jesus did not return then and He hasn’t since that time, that is, not literally. Paul gave a literal interpretation to the mystical idea Jesus was seeking to give to him and the others.
What is the Second Coming? Mystically, the Second Coming does not refer to the literal return of Jesus, but to the coming revelation of the Christ to the consciousness of each individual. It is something that happens in us on an individual basis and not something that will happen in “history” or as an outer event. Of course, this will have an influence on outer events, for as it changes individuals, the outer events have to change since individuals are the cause of outer events.
The Second Coming refers to the time when it dawns on us that we, in our spiritual essence, are sons of God as Jesus was the son of God. In human thought we are only aware of ourselves as human beings with a very limited human potential. In the Second Coming we will realize more of our spiritual potential and with it the unlimited capacity for good that is within us and within everyone, for we will also realize that all are equal in this inner potential.
Jesus talked about this experience quite often. You can read about it in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 13; Matthew, Chapters 24 and 25; and Luke, Chapter 21. In these chapters, Jesus gives some very detailed descriptions of what it will be like when one experiences the Second Coming. These descriptions have been taken literally and therefore outer signs are looked for—wars, earthquakes, and other disasters.
For example, Jesus said, “The days will come in which there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Taking Him literally, some thought He was referring to the Temple. However, the Temple is only a symbol of our religious beliefs and attitudes. Many of our religious beliefs are set in stone, so to speak, and seem to be as permanent as the stone used in the Temple, but one day they will be changed. The Truth will come; the light will shine. And the religious misconceptions that hold us in bondage will give way to the truth about the Temple, the body, and the truth about man the sinner. We will eliminate them from consciousness. It won’t happen overnight, however, nor will it happen to everyone at the same time.
When will it happen? Jesus said that first nation would rise against nation. He is not referring to international conflicts, but to inner conflicts, conflicts between those states of consciousness based on outer, human training and conditioning and the rise of truth in consciousness. He said there will be famines, which means periods of lack and seeming limitation. Until truth becomes stable in consciousness and we transfer our trust for security from things or money to trust in God, there will be periods when it seems our supply is limited. But if we stand firm in our faith and trust in God there will be new growth, inwardly and then outwardly.
This inner transformation of consciousness will be like an earthquake. It is more than a cultural shock; it is a truth shock, an inner eyeopening experience in which we realize that much of what we have been taught as being true is actually false. It is a shock even when we want and like to hear these truth ideals. In fact, at first, that is all we think they are, ideals, and not actual possibilities.
Jesus said not to be concerned, for this is not the end. He said the Gospel must first be preached to all nations. Again this is not referring to the outer but the inner. The truth must be carried into all areas of our total consciousness and this includes our actions. It is not enough to think these ideas of truth, they must be expressed in our thinking, feeling, and acting on all levels. It can’t be just a Sunday experience. It is not enough to say that we trust God, we must actually trust Him.
Another interesting and helpful reminder Jesus gave is that we would be judged by others, meaning that they will call us all kinds of names. They will call you crazy, heretic, anti-Christ, and many other critical names. They will say you are not a Christian simply because you do not continue to hold to traditional beliefs.
He said not to be concerned at these times. Understanding will be given you and you will be able to handle these criticisms. You will have peace of mind, but your accusers will not. They will be disturbed, for they will think you are trying to destroy their world, which is not true, but they will think that way, and we know that what we think has a great effect upon the way we feel.
Jesus said there would be conflict in families, brother against brother, father against child, child against father. It is amazing how those who proclaim to be followers of Jesus, to be Christians, have ostracized members of their own families because of their religious views. They forget that according to Jesus it is more important to express love, even to enemies, than to perform rituals and remain loyal to outer forms, organizations, and ceremonies.
When Truth comes to consciousness we will begin to form totally new concepts about family and personal relations. We will begin to realize that in truth we are all brothers and sisters. Didn’t Jesus state this when He was told that His mother was in the crowd looking for Him at Capernaum? He said, “Who is my mother, brother, and sister? He who does the will of my Father.” When the truth is revealed there will be this inner struggle and conflict as we let go of personal concepts about relationships and establish spiritual concepts about those same relationships. Severing of human thought brings sadness and tears; however, there is no severing of spiritual insight. It brings joy, happiness, freedom.
When these things begin to happen, Jesus suggested that we flee to the mountains. This means to enter into a time of meditation and prayer. Become still and pray for the inner strength and courage to let the transformations take place in us. When there seems to be confusion, don’t try to argue, analyze, or figure out what is happening. “Don’t go down into your house” means not to try to hold on to old beliefs. This is the mistake that many make: they seek security in going back to the old way, the old tradition, the old relationships. They will never find it and this will only delay the cleansing process. Remember there must be a degree of cleansing before the New Birth can take place; there must be a semblance of order in consciousness for the coming of this great event.
“And then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ; or, Lo, there; believe it not: for there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show signs and wonders.” There are many zealous prophets in the traditional fold and in the truth movement telling us all kinds of things about the Christ, where He is, when He is coming, how to use Him for personal gain. Jesus is cautioning us to be careful not to get carried away with all the promises of worldly influence, whether of this world or in another world to come. “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” Jesus asks. There is no profit. The only true profit comes through inner growth and this gives us mastery over the outer world as it gave Jesus mastery over all the experiences of His life.
Jesus said, “Call no man on earth Master or Father, for one is your master.” Turn to your Father who is within you. Jesus said, “I must go away or He will not come unto you.” In so many words He is saying to us that as long as we are looking to someone in the outer to come and do things for us, we will not be receptive to the Father who is already here within us. When He, the Father Who is within, the Christ, comes, He will comfort you. He will teach you and He will prepare you for living in the New Age that is to come.
© 1981, Dr. James C. Lewis
All rights reserved by the author.
Reprinted with permission.